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The Practical Herbalist

Hildegard of Bingen

Women have always played an important role in herbal medicine in Europe. There was one woman who was very influential in the future of herbal medicine. She is known as Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179 ce). Born in Germany, Hildegard pursued a religious life as a Catholic Benedictine nun. The Benedictine way of life is one of prayer, and a self-sufficient community living. Benedictine monasteries were places of devotion and learning as well as places of help. They were self sufficient and provided help to their communities in the form of spiritual guidance as well as medical and community advice.

Hildegard studied gardening and herbs as well as medicine. She became well known as a herbal healer, and her medical advice was sought from all around. Due to her Benedictine influence she had a very hands on approach to her medicine. She grew and prepared all of her own herbs. She also was a very outspoken advocate of using milder treatments that utilized local herbs, rather than the fashion of the time (as well as today) to use harsh expensive exotic imported herbs. Her importance to herbal medicine extended beyond the time of her life. She eventually founded her own Benedictine monastery, where she taught young nuns what she knew. She also wrote books on the subject of herbal medicine. An incredible feat in a time when most people and almost all women were illiterate. These books provide a valuable window into the herbal medicine of the day, which was mostly dominated by oral tradition.

For many scholars of today Hildegard of Bingen is a name more associated with music. An accomplished writer of liturgical music, Hildegard fought many battles in the church over the inclusion of music in the church liturgy. Conservative church leaders did not see music as an appropriate way to praise God. She was also regarded as a mystic who used her visions and intuition to help help patients. Hildegard was a powerful figure of her time. She left a powerful legacy and is in Germany remembered as "saint" Hildegard, even though she has never formally been honored with that title.

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