The results are in!
A while back I sent out a survey asking you what your hopes and dreams and challenges and obstacles are to becoming a successful practicing herbalist.
Just under 300 people responded!
I have read through every response, and have pondered them all to come up with some big picture information to share with you all.
What I’ve decided to do in this article is to share the top 3 biggest challenges for herbalists as well as some solutions to overcoming them.
A large number of respondents had lots of herbal dreams but, either admittedly or unknowingly, didn’t have the herbal education necessary to be grounded in a place of knowledge.
How much herbal education do you need? It really depends on what you want to do.
If you want to teach local community classes on using herbs for minor ailments like the symptoms of the cold or basic first aid (cuts and scrapes), you certainly don’t need thousands of hours of training.
However, if your goal is to work one-on-one with people to help them address their health issues, then you most likely will need a very thorough amount of training that will span thousands of hours. Reading some books, attending some conferences, or even a basic online herbal course will not be enough.
To help those of you who are wanting to expand their herbal education in order to reach their herbal aspirations, I have an updated article for you entitled 8 Tips for Choosing Your Herbal School. This article not only addresses some considerations in choosing a school but also addresses whether or not you need to be a “certified herbalist” or a “master herbalist”.
An astounding number of respondents listed a lack of confidence as a major block to becoming a successful herbalist. This was true across the board, whether it was people just starting on their herbal path or people who have been studying herbs for many many years. It was also true for people who had spent hundreds of dollars on their herbal education and people who had spent tens of thousands of dollars.
Because this was such a common problem, I want to implore you to understand the gravity of this situation and to offer you some resources on overcoming this.
I firmly believe that we need more herbalists. In fact, we need A LOT more herbalists. We live in an era in which the standard form of medicine is failing the general population. And while we aren’t doctors, there is no doubt in my mind that herbalists can help a wide variety of people through education about herbs as well as counseling on broader lifestyle choices, from diet to exercise to meditation, to time spent in nature and on and on.
I’ve lost a fair number of loved ones to chronic diseases that were mishandled by western medicine. I know I am not alone in this. I often wonder, would those people still be here if the ways of the herbalist were better known, if they had been given information on how to actually strengthen and support their bodies rather than simply given pills to suppress their symptoms?
In other words, we need more herbalists for the sake of our individual health.
We also need more herbalists for the sake of our planetary health. As herbalists our hands are rooted in the earth. Many of us become advocates or even simply examples of nature connection. The more our world becomes entrenched with screens, plastics and the false worldview that we are somehow separate from nature, the more easily humanity is able to ignore the havoc this is wreaking on our planet.
The simple act of using a leaf, bark, root or flower to initiate healing is a profound way to remind people of our connection and reliance on the world around us.
We need more herbalists!
That is why it made me so sad to see so many highly qualified people respond that, although they have the training to be an herbalist, they were unable to really go for it because of a lack of confidence.
But here’s the thing, this isn’t unusual!
It’s no small feat to stand up against the overwhelming tide of mainstream and proclaim that you are worthy and that you have valuable gifts to offer. This takes courage. A lot of courage.
The thing about being an herbalist is that most of us are drawn to the plants. We want to dig our hands into the garden soil, spend time on our forest trails, or otherwise be engaged in learning herbalism.
But, to be a practitioner, a healer, or a conduit for healthy change, we need to seek out our own healing and growth. Our personal work is just as important as memorizing herbal actions, developing sustainable wildcrafting skills, formulating herbal medicines, and learning herbal diagnostics.
Because a lack of confidence isn’t unusual there are many different resources out there to help you find your voice, to claim your courage and to move beyond this paralyzing road block.
My first three suggestions are books that I have found to be immensely illuminating around these topics of confidence and courage.
Brené Brown is a qualitative researcher who has devoted her field of study to look at the human condition around vulnerability and shame. It was impossible for me to choose simply one of her books to read since they are all applicable, but if you really twisted my arm I might say to start with her book Daring Greatly. This book addresses the challenges (and solutions) to overcoming the fear of stepping into our “Arena” (which is synonymous with any area in your life where you want to show up, whether it is as a mother, within friendships, or your herbal career).
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I love books! Herbal books, books on making beautiful slides for powerpoint presentations, books on being your best, not to mention fiction books and on and on.
But books are limiting. They don’t hold you accountable for any changes in your life. And while they may help you increase your awareness, they aren’t always tailored for exactly what you need.
So while I list some books I’ve found helpful I want to especially emphasize how powerful it can be to work with someone who can hold the space for your personal growth.
I know because, for the past year, I’ve been working with an extraordinary life coach, Lexi Koch.
Admittedly, when I first started working with Lexi I thought we would be doing career planning. Fun!
But, I quickly saw that this work was a thousand times more important and deeper than that. Instead, we worked on my personal major roadblocks. These were things that were limiting my potential as a practitioner, but also as a human. As a result, I’ve spent the last year looking at major triggers, uncomfortable situations, and a host of other challenges and learning how to move through them. I now feel like a different person, although I think it would be more correct to say that I feel like I am more authentic and more aligned with who I really am.
If you are ready to walk down a path of self-discovery so that you can claim your courage and dance with your authentic self, I highly encourage you to work with someone who can assist you on your path.
I think my own coach, Lexi, has a lot to offer herbalists. Not only does her special gifts include the ability to radically hold the space for personal change, but she also shares our love of nature and plants. For many years she was the co-owner and farmer of Ancestree Herbals (a beautiful small herb farm) and she also co-founded Classroom In Bloom, a local organization that actively involves the children at our public school growing over 3000 pounds of food for their school cafeteria each year.
There are two ways you can sample Lexi’s work.
1. Lexi has a fantastic article for herbalists that is all about confidence that I highly recommend that you read at http://www.lexikoch.com/blog/alltheconfidence
2. If you are interested in working with Lexi, you can schedule a free 30 minute session with her to see if you are a good fit.
I also spoke with Lexi and shared my concerns about this rampant problem of a lack of confidence within our herbal community and she has graciously offered 10% off of her regular coaching fees specifically for herbalists. To get your discount, simply mention this article to her to receive your discount. This discount is available only until March 15th, 2016.
The last major hurdle people listed is specifically in reference to those wanting to practice herbalism one-on-one, in order to help people address their health challenges.
Fear and a lack of clinical training may seem like two different things, but as I read over those 300 surveys I began to see them as one and the same.
Another way to say it may be fear caused by lack of knowledge.
Just like the previous point on the roadblock caused by a lack of self-confidence, fear is something that is commonly experienced.
Common fears listed were…
I know all of these fears are founded. Not only were they mentioned over and over again in the survey, but I’ve felt them myself!
But, as I mentioned before, I feel like these fears arise specifically from a lack of knowledge.
For example, practicing herbalism is NOT illegal. However, practicing medicine without a license is. It’s important that, before you go into practice, you know the difference and the steps you need to take in order to practice ethically, as well as safely.
Herbalism is exploding right now. We have more books, more courses, more conferences and more medicine makers than we have ever seen before. But I know that while there is a lot of people with an interest in herbalism, there are too many people waiting in the wings, unable to take that leap in making their herbal hobby their life’s calling.
Are you that person?
I know that whatever challenges you are facing are very real and very hard. I also believe that you have a responsibility to live out your calling in life.
So consider this your open invitation to recognize that you are too important to stay in the shadows. More than that, it’s a challenge to unearth your obstacles, look them in the face, and figure out what you need to do to walk courageously down your path.
I hope the three tips I shared with your today will help you on your journey!
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director for LearningHerbs. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.