“Human Element” by Jonathan E. Russell

Healing, to me, is a process by which a person (or animal or plant) returns to whole-ness. This is often literal, for example in the case of a scrape: As the scrape heals over, my skin becomes whole again. Or it might be more figurative: If my digestion isn’t functioning properly, I can’t fully take advantage of the nutrients in my food, so my body won’t work as well as it might. If I can remedy this and heal my digestive system, than I can more fully appreciate my body’s abilities, as well as activities that I might not have had the energy for before. As I heal, my life becomes fuller and my body reaches (closer to its) potential. I think it’s important to remember, here, that wholeness and perfection aren’t the same thing. A body will never be “perfect” (whatever that means), because it is always dealing with stressors (cuts, bug bites, toxins, germs, etc). But so long as that body is wholly functioning, it can deal with most stressors in a healthy way.

It follows that being healed would be a process of supporting the body and giving any tools it would find helpful in dealing with a particular stressor. If I have a cut, that might mean a comfrey poultice. If the stressor is lack of nutrition, that might mean revamping my diet and adding herbal and/or vitamin supplements. If I have the flu, it might mean rest, controlling the fever, and taking echinacea and/or golden seal to help my body fight off the virus. These are all things that I might do for myself or in combination with another’s help.

A healer might just be one who heals. But since healing is a function of the body itself that would make calling someone a healer equivalent to calling them a breather. We use the word “healer” to describe a person’s activity – often their profession or calling. So, I would say a healer is someone who encourages/promotes/assists healing in others – and, hopefully, in themselves!

(This is part of an essay originally written in response to a question on Rosemary Gladstar’s Science and Art of Herbalism course.)