Supporting local food growers and producers is a trend that's only gaining momentum. Farmer's markets are constantly popping up across the country. Schools are replacing nuggets and tater tots with locally raised fruits and vegetables, dairy and chicken. Even fast-food restaurant Chipotle has gotten in on the action, sourcing its produce, meat, and dairy products within several hundred miles of each of the chain's locations. And it makes sense; what grows closest to home is freshest, contains the most nutrients, and let's face it, tastes a whole heck of a lot better than stuff that's been sitting on a truck for a week (and picked before it's even ripe so it will be ripe when it gets to your store!).
Maybe you've even taken your locally sourced food commitment to another level by not only supporting your local growers and businesses, but by growing your own, too—be it an entire garden or perhaps just a windowsill of herbs. And there's another avenue to supporting your own health and that of your community. It's called Bioregional Herbalism.
The concept is simple: What plant and herbal medicines are naturally available in your local community that can support your health? Probably a whole lot more than you think. Just like eating locally tunes us into the seasons and our region's natural foods, using the wild medicines that grow near our homes can inoculate us with all sorts of healing benefits. It's less intense on the environment and in most cases we're also supporting small-scale herbalists, wildcrafters, and naturopaths as well.
Many of us on the path towards the healthiest possible life are awakening to the power of plants and their benefits. Unlike the recent industrialized pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications so common in our culture, herbalism has been embraced by every culture on the planet for thousands of years. From treating external wounds to colds and flu to more serious diseases (both chronic and acute) to balancing our delicate emotional and spiritual wellness, herbs hold thousands of benefits. Some we actually consider weeds, like dandelion, nettles, St. John's Wort, passionflower, plantain, and mushrooms. But a trained herbalist will tell you otherwise!
A number of ancient healing traditions also firmly believe that health imbalances respond best to treatments that originate in the immediate area. Much in the same way that tribal cultures of the Amazon or India rapidly develop health issues when they suddenly adopt a Western diet, our bodies can go a little haywire when exposed to medicines from far away lands.
Interested in developing a relationship with your local herbal community?
In many cities nowadays, you can find a number of helpful resources. Check your local parks for wild food/plant walks and tours that can show you a number of regional herbs growing in your area and how to use them. Contact a local herbalist, and even some of your local farmers may be growing medicinal herbs with suggested ways of using them (brewing into a tea is a very common way to incorporate most herbs). You can also check in with your local natural food store or herb shop for more info on classes, resources, and bioregional herb ideas.
Think you live in 'too urban' of an area for any healing plants to grow?
Guess again! While you wouldn't necessarily want to drink tea made from dandelions pushing up through the pavement in Times Square, urban environments are full of regional herbs, roots, and fungi. Here in Los Angeles, city parks are full of wild medicines like milk thistle, mullein, sage, and dandelion. Most cities are also just a short jaunt away from rich natural areas chock full of healing plants. It's a good excuse to get out of the city too, especially if you haven't been for a hike in a while!
Natural herbs are an excellent way to treat and prevent disease, but always check in with your primary care physician before adding them to your diet, especially if you currently take any prescription medications.
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