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’.
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.
I'm so often asked how herbs work, so here it is from a horse's perspective. 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 medicinally.
Herbs V. Conventional Medicine
First, we need to remind ourselves of what dis-ease of the body is; ‘dis-ease’ simply means that the body is not 'at ease'.
When something goes wrong with health, it's usually caused by a malfunction of the body’s eliminative processes, under pressure from environmental pollution, poor diet and/or the modern lifestyle. Dis-ease happens right down at cellular level, so when toxins come in and start messing with the cellular physiology, they need to be eliminated so that happy homeostasis returns.
So back to the difference between herbs and conventional medicine, and it really is down to 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, whereas modern medicine is mainly concerned with managing/blocking the symptoms of diseases, which is all well and good for the relief we need so we can get on with our day, but it won't necessarily address the toxic load that's causing those symptoms,which means ... the dis-ease will soon come knocking on the door again.
Ask any GP and they'll tell you they train in physiology, but practice pharmacology. Once qualified, our medical professionals are then trained to prescribe appropriate pharmaceutical medication to relieve the presenting symptoms as quickly as possible. You can understand it; in our modern-day, pressurised world, we need a quick fix so we can get on with our modern-day, pressured 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
To some, the word 'holistic' makes eyes glaze over as yes, it conjures up images of 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 - it just means 'the whole'. Holism is the theory that promotes management of the whole; you can't achieve healthy by simply managing (blocking) the symptoms of unhealthy. 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 mind, body, emotions, spirit, and natural, functional medicine sees the body as a whole instead of an assortment of disconnected parts. Instead of blocking the irritation of the symptom and shoving the problem deeper down where it may then manifest into a chronic condition, herbal medicine manages the whole dis-ease, and when taken as a tonic, the medicinal properties in herbs can help avert the causes of dis-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 (remember) are prescribed to suppress, or block, the surface-level presenting symptoms.
A quick digress on symptoms, and why we should be glad of them, because they're really important. By the time we see symptoms, they’re already pointing to a deeper level of physiological imbalance. We need 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?
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'. Or to put it another way, functional medicine is medicine by cause, not by symptoms; it helps us discover the underlying triggers of dis-ease. With an open-minded approach, it works away from the traditional symptom-treating focus of medical practice to a more patient-centred approach.
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 conventional medicine and turned towards what's now being recognised as Functional Medicine. 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 a client's horse's history, diet and lifestyle, taking into account the interactions between lifestyle, environmental and emotional factors which can influence long-term health. By working this way, looking a little deeper and taking each horse’s case as individual, the aim of EquiNatural is to proactively support the health, body and vitality of each individual horse on a 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 my herd metabolically crash back in 2006/2007 (see * About Us & Our Horses for the full story).
Briefly, we were living in Wiltshire at the time, albeit in a lovely rural location near the Westbury White Horse. However, we were also situated around 4-miles east from a concrete factory chimney which belched out a daily sulphur cloud in a westerly direction. And ... we were also 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 I 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 products is a way of reducing the risk of toxic side-effects and ill-health.
With my EquiNatural hat on, using natural, organic ingredients wherever possible in our product range became the only practice I wanted to follow, ensuring that as per my own horses, our clients' horses would also benefit from the guaranteed, safe assurance that the stringent practices and certification behind a certified organic status ensures that no chemicals are used. As a result we only sell products which I would be happy to use on myself and my own horses - and dogs, cats, chickens and sheep for that matter! This also meant that I naturally gravitated towards suppliers who meet rigorous standards based on ethical sourcing of ingredients, natural chemical free ingredients, a commitment to low environmental impact and sustainability, and free from cruelty.
Leading on from this, there are other practices I prefer to adopt, specifically using recycled wherever possible. And while I'm not an eco-warrier by any stretch, and definitely not tree-huggy, I do have a very real problem with flipping plastic, i.e. taking 400-years to rot down on landfill, as well as the serious problems it's causing to 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 sponsor 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 compromise - 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 ;o)