Have you ever wondered how the medicine people of ancient times knew which plants had healing properties, how they could point to the plants which nourished certain parts of the body, and also know which were poisonous? It’s not as if they had laboratories in which they could test plant specimens, or large zoos of animals that they could feed these botanical foodstuffs to. I always wondered why, when reading the history of medicine and discovering how our ancestors gathered such things as tree bark, ferns, nuts, flowers, and herbs, that there wasn’t much literature as to how they knew these substances were effective in treating disease. I couldn’t imagine a medicine woman walking up to a random tree, extracting its bark and deciding to test it out on a few people to see if it would cure gangrene. Locating the right medicines would have had to have been more sophisticated than that. Ancient medicine huts brimmed with medication for vast arrays of disease; nature seemed to have everything that the human condition needed for healing.
It is well-documented that the Medicine Men and Women (Shamans) of different cultures throughout the ages were ‘called’ to their positions of healers within their communities; this calling being of a supernatural nature, a spiritual destiny. Through research, we learn that these people spent their lives identifying and collecting herbal medicine plants. Knowledge was passed down the generations to others who had been called, those who displayed a certain intuition, and a deep connection to the environment that surrounded them. These people did not use guesswork to find healing plants. They used communication methods very much forgotten to many contemporary cultures.
Shamans in Africa, South America and Asia today still use these communication methods, and when questioned, begin their explanations with the fact that everything in nature is connected. We are all one energy, separated by the physical body (human, animal, plant etc) therefore, all one needs to do to communicate with any other object is shift one’s awareness to it. Awareness, they tell us, is movable. If we are not able to move our awareness, it is because a belief tells us this is so. The truth is, we all have this ability, but because it is not utilized, we have forgotten how to use it. Today’s Shamans tell us that women who become mothers often display this ability when their children are infants, knowing what their cries mean, sensing when they are ill, knowing instinctively what to give their babies so they feel better.
By moving their consciousness and ‘becoming’ the plant for a moment, the Shaman enters into an exchange with it. The plant ‘tells’ about its properties, its emotional and spiritual influence and its healing purpose. It ‘tells’ the Shaman how to use it; whether it should be broken into separate parts and used for different purposes, whether it should be eaten raw, cooked, used as a tonic, powder or a suppository. The Shamans also receive ‘teaching’ dreams, where the plant spirit will present itself, and tell the Shaman where to find it and how to use it.
Today, we use completely different methods of understanding our environment, but it is important that we acknowledge our innate connection to nature. We are surrounded by herbalists who have some connection to the plants that they deal with, albeit not as strong as the Shamans of today and of yesteryear.
To finish off, I’m going to show this interesting information about food that I found doing the rounds on the internet these past few years. It goes to show that we are still observant, that we haven’t quite lost our connection to nature. These pictures are of every day foods that we eat, that you will remember as you were growing up, being told to eat because they were good for a specific part of the body. (The nutritional information and the pictures below were taken from Woman’s Day, a website well worth a visit. http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/nutrition/foods-that-look-like-body-parts-theyre-good-for-109151
CARROT- THE EYE: Slice a carrot in half crosswise and it’s easy to see that the veggie resembles an eye—look closely and you’ll even notice a pattern of radiating lines that mimic the pupil and iris. And the old wives’ tale is true: Munching on carrots will actually promote healthy eyes. “Carrots are filled with vitamins and antioxidants, like beta-carotene, that decrease the chance of macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older people,” says Sasson Moulavi, MD, Medical Director of Smart for Life Weight Management Centers in Boca Raton, Florida. Photos by iStockphoto
WALNUT-BRAIN: The folds and wrinkles of a walnut bring to mind another human organ: the brain. The shape of the nut even approximates the body part, looking like it has left and right hemispheres. And it’s no surprise walnuts are nicknamed “brain food”—according to Lisa Avellino, dietitian for Focus28 Diet, “they have a very high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which help support brain function.”Photos by iStockphoto
CELERY-BONES: Long, lean stalks of celery look just like bones—and they’re good for them, too. “Celery is a great source of silicon, which is part of the molecular structure that gives bones their strength,” says Dr. Moulavi. Another funny bone coincidence: “Bones are 23 percent sodium, and so is celery,” reports Avellino. Photos by iStockphoto
AVOCADO-UTERUS: The lightbulb shape of an avocado looks like a uterus, and it supports reproductive health as well. “Avocados are a good source of folic acid,” says Elizabeth Somer, registered dietician and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. “Folate has been found to reduce the risk for cervical dysplasia, which is a pre-cancerous condition.” Photos by iStockphoto and Shutterstock
CLAMS-TESTICLES: Studies have offered evidence that clams, which bear a resemblance to testicles, are actually good for the male sex organs. “Research from the Netherlands has suggested that supplementing your diet with folic acid and zinc-both of which clams are high in–can have a significant effect on improving semen quality in men,” says Dr. Moulavi. Photos by Shutterstock and 3D Clinic
GRAPEFRUIT-BREAST: The similarity between round citrus fruits–like lemons and grapefruit–and breasts may be more than coincidental. “Grapefruit contains substances called limonoids, which have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer in lab animals and in human breast cells,” says Dr. Moulavi. Photos by iStockphoto and 3D4Medical.com
TOMATO-HEART: Slice open a tomato and you’ll notice the red veggie has multiple chambers that resemble the structure of a heart. “Studies have found that because of the lycopene in tomatoes, there is a reduced risk for heart disease in men and women who eat them,” says Somer. And, she adds, if you mix them with a little fat, like olive oil or avocado, it will boost your body’s lycopene absorption nearly tenfold. Photos by iStockphoto and 3D Clinic
RED WINE-BLOOD: Red wine, which is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, including powerful resveratrol, looks like blood. “When you drink it, you’re really loading up on the healthy stuff that protects against destructive things in the blood, like LDL cholesterol, which can cause heart disease,” says Somer. “There’s also a blood-thinning compound in red wine, so it reduces blood clots, which are associated with stroke and heart disease.” Photos by iStockphoto
GINGER-STOMACH: Anyone who’s ever reached for a glass of ginger ale when they’ve had a stomach ache knows about the anti-nausea effects of ginger. So it’s fitting that the herb somewhat resembles the digestive organ. According to Dr. Moulavi, “gingerol, which is the ingredient responsible for ginger’s pungent scent and taste, is listed in the USDA database of phytochemicals as having the ability to prevent nausea and vomiting.” Photos by iStockphoto
SWEET POTATO-PANCREAS: The oblong sweet potato bears a strong resemblance to the pancreas, and also promotes healthy function in the organ. “Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which is a potent antioxidant that protects all tissues of the body, including the pancreas, from damage associated with cancer or aging,” says Somer. Photos by Shutterstock