Marguerite Dunne is a city girl and traveler. Visit her website at www.herbs-on-hudson.com or listen to her radio show, The Urban Herbalist, on www.wtbq.com. Marguerite was also the third place winner in The Herb Companion's essay contest, "Looking Forward to Herbs."
A friend asked me to be a guest speaker in her college class one night, with the noble task of explaining to her students how to get started using medicinal herbs. Twenty intelligent adults leaned forward as the spotlight was on me and I told the tale of how I got started with herbs. I talked about how the doctors had pumped me with drugs, which made me feel worse, and about how herbal roots and leaves were what gave me back my body.
One flustered 40-year-old lady raised her hand. She described, in scathing detail, her arthritis, hip replacements, autoimmune diseases and the various failing pill protocols the doctors placed her on and off and on and off for the past five years. She raged over a lopsided conversation she’d had with a young clerk in a health food store. Pounding her fist into her hand, to the beat of every spoken word, she intoned, “How do I know I’m getting the right medical advice when I go into a health food store?”
What I would have liked to have said was, “So, you want to make sure this 18-year-old young woman in a health food store can give you the proper diagnosis to your illness, which three medical doctors and, collectively, 55 years of graduate medical school, have failed to correctly analyze? Did I get that right?”
It’s frustrating as heck when your body is going one way and you want it to go the other and nobody, but nobody, is giving you the right information and you just want some answers; when it isn’t like anything you or your friend has experienced before; when you did all the things the doctor told you to do! I remember how sick I was for three years after I stopped taking birth control pills: I lost my period, gained 30 pounds, got all kinds of allergies and suffered from 104 degree fevers for days. I went in for all kinds of tests and got all kinds of pills and shots from nine different doctors—nobody could tell me what was wrong with my body.
That was when an old and dear friend, turned me on to herbs. My friend took me to a chiropractor who adjusted my back and suggested I use aloe root and blue cohosh. Within two weeks, I got my period back for the first time in nearly three years and fifteen pounds fell off of me. I was sold!
My very first herb book, which I still recommend and now holds the highest place of honor on my bookshelf, was the original 1939 version of Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss (Lotus Press, 1997). Yeah, I know there are thousands of scientific studies about herbs and all kinds of texts with annotations written and efficient, systematic technobrews that have been sliced-and-diced-analyzed, investigated, footnoted, and refined, but after 30 years as a practicing herbalist, I still prefer the sweet sensibility of the wise, old healing shaman of the village. I learned so much from trying each herb. Sometimes, there is no exact name for one disease to explain all the knotty symptoms your body is showing. Locate which body system feels the most affected, and begin there. When anyone asks, I just say, “Start with one herb related to one health issue you want to work on.” Jethro Kloss would approve.