Medical astrology is one of the most misunderstood assessment tools available in herbalism, with many flat out rejecting its usefulness or efficacy because of preconceived notions of astrology in general. Despite its spiritual or “woo-woo” implications, astrology has pragmatic applications in therapeutic practice. By learning how to use this tool correctly, you can pinpoint an imbalanced organ system, tissue state, or constitutional pattern and develop greater accuracy in your herbalism practice.
In today’s blog post, I talk about:
- Medical astrology’s historical roots in medicine
- The line between tradition and science that herbalists face
- What medical astrology looks like in practice
- My concerns for the new era of medical astrology
- How to use medical astrology with more common tools
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” ~ Paracelsus
A few months ago, I had the honor of attending and speaking at the American Herbalist Guild Symposium. This herb conference happens once a year, and it was an incredible experience. Over time though, I noticed a pattern emerging.
When I spoke with fellow herbalists, many were enthusiastic about my work as an herbalist… well, everything except that whole medical astrology thing. I found it interesting that herbalists—practitioners of traditional medicine—were so quick to discount an entire traditional lineage, especially when most people these days are so open to different traditional models such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Unani-Tibb, Kampo, etc. And here we have a very old practice of assessment, plant classification, and therapeutics that is simply 100% written off, simply because it involves an understanding of the planets and astrology. I did my best to not let my feelings get hurt, but beyond that, it led me to consider how medical astrology is perceived today and why.
Astrology in general has had a bad rap for a long time. Much of this came from conservative religious mindsets denouncing it as “evil,” science saying it’s impossible for planets out there to affect us down here, and ironically, the nail in the coffin has been done by modern “pop astrology,” which is really more of a joke than anything. It is difficult for people to take astrology seriously, and the concept of medical astrology is foreign to most. If your experience is limited to vague and over generalized zodiac inscriptions in tabloid magazines why would you trust it for health purposes? If pop culture astrology is your point of association, this would naturally color and shape your idea about its legitimacy (or lack thereof).
Another reason herbalists may invalidate medical astrology is that it is important to us as a community to preserve our reputation. As herbalists, we want to be taken seriously, believed, and trusted in our practice. For this reason, many herbalists distance themselves from anything seen as “woo-woo.” In other words, they do not want to be associated with unconventional practices or beliefs with little to no scientific basis, especially concerning alternative medicine.
And while I empathize with this personally, medical astrology is not something we need to turn away from in the herbalism community. Historically, doctors were required to study astrology before they were allowed to start their practice. Herbalists too, studied astrology extensively to deepen their understanding of wellness and disease, as well as the overall patterns that exist within the natural world.
It is crucial to make a distinction between pop culture astrology and medical astrology, as they are not the same thing. While tabloids use it as entertainment content, medical astrology is the tradition of using the natal chart as an assessment tool in your medical practice. This assessment tool does not replace your knowledge of the body or herbs, and it cannot make up for a lack of knowledge. However, you can use it in conjunction with tongue assessment, pulse reading, facial line diagnostics, and other forms of client intake to sharpen your understanding of clinical patterns and make you a better-informed clinician.
Tradition and Science
Another reason herbalists struggle to accept medical astrology as an assessment tool is because there is no scientific explanation behind how and why it works. That said, I see a double standard set since there are numerous traditions and assessment tools we use in herbalism despite not having a scientific understanding of how it works, like tongue and pulse reading.
How exactly do you scientifically explain the organ locations on a tongue? Or how the different qualities of pulse and their positions lend insights into the inner state of the body? It’s no different than looking at someones natal chart to assess their body.
Whether you favor the Ayurvedic tridosha theory, five element system of TCM, the six tissue state model, biochemical analysis of the blood, or assessing someone based on their planetary constitution and the natal chart, what difference does it make if the end result is someone feeling better?
Ultimately, if there is an approach in herbalism that has withstood the test of time and works, is it important to have empirical evidence backing it up? By discounting a tradition because you do not understand it, you lose the opportunity to learn from its wisdom and improve your ability to help someone sick or suffering.
I think a fundamental part of being an herbalist—even if you favor the biochemical approach—is seeing past the individual parts of a plant and into its healing essence. Sometimes herbs work in ways that science cannot explain. Despite this, we know that the remedy works, and so we use it. Indeed, MOST plants that we work with we don’t fully understand how they heal us based on their constituents. It’s simply far too complex.
So while I encourage, and use myself, scientific information to make informed decisions, I know that the constituents of a plant are not all that there is. I know there is something greater that leads to its medicinal response. If you are an herbalist, you may feel this way too.
As an assessment tool, medical astrology pinpoints imbalances in organ systems, tissue states, or constitutional patterns, as well as points us towards a good direction for remedials. Although I can’t give you a scientific explanation for how analyzing the natal chart grants you insight into predispositions for disease, I know that it works. At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters? You don’t have to believe in it, because when you use something day in and day out that works, it’s not a question of belief, it just works!
Most of us these days have a phone in our pocket or bag that is so incredibly complicated in how it works that none of us can possibly understand it. Do we believe or not believe in our phones? Of course not! We just use it, because it works, even though we don’t understand HOW it works. To me, medical astrology is the same. It has taken time for people to come to accept acupuncture as a valid and effective form of medicine, I hope that the same level of respect and understanding can be developed with medical astrology someday as well.
