How Herbs Changed My Life and Health (Why You Should Learn How to Use Herbs Too!)
If I had to name one thing that’s had the biggest impact on my life (besides bearing four children to productive adulthood), it’s hands-down learning how to use herbs for health, beauty, cleaning, mood management, and more. Herbalism is a science and an art, and I would absolutely be a not-as-good or healthy a person if I hadn’t stumbled upon using plants for health and medicine many years ago.
I didn’t grow up in an “herbal” household. My parents were not hippies. We didn’t live in a commune. I didn’t have a grandmother who taught me to use the forest herbs. Like most people in this modern day and age, I grew up learning that if you got sick, you were supposed to go get medicine from the drugstore or the doctor. Period.
Nope. I didn’t have the advantage of growing up at some wise elder’s knee, learning to forage and use medicinal herbs for our family’s health. Even though my ancestors not too far back were pioneers of the American West, settling in Southern Utah and Idaho and were from German descent, bringing all the old ways with them, those ways were sadly gone by the time I came into being.
That’s one of the most disappointing (and chilling) things about our modern lives of “convenience.” We have lost thousands of years of knowledge in just the past one-hundred years or so. It’s time to re-learn some of these old-time skills, starting with herbalism!
This article focuses on how traditional medicine (plant medicine) saved and changed my life. I’m going to explain how and why we started using plants for health and healing; and why I decided to take my health into my own hands and re-educate myself in the old ways of using herbs.
Before I get into all the ways herbs have literally changed my life, I want to say I am not against the medical profession or community. Not at all. In fact, I have relatives who are doctors, and a daughter-in-law who is a physician’s assistant. My own daughter has a degree in biochemistry and has researched asthma.
Modern science has brought healing to a whole new level, and sometimes we must take advantage of this new knowledge and science, especially in serious cases. So please know I am not discounting modern medicine in any way. I simply know, that for me and Mr. V., plant medicine is our preferred method for our health and wellness.
There is a time and place for doctors, and I believe strongly that traditional healing and allopathic medicine should complement each other. With that said, I’ve come across some pretty powerful, useful, and simple herbal remedies since I started down this path that have treated my body much more gently and healthily than the prescription (Rx) and over the counter (OTC) drugs I used to take.
One of my passions and goals is to share as much about natural and traditional herbal medicine as I can with you! I think we have a legacy that is being lost in these modern times, and now it’s time to make the effort to re-learn some of this traditional lost knowledge.
What if a disaster struck, and getting help from the local pharmacist or a doctor wasn’t possible? Would you know what to do if you got sick? Or if you needed first aid? Or if your prescription medications ran out? Our time-honored tradition as a human race of using plants for health and healing is valuable, even in this day and age.
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Here are some ways using herbs for our health has changed our (Mr. V.’s and my) lives:
Better Health and Well-Being:
We are actually healthier now than we were over ten years ago! Using herbs on a daily basis for nutrition, in lieu of over the counter drugs, and in our cooking has completely changed our health as well as our outlook on life.
My seasonal allergies are gone and have been for ages. Once I began using herbs and getting rid of toxins in our life, my allergies (inexplicably it seemed) just went away. I no longer dread “allergy season.” This is just one of the beneficial impacts using herbs over time has had on my own life.
There are many other ways using herbs has been helpful for us, but that is a whole other article!
Ability to Customize Our Home Medicines for Our Personal Needs
Knowing how herbs work on the body allows me to make home remedies and plant medicines for us that work for our personal needs. If I need an antibiotic, I know which herbs and how much to use. If I need an antibiotic salve or ointment, I can quickly make one up without agonizing over which herbs are best to use.
I know exactly the kinds of herbs that work best for our sleep, added to our foods, pain relief, headaches, and common ailments such as cold and flu. It’s an empowerment I wish everyone could know and be able to do.
Few or No Side Effects or Worries About Chemicals
No longer do we worry about side effects or the long-term effects of toxic chemicals on our bodies from medications, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, etc.
There was a time when a doctor told me straight up that my liver was probably destroyed due to how many years I had been prescribed antibiotics by various doctors who hadn’t bothered to ask about my history. You can read more about that in my article on Liver Supporting Herbs (Plus 2 Tea Recipes).
Suffice to say, I was shaken to the core by this statement, as I was only in my thirties at the time. And I was MAD. I was also disappointed at the irresponsibility of the medical professionals I had thus far encountered. Luckily, the doctor who explained all this to me was a thoughtful man who actually cared.
It turns out the treatment I needed, which cured my skin problem, was not covered by insurance. Therefore, it was not on other doctors’ radars, I guess. And neither was my long-term health. This particular doctor cured what ailed me…but it sure cost a LOT of money out of my own pocket.
