The Greek Way of Herbal Healing

In classical Greek science and medicine, everything in the universe has its own inherent nature and temperament, or balance of the Four Basic Qualities: Hot, Cold, Wet and Dry.

This is the basis of how Greek Medicine analyzes the natures and properties of herbs.

To more precisely calibrate how Hot, Cold, Wet, or Dry an herb was, Galen introduced a system of four degrees for each of the Four Basic Qualities.

This allowed the physician and pharmacist to formulate and prescribe medicines more accurately.

The usual method of herbal treatment is to use medicines whose natures are contrary or complementary to the nature of the disorder to bring the body back into balance.

In conditions of plethora or excess, eliminative herbs with qualities contrary to those of the offending humor are used to reduce or disperse it.

In deficiency conditions, tonic herbs with qualities or essences that the body lacks or needs are used to restore health and wholeness.

In addition, Greek Medicine recognizes that various herbs have different affinities for certain organs, tissues or parts of the body.

Herbs whose actions focus on the heart are called cordials. Herbs that treat conditions of the head are called cephalic.

Liver tonics are called hepatics, whereas digestive tonics are called stomachics, and so on.

The basic formula or method of herbal treatment in Greek Medicine is this: Use herbs that are contrary or complementary to the nature of the disorder in kind, yet equal to the imbalance by degree; let them also have an affinity for, or pertaining to, the part being treated.

If these basic guidelines of treatment aren’t followed, there’s the risk that the physician will cure one disorder only to cause another more desperate than the first.

Greek herbal medicine, like other traditional systems of herbal healing, uses the principles of herbal tastes and energetics to further refine their therapeutic classification and usage of herbs.

All herbs that improve stomach and digestive function in some way are called stomachics.

Bitter stomachics are cooling and detoxifying, and are indicated for hot, inflammatory, hyperacidity and bilious stomach conditions.

Aromatic stomachics gently harmonize and stimulate gastric function in cases of sluggishness and congestion of the stomach.

Pungent stomachics are even hotter and more stimulating in their action, and strongly eliminate excess coldness and phlegm.

Out of all the various kinds of herbs that relieve pain, anodynes relax and disperse muscular aches and pains through their gentle warming and dispersing action.

Greek Medicine is a constitutionally based healing system that treats the person, not the disease.

In herbal prescribing, it’s also necessary to adjust the formula to the constitutional nature of the person being treated. For example, those with a stronger constitution will be better able to withstand the rigors of radical purgatives, whereas those of a more delicate constitution will require a more moderate and gradual cleansing.

In herbal prescribing, the weather, climate, and environmental conditions must also be taken into account.

For example, if the weather or season is cold, a formula to warm the body and disperse chills must be more heating in nature than if the chills are caught in relatively warm weather.

In Greek Medicine, several different innovative and efficient herbal preparations, designed to deliver maximum healing power to the site of the disorder, are used in treatment.

Herbal teas, pills or powders are mixed and matched with various standard preparations, like syrups or tinctures, which are kept on hand.

External or topical treatment methods, like compresses, liniments, salves, cataplasms or poultices, and fomentations are also used.