Archive for April, 2009

Volunteer awards, paradigm shifts and the corporate cow

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I am inspired to write this morning due to the article on my work at the Ithaca Free Clinic. (Click here for the article). I am honored to receive this award, and more so to be able to share what I know as an herbalist with the Ithaca community.

 It’s strange, so many years ago (1981) when I began studying in California, herbalism was such a fringe idea. Waaaay to the hippie side. And as it steadily rose in prominence, at first I was gratified, as lots more people began taking it more seriously.  But then something I hadn’t thought about, but I reckoned I should have seen coming began.  And that was/is, the commercialization of herbal medicines.

I feel so naive not thinking that where there was a profit, there was a corporation. And so while I have mixed feelings about herbal medicine being available in Wal-mart and  large store outlets, I worry more about  the reductionism of herbal medicine. What many of us saw as a holistic model of medicine, became the simple trope of take this for that. A herb/drug for a symptom. And  while this does occasionally work, this simplistic notion was then used to sell a wide array of products. But of course! With little thought about the consumer/patient

But somehow back there in the 1980’s as we thought about herbal medicine perhaps entering the mainstream (never thinking it would happen so soon) (and with such a cash influx), it was seen as an alternative to more conventional symptom-treating paradigm. Well live and learn.

This is one of the reasons I really appreciate working at the Ithaca Free Clinic. Many of the folks who come there are looking to enter the world of herbalism without knowing much about holistic medicine. And so gently, we can introduce the concepts of connecting the symptom patterns and perhaps taking more control of their health care. And taking herbs.
So I appreciate this award if it brings more people to the clinic (and of course it makes my mom happy, no little thing that). And I hope we can bring holistic medicine, particularly herbalism, into other free and conventional clinics. So when people see the wall of herbs at Wal-mart, they go beyond thinking just about symptom treating, but how they can be a healthier individual