Have you ever had a client come in and ask you for help with foot pain? “I need something for my feet! They hurt every time I wear these shoes!” Or indigestion-”help! Whenever I eat hot weiners I get terrible indigestion. I need herbs!” Do you give them something? Do you give out salves for skin fungus? “Herbal antibiotics” for colds? Alleged Fat burning herbs to lose weight? If so, you may be an herbal enabler.
It’s OK, I understand. It is very common to want to help others! But in order to really kick ass, it helps to treat underlying causes. If someone gets foot pain from high heels, they don’t need a salve. They need flats. If someone wants palliative care for their ulcer but can’t/won’t deal with stress that induces it, they need support and a nervine, not just “ulcer tea”. If someone gets recurring infections, they may need air flow or movement rather than an “antifungal cream”.
We do ourselves and our clients a disservice when we let them off the hook too easily. When we don;t ask questions, when we “don’t go there”. Dudes, it’s time to go there. Insomnia? Ask about mommy issues, exercise, food, sexuality. Light pollution, safety, dreams.Talk about sugar, talk about screen time, talk about fear and shame, talk about classism and racism. Relationships. Addictions. Trauma.
It’s time for us to say : Hey, maybe you don’t need a salve for that rash? Maybe you need to take a daily walk, solve a longterm problem, switch to cotton underpants or as herbalist Rebecca Altman geniusly calls it “tree time”. Outside time. Earth time. A notebook and pencil, a chair in the shade.
I am not saying we should withhold palliative care and force our clients to conform to our ideas of what is up. Quite the opposite, as we sometimes must palliate as a step towards something else. But that is all-a step, not the end.
We as herbalists have a responsibility to ask questions, to be obnoxious if needed,(and it IS needed) to observe and point out patterns, to explore those places where it hurts to go. We need to do our job, as problem solvers, as jesters or as shapeshifters, a job that is as old as dirt but is now mainly filled by a few remaining great comedians.
It helps noone to abdicate our responsibilty, it is a copout to hand out some cream and see ya later. We CAN tell people “you are beautiful”. We can tell people “I hear you”. We can point out that the emperor wears no clothes, that they are not insane, that they are not “toxic”, that the pain of this world is real, that they CAN let go. That we are all in this together and hell we’re all stardust anyway, so Gimme a freaking hug.
We can point out the relationship between having a great ad and your product being crap, between fancy packaging and actual content. We can talk about the follies of Dr Phil, Dr Oz, overmedication, New age bullshit, pubmed, repression, “some guy on the internet”, the “last 10 pounds”, and expensive green cleanses. We can dive into the places where fear takes us, and come out better for it.
For like it or not we are on the fringe. It’s called alternative medicine, so act like it. Be the alternative. Be flexible, Ask why. 1,000 times. Kick some ass, my friends, stop waiting around for a certificate or someone else’s approval and dive in, ask questions. and don’t be afraid to hear the answers.