Embracing Farmacy, not Pharmacy
"There is a herb growing for every disease."
Abbe Kneipp, 1821-1897, original founder of the
Naturopathic Medicine movement
Physiomedical - the doctrine or practice of natural healing, specifically by the use of herbal medicines. Origin. Mid 19th century; earliest use found in ‘Physio-medical Recorder’.
I'm so often asked how herbs actually work. (I'm also often asked why they sometimes seem to work so much better than modern medicine).
As a result of modern-day progress (and some particularly nasty, money-grubbing tactics by Messrs. Rockefella and Carnegie at the turn of the 19th/20th Centrury, who initiated the Flexnor Report which changed every-thing about how we're all amedicinally treated), herbal medicine took a back seat for decades, with natural practitioners literally being hounded out of town with the threat of imprisonment and more. But that's a whole other story ...
This back seat wasn't necessarily because modern pharmaceuticals were better, but more because a plant can't naturally market itself quite like the financial power of a pharmaceutical company. Also, plants can't be patented - there's very little profit for Big Pharma in a scrappy weed. And whether we like it or not, modern medicine, aka allopathic, became the norm and is here to stay. Whether we choose to follow it, however, is another matter.
Certainly for our horses, nature's botanicals work extremely well, and this could have something to do with the fact that their state of health follows the seasonal rhythms of nature. Our wild horses are historically plant foragers, with only themselves to rely on for their survival; their foraging knowledge and ability is literally written in their DNA.
Every plant is aromatic, via its volatile (essential) oil, and horses are extremely sensitive to these oils. They instinctively know, through a plant's natural aroma, which ones will benefit them.
Herbs V. Conventional Medicine
In a nutshell, it's all about the differences in the overall function of natural v. man-made. The primary role of herbal or naturopathic therapy is the targeted detoxification and cleansing of specific organs in the body, usually caused by a malfunction of the body’s eliminative processes, under pressure from environmental pollution, poor diet and/or the modern lifestyle. Modern synthetic medicine is mainly concerned with managing/blocking the symptoms of diseases, without necessarily addressing what's causing those symptoms.
Ask any GP and they'll tell you they train in physiology, but practice pharmacology. Once qualified, our medical professionals are trained to prescribe appropriate pharmaceutical medication to relieve the presenting symptoms as quickly as possible. You can kind of understand it though; in our modern-day, pressurised world, we need a quick fix so we can get on with our modern lives. This fix is administered via powerful, laboratory-made, chemically synthesised medicine which is specifically designed by scientists to interfere with the body's physiology, by blocking the symptoms.
Then there's that 'Holistic' word
You've probably heard that word 'holistic'. To some, it makes eyes glaze over as yes, it can make us sound like aging old hippies dancing round a stone circle with didgeridoo in hand. But stay with me for a second and give me a chance to briefly explain without hopefully sounding too tree-huggy, because trust me - while yes, I own a didgeridoo (an original, beautiful, authentic, aboriginal hand-painted gift from the Aussie relatives), I am no tree-hugger ;o)
Defined from the Greek word 'Holism', it simply means 'All, Entire, Total'. That's it. That's all there is to it - 'holistic' is the theory that promotes management of the whole. You can't achieve healthy by simply managing the symptoms of unhealthy, nor can you keep one disease and heal another. Given the chance, the body wants to heal - it doesn't like being out of balance. And when the body heals, it heals everything.
This is how herbs work. The body is an extraordinary system; every part is connected via an intricate web of body, mind, emotions, spirit; and natural, functional medicine sees the body as a whole instead of merely an assortment of disconnected parts. instead of blocking the irritation of the symptom and shoving the problem deeper down to manifest into a chronic condition, herbal medicine manages dis-ease as a whole, and when taken as a tonic, the medicinal properties in herbs can help avert the causes of dis-ease (the word ‘dis-ease’ simply meaning that the body is not 'at ease').
Let's get back to Physiomedical
The one objective in physiomedical treatment is to restore a healthy equilibrium and the functioning integrity, or the ‘vital force’, of the individual. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it! (Top Tip - remember that word functioning).
Trouble is, you’ve got biology getting in the way, because this ‘vital force’ operates at the body’s cellular level as a positive energy. If there’s no vital force or positive energy in the cells, then we've got internal problems which present as external symptoms.
An integral function of this vital force is the continual elimination of hostile invaders, aka toxins such as bacteria and viruses. Another important toxic residue sadly comes from conventional medicines made from chemicals, which are prescribed to suppress, or block, the all-important – and valuable – surface-level symptoms, which are only given a cursory glance followed by a 'label' in modern medicine.
Let’s take a quick look at ‘symptoms’, and why we should be glad of them. They’re so important! By the time we see symptoms or a syndrome, they’re already pointing to a deeper level of physiological imbalance. We need these symptoms to give us the opportunity to support the system back to a normal, balanced, healthy state.
Naturopathic herbal medicine is all about helping the body function towards what’s meant to be that normal healthy state, which is why it’s so important to firstly recognise, then understand, those symptoms that are negatively affecting normal function. This way we can help restore the body to a normal state by targeting the source of those symptoms where organic changes in the body’s cells and tissues have taken place, and not simply ‘block’ or ‘relieve’ the presenting symptoms while leaving the physiological imbalance in place.
