“My belief is that it’s the caring of the healer that’s most important, but no one’s going to be able to test for that.”
—Stephen Buhner, Herbalist
“I would never choose a healer according to whether or not they had credentials. I’d find someone through word of mouth.” Rosemary Gladstar, Herbalist
“Shamanic healers don't claim to have the answer or know the answer or be the answer; they remind us that the answer lies within ourselves.” Susan Weed, Herbalist
As I type this, I am sitting in Southern California in the warm sunshine looking out over my sister’s garden. This is a place that I love, a state where the healing herbs that I use everyday grow as wild as weeds. A simple walk around her garden this morning produced armfuls of rosemary, lavender and sage, pink peppercorns and thyme, nasturtiums and aloe. A glorious eucalyptus tree and brilliant pink hibiscus have produced many a tea for a winters chill and the loquat tree is top heavy with the sweet vitamin C filled fruit just waiting to ripen and be eaten fresh or turned into luscious jars of jam and chutney. The abundance is extraordinary.
Being out here makes me grateful for the teachers that I have been given. I have known and been fortunate to have been trained by many incredible healers; men and women who walked their talk and encouraged me to always use my instincts to learn everything that I could about the healing plants that can be found in the world around us.
The overwhelming lesson from them all?
Take responsibility and learn everything that you can to become your own healer. Use your instincts and take control of your healing journey because you are accountable and responsible for your health in a way that no one else can be. Don’t rely upon titles, rely upon your instincts to tell you what feels right.
I find this to be a really empowering message because I have watched over the years as friends and family members have given over all of their power to a dominant system of medicine and “big pharma” sometimes to their detriment. I’ve got plenty of Doctors in my family and I’m grateful for the expertise of that community when I need it, but always as a last resort, not the first. Prevention is key and I think that it’s important to work to promote health in an organic and sustainable way.
My overwhelming thoughts are always this and they’re definitely not original at all; You are what you eat and your food is your best medicine; this includes the wonderful healing herbs that are growing plentifully all around us. Food DOES matter and so does movement, emotion, relationship, career, spirituality and environment. These are all of the primary food groups that create balance in your life. When one is out of balance, they all begun to topple like dominoes.
It’s a whole new world for alternative healing in 2013 than it was back when I was first learning so very long ago. Reiki and massage are mainstream practices that are universally accepted and the herbs that I used to have to harvest myself are readily available on the shelves of most grocery stores. I think this is a wonderful thing, because it places the responsibility directly on the shoulders of the consumer to learn to take care of themselves. Please make sure to educate yourselves. It used to be that there was an Community Herbalist in every village and an Herbalist in every home. Every wife and grandmother knew how to make the tinctures and tonics that they needed and the recipes and formulas were passed down through the generations.
Always use your instincts when choosing someone to work with. Many don't realize this but the titles Herbalist, Certified herbalist or Master herbalist are not regulated by any governing body in the US. We are allowed to educate and give you the information or lifestyle changes that you can then use to make a decision for yourself, but we are not allowed to diagnose nor are we allowed to prescribe. I actually like these constraints a lot. It means that if you are my client that I am charged with empowering and inspiring you to create and become responsible for your health. If I do my job right, in 6 months when our work together is done you don’t need me!
I don’t ever want to see herbalism go the way of the big pharmaceuticals, synthesized and harnessed with regulations and restrictions so that this gentle and effective system for healing becomes a pawn simply to be exploited financially and eventually compromised so that it is no longer recognizable. It is my dream to see Folk Herbalism accepted and promoted once again in a way that teaches everyone to be responsible for their health and well being by using the best quality herbals that they can grow, wild-craft or buy.
To maintain personal standards and relay the degree of learning obtained, herbalists in America typically use the title their schools or teachers gave them however to be an Herbalist is to realize that you will always be learning, that you will never know everything because we are dealing with a science that is constantly shifting and evolving.
Climate change alone has begun to change the way that many of us can grow and harvest our herbs. It requires us to be in complete touch with ourselves and the health of this planet to insure our very survival. It places the onus on real life experience and actual results.
Most of the pioneering herbalists who are responsible for forwarding this movement in the United States do not carry a title and are busy ensuring that this form of the Peoples Medicine always stays free and accessible to the communities that need it. Always consult your pharmacist before using any herbs to make sure that there are no contraindications with any medicines you might be taking, even something as simple as aspirin or Tylenol. They are generally the most well versed in what will be problematic chemical relationships and I have found most of them to be very open-minded and eager to be helpful so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. Herbs are not risk free and they are powerful natural medicines. Getting this simple information allows herbal medicine to maintain its credibility and integrity in a way that licensing and regulation never will.
The good news is that there are many wonderful online courses that are available where you can learn the art of healing and herbalism for yourself from some really great teachers. I would really encourage you to take one of them and learn as much as you can. Practice, open yourself up to the world around you and enjoy yourself. Write your own book of recipes, use them, pass them down, You will be embarking on a healing journey and sharing a tradition that is totally organic and ages old and a life long exploration into being responsible for your own health and wellness that you will truly enjoy.
Here are some of my favorites: