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 Herbal Medicine: Immunity, Holism and Phyto-therapy 
 
The immune system has become an increasingly crucial issue in all branches of medicine in recent years. This is not only due to the AIDS epidemic but also the statistical explosion of the whole range of auto-immune diseases. To comprehend the possibilities of holistic approaches it is important to have a grasp of the biological basis of immunity, but at least as importantly is a comprehension of the role it plays in human life. The new, though still incomplete, understanding that immunology grants us illuminates the profound complexity and ecological integration on the form level, but there is much more involved. Herbal medicine is as limited as allopathic medicine if it is only used in terms of T & B lymphocytes without the benefit of a broader holistic context.

I would suggest that some important insights arise when immune system functioning is placed in an ecological perspective and not simply a biochemical/medical one. From such a perspective it becomes clear that human immunity is a vital component of the interface between the individual and their world. Human activity is not simply that of resisting the evil dangerous environment, rather it is a complex and beautiful dance of flowing to & fro within our world. All that follows is developed around the idea that the whole complex of human immunity has the following characteristics :

Seen within the context of ecology, both human and environmental, immunity is about harmony and not resistance, a dynamic dance with the environment and not simply a series of barriers to it.

This leads to some concepts and interpretations that raise exciting possibilities for the practitioner of holistic medicine, whether they be Phytotherapist or MD.

  • Human Immunity is Ecology in action. In other words there is a relationship phenomena in play. Not only must both sides of the relationship be identified and understood but also the nature of their relationship. This can prove extremely challenging as it will be in dynamic flux at all times.

  • It is an ecological interface between inner & outer environments. Such interfaces appear to be critical in the health and well-being of Gaia herself, the interface between desert and savannah, rain-forest and mountains, woodland & grassland, agriculture and wilderness. These transition zones facilitate the integration and fine tuning of biomes and biosphere health. Thus in the human : non-human ecology, the immune system is a complex of procedures and processes that allow both in and out. Resistance and embrace at the same time. To focus on one side of this profound `yin/yang' is to miss the point and compromise the whole thing.

  • Immunity is an expression of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the umbrella concept that describes the human body's wonderful physiological processes that maintain a stable internal environment. This inner homeostasis is a reflection of the planetary homeostasis that characterizes Gaia. It was the recognition of these planet wide processes that led James Lovelock to propose the Gaia Hypothesis in the first place.

  • Immunity is an expression of relationship. This is in implicit in everything said so far, but carries the implication that the very nature relationship plays a role in immune system well being. Thus the practitioner must explore the patients' relationship with their world on all levels, from the food they eat, the people they love (or hate), to the way they relate to nature.

This all goes to emphasize that as with all aspects of holistic healing, the approach to whole body immunity must address the following aspects of human life :
  • Bodily health & wholeness, ensuring that the physical body has the correct nutrition and appropriate healing support for any ills it may be experiencing.

  • Emotional well being, ensuring a nurturing feeling life, through both the joy and the pain of human life.

  • Mental vision & perspective will help create the mind set within which the individual can find there place, and make choices from there center, not from the stance of the victim.

  • Spiritual openness & vitality in what ever form that takes for the person involved.

This chapter will explore herbal approaches to immune system issues, touching on general support in health and illness, allergy, infection and cancer. Before developing the implications of the ideas presented above we should briefly review the biological aspects of human immunity. An excellent introduction to immunology can found be found in:

E. Benjamini & S. Leskowitz (1988). Immunology, A short course. Alan R. Liss, New York


The Herbal Possibilities


Immuno-stimulation, Immuno-modulation or what?


A Phyto-Therapeutic Approach to the Immune System


Herbal Detoxification


An Herbal Contribution to Preventive Medicine


The Immune System and its Specific Problems.


Infections


Echinacea


Essential Oils


A General Approach to Infection


Shingles


Prostatitis


Infections in The Skin

Considering how the massive surface of skin is constantly exposed to injury, bacteria, and various other foreign substances, it is rather incredible that it is not more frequently afflicted with infections. A number of factors account for this, including the keratin layer on the surface, the chemicals in sebum and perspiration, and the internal defenses present in the bloodstream. Nonetheless, skin infections do occur, and vary from trivial to life-threatening.

A range of bacterial infections can occur, but here we shall review a treatment for boils. Please refer to the section on children for a discussion of impetigo. Fungal infections are discussed below.

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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
 
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