The Herb Network (HeN) for West Somerset was initiated in January 2015 by Cynthia Alves, or more precisely by the writings of Eliot Cowan re our relationship with plants and Earth, and the lack of English-grown Horehound, the great cough reliever. She feels passionately about the benefits of 'greening the medicine chest' and caring for ourselves in a way that helps to avoid the shocking amount of medicines that are made of petrochemicals (PCs).
Two age-old maxims at the foundation of HeN: 1) Nature provides for all our needs. 2) Fighting can never cure - it may temporarily halt, yet no effective system of care (medicine or any other sphere of life) can ever be based on attack < > defence attitudes. The plant realm helps us not to fight disease, rather to restore harmony, balance, life's natural healthy flow. OK, no more nice girl shyly whispering about how wonderful plants are. It's about time I let rip about why I am so passionate that we nourish and accept the countless offerings of great gifts from the Plant realm, and shift into a wise balance of self responsibility.
Informed use of locally grown herbs makes us stronger and more full of life, and are thus 'preventative'. Through my articles for HeN on the Transition Minehead & Alcombe web site, and on my web site www.lifepower.org.uk, I advocate a small range of plants that are generally easy to grow locally, to harvest and preserve / prepare as home helpers, and safe (with rare caution) to use as part of the family Green Medicine Chest for common maladies.
A perennial life lesson in most spheres of activity is learning when it is best to act self responsibly and when to seek help from others. Using herbs for home health care is no exception. As a society, collectively, we have become helpless about making and using helpers from our gardens. We use many herbs in the kitchen, yet mostly buy them from big grocers, plants that have been grown and flown in from far away. We have lost our sense of gift and gratitude for what nature gives us - all life!, and become deaf-blind-dumb ignorant to the life force that we share with all Earth's beings, plant, animal and yes even mineral. With our National Health system creaking under the weight of lack of self-responsibility - not a 'blame', we have just forgotten how - and dependence on petrochemical-laden dead pharmaceutical medicines, increasing numbers of us are opening a cautious eye toward a revival of herbalism. It is only a few generations ago that our society took for granted common home use of herbs from the garden and wild. Now, if we think 'herbal' rather than the chemist's drugs, we flock to buy over-processed, highly packaged, nothing-to-do-with locality awareness stuff, rather than look outside our back door and around our allotments for help. Its time we learn to make our own herbal helpers and equip our children to be able to better care for themselves and their children. And its about time we wake up to the life of Earth, that it is us, we are Earth and as a species need to care for Our Life.
Having got that shout out, I'll to turn to the practicalities of a local network, especially in relation to Transition.
The many-faceted purpose of a local HeN
= developing a local network of growers of herbs for general home use - locally grown herbs are known to be FAR more effective than those grown elsewhere (the majority of our herbal supplies for all products now come from continental Europe, India etc. - lots of medicine miles too!)
= skill share re how to harvest, store and use herbs as nutritious food and safe remedies
= providing a local herb 'store' for community sharing
= acting as information hub, including through writing and talks
= instructing re holistic gardening, e.g. see article "Weeds Love Us", the practice of horticulture which is inclusive
= encouraging a shift in attitude toward health care, and toward the plant realm on which our life depends
As Einstein observed, a problem can never be solved from the same level of consciousness in which it was made. Including via a growing understanding and use of plants for our health care, the Plant realm can help us to emerge from our disconnection from the rest of nature into what is widely called ' unity consciousness', the heart-felt knowledge of our unity with all life / Earth. This is crucial to healing our toxic relationship with Earth, as our destructive activities are underpinned and encouraged by the mind that is separated from the rest of life - including each other.
Petrochemicals and the NHS Though I had some idea that PCs are used in medicines, I am shocked to find how much - how very much - our whole mainstream health system depends on PCs. Following are two online links for articles I found re PC use in medicines, and almost all aspects of NHS and private health care.
From Resilience Magazine, Eight Ways that modern medicine is oil dependent
From Orion Magazine Medicine After Oil
This list is quoted from an article on alternet.org by Dan Bednarz: "Petrochemicals are used to manufacture analgesics, antihistamines, antibiotics, antibacterials, rectal suppositories, cough syrups, lubricants, creams, ointments, salves, and many gels. Processed plastics made with oil are used in heart valves and other esoteric medical equipment. (and what about packaging?) Petrochemicals are used in radiological dyes and films, intravenous tubing, syringes, and oxygen masks. In all but rare instances, fossil fuels heat and cool buildings and supply electricity. Ambulances and helicopter "life flights" depend on petroleum, as do personnel who travel to and from medical workplaces in motor vehicles. Supplies and equipment are shipped -- often from overseas -- in petroleum-powered carriers. In addition there are the subtle consequences of fossil fuel reliance."
Pharmaceutical / PC drugs may not seem £costly to individuals, but they are certainly very costly to our society and to Earth. Medicine production and transport takes a lot of petrochemical and other resources, and their cost to the NHS (us!) is astronomical. The individual health cost includes the multitude of side-effects they cause (including problems from ingesting so much PC) which call for use of yet more medicines. Thank Earth there is indeed a better way!
For anyone wanting to receive the gifts of herbs for health and medicine, even if you already know quite a lot, this is the best ever teacher I have found: Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Medicines, Beginner's Guide. If you are interested in any aspect of HeN, please contact the current West Somerset hub person, Cynthia Alves via Contact above.