What constitutes herbal certification?
In the United States, there is currently no national or state system of licensing or certification for herbalists. Many schools, including the KHY Certification Program that I currently teach, offer a certificate to document the student’s completion of an herbal program in accordance to the standards that particular group has established. These certificates are useful when applying to professional groups such as The American Herbalist Guild. So that means, unless you are knowledgeable of the practitioner you seek, skill and experience is not always verified by certification alone.
If I go to four different herbologists, one using Ayurvedic Medicine, one using Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, one using a Western Herbal Approach, and one using the KHY (Kosho Hoho Yooga) approach, I most likely would see four separate yet effective treatments.
Ayurvedic Medicine: Originating in India more than 5,000 years ago, it notes that physical manifestations of dis-ease are attributed to the doshas or three physical body types. The term Ayurveda is Sanskrit and roughly translates to mean “life knowledge”. The principle approach to treatment is that dis-ease arises from stress of the body related to limited awareness or consciousness of the individual from unhealthy lifestyles. Yoga, breath work, meditation, dosha specific diets, and herbology are used together to right the wrong.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Originating in China more than 5,000 years ago TCM includes acupuncture and acupressure, qigong exercises, and use of Chinese herbs. Their remedies are governed by a complexity of rules for diagnosis, which are anticipated to cure energetic imbalances within the body based off of the concepts of duality or yin and yang. Chinese herbs may also include minerals and animal products like hide or bone as a part of their treatment.
Western Herbal Approach: The western approach to herbology uses the bark, leaves, stems, roots, and buds of the plant which contain an active “pharmaceutical” chemical in the treatment of lesser or chronic ailments. Unlike the TCM formulas, which may have as many as 10 - 20 ingredients, a western formula typically has 5 or less ingredients. TCM herbs as well as Ayurvedic herbs may be used in some recipes within the western herbal method. Use of essential oils and flower essences may be included in the treatments. Typically the herbs used here in the U.S. are naturally what most would call weeds and shrubs, many taken from what the European settlers and Native First Americans used. Typically most, but not all practitioners of this method, use herbology as their primary treatment modality but may or may not include lifestyle changes as part of their treatment plan.
KHY Method: The KHY or Kosho Hoho Yooga Method is an eclectic approach to herbology. By treating the energetic imbalances as in TCM one approaches the “source” of the issue. Noting that a balanced approach to treatment not only includes herbs alone, but diet and exercise adjustments. One would see the Ayurvedic model unfolding in this system also; incorporating dietary changes, exercise, and spiritual practices in a manner, so as, to complement the treatment. Use of essential oils and flower essences may be included in the treatments, as well as use of local herbs to the region of the individual afflicted whenever possible in hopes of utilizing the energetics of the plant pertaining to its geographic region along-side the chemical constituent of the plant to harmonize and balance the body. This cumulative approach uses herbs to treat the energetic source of the problem as well as treating the actual symptoms presented. “Diagnosis” is often made by taking a complex medical history, direct observation of the individual, and use of applied kinesiology. Understanding of chi and noting that symptoms are just indicators of a deeper issue to the source of the problem that is treated. Practitioners of this system also use shamanic plant spirit medicine as part of their treatment. Within KHY, uses of herbs are specifically seen as a holistic approach, which looks at the total person rather than just the symptoms of a disease.
Now why is each effective, yet so different? Each system is a logical method of study, which uses herbs familiar and time tested in the treatment of dis-ease based off of the philosophy and theory of each system. Of course no one method supersedes another, with its own strengths and weaknesses. What an individual must do is find a system of practice that they can identify with. Then they must find a competent practitioner of that system whom they trust. Then they must stick with that treatment plan established in order to maximize their outcomes. Nothing happens overnight, and the individual seeking treatment must be invested in his or her outcome by following the prescribed treatment plan.
Christopher Bashaw is a registered nurse with 24 years experience specializing in integrative medicine. Christopher currently is seeing patients at the Mizu Tama Dojo and White Lotus Healing Arts Clinic in Rochester, NH as well as Pinewood Medical Center at the Pinewood Healing Arts Center in Somersworth, NH. http://www.freewebs.com/mizu_tama_dojo.