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Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism [Format Kindle]

Stephen Harrod Buhner , Brooke Medicine Eagle

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Preface to the New Edition

This book is about a particular way of gathering information from the world, not the reductionism that our modern culture so embraces, but an older way known to all ancient and indigenous cultures. It is a way of gathering information directly from the world itself, a way of learning the uses of plant medicines directly from the plants themselves. Members of most ancient and indigenous cultures make an interesting assertion; when asked where in their body they live, they gesture to the region of the chest. Members of our culture, on the other hand, point to the head, generally an inch above the eyes and about two inches into the skull. The great divergence in the ways that Western and indigenous peoples experience the world can, I think, be traced to just this difference. For those locating themselves in the heart and those locating themselves in the brain do experience the world in quite different ways. Realms of experience open to those who approach the world through the heart are simply not perceivable to those who experience it through the brain. But this heart-centered way of perception is the oldest we know, intimately bound up in our humanness and our expression as ecological extensions of this Earth.

from Chapter 7

Digging for Medicine

The Wildcrafting of Medicinal Plants
When one approaches the earth and the plants to gather medicines, it is important that it be done with caring and knowledge. Among indigenous groups, people who gather medicine in a sacred manner have done so in similar ways all over the world. Though some of the techniques may differ, the underlying attitudes of mind are the same. It is only when plants become viewed as commodities that they begin to be harvested without thought. It can take months or even years to develop the understanding of what you are seeing when you go into the world of plants. There is a world of deep interrelationships that, because we have been so long separated from it, we do not easily recognize. It is important to recognize that the learning takes time and that you come as a student.

Perhaps the most important attitude to learn is that of “thinking like a mountain.” This term comes from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. In his book he shares the time when he first learned to “think like a mountain,” when he first recognized the interrelationship of the world.

At that time, he and a friend were eating lunch and saw what they thought was a deer swimming across the stream below them. When the deer finally reached the bank and climbed out they realized it was a wolf. The mother wolf was soon joined by her litter in joyful abandon. Leopold and his friend emptied round after round from their rifles into them. They both thought that fewer wolves meant more deer to be hunted by man.

When they were finished they had mortally wounded the mother and one cub, the others fled. Leopold noted: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes--something known only to her and the mountain.”

In the years that passed, Leopold saw state after state kill off its wolf population and mountain after mountain fall under the voracious and unchecked appetite of the deer herds. There is a relationship between the living things in the ecosystem that though unseen holds a great power. When approaching the time of “digging for medicine” you approach that power. And when you approach it, once you learn to see it for what it is, it is automatic to come in reverence, with love and respect. This attitude and understanding is the basic component of seeking medicine and harvesting plants.

Most common diseases can be treated with the knowledge of only ten plants. Some medicine people might only know one or two or they might know as many as a thousand but ten are often sufficient. It is not important to know the plants that come from far away; the ones that grow near to you, in your back yard or in parks near your home, have all the healing power necessary. They, in fact, are better. You all live in the same area, are a part of the same ecosystem. You partake of the same water and air. You are of the same community. When you start with these familiar plants you begin to bond with the land on which you live. You will see and pick the same plants year after year, from the same stands and same land. Each year your knowledge of the healing power of these plants will grow. You will learn many things about them. And as such your capacity to evoke their healing power will also grow.

In each community of plants there are grandfather and grandmother plants from whom that community of plants has come. It is important to leave these plants untouched. Often they live at the top of slopes and seed down. They may be of great age, thousands of years old. To the unschooled eye they appear much like all the others. Some of these plants were here when the great ice sheets retreated north. They saw human beings take their first steps on this continent. One chaparral plant in the southwest desert has been carbon-dated to be 12,000 years old. Others are much older. In the presence of such age and wisdom you should come humbly.

The grandfather and grandmother plants should be left undisturbed. They should be honored with tobacco and smudge, prayer and ceremony. When you meet such a one you meet the archetype of its kind and it possesses great power.

