HERBALISTA HEALTH NETWORK
2015 Service Report
Building Community Through Herbalism!
This past year the Herbalista Free Clinic expanded services by adding a new member to our fleet. In January 2015, the Herb Cart hit the pavement to join the Herb Bus providing free herbal healthcare around the Atlanta area.
Together these herb-stations-on-wheels facilitated 38 clinics in 2015, serving hundreds in our local community!
We continued to pour sweet, sweet herbal medicine, custom compounding all sorts of remedies for our patients, from teas to tinctures to oils and more! And though we are mobile, we provide regular opportunities for refills so that we can be a service folks can depend on! Over the course of 2015 we poured over 6 gallons of extract blends, 8 pounds of loose herbal blends, 1500 capsules blends, a quart of fixed oil preparations, dozens of aromatic inhalers, salves, spritzers and more!
We served at herbal first aid stations around the country. At these stations, herbalists and conventional practitioners (nurses, EMT’s, ect.) work together, providing patient focused healthcare.
This year the Bus drove nearly 10,000 miles delivering healthcare and herbal education in Atlanta and around the country. The 2015 Herbalista Expedition was the Herb Bus’ most ambitious trip yet, clocking 8,000 miles and covering over 20 states during her 2 month voyage.
Viva la Herb Bus!
And while we do rely on donations from the greater community, we are always striving to create more of a self-supporting system, from seed to remedy! This past year we watched Herbalista evolve from a “free clinic” into a “health network.”
( And we’re not done yet. Stay tuned for this year’s Seed Library!)
And as usual, our programming combined service with education!
We made new friends and reconnected with old ones!
We look forward to a new year filled with herbalistic adventures in healthcare…
Won’t you join us? ~The Herbalista Crew
The Herb Cart Service Manual is a ‘how-to’ manual, designed to help others get their grassroots healthcare projects off of the ground. The Herb Cart is a mini-mobile herbal care station that provides earth-based care to underserved communities in the Atlanta area. In this manual, we provide detail on how we stock and staff the cart, share example forms, checklists, dispensing considerations, and more. It is a work-in-progress, and we will be updating the manual as our project grows and evolves.
Viva la Herb Cart!
2014 Service Report
Another year of adventures in healthcare!
In Atlanta (our herbal hub) we continued regular services at our 2 Herb Bus Stations,
conducting 148 consultations over the course of 22 clinics.
At these monthly clinical rounds, we poured endless pots of seasonal tea, dispensed 6 1/2 gallons of customized tincture formulas (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), 14#’s of raw custom herbal and powder blends, and a variety of other remedies including aromatic inhalers, herbal capsules, and oil rubs.
We served at several herbal first aid stations including:
The Bus drove over 10,000 miles delivering healthcare and herbal education around the country.
We shared the Herb Bus model of healthcare with classes and communities from Atlanta to California. Some of our hosts included Ponderosa High School, the California School of Herbal Studies, Sacred Plant Traditions, Five Flavors Herbs, Homestead Atlanta, and the High Museum of Art.
Tending the feet of our friends on the street with the Catholic Workers at Friday Foot Care on Skid Row, Los Angeles, California.
For all this and so much more, we are grateful.
We feel fortunate to have this opportunity to serve our community
and thankful for your friendship and support on this journey.
~The Herbalista Crew
In Defense of Good Herbalista Practices (GHP’s), or
Healthcare Practitioners are not Manufacturers, or
The Rejection of Rules Written in the Name of Mass Production
by a Practicing Herbalist
The current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs)[i] were created by the FDA to regulate the growing industry of dietary supplements, including herbs. As the name implies, these standards and protocols were created with the mass manufacturer in mind and not with an eye towards the specific needs of the practicing herbalist. Despite their obvious bias toward the manufacturing model, the FDA has written these regulations in a way that binds the herbalist, forcing them to adhere to inappropriate and often economically unfeasible requirements. In an effort to soften the blow, the FDA stated that it would “be appropriate to consider the exercise of our enforcement discretion, on a case-by-case basis.”[ii] This offers no respite; they have most assuredly reserved the right to apply this rule to the ordinary herbalist. These regulations interfere with our ability to provide affordable herbal care to our community and most certainly infringe upon a patient’s access to quality healthcare. And while the effects of these regulations may not yet have made themselves felt to the larger community, it is still important to speak out and make our objections known.
