Today, according to the radio, it is ‘National Encouragement Day’. A day for everything, so it seems… Ideal for this eve’s blog anyhow.
Several weeks back I paid Boscastle Witches Museum to visit. Some outlandish curiosities!! A nod to ‘witches’ gone by. A window into the magical natural world but also into the struggles and tragedies that average cottage garden herbalists of the past would have endured. Coming back to the present day, this little memo is one for my fellow Herbalists/Naturopaths out there (modern day White/Green Witches, I say in jest!) Or in fact for anyone who is trying to carve out a niche against the grain of what society deems a ‘normal job’. It can seem like a constant uphill graft – I can vouch for that! Going against the tide ain’t always easy. At the very least you’ll live with passion & conviction.
Weirdly, earlier this morning (yes – before I even heard it was National Encouragement Day!) I came across this ‘encouraging’ article by Rosalee de la Foret (French name – American Herbalist) and it resonated with me in so many ways, as I’m sure it has with many other herbal practitioners/aspiring herbalists. For some down to earth, practical, no-nonsense talking, take a read here: https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/become-successful-herbalist.html
Modern Day Witch-Hunt
As I touched upon, I for one know how difficult it can be to set up as a herbalist in a framework where there is no solid support for our trade. OK we are (thankfully) no longer in the midst of the witch-hunt years, as detailed at Boscastle!! But the threat to Herbal Medicine is still there, thanks to our old worldly friends of greed, mass-control, power – you know the usual demons. The fields of Natural Health/Herbal Medicine are constant battlefields! As small time herbalists we are fighting for our rights against the corporate global power machine (esp the pharmaceutical realm), even our own governments, universities, the media and the like – all of whom are heavily influenced by the corporate giants. Occasionally even family and friends might not fully understand or appreciate your career choice because it is hardly a secure job. It can be a lonely place doing something ‘alternative’ with little chance of paid employment at the end of it all! I still feel the isolation, financial strain, the paralysing fear of failure, of making mistakes. There are few fellow herbalists to lean on, few mentors, few people to lean on for support if things go wrong. Post-study, I’ve spent years, dabbling (an expensive hobby!) but I’ve yet to make it a real stand alone job. Procrastination and fear have ruled. I suspect I’m not alone here. So few herbalists/naturopaths actually make a viable career of it over the long run, many fizzling out in the first 5 years. But 2019 – I’m a herbalist on a mission! & I urge you other budding herbalists to make the same commitment to practising your art, however difficult, however scary.
It’s too Hard – Why Bother?
I tried to find a black sheep photo but I found a lone little black piglet on a dirt road instead 😉 Yes it’s sometimes a lonely road but travel on. Because the lonely road may lead you to a beautiful destination. We also simply need more herbalists, environmentalists! More appreciation of nature. More edible/medicinal gardens. Permaculture. Healthier communities. The passing down of the wisdom of our ancestors is not just a job out of respect, but a job of necessity. We live in a world of uncertainty, where Herbal Medicine is going to become increasingly relevant. If we are going to take back control of our health – we have to start in the home & garden, the forests & fields, our coastlines & hedgerows. To return to our self-sufficient roots, we need to reconnect to the natural world once again. When it comes to survival in uncertain times and political instability, plant knowledge is power!
On the plus, there is a resurgence in interest and this is both a good thing and a bad thing… Returning to the day-to-day, I work in a health food store part-time & I constantly meet individuals who are really keen to learn more about natural remedies, but often they haven’t the faintest idea of where to start. Even more worrying is the fact that people are taking the wrong herbal remedies/in the wrong way/at the wrong doses. Similarly amateur foragers are unwittingly causing damage to the environment, even if well intended.
Skilled practitioners and guides need to share their knowledge to promote the proper usage of plants as medicine, as well as to ensure the conscious cultivation of medicinal plants and their conservation in the wild.
Try, try and try again.
Don’t be afraid of being the odd one out – Herbalists are no ‘quacks’ and Herbal Medicine is no ‘Quackery’!
Persevere in the face of critics. Yes it may take time sweet time and a bit of armour. You may be exhausted and downbeat sometimes. But hey, perseverance does pay eventually! I do believe this wholeheartedly. The beauty of being a medical herbalist is that you only get wiser with age! How many incredible herbalists keep on going way past retirement?? There is no rush – start small and when you are ready. Do ad-hoc part time work if need be, but whatever you do – DO NOT GIVE UP on your plant friends altogether! Especially not if your only reason is FEAR. What a great shame that would be. Knowledge just wilting away. They have so much to share with us yet, our plant allies. If need be, take a few months out to refresh your knowledge. In the grand scheme of things our journey as herbalists has only just begun. Thousands of years would not be enough to unlock the secrets of nature. Whatever you can contribute – however small – contribute!
It’s a Wonderful, Magical CAREER
(not just an outlandish hobby!)
You don’t have to give away everything for nothing. Find a way to make it a job not just a hobby. A lifetime of learning lies ahead so why not get paid? Your knowledge is valuable and it should be valued, at least as much as any other health care practitioner or professional out there. Being self-employed, it is hard graft and it may never be a goldmine but you can and should make a decent living. Maybe you’ll have to start off part-time but don’t waste those thousands of $$$ an hours you’ve invested in studying by giving up altogether! If you’ve worked hard, you are passionate about what you do and you do it with integrity – then you are entitled to some reward. There is nothing wrong with that! You can’t survive as a herbalist unless you start generating an income. That has been my biggest pitfall over the last few years. Guilt over asking for money. I’m working on it!
Discover your Niche
Find your groove dude… (that’s the chilled-out Cornish mentality taking over now!) But in all seriousness, what aspect of Herbal Medicine are you most interested in? Women’s health, digestive disorders, inflammatory conditions, mental health etc… Similarly, you don’t necessarily have to be a clinical herbalist. Herbal Medicine opens up so many doors. Maybe branch out and teach workshops, go into herb growing, foraging, gardening, lecturing, blogging or writing. Open a little Apothecary maybe. Whatever lights you up. You don’t have to know straight away and that’s OK. I’m still figuring out my path but I believe you have to let things evolve naturally. Experiment.
So… for now, I’m still very much enjoying my sea-change. But soon time to pick up the pace again. As I said, I’m a woman on a mission for my 2019 Herbalista resolution. 3-4 months to refresh my mind, after which I’ll be returning to my herbal roots once again. Slowly but surely, starting with the Boscastle Witches Museum in the name of research 😉
When is your Moment?
So today in the warm glow of ‘National Encouragement Day’: Fellow herbal sistas (or brothers!) I’m sharing the encouragement – work on it and go for it! Learn the skills you’re lacking, keep educating yourself, build up your confidence, ignore the critics and just DO. Whatever knowledge you have, commit to sharing it. Be bold. Be brave. Believe in what you started. You know it’s valuable stuff so share the plant love!