What is a "simple" herb?

A "simple" refers to the use of one herb at a time in herbalism. Those who practice this approach are called "simplers."

Why Use Simples?

Simplers choose to use one herb at a time because they believe in making herbalism more simple and safe for everyone. By using simples, interactions between herbs and medications are easier to observe and avoid. This approach also empowers people to take control of their healthcare by providing them with easy and safe herbal preparations that they really get to know intimately.

Simples Bring Familiarity

Using a single herb at a time allows for a deeper understanding of the individual characteristics and actions of each herb. The more you use a particular herb, the more you become familiar with its unique qualities and how it works. This approach also simplifies the process of matching bodily signals to specific herbs.

Simples Deepen Your Relationship with Herbs

Using simples fosters a closer relationship with the herbs, much like spending one-on-one time with a person builds trust and intimacy. Becoming intimate with an herb helps establish a deeper level of trust and understanding of its effects, reliability, and limitations.

Jeannie Dunn Wildcrafting with Pine Tree

Simples Are Remarkable

Using one herb at a time allows for the observation of subtle differences in the herb's effects based on factors such as where it grows, weather conditions, harvest time, preparation, and dosage. This approach ensures that the simple preparation touches many aspects of a person and deeply influences health. For example, a tincture made from motherwort flowering tops may show different effects on the uterus and heart based on the specific age of the flower stalk from which it was made.

Simple Herbs for Simple Healthcare

Using one herb at a time is important to us because it ensures that our preparations have active value rather than just a placebo effect. Local, abundant plants are particularly reassuring because we are unlikely to lose access through them due to legislature or overharvesting issues and our accessibility of them is constant. Using one plant at a time helps me build trust in herbal preparations and is a subversive act that reclaims simple healthcare.

Empowering through Simples

At worst, combinations can erode our power, make us feel like victims of the systeem, and convince us that herbalism is far too complicated and is best left to experts. So, let's take the challenge and use simples instead of complex formulas.

For example, let's rework some herbal blends. The formula that counteracts unusual cellular proliferation, Essiac, contains four plants, but only burdock root has the strongest active constituents. By using burdock root alone, we have found it to be superbly useful in reversing conditions of problematic or abnormal cell growth.

Another formula to support the respiratory system might contain several plants from licorice to Irish moss to lungwort, some of which have little or no effect on respiratory spasms themselves. We can simplify the formula by using just thyme, elecampane, or garden sage, which contain essential oils that can support both upper and lower respiratory systems, allay inflammation, and sedate spams. Alternatively, elecampane root is also an excellent choice because it specifically clears airways, eases difficult respiration, and tonifies lung tissues.

Using simples in appropriate situations is a fun and effective way to create herbal preparations that you have a deep, intimate, and powerful relationship with.

April 27, 2020 — Heather Wood Buzzard

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