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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 Pole
I am a registered member of the Ayurvedic Professionals Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and a Fellow of the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners. I qualified as a herbalist with the aim of using the principles of Ayurveda (the ancient art of living wisely) and the Herbal tradition to help transform health. I have been in clinical practice since 1998.

Having co-founded Pukka Herbs in 2001 I have become experienced in organic herb growing, practitioner grade quality and sustainable value chains. I am a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation, a Director of The Betonica School of Herbal Medicine and an Advisor to The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and The Sustainable Herbs Project. Fluent in Hindi, a qualified Yoga therapist and passionate about projects with a higher purpose, I am on a mission to bring the incredible power of plants into people’s life. And that is why I started Herbal Reality and what it is all about.

I live in a forest garden farm in Somerset growing over 100 species of medicinal plants and trees. And a lot of weeds!

Author of Ayurvedic Medicine, The Principles of Traditional Practice (Elsevier 2006), A Pukka Life (Quadrille 2011), Celebrating 10 Pukka years (2012) and Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea (Frances Lincoln 2016).

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