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The Practical Herbalist

Climate and Herbal Medicine

When we look at all of the packaged herbal products that are on the store shelves, it is easy to forget the context and climate from which they came. Sometimes marketing companies make a selling point of the exotic land from which a particular herb came from. That works well from a marketing point of view but, is of little help when it comes to the use of herbs as medicine.

Herbal medicines were specific to the culture in which they were developed. Nature quite often provides tools in the locations where they are most needed. The climate of a place will affect the types of foods and herbs that are available in that location. Climate also affects the types of medical conditions that would be prevalent in that area. The natives of northern siberia would not be expected to have a treatment for heat exhaustion, likewise native Americans of the desert southwest would not have a treatment for frostbite. Just because a herbal product is powerful and important does not mean that it will translate to a new location.

A good example is the common headache. Headaches are common the world over, yet the types of headaches will vary with climate. Northern climates see more tight cold headaches, where as southern climates will see more dull headaches due to heat and dehydration. The treatments will be different, and there needs to be a way of distinguishing what treatment is appropriate to the circumstances.

Chinese Herbal medicine has a specific advantage in the fact that the culture spanned so many different climates. As a result the diagnostic criteria is more complete than you would get out of a rainforest community, even thought the rainforest community may have more plants/medicines to choose from. The result is Chinese Herbal medicine along with Ayurvedic (India) are two of the most complete herbal medical systems. With that comes a tremendous flexibility to treat conditions that may arise in just about any part of the world. It also provides the understanding to utilize the local foods and herbs, which may be more appropriate than the exotic items from overseas.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066