Walking the Path of Herbalism

The secret of herbalism lies in the fact that we all become medicine when we give ourselves to the purpose of healing and nurturing.

| February 26, 2014

The Plant Healer’s Path (Plant Healer Press, 2013) addresses topics vital to an empowered, effective herbal practice, including many issues that have not been addressed by mainstream sources. Jesse Wolf Hardin, a renowned herbalist and co-founder of Plant Healer Magazine, brings to readers enchanting tales, profiles of many medicinal plants, and recipes favored by herbalists. The following excerpt, taken from “Finding Our Medicine,” gets to the heart of the what it means to be a herbalist, and the path one must take to that understanding.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Plant Healer's Path.

I only recently became comfortable with calling myself an herbalist, as it seems like a mighty calling to take up myself.  That really is what it is though, a calling.  It’s a calling to heal more than just broken bodies, a calling to care for the needs of this wild place we call home.  It took being called an herbalist to accept this all as my own.  It also took getting out of the classroom and the clinic and back into nature and wildcrafting, to reconnect me with what brought me to herbalism in the first place.  It took getting me out of my head, and back to engaging my curiosity about everything around me. — Holly Bear Torgerson

Herbalism is a valuable gift that we give others, that is a gift to us, and that many of us hope to be able to make a living from.  Yet, even if we happen to be well paid for doing it, we generally still don’t look upon the work of healing in the same way that we view other, normal wage earning activities.  We’re more apt to think of it the way that activists think of their work: as being essential to their identities as conscious, caring and responsible people; as work vital to those changes needed to counter the ecological destruction and human upon human injustices; and as an activity that they’re surprised to ever earn a living from.  Practitioners are likely to relate to their herbalism more like teachers tend to view their work, as something they would want to do even if they weren’t paid for it, as something important apart from its financial benefits.  Many teachers love their work because they love their students, and because they love having a daily chance of passing down some values and ideals that could possibly benefit this and future generations.  So it often is for us.

The way most of us experience herbalism, is as our most meaningful purpose, the role and mission that is best at bringing out our passions, qualities and abilities, and the one that makes the best use of us.  It is our opportunity and means to serve, and also our summons to shine.  Some feel it as a special calling requiring their response, others pick with their minds and wills what their hearts are drawn to.  Whether we consider herbalism an avocation or career, the source of our income or else the thing we can’t wait to get back to doing as soon as each day’s work is over.  Our way.  Our chosen path.

Purpose, Role & Niche

Most of you reading this, have multiple skills and a wide range of knowledge that could qualify you to do many different jobs besides what you are doing now.  You wouldn’t enjoy them all, not all would seem significant or even relevant to your interests and aims, and other people would surely be just as qualified to do the work in your place... but you are capable, and if the wage was high enough and needed enough you might try it out.  That said, if the purpose of the work is not in alignment with or somehow supportive of your own sense of purpose in life, you’re not likely to find it satisfying.  Satisfaction comes from either knowing that our work is part of our purpose, or that our work will finance what our real purpose is.

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