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Health Corner
Column from The Babes Network Newsletter

The Wise Woman Tradition
1998 Julene Tripp Weaver

This article will give you some background on the Wise Woman Tradition. Herbalist Susun Weed compares the Wise Woman Tradition with what she calls the Scientific and the Heroic Traditions. Each of these traditions is simply a way to think of healing, one is not wrong or right. I will briefly summarize the three traditions by examining their symbols.

The Scientific Tradition is linear and its symbol is a straight line, at one end is good or health at the other end is bad or sick. Scientists work on figuring out what part is missing and work on replacing the missing part. In this tradition synthetic vitamins are considered equal to or superior to natural vitamins. Why? Well a plant may be stronger one year than the next depending on conditions (i.e., soil, weather) but a synthetic vitamin can be made to specific dosages, without "impurities."

This scientific approach overlooks the body's ability to use the whole and take what it needs. Recently people with HIV have been encouraged to use beta carotene. Carotenes are in plants and our liver uses them to make vitamin A; there is no vitamin A in any food. As of a recent count, there are 800 carotenes! How do you think your liver responds if you take just beta carotene? It is only one out of 800! The body is a complex multifaceted moving organism, when you reduce 800 to one then you don't allow your liver its full role. No one knows the long range effects of the liver having to process large amounts of beta carotene. In the Wise Woman Tradition the way to get carotenes is to eat steamed carrots, or any cooked orange and green food for a maximum amount of carotene. Your body gets the whole plant including the roughage that is vital for your intestines.

In the Heroic Tradition the symbol is the circle. Most of today's alternative therapies and diets are based in the heroic tradition. A brief list would include: food combining, fasting, enemas, high colonics, rolfing, and macrobiotics. The words we frequently hear are "cleansing" or "purifying"; the roots of this tradition come out of a fear of dirt and sex, the idea is that the body is dirty.

There are many rules that an expert sets up and you must follow these rules. Many of the disciplines of the holistic movement are guru like figures. If you get sick it means you did not follow the rules. This translates into you were bad, you are ostracized out of the circle; you must repent in some way to go back in. In our desire to be loved, and to be healthy we have bought into a wide variety of inner circles only to find they are not the answer for us at all.

Herbalism that comes out of the Heroic Tradition has many complex formulas; strong herbs are frequently used to knock the illness out of you (an example of this is the high usage of cayenne and goldenseal among Heroic herbalists, these two herbs can cause severe reactions in the body).

In the Wise Woman Tradition the symbol is a spiral. According to Susun Weed the Wise Woman Tradition is the oldest oral tradition of health care among humans. It does not fix, cure, or balance; rather it offers the path of optimum nourishment and prevention. There are no fixed rules and the focus is on the use of locally grown weeds, whole plants and foods to nurture the body. On a spiral you cannot be in or out, and there is no clear cut linear path. There is a continuum of steps 0 through 6 that one can choose to use: Step 0 - the do nothing step; Step 1 - collect information; Step 2 - engage the energy; Step 3 - nourish and tonify; Step 4 - stimulate/sedate; Step 5a - use supplements; Step 5b - use drugs; Step 6 - break and enter. (1)

The Wise Woman Tradition says the body has its own knowledge and there is nothing that is right or wrong. Sometimes the magic bullet or surgery of the scientific tradition is necessary; it can be a wonderful thing and save your life in an emergency. At other times you may want to go on a strict diet, or use a strong herbal, your body may require the rules of the Heroic discipline. In the Wise Woman Tradition you listen to your whole being. This tradition practices the art of simples, you learn about a few plants, that grow locally, you use them to nurture and strengthen your body. There are no complex formulas; if you learn several plants really well that is all you need. Susun's first book, Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise, 1989, covers seven plants thoroughly plus her discussions of the three traditions.

Learning about herbs in the Wise Woman Tradition has helped me find my innate knowledge of wild plants. I have learned to value ordinary weeds that generations of women have used on a daily basis to nurture and strengthen themselves and their family. These weeds that I can harvest in local community gardens and parks are the original keys that match our cells vibrational level.

(1) Susun Weed, Menopausal Years The Wise Woman Way Alternative Approaches for Women 30 - 90, Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing, 1992, p. xiv.

Disclaimer: Please be advised this is a sharing of information that is not meant to be used to replace medical treatment and your own intuitive sense of your body and what it needs. Please see your medical provider (Dr., Naturopath, Acupuncturist, etc.) to follow up on suggestions.