My Herbal Medicine Chest
3 CD Set
by Susun Weed
Review by Jan Calloway Baxter
This three CD set was recorded during a class Susun Weed gave at the 1998 Green Nation’s Gathering. Treating yourself to this CD set and listening to it carefully will take you a long way toward understanding the use of quite a few of the most useful herbal preparations.
The recording begins rather abruptly with some words about cleavers and then a voice saying she would “also add elderberry,” accompanied by the scratching of chalk on a board. I spooked, sitting with pen in hand, ready to make a list of ingredients for my first aid kit, thinking I had missed the first few items. I need not have worried. The ingredients are mentioned throughout the discussion. And, although I came to this recording expecting to get a nice list of herbal building blocks for my medicine chest, I went away with much more.
As a matter of fact, it seems that the announced topic of Susun Weed’s talks is seldom the most interesting or even the most important part of them. This immediacy of face-to-face teaching is perhaps something we have lost as the idea of apprenticing ourselves to a master teacher has become unpopular. The information, which herbs she carried in her medicine chest, is the least important part of the interaction.
For example, Susun’s aside, as I could hear her bottles clinking against one another while she rifled through them, that your bottles should be different from one another was one of those ideas that seems obvious as soon as somebody else thinks of them! Remedies for acute conditions (after all, we were talking about first aid) need be easy to find quickly, perhaps by having a large red star or a shiny gold top. In an emergency situation, you can’t read carefully to make an important distinction written in small print. You need to be able to grab the correct remedy and run.
Also, one gets the advantage of the philosophical discussions when listening to a class, in this case the contradiction involved in using the wise woman ways in acute emergency situations. After all, as Susun points out, the very idea of “first aid” is Heroic in nature.
So, I got my list of what Susun keeps in her medicine chest: ginger candy, osha tincture, witch hazel from the drug store, yarrow tincture, bandages, potter’s clay and more. But I also got the “asides” that I have come to value even more highly.
I have studied Susun’s work for quite some time now, so I knew when Susun’s question of “What is clay good for?” was answered with “drawing out impurities” that we had a story in store for us. To the surprise of many of the people present, Susun pointed out that it was chemically impossible to lose toxins through the skin. The only constituents of sweat are water and mineral salts. No toxins. I’m so relieved! I really dislike saunas!
The discussion of impurities provided a great opportunity for a thorough explanation of Susun’s belief that we should let go of the idea of “toxins” and start thinking, instead, of “nourishment.” “Nature doesn’t run on toxins. Nature doesn’t run on clean. Nature runs on I eat you andyou eat me,” she states. The stories she tells to illustrate these points are too good to ruin for you and best heard directly from her own voice. She’s a great storyteller. You’ll never forget the stories.
She illustrates another of her core beliefs with the story of her trip to the Prince William Sound, looking at the beaches affected by the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez in 1989. Beaches “cleaned” by the use of hot water and detergent are still devoid of marine life, since the cleaning destroyed the bacteria and fungi who could eat the oil, and the plankton which is the base of the food chain. When you hear “cleansing,” she counseled the listeners, replace it with the words “damage and destroy.”
Listening to these CDs will also teach you about Eve, the archetypal herbalist, and her interaction with Snake, long a representation of female healing energy.
Susun also talks about a challenge to all healers—the feeling of a patient with a chronic illness that if you heal them you are “taking away” something which has served as their protection for so long. She speaks of how one cannot take away someone’s protection without making sure another better one is already in place. “Better quality drives out inferior quality,” she maintains. If, for example, good healthy food is available and consumed by a person, that person does not need willpower to resist junk food.
I love Susun’s bold statements that at first glance seem to go against common sense, but, after consideration, reveal their essential truth. I found plenty of them in this CD set. “No one is allergic to lactose.” ”Sunscreen causes skin cancer.” “Being sick is a symptom of health.” “There is no such thing as willpower.” And rest assured that, with this CD, you can learn everything you always wanted to know about mucus.
My herbal first aid kit is nicely full now. It contains elemetns that are not herbal—a five dollar bill, a small jar of white potter’s clay, some matches—as well as herbal ones such as St. John’s Wort oil and Skullcap tincture. I’m waiting for the killing frost to harvest my two year old poke root, and I’m going to put a big red star on my osha tincture—good for anaphylactic shock.
Perhaps most hopeful for the aspiring herbalist who, like myself, sometimes get mired down in the amount of information one must learn, is Susun’s insistence that anyone who is willing to put in six days a year for three years—two in spring, two in summer, two in the fall—harvesting herbs and making medicine could have all the herbal medicine she would ever need. I’m going to take you up on that one, Ms. Weed.
© 2010 Jan Calloway-Baxter
Read other reviews by Jan Baxter
Optimum Nutrition - Review by Jan Calloway-Baxter
Herbal Healing for Women - Review by Jan Calloway-Baxter
Magical Plants - Review by Jan Calloway-Baxter
Elements of Herbalism: Harvesting - Review by Jan Calloway-Baxter
The Visionary Art of Martina Hoffmann - Review by Jan Calloway-Baxter