Embracing Farmacy, not Pharmacy
"There is a herb growing for every disease."
Abbe Kneipp, 1821-1897, original founder of the
Naturopathic Medicine movement
I'm 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, herbal medicine took a back seat for decades, and not necessarily because modern pharmaceuticals were better, but 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!
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.
So how do herbs work compared to our modern medicine?
In a nutshell, it's all about the differences in the overall function of natural versus 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 the symptoms of diseases.
Our medical professionals are trained to prescribe appropriate medication to relieve the presenting symptoms as quickly as possible. In our modern-day, pressurised world, we need a quick fix so we can get on with our lives. This fix is administered via powerful, laboratory-made medicine which is specifically designed by scientists to interfere with the body's physiology, by blocking the symptoms. I'm not knocking it - I'm the first to reach for the Paracetamol when a thumping headache strikes, because like everyone, I need to get on with my day (although these days, I find keeping hydrated and drinking plenty of water seems to do the trick. Seriously.)
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 the stone circle with didgeridoo in hand. But stay with me for a second and give me a chance to explain without hopefully sounding too tree-huggy. Defined from the Greek word 'Holism', it simply means 'All, Entire, Total'. That's all there is to it - holistic is the theory that promotes management of the whole. You can't achieve healthy by managing the symptoms of unhealthy, nor can you can’t keep one disease and heal another – when the body heals holistically, it heals everything. This is how herbs work - instead of blocking the irritation of the 'symptom' and shoving the problem deeper down, herbal medicine manages dis-ease as a whole, and when taken as a tonic, it can help avert the causes of dis-ease (the word ‘dis-ease’ simply meaning that the body is not 'at ease').
So what's Functional Medicine?
Put simply, Functional Medicine is a personalised therapy method, working to achieve the highest expression of health to address the underlying causes of disease.
With an open-minded approach, working away from the traditional symptom-treating focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, Functional Medicine addresses the whole body, not just an isolated set of symptoms.
Here at EquiNatural, we 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, we aim to proactively support the health, body and vitality for each individual horse, on a very personal level, via natural herbal health. And without doubt, that sits best with me if the herbs we use are organic, and not treated with toxic chemicals during their 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. Going as organic as we could was part of that change.
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 also benefit from the guaranteed, safe assurance that the stringent practices and certification behind an organic status ensures that no chemicals are used.
Meet our suppliers
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 own 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 specialise in 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, non-irradiated, GMO-free, 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; like the meadow coming to your door, they're 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!