The Question of Questions: The Herbal Approach

People are discovering, more and more, that modern Western medicine doesn’t have all the answers. It’s my belief that the principle reason they don’t have more answers is because they are asking the wrong question! The entire basis of modern medical training and practice revolves around one question. It’s the first question we are asked by our doctor in the examination room and the only question that receives any real attention;

 “What’s wrong with you?”.

This question isn’t all bad certainly. They do need to know what a person’s symptoms are and why they have come to see them, but the question is flawed. The problem with asking “What’s wrong with you?” is that it implies that the symptom is the problem. This, of course, leads naturally to the fallacious conclusion that making the symptom go away equates with curing or healing the disease.

I would propose that there is a much better question; “Why is something wrong with you?”. This is a very different question that leads, by its very nature, to very different answers.

I recently had a young woman come to see me for an herbal consultation. She had been to several dermatologists and received from them a diagnosis of eczema. The skin condition had started several months previous to our meeting as a small dry spot behind her ear. Three months later, it had become a truly horrific scaly mess covering her neck, much of her  trunk and most of one arm. She had consulted with several different dermatologist who, having asked “What’s wrong with you” and answered “A nasty case of eczema.“, proceeded to prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacterial pathogens and corticosteroids to eliminate the inflammation.

As her condition worsened, the physicians continued asking their same question and arriving at the same answer (funny how that works). They tried various variations on a theme with their antibiotics and steroids but nothing seemed to help. In fact, her condition became alarmingly worse.

When the young lady came to see me, I visited with her for about an hour. As we visited, I tried to find answers to the following questions:

“What has changed in your life that has made you so susceptible to this condition?”

“Why, even with pharmaceutical intervention, can your body not heal itself from this condition?”

“What is the source of your dis-ease?”

In other words, “Why is something wrong with you?”

In the course of our conversation I learned that the young lady was going through a difficult divorce. She was working two jobs trying to manage as a single parent. She was living off vending machines and drive-through windows as she went from one job to the next. She was consuming large amounts of caffeine and tobacco in an effort to maintain her energy levels and keep up with her impossible life. She had lost ease and harmony in her life and dis-ease had taken its place.

So, we talked. I recommended she eat something good for her every day. I recommended she cut back on the artificial stimulants and get some sleep. I suggested some herbs that might be helpful; burdock and yellow dock to support the liver and kidneys, red clover, wheat grass and alfalfa to deeply nourish, oat straw to feed and soothe frazzled nerves and Siberian ginseng to help her respond to stress and get some sleep. Interestingly, not one of those herbs has any anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial properties.

She came back about a month later to show me her skin. It was beautiful and smooth without a trace of dryness or scales.

She finally got the answers she needed. But only when we asked the right question.


Patrick Jones, DVM

HomeGrown Herbalist School of Botanical Medicine

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