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Healing the Whole

Written by Sebastian Pole

The current global environmental crisis is common knowledge. I propose that converting our primary medical healthcare systems to include Traditional Herbal Medicine (THM) as a central part of the health system can have a massive impact on the health of the environment as well as on the health of society. In fact, if THM does become front line healthcare it is essential to consider the impact on the environment. The large volumes of herbs that will be required to be grown and harvested to support the health system’s supply of medicines will radically affect local communities and local environments. It could hugely impact the face of farming. It could literally change the face of the world.

Interestingly, the problems that scientists are telling us that have appeared with the sustainable health of the planet appear to be mirrored in the concurrent high levels of degenerative diseases facing society. As ‘global warming’ issues impacting the environment have grown so has the rise in ‘smouldering’ diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, alzheimer’s and cancer. Is this the microcosm within macrocosm? Are we really just a small part of a larger Gaian system where our health is reflected in the planet’s health and vice versa? I believe so. To be healthy ourselves we have to have a healthy planet. Quid pro quo…..

This ‘paradigm’ of the earth’s health mirroring our own health is nowhere more apparent than in some of the sourcing challenges faced by growing demand. The sustainability of herbal medicines is a very important issue and is affecting all parts of the supply chain.  In January 2004, Alan Hamilton, a plant specialist working with the World Wildlife Fund, released a paper on the threat to the herbal community faced by the indiscriminate over harvesting of medicinal herbs. In this paper he notes that approximately 75% of all herbs that are used in herbal medicine come from the wild. He also stated that there are 50,000 species used in healthcare around the world and that 10,000 are threatened; this means that a staggering 20% of all herbal species used throughout the world are under threat. So is there a future for herbal medicine and can the environment support the future demand?

Sebastian is a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. He qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) to help transform health. He holds a Licentiate in Herbal Medicine, a Diploma in Oriental Herbal Medicine and is an Ayurvedic Health Counsellor.

Sebastian Pole runs his own herbal practice in Bath and has been in clinical practice since 1998. He is also an organic herb expert and is passionate about supporting the sustainable supply of organic herbs. Fluent in Hindi, a registered Yoga therapist and passionate about running a business that brings benefit to everyone it connects with, Sebastian is on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life.

Sebastian lives on an amazing two acre forest garden farm in Somerset with his family, where he grows over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. His favourites are licorice, chamomile, echinacea, motherwort, valerian, tulsi and marigolds.

Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006).

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