1) Why would one see an herbalist?
A trained herbalist (Western or other) can help you address imbalances in your body by using herbs that people have used for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Sometimes all it takes is a cup of tea, one to three times a day (along with good sleep, good food and good movement, of course!), to move our body in the direction it needs to go. Sometimes it takes a stronger herbal preparation. An herbalist can teach you about the differences between types of herbs and which ones may be best suited for you.
2) What type of herbalism do you practice?
I have been trained in the Vitalist tradition of herbalism. This approach basically means that the body is able to heal, given the right food, sleep, movement, herbs and spiritual practice. Herbalists with this training usually are able to help people integrate what they are already doing to stay healthy or get healthy into a wider plan, incorporating what is missing into the plan.
3) What would my first visit look like?
Your first visit would be a bit longer than subsequent ones, since the herbalist needs to collect information about your health and lifestyle (allow 1.5-2 hours). You would discuss the initial intake form (that includes a health history and questions on diet, sleep, movement, community and spiritual life), discuss current imbalances in your body, discuss how you are addressing them currently, and discuss which herbs might be good for you, why they might be good for you and in what form you’d prefer to take them.
4) What would my second and third visits look like?
That depends on you, really, but normally it would be a review of what happened in between visits, a discussion on how you feel, and another plan on how to move forward, depending on how things are going. The appointment is usually shorter than the first one (plan for an hour or so).
5) What if an herb doesn’t feel right to me?
Stop taking it if it doesn’t feel right, and let your herbalist know as soon as you can. There are many reasons why some herbs aren’t a perfect match for someone, so it’s important to be aware of how things feel in your body and to know that you can stop at anytime. You are in charge of your body. Most herbs are subtle and have subtle effects, but sometimes you can just tell that it’s just not right for you.
6) Are herbs medicine?
Herbs are used as medicine in different parts of the world today and were used as medicine as recently as eighty years ago in this country as well. Having said that, herbs are classified as food, and herbal practitioners are legally not able to give medical advice on a medical condition (or diagnose a condition), but can educate others on how to stay healthy with herbs. Most herbalists are trained to see imbalances in the body and can discuss what they see in general terms. Most herbs work slowly over time and you’d need to take them for a while to see an effect. Some herbs can work more quickly and you can feel the effects after a half a cup of tea or two capsules of an herb.
7) Why can’t I just go to a natural foods store and buy stuff and self-treat?
You can, that’s why it’s there. Sometimes an herbalist you see will recommend doing that as well (or purchasing specific products at the local store). Sometimes an herbalist will suggest over-the-counter teas in the tea section of the grocery store (perhaps suggesting two bags instead of one in your cup). Once you learn what works for you, you could also order herbs online and make your own teas.
8) How often would I go see an herbalist?
Again, that’s up to you. Typically, you might go 3-5 times and then feel healthy enough or confident enough to buy your own herbs, make your own teas, etc. Other times, you might want to go once a month until you feel more confident about the things that you’ve learned.
9) The herbalist told me one dosage and I saw a different dosage on the internet. How do I know what the right amount is?
Some herbs are given in very tiny dosages, others can be taken in larger dosages and you barely notice an effect. Often, herbalists will recommend starting at the lowest possible dosage and moving up from there until you feel an effect. Some herbs are recommended to take every hour during an acute imbalance. It’s difficult to find dosage information widely, since herbs are classified as food. At the same time, it’s important to know when to take very little or to take something very often (as opposed to once or twice a day). The herbalist you see should be able to explain why he/she decided to recommend the amount that was suggested.