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PHYTOMEDICINE: ANCIENT MEDICINE FOR MODERN TIMES
Wellness is a cosmology, an all-encompassing landscape that embodies the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual worlds of existence. A true state of wellness is not merely dependent on the condition or mindset a person currently inhabits. Our level of wellness is finely interwoven with the intimate relationship we have with our community, our environment, and ourselves. The multifaceted universe of health and healing is cyclical, a living organism in constant metamorphosis.
Healing echoes the logic of quantum physics, suggesting that we exist in a relative, process-oriented ecosystem in which there is no “objectivity” to the world we’re experiencing. The components essential to healing disease cannot be resolved simply by measuring the illness in itself; rather, this healing ecosystem is active, with its own unique interactions and relationships. It is through this process that the healer balances the equation of physical, mental, and social well-being.
In Eastern healing traditions, human beings are perceived as microcosms of the universe, suffused with the same forces controlling the cosmos. In Daoism, for example, humans are imagined as part of the unbroken whole, called Dao—a singular relational continuum expressing itself within and without[lc1] . This thinking predates the separation of the mind from the body. It was the Western mind that created the idea that human beings are independent living systems, unbound by basic natural needs. We escaped from our dependency and attachment to the natural world, pursuing egotistic principles of invulnerability, invincibility, and immortality. The long-term survival of our species is threatened by an unrestrained lust for short-term gain, deceitful beliefs about accomplishment, and false assumptions about our civilization’s autonomy from nature. Modern-day human beings have contaminated their own nests, a clear sign of disease and future troubles, especially considering the consequences of our actions on the wider animal kingdom.
Today, many of us seek to reclaim the sense of connectedness that existed universally in ancient cultures, when human fate was wholly entwined with nature. In the ecological understanding of these cosmologies, all things were inextricably bound together. The world was seen as a symbiotic entity in which all living organisms interacted with and supported each other, from the innermost cellular level to the outermost cosmological level.
The call for plant medicine in today’s culture is a symbol of humanity returning to its source. A profound rebirth is in process, and the role of the plant kingdom is increasing in significance. An essential bridge is being rebuilt between humans and nature, allowing us to access the realm of the transcendent and the land of the luminous. Plant medicines aren’t just here to provide us nourishment, shelter, and protection from pathologies—they’re here for a much larger purpose, and that is to bring us back to the original consciousness that prevailed on earth for millenia. Herbalism is the medicine of belonging, a gateway through which we keep alive a very sacred aspect of this same consciousness.