Category Archives: Social and Ecological Medicine

Reviving the Bean Feasa

harvestThe blog is going to switch gears for a bit to discuss the focus of much of my anthropological research. You will have to read through to the end of this series of posts, before I get to my very exciting new project based on this research, but I do hope that you find it informative, and maybe even a little inspiring, along the way.

I suppose I should explain to people who read my last series of posts,  that  research questions don’t always have to do with interventions and outcomes.  They cannot be always be answered through microbiology or clinical trials.  Some recently acquired readers might even be surprised by the fact that the person in this picture  likes to spend hours pouring over research about how plant agents impact neurotransmission or endocrine function.

While I will admit a certain compulsion towards understanding the mechanisms of action behind a botanical therapy, I do not believe cutting edge technology is the solution to creating wellness in our society. I have no doubt it will cure  some diseases but that is a very different thing than creating wellness.

When studying clinical herbal practice in college, I began to question whether herbal clinicians should  only focus on the therapeutic delivery of botanical medicine or if our roles extends to something more?  This question led me to my anthropological studies and an investigation of the pluralistic nature of health care practices in early societies, which I will explain tomorrow.

I am often asked why I think this is important work? While working on my senior project, I realized that at one time, before religion and capitalism interfered, wellness in a community was created through respectful cooperation of many types of healers.  Much of my research has been gathered in my efforts to understand what this cooperation looked like and how to make that work in a modern context.

The conclusion I arrived at is summarized best by the abstract of my thesis Reviving the Bean Feasa: Building Resilient Communities through Folk Healing which states:

This thesis draws from the study of the past, when there existed an alternate paradigm of healing. These healing systems, grounded in autonomous self-care and common production of locally available plant remedies, seemed to be more successful than modern professional systems at addressing the social and ecological determinants of health. These popular health cultures, consequently, contributed to the resiliency of their communities. I recommend the wide dissemination of this common knowledge of our ancestors regarding health as means of restoring wellness to the land, the plants and the people.

I’d like to distribute the thesis to a wider audience, but I doubt that many people would be interested in sitting down and reading the whole 130 page of my thesis, here on my blog, so I am going to spend some time discussing some of the beliefs I presented in it.

These are the beliefs that informs much of what I write for other people and classes I teach at herb conferences. They are the beliefs that inform how I work in my community.  They are the beliefs that that inform how I live.

Friends who know me know that it has been a weird couple of years for me personally, but just the other day my dear friend Wolf commented that despite this series of deeply disturbing challenges, I haven’t let it crush my spunky spirit. I attribute that capacity to  these beliefs.