Saturday, April 4, 2015

Forgotten Herbal Healing

This week a woman proclaimed to me that our ancient healing traditions have been lost, and then told me she had heard about a project to test an ancient remedy from a Medieval medicine manuscript.

It isn't just semantics to say that our healing traditions have been 'forgotten' and not lost. 'Forgotten' is a choice, to not pay attention, to not study, to refuse to bring forward and carry-on, to ignore a healing tradition. 'Lost' makes it sound as if a natural disaster or mass extermination of all healers removed access to this knowledge.

Although some of this did happen, collective knowledge of health and healing has been handed down through time by oral tradition and later in written documents, like the one used to conduct these experiments.

Bald's Leechbook, a Leech being a Medieval term for a certain type of physician, is the
Pages from Bald's Leechbook
oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon herbal medicine manuscript from which this recently tested recipe originates. Written between 900-950 CE, with intimate knowledge of every herb and preparation in it, specific processes are required to obtain the desired results with the herbs and ingredients used to make this recipe. If made incorrectly the preparation becomes a stinky, slimy, useless gob of goo. If done to specifications, you get a remedy for a bacterial stye in the eye, and apparently, quite possibly, for the modern MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). This is Medieval herbal science, done well. Hundreds of thousands of years of
herb-based experience predates even this written history, and all of it preceded conventional medicine.
Recently I have read that many herbal scholars only consider there to be very few cultural herbal traditions with distinct systems.  They name Chinese and Ayurvedic herbalism among the top traditions, then ancient Arabic and Egyptian systems, with a new emerging field of Western herbalism. Luckily, this rediscovery of the medicine systems in Bald's Leechbook ought to illuminate the field to reveal other forgotten, abandoned and ignored cultural herbal medicine systems.

There are also evolving unbroken chains of herbal healing knowledge systems that are continuing to be passed down in many cultures to the next generation to this day. We only need to turn our attention to them, to insure that they continue.

More can be read on these topics:

History and Traditions in Herbal Healing

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