the Urban Herb School in the Globe and Mail

Wow, oh wow!  I'm stammering right now, I'm so delighted with this article in the Globe and Mail.  I'm ridiculously excited to share this with everyone and their dogs!So here's the link... it starts this way (with a pic of me teaching at the Living Medicine Gardens) ...Kyle Patton teaches a herbal class at the Urban Herb School - Kyle Patton teaches a herbal class at the Urban Herb School

The promise and perils of backyard herbalism


VANCOUVER— From Monday's Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Mar. 27, 2011 4:00PM EDT

In the eyes of Kyle Patton, Vancouver parks and community gardens are nature’s apothecary. Where others see weeds and mangy shrugs, he sees the makings of an elderflower fever remedy, a comfrey-based anti-inflammatory ointment and an analgesic made of plantain, a pervasive weed (unrelated to the banana family) that can be used on bruises and bug bites, he says. “You can just chew it up and stick it on.”  (click here for more)

First, i'd like to say thanks to Adriana for initiating and actually writing the article.  I really appreciate how I've been portrayed, even when it leans a little to me being a backyard, religious zealot.  lol.  Could it be the hemp tilley?Second, I'd like to point out that 7song out did me in an article about me!  The Northeast School of Botanical Medicine was the only school directly mentioned in the article even though I run a school and even though I've studied Plant Spirit Medicine with Eliot Cowan of the Blue Deer Center and briefly with Stephen Buhner of Gaian Studies.Then, I'd like to respond and expand on a few things from the article.  You know me, I can't keep quiet when i'm excited :)

  • Elder flower (Sambucus spp.) is a wonderful fever remedy.  I especially like it for our little ones, when we don't want to push fevers higher to get them to 'break'.
  • Plantain leaves (Plantago marjor, P. lanceolata) are really great for bruises, bites and scratches.  It's one of the most versatile herbs in my apothecary, from first aid scenarios to long term restorative tonics.

And then there's the money factor...

A report released in January by Global Industry Analysts, predicts the global market for herbal products will hit nearly $100-billion (U.S.) by 2015. The market researchers note that in the United States, retail sales of vitamins and herbal supplements grew by a record 10 per cent in 2008 due to boomer demand for preventive and alternative medicines.

Herbalism is becoming big, big money.  The nutraceutical industry is booming, I mean $100-billion by 2015!   While herbalist scratch out a living and the "health food stores" sell tonnes and tonnes of poor quality herbal supplements and incorrectly-labeled dried herbs.And Big Pharma, as Ms. Barton puts it, is scared!  There's a global movement to suppress this movement.  Look at what's happening in the UK with herbalism (this link from Michael and Lesley Tierra- great resource!), Bill C-51 in Canada or the global agreement called Codex.Simply put, if you don't gather it yourself from a place that you can trust, you don't know what's in your food or medicine.The Globe article also references a Ms. Amber Westfall, but doesn't give her blog.  Here it is... it's called Unstuffed and it's about her year of buying nothing new.Next let's take a look at another quote from the article that doesn't make much sense...

Self-medicating individuals run the risks of misdiagnosis, incorrect preparation of remedies and inappropriate dosage, Dr. Elvin-Lewis says. As well, plant samples may be contaminated with heavy metals such mercury, pesticides, viruses, toxic fungi and botulism.

First, let me ask "since mercury's so scary, why are you putting it in all the vaccines you're trying to make sure everyone takes?"  Enough said.Then, let's look at this...According to the groundbreaking 2003 medical report Death by Medicine, by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith, 783,936 people in the United States die every year from conventional medicine mistakes.And how many people die annually from eating herbs?  Not that many.  The article suggests that what's "natural" isn't necessarily "safe", but who thought it was?!  Everyone knows there are poisonous plants.  How many people know that their tomato or iris plants are among the most toxic?  I mean really, who wants to eat Foxglove when they look at it?  I'd bet a lot less than 783,936 annually.Ok, this is fun.  What's the next piece of the article to look at?

For example, patients using prescription medications should avoid the herbal antidepressant St. John’s Wort because “it interacts with everything under the sun.”

Boy, I love this!  Still people are talking about St. John's Wort (or St. Joan's Wort if you follow Susan Weed-she's awesome!) is considered an herbal "anti-depressant".  It's so much more than that, but they can't see it.  You see, St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has a profound relationship with the Sun and I laughed out loud when I saw this comment cautioning people from taking it because "everything under the Sun."  Oh, by the way, it's had a very successful use in treating S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder).  I'll offer my own word of awareness here... Hypericum increases serotonin and this may not work well with SSRI's.Alright, 2 more points to touch on...

Pharmacists are better qualified to give advice on herbal supplements than self-taught herbalists or health-food store employees, she says. “We don’t always know if things are effective,” she says, “but we have a really good idea if they’re safe or not.”

Hmm, this brings up the question about the educational requirements for pharmacists regarding herbs and botanical medicines.  I don't know.  I haven't been able to find out on the www.  I did find this article about pharmacists pre-dispositions to herbs.And my last point is a celebratory one... herbs are food!The role of the herbalist, to a large extent these days, is to catch the foods that have fallen though the holes in the net of Industrial Agriculture (links to a NY Times article by Michael Pollan-great!).

Centuries of use have shown they’re safe, he says. “I work with herbs that, to a large extent, used to be food.”

We do remember these delicious, nutritious, wild, free foods!Welcome back Spring!  Blessings to the Green Season!