past & modern herbal medicine

I thought I had better explain why, when I am writing up information about an herb I always try to include information about its temperament, planetary association, zodiac sign and chakra link as well as its pharmacology. In the scientific world that we live in today researchers are just beginning to understand what chemicals make up plants and what actions those individual chemicals have on our own cells. A plant has many different chemicals but so far science can only name & isolate a few of them and understand their actions on health. So isn’t it amazing that our ancient ancestors knew a plants actions by its planetary associations which told them what its healing capabilities are. The ancient Greeks recognised a plants healing abilities by use of medical astrology. Planets all have different temperaments, so for example the moon’s temperament is cold and moist and the sun’s temperament is hot and dry. Plants are also known to have temperament, which gives them their action on the body. So for example chickweed (Stellaria media) is a moon herb and it has a cold moist temperament. Or cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) a sun herb which has a hot and dry temperament. The planets were also associated with the stars as in the zodiac signs. Each sign corresponds to a part of the body too. So, keeping the sun and moon as examples; Cancer is linked with the moon and it rules the stomach, uterus and female breasts. Leo is linked with the sun and it rules the heart, circulatory system, major arteries and thoracic spine. The body is also associated with temperament. The ancient Greeks called it humoral medicine. In this theory, humours existed as liquids within the body and were identified as: Blood – sanguine – Air – Hot & wet Phlegm – phlegmatic – Water – Cold & wet Black bile – melancholic – Earth – Cold & dry Yellow bile – choleric – Fire – Hot & dry These were in turn associated with the fundamental elements of air, water, earth and fire. It was further proposed that each of the humours was associated with a particular season of the year, during which too much of the corresponding humour could exist in the body – blood, for example, was associated with spring. A good balance between the four humours was essential to retain a healthy body and mind, as imbalance could result in disease. This is also very similar to the Chinese traditional medicine with its associations with Yin & Yang and its 5 elements and also the Indian medicine system Ayurveda and its Doshas. Both include temperaments and elements in a holistic approach towards health. As well as Chakra’s which too are associated with parts of the body. It is believed that plants carry a vibrational frequency that corresponds to one of the seven chakras, having a beneficial healing effect. Example of Chakras associations in medicine are; Root Chakra / Muladhara – Element Earth, Plant; Burdock or Dandelion, Body; elimination, lower digestive functions, reproductive organs, excretory systems. Heart Chakra / Anahata – Element Air, Plant; Hawthorn berries or Cayenne, Body; heart, lungs & circulatory system. Now if we look at pharmacology we can see what constituents (the chemicals ) are found in a plant and what are their effects on the body. Example: we have already seen that chickweed is a moon herb, this tells us that it will have a cooling effect and that it could be moist. Chickweed’s plant constituents include; mucilage, courmarins, flavonoids, triterpenoids (Saponins), Penta saccharide, polysaccharides and sitosterols (plant steroids). Saponins have expectorant actions making it beneficial in helping coughs, mucilage has anti-inflammatory thus cooling actions making it beneficial in treating hot, irritated skin conditions. This corresponds to what our ancestors documented about the healing properties of this plant by its associations with astrology and temperament. If we take the other example of cinnamon we see that pharmacology it contains: essential oil cinnamaldehyde, courmarins, condensed tannins. The essential oil shows antiviral activity, circulatory stimulation, vasodilatory, digestive stimulatory and antispasmodic actions. This too corresponds to what our ancestors knew from its temperament and astrological associations as it is known as having a hot temperament and being a sun herb under the influence of leo, both pointing to heart and circulation and its solar chakra association (solar chakra) which supports its digestive qualities. Our ancient ancestors viewed the world differently, maybe even had a different conscious to us today. They seemed to live with a deep understanding and relationship with the planets and stars. Before the written word, knowledge would have been passed down the generations verbally, maybe by linking plants to the planets their knowledge was passed on and remembered first through story before the first stone tablets were inscribed. They understood that planets had different temperaments, which amazes me how they knew this without the technology that we have today. They knew Mars was a hot and fiery war like planet, that the Moon was cold and wet and so on. So by looking at the whole picture we can see how a plant can be of use medicinally, taking the information that was passed on and by our modern approach with science. This way we can get a better understanding of how a certain plant can be of benefit to our health.