Nowadays, I’m extremely sensitive to potential side effects, and I make sure to do my research no matter what I’m putting in or on my body, whether it’s an herb, essential oil, over-the-counter drug, or an Rx prescription. If I’m uncomfortable about any potential issues, I just won’t use it.
I can’t say this is how I will always feel, but for right now, I trust plant medicine over chemical and lab-created medications hands-down.
We Save TONS of Money
It’s just incredible when you add up the cost of over the counter medications or even prescriptions (maybe I should say “especially” prescriptions). I don’t know how much the typical over-the-counter sleep aid or simple pain reliever costs these days because I haven’t bought them in years.
But I suspect they are well over $3.00 each. If anyone knows the going cost, please leave a comment! I’d love to know! I haven’t been in a drugstore in years!
Anyhow, a few years ago, Mr. V. and I somehow received a $50 gift certificate to CVS, a local drugstore. WOW! We were excited to go and get supplies for our emergency storage, just in case!
Well, as we walked up and down and up and down all the aisles with ALL the things….we looked at our empty cart, then at each other in awe.
We realized we didn’t need ANY of the things because I made pretty much all the things myself at home using herbs and essential oils. What an incredible feeling!
So we ended up buying things like bandages, betadine, and a tooth repair kit.
I wish I could describe to you how that moment felt. It was one of the most empowering feelings I’ve ever felt. Which brings me to:
Confidence and Empowerment
What a blessing and a joy to feel like this about your self-care.
One of the things I realized when I was talking with potential students for an herbal course I was creating several months ago is that people who want to learn about using herbs really truly want these feelings. And the feelings of confidence and empowerment come from knowledge and practice.
After talking with hundreds of people about their desires, I realize the sense of dependence we have in our modern culture is frightening to many. And I was once in that place.
I KNEW the chemical sleep aid I had to take each night to help me sleep was doing some kind of damage to my body. I KNEW the Tylenol I took for a headache or other pain was doing some bad things to my liver…..but way back in the day, I didn’t know there were any alternatives!
The natural health trend is now well on its way, and people who have any kind of knowledge or look into natural health at all are realizing there are other avenues besides drugstores and doctors…at least for basic health needs, and for some people, even major health issues.
(Animals, Home, Cleaning, Personal)
Learning about herbs and natural health will eventually lead you to getting the toxins out of your home, food, and life….and your animals’ too.
And sometimes it’s the other way around. People who desire to live “green” often are introduced to using plant sources for their health and wellness via the path of ridding their homes of toxins first. It’s a beautiful cycle.
But now I can honestly say that my home is a place that I know is free of chemicals and toxins that damage our endocrine system, hormones, lymph system, and many more. I love being able to use a vinegar/water/herb/essential oil solution that’s more effective than a chemical soup of a cleaner.
I’m still working on this area, I’ll admit. I’m trying to move more toward a natural feed for our chickens, for example. We garden our food and medicinal herbs without toxic pesticides or herbicides or fertilizers. Like everything, this is a journey, and I’m working my way along the path.
Convenience and Ease
It may SEEM that it would be inconvenient to make your own tinctures, soaps, salves, teas, and more. In reality, though, once you have your basic supplies, it’s far more convenient, simple, and easy.
If I need a pain reliever or anything else? I turn to my herb storage where I keep my tinctures, loose herbs, and teas. If I don’t have a preparation ready to go, I can easily make it on the spot.
OR, I simply walk out to my garden and pick what I need. You can find out what plants to grow in your medicinal herb garden, if you like.
Knowing how to use herbs in my daily life has saved my not only money, but a ton of time too.
Emergency Preparedness and Survival
If you have a preparedness mindset, then you have probably already thought about how a disaster could affect your mental and physical health.
Many preppers put a hyper focus on food storage and defense, but truly, knowing how to use your local plants for medicine and health is a big part of being ready for a disaster.
After living as Mr. V. and I have been living these past years, far from town, off-grid (when we were in Southern Nevada), and making/growing our own foods and medicines…we have learned by practicing and experience what to do.
There are still many things we need to learn, and that’s ok. It’s a matter of continuing the learning journey. My next step is to take a serious emergency medical course, and I’m on the lookout for one that is specifically for preppers…because good classes tend to turn to herbs and things not found in stores.
Herbs Last a LONG Time in Storage….Naturally
For many herbal preparations, we don’t pay attention to shelf life. Tinctures, for example, may last decades if they are stored and prepared properly.
Some things we do need to turn over, such as loose herbs every couple of years, but other than that, many preparations last a good long time.
Besides this….if you live in an area where medicinals grow and/or you garden and cultivate your own, well then. Storage is just not really an issue at all.
Building Trust in the Natural World and God’s Gifts to Us
When I was a brand new herbalist, I admit to being rather fearful of the concoctions I was creating. Would they work? Would they poison us? Did I really know enough about all this?
