Herbs & Supplements held in front of a bible

Is it OK for Christians to Use Herbs?

It’s hard to deny that many big players on the pharmaceutical field have committed some serious ethical transgressions, ranging from funding scientific research to skew results in their favor, to pushing dangerous drugs on people for profit. Just Google practically any pharmaceutical company’s legal history and you will likely find a mess of unethical conduct. How are we supposed to trust Western Medicine?

Many people see herbal medicine as an alternative (understandably.) But when you first get into herbalism, the new age influence is hard to ignore. Talk of herbal energetics, therapeutic paradigms/models such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Native American/Indigenous, some authors’ emphasis on plant spirits, astrology and other concepts may lead you to think that herbalism just isn’t compatible with Christianity.

So, is it *really* a sin to practice herbalism? Do we need to give up herbalism as an alternative to greedy and immoral pharmaceutical companies?

You aren’t alone in asking yourselves these questions. After conducting a little investigation, I’ve come up with some miraculous answers– all of which I will share with you here.

Read on to discover passages in the Bible that support herbalism, noteworthy Christian herbalists, a branch of Christian herbal medicine that has been used for thousands of years, and other roles Christianity has played in herbalism.

Herbalism in Ancient Times

Americans today tend to view the medical field– complete with doctors, hospitals, insurance– (aka western medicine) as the only “real” medicine grounded in science (and therefore the only legitimate field of medicine) the truth is that humanity has been using plants since the dawn of time.

An Aside About Science

Sure, we didn’t have a formal body of “scientific” knowledge to draw on, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t use the scientific method, or have a scientific approach to dealing with plants and healing. Sure, we didn’t have contact with other scientists with advanced degrees or access to their peer reviewed journals to verify that this or that remedy has been proven by people in a completely different country to be effective.

But, do you really NEED it if you have thousands upon THOUSANDS of years of anecdotal evidence? Were people 800 years ago incapable of using trial and error? Applying their senses to discern whether something does or doesn’t work? Were they too dumb to know whether or not they felt better after taking something? Did they need the World Health Organization to affirm that they do, in fact, feel better?

NOTE: This isn’t to denigrate science at all, (especially since I went to school for psychology) I just think people get really pompous about science and act like they’re the only special group of people in the history of humanity that have ever been curious about something, asked a question, guessed the answer, tested it out and then decided what they would do differently next time, then built on that body of knowledge. (Haven’t these people ever tried baking before?)

It’s practically medical gaslighting to insinuate that people back then were just too dumb to use scientific reasoning or to think critically, and that everything they produce is useless at best because it hasn’t been verified by doctors with their science eyes.

Back to Herbalism in Ancient Cultures

But I digress. We already know that herbs were often used in shamanistic cultures all over the world (which was probably all of them if you go back early enough. There were nine sacred herbs to Odin mentioned in manuscripts from back in the day. We already know that they’re shamans in Europe + Celtic shamanism, Native American shamanism, Tibetan shamans and so on and so forth– all of them used herbs to heal the sick because what else were they supposed to use?

This is not a testament to Christian herbalism of course, but the point I’m trying to make is that using plants for medicine is just something people do.

Regardless of what god you believe in, it’s hard to deny that the plants were put here by God and that intended for us to use them for both eating AND for healing.

The Fine Line Between Eating and Healing

For example, one of the herbs used in herbalism is red raspberry leaf for menstrual cramps and hormone balance. Basil is a natural anti-depressant (this explains why pizza makes everything better? XD). Oregano is a natural anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.

At what point would eating them be considered herbalism and therefor off limits? The idea that it could is just really silly to me.

Furthermore, if you would determine herbalism to be intentionally using a plant or herb for medicinal properties and not for nourishment, and you were in an entirely self-sufficient situation and did not have access to medical care, would you just forgo using anything for your illness even though there is a plant sitting in front of you? Would you just go without “medical” care? Would you just not eat (since all plants have medicinal properties)?

One might reason that in modern times, you can just use an OTC medication or a prescription.

But here’s the thing: the majority of medications in existence today are formulated with isolated constituents from plants, causing them to have more side effects.

They can’t patent things found in nature, so instead they have to change the plant in order sell it as such a high price that you need insurance to pay for it. So by taking pharmaceutical medication, you’re taking something that wasn’t created by God at all.

Back to Medicinal Plant Use in Ancient Cultures

One of the oldest materia medicas (latin word meaning big book-o-plants/medical materials used and their medicinal properties) on record is called the Shenong Bencaojing, written by a Chinese emperor in about 206 BC – 200 AD.

This means 200 years before the birth of Christ and there was already a whole book written on medicinal plants and their properties. It was no small book, either. It contained three volumes and 365 different plants (about 120 each.) Some of the plants mentioned included ginger, orange, cinnamon, CANNABIS (not making an argument for it here, just stating the fact that it was mentioned) rhubarb and peaches. (Source: Wikipedia) (Yeah, I used it as a source but only because it’s easy to go look up the actual book and see the herbs listed in it.)

And if you look at a map of Israel and China, it’s not incredibly far off. If people made it to Rome/Greece around that time, I’m willing to bet that they also made it to China.

Do people really think that this herbal knowledge wasn’t traded amongst people at that time? Well, fun fact: it probably was.

Herbalism in the Bible

This brings us to the next logical question: what kind of plants were listed in the Bible?

Luckily, I am not the only nerd on the face of the planet to have ever asked this question. As it turns out, there’s a list on Wikipedia of all of the plants listed in the Bible. You can check it out by clicking here.

