Most of us understand the value of eating and buying local products, but what about our medicine? In Heal Local (New Society, 2015), author and Mother Earth Living contributor Dawn Combs argues that local healthcare is just as valuable to our well-being as local food. The following excerpt discusses the benefits of choosing homegrown and local medicine over store-bought, commercially prepared options.
Purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Heal Local.
Why is it important to buy a local potato, but when we need to relieve a headache, that bottle of unknown origin on a shelf will do? The exact same standards we apply to our food must apply to our medicine.
When we grow our own, or buy local, we can connect to our medicine in a more personal way. In fact, it should never have been separated from our food in the first place. This connection is important even when buying natural-health products.
If you buy an encapsulated herb from the grocery store, how do you know when it was harvested? Was it raised on healthy soils without chemicals? Was it harvested at the peak of medicinal potency, or when someone had the time to clear-cut an entire crop? Was it harvested at noon on a hot day when the volatile oils were escaping or during the cool of the morning when they were at their highest levels in the leaf? How long were the herbs stored before they were made into capsules? How long were the capsules stored before you began using them? There are a million questions that matter a great deal; they equate to the efficacy of the herb.
As we begin, as a culture, to move more toward using whole plant medicine, there are continual cries of fraud. Herbs are complex in their ability to heal, but from a scientific and practical standpoint they contain phytochemicals that break down at each step of plant development and processing. If a plant is not harvested when at its peak, not handled and processed appropriately and not used within a reasonable time frame, it is unfair to expect amazing and/or immediate results. When we don’t know what quality entails, and worse, we don’t seek it out, we get what we pay for. Until we begin to look for the same qualities in our medicine that we do in our food, our medicine will not provide the results we are seeking.
Healing locally, then, entails buying from a local farmer or growing herbal medicine ourselves. When you buy from someone in your community, who is growing herbs with healing intent, you can ask them how they do what they do. You can see firsthand the difference in quality when you see the fresh, deep green of properly harvested and dried nettle (Urtica dioica) next to a bag of commercially prepared nettle.
Your farmer can tell you about the day they harvested. Your grocer can read the name on the front of the bin for you and little else.
When you buy from a local herbalist or grower, you are supporting an economy in your own backyard. Again, just as with food, your money goes directly into your community without middlemen. You are assured of quality and freshness and don’t have to sacrifice effectiveness due to dubious age. You can also be assured of less pollution, as the medicine did not have to be created in a factory or shipped across country in a big truck.
Get more tips and advice from Dawn in The Home Herbalist’s Local Apothecary.
Reprinted with permission from Heal Local by Dawn Combs and published by New Society, 2015. Purchase this book from our store: Heal Local.