There are many things that make Envision special, but of one of the rarest can be found in the free onsite herbal clinic. We set out to expand our knowledge about the clinic’s work and caught up with renowned Clinical Herbalist, 7Song an instructor at the Herbal Clinical to learn more about clinical herbalism, and about the resources available at Envision 2017, for those interested in delving deeper into the field.
How would you describe your work to someone who is unfamiliar with the field?
I practice as a clinical herbalist. I would say that my work is similar to that of most medical practitioners, in the sense that my goal is to help and treat people. I value modern medicine and feel that integrating herbal and conventional medicines benefits patients and practitioners. The primary difference between the two is in the treatment of the ailment.
Clinical herbalists tend to be less specialized in one specific area. Where a conventional doctor may refer a patient to a specialist, the herbalist is more likely to ask a wide range of questions, gaining a holistic perspective of the patient, in order to treat their problem.
Photo Courtesy of 7Song
How did you come to learn about and get to teach clinical herbalism to others?
I attended my first herbal school in 1981 and my last in 1995. In some ways, I’m a bit gregarious, and motivated, so putting those two qualities together, you end up with someone who’s learning and teaching almost simultaneously. I furthered my knowledge by placing myself in positions where I could see herbalism in practice, such as by going to first aid stations and observing the work being done.
I opened my own herb school in 1994 in Ithaca, New York, and have been operating it ever since. Running the school has taught me a great deal, as I often have critical-minded students; if I say something that doesn’t have heft to it, they will call me out. So really, expanding my knowledge has been a combination of schooling and practice.
What opportunities will students have at the Herbal Clinical Retreat? Who should attend?
Students will have the opportunity to learn about herbal medicine in a hands-on manner. In terms of who should attend, I would say anybody who is interested in learning about herbalism, with the caveat, that they should be open to working with conventional medics. Sometimes students have negative feelings towards modern medicine, and are thus unwilling to accept integration of the two fields.
They should be open-minded, willing to learn practical skills, practice critical thinking in healthcare, but most importantly, be patient-driven, as opposed to modality-driven. They must respect that in some instances, herbal medicine is limited, and that integrating conventional methods can be important and necessary in helping our patients.
Why is herbal medicine important today?
When it comes to healthcare, it’s helpful to have options. So, in my opinion, the best thing that herbal medicine offers is choice. It also has the advantage that the patient can gather their own medicine and can combine it with other treatments. Perhaps they want to use herbalism independently, or maybe they want to integrate herbal medicine into their current conventional treatment. The important part is that they have alternatives. Letting go of dogmas and integrating approaches can often be beneficial.
Photo Courtesy of 7Song
What resources are available at Envision for those who are interested in learning about herbal medicine?
As in previous years, there will be herbal medicine workshops throughout the festival lead by myself, Sarah Wu, and others. The schedule will be available closer to the date.
For those interested, another option is to come by and see the herbal clinic in action. Come visit during a time that’s not too busy, either with questions or with a chronic health care issue, and chat with us.
Photo Courtesy of 7Song
What advice do you have for those who are skeptical about herbal medicine’s ability or don’t think it is as effective as Western medicine?
I believe that many types of medicine are useful in different situations. Herbalism is the combination of hundreds of different compounds in each plant. While having multiple compounds does not imply that it is necessarily effective for any specific disorder, it does alter how it works in the body, interacting with our complex physiology.
Herbal medicine has both science and history behind it. Again, this does not imply that older means better, but the past informs the present and while there are plenty of new effective medicines, we do not have to reject what has helped in the past. Saying that, you don’t have to believe something just because it’s been done for a long time, but you also don’t have to discard it.
All this being said though, bravo for skepticism. I encourage people to be cautious with all types of medicine. That means applying the same skepticism to conventional medicine. Practice your skepticism, research and be open-minded, as a good skeptic is.
We would like to thank 7Song for taking the time to speak with us and for shedding some light on the intricacies of clinical herbalism. Many resources will be available to those interested in learning more. Applications are still open for the Herbal Clinical Retreat, lead by 7Song, which will run from February 12th until February 26th. Information is available in the “Retreats” section of the website. In addition, the herbal clinic will be open for the duration of the festival between the hours of 7AM and 9PM. Finally, as previously mentioned, workshop times will be made available closer to the festival date.
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