We Don’t “Use” Herbs


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One of our habits as herbalists and teachers is to avoid the word “use” with reference to plants. We don’t say “I use meadowsweet for headaches” or “I use Japanese knotweed for Lyme disease”. We don’t say “I use chamomile for stomach cramps” or even “I use ginger as a stimulating diaphoretic”. And when students ask “how do you use schisandra berries?”, we stop and have a discussion about the word before we talk about the plant. If you’ve listened to our podcast for a while, you might have noticed this already!

Why do we do it? First and foremost, we don’t regard plants as “things”, anymore than we do animals or people. They are living beings and deserve respect. This is not merely a personal matter. The dominant cultural perspective which regards plants as mere resources to be exploited has visible consequences in our world. Ecosystem destruction is the major force threatening wild plant populations, and overharvesting is another top factor. Both are outgrowths of a view of plants as commodities. Changing our language is a way to change our perspective.

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