Let me describe a typical client for you.
She’s been to doctors for years with concerns about fatigue, poor sleep, digestive problems - often bloating after eating and/or food sensitivities that are getting worse. She’s had a dozen blood tests without any positive results, including many standard blood panels and probably some combination of adrenal and thyroid tests. There really isn’t a test for brain fog.
An aggressive doctor may have sent her to a number of specialists. Maybe a cardiologist to verify there are no heart problems. Maybe an endocrinologist to investigate hormonal issues that cause fatigue. An allergist for food sensitivities or improper histamine response. The good news is that none of the specialists have found anything serious. Eventually, this also felt like bad news to her.
At some point, she’s probably sought out some alternative medical care. I’m a fan of chiropractic but it’s only a piece of healing from a chronic illness. The most common alternative care that people try before I see them is functional medicine. Functional medicine utilizes specialized testing to identify deficiencies and then attempts to correct those deficiencies with specialized supplements and dietary modifications. The theory is that deficiencies are causing poor health and by correcting those the body will self-heal. The challenge is finding the deficiencies, finding the correct supplements to fill them, then hoping the deficiencies addressed were the ones causing the actual problems. Addressing deficiencies individually can be a slow (and expensive) process.
She’s probably tried different diets. I haven’t seen restricted diets make a foundational difference. Let me explain what I mean. If she has food sensitivity, eating less of that food is certainly an approach that will relieve some of her symptoms. But, it’s not really addressing the root of her problem. Food sensitivities are nearly always caused by an unhealthy digestive system. The theory is that eliminating certain foods will allow her GI tract to heal but following a specific diet isn’t doing anything to stimulate healing. It’s simply removing known irritants - the ones that are causing enough discomfort to make her aware of them - and hoping her gut will heal. What usually happens is she may feel better in the short-term but over the long-term, she’s going to develop more sensitivities.
Like many of my clients, she may have researched online in an attempt to self-diagnose and help her doctor or treat herself.
When she finally meets with me, she’s exhausted from years of looking for answers, compounded by the actual affliction she’s dealing with. This actually makes my job of helping her a little easier. First, she knows if there are any medical conditions I should be aware of when recommending herbs. Second, I can usually spot her imbalances almost immediately. As we talk, she may become emotional because I’m often the first person to recognize and validate what she’s going through. I can assure her that I’ve worked with people like her before and I’ve seen them get better.
As I start reviewing her health history, we talk about the symptoms she’s experiencing and how they impact her quality of life. Although I don’t treat medical diagnoses as an herbalist, the symptoms help me identify the kinds of imbalances that exist. Small imbalances can cause disproportionally large problems.
The advantage I have as an herbalist is herbs are broad tools to use. I don’t need specialized testing to make recommendations. Based on what her body is telling us with symptoms, I know which herbs should stimulate her in the right direction. Sometimes the herbs will replace nutritional deficiencies directly. Many times they will increase her body’s ability to absorb nutrients to decrease and resolve deficiencies. Very often they stimulate her body to begin functioning properly. I see this most often with digestion. We can get her body to start producing normal amounts of enzymes and stomach acid. As we heal her digestive system, sensitivities resolve.
When she leaves our first appointment, she’ll have a plan with recommended herbs. She’ll also be set up with our web portal so we can communicate easily as she starts, or scheduled with a follow-up visit. Sometimes she’ll feel a little worse when starting the herbs and I can provide some advice along the way. Healing usually takes some time and we’ll make changes to the herbs as her body changes with the therapy.
This is a composite of a typical client I meet with and her experience. This is definitely someone I can help. You may have more or less issues or different problems altogether.
If you can relate to this person’s experience, we should meet. I start off with a complimentary consultation so we can both see if herbalism seems like a fit for your needs.
Larry Leach, Herbalist, Evergreen Health Clinics