Where Holistic Herbalism and Modern Medicine Meet

How Rachelle Robinett found a balance between old and new.

By: rē•spin
Where Holistic Herbalism and Modern Medicine Meet

Life is all about balance. This is true when we seek out a way to find harmony within personal areas of our lives. It’s true if we’re looking to create a state of equilibrium within our mind, body, and spirit. Even in finding the gray that exists between two seemingly opposite ideas, there’s room to establish a middle ground. When we think about our health and well-being, whether we realize it or not, we may categorize these ideas into two buckets: modern health and science or wellness rooted in ancient practices. This can manifest in conversations surrounding ancient traditions like herbalism and how they match modern science and medicine.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There is room to find a place of intersection and leverage the power and benefits that each has to offer. This presents new ways to explore the relationship and connection between plants and humans. How can we discover ways to leverage the functional power of nature and adjust our lifestyles? And how can we do this in a way that includes more natural health with a modern-day rē•spin?

Plant-based practices “versus” modern practices

Though “herb” is in the name, herbalism is not just about herbs. Rather, herbalism can be perceived as a holistic practice that considers the whole of the human. It also keeps in mind our respective ecosystems. Rachelle Robinett, a registered herbalist and founder of the wellness company Pharmakon Supernatural, adds, “To me, herbalism is fantastically comprehensive, global, and encompassing of the myriad experiences that life entails.”

“Primarily, herbalism—globally and historically the use of nature for health—is more holistic than modern medicine,” Robinett explains. “There is a lifestyle of using plants (primarily) for health that equates to prevention in today’s verbiage. And, when illness struck, acute remedies were used but very often, the entirety of the individual and sometimes the community as well would be treated. Today, we’re very fixated on isolated symptoms, diagnoses, and quick fixes.”

Even still, as the years have progressed, the proverbial line in the sand that has been drawn between traditional methodologies has been blurred. This includes herbalism and modern medical practices. Areas of intersection between both have been found. Robinett has noticed the same within the industry she’s spent her entire life studying, and she hopes it continues to come to fruition.

“There’s absolutely no reason to discount advances in science and medicine that have helped extend the life and health-span of generations,” she explains. “And, we can’t rely only on medicine and surgery to be well; we need nutrition, functional plants, herbal remedies, and—so often overlooked—a true relationship with our bodies that includes what any great relationship should: communication, care, respect.”

rē•framing the relationship between old and new

Things are not always black and white. This is true in various areas of our life, including how we perceive herbalism as its practices relate to modern science and medicine. As a result, there’s a certain ambiguity to life that Robinett strives to embrace. It garners a better understanding of what we may perceive as opposites, in reality, not being mutually exclusive.

“There is a time and place for surgery, medication, and some of the ingenuity of modern medicine.” She adds, “There is more often a time and place for simply living healthier and more naturally. There is also fantastic potential for the two to be combined, which is not uncommon in China, for example, where cancer protocols can involve herbalism as well. Taking that example further, we find that herbs can both improve the efficacy of medications and mitigate the side effects. That is the future that I hope for.”

Implementing these practices in an attainable way

Today, there are multiple ways to leverage the functional power of nature to align with modern practices (and vice versa). Look to the herbal remedies you’ve likely stumbled across on the internet. Or, even to those that have lingered in your family for decades. We look to echinacea to help prevent common cold occurrences and aid sore throats, upset stomachs, and even toothaches. Ginkgo biloba, rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, remains a top seller today. It is believed to help treat health issues, including heart disease and mental difficulties. In recent years, there’s been heightened focus and countless trends surrounding reishi and adaptogenic mushrooms.

We understand the benefit of these holistic approaches. But that’s not necessarily where we need to start. Robinett encourages individuals to do one thing first: aim for a lifestyle that introduces and welcomes more natural health.

“I stress the lifestyle point because if we remain fixated on symptoms, rather than causes, and just aim to use natural remedies instead of medicine to treat symptoms, we’re only slightly better off—and not by much,” she explains. “The question to ask is: What’s the cause? Stay there, and work there for as long as it takes to find better balance. Symptoms are so often dead-ends, which leaves us lost, confused, and out of touch.”

When it comes to introducing practices into a natural-health-centric lifestyle, Robinett suggests starting by eating more vegetables. She explains, “I am a firm believer in the power of food as our first medicine, and when done really well, herbalism and supplements are just icing on the cake. More plant-based foods (whole, real ones — not the processed or packaged kind) will also cut down on the need to rely on the medical system if that’s an aim.”

Image Credit: @herbalacademy, International School of Herbal Arts and Sciences.

The Herbal Academy is a trusted global leader in herbalism education having trained over 100,000 students worldwide. Study herbalism for your personal development or to prepare for a career in clinical herbalism. The Herbal Academy has an online herbal program to fit all your educational goals. 

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