I love to read the lives of herbalists.
Each life story is a one of miracles and eccentricities. Often there is political intrigue and unusual spiritual ideals, altruism and mystical experiences. Each herbalist, who I have study, has definitely marched to his or her own drum. For the next several columns, I will resurrect some of their stories. Hopefully, they will inspire.
Most present day herbalist in the United Sates and many in Canada studied at some time with Doctor Christopher. Christopher was born in Salt Lake City in 1909.
Legend says, that the first sign of Christopher’s calling as a healer occurred as a child. One winter’s night, the child was seriously ill with croup and a raging fever, when a stranger appeared on the front porch. Christopher’s mother greeted the stranger. He gave her detailed instructions on how to help her child. So quickly his mother turned to go into the house, in order to administer to her child, she forgot to thank the stranger. Upon recalling her manners, she turned to find the stranger had already gone. Later, it was noted, there were no foot prints in the snow where the stranger would have walked the night before. Christopher survived.
As a child, watching his mother struggle with chronic ill health, he vowed to become a healer. When a herbalist came to the house, to treat his mother, and she experience renewed vigour, Christopher knew he would be a herbalist.
As a young man, a car accident left him in chronic pain with sleepless nights.
One of those sleepless nights, while browsing through The Doctrine and Covenants from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the book feel open at the health code of the church. It stated to eat meats sparingly and consume wholesome foods such as grains and vegetables.
Christopher changed his diet dramatically to include only fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains. The pain disappeared and Christopher was able to get on with his life. He began to encourage others to take up this diet.
Upon being drafted into The Second World War, Christopher according the his faith applied for conscientious objector status saying he would proudly serve his country by carrying stretchers, but not bearing arms. This statement sent him to Fort Lewis where he was given the medical dispensary to over see. This frustrated Christopher.
A believer in natural remedies, in this new role, he was only able to dispense synthetic medicine. His superiors were adamantly opposed to herbs, until a soldier arrived with a severe infection of impetigo. Everything was tried, nothing worked. Discharge was recommended. The soldier, refused, claiming the army had caused the impetigo and he could not go home and infect his family. Christopher offered to use herbs. His superior shrugged their shoulders. What did they have to loose?
Wrapping the soldiers head in a liniment of black walnut (Juglans nigra ) for 24 hours completely resolved the impetigo. From then on, Christopher became the only practising herbalist in United States Army.
After discharging from the army, Christopher moved to Canada to study at The Dominion Herbal College (my Alma mater).
After graduating as a Master Herbalist, Christopher’s returned home and set up practice. But things had changed.
Herbal medicine was not favoured and a livelihood was difficult. Christopher found a job weeding gardens. With these weeds, he made his medicine.
Several of his popular skin formulas which contain herbs like plantain (Plantago spp.) and chickweed (Stellaria medica) reflect this time.
In many ways, this is the traditional practice of herbal medicine. Using local plants, as Christopher found is cost effect. In today’s world, it is also sustainable.
Eventually Christopher’s practice grew and he became a renowned teacher of herbal medicine. He past away in 1983.
Today, Christopher’s formulas are still studied and used by herbalist. In many cases, they are the only medicine that works.
Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.