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The People’s Medicine

This is a short, simple article for what should be known as an easy, accessible practice: that of using humble, common plants in basic preparations to support health. It’s not a how-to article, but it does link to resources that will help you with the how-to.

Here are 9 quotes from Herbalists around the world about the oldest and simplest medicine there is—so simple, a child can do it. 

Industrial scale manufacturers of off-the-shelf herbal medicines would have us believe that to use herbs safely you need years of education, a white coat, and shiny, expensive, high-tech equipment. 

That’s so not true! Most of the sources I’ve linked to here can help you get started, if you haven’t already, making your own simple, safe, inexpensive herbal preparations. One writer I’ve quoted points out that it’s easier than making a cake from a supermarket packet of pre-mix. 

In particular I would like to draw your attention to the work of Wise Woman Herbalist Susun Weed. Her down-to-earth books, teaching methods, and online materials quickly had me wondering why I’d never been told how easy this is.

I hope you enjoy the quotes, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.


The oldest medicine

Folk herbalism is the people’s medicine, shaped by the land, driven by the healthcare needs of its inhabitants, and handed down through the generations.”

From Phyllis Light


The roots of herbalism run deep. Tracing these roots all the way back to prehistoryi1 … we find that different cultures around the world have [always utilized] herbs for health support.”, “Herbalism: A History – How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today”


Herbalism is the oldest known medical practice … Other healing modalities such as conventional medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, flower essences and food science have evolved from herbalism. In addition, professions such herbalists, healers, bonesetters, dentists, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, surgeons, and massage therapists all owe their origins to herbalism.”

From Phyllis Light, in “What is Herbalism”


There is a deep, rich, long line of herbalist traditions on every continent of the planet.”

From Lindsay Kolasa, in “A Survivor’s Guide to the Essential Oil Craze”



The simplest medicine

Herbal medicine is people’s medicine. Herbal medicine is the primary medicine of most people on this planet, right now. It’s not something old and dusty, [and] it’s not … doctors and chemists figuring out how to use herbs like drugs.

Herbal medicine is a 3-year-old picking plantain and putting it on a skinned knee or an insect bite. Herbal medicine is the medicine of women and children. It is the medicine of the earth. It’s medicine that’s free.”

From Susun Weed, in “Herbal Medicine is People’s Medicine”


I [marveled] at the simplicity of … medicine making. … The process is a bit messy, but it is easier than making a cake, even a cake from a packaged mix.

And yet I had never before considered the possibility that I could make my own medicine. To me, medicine was what I bought at a pharmacy, what a doctor would prescribe for me, not something concocted with roots and leaves and some [hot water, oil, vinegar, or] vodka in my kitchen.

Why hadn’t anyone ever told me how easy this was? Or that I could do it myself? In my own home? With [parts] of a plant I could grow in my own garden? And that it was so inexpensive?

[There was] another … question which I had never considered before: When— and how—had medicine become a product to buy instead of a skill we could share?”

From Ann Armbrecht, “Medicine as a Process, not a Product”


Most [herbal medicine] traditions use plants in their raw form, infusing plant material in vinegars, wines, honey, milk, alcohol, and water for their healing affects.”

From Lindsay Kolasa, in “A Survivor’s Guide to the Essential Oil Craze”


Herbalism provides a way for people to begin taking greater control over their health. Herbs are readily available, often growing in your backyard, or a public park, or as weeds… As you learn about their use, you can find ways to nourish your health, prevent health problems before they arise, and treat health conditions yourself without having to consult a professional.

The more you learn about the herbs the more situations you can handle on your own. Even a beginner can learn to make the basic preparations of herbalism, infusions, decoctions, and tinctures.”

From Nina Katz, in “An Introduction to Herbalism”



Reclaiming the People’s Medicine

I hope I have your ear, and your interest. I want to help you reclaim the power of your own health.

Come with me. Let us sit at the feet of the old wise women and listen to their stories. Let us knit the yarns they spin into our own lives. Together, let us reweave the healing cloak of the Ancients.”

Susun Weed, “People’s Medicine: Herbs for Hags”



Let’s choose a more empowering story

“​Our ancestors’ ingenuity and know-how kept them alive for untold generations – long enough for us to come along. Everything they knew is still available to us. We’re just not using it because we’ve let it go missing from the stories we tell ourselves.”

Kate Martignier, Let’s Choose a More Empowering Story




“Kate writes at about out-growing consumerism and living a more natural, connected, sustainable life. She wants to make the supermarket bathroom aisle redundant, starting with “Natural Oral Care and DIY Toothpaste.”



i Herbal medicine far, far predates recorded history. Evidence exists, for example, that 45,000 to 80,000 years ago Neanderthals, close relatives of our ancestors, used medicinal herbs and successfully cared for injured, infirm, and aged family members who could not have provided for themselves, ensuring their survival over extended periods of time. “Neanderthal dental tartar reveals evidence of medicine” and “Shanidar: anthropological and archaeological site, Iraq”

Kate Martignier

Kate writes at – an exploration into thinking differently and living a more natural, connected, and sustainable life.

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