Bacteria, Deep Ecology and Vitalist Herbalism

More and more people are engaging in the world of herbs. There is an immense amount of information available on the internet and books about herbs, how to grow them, use them, make medicine with them. This can be daunting for the new enthusiast. We have somehow become separated not only from nature in so many ways, but also from ourselves and our innate knowledge about plants and how to cultivate and use them to our benefit. Most of our food for instance, is annual vegetables which were hybridised from original parent plants growing wild. Wild foraging has enjoyed a revival lately and it is said that common weeds have more nutritional value in them than store bought inorganically grown vegetables. Growing and using herbs and other plants around us, puts some of the power over our health and well-being back into our own hands.

To be curious, experimental and involved in our natural environment leads to an exciting dimension of our lives. We should look outside to nature, of which we are a part, to learn again and become involved in its well being and ours. We should also look inside to our own consciousness and try understanding, discovering our true nature and how we are a part of the whole.  This is self realization.   We begin to understand that we are a part of the whole and that everything about us, our decisions, attitudes and even thoughts affect everything that is.

Our ancestors are the ones who understood this and often in this state of oneness with nature, knew inherently which plants to use for a disease or physical problem without having to read books or use Google or do a chemical experiment.

With this in mind, consider the following:

Modern medicine started to emerge after the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. Many research victories and scientific breakthroughs surfaced resulting in diminishing infections and many disease controls. In 1928 Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin which changed history, saving millions of lives. In 1932 Gerard Domagk, a German pathologist developed a cure for streptococcal infections and created “Prontosil” the first antibiotic on the market.

Bacteria naturally coexist with us in and on our bodies. Our co-evolutionary bacteria generate substances that kill off pathogenic bacteria. As we grow up and are naturally exposed to the environment, pathogens that come into contact with our bodies ‘teach’ our symbiotic bacteria how to effectively respond. By using ultra cleaning and disinfecting soaps etc. we destroy our own bacteria living on our bodies and make ourselves therefore more vulnerable to attack by pathogenic bacteria. That is why dirt is not necessary a bad thing for a kid to be exposed to as they grow up, their antibodies are becoming wiser through exposure.

Today we have Antibiotic Resistant bacteria. This resistance is due to the overuse of antibiotics, the flooding of our food, water and environment with antibiotics over many years. These antibiotics don’t go away, but persist in the environment where they influence naturally occurring bacteria to change and become stronger and resistant. Bacteria continually change in response to their environment and what threatens them and they pass this information on to each other and even across bacterial species. This resulted in super bacteria which became more and more resistant to antibiotics, even surviving freezing, baking, frying and acidic mediums.

Parallel to this are the plants which have complicated and sophisticated responses to bacterial invasion. A plant has hundreds to thousands of compounds, acting intelligently to the threats of bacteria.

 We have always had plants as we evolved in our human history and it is old news that they have been part and parcel of our food and medicine for thousands of years.

The plants and the bacteria are both acting as parts of the environment – everything in nature works together to bring balance.   We as humans should not merely see nature as an object to use, but that we are a part thereof and our actions influence the whole as well as ourselves. Similarly, we can’t see herbs merely as objects to be applied allopathically to what is wrong with us, but as living organisms with traits of their own and differences amongst plants even of the same species according to where and how they grow and in the way that we use them.  The term ‘Vitalist Herbalism’ coined by Sajah Popham came to my attention in my search for more sensible knowledge about herbs.  Thorough knowledge of the human condition and the energetics of the herb is important. The environment, the time of harvest, the particular human constitution, even the position of the planets are important variants to consider.

The philosopher and teacher Rudolph Steiner once said: ’for every human illness in the world there exists a plant which is the cure’

Let us be wise, responsible and curious and may we never stop searching, learning and evolving with caring attitude towards everything on our planet.


References:Stephen Harrod Buhne:  ‘Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria.’Ryan Hubbard: The Need for Deep Ecology Medical News Today, November 2018 Sajah Popham: ‘Evolutionary Herbalism ‘

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