And foraging: What if I mis-identified a plant and picked something toxic (worst case) or simply the wrong harmless thing (best case)?
Well, over time, my doubts have dissipated, while my belief in medicinal plants has sky-rocketed. Herbs now play such a huge role in our lives, I can’t imagine ever going to a drugstore for any kind of anything anymore.
What a blessing and privilege it is to have been able to use my time in the past decade and more to learn about all the natural blessings God has provided us right in our own backyard!
The Dependability of Herbs
Once you have a few herbal tinctures under your belt, for example, you have made willow (Salix alba) tincture enough times to know if you have a good strong preparation or not, and how to make adjustments, you realize how dependable herbs are.
If they don’t work, there’s a reason, and it’s worth it to do a little sleuthing to find out why. Here’s an article about why herbs may not work and what you can do about it, if you are interested.
The “AWE” Factor
This is closely related to confidence and empowerment, but it’s a bit different, so I’ll talk about the “AWE” factor.
When a person comes to me asking for some help with an issue they are having, and I’m able to provide something from my herbal apothecary that takes care of the problem, there is almost always a reaction of AWE. Literally.
I can’t think of another word to describe the reaction.
And oftentimes, this translates to the person wanting to learn more on their own. Sometimes. Learning about using herbs and essential oils is a lot of work, I’ll just be honest. You need to take action. You need to read. You need to experiment.
Anyhow, I’m on a tangent again, and back to the wide-eyed and appreciative faces of folks when they realize they just used a PLANT and it worked fabulously!
The waste and toxins produced by modern industrial structures is incredible. Just monstrous.
I can honestly say that when you grow and harvest your own herbs with sustainability in mind, you are doing the earth a great favor. If more and more of us start down this path, maybe the earth will be a little better off in the long run.
Don’t you feel overwhelmed by all the filth the human race produces? I know I do.
The only thing I can do is decide how I’m going to act…and I choose to do my best to treat the earth well. I forage, grow, and create with our health and the health of the planet in my mind.
By being an example for others (hopefully) I hope that more people will choose not to support businesses and practices that harm our earth. Our home.
Mr. V. and I are both retired and are on fixed incomes…which is a little scary. We tend to be frugal anyway, and these days since retiring, even moreso. However, it costs money to run a homestead. The tractor breaks…it needs to be fixed. Tools need to be purchased. Animal feed needs to be bought or made. And on and on.
There are expenses that are simply not covered by our retirement incomes.
Herbalism has recently started providing a way for us to continue on our homestead journey through my teaching and writing about the art and science of herbalism and essential oils. It’s not much at this point, but every bit helps.
My goal is to continue to help others step onto this herbal path and grow their own knowledge. To pass it along. When a new student joins our Confident Herbal Tribe or enrolls in the longer course, The Confident Herbalist: A Guide to Home Herbalism, I feel happy that another person is taking steps to go down the path of having herbs change their life for the positive too…just as they have my own.
Final Thoughts on How Herbs Can be Life Changing
When I began my herbal journey and path, I had no idea how my life would change and be benefitted in so many ways. I just had no clue!
You know what’s fun for me? This is probably going to sound “weird,” but I enjoy going into Walmart once in a great while. This is because when I step inside a store like this, I realize how very little I need and how very much I can create myself…including the stuff in the health aisles.
Knowing herbs is a HUGE part of our self-reliance journey and practice. And this knowledge and experience has been nothing short of miraculous in so many ways. I hope others will come along with me on this herbal path!
Do you want to learn herbalism? Do you want to take the bull by the horns and start actually learning and doing instead of wishing and hoping? You CAN!
My course, The Confident Herbalist: A Guide to Home Herbalism is one place to start. It’s for beginners, and lays a great foundation of the basics while getting you started making preparations that are safe and effective quickly with recipes and remedies we use ourselves in our home.
I highly recommend Rosemary Gladstar’s book, Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, if you are just starting out too. It’s the book that got me started down my own herbal path. I happened across it accidentally in a feed store, and it changed my whole outlook on health.
The Herbal Academy of New England has many courses too! Especially if you have some herbal experience, they’ve got lots of offerings, both short and long and for all levels.
Then there’s my monthly membership, The Confident Herbal TRIBE. This is a small community of students of my course and membership who get weekly access to me and monthly lessons focused deeply on one herb each month. There is also a general herbal lesson and plenty of recipes. Videos are included so you can follow along hands-on!
However you get started, I hope you will take action and get your herbal learning on! :-)
You might also enjoy my series, How to Get Started Using Herbs with all the basics! Click here.
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. In no manner, stated or implied is any wording in any of my content on any platform meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. Please be sure to seek advice from a medical doctor before using herbs or essential oils. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.