8 Pillars- a model for Herbal Practice


In 2009 I introduced some models for learning and practicing natural medicine, of which herbal medicine is a "pillar". A pillar is that which supports the whole and gives it strength and endurance.

The 8 pillars are Diet, Bodywork, Herbal Medicine, Hydrotherapy, Movement, Energy Medicine, Sleep/Rest Dynamics, and Education/counsel. And in no particular order of importance, they are truly an interweaving synergy. Most of these aspects and areas of therapeutic intervention and understanding have been part of Traditional Naturopathy since its inception, eaons ago or decades ago, however you look at it.

Let us now look at applying this model specifically to teaching, learning, and practicing herbal medicine with self and clients. We are going in a true direction of more interest in and use of herbal therapeutics despite backlash, therefore may it be helpful to readers to consider. I am going to give a brief outline to spark thinking, with the understanding that each one of these could fill a chapter, even a book, to help flesh out approaches to herbal practice.

DIET in herbal medicine practice: There are so many ways in which diet wisdom will enhance herbal practice. Simply put, an improved, whole foods diet will create an inner ecology supportive of herbal actions and nourishment. Herbs can help people with poor diets, to a point, but the synergy increases when we bring some dietary counsel and guidance into our work with family and clients. Farther along the continuum, improving digestive absorption will improve the uptake and actions of herbal therapeutics. FOOD MEDICINE refers to the use of diet as a healer, and it also refers to creating recipes for dishes which incorporate herbs consciously in order to bring their healing qualities into our everyday diet. We do not need to know the molecular composition of an apple or an egg to proceed with this- and our clients don't care about that , either. But they would appreciate guidance and insight into improving diet so that healing is mazimized.

HYDROTHERAPY/THERMOTHERAPY: I am going to help you fathom how this could possibly relate to herbal practice. And it is exciting how it does. Hydrotherapy is very simply defined by the laws of physics and thermodynamics, and in our teachings, we learn that using hot and cold compresses, ablutions, showers, baths, and soaks can be part of, or enhance DELIVERY METHODS for getting herbs where they need to go, internally and locally. This Pillar has been an important part of traditional naturopathic healing for eons, in all cultures, and in more recent times is emerging. A basic working knowledge of hydrotherapy prnciples helps turn you into a powerful facilitator of healing, and an Herb Medic with the ability to work with acute and chronic health issues. We work with topical oil and botanical packs with heat, with Spinal Compresses, applied lymphatic compresses to stimulate flow and reduce stagnation, and more. Poultices may be thought of as a form of incorporating hydrotherapy. "Water and Heat or Cold" is what defines and powers this Pillar, to bring about more exacting herbal delivery and success.

EDUCATION AND COUNSEL- This may seem straightforward, but it does get left out of much herbal training. In order to offer clinical services, and effectively work with clients, and even "friends and family" with clarity, we benefit from training in this Pillar. A couple books do a good job introducing elements of communications and boundaries, such as "The Educated Heart" and "The Compassionate Practitioner". Going beyond that are practical skills to evolve into a guide to other for theri use of herbal formulas and therapeutics. We would want to be able to clearly describe dosage, frequency, contraindications, duration of care, and to vision and plan for the need for follow up. OUR OWN education would therefore truly need to include solid training in Anatomy and Physiology- for how else can we understand the interface between person and herb? Folkways can lead us to the path, but only take us so far. It becomes not enough to just say "take this". Education here means education of our selves, and of those we guide in their use of herbs. Counsel means listening, and doing your best to guide for individual situations, including reliance on your own reference resources .

The pillars to come are Energy Medicine, Movement, Sleep /Rest Dynamics, and Bodywork. Each have their place in contributing to an enriched participation and offering of herbal practice. Join us again soon! And for additional detail as to how these interweave into case histories and decision making about herb use.


     Call 734-769-7794  Our studio is at 3684 W. Liberty, just west of Wagner Road, Ann Arbor 48103.  At the Liberty Office Center.  All visits by Appointment or enrollment.