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People's Medicine: Herbs for Hags

c. 2007 Susun S. Weed

I'm so glad I'm finally old. Sadly, many of my friends don't like me to use that word. They say they
don't want to be "old." I think what they really mean is they don't want to be the kind of old that's
infirm and dependent. I agree.

Vigorously old, excitingly old, sensuously old, daringly old -- those are the adjectives I like to
apply to myself as an old woman.

Toward the goal of remaining vigorous, exciting, sensuous, and daring for many more decades, I
pay close attention to the food I eat and the medicines I use, and don't use. So you may be as
vigorous, exciting, sensual, and daring as you wish to be, too, I'll be here in every issue to share
my thoughts and choices about health and nourishment.

As you know, I love plants; I'm an herbalist. I use herbs to flavor my food, to provide optimum
nourishment, and to prevent and deal with a variety of both minor and major ills. Of course, I'll be
sharing lots of herbal lore with you. But I want to do much more than that. I want to share
people's medicine with you. I want to help you make sense of medicine. I want to help guide you
through the confusing, conflicting choices in health care. Simply. Safely. Effectively. And with


The Seven Medicines

Let's start with one of my three best ideas: The Seven Medicines. This sorting system for remedies
helps me get a sense of the safety of any type of treatment.

The safest medicine is Serenity Medicine, also called "Do Nothing." It includes meditation, sleep,
deep relaxation, even idleness. Rest cures, going fishing, and time away from responsibilities are
also Serenity Medicine.

The next safest medicine is Story Medicine, also called "Diagnosis." Here we collect information.
Ideally, figuring out the nature of our problem is done without dangerous hi-tech techniques such
as x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and exploratory surgery. Remember that every story/diagnosis
implies and leads to a treatment. The story (and the plan of action) you'll get from an
acupuncturist will differ significantly from the story (and drugs) an MD will give you for the same

Only slightly more dangerous is Mind Medicine or Energy Medicine; some call this "Placebo
Medicine." Anything that engages our mental ability to heal is included here, from flower essences
to psychic healing.

Lifestyle Medicine speaks to the ways we "Nourish and Tonify" and, while generally quite safe, is
more dangerous than the previous three Medicines. What we eat, what we wear, where we work,
how we use our bodies, and how we amuse ourselves are all part of this Medicine.

The first four Medicines build health, even if they don't cure; and they frequently do cure, while
causing minimal harm. The last three Medicines always harm, even if only slightly, even if they can
create miracles of healing.

The fifth Medicine is Alternative Medicine; the action is "Stimulate and/or Sedate." Alternative
Medicine includes herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture,
and many more specialities. Unless used wisely, these medicines have the potential to do serious
harm. At the least, they excite or depress us by using, but not replacing, our core energy.

The sixth Medicine is Pharmaceutical Medicine. Drugs, as we are all aware, are fraught with
problems and side-effects. In fact, one of the leading causes of death in the United States is
reaction to prescribed drugs. Pharmaceutical Medicine is not limited to prescription drugs, nor to
products of the pharmaceutical industry. Essential oils, supplements, and most encapsulated herbs
are so drug-like in their actions that they share the dangers of drugs.

The last, and most dangerous of the Seven Medicines, is Hi-Tech Medicine, or "Break and Enter."
While surgery and other hi-tech techniques can work miracles, the harm done by this last medicine
can be fatal, permanent, and disfiguring. The amount of hi-tech diagnosis that is currently done is
truly scary. Using the first four Medicines not only prevents the need for Hi-Tech Medicine in
most instances, it also improves our ability to benefit from -- and protects us against the harms of
-- Hi-Tech Medicine if we do choose it.

Serenity Medicine, Story Medicine, Mind Medicine, and Lifestyle Medicine can be used daily to
build health. Alternative Medicine, Pharmaceutical Medicine, and Hi-Tech Medicine are best
reserved for acute, immediate emergencies.


Bone Health and the Seven Medicines

Many postmenopausal women fear breaking a hip. This fear is promoted by Pharmaceutical
Medicine, assisted by Hi-Tech Medicine, and disseminated by advertising which increases fear and
claims safety comes from bone scans and drugs. In one ad, we are told that taking a certain drug
will cut our risk of a hip fracture in half. Sounds good, unless you realize that the risk for most
postmenopausal women is only two percent. Cutting that by fifty percent brings the risk to one
percent -- only one percent lower than the risk of women who don't take the drug. And the drug
does nothing to improve bone health. Women are frightened into agreeing to use Pharmaceutical
Medicine to counter osteoporosis. But increasing bone mass does not reliably prevent fractures,
nor does it improve health. In fact, postmenopausal women with high bone density are far more
likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Drugs don't improve health, they improve test scores.

Calcium supplements may sound like an alternative, but they are pharmaceutical medicine, too;
and women who take them are actually more likely to break a bone than those who get their
calcium from food..

What can we do if we want healthy bones that flex instead of breaking? Don't begin with a Hi-
Tech diagnosis, for starters. Instead, start with Serenity Medicine. A short daily meditative
practice helps us be more alert to the inner and outer landscapes, improves our stability and gives
us better grounding. Fewer falls definitely translates into fewer broken hips.

Then engage Story Medicine. Change fear into action. Collect information about your bones
without scans. How? The more flexible and toned the muscles are, the stronger and more flexible
the bones they attach to are. Your overall flexibility is a window of insight into the health and
flexibility of your bones.

Mind Medicine offers us a shaman's playground of mind-over-matter techniques, including prayer,
visualization, homeopathic remedies, and Reiki, to name but a few. Just imagining our bones as
sturdy and strong actually helps make them so.

And be sure to treat your bones to Lifestyle Medicine. To keep my bones healthy I: eat a quart of
yogurt a week, drink a quart of nourishing herbal infusion each day, eat plenty of well-cooked
greens from the cabbage family, regularly use mineral-rich herbal vinegars, practice yoga weekly,
walking daily, do tai chi several times a week, and pump iron at the local gym for at least an hour
a week. These Lifestyle Medicines don't just prevent a broken hip, they improve my overall
health. They help make me a vigorous, exciting, sensuous, and daring old woman.


Reweaving the Healing Cloak of the Ancients

I hope I have your ear, and your interest. I want to help you reclaim the power of your own
health. In future issues we'll talk more about healthy bones, healthy hearts, healthy libidos, and
Wise Woman Ways to make old age fun.

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
PO Box 64
Woodstock, NY 12498


Vibrant, passionate, and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings, and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges conventional medical approaches with humor, insight, and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine. Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.

Susun is one of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine and natural approaches to women's health. Her four best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists and well-known physicians and are used and cherished by millions of women around the world. Learn more at

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Susun Weed’s books include:

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
Author: Susun S. Weed.
Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

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Healing Wise
Author: Susun S. Weed.
Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.


NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed.
The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Introduction by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

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Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed.
Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.


Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way
Publication date: June 21, 2011
Author: Susun S. Weed
Simple, successful, strategies cover the entire range of options -- from mainstream to radical -- to help you choose the best, and the safest, ways to optimize sexual and reproductive health. Foreword: Aviva Romm, MD, midwife, 484 pages, Index, illustrations.

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Abundantly Well - Seven Medicines The Complementary Integrated Medical Revolution
Publication date: December 2019
Author: Susun S. Weed
Seven Medicines build foundational health and guide you to the best health care when problems arise. Includes case studies, recipes, exentsive references and resources. Introduction by Patch Adams illustrated by Durga Yael Bernhard 352 pages, index, illustrations

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Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for decades. Ms. Weed's Six herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health. Visit her site for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Venture into the Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.
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