August 21 marks my last day as a clinical herbalist at the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic. After 5 years of volunteer work, my departure conjures an array of emotions: excitement, sadness, and contradictory ones like guilt with concurrent relief.
I’m leaving the free clinic to engage in premedical studies at the University of Washington. I’ll still be available as a clinical herbalist at my own practice, Goldroot Botanical Medicine, and will continue to see clients who I’ve established a relationship with at OFHC on a sliding scale basis. (Sliding scale is available to all my clients.) To help focus my efforts, I want to bring everything under one roof. Working between 2 different practices is hard, and it leaves me feeling scattered as a practitioner.
Group practices present distinct challenges. One client may see several herbalists, each who hold their own philosophy and methodology. Sometimes it matches up, other times it doesn’t. Sometimes clients get the benefit of multiple perspectives, other times their herbal support protocol is frenzied and contradictory. Other practitioners also have different methods of making notes, writing formulas, and presenting cases, and you may not always have the time to thoroughly evaluate everything. This is compounded by the rushed nature of free clinic work, where there are scores of people waiting in line, and you have to move briskly. OFHC has always been a walk-in clinic. So during some 2-hour shifts I saw 6 people, others none. I’d never know if I’d be racing for the whole of my clinic shift, or finding ways to occupy 2 hours. Read more
Last weekend the Traditional Roots Conference was held at NCNM in Portland. And what a great weekend it was! Along with myself, teachers and speakers included Jim McDonald, Aviva Romm, Lydia Bartholow, Donnie Yance, Glen Nagel, Howie Brounstein, Tania Neubauer, and Jillian Stansbury. Orna Izakson is a stellar organizer and hosted a wonderful and engaging event (besides being an overall excellent person and good friend!).
Along with a clinical case panel on PCOS (with Elise Schroeder and Amanda Lattin), I taught a class on medical cannabis for herbalists on Friday. I was still recovering from the flu, so I’m grateful for the patience of all in attendance. Nevertheless, it was a true joy to teach on this important subject. We covered chemistry, pharmacology, clinical applications, routes of administration, safety/toxicology and QA issues.
As an herbalist who helps formulate and develop herbal supplements, sourcing, supply chain and quality control are paramount. I want to help educate others on what constitutes good quality products and maintain quality standards in the industry.
Anthropologist Ann Armbrecht (who brought us the Numen film) is creating a new documentary called the Sustainable Herbs Project, which explores these facets of herbal trade and product development. They want to make it available for free. To do so, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. Please consider making a pledge (I did!) to make this documentary a reality and raise awareness about what goes into herbal supplements.
I presented a workshop titled Trees, Humans & Healing: Alder, Douglas-fir & Hawthorn yesterday at the 2nd Dandelion Seed Conference in Olympia, WA. Though I was sick (with a kidney infection! Argh!), it was a fantastic 2 hours spent with these 3 locally abundant & important tree species.
So why trees as opposed to a general discussion on plants? There’s something a bit different that sets them apart. Trees occupy a special space in our imagination & hearts. Their size & reach for the sky confers a sense of majesty, and the joining of earth & sky. Their long lifespan makes them an instrumental aspect of surroundings & landmarks and provides a sense of continuity that spans generations. Many traditions & cultures employ trees (and related metaphor & imagery) in their spiritual traditions and cosmos. And the branching patterns characteristic of trees are seen in many biological : ecoogical forms: rivers, veins, neurons, etc. So trees touch something deep. They also meet our physical needs with food, shelter, and medicine.
Trees & forests play a critical role in global ecological balance. They produce oxygen, remediate soil, prevent erosion, provide shade, and regulate the global weather. And we’re rapidly changing forests. At the end of the last Ice Age, about half of our planet was forested. Now it’s less than a third, with most deforestation occurring in the last few decades. There are ecological and, arguably, spiritual consequences to this rapid loss of forest ecosystems. And there are public health concerns too–increased exposure to zoonotic infections, poorer air quality, nutrient transition, and others. And, in the Pacific Northwest, our temperate rainforests are special–they have more biomass per hectare than anywhere on Earth.
So as we’re considering community and socioecological health, tree medicine & forests are a necessary component of this conversation.
Feel free to send an email for the notes here. (I’ll also be posting the monographs for these trees over the next several days.)