We have a responsibility as practitioners to protect those plants we dole out to people. When people use an herb that’s at risk or endangered, like Goldenseal or Slippery Elm, what I do is encourage them to contact United Plant Savers, or a responsible organic farm, that carries rootstock, or trees, or plants, or seeds, what-ever it is, and have them purchase those and replant them to replenish what they consume. In that way we are not just taking from the earth, but we are also giving back.
I have my clients compost any herbs that they use. If they make a tea, it has to go back to the earth before the medicine is received. I remind people that they can compost by putting their spent herbs into their potted houseplants even if they don’t have a garden. My training is basic Native American thoughts adopted from David Winston, Rosemary Gladstar and other earth-centered teachers. In order to have the medicine come into you in a good way, you need to return the herbs to the Earth Mother, full circle. The thought being that the medicine doesn’t really work until the herbs join the soil again. Being environmentally aware and energetically aware of the gifts the plants share with us is a great way to receive the highest healing. Life isn’t about taking. Composting makes you connect with the cycle of all life.
At this point in our country there is no licensure for herbalists. I don’t believe in licensure. I saw what happened to midwives when they were licensed. I feel that herbalists are a widely varied species of beings. They do best by maintaining, no, cultivating their uniqueness of trainings, approaches and repertoire. No standardized herbalists! Define what it means to be a practicing herbalist. I choose to define myself as an earth-based, plant-based, human-centered practitioner. Ask yourself how much, and what kind of experiences a person needs to have to know and use herbs wisely. The past near forty years have awakened man’s ancient history for the common man’s medicine. It takes years of experience and study with plants to gain confidence. When is the magic moment when you turn from student to practitioner? When a practicing herbalist you realize you are forever more a student.
Find a group that supports your thoughts. The Northeast Herbal Association (NEHA) is one of the groups I belong to. When you belong to a group your numbers allow you to create parameters of excellence, insurance protection and the joy of camaraderie.
You may become a member of the American Herbalists Guild to be a voice among your professional community. You can be a lover of herbs with a wild and rebellious soul and also accept those who choose a conservative path, or who love herbs and are doctors, or who love herbs and are researchers. Accepting and honoring our differences is paramount for our survival. Hearing negative comments within our herbal community about tincture doses being too tiny or too huge is one example. If homeopathy “works” why wouldn’t a tiny dosage of herbal tincture? Another is the difference between a self taught, small town practitioner who uses twenty-eight local herbs and a practitioner with a Masters degree who recommends capsules and tinctures. They are both herbalists. Judging fellow herbalists for difference in practice weakens our strength as a group. Sometimes I just feel like a mother and want to give some consequences for unkind and inappropriate behavior! The guild is working to hold onto the pulse of the political artery and communicate with the FDA.
So – express yourself within your community. Join a local group. Becoming a member gets you a vote, a simple action the most reclusive herbalist can take. You can mail in your vote if the journey is too far or too expensive. Don’t complain if you don’t vote. I was one of those politically active hippies in the sixties and seventies and I still believe, and participate in social activism.
Retirement? Mmm. Well, maybe not in this lifetime partly because I love my work so much, partly because I haven’t set aside money all these years. So I honestly can’t tell you how to prepare for what is mythology for me. Sad reality. Embarrassingly true. I have begun to squirrel away a little savings in safe banking accounts. No stock market for me, I am not a gambler. I would have more had I started thirty years ago. Start today.
What I have learned in books is fine. What I have learned with plants is in my pores and breathes with me. Spend time in your garden. Walk in the woods. Sit with a plant and feel it. Listen to it. They have more to share than medicine, flavors or nourishment. Look at them, smell them, and touch their parts. Offer them thought, song, hair or some other sincere offering of thanksgiving. Some plants go into recipes for no known medicinal reason. I simply know that they are right, they belong, and they speak to me from a different place. They speak to me from the deep place in my self that is connected to all life.
Wear your crescent moon to remember to look to the “wisdom of the ancient ones, intuition of the moon.” I find my hand going to the moon when formulating, connecting with my inner wisdom. I hope this book has given you some insights and stirred up some questions.
Well dear readers, those are all the words I am able to muster. I am sure that your practices will grow and evolve into just what you want. I keep thinking of the most obvious tip for consultation, the indication for an herb, and wonderful stories of the healing balance clients have experienced through the ingestion of the nutrients and incredible vibration of herbs. I am stopping now. Forgive me for all I have left out, any mistakes made, and not mentioning you by name, my teacher, my friend, my client, and my herbs. This book has humbled me. Again.