Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Sharing her love of herbal healing, Alana Skylar is hoping to bring back the practice of green medicine to promote healthy lifestyles.
“This is what God gave us,” said Skylar, a Tyler resident who recently presented a segment on herbal healing to a group gathered at the February Lone Star Military Farmers meeting in Rusk.
“I would love to be able to share everything and work with anybody who wanted to learn about this, and yes, take ownership of their own health. Because we are responsible for ourselves; we can’t depend on other people to be responsible for our happiness, our health or anything else,” she said. “(Herbal knowledge) is an avenue, a channel for people to heal themselves like we did 100 years ago.”
Her convictions are backed by nationally known practitioners of traditional medicine like Phyllis D. Light and Dr. Eliseo “Cheo” Torres.
“By taking personal responsibility for their own health, an individual, by the very definition, must look at ways to prevent illness through lifestyle means or changes: Exercise on a regular basis, maintain a normal weight, get adequate sleep, limit alcohol consumption, quit smoking, limit or desist eating fast food, junk food and soft drinks, and (getting) enough sunshine to make Vitamin D and clean air and water,” Light said..
“The research clearly supports this approach. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is what will free up emergency rooms,” she added.
For more than 25 years, Light, who leads herbal studies through the Appalachian Center for Natural Health, has devoted her time “to building a bridge be-tween traditional knowledge and modern-day science” by utilizing traditional herbal and healing knowledge, according to her website, www.phyllisdlight.com.
“Herbs, in general, do not start or stop body processes, but instead support the processes that are already in place. Because herbs contain natural compounds, our bodies recognize these substances. That's huge,” she said.
“If our bodies recognize the substances and the substances are supporting processes already active and in place, there is very limited possibility of side-effects. Because herbs only support the body, it often takes some time for the body to change. People want to feel better in a hurry, want the magic bullet but that's not how herbs work. Because they are impatient, sometimes they don't give the herbs a true chance.”
Both she and Torres point out that people are turning to natural-based medicine for a variety of reasons.
There are the concerns of “rising costs of Western medicine, lack of access to conventional medicine due to poor economic standing, inability of Western medicine to provide positive outcomes to many chronic illnesses, looking for individualized approach, wanting to be heard and acknowledged in their illness, scared of extreme medical measures such as surgery, wanting to avoid or looking to mediate the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, and the inability of many physicians to actually take the time and listen to their patients,” Light said.
Plus, “as we move into the new millennium, it appears that people want to be more in charge of their own health,” Torres said in a 2011 interview with the Green Fire Times.
He is vice president of student affairs at the University of New Mexico, versed in Mexican folk healing (curanderismo). More than a decade ago, Torres founded UNM's “Traditional Medicine Without Borders,” a two-week program that matches medical practitioners and curanderos to create a unique approach to healing.
“Throughout the world there is a growing concern that Western medicine might not provide all the answers. This may be why more people are activiely seeking alternative treatments to meet and maintain their holistic health needs,” he said.
Because herbal healing's “basic premise is to support healthy lifestyle, take a preventative approach to healthcare, encourage personal responsibility for health, and promote an individualized approach to healthcare,” it's becoming a viable option for people, Light said.
Skylar, a former pharmacy technician, agreed.
Natural herbal healing “doesn't make you sick, whereas the medicines that are prescribed for us by the doctors, as a rule, these are engineered copies of what we find in nature,” she said.
“They're expensive, they work against each other and they don’t heal you – because they are not organic, they don’t have the properties to heal you. But, they can help (treat) symptoms.”
She recalled how a former coworker died after mixing up a formula to be used for a patient's chemotherapy.
“They used to send me all over the state of Florida because I knew how to make oncology IVs: You have to triple-gown out – gloves, mask, everything – wrap it in foil. One of my pharmacy directors wasn’t gowned out, some of it got on her, and she got cancer and died. This is horrible, horrible stuff ... used for chemotherapy,” Skylar said. “And it frightens me that people, because of the way our world has become because of this quick-fix mentality – they want something that’s going to fix them right now, they want something that’s going to make them happy right now,” but not fully consider how that medicine might affect their health.
“Because the plants are real and we are real – we are both living, breathing organisms, that’s why we can use these as medicines without fear,” she said. “Your body doesn’t have to try and fight this to break it down. We’re organic, it’s organic, and it just goes about its process in the healing process.”
As with any food or medication, it is important to know how an herb will interact with their system, the trio said.
“I tell people to respect and know the correct usage of plants,” Torres said in an email.
“They can be very helpful if taken correctly, or they can harm you if not used properly – it's the same as taking pills prescribed by physicians.”
Skylar relies on well-thumbed-through books, especially “Natural Healing with Herbs,” by Humberto Santillo, M.D.
“I have people ask me what do you suggest I take for this, and instead of pulling something off the top of my head, I refer back to these,” she said, indicating a pile of books on her table.
“You've got to find out if there any allergies, because there are contraindications, even in the herbal world.”
“I address these questions early. For example, I want to know what pharmaceutical medications they are taking and what diagnosis they received from their doctor. Herb/drug interactions are few, not common at all, but areas of concern would be with cardiovascular medications that thin the blood or blood pressure medications,” she said.
“I always ask about allergies to foods, drugs, or environmental substances. Again, seldom does an allergy to common herbs arise but people can be allergic to anything so caution is always needed.”
Light said she also points out to people interested in herbal healing “that this is a complementary approach (to Western medicine), that I do not diagnose.
“Herbal remedies have their place and purpose and so does conventional medicine. I don't want to be without my antibiotics when the need arises,” she said.
It's a sentiment Torres echoed. “In the U.S., natural healing should not replace the wonders of modern medical treatment, but it can complement or integrate into Western medicine,” he said.
In the meantime, they said they will continue to promote herbal healing as the basis for healthy living.
“This is good-for-you stuff, this will keep you well. It’s just so hard to express the passion I feel for it because I know that these things will help people if they will just let go of what we’ve been channeled into thinking for the last 40 years. This really is medicine,” Skylar said.
“This is what helps keep you from getting sick, and if you have a strong constitution, when you get sick, it helps you get well, but if you have a weak constitution, it'll take longer, whether it's a green medicine or not,” she said.