Herbal Therapy for Eating Disorders - An Indigenous Clinician's Perspective

Vanessa is a Métis Clinical Herbal Therapist and Registered Herbal Therapist, practicing on Lekwungen territories (Victoria, BC). She works with clients face to face and online over Skype. She gave a BOSS Q&A for the forum on herbal therapy for ED’s, cultural healing and more. We thank her for her wisdom offering.


Q: How you find herbal medicine/therapy to be helpful in restoring health and sustainability for ED clients?

Vanessa: Eating disorders are more common than people might think.

I’ve yet to have a client come to see me with an eating disorder as their chief health concern, however during the intake, disordered eating is often disclosed.

Herbal therapy can be incredible for addressing the mental health aspects of eating disorders: coping mechanisms, self-worth, sense of being in control, pain, etc.

There are herbs whose chemical constituents we call on for physiological support and there are flower essences whose energetic resonance we call on for

emotional support.

There are 34 North American Flower Essences that are categorized under “Eating Disorders”!!!

Agrimony — using food as a way of escaping or masking real feelings.

Cherry Plum — feeling out of control about eating; binge/purge cycles.

Manzanita — inability to love one’s physical body and a tendency to starve or abuse the body (as in anorexia nervosa or bulimia).

Pink Monkeyflower — carrying excess body weight as a means to protect the body and shield oneself from shame.

When we sustain the land,

plants and flowers will sustain us with their medicine — this is true sustainability.

Q: What do you think is important for people to know about the connection between loss of land sovereignty/food sovereignty and dis-ease stemming from food-related illness?

Vanessa: When Indigenous peoples are systemically displaced from traditional lands,

connection to traditional foodways is often lost or reduced. This leads to nutrition that is less culturally appropriate. The World Health Organization’s investigation into health determinants recognizes colonization as an underlying determinate of Indigenous health. Indigenous people are at higher risk for illness and earlier death than non-Indigenous peoples, not because we are genetically more susceptible, but because of the many factors that come together with loss of land sovereignty.

A disconnection from culture and tradition, lack of safe water and clean air, poor housing and inadequate work conditions all come into play here.

Lack of social support networks, barriers to health services, low income, poor socioeconomic status and intergenerational distrust of education are also implicated with loss of sovereignty and disease.

Q: How can individuals learn to restore a healthy relationship to food and body through herbal therapy?

Vanessa: Herbal therapy allows you to slow down and be with your body. The intake itself asks questions that are conducive to self-reflection and healing.

Herbal therapy shows us what is possible when we call on plant allies for support. When we make the choice to support our cells with nature, the nature of our biology responds.

Q: What is the cultural importance of herbal therapy for individuals - and in particular, for individuals who are recovering from eating disorders?

Vanessa: Herbal therapy is culturally important because no matter your background,

it is the way of our ancestors. Traditional medicine uses plants that are geographically relevant. It focuses on supporting the mind, body, and spirit of the individual.

For people who are recovering from eating disorders, the spirit must be supported.

Q: Anything else you feel is interesting, relevant, or that you are passionate about which might be beneficial for eating disorder recoveries?

Vanessa: In the words of Helen Knott,

“Healing yourself is a revolutionary act.

Healing yourself is the ultimate act of resistance.”

You can find out more about her services and contact her at

w: www.vanessaprescott.com

e: info@vanessaprescott.com

IG: @vanessaprescott