Pile of Traditional Chinese Medicine isolated on white background


Herbalists are connectors that bring life and love to both sides

 of the human-plant relationship.

That quote is from Guido Mase, and herbalist and teacher in Vermont.  I love it because it reminds us about our role in the ecology of the world.  It also reminds me that plants existed before us.

Don’t be fooled by the name:  The Academy for Five Element Acupuncture offers more than education in acupuncture.  There is also a program in Chinese herbal medicine.

The Academy is set up so that students have a year of solely acupuncture before beginning herbal studies.  Students then can decide to pursue herbal studies as well.  Some are unsure, often because they are drawn to the school and the style of acupuncture it treats because of the high regard for treating the spirit.  Stepping into herbs seems to be stepping into a different realm, but that is not really the case.  I think of a quote from Bill Mitchell, ND, a long-time herbalist and proponent for complementary medicine.

There is little difference between healing the body and healing the spirit.  One might say that the aware person does both. The concept of spirit is metaphysical while the concept of the body healing itself has been relegated to the physical realm.  And yet, both function at the unseen level.  ~Bill Mitchell, ND

What he was saying in a way, and the point I would like to make, is that all herbalism based in traditional systems (like Chinese medicine) are indelibly linked to the spirit.  It is a modern invention to only treat the body, and by practicing this ancient medicine, we are treating body, mind and spirit all as one.

Another way to clarify that point is that Western science cannot explain why two herbs with similar (or almost identical) components can be used for different things.  A formula is greater than the sum of its parts—the herbs are doing something extra, and in formulas they work together in specific and synergistic ways.  There’s something extra going on that we cannot see.  In Ayurveda, the system that developed in India concurrently with Chinese Medicine, there is even a word for it:  Prabhava.  It refers to the spiritual potency of botanicals and plants often have uses and special actions that we cannot explain away rationally.

As you consider attending AFEA or are already a student, think of herbal medicine as another tool in which to treat the whole person, or another lens through which to see the whole person and help them find their balance and health in life.