Interview with Ayurvedic Herbalist Dani Webber

Ayurvedic Herbalist Dani Webber

Photo from Ponda, India 2017

Today we interview Dani, co-founder of Modern Ayurvedic, Ayurvedic Herbalist and producer of Modern Ayurvedic's range of natural supplement and custom herbal formulations. 

What is your business? 

Modern Ayurvedic is a holistic lifestyle brand.

What does it do? 

Helps people help themselves through Ayurveda.

Who does it do it for?

People like us - new age mystics (really just old souls navigating modern life).

What is your background?

Scientist. Yogi. Body dysmorphic. Forever changed by Ayurveda.

What are you passionate about?

Science. Yoga. Ayurveda. Vedic astrology. Cosmology. Philosophy. Not sure why so many names, they’re really just one.

What is Ayurveda?

My reflex is to describe Ayurveda in terms of the two words it combines, Ayur and Veda.

Ayur = Life. Vitality. Health. Man. Lineage. Moveable. Vivid.
Veda = Knowledge. Knowing. Truth. Law. Perception. Feeling. Finding.

Woven into the fabric of the Sanskrit translations are all the most recited explanations of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is the knowledge of life.
Ayurveda is living truth.
Ayurveda is knowing yourself.
Ayurveda is knowing the laws of nature, and how they give rise to you.
Ayurveda is the science of longevity.
Ayurveda is finding the most vital you.
All true, but not how I would say it.

To me, Ayurveda is a system of transformation, a rich language of symbolism that contains all the information you need to get from where you are to where you need be. It is a philosophical, chemical and psychological process, in so far as the effort you put in ultimately changes your being.

What is a dosha?

Each dosha is a component of the living body, and the three doshas together form the entire living body. It sounds simple enough, but if I asked you to classify every part of the body - physical, energetic and psychic - using just three words, how would you do it?

Ayurveda does it by describing metaphorical groups of qualities. These three groups reflect the three universal energies that can be felt and understood by every human being: the Moon, Sun and Cosmos. It is the action of the energies on the human body that sets up certain psychosomatic tendencies.

Just like the Sun, Moon and Cosmos, the doshas are in a constant state of flux and we experience them as both helpful and harmful, often simultaneously.

“Your dosha” is slang and misleading. You are made up of all three doshas, but your natural tendencies in mind, thought and behaviour is determined by the dominance of certain doshas in your system. This is partly genetic, partly epigenetic, not entirely fixed and not entirely changeable.    

What led you to Ayurveda?

The big picture answer is everything. I look back now and see how all the little moments were footsteps on the path for me. In an astro sense all arrows point to Ayurveda too. That’s a story for a different interview.

In a practical sense here are the highlights. After years with an eating disorder, I decided to make amends. Problem was, my digestive system was not used to digesting. My sister-in-law offered up some love in the form of her coffee table book on, you guessed it, Ayurveda. The contents of that book became a bible to me. Everything I tried helped in some way, very unlike all other advice I had received. It helped that I was also a yogi – the yogic body loves Ayurveda.

The rest is pretty much history. I looked for a place to study Ayurveda. A new intake started within two weeks. I had the honour of being taught and mentored by the best Ayurvedic doctor you will ever know, Dr Bosco Paul. I also met my soul sister there, Madeleine Rose.  

What is your one go-to Ayurvedic tip?

Replace cold water with warm water or herbal tea. Do it.

Why did you choose to be an Ayurvedic Herbalist?

I didn’t choose herbs, herbs chose me. I can’t pinpoint when my love for herbs started, I suppose they were always a part of me.

Herb names often pop in my head mid conversation – and I don’t mean conversation about herbalism or Ayurveda. My subconsciousness is constantly churning through what herbs people could do with.

If I were more romantic or into mystical marketing, I’d come up with some name like herbal intuitive. I just consider myself lucky to have found, or should I say, remembered “it”.

 

Why did you start your business?

To pay it forward.

What do you love most about what you do?

Seeing Ayurveda awaken other people too.

Is there science behind Ayurvedic herbs?

The short answer is yes, absolutely, but I think it is important to be very specific here. Ancient medicinal science and modern Western medicine and science are not the same thing.

