Jonathan Treasure is a Londoner and a British-trained medical herbalist who has been described as a thought leader in western herbal medicine. Originally intending to study botany, he was attracted by the then new and emerging discipline of molecular biology and “switched kingdoms” from plants to animals at the suggestion of molecular geneticist Sydney Brenner at King’s College, Cambridge from where he graduated in medical sciences. While at Cambridge he was strongly influenced by some of the leading critical thinkers in the history and philosophy of science & medicine and learned the value of always questioning basic assumptions: subsequently in the 1970s he abandoned a research career in neuroscience for the study and practice Tibetan Buddhism. Exposure to Tibetan medical teachings then sowed a seed – a vision that herbal medicine could possibly be a bridge between the different, often apparently conflicting worlds in each of which he felt at home, and Treasure began to look at plants again, now from a medical viewpoint, and enrolled at the UK School of Phytotherapy – after graduating he finally set out to clinically practice western herbal medicine.
Finding the then dominant model of western herbal medicine constrained by a crude and dated version of biomedical reductionism, western herbalists had few options available for developing more nuanced methods of determining what herbs or combination of herbs might be effective in any specific situation, typically reverting either to “ancient wisdom” rationales such as humoral theory and energetics, or to empirical clinical experience, accumulating knowledge of the specific indications for a given herb in practice. Treasure’s background led him to a different tack – he began to dig into newer developments in natural compound research, most of which related to the effects of plant derived materials on the biology of cell growth, differentiation, and by implication cancer. Cancer molecular biology was exponentially expanding following seismic advances in genomics, bioinformatics and systems approaches that were leading a transition of biomedicine away from ‘one size fits all’ towards therapeutics to ‘precision medicine’ therapeutics based on detailed mapping of mutations and metabolic pathway perturbations in the cellular biology of the individual. Applying knowledge of herbal compounds to this model is what Treasure has described as Herbalism 3.0, made possible by the fact that the at the most granular level, the “language “of natural compound research (herbs) and molecular biology of cancer are one and the same. This enables contemporary approaches in molecular pharmacology to be used to enrich herbal therapeutics as opposed to the constraints that clasical pharmacological thinking impose on the complexity of herbal remedies.
This dual expertise in traditional western herbal therapeutics and biomedical science informs Treasure’s trademark transdisciplinary approach – exemplified by the acclaimed collaborative medical textbook “Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies” (Mosby Medical, 2008). Treasure has lived in southern Oregon for nearly 25 years; his internet based clinical practice is devoted to botanical medicine and nutritional therapeutics for people with cancer. An international speaker and herbal blogger with a reputation for critical wit especially in herbal theory and philosophy, he is acknowledged by peers and professionals in both mainstream and herbal medicine for his ability to merge biomedicine and botanical medicine into a uniquely effective clinical toolkit for people with cancer.