Revue de presse

“Buhner articulates the sacred underpinnings of the herbal world and deep ecology as only a real ‘green man’ can.” (David Hoffman, author of Medical Herbalism)

"This is an excellent reference book, as well as a wonderful book for beginners who want a true understanding of how to begin working with plants." (Bonnie Cehovet,, April 2006)

". . . offers not just another herbal, but the first in-depth analysis of how the Native Americans communicated with the plant world to heal human ailments." (Diane Donovan, California Bookwatch, June 2006)

". . . guides the reader through the practical technology of herbalism--which parts of the plant to use, and how to prepare tinctures, salves, and infusions, never letting us forget the underlying precious and holy exchange that is happening." (Four Corners, July 2006)

"Sacred Plant Medicine will guide you into the territory where plants are an expression of the spirit. Through prayer and sacred medicinal songs, Buhner shows how plants reveal their medicinal properties." (Lotus Guide, July-Aug 2006)

"A delightful read in all ways and highly recommended." (The Cauldron Brasil, October 2006)

". . . the first in-depth study that examines the world of Native American medicinal herbalism." (Lotus Guide, Feb 2007)

"Buhner's examination and research brings forth how indigenous peoples are able to communicate with Mother Earth and her properties through spiritual connections.  Through this research Buhner is able to present to us healing plants, medicinal uses of the plant, how to prepare the plants for use, and the associated ceremonial fundamentals. . . . This is a book that connects the body to the plants, an energy that is important if healing ourselves and our plant." (Irene Watson, Reader Views, August 2010)

“The first in-depth analysis of the processes used by Native Americans to communicate with the plant world for the purposes of healing human illness. It is a work long overdue by an author who himself ‘talks’ with plants as Native Americans have always done.” (William S. Lyon, author of The Encyclopedia of Native American Healing and Black Elk: The Sacred Way)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5  36 commentaires
62 internautes sur 63 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 a wonderful book! 9 avril 2007
Par reader - Publié sur
In Sacred Plant Medicine, Stephen Buhner explores the processes whereby indigenous peoples throughout the world learned the use of plant medicines. The book is a sensitive and deep look at an uncommon subject, the sacredness of plants within indigenous cosmologies, how those plants interacted with human beings, and how human beings made relationship with them in order to learn their medicinal and spiritual uses. Indigenous peoples were clear, and Buhner's first hand accounts bear this out, they did not learn the uses of plant medicines through trial and error but directly from the plants themselves. This book is an important companion to Buhner's other books: Lost Language of Plants, and The Secret Teachings of Plants. Each of them look at the intelligence of Nature, especially that of plants, in close detail, each from a different perspective. Sacred Plant Medicine develops a map of the territory of plant intelligence and the human interaction with it by focusing on the earliest and most basic human form of that contact between differing intelligences. Lost Language of Plants approaches it from a look at the deep ecological interactions of plant chemicals as one specific language of plant communication, Secret Teachings explores the heart as the specific organ of cognition behind understanding plant and Nature contact and communication. All three books are essential, this one is a delight. Highly recommended.
25 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Exactly what I was looking for 13 avril 2011
Par Aaron Ward - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
It took me years to start to find the kinds of books and material I have wanted to pursue. If you don't have a personal contact with a medicine man or shaman in a traditional earth based tribe, I think this is you best way to access material that is quickly being lost to humankind. I hope more people will read this kind of material to help safe the Earth and our relationship with it before it is too late.
24 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Sort of 7 septembre 2013
Par MysticJaguar - Publié sur
If you are looking for information on what plants to use for what benefits, ailments, etc. this is an ok book. But I'm still trying to understand who the target audience is thought to be. You do have some information on plants here. But it's a mismash with a bunch of other stuff. Some of the info is good. But in other cases there are things like talking about a concoction for the birth of the first child. You should never, ever think about giving plant remedies to pregnant mothers unless you have been trained/apprenticed to an elder for many years. Then, closely after this, is another story/anecdote about what to do when a woman cannot vomit. Again, we are jumping into more advanced cases that may give people ideas about what they can/should do when they have no mentor nor much experience in this area. This is a bit dangerous. Plants are powerful, in many cases more powerful than prescription medicines. But giving people ideas about dabbling is over the top. These are examples of info that would have been better left out of the book.