In the mass-production manufacturing model, the success of any company is measured by their growth and by their profit. The goal must be to create larger and larger batches, destined for an ever greater number of shelves, in increasingly distant lands. These remedies must survive multiple transits and transactions, making the manufacturer and ultimate recipient strangers to each other and accountability quite difficult. And so the cGMP’s were penned, in defense of a vulnerable public from the possible negligence of a faceless manufacturer.
In contrast, our success is not measured in dollars, but in quality of life– in the vitality of our patient, in the health of our community. Most clinical herbalists make small batches of medicaments with their community in mind, maintain a modest sized apothecary, and dispense herbal remedies that have been custom compounded for their patients. These remedies are then delivered directly to the patient. There is no middleman involved. The relationship between herbalist and patient can be well established and accountability quite possible.
Herbalists are not manufacturers; we are healthcare practioners. Our relationship with the public exists in an entirely different realm from that of manufacturing. Our aim as herbalists is to provide patient focused care. And this means working with quality herbs. With this in mind, we are often involved with our remedies from their harvest until they lay in our patient’s hands. Sometimes we even plant the very seed of our future medicaments. We are intimately familiar with the qualities of the herbs we use and are trained through time and experience to differentiate plants and understand the variety of quality or action that can result from fluctuation in rainfall, sun, location, or harvesting time. We wear many hats – grower, wildcrafter, medicine maker, apotheker, educator, practitioner, and more. It is becoming clear that to require herbalists to adhere to cumbersome criteria intended for mass manufacturers is an insult to our vital craft and will result in the degradation of the practice of herbalism. The more the cGMP’s force the practitioners away from the making of their own medicines by creating these prohibitive requirements (in cost, time, and infrastructure), the less herbalists will handle the materials of their craft. We will lose our herbal intimacy, dulling our understanding of the very tools we use to heal. This is like asking a violinist not to tune her own instrument or a cook to never do prep work. And while these comparisons are a bit clumsy, one thing is quite clear – under these current GMP regulations, the making of herbal medicine has been handed over to the manufacturing industry in the realm of commerce, whose bottom line (as time has repeatedly shown) is profit, and NOT the health and wellness of people. The FDA has no business lumping the herbalist with the natural products manufacturer. This is a misstep.
For all of the years leading up to now, on the land mass we call the United States of America, the people have ALWAYS maintained the right to practice and utilize herbal medicine. We have never before been restricted when making medicines from the earth to support our vitality and wellbeing. The health of this nation has been on a slow decline, with chronic disease ever on the rise. This is the time to empower the local healer, not to hobble them.
I cannot accept FDA guidelines, which require me to exclude “dirt” (Section 111.15) from my premises. What do they think herbs grow in? I will not abandon making medicine under sky in the open air where the plants grow because those premises do not “include floors, walls, and ceilings.” (Section 111.20) I will neither apologize for washing my bottles in merely a double (instead of a triple) basin sink, nor for making medicines in a kitchen where I also prepare my personal meals.
As a practicing herbalist, I have made a pledge to my patients, to my community, and to my planet to heal and serve. This means that I hold to certain standards of practice, such as cleanliness, transparency, sustainability, environmental protection, quality, and affordability, all of which guide my daily practices in the clinic and apotheke.
I have created varied documents over the years, which guide our work at Herbalista Headquarters, as we strive to create vital medicaments to share with our community. They are but a continual work in progress, as our practice and procedures certainly change over time; just as flexibility is a sign of good health, we need to be able to adjust with integrity to the changing needs of our community, to the resources at hand, and developments of our own understanding of health. These documents now form the beginnings of what I will tongue and cheek refer to as our current Good Herbalista Practices (cGHP’s) and I invite you to read, share, modify, and utilize as you desire. We hope to add more documents to the database on the Herbalista website over time in the hope that they support the craft of the practicing herbalist and help us continue our traditions in healthcare.
