The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatics, Bitter, and Tonic Plants by herbalist Guido Masé

Book Excerpt

The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatics, Bitter, and Tonic Plants by herbalist Guido Masé

Chapter 4
Tonics
Nourish and Balance

The modern world has its faults, certainly, but it has provided us with some amazing tools and technologies. This is evident in the dramatic cures for infection and acute trauma achieved by medical science. The drugs and procedures used to combat these age-old scourges, which in the past decimated huge numbers of us, are remarkably, almost miraculously, effective. At the same time, however, we are struggling with new sources of morbidity and mortality. No longer is infection the leading cause of disease and death. Now we have chronic inflammation, hypersensitivity, cancer, and heart disease staring us down in our later years. Tonic plants, with their complex combinations of saponins, polysaccharides, and polyphenols, offer a potential solution through their ability to modulate immune function and genetic expression.

Tonics come to us unadulterated from the ecosystem. At very deep levels, they seem to be a necessary part of our xenobiome, the comprehensive chemical environment mostly made of plants, in which the liver evolved. Their use impacts conditions of weakness, deficient energy and immunity, and dementia as well as cancer, inflammatory heart disease, allergies, and asthma. But they are much milder than pharmaceutical drugs. If we are to influence the new diseases of the modern world, we will need to approach them with a slightly different mind-set; these diseases don’t respond well to the strong, direct treatments used for acute conditions.

In the face of altered diets, increased stress, novel chemicals, and a much faster pace of life (as well as a longer life span), we would be foolish to think that a single drug targeting a single receptor site might be able to reverse the years of cultural and ecological effects on an individual human being. Tonics are complex medicines well suited to interacting with our complex physiologies. It’s impossible to overwhelm a chanting crowd by screaming your message by yourself, but get some friends to whisper an interesting thought to their neighbors and the idea might become viral, spreading from person to person, until the chant changes. Medicine is beginning to realize this. Physicians are trying “polypills” for cardiovascular disease in the hopes that intervention at multiple levels might be more effective. Yet nature has been handing us much more complex and multilayered polypills all along: herbal tonics. Their effectiveness against the modern, chronic diseases is beyond dispute, especially when treatment is started early on. In fact, it is very possible some diseases exist, or are more widespread than they should be, because of an absence of these vital plants.

 

Safe, foodlike, highly effective when used habitually, and often quite tasty, the red fruits of a Hawthorn embody all the best qualities of a tonic. Though their effects are most pronounced on the heart, pharmacological research shows that they can substantially affect inflammatory balance and epigenetics as well, which may be part of why they are so helpful to the cardiovascular system. It continues to puzzle me why their use is not more widespread in the modern health care system. Perhaps it has become hard for us to trust that medicine might be found, already perfectly complete, hanging off a scraggly, thorny tree on the edge of a weedy farm field. Are we really trying to say that there can be no good remedy without human tinkering? Or have we become afraid of that which is unhybridized and uncontrolled?

 

Bio: Guido Masé is a clinical herbalist, herbal educator, and garden steward. Author of The Wild Medicine Solution, he is the cofounder and codirector of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, he is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild, the American Botanical Council, and United Plant Savers. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont.

The Wild Medicine Solution by Guido Masé © 2013 Healing Arts Press. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.

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