David Crow on the Healing Power of Medicinal PlantsOct 29, 2021 ● By Randy Kambic
photo by Simone Anne
David Crow, author of In Search of the Medicine Buddha, among other books, is a foremost expert in botanical medicine and other natural health applications. As a teacher, telemedicine consultant, researcher, certified master herbalist, aromatherapist and acupuncturist, he has studied Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic and Western herbal medicine for more than 30 years. He is a strong advocate of the safe use of herbs and essential oils, and installing gardens in public and private spaces. As one of the first medical pioneers to use essential oils and aromatherapy in clinical practice, integrating them into comprehensive treatments, he is also the founder of Floracopeia Aromatic Treasures.
Why do you feel humanity needs to reconnect a sacred relationship with plants?
For our survival as a species. Plants created the biosphere over hundreds of millions of years, including the ozone layer, the oxygen in the atmosphere, the fertility of the soil, the regulation of the seasons and the foundation of the food chain. From those conditions, higher life was able to emerge and evolve: Humans emerged from conditions created by plants. Since we cannot live directly on soil and sunlight as plants do, the structure and function of the human body are designed so that we can extract those energies in forms that plants provide; our physiology, respiration and metabolism is a mirror image of photosynthesis. We have complete biological dependency on plants in every moment; understanding this is the basis of reverence for nature, which is ecological spirituality, the only long-term solution to the environmental crisis we have created through lack of sensitivity and appreciation of our place in the biosphere
How is self-care changing to empower people?
The doctor/patient paradigm is changing in many ways as a result of the internet, availability of natural medicines and awareness of the limitations and dangers of pharmaceutical drugs. The availability of nutraceuticals and herbal products from around the world has created a golden age of natural medicine, but has also brought widespread confusion from the overwhelming amount of information combined with marketing of products. People are asking more about drugs and prescribed procedures; they are seeking natural alternatives, and in many cases, either reducing or eliminating their need for pharmaceutical drugs. This change is an important step toward greater health consciousness, which is linked directly to other aspects of creating a healthier society, like the increased demand for organic food that’s driving more organic agriculture.
Why are cultural medical systems inseparable from spiritual and meditative practices?
Classical medical systems such as Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, along with indigenous and shamanic uses of plants for healing, have evolved and are inseparable from the spiritual practices of their cultures. For example, Chinese medicine evolved from and with the same philosophical roots and practices as qigong and Taoist alchemy, and Ayurveda emerged from and in turn influenced yoga, tantra and Vedic philosophy. The significance of this is that medical practices were used both for healing the body and to support yogic and spiritual practices, and vice versa. Now we have modern scientific research confirming the health benefits of spiritual practices such as meditation and prayer, but more importantly, traditional medical systems remind us that there is an ultimate spiritual goal that is higher than mere physical health.
What is your view on the resurgence of psychedelic plant medicines for healing?
All plants have healing properties and also have potential dangers and toxicity, depending on how they are used. The psychoactive plants, specifically the entheogens (those that awaken the perception of divinity) have been used in ceremonies and mystery cults throughout history for healing conditions of body, mind and spirit, but those traditions have always been under the care of highly trained and experienced priests, priestesses and shamans. The experiences while under the influence of these plants are highly dependent on the container of the environment, the cultural mythologies, the ritual, its leaders and the other people present in the ceremony, and it can be highly unpredictable with both good and bad outcomes.
The use of these medicines at higher doses is an excellent opportunity for deep inner transformation, exploration of consciousness and appreciation of the visionary realms that are available to us, but like all intensive spiritual endeavors, requires preparation, orientation and guidance. Using these plants at lower doses, like microdosing daily with psilocybin mushrooms for treating depression and anxiety, offers great benefits for some people without the risks of the psychological, mental or emotional disruptions that can occur at higher doses.
Randy Kambic, in Estero, Florida, is a freelance editor and writer.