(Again, I apologize for using Wikipedia as a source, but this can easily be checked using the nearest bible.)

Some ones to note from this list are: blackberry, balsam, aloe, anise or dill (weird), cinnamon, coriander, cucumber, cumin, black seed (which the prophet Muhammad was also said to have wholeheartedly endorsed in scriptures) flax (which, if I recall correctly, was ordered by a certain Roman emperor to be grown because of how important he thought the plant was), frankincense (not only a powerful essential oil, but also used as an incense in Orthodox Church services), garlic, hemlock, hyssop (traditionally used curse breaking), mint, myrrh (incense), nettle, purslane, rue (another herb used for spiritual protection and breaking curses). etc.

Now, one day I will get around to adding the exact sentence/context these are used in, but for now, I think it’s a convincing case that a materia medica with instructions for use of these plants was introduced shortly before this time AND that many of these plants are also used in the Bible.

Not to mention, things like frankincense and myrrh are STILL in use today in some churches.

It’s no mystery to me why, either. Back when I was really into the occult, frankincense and myrrh incense are often used to increase the vibration of a space, attract positive spirits and to help in the manifestation of spirits that you’re making offerings for/praying to. (This isn’t to say that it’s bad, just that frankincense has spiritual properties recognized by a wide variety of spiritual people– a testament to it’s usefulness.)

Frankincense as an essential oil is one of the more expensive/valuable ones, touted as a cure-all remedy for things ranging from anti-aging and skincare, headaches, to stomach aches and beyond. I’m sure these properties were well known back then, if only because people back then had a direct relationship with the earth. Since they depended on nature for food, they probably knew exactly what happened if you ingested any given plant.

Made in God’s Image

In the occult world, there’s the saying “as above so below”. The cosmos is analogous to the human body and right down to the smaller beings and plants and mushrooms. By this, I mean it’s remarkable how similar roots and the vascular system of plants mirror, for instance, the system of veins and capillaries in our bodies and how similar mushrooms are to the neural network in the human brain (even more fascinating when we consider that mushrooms have been found to communicate with each over massive networks even many miles away!)

In Christianity, the saying that humans were made in God’s image (as well as everything else on the planet) is remniscient of this concept. Structures in the different ends of the cosmos are analogous to one another.

Humanity is patterned so similarly to other structures in the universe that when it malfunctions, it breaks uniformly. When there is a disease or something wrong with the human body, you need not look further than the plants to find a cure that perfectly fits/mirrors the disease like a puzzle.

If this concept doesn’t illustrate God’s intent for us to use plants to heal ourselves, I don’t know what does.

Hildegard von Bingen and Monastic Medicine

If you’re thinking, “What does that even mean?? None of that makes sense and you have yet to provide any substantial evidence that it’s OK for Christians to use herbs”, look no further. I would like to introduce you to Hildegard von Bingen, better known at Saint Hildegard of Bingen (from 1179 A.D.)

Hildegard was a German abbess, herbalist, writer, composer, and head of the convent/Abbey at which she lived. She had lived in a monastic community at the age of 8, when she began having visions. Over the course of her life, she made substantial contributions not only to the field of herbalism but also music.

She wrote the book Physica (which I haven’t read yet but looks more like a materia medica) detailing many different herbs and their uses. Oats, cloves, ginger, wild thyme, horehound, lavender, prickly pear and more herbs are detailed in this book.

Although this may be surprising to some, it shouldn’t be. There is an entire field of Christian herbalism called monastic medicine, and it’s been around since the 8th century. Hildegard von Bingen’s contributions to the field were incredible, but there were many other practitioners of this discipline both before and after her. By the 13th century however and the emergence of modern medicine, monastic medicine fell into decline. However, doctors still had knowledge of spiritual concepts and even astrology well into the 1900s (a field known as medical astrology.)

Physic Gardens: Healing Spaces

Since monasteries were meant to be as self-sufficient as possible, many monasteries had dedicated gardens tended to by monks (and nuns) that grew what they needed. Parts of the garden that specifically dealt with medicinal plants were called physic gardens, the forerunner to the modern day botanical garden.

Christians in Herbal Medicine Today

More recently in history, in Medieval Europe, women (being caretakers) were expected be skilled in knowledge of plants to create remedies to nurse sick and injured family members back to health. I don’t know why, but to me that’s just so amazing that at one point in history, herbalism came with the job description of being a wife and mom. (Those were the days, clearly)

Today, when you tell someone you’re “into herbalism”, you’re more likely to get associated with the pagans and new age-rs. But if you look around, there are still many Christian herbalists that exist.

The Christian Herbalists Guild is an organization for Christian herbalists to find and promote like-minded herbalists. Professional herbalists can apply for a membership to be officially registered with their organization as a Registered Christian Herbalist. (Sort of an equivalent to the American Herbalist Guild and their Registered Herbalist application.)

If you’re seeking herbal consultation, you can visit this website for guidance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s more than okay for Christians to practice herbalism to heal themselves and others. It’s very likely that plants were used for healing purposes by the time the Bible was written. There are many logical reasons for Christians to use herbs for healing, not to mention, the field of monastic medicine (which used herbs) has been practiced since the 8th century A.D. One prominent Christian who practiced herbalism and monastic medicine was Hildegard von Bingen, better known as St. Hildegard of Bingen.

Hopefully, with more information out there on the field of monastic medicine, there will be more acceptance of herbalism in Christian communities and the many benefits of herbalism will be available for all.

Sharing is Caring!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *