Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live on the herbal side of things? Maybe you have dreams of one day being the go-to-herbalist for all your friends and family. Perhaps you want a different way of living that fulfills your needs and health goals. This article is for anyone that might be on the edge, deciding if they want to “take the plunge” into the wild side of herbalism. We have interviewed our own practicing herbalist, Ramona Horner (Mo for short), asking her the most common questions that new clients have when exploring their interests in herbal remedies.
Ramona Horner, Clinical Herbalist RH (AHG)
Q: Why should I see an herbalist?
A: There are plenty of reasons to see an herbalist. Visit an herbalist if you’re having issues with your current medications, such as a sensitivity or side-effect. See an herbalist if you don’t know how to address a health concern or are confused about which alternative method is best for your condition. Herbalists can offer you something natural as a possible alternative to surgery or a new medication. Recurring patterns that are acute and chronic can be explored with an herbalist, too.
Q: What introduced you to herbal medicine and when?
A: I became interested in natural and herbal practices during recovery from breast cancer treatments. I didn’t want to lose my hair, so I saw a naturopath, who offered me herbs to boost my immune response to chemotherapy. The herbs actually helped other life-long health issues, and since then, I’ve changed my lifestyle and eating habits. I have been interested in herbal remedies for over 15 years and have been a practicing herbalist for 10+ years.
Q: Where did you study all of your herbal methods?
A: My formal training was through the East West School of Herbology under Michael Tierra, and also with local herbalist/instructor Nicholas Schnell. I was the first apprentice for Nicholas, and I studied under his direction for four years. Even today, some of the best knowledge comes from seeing clients and recommending herbs to them. I learn about their situation, give them herbal products, and see how they’re affected by each one.
Q: What makes Herbalism special?
A: Plain and simple…Herbalism connects humans with plants! Nature is our best healer; almost everything that we need to stay healthy already exists in nature. Plants are so valuable to our ecosystems, and by connecting humans back to these plants, it reminds us of what the world has to offer.
Q: What is your favorite aspect about being an Herbalist/Healer?
A: I love hearing the stories of others and turning them into a solution for their issues. I am fascinated by connecting plants with humans. I enjoy the puzzle of situations – investigating the different emotional and physical states of each person to provide them with personalized care. I’m honored to receive each of the personal and deep stories from my clients.
Q: At what age should someone start seeing an Herbalist and why?
A: By all means, it’s never too early. Begin in the womb to promote the best possible health from the beginning of life. This will help start things off right! If you address the mother’s issues or stress, there will be less stress on the developing child. Environmental influences on the mother will affect the health of the child inside her. If the child starts herbal remedies at an early age, then herbal remedies will work best in the future.
Q: How long might someone need to take or use herbal products?
A: How long you need to take herbal therapy depends on your situation. Ask yourself if the issue is acute or chronic. Acute means short in duration or the issue has recently developed. Chronic conditions have existed for a long time and have gradually worsened over time. Generally, most people will start to feel the effects of herbal remedies within 2-3 days. If you’re under the care of a physician and maybe taking medications, a skilled herbalist will understand how to combine medications and herbs for the safest and most beneficial effect.
Q: What is your favorite herbal method to recommend?
A: TEA! Absolutely tea! Tea is the closest thing to food, and most people are familiar with teas. It is often very comfortable for people to start with tea when beginning herbal remedies. Also, for those that are more sensitive to herbs, tea is very gentle and easy on the body.
Q: What is the easiest, at-home assessment tool that a person can utilize?
A: The best tools you can use at home would be tongue and stool assessment. (I know, nobody likes to talk about their stool, but it can tell you a lot about what’s going on inside your body!) Daily observation is best for both assessments. Observation of the tongue in the morning is optimal because everything is new; your tongue and body sort of “reset” overnight. It is not so important to know what healthy conditions looks like, but what you’re looking for is what change looks like. With a tongue, pay attention to changes in color, shape or size, coating texture and thickness, swelling, cracks, and teeth marks. Stools can change day to day based on diet or stress, so look for consistency, how often you have to go, color, and odor. Other common tools used are: recently developed or existing allergies (what are you allergic to and when), daily acid reflux (and triggers for reflux), insomnia/quality of sleep, and any chronic conditions.
Q: Should I take tinctures internally or use them topically?
A: YES! Take tinctures internally as directed by an herbalist. Sometimes, topical use of tinctures will increase the benefits of the herb.
Other common questions Mo has encountered over the years:
Q: Can I take herbs and medications together?
A: Yes and no. I am trained in herb and medication compatibility. Knowing the herbs and medications that interact with one another is very important when making recommendations for my clients.
Q: Do you do any testing, such as blood, stool, urine, etc.?
A: No, our assessment tools are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), implementing techniques such as tongue and pulse observation.
After my interview with our herbalist, I learned a few things: Mo can be quite eccentric sometimes (in that loving, motherly manner), she loves what she does and she can do it quite well (speaking from personal experience), and she truly is here to help out her fellow humans. Mo has an eye for detail; when she is able to gather all of the components of a client, she can connect them in ways that most people would not think to. Mo understands that physical and emotional trauma are very well connected to each other. Being able to look at a person as a whole, while thinking about the minor details, is very important when guiding someone through their healing journey.
Being an Herbalist is not just about knowing what each herb does; it is knowing how to see what your client needs, in the right order, to allow them to heal properly. By offering your help to someone, you aren’t only willing to share your herbal knowledge but you are offering your personal experiences, an ear that will listen, and a shoulder to cry on. Herbalism is about changing lifestyles and habits - to correct the past and to prevent difficulties in the future. Herbalism teaches a person how to connect with nature and appreciate what life has to offer.