While often referred to as theory, I consider herbal energetics to be highly practical in that even a basic understanding of their use can result in a more direct relationship with the plants and give better clinical, real life results. They are also practical in the sense that they provide a link between scientific understanding (the pharmacology of primary plant constituents) and actual practice (herbal actions and their application). Simply by tasting, smelling, feeling and otherwise using our senses to explore a plant we can know how the plant will likely act in the human body and with a basic understanding of pharmacology/phytochemistry, we can even understand why. Herbalist and botanist Christopher Hobbs gives a brief example of this:
“Generally, hot herbs have constituents that make them stimulating to the blood circulation (resin-containing plants such as ginger) or increase metabolic activity (alkaloid-containing plants such as black tea). Cold herbs have antiinflammatory compounds such as sesquiterpenes (feverfew) or alkaloid-containing antibacterial and antiinflammatory herbs (golden seal).”While it’s not truly necessary to know the details of how plants work on human physiology in order to work with them as an effective herbalist, this simple link does allow us to better understand the amazing realms of possibility inherent to botanical medicine. It’s also helpful in allowing us to realize that science, specifically biomedicine, and traditional herbalism can overlap and interlink in a way that allows us to become better herbalists and have a deeper understanding of both person and plant.
Prunus vulgaris inflorescences
To me, herbal energetics are all about recognizing the the wisdom of our bodies and our ancient relationship with plants as medicines as well as food, poison and beyond, in a way that allows us to have a greater understanding of how to help each other through hands on experience – through tasting the plant, understanding what it does organoleptically, with our sensorial bodies – and then directly applying that knowledge. This isn’t just head knowledge, it’s whole body knowledge that results in an ever more whole and effective approach to healing and herbalism.