It's a long one, sorry.
Yesterday was Herb Day and I attended the celebration being held at Acupuncture & Herbal Therapies down in St. Pete. At first glance, I was a bit disappointed because of how small the event was, but it was more about quality than quantity really. There was a local folk herbalist with a booth full of organically grown herbs for sale in addition to a vendor with culinary herbs & spices (I got an amazing honey infused with mint from her!) and a few others with creams, salves, teas, and more. There were some herbal foods available: I tried jellyfish salad. It was kind of like octopus in texture, but tasted more like a really salty rubber band. I also got a goodie bag with a few samples of Chinese herbs and some brochures. The Florida Herb Society was there with information on membership (think I might join!) and a sample of dried Thai Basil to collect the seeds for planting.
The best part of the event, though, were the lectures. One of the lectures that I really wanted to attend (Herbs for Anxiety & Stress), I literally arrived as the speaker was thanking everyone for coming and finishing up (there was no lecture schedule posted, so I just showed up when I could). The next lecture description didn't interest me much, but I had already wandered the vendors and had about an hour to kill before the next one that I wanted to hear so I sat in on it. This particular lecture had to do with Traditional Chinese Medicine, digestive fire, and using herbs to balance digestion. The next two lectures were Herb & Drug Interaction and Herbs for Cold & Flu.
One of the points that the speaker made about herb & drug interactions that I found surprising and interesting was that many of the concerns of doctors and pharmacists is based on conjecture. They hear that a particular herb is good for lowering blood sugar, so obviously it can't be used in conjunction with a drug that does the same thing. His point is that they can work together if it is properly regulated. You should never, ever self-medicate with herbs when you are on the following types of pharmaceutical drugs:
Using the wrong herbs with them can be lethal. He also mentioned that some of the research that has been done on herb & drug interactions has been done on animals. Many animals will not eat the herbs in the form that a human would for treatment, so they are instead injected. Injected herbs are absorbed and work differently than they would had they been ingested, so you are still not getting a clear picture of how they would interact with a particular drug.
I was really looking forward to the Herbs for Cold and Flu lecture, but was a bit disappointed because the speaker focused mainly on TCM. Again. Actually, it was an interesting topic and although TCM is probably the most widely used form of herbalism (in addition to Ayurveda), I feel absolutely no connection to it. The very, very little bit I know about the theory I totally get, I guess I just can't relate to it.
The final topic of the day was Becoming an Herbalist and by this point, I was pretty much the only one in the room so the owner of the shop who was also organizer of the event and the speaker on the topic and I just had a short little chat. He explained to me that there are basically four different forms and herbalist can take:
-The Grandma -This herbal tradition typically uses simples and has knowledge that is commonly handed down generation to generation.
-The Wise Woman -Leaders in this area would be Rosemary Gladstar (who's correspondence course I'm working on) and Susan Weed. The Wise Woman formulates herbal teas, tinctures, poultices, etc. and works with her family and community. She grows and cultivates herbs, wild harvests, and seems to have a strong connection to the Earth.
-The Village Herbalist -He considers himself to be in this category. It's much more clinical with much more in depth case studies and will even work with a patient's doctors.
-The Shaman or Medicine Man -This is a reminder of the Native American tradition, among others, where the healer is also a spiritual leader.
His shop, where the event took place, offers herbal training but the basis of it is in TCM. Apparently, he includes information from other traditions, but it's largely Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's unfortunate, really, because I really liked this guy and feel that I could benefit from a more hands on training but I'm not that terribly interested in that area of focus (as I think I mentioned once or twice already). He mentioned Michael Tierra and David Winston's correspondence courses as well as the American Herbalist Guild Conference (which he's trying to get down here in the next year or two) and the Medicines of the Earth Conference. I looked into Micheal Tierra's course and it does look really interesting: it's a study of Eastern and Western herbal traditions, but it's a bit out of my price range right now. The AHG conference sounds like it would be extremely interesting, but totally beyond me at this point. Medicines of the Earth, however, sounds like a lot of fun and it sounds like there would be stuff of interest to all level of herbalist, too.
What did I learn today? I learned that at this point, I feel the most connection to and interest in the Wise Woman tradition. And I also learned that I never need to eat jellyfish again.