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The Influence of The Elements in Disease

The Green Man, Worcester's Mobile Herbalist

I have been out collecting the abundant supply of damsons. These are scheduled to sit in my freezer until I have sufficient time to begin the process of making wine from them. On a medical note Mrs. Grieve, in her famous book A Modern Herbal, tells us that the bark is styptic and the fruit is used for its astringency in cases of diarrhoea. This reference made me start thinking about the diverse ways holistic practitioners understand and prescribe for a case being treated. Very often a case presents itself with a very clear physiological profile. However, some cases, when analysed holistically, will be understood by the influence or imbalance of an element . A case presenting excess heat (this may result from emotional friction caused by anger or frustration, from toxic states, insufficient fluid intake etc...or a combination of these factors) is influenced by the fire element and will need cooling and moistening herbs (water element) to restore balance. If the source of the heat is emotional, then Bach remedies and other methods may be applied to resolve the cause of friction. Physically, such cases of dryness and heat may present themselves as agitated behaviour, inflammation, dry skin, red rash with itching, painful joints (drying of fluids and acid deposits), constipation etc. Some of these cases will also benefit from alterative and hepatic action (the liver is potentially a source of both toxic and emotional heat). However, the complex functioning of herbs makes it possible to make choices that combine all these properties For me, cases presenting with heat and dryness often require a combination of two types of herbs within the formula; those that are astringent and those that are moistening. This may sound like a contradiction. Astringent herbs are thought of as drying. This is so initially, but I understand their long term action to be moistening by their influence of closing the tissue and thus preserving fluid loss (as in their application in wounds, diarrhoea, or excessive sweating). These would also be indicated where there are relaxed tissue states.  Moistening herbs are those that actually bring moisture to the system...or attract moisture to a specific site (depending in what format they are given). Usually these herbs contain high levels of mucilage. Such examples include Marshmallow, Couch Grass, Comfrey etc. In the healing art it is important to recognise that the elements are the natural source of creation and we should not fear to turn to them in our understanding of how to restore balance and create health.

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