Our society is accustomed to getting a pharmaceutical drug when we get sick. We don’t necessarily question why we got sick or what changes we might need to make so that we don’t get sick again. We trust the drugs to make us feel better – and in the short term they can do this – but in the long run they can add to the underlying problems that made us sick. However because the drugs made us feel better in the short term we tend not to question our lifestyle or habits. Many people make the mistake as seeing herbs as a substitute for medical drugs and they also make the mistake of not making the necessary changes to their lifestyle and other habits. The natural approach used by herbalists is to treat the whole, integrated person – that is their mind, body, emotions and environment.
Herbs are one of the tools used by a natural therapist to bring about a restoration of health. One of the main roles of the natural therapist is as a teacher. The role is to empower the person, with knowledge, skills and attitudes so that they are able to make decisions regarding their own health and wellbeing. This means that they will not be dependent on the therapist – but will be able to effectively manage their own health. However it is a mistake to think that additional changes don’t need to be made and that the herbs will make the changes necessary. Herbs can indeed make many wonderful improvements, but they work best when they are supported in their endeavors with other lifestyle changes.
This means that changes many need to be made in any of the following areas to enable sustainable health improvements (the list presented here is indicative of possible changes – others any also need to be made):
- Diet – including being low in saturated fats, sugars and refined and processed food and high in fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Adequate nutrition – including vitamin and mineral supplements.
- Beverages taken – avoiding alcohol and caffeine and increasing pure water.
- Exercise – for fitness, strength and flexibility.
- Rest and sleep – stress reduction and relaxation.
- Avoid smoking and air pollution.
- Removing toxins from diet and environment.
- A positive mental outlook and attitude to life.
- Developing emotionally rewarding relationships.
- Finding purpose and meaning in life.
All of these factors work together to create the environment in which herbs can work their best and the body is able to be restored and heal itself. It is a mistake to think that some changes will not need to be made. If a lot of changes need to be made then there needs to be a plan developed so that these changes can begin. Not all of the changes can be made at the one time – it would be a mistake to try to do make too many changes at the one time as we all need a chance to make adjustments. However it is also a mistake not to start to make changes or to stop too soon.
Herbs can help make improvement and adjustments to physical and emotional well being and herbs will always be a part maintaining an effectively functioning body but they can not substitute for a poor diet or sedentary lifestyle that is full of distress and discomfort.