And herein lies the difference between physiomedical (herbal) support compared to conventional modern-day medicine. For example, if you keep getting bad headaches, for sure some pain-relief will take the pain away, but it won’t stop the headaches coming back again and again. Wouldn’t you rather kick those headaches into touch forever?
Otherwise, to continually pursue only symptomatic relief without focusing on what’s going on deeper in the system, we’re simply paving the way for the underlying cause to develop into a chronic state of dis-ease, which, rest-assured, will bring about its own cascade of further problems.
So what's Functional Medicine?
As Google will tell you, functional medicine is 'a personalised therapy method, addressing the underlying causes of disease to achieve the highest expression of health'.
Exactly. With an open-minded approach, it works away from the traditional symptom-treating focus of medical practice to a more patient-centred approach. Put simply, functional medicine addresses the whole body, not just an isolated set of symptoms.
(You probably won't be surprised to know that many, many regular practicing GPs and medical specialists are moving away from, or have already moved away from, the practice of allopathic medicine and turned towards the Functional Medicine movement. If you 've seen the BBC programme, Doctor in the House, you'll be familiar with Dr Chatterjee, an NHS GP, who is now very well known in the field of Functional Medicine.)
So back to our horses, and here at EquiNatural, I very much operate in a similar way. I look at our equine clients’ histories, taking into account the interactions between lifestyle and environmental factors which can influence long-term health. By working this way, looking a little deeper and taking each horse’s case as individual, our aim is to proactively support the health, body and vitality for each individual horse, on a very personal level, via natural herbal health, to restore a healthy equilibrium and the functioning integrity, the ‘vital force’, of our client's horse.
And without doubt, this sits best with me if our herbs are certified organic, human-grade/non-irradiated/non-GMO, with no trace of chemical toxicity during the growth and post-harvesting period.
Which links us nicely to ...
The reason I originally changed my own horses’ feed regime to as-near-to-organic was after seeing our herd metabolically crash back in 2006/2007 (see our chapter * About Us & Our Horses for the full story).
We were living in Wiltshire at the time, albeit in a lovely rural location near the Westbury White Horse, yet we were situated under the path of a concrete factory chimney a few miles east of us which belched out a daily sulphur cloud in a westerly direction, alongside being surrounded by crop fields which were repeatedly sprayed with chemical fertilisers.
It was only after my horses' characters and health started changing beyond all recognition that in despair I started researching a cleaner, healthier lifestyle for them. Changing to as organic as we could was part of that change, and remains so.
Many of us now consider a degree of organic and chemical-free in our lives, mainly due to concerns about the rising levels of chemicals that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. It’s no secret that the use of chemicals and synthetic additives in food production can be extremely harmful to health, and by feeding organically-grown natural product is a way of reducing the risk of toxic side-effects and ill-health.
With my EquiNatural hat on, using organic products wherever possible in our supplements became the only practice I wanted to follow, ensuring that as per my own horses, our clients' horses will also benefit from the guaranteed, safe assurance that the stringent practices and certification behind an organic status ensures that no chemicals are used.
Leading on from this, there were other practices I also wanted to adopt, specifically using recycled wherever possible. And while I'm not especially super-eco or tree-huggy, I also have a very real problem with plastic taking 400-years to rot down on landfill, as well as it contributing to seriously damaging our marine world.
I work closely with two suppliers for our products. Our main herb supplier is The Organic Herb Trading Company (OHT), based in Somerset, who ensure that their growers are risk-assessed and monitored regularly to ensure that goods supplied are fully traceable, and that all policies and relevant legislation is complied with. A major factor of their ethos is that their growers work hard to maintain healthy soils and ecosystems, co-operate with wildlife, and provide fair working conditions, all the while delivering a high quality product.
OHT also sponsored two of their suppliers in obtaining FairWild certification, which guarantees that the small-scale farmers receive a fair reward for their work. Even better, this secures the tradition, history and protection of wild growing plants against increasing demand for wild plants, and also promotes the sustainable management and collection of wild plants, while addressing fair trade practices and securing the livelihoods of the collectors.
Tree Harvest Ltd are a unique Devon-based, specialist trading house who source natural non-timber forest products. They support and develop ethical trade and community-based projects so that the benefits of harvesting non-timber products go directly to the local producers.
Tree Harvest supply many of our herbs as well as our Tree Therapy and Gemmotherapy products. Their Tree Therapies are made with great care and respect for nature by a founder member of the British Flower and Vibrational Essences Association. Their Gemmotherapy remedies are made in the South of France and are certified as organic by Eco-Cert. They are prepared with great care so that the energetic qualities of the plants are conserved. The remedies also carry the French certificate "AB" Agriculture Biologique, which guarantees that the remedies are made according to a mode of production that cares for the environment, which prohibits the use of any chemicals and respects the well-being of animals.
You'll see the difference; your horse will feel the difference!
For us, there is simply no comparison - we dig deeper to find out what's really going on with your horse, whether it's diet, lifestyle or environment issues, and support your horse's health with plants grown free from agro-chemicals, produced to ecological standards, and contaminant/heavy metal tested. Our blends never have any artificial ingredients, fillers or additives of any description whatsoever.
Our herbs look like real plants, not dried-up dusty chopped stalks; as one client described her order,it was "like the meadow coming to her door"! Our herbs are rich and robust, full of vibrant colour, bursting with natural aroma and flavour, nourishing and nutritious, and jam-packed with their essential biological substances and oils. I'll go so far as to say you simply can't get better.
And the best bit? They work!