The People's Medicine

(a 3 to 4 minute read)

There is an easy, accessible practice that should be WAY better known. It's the practice of using common plants in basic preparations to support health. (This is 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 about the oldest and simplest medicine in the world 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'd like to draw your attention to the work of Wise Woman Herbalist Susun Weed. Her down-to-earth books 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 prehistory1 … 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” The bold emphasis is mine.

“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."

This final quote is from "Let's Choose a More Empowering Story," here on ARealGreenLife. If you've enjoyed this article, you may enjoy the more empowering story one, too.

  1. 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”
  • plants have been here for over 400 million years. they are full of healing powers. healing themselves, animals and us. we cannot create trees and plants – nor can we create medicine. nature has everything we need- many plant species and medicinal plants are going extinct quietly right now – there habitats and environments being destroyed. we do not realise what we have until it is gone.
    The wisdom of the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
    “The essential is invisible to the eye”

    • Thank you for your comment Erica. Waving to you from the other side of our Beautiful Planet.

      • Waving back to you Kate 🙂
        from Mother Earth,- our super beautiful home!

  • Oh, if only more people saw herbal medicine as the NORM, not the anomaly! I used cayenne to heal a bad, large gash soon after pandemic lockdown, and it healed fine. My friends still think I’m crazy, but I know they are the crazy, brainwashed ones!

    • Thanks for your comment, Alina. I’m not sure I would call people crazy for not seeing herbal medicine as normal, but I agree with the sentiment of your comment. Your friends may look and act as if they think you’re crazy, but each time they’re exposed to herbal medicine and natural ways through you, the veil thins a little more.

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