Vitalist Herbalism and Nutrition

Paul Bergner, the Founder of NAIMH (CSCH’s predecessor school) defines Vitalism as a clinical strategy based on the principle that Life, Nature, and the Great Spirit from which they arise are fully present in all the tissues of the body, and also in the psyche, the spiritual heart, and the soul – sustaining life and health, providing momentum for personal evolution on all levels and for the fulfillment of one’s highest purpose in social and spiritual life. Vitalist practitioners employ clinical strategies and methods which support this life power through:

  • the encouragement of nourishment, digestion, rest, and appropriate activity;
  • identification of purpose in personal life;
  • connection with nature;
  • an active spiritual life;
  • identification and removal of obstacles to cure on all levels;
  • and avoidance of methods which suppress or distort life processes.

Our Vitalist curriculum incorporates all aspects of science, especially physiology and pathophysiology, but equally values knowledge from traditional medicine, empirical observation, instinct, and intuition. The Vitalist view is not confined to the narrow materialistic world view that dominates much of modern science, medicine, and social life. Vitalism is the use of foods and herbs in support of this approach and these processes.

Lisa Ganora on Vitalism

Although I am a western herbalist trained in phytochemistry and pharmacognosy, I’m deeply appreciative of the traditional Vitalist perspective in herbalism and nutrition.

I see the healing powers of medicinal foods and herbs as based on cooperation between the vital life-forces in the human body, the living plants, and the constituents and molecules within all living beings. I honor the great intelligence, energies, and mysteries of Nature as the source of health and wellness.

I respect the traditions of our ancestors, the experience of generations, the subtle energies of healing, and the discoveries of modern science. I believe that medicine should consist of the safest thing that works – whether that be more:

  • water,
  • sound sleep,
  • exercise,
  • bodywork,
  • better relationships,
  • embracing self-respect,
  • a gluten-free diet,
  • antioxidant berries,
  • herbal formulas,
  • flower essences,
  • overcoming addictions,
  • dancing wildly,
  • meditating by the creek,
  • following one’s insights and intuitions,
  • finding one’s calling,
  • taking antibiotics,
  • or having necessary surgery.

At CSCH, we teach the tools necessary to approach self-understanding on the physical level and to integrate this with other aspects of one’s being. This includes how to eat and what not to eat, in the context of one’s personal constitution, life stage, and nutritional needs. It includes how to understand and work with herbs on both physical and energetic levels. It includes the time-honored principles of Nature Cure, Physiomedicalism, and traditional Western Herbalism. A Vitalist education at CSCH prepares the student for a life-long journey of wellness, vitality, and service to others as a certified clinical herbalist, nutritionist, and flower essence practitioner.