~ Herbalista Lorna
December 6, 2014
[i] CFR Title 21 – Food and Drugs; Chapter 1 – Food and Drug Administration Department of Health and Human Services; Subchapter B – Food for Human Consumption; Part 111 – Curruent Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling or Holding Operations for Dietary Supplements.
[ii] Comment 32 from Final Rule Page 34793 of Vol. 72, No. 121 June 25, 2008
The herbalists’s path is not always clearly marked, even though this ancient practice has never been more needed in our modern existence. Many yearn to serve the plants, the people and the planet, but aren’t sure how they can gather the necessary skills, much less offer them to their community in a sustainable way. Working in an unlicensed medical profession, in a system seemingly hostile to anything other than the conventional big pharma-surgical approach to health, IS a challenge. But not an insurmountable one.
Two common concerns I hear during the Herb Bus Clinic Workshops, which prevent herbalists from starting free clinics of their own are money and legalities. And while these concerns are real and deserve our careful thought and consideration, when our attention becomes too focused on the lack of greenbacks or the fear of handcuffs, we might miss out on the chance to do some real work and miss the opportunity to spread some real healing to real people in real need.
The current medical structure of the United States says you only deserve to be as healthy as your bank account. It ensures wellness as a privilege for the few by suppressing affordable and accessible approaches to health, such as plant-based medicine. In the words of Dr. King, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” An unjust system deserves to be challenged. And with our bountiful resources of passion, purpose, and plants, we can light the path (one headlamp at a time) for others to follow.
We have posted an updated version of the Herb Bus Service Manual on our website, with more descriptions about our services, to help illustrate how doable this type of healthcare initiative is. We intend this manual as merely an example of how one might go about this type of work. Your offering will be different. It will be a reflection of you and the community you wish to serve. It will evolve organically as a response to the healthcare needs around you, utilizing available local resources and your bio-regional materia medica. Start small– gather your herb crew, pack your medicine kit (groovy colored duct tape optional), practice with integrity, and hop on board! ~Herbalista Lorna
Herbalista Free Clinic Service Report
It’s hard to believe that our clinic debut was not even a year ago! On Feburary 6, 2013 we pitched for the first time at the Open Door Community in Atlanta. It has been a tremendously exciting year, and we hope this is just the beginning of a long and healing journey.
We wanted to share some of the highlights with you:
At our Atlanta hub we hosted 17 clinics, where we served gallons of seasonal tea blends, conducted 111 consultations, dispensed 2 1/2 gallons of customized tincture formulas (alcohol and glycerites), 8#’s of raw custom herbal and powder blends, and a variety of other remedies including essential oil sniffers, herbal capsules, and oil rubs.
We facilitated several pop-up first aid clinics around the country, including the Rainbow Gathering in Montana, the Firefly Gathering in North Carolina, the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference in North Carolina, and the Georgia Organics Conference in GA, where we served hundreds more and put herbal healing in the hands of the people.
We spread the Herb Bus method and our love for plants and community at numerous classes and workshops. Some of our hosts included Ponderosa High School, the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine, Warren Wilson College, Homestead Atlanta, and the High Museum of Art.
We created the Herb Bus Service Manual to help others start free clinic projects in their communities. This manual is available as a free PDF download from our website.
Lorna, the herbalista who drives this sweet ol’ bus around town, was awarded the 2013 Community Service Award by the American Herbalists Guild to honor her work with the Herbalista Free Clinic and the Harriet Tubman Free Foot Clinic.
The Bus drove over 10,000 miles delivering healthcare and herbal education around the country.
And, saving the best for last, we spent time with the plants– studying their form, learning their energetics and actions, and wildcrafting to prepare sweet sweet remedies to share with our patients and community.
Thanks to our community who supports this work, our teachers who inspire us to grow and strive, the plants who heal, and the people who receive these gifts with grace. Viva la Herb Bus!
