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Stephen Harrod Buhner
Stephen Harrod Buhner is an Earth poet and the award-winning author of ten books on nature, indigenous cultures, the environment, and herbal medicine. He comes from a long line of healers including Leroy Burney, Surgeon General of the United States under Eisenhower and Kennedy, and Elizabeth Lusterheide, a midwife and herbalist who worked in rural Indiana in the early nineteenth century. The greatest influence on his work, however,has been his great-grandfather C.G. Harrod who primarily used botanical medicines, also in rural Indiana, when he began his work as a physician in 1911.
Stephen’s work has appeared or been profiled in publications throughout North America and Europe including Common Boundary, Apotheosis, Shaman’s Drum, The New York Times, CNN, and Good Morning America. Stephen lectures yearly throughout the United States on herbal medicine, the sacredness of plants, the intelligence of Nature, and the states of mind necessary for successful habitation of Earth. He is a tireless advocate for the reincorporation of the exploratory artist, independent scholar, amateur naturalist, and citizen scientist in American society – especially as a counterweight to the influence of corporate science and technology.
Stephen Harrod Buhner:
It was in 1803 that Frederich Seturner isolated the first individual plant constituents from opium and named them alkaloids, some 140 million years after complex land plants created them for reasons of their own. Plant chemistry has not been studied very long in the scheme of things; it is still not very well understood.
Consider: each of the estimated 275,000 different species of plants on Earth contains several hundred to several thousand unique chemicals. The majority of these species manifest as millions of different individuals, all of them generating different variations, sometimes significantly, on their species’ chemical theme. A plant with one thousand different chemical constituents can literally combine them in millions of different ways. To compound the complexity, these combinations, added to those of other plants or of other organisms, produce synergistic results that are not predictable. Even a tiny change in dosage or combination can produce significantly different outcomes. Basically, the little that people currently know about plant chemistry is not very much. This ignorance is magnified by our tendency (because of our upbringing) to think of plants as insentient salads or building materials engaging in chemical production processes that just happened by accident and, in consequence, have no purpose or meaning.
Plants, it turns out make and release their complex chemistries for specific reasons. Spider mite-infested lima beans will release a blend of volatile oils (terpenoids) that attracts a predatory mite that feeds on spider mites. The plants can tell exactly what kind of mite is feeding on them through analyzing the chemistries of their saliva. Each plant species then produces a different blend of volatiles depending on what kind of spider mite is feeding on it. That mix will only call the predator that feeds on that kind of mite.
The loss of connection to plants, to the land, to Earth leaves the holes with which we are naturally born unfilled. No matter how much ritalin or prozac is poured into those holes, synthetic pharmaceuticals can never fill them; merely human approaches can never heal them. Pathologies come from the empty holes that are unfilled, from lack of contact and communication with the wild. The holes within us possess particular shapes – that of stone or tree or bear. It is not only plants that are our teachers and healers; not only plants that are among our community of life; not only plants that have a language we have long known.
Without deep connection to the land our healers remain anthropocentric – human centered – in their approaches, their theories of human health generated in isolation from the environment with which we evolved. They contain the same category error that all reductionistic sciences contain. The solution is reconnection to the natural world and the living intelligence of land. The solution is rekindling our capacity to use the heart as a sophisticated organ of perception. This goes far beyond the exploration of sentimental emotions such as love, or sadness, or fear. It moves into the ability to sophisticatedly think in emotional complexes that come to us from the touch of the world upon our heart. It enables us to identify the thousands of unnamed emotions that daily cross the faces of those we meet. It enables us to understand the point of view of the external world and to hear the language of plants.
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