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Healing with Herbs

Healing herbs and edible flowers (handcarved olive tree mortar and pestle)
Healing herbs and edible flowers (handcarved olive tree mortar and pestle)

Healing with herbs – One of the most important understandings of Herbal Medicine is the observation of how healing cycles unfold, and our relationship to nutrition, life and stressors in general. Emotions play a huge role, influencing hormonal balance which in turn influences how well our immune system responds.

Because we are interacting within a cyclic environment, we must respect that healing takes on the same patterns. Many times our perception of how healing unfolds is confused with man-made lineal time or with reductionist scientific chemical equations.

We were not made (nor did we or our horses evolve) to perform to the daily work week as we have been conditioned to think- not only do we make ourselves sick, but we make our animals align  with our routines-which are completely alien to the their natures. . If we are aligned with nature, we would fast when not hungry of feel ill, eat when hungry, sleep when tired and rest in nature to be well nourished by clean air and clean environments, snuggled by our loving parent or loving partner under the protection of our clan.

Today we expect a straightforward healing outcome; however, often healing is not straightforward, causing anxiety and confusion.

Knowing the general pathway that certain processes take is very useful in gaining the confidence that helps keep you on track.

The idea of Detoxification, in my opinion is the most confusing. This is because the word detox is applied very loosely and can mean different things to different people.

I feel that you can break down the idea of De- toxification into several areas:

Fasting – best applied in situations of digestive upsets, liver issues, pancreatic problems, diarrhoea and vomiting. Keeping up nourishing fluids are essential, and herbal teas like Chamomile , Rosehips, Ginger and Peppermint are ideal. Prolonged fasting needs to be supervised appropriately and is not recommended in many situations. Knowing when to apply this method of detoxification is critical to the success. Periodically fasting when healthy has numerous benefits, as studies are now showing.


Clean Foods – in this day and age of fast foods, a simple eating plan is now considered detoxing. By simple I mean keeping to whole foods and eliminating foods known to cause inflammation. Foods like Wheat, Sugar, Coffee and Alcohol. I promote this kind of diet as a standard way to eat, incorporating the idea of 80-90% is this kind of diet, and 20-10% can be “cheats” so long as you’re generally healthy. You can’t cheat if you’re trying to achieve a healthy outcome in a specific period of time, or if you’re chronically ill.


Colon Cleansing – Colon Cleansing is very useful for people who are prone to constipation and inflammation such as Irritable Bowel . Toning up the colon with a cathartic cleansing program ( I like to use Senna and Cascara) can have wonderful benefits . Clearing out stagnant waste improves the overall bowel ecology, settles excessive mucus and helps to promote cleaner nutritional uptake by helping to repair the “leaky gut” syndrome. It’s useful to consider the whole Gastro Intestinal tract as you would your external skin. Even though the system is well moistened, the skin and mucosal lining suffer from irritation, parasitic damage and atrophy. Herbs like Wormwood help to make the lining very unattractive to parasites, and the lovely slippery elm powder will add a pre biotic benefit as well as protect an irritated GIT from ulceration.


Organ Support – when an herbalist discusses ideas of stimulating elimination, it’s essential that the organs that are responsible for this task are well supported. Good kidney and liver function are obvious choices to support well with herbs.. But less obvious is how well we breathe and make use of the oxygen in our blood and the elimination of carbon dioxide. The process of energy release and the subsequent metabolic waste are areas often overlooked when considering elimination. Through iridology and appropriate questioning you can see find weakness and there fore provide the most relevant support. St Mary’s thistle, Dandelion and Fennel are commonly prescribed for liver and pancreatic support, whilst Elecampane, Nettle, Rue and Hawthorn may be prescribed for lung strength and heart health with the aim of improving overall metabolic waste elimination.


Blood Cleansing – This is where we start to become a little medieval. The Term Blood Cleanser is certainly one of those terms that seems like a medieval myth, and gives rise to the idea of the “quackery” . I find that the system itself explains beautifully the idea behind blood cleansing. It simply means that certain herbs ( classed as alteratives) nourish the metabolic process to increase elimination and stimulate the immune functions of cleaning up viral debris, bacterial debris and of our own cells that are dying off all the time. It’s not known really how these herbs work, but it can be assumed that the nutrition the herbs provide are essential for these functions. What we do know is that blood cleansing herbs contain high levels of iron and sulphur and seem to help the immune system clean itself . Consider herbs like Echinacea, Garlic , Horsetail , Red Clover  and Burdock as some of the more popular alteratives.


Why The 12 week Blood cycle is so important to Herbalists?


Human erythrocytes are produced through a process named “erythropoiesis,” developing from committed stem cells to mature erythrocytes in about seven days. When matured, these cells live in the blood circulation for about 100 to 120 days. At the end of their lifespan, they become senescent and are removed from circulation.


In Horses , erythrocytes last approx. 145 days.  

Around 90% of erythrocytes are phagocytised by macrophages in the liverspleen and bone marrow, with the other 10% breaking down in circulation.

Following phagocytosis, haemoglobin is broken down into haem and globin. Globin, a protein, is hydrolysed into amino acids while the haem is transformed into biliverdin and then into bilirubin before being excreted into the blood stream bound to albumin. In the liverit is conjugated and excreted into bile which in turn is excreted into the gastro-intestinal system. The iron from haem is either stored as insoluble ferritin in the liver (in hepatocytes and macrophages) or it is directly transported to the bone marrow for reuse in erythropoiesis.


All herbal programs are designed to support a full transformation of the development of healthy new cells. Every day new cells are forming, whilst apoptosis ( cell death ) is  always occurring .To help both these processes means that optimum health is realised, and disease is kept at bay whilst Stem Cells are kept  healthy and well nourished.

Catherine McDowell