24 posts tagged asian
Pacific College Academic Dean Bob Damone shares his experience with us from the desert this past weekend, where he studied nature’s herbal medicines with fellow colleagues and PCOM students!
In the early 1980’s, a few years before it ever occurred to me to pursue a career in Chinese herbal medicine, I became interested in “Western” herbal medicine. I read everything I could get my hands on, including “The Way of Herbs” by Michael Tierra. I immediately devoured it, and immersed myself in its fascinating descriptions of plant-based medicines. My kitchen cupboards quickly began to overflow with tinctures, powders, and poultices of various herbs. The rich earthy fragrances, tastes, and colors of various flowers, barks, leaves, and seeds became a part of my daily life. Valerian, White Willow Bark, Chamomile, Saw Palmetto, etc., became allies in my search for health and wellness. I was hooked.
This past weekend, I had the excellent fortune of sharing with several Pacific College students a medicinal plant study excursion to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park led by Sylvan Botanical Institute. Sylvan—a company co-founded by PCOM alum, accomplished herbalist, and author Thomas Garran—is devoted to teaching knowledge of herbal medicine in part by empowering practitioners to locate, identify, and harvest local medicinal plants. Among the several knowledgeable and approachable herb teachers on the trip, were Christopher Hobbs and Michael Tierra. I had not met Christopher before, but found him to be a veritable walking encyclopedia of ethnobotany, pharmacognosy, and botanical identification. As I mentioned above, Michael Tierra—whose book I had cut my teeth on in my herbal infancy—was also in attendance. If I have any heroes, he is certainly among them. What a thrill to meet and hang out with the man who had initially inspired my interest in herbal medicine!
My interest in Western herbal medicine eventually expanded to Chinese herbal medicine. Yet, I never lost my fascination with Western herbs. A number of Western herbalists in fact have followed a similar path. Many regard the solid empirical and theoretical foundation of Chinese herbal medicine, with its unbroken historical and textual record, as the most viable model for an integrative and globalized modern form of herbal medicine. This has sparked a very interesting dialogue, which was palpable during the duration of this desert trip: How can the theoretical foundation of Chinese medicine be applied to the study of Western herbs? Is there a benefit to using Western herbs according to the principles of Chinese medicine?
The resounding response to the latter question from the Western herbalists present in the desert this weekend was undoubtedly yes. And I tend to agree. I had the clear sense this past weekend that the zeitgeist now indicates a heightened readiness to engage in this important and necessary dialogue. I look forward to more trips with Sylvan and I hope to inspire the Pacific College community to engage in communion with the beautiful and rich natural world around us, which teems with medicinal plants.
Check out the video slideshow here!