Ayurveda and her herbs did not start where many ‘medicines’ do (in the laboratory). Ayurveda has celestial origins. I am mindful of how that may sound to you. When talking about Ayurveda I like to remind people to stop and think about what it means when we say Ayurveda is thousands of years old. She is not in competition with Western medicine, she has simply withstood thousands of years of medical and scientific development. In other words, Ayurvedic doctrines, including the use of herbs as medicine, were studied in different ways as science itself developed.

So where does that leave us today? Each herb is unique, with varying degrees of research supporting its therapeutic efficacy, safety and use in herbal medicine. I refer to three main types of resources – classical Ayurvedic texts, biomedical literature (mostly within PubMed) and in-between literature, like the Government of India’s Pharmacopeia and Sebastian Pole’s Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. The classical texts are like breathing translations of the Vedas that hold symbolic meaning. PubMed has the science – chemical and pharmacological. The Pharmacopeia captures tradition of use and energetic classifications, and books such as Sebastian Pole’s blend experience, the content of scientific literature and Pharmacopeia in tightly written summaries for select herbs.

If you want to know the specifics of certain herbs please ask me.

How do Ayurvedic herbs compare to prescription medicine?

Most prescribed pharmaceutical drugs are highly refined, purified or sometimes synthetic chemical entities. These days about 15% are derived from plants. Registered medicines are assessed by the TGA for quality, safety and efficacy, and are subject to years of clinical testing before registration. They are designed to work on a specific pathway, and other effects are considered off-target.

Herbal medicines are prepared from whole plant material and contain hundreds to thousands of interrelated compounds. In some cases, like turmeric, science has shown that the effect is related to the synergy of its many constituents. Herbs are used to work on systems level, and effects on tissues other than the primary presenting issue inform the best herb for that individual.

The use of herbal medicine combines tradition of use and science, though herbal medicines are not necessarily subject to the same scientific pipelines and testing as prescription medications.     

The pharmacodynamics of many herbs has been studied using the same chemical processes used to test drugs. These compliment the traditional classifications of herbs, which relate to accumulated empirical knowledge and empirical of herbal energetics.  

Do Ayurvedic herbs work?

Herbs are part of a practice that changed my life. We could not get customisable high quality organic herbs in capsule form in Australia, so we found a way to produce them for us (Mads and I) and our holistic clinic (Modern Ayurvedic).

In my experience they work, but not like prescription medicine. They work with the intelligence of the body, so there needs to be a degree of energetic presence for them to be taken in. If you do not have good digestion, then that is your starting point. To experience the benefit of herbs, you should work with a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner or Ayurvedic Herbalist rather than self-prescribe. Even the best-known herbs, like Turmeric (curcumin) or Ashwagandha, are simply not suitable all the time. If you want to know more, please book a free 10 minute phone consultation.

What is the biggest challenge in Ayurveda?

I am going to be a bit cheeky and sub-categorise this one because it really operates in phases.

Initially the biggest challenge to Ayurveda is feeling as though you are swimming against the stream. I say that as though it’s a fact. It isn’t. It depends, of course, on where you are at professionally and socially. I was a shell living a very un-Ayurvedic life, and as I moved towards Ayurveda I found there was a lot of excess and incongruence in my life. I no longer wanted lots of what was familiar, and was surrounded by people that loved me, but didn’t always get it. Six years on there is still an element of that, but I am getting better at navigating shades of grey.

The biggest challenge of sticking with Ayurveda is that it calls you into responsibility. She doesn’t leave much space for victim consciousness, or blame shifting, so you get forced out your comfort zones and stories.

What is the biggest reward in Ayurveda?

One word for me, understanding.

Some of the greatest philosophers of all time teach that knowledge is the golden key. For Socrates knowledge is the most valuable thing. Veda is knowledge.

There is a fine line between knowledge and understanding. For me knowledge is more like information you learn, while understanding is accumulating the same knowing through experiencing.

In Ayurveda you become the object of your own work. You first witness a transformation, and then forever know how to transform.

 

If you are interested in learning more about how Ayurveda or Modern Ayurvedic may benefit, click here to book a free initial phone consultation.

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