Herbalism (Photo credit: Nomadic Lass)
WHAT IS A SIMPLE?
A “simple” is one herb used at a time. A “simpler” is an herbalist who generally uses herbs one at a time, rather than in combinations.
WHY USE SIMPLES?
Most herbalists – whether from China or Japan, Eastern or Western Europe, Australia or North America – use herbs in combinations. Simplers, don’t. Why?
Well, its simply that herbal medicine is people’s medicine. Make herbal medicine simple: as simple as one herb at a time. Because people worry about interactions between the drugs they take and herbs, I keep it simple: with simples, interactions are simple to observe, and simpler to avoid. Because empowerment in healthcare is difficult, It should be easy to use safe herbal remedies: and what could be easier, or safer, than a simple?
SIMPLES MAKE YOU THINK
If you are just getting started with herbs, one thing that could confounded you is the many choices you have when you begin to match symptoms to the herbs that relieves them. If someone had a cough you think, “Should I use garden sage or wild cherry bark or pine sap or mullein or coltsfoot (to name only a few of the many choices)?” One way out of this dilemma is to use them all. Some cough syrups can contain every anti-cough herb that you can collect. And they all work.
As you get more sophisticated in your herbal usage, and especially after studying up on the various herbs, you begin to see that each herb has a specific personality, a specific way of acting. you realize that you can’t notice the individual actions of the herbs when they were combined.
Dare to use just one herb. Would wild cherry bark tincture all by itself be enough to quell that child’s cough? Yes! Would mullein infusion alone really reduce a person’s asthmatic and allergic reactions? Yes! Would sage soaked in honey for six weeks ease a sore throat? Yes! Each herb that you try as a simple can be successful. They all work, not just together, but by themselves.
The more you use individual herbs the more you come to know them as individuals. The more you use simples, the simpler and more successful your remedies can become. The more you use one herb at a time, the more you learn about how that herb works, and didn’t work.
SIMPLES ARE INTIMATE
When we use one herb at a time, we come to know that herb, we become intimate with that herb. Just as we become intimate with each other by spending time one-on-one, simply together; we become closer to the herbs when we use them as simples.
Becoming intimate with an herb or a person helps us build trust. How reliable is the effect of this herb? When? How? Where does it fail? Using simples helps us build a web of green allies that we trust deeply. Simples help us feel more powerful. They help abate our fears, simply, safely.
SIMPLES ARE SUBTLE
Using one herb at a time gives us unparalleled opportunities to observe and make use of the subtle differences that are at the heart of herbal medicine. When we use simples, we are more likely to notice the many variables that affect each herb: including where it grows, the years’ weather, how we harvest it, our preparation, and the dosage. The many variables within one plant insure that our simple remedy nonetheless touches many aspects of a person and heals deeply.
A Herbal apprentice, who tinctured motherwort flowering tops weekly through its blooming period, reported that the tinctures made from the younger flower stalks had a stronger effect on the uterus; while those made from the older flower stalks, when the plant was going to seed, had a stronger effect on the heart.
SIMPLES GIVE ME POWER
- Using one herb at a time helps you feel more certain that your remedy has an active value, not just a placebo value.
- Using one plant at a time, and local ones at that, reassures you that your herbal medicine cannot be legislated away.
- Using one plant at a time allows you to build trust in your remedies.
- Using one plant at a time is a subversive act, a reclaiming of simple healthcare.
Combinations may erode your power, and might lead you to believe that herbal medicine is best left to the experts.
FROM COMPLEX TO SIMPLE
Take the challenge! Use simples instead of complex formulae. Rework some herbal remedies and get a sense of how simple it can be.
The great anti-cancer formula Essiac contains
Extracting the simple: Rhubarb root has no possible use against cancer; it is a purgative whose repeated use can “aggravate constipation”. Slippery elm bark also has no possible anti-cancer properties and has no doubt been added to counter some of the detrimental effects of the rhubarb. Sheep sorrel juice is so caustic that it has been used to burn off skin cancers, but it would likely do more harm to the kidneys than to any cancer if ingested regularly. Leaving us with a great anti-cancer simple: burdock root. One that is found to be superbly effective in reversing dysplasias and pre-cancerous conditions.
But this herbal magnifies its power in the combination. Not only for cancer, this treatment can be used for almost anything. It is kind and gentle and good tasting. It has the most amazing healing properties. This brew is so easy to make and keep as a dried mix in the cupboard. If you get sick -any kind of sick, even gastro, it can be brewed up a cup at a time (1 teaspoon boiled slightly in pure water and cooled with a lid on to keep the delicate essential oils inside. then drink as a tea. It is mighty soothing and uplifting and can be kept down very easily.)
Simples are fun. Give them a try.
Among the many variables, you can especially notice that the tinctures that are made with fresh plants are many times more effective than tinctures made from dried plants. Some say that preparations of common plants growing in uncommon places will be stronger as well. Many herbalists are aware of certain areas of their land that nurture plants that are particularly potent medicines.