I am NOT proposing that ALL herbs, plants, or flowers are dangerous or can lead to demonization. Some herbs and plants do contain medicinal properties and in extracted or synthetic forms are used in modern health care and medical treatment. However, there are some red flags about new age herbalism that one should find concerning, especially with what it is closely associated with:
Herbal medicine exists almost everywhere new age medicine exists. Even when it is not a primary treatment method, it is used as a supplemental regime by an endless number of holistic health practitioners.
As part of its basic philosophy, new age medicine stresses the importance of nature and “natural” healing methods. What could be more “natural” than using what nature has already given us? What could possibly be wrong with herbal medicine?
Scientific research into the potential medicinal value of herbs is a legitimate field of investigation and has produced great benefits over the years. The extracts of various plants and herbs have proven their usefulness in numerous treatments. For example, the alkaloids vincristin and vinblastin are extracted from a Madagascan evergreen plant; in past eras, salicylic acid, related to aspirin, was derived from willow or poplar bark; morphine is a poppy derivative; the Indian poison curare is used in anesthesia to relax the muscles, and the substance digoxin, derived from an extract of foxglove, has saved the lives of many with cardiovascular diseases. Everything from hypertension and glaucoma to asthma have been treated with medicines derives from plants or herbs.
However, new age herbal medicine has little to do with the scientific study of herbs for their medicinal properties. Pharmacognosy involves the scientific study of plant drugs; but popular herbal medicine is often little more than quackery. Dr. Varro Tyler, dean of the Schools of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Health Sciences at Purdue University and the first president of the Society of Pharmacognosy, is the author of Pharmacognosy, Experimental Pharmacognosy, Progress in Chemical Toxicology, and almost two hundred technical and educational articles. As a leading expert in the field, he observes the wide gap between the scientific and new age approach to herbal medicine:
“A very wide chasm now exists between the scientific study of plant drugs– a part of the discipline known as pharmacognosy–and the field of popular herbal medicine. The former is an exact science, requiring considerable knowledge of biology, chemistry, and pharmacology for the mastery of its subject matter. The latter is, at best, a commercial enterprise and, at worst, a fraud, composed of varying parts of outdated information, folklore, superstition, wishful thinking, hokum, and even hoax.”
Dr. Tyler documents some of the quackery found in herbal remedies; for example, that diabetes can be cured by pumpkin seeds or black walnuts; that poke root can cure ulcers and chronic rheumatism; that burdock root will treat snake bites; that celandine applied externally will cure kidney trouble and is effective in treating insomnia, atherosclerosis, and angina.
In his article, “Hazards of Herbal Medicine,” he observes that the writings on popular herbal medicine outnumber those in scientific pharmacognosy in the range of several thousand to one!
One major concern with herbalism is its traditional tie to occultic practices and philosophy. For example, historically, herbalism is often associated with astrological practices. Herbs and plants may be used in the world of the occult in a variety of ways:
First, those plants with psychedelic properties are often used in witchcraft, by other occultists such as satanists, and in shamanistic cultures to produce altered states of consciousness and contact with the spirit world.
The immensely popular writings of modern “white shamans,” such as anthropologists Carlos Castaneda and Michael Harner, reveal how crucial these plants with mind-altering properties are for the initiation, development, and training of the shaman. By breaking down the barriers of normal consciousness, these substances open the doors to contacting the spirit world.
The immensely popular writings of modern “white shamans,” such as anthropologists Carlos Castaneda and Michael Harner, reveal how crucial these plants with mind-altering properties are for the initiation, development, and training of the shaman. By breaking down the barriers of normal consciousness, these substances open the doors to contacting the spirit world. The books of Carlos Castaneda and Michael Harner, reveal how crucial these plants with mind-altering properties are for the initiation, development, and training of the shaman. By breaking down the barriers of normal consciousness, these substances open the doors to contacting the spirit world. The book of Carlos Castaneda alone have sold some eight million copies and sparked the interest of perhaps millions in using plant drugs for spirit contact, or other occult pursuits. Dr. Michael Harner, author of The Way of the Shaman, has edited an entire book of the codependency of plant drugs and shamanism, Hallucinogens and Shamanism. Their use in witchcraft is documented in Harold Handsen’s The Witches Garden and by former leading witch, Doreen Irvine. Former Satanic high priest Mike Warnke and others reveals their importance to satanic practices.
There are other direct associations between plants, herbalism, and the spirit world. The Perelandra Garden Workbook: A Completely Guide to Gearning with Nature Intelligences explains how the spirit world can be contacted and used in gardening, herbalism, and related practices. In the Findhorn community in Scotland, various alleged “nature spirits” of particular vegetables and plants are routinely contacted and their advice is recorded and published. The philosophy revealed by these nature spirits is characteristically occultic and new age.
The animistic use of plants either for psychic communication or in medical diagnosis is discussed in the best-selling book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, The Secret Life of Plants, and in John Whitman’s The Psychic Power of Plants.
Third, there is the practice aromatherapy and related methods. In such cases, the supposed internal “etheric spiritual essences” of the flowers or plants are used for occult purposes—or flowers are said to be externally “spiritually potentized” by the sun or other means, as in many of the “flower remedies.”
Fourth, many occult societies produce herbal remedies or related products on the basis on their own metaphysical philosophies. Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy utilizes what it calls “biodynamic” farming and gardening. This method claims to be “working with [occult] energies which create and maintain life”…..
Fifth, we should observe that a very large number of herbal practitioners use occultic radionic methods such as the rod and pendulum in diagnosis and treatment. These instruments provide a connection between herbalism and the mystical life energies of new age medicine. Dr. Pfeifer explains how many herbalists use the pendulum in this fashion and end up with a form of psychic diagnosis based on radionic principles:
“Let me concentrate here only on the use of the pendulum in the diagnosis and treatment of herbal practitioners. The pendulum is supposed to pick up the slightest change in a patient’s energy balance. Thus history taking and lab testing become unnecessary. Occult herbalists find out the diagnosis simply by consulting their pendulum or using other psychic means…
The pendulum is supposed to indicate the substance most likely to counteract the energy deficit of the patent.
While the healer touches the patient or an object belonging to the patient he literally asks the pendulum some questions. One dowsing herbalists writes: “I ask my pendulum, ‘Is the appropriate remedy Ammonium phosphoricum? If it responds with ‘No,’ I try to the next product until I have found the right one, and the pendulum answers with ‘Yes.’.”
This question-answer ritual makes nonsense of some herbologists’ assertions that they measure radiation.”
With all that said, “in almost all these systems which claim to utilize herbs, plants, and their etheric energies for diagnosis, healing, psychic development, altered states of consciousness, etc., the herbs and plants themselves possess no mystical power. As in crystal healing and similar methods, they are merely implements behind which spirit powers can work. They are no different than dowsing rods, crystals, radionics devices, Tarot cards, I Ching sticks, rune dice, or the Ouija board. No power resides in any of these implements themselves; they merely become a focal point behind which the spirits secure their goals” (Pg. 261).
New age herbal medicine should be avoided. It is easily distinguished from the scientific discipline of Pharmacognosy, by use of plants and herbs which is often unscientific, folklorish, fraudulent, and/or occultic.
Ignorantly using new age herbal remedies is potentially dangerous and may inadvertently be detrimental to the physical health of people or introduce them to the world of the occult.
All quotes are from the book Can You Trust Your Doctor? by Ankerberg and Weldon
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