Intro to Spirit of the Herbs

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Excerpt from “Intro to Spirit of the Herbs”


“Learning about herbs, as well as about the rest of acupuncture, from Leon Hammer, a psychiatrist, it was absolutely clear that there were herbal formulas for lingering conflict over a divorce that had happened ten years previously, which he could detect on your pulse. I mean, he could tell you how long ago and how bad was the divorce, on your pulse, and suggest herbs for that. So, it was blatant right from the beginning that emotion is physiological, and that the spirit lives in the body and the body is the spirit and the mutual giving-rise-to, right there.

Ted Kaptchuk also — how many people here have studied with Ted? Just one. He’s got this fabulous, endlessly parenthetical, looping kind of style, the Small Intestine of a wild magician, and he would stand there in front of the class with these moldering Chinese books that were falling apart as he turned the pages, and he’d say, ‘Huh. Look at this — Zhi Shi Aurantium. It says it’s for ‘psychic sausage.’ What do you think that means? And we’d talk about psychic sausage. You know, he’s like, ‘No, that’s what it says — psychic sausage.’ And until, basically, grappling with that from the rest of the signs in the description until it became clear that it was pent-up emotions stuffed into your intestines, making intestinal blockage, but that was, you know, emotional stuffing into your guts — psychic sausage.

I mean, what could be more obvious than psychic [sausage]? It’s a great term for that, right? So there was an attunement there to unusual descriptions, again, of how the body and emotions inter-play. With Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, that woman blew my mind. I mean Claude Larre blew it so thoroughly that I can’t even talk about it, but Elisabeth Rochat would do it on a more overt level, where she would do things like, she’d be explaining the various indications for a particular herb or herbal formula or acupuncture point or whatever it was, and — I don’t know if this is what you get in this school — but a lot of the time, they give these classical descriptions of what a particular herb or herbal formula are for — they’re like 9-1-1 level descriptions, you know? They’re these descriptions where you’re like, if a client came into my office and this is what it was like, I wouldn’t be treating them! I would be sending them to the emergency room now! The extreme, the just, disaster — and so we’re listening to this and thinking, ‘Gosh, don’t know that I’m ever going to use that herb. Gosh, don’t ever think I’m going to use that formula.’

When she talks about one, and I don’t even remember which one it was, and she said, ‘For this and for that and’ — she’s French — ‘and for the vomiting of blood and things like this.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Hm. The vomiting of blood and things like this,’ and I couldn’t think of any things like the vomiting of blood, you know? It’s sort of seemed like a singularity, in a sense, and I just couldn’t think of any so I put up my hand and said, ‘Elisabeth, um, what do you mean, the vomiting of blood and things like this? Can you tell me something that’s like the vomiting of blood?’ And she said, ‘Oh the vomiting of blood. When the Chinese say the vomiting of blood, they do not mean the vomiting of blood.’ I’m in complete shock at this point, because I had taken it on faith that when the Chinese said the vomiting of blood, they meant exactly that — the vomiting of blood, right? So if that’s not true, what else isn’t what they meant, and where does that leave me?”