Herbalism based on pills and hype is dead. Many practitioners and consumers use primarily herbal pills. Though pill form is a valid preparation for certain herbs at certain times, there are numerous problems with them. I have thoroughly and regularly discussed the problems with herbal pills (capsules & tablets) in various classes I have offered. One great example is Echinacea: as an herb that looses potency in dried form relatively quickly (short shelf life), it is best preserved as a tincture not a pill. Further, in the case of Echinacea, many pill companies use the leaf and stem rather than the more potent root, flower, and seed. Pills are also not easily absorbed, as they are encapsulated in gel or bound in a tablet. Liquid is much better: infusion, decoction, tincture... But all these points are discussions of their own. Indeed, what makes herbalism so daunting to the average person is the amount of relevant information associated with each plant: part used, harvest time, preparation, dose, indications, contraindications, et cetera. All these things are important. However, even when such information is observed the reality of herbalism as a living art is often neglected.
Just as people have become increasingly disconnected from the natural world in general, the art of herbal medicine has become increasingly separated from its source. Perhaps the practical details (which are not even well observed) of herbal medicine can be considered the science of herbal medicine; while the intuitive and skillful practice can be regarded as art. Herbalism is an art and a science. For herbalism to be considered alive, the various aspects of the science and the art must be vital. It is no great mystery that American tradition is in a sorry state. Again, it would be possible to form several discussions from the various details relating to the state of American herbalism (Native traditions, the American mixing pot, the loss of energetics, the introduction of chemical analysis...). For this discussion, I would like to direct attention to the art of herbalism.
Herbalism as an art relates to the learned skill of the practitioner (their familiarity with various disease states, their visceral understanding of the restoration of health, their familiarity with herbs and preparations), the intuitive capacity of the practitioner, and the ability of a practitioner to know what herb at what time.
Originally from 7/5/2014