by Conor Friedersdorf
A reader writes:
Although I went to a fully-accredited Holistic Healthcare College for 4 years to achieve that title, most people either confuse my profession with Eastern Chinese Medicine or simply have no clue what an herbalist is. The most insulting are those who think it hilarious to call me a "witch doctor." Yet quite often, these same people will later ask for my advice or a consultation, as if mocking my profession has been forgotten, or was to be expected and therefore excused. An estimated eighty-five percent of the world's population utilize herbs as their primary medicines for minor, acute and chronic health issues, making plant and plant-based medicines the most widely used remedies in the world today. While herbalists are not allowed to be licensed in the United States and our pharmacies are stocked with mainly synthetic chemical remedies, pharmacies in most parts of Europe dispense herbs prescribed by both physicians and licensed herbalists.
Even here in America, many of the larger pharmaceutical companies offered a wide variety of plant-based medicines in tablets, liquids and ointments as recently as the early 1950's. Today, holistic healthcare and natural remedies are booming, yet people still have outrageous misconceptions regarding natural, plant-based remedies and those of us who employ them. The American Botanical Council here in Austin, Texas exists in part to dispel myths in the media regarding the efficacy and safety of herbal medicine. Yet even with all of the science-based information available today, many people are completely ignorant of what an herbalists doesor worsefeel it is something to be mocked and ridiculed. Until they need our help, that is.
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