Medical Astrology in Practice
I recently spoke with a client about some health concerns she had. She came to me with edema and other surface-level symptoms she wanted to address. Had I taken the allopathic herbal approach, I would have given her diuretic herbs like Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) or Nettle (Urtica dioica) to flush out the excess water. That would address the swelling, but I was concerned something deeper was going on, potentially with her kidneys, liver, or heart.
Throughout her intake, I struggled to pinpoint what the systemic root was and which organ system was behind it. After our consultation ended, I referred to her natal chart and it was clear as day. She had multiple patterns in her chart that pointed directly to challenging planetary aspects with Virgo and Jupiter, the rulers of the liver.
The natal chart swept away any confusion and clarified that the underlying dynamics were related to her liver. After speaking with my client again, she told me she had contracted hepatitis at a young age. Despite being over 60 years old today, she was still suffering from an underlying dysfunction of the liver.
I advised her to see a medical doctor to get some blood work done. The results indicated deeper problems occurring with her liver, specifically elevated liver enzymes like ALT and AST, confirming the information I found in her natal chart.
Medical astrology as an assessment tool is astoundingly accurate. Though as you can see, I did not use it alone—I saw patterns in her tongue and complexion that also indicated potential liver problems. I used medical astrology with other assessment tools, particularly when I needed more information to confirm my postulations. Together, I was able to reach a conclusion and select the right remedy.
And you know what, the client doesn’t even know that I’m using medical astrology!! Because i’m not doing a “reading” like most people think. Nope. I’m just doing an intake like any other practicing herbalist and using the medical astrology in the background to help confirm and clarify specifics in the case.
Whereas another practitioner might have gotten that information from reading their pulse, iridology, or another tool, I got it from the natal chart. What matters more than the specific tool you use is that it leads you to the right conclusion and increases your ability to select herbs that lead to results.
I share this example because medical astrology never ceases to amaze me in how well it works. If you are skeptical of medical astrology, I encourage you to maintain an open mind to its ability to add another pragmatic assessment tool to your practice. But I get it, it’s definitely not for everyone, and that’s okay. It can be a very complicated system to learn, and we all know there’s plenty to learn already just with herbalism on its own. But my humble request of the herbal community would be that even if medical astrology isn’t for you, please don’t discount another practitioner for using it just because it’s not your thing and you don’t understand it.
A New Era of Medical Astrology
Back when I embarked on my path to studying medical astrology and herbalism, there weren’t that many people out there teaching them together… actually there were none. For that reason, I studied with teachers of the alchemical tradition, straight medical astrology and clinical herbalism, trying to figure out how it all fit together. Over the years, I’ve distilled that into an organized system of herbally based medical astrology, what I call Astro-Herbalism.
These days, there are many more people talking about herbalism and astrology. It seems to be far more accessible and you can find content by many different people. Although I am glad to see the emergence of this important practice, it also leaves me concerned that it may be taught inaccurately or misrepresented.
When studying or practicing medical astrology, there are a few pitfalls you need to be aware of, such as the esoteric and spiritual aspects overriding the medical foundation, the spiritual and medical aspects bridged together poorly, and poor communication with your clients.
In terms of the first pitfall, you can focus on the spiritual aspects more if you would like, but you may face greater skepticism in the herbal community. Whether you focus extensively on the spiritual or not much at all, it is important that you bridge those facets together with the physical to generate a holistic understanding. Remember, the roots of medical astrology are physiological and anatomical in nature. We can’t get too woo-woo with it. Land the plane. Keep it practical. Otherwise you’re going to scare people off.
Lastly, you need to be careful of what you say to someone regarding their natal chart because you do not want to feed them negative preconceptions of their health, since this can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you see that your client has a planetary relationship in their chart that can indicate health trouble down the line, and you know they have a family history of heart disease, it can be really alarming for them to hear this. Furthermore, it can make them feel “resigned to their fate” and give up on their efforts to better health. You do not need to tell them that you see this pattern to know they would benefit from cardiovascular remedies. Remember, a part of being a good herbalist practitioner is knowing what not to say as much as knowing what to say.
When I practice medical astrology, I don’t request the natal chart and read through it alongside the client. Rather, I use it once the consultation is over to clarify, verify, and validate the information and postulations I’ve made from the intake, interview, assessment, and case history. In this way, I am able to obtain the information I need without causing undue harm or concern to my client. And that way we don’t run into any conflicts or issues if they don’t “believe” in astrology because they don’t even know that I’m using it.
Honoring Traditions Past
This type of blog post is different than usual. I don’t often get up on a soapbox or get too “preachy,” but after experiencing such negative feedback about medical astrology, I felt compelled to speak up and preserve the integrity of this traditional approach and its place in herbalism. For me to have used something so effectively for so long, and then have it called BS to my face, made me feel called to express myself on the topic and acknowledge the validity and efficacy of this traditional approach to healing. I hope you can see where I’m coming from. It’s not about me, it’s about the tradition and the people that can get helped through it.
Like many great traditions, medical astrology developed through observation, postulating theories, and testing through refinement. Medical astrology has been practiced cross-culturally for a long time, yielding incredibly accurate results. In fact, like other traditions of medicine, it wouldn’t still be around to this day if it didn’t work.
It is another valuable assessment tool you can use in your practice, alongside tongue and pulse analysis and other client intake methods. If you are new to the concept of medical astrology, I encourage you to maintain an open mind. Through studying this ancient tradition, you gain a tool that can lead you to pinpoint accuracy in your practice and better results with your remedy selection. At the end of the day, there are many paths to the top of the mountain, and medical astrology is simply one of them. It doesn’t really matter what path we take, so long as we reach the summit, which is the result of a person being healed.