Finding the right herbalist is a lot like finding the right personal physician; the patient needs to select a healer that they can trust. Many patients and alternative health seekers find themselves a little lost among the many people that call themselves herbalists and healers, unsure of who to go to.
Herbalism: Past and Present
Herbalism is a traditional, and some would call alternative, medicinal practice based on the use of plants. This practice is one of the earliest forms of medicine. Every culture has used herbalism to treat major and minor illnesses. The oldest practitioners of herbalism are the witch doctors, shamans, and wise people of the tribes.
Before the age of modern allopathic medicine, the herbalist would have been the primary medical expert and would care for all of those in his or her area. The household would also have one or two people, usually the mother or grandmother, who used herbs to heal minor problems.
Today, herbalists continue the practice of natural healing. Known as Master Herbalists (M.H.), most obtain certification through a school program, like that of Herbal Healer Academy and Clayton College of Natural Healing. The course usually covers many different types of herbs and their properties, reading from specialized texts, learning how to create herbal medicines like tinctures and liniments, and taking a final exam covering the course material. After passing the exam, the herbalist is then given certification that is meant to show achievement of that course and is not a federal certification like that of a Medical Doctor (M.D.).
For further formalization, an herbalist might join a group like the American Herbalist Guild (A.H.G.) where they undergo testing and must have some clinical experience in order to join. Most groups have a strict code of ethics an herbalist must abide by in order to become and remain a member of said community.
A problem some patients have is finding an herbalist. Most practitioners specialize in two or more forms of alternative healing, including herbalism. Herbalists can be found among acupuncturists, reflexologists, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (T.C.M.), aromatherapists, nutritionists, homeopaths, naturopaths, and many other alternative healers.
Choosing an Herbalist Involves Questions
The best way to choose an herbalist is to ask questions.
First ask family members and friends if they have an herbalist, and if so, would they recommend them? Usually the family members and friends, if not seeing an herbalist themselves, will ask around as well. Using personal networks is usually the best way to obtain specific information about healers and their personality as well as practice.
Asking employees or owners of local health markets might give the seeker an idea of how many herbalists and healers are in their area as well as names to contact. Some health markets even have a wall or table where healers can leave business cards and flyers.
There are also many online registries of healers, such as that of the American Herbalist Guild, which provides herbalist contact information by state.
Upon finding an herbalist, the patient should ask themselves some questions to determine how helpful the healer is. Below are some questions from Complete Idiot's Guide to Herbal Remedies by Frankie Avalon Wolfe:
- Does this person engage you in their healing process?
- Does this person assure you that the body heals itself and that the herbs give opportunity to heal? Or does he or she take all the credit?
- Does this person make you feel that you can trust him or her?
- Do you learn from this person?
- Does this person guide or dictate you?
- Can this person answer your questions to your satisfaction?
- Does this person teach you the nature of herbs and why you might be ill in the first place?
- Do they help you find a plan that's right for you?
- Do you get results from working with this person?
- Does this person listen to you?
Lack of Trust Hinders the Natural Healing Process
Good chemistry is a must between healer and patient in any field because of the amount of time spent together between check-ups, consultations and other meetings. If the patient feels uncomfortable with their healer, then trust cannot be fully felt and if they don't trust the healer then they may not be truthful. If the patient doesn't tell the truth about their diet or drug regiment, then the healer cannot know for sure how to treat the patient and may harm them instead of cure them. Lack of trust can hinder healing just as much as poison or a bad diet plan.
There are No Magic Bullets
Lastly, when searching for an herbalist, the patient must remember that true healing takes time. Any healer, herbalist or otherwise, that offers a quick fix to all problems is not offering health. There are no magic bullets or miracle cures, as any true healer will be quick to say. Anybody offering a quick fix that cures everything from hair loss to cancer is offering nothing more than snake oil.
**I originally wrote this article for Suite101