At other times the book becomes unfocused from plants even veering off course to talk about pipe carriers and many other things not related to the title. You can learn about EM fields and so on but that info does not really help you understand plants. Later we hear about Edward O. Wilson and the Gaia theory. Ok, nice to know. But this is an example of the wide wandering this book gets into which can be distracting if you already know about these theories/concepts. If you want to stay heads down on plants then you may become frustrated.

So the book is many things and ok for plants but I don't feel that there is a guiding voice of an authentic elder who knows what to mention and what to leave out. The topics range far and wide and for that you need much active filtering to realize when the author has run you into a side-branch away from the knowledge you are looking for.

If you've read about Black Elk, Crazy Horse, most anything by Ed McGaa (Eagle Man), Tom Brown Jr, then you already know the native views somewhat. If you are looking for a Native American Materia Medica, it is not clearly developed here. You would be better starting somewhere else like Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul (which is more about working with plants rather than this wide ranging book under review), or Plants of Power: Native American Ceremony and the Use of Sacred Plants (which actually lists plants and what they are good for). This book (Plants of Power) is really the BEST place to start if you already know about Gaia and Native American culture in general.

For a wider background/survey of plants then the more conventional guidebooks like A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides) or Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide (Falcon Guides).
17 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 fascinating and remarkable 9 janvier 2010
Par Stephenie L. Falcone - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
My husband is very scientific with a strong interest in native cultures and moral philosophy. Sometimes books disappoint him when they're too generic or fluffy. This book did not dissappoint. It was very informative and interesting. The author knows what he's talking about and stands up for what he believes in. It was especially cool that we live by the Rocky Mountains and there are several specific references to the plants in this region.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 let the plants tell you what they're good for- curandero, the Phillipines 14 novembre 2010
Par David - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This is a good book- and of course, only a start. I like reviews that tell me similar books, or other books on the same path, so I'll do that here. Wisdom of the Earth, by Barry Kapp, goes into similar ideas. Amazon doesn't have it in stock, though. There Are No Incurable Diseases: Dr. Schulze's 30-Day Cleansing & Detoxification Program, School of Natural HealingHerbal Home Health Care, Herbal Healing for Women, Complete Medicinal Herbal (Natural care) can round this out, on the herbal side. For the Shamanic side, The Physics of Miracles: Tapping in to the Field of Consciousness Potential The Future Is Yours: Do Something About It! There is a Sufi story about moths, and the only moth that really understands the candle is the one who gives himself totally to the light, and the light gives itself to him. This applies to shamanic work. Shamanic techniques work from the larger self, especially in service to others. Shamanism means working with the subconscious, and at times superconscious minds. It cannot be apprehended by the conscious mind, the ego. Without service, many things just don't work, or work only slightly. Whispers of the Ancients: Native Tales for Teaching and Healing in Our Time gives you some idea of how very different native storytelling is, and stories shape the Universe. Indigenous life, for which these techniques go hand in glove, can be approximated from Journey to the Ancestral Self: The Native Lifeway Guide to Living in Harmony With Earth Mother, Book 1 (Bk.1) These are very good basic books, to getting out of the box of Western culture, into the much more fascinating 7 worlds of the spiritual traveller. Wong Kiew Kit's books on Chi Kung show how ideas like this survive in Chinese culture, and Chinese Herbal medicine has aspects very similar to these. Joseph Murphy The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (Revised) can help in understanding this. Healing For The Millions, by King, would also help. The other reviews are accurate, so I won't repeat what they say.
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