Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 1 is an example of herbal medicine classes online that provide a unique approach to herbal medicine and human health

Many herbalists who have been in the business for a long time are watching this growing interest in herbalism, which includes many people who are teaching it. Herbalism is still a bit of the Wild West, and that the umbrella of it can be very wide and deep or shallow, as compared to other traditions where they have textbooks written about them, like the allopathic traditions.

A look into Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 1, the first offering of Clearpath’s herbal medicine classes online

Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 1 is the first of our herbal medicine classes online. This course looks at herbalism through the lenses of European-based western herbalism and Native American traditions. The Native American lens involves, among other information, the seven direction medicine wheel, which is a universally-known iconic symbol. Now, that again also breaks it up into earth-air-fire-water, but also concepts like spirit and ‘that which cannot be known’.

We bring all of that in and then build it up from there as we talk about how those elements come together to create the humors, or the four vital fluids, that create the substance and the animation of those fluids being blood.

Humors, temeraments and tissue states

In traditional European medicine there is a concept of “humors,” four fundamental substances that make up and control the human body. The four humors are blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Each humor has distinct qualities and exerts recognizable influence over our physiology and psychology. We can discern much about a person’s health and imbalance from an understanding of these fundamental forces and the way they interact with one another to form a whole. These humors interweave — physically and psychologically — to create four basic human types known as “temperaments,” where one of the four humors exerts a constitutionally dominant influence over the other three. The four temperaments align with the four humors: blood equals sanguine; phlegm equals phlegmatic; yellow bile equals choleric, and black bile equals melancholic. I’m not going to go into them in detail here — you can find that information in Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 1 but when one or more of these humors are in excess or deficiency, health suffers.

Along with the humors and temperaments, we also describe human health and imbalance from an understanding of the forces of elemental natures that we call “energetics.” Energetics are based on temperature (cold to hot), moisture (damp to dry), and wind. We can use our understanding of energetics to better understand and describe many aspects of our reality, including human anatomy, physiology, psychology, health and disease as well as the properties of food, medicinal herbs, mushrooms and minerals, ecosystems, climate, and more.

The Western health paradigm describes human beings as an amalgam of organ-systems animated by our spirit. Each organ-system has an optimal combination and range of energetic forces that can be described as health, and when these energetics go out of balance in an excessive, deficient or uncoordinated way, then imbalance, disharmony and disease occur.  We can use these insights to better understand the health and workings of individual organ-systems and how they interact to form a whole being, both physically and psychologically.

Finally, our understanding of humors and energetics helps us to form a picture of the major ways that our health and physiology can go out of whack. These can be condensed and described by six tissue states, which are all states of imbalance.The six tissue states are:

  • Heat / Irritation
  • Cold / Depression
  • Dampness / Relaxation
  • Dryness / Atrophy
  • Wind / Constriction
  • Torpor / Congestion

These all give us great insight on how to view imbalance when we’re looking at people as a whole, looking at their behavior or looking at their organ systems.

In the next class – Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 2, we will be exploring human organ-systems through this traditional understanding of anatomy and physiology, seeing how they and we go out of balance through the lens of these six tissue states, and learning ways to help correct these imbalances with herbs, nutrition and behavioral adjustments.

That’s the people side. This is also an herbal course, so we will be doing the same thing with herbs, using the same lens of elements and energetics coupled with our understanding of herbal medicines based on flavor. With this information we can better understand herbs’ underlying medicine based on their flavor and energetic combination of temperature and moisture.  We can similarly apply these concepts to food so that we can better understand “food as medicine.” All of this gives us a very subtle, deep and wide understanding of how herbal medicines work. It’s a very real, valuable skill set that will help you not only as an herbalist, but also as a cook in your kitchen.

Learn more about our Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 1 online course now by visiting its webpage. You can also visit the program directly on the Teachable site, which is where you will view the material. The Teachable site has free content that provides a sneak peak into the program.

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