Understanding herbal actions and terms can be daunting for many, because it feels like rote memorization and has no grounded foundation, or instinctual basis. I have found within my own practice a deep instinctual basis for why these terms are important to dedicate to memory. (See below for pic of herbal actions)
These terms are the actions of all cells in the entire ecosystem, intuited by see-ers of the herbal traditions. The cellular actions of everything, including and not distinguishing the human body, are universal for all, and chemistry, and interaction of chemicals are the representation of this application. A very easy example of this is to balance over-secretion with absorptive or astringent properties of substances such as plants.
Understanding these properties enables one to use the senses, instinct, intuition, and models for constitutional observation to first off, understand the plant world by our own laboratory experiment: taste and smell. As well as give us back the power to intuitit the remedy for an illness. The remedy is most often based on intuiting and understanding the particular constitutional deficiency/cellular action, and finding the complementary opposite. This is the path of restoring balance by the complimentary reverse or opposite.
This model is most often the most effective and sane case, but in some rare cases you need to work with “like cures like”… I refer to this as the poison path. A common metaphor used is that when there is a thorn in the foot, you take another thorn to get the first thorn out, and discard both. A modern example of this that we are all familiar with is using radiation to kill cancer. Essentially working with the very thing that causes cancer in an attempt to use it against itself. This is an attempt to create a “canceling out” effect. Other examples include using a virus to kill a virus, or bacteria to kill bacteria, such as in vaccinations. This path requires a high level of sophistication and can be very dangerous, as there is often side effects. Used crudely (mostly how we see it) it will also ruin the health of the body/cells, and shut down the bodies innate immune function. It works best in homeopathic dosage, although is not used in this way in our modern world.
These 2 models perhaps can be seen as a path of supporting the health of the body, vs killing the enemy. Both have their place, although a re-examination of the balance is needed in our current medical model.
Further Suggested Reading: Foraging in our Modern World
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