After a few more months of running clinics, we’ve made some updates and additions to our service manual. In order to share what we’ve learned and help you to better serve your own communities, the manual is available online. We’ve also created a tab on the Herb Bus website that will always link to the most current edition.
Fire up your engines… your communities need you!
Viva La Herb Bus!
One thing’s for sure– herbalists go through a lot of bottles! For a profession where environmental impact rates high on the list of our concerns, the last thing we want to do is add to a bunch of bottles, caps, and droppers to the mountainous landfills. We clean and reuse bottles at Herbalista and wanted to share with you the methods we have found safe and efficient.
When a bottle is returned to us, we pour out any leftover tincture, oil, etc and then place the bottles into a very hot, soapy bath. Leaving them to soak for a time allows the labels and any residue to loosen. The labels will practically fall off, and for the more stubborn parts, simply use the label bits that did come free and rub that over the remaining adhered label. That will usually work it free. If parts still don’t come free try a wee bit of olive oil or alcohol.
We have a number of different sized bottle brushes with which we can scrub the inside of each bottle. When scrubbed and rinsed, they are placed on the bottle wrack for drying. When dry we hold them to the light to check for any obvious organic material or residue that may remain. If we see any, we put it through the same initial soak and scrub all over again. If it appears clean we place the bottle into a box for Phase II.
DROPPERS & CAPS
We completely dissemble the droppers– separating the pipettes, the squeeze bulbs, and the plastic rings from one another. We also separate the internal plastic phenolic cone from the caps with the use of a pointed set of tweezers. These bits and pieces are all then immersed in a soapy, hot bath for a soak. We use either a mascara wand (purchased from a beauty supply store) or pipe cleaners to clean the inside of the pipettes, squeeze bulbs, and other hard to reach places. After this prewash we pack everything into a bin for Phase II.
In order to feel like the bottles and tops have received a complete wash and sanitation for reuse, we use a dishwasher and program it for with the highest heat setting. Since Lorna is not gifted with a dishwasher Herbalista HQ, the next step involves schlepping all the bottles and various accoutrement to her mother’s house (is there ever a time we stop needing assistance from our folks) to run them through her machine. We use a simple eco-friendly detergent with the above mentioned settings. After they have been run through, we schlep them back to HQ for the final stages of this “ever-so-time-consuming-but-totally-worth-it” cleaning protocol.
The bottles are lined up against the west facing window bank to allow for any last bits of moisture to escape. When the bottles appear completely dry (usually in a matter of hours) they are placed into the bottle cabinet.
The tops are laid out on a clean towel on the table. The blue bottle in the picture here is filled with 70% alcohol. We spritz them all over and wipe them down with a thin cotton towel. This is a chance to have your eyes on everything and do some good quality control. Finally, all is reassembled to be used once more to dole out sweet, sweet herbal medicine
For any bottle or top that doesn’t pass muster (using organoleptic evaluations of sight and smell) they are put back into the bin for another round of cleaning or put into the recycling bin. You will find that over time, the squeeze bulbs loose their integrity (notice in the photograph that some are starting to look a bit grey) and they will eventually get pulled. This is a bit frustrating, because the pipettes and ring are still completely fine. We have searched and have yet to find a distributer of just the bulbs. So we’ve taken to keeping the extra pipettes in a cup for tastings of herbal concoctions, which feels like a fine way for them to spend their retirement!
updated on 04.21.17
I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who has already contributed so much to getting the Herb Bus rolling. This herbalista feels grateful to belong to such a generous community. There have been some inquiries about how one might make herbal donations to stock our apothecary. This is something we are grateful for, but also need to be quite specific about. The simple fact is that the Herb Bus is quite small. We fit an entire clinic into that little bus and so are particular about what items we stock. We have now created an “Apothecary Wish List” and plan to keep it regularly updated with both herbs we are low on and herbs that we seem to dispense at a high rate.
The wish list is posted as both a main tab on this blog and a pdf version on the HERBALISTA website. We care deeply about our clients, so please– read the list carefully and follow all labeling instruction. And thank you for caring about this sweet little bus on a mission! Viva la Herb Bus!