I received no compensation for this post, and conducted the interview out of pure curiosity!
I will soon be publishing a review of some body care products from Honey Pot Herbals, owned by Registered Herbalist, Joanne Kewageshig. Since I didn’t know what a Herbalist really was, I figured I couldn’t be the only one, right?! So Joanne kindly agreed to my Interview With a Herbalist!
Maman Loup’s Interview With a Herbalist
Featuring Joanne from Honey Pot Herbals
1 – Can anyone call themselves a herbalist? What training or certification is required?
The profession of “Herbalist” is not currently regulated by any level of government in Canada, so technically speaking, anyone can call themselves a “Herbalist.” Several years ago, when the Natural Health Product legislation came into effect, there was talk by some of the provincial governments in Canada about registering and regulating Herbalists. However, this never came to be as government fiscal concerns took priority and really, there were too few of us to justify the costs of regulation.
There are some provincial organizations: I am a member of the Ontario Herbalists Association (OHA), which “self-regulates.” The OHA currently has over 70 “Registered Herbalists” located in five provinces. In order to be a Registered Herbalist with the OHA, you need to have successfully completed any of the specified Herbal Courses from OHA approved herb schools OR apply individually with documentation of education, experience, clinical skills and professional references. Most approved schools/courses run three years or longer and include training in several disciplines including anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, botany, as well as hands-on experience with growing and harvesting herbs, making medicines, as well as training in clinical skills in regards to working with clients. Herbalists registered with the OHA must abide by the “Code of Ethics,” “Code of Practice” and “Mandate” as defined by the OHA and engage in ongoing education in order to maintain our standing as a “Registered Herbalists.”
There is also the Canadian Herbalist’s Association of British Columbia, The Alberta Association of Practicing Herbalists, the Guilde des Herboristes in Quebec and the Herbalists Association of Nova Scotia, as well as a smattering of Herbal Associations in the United States. England and a few other countries in Europe have regulated their herbalists, but in North America we are not at that stage yet, and there is certainly some debate as to whether or not licensing by the government is desirable….. But that is a whole other post……
2 – Where does a Herbalist sit on the spectrum of Naturopath, Homeopath and Witch Doctor?
Lol :-). I like this question!!! Homeopaths use highly diluted water or alcohol-based extracts of plants and some minerals and prescribe them on the basis of “like cures like.” So, the theory goes that if a certain substance causes particular symptoms, then a highly diluted extract of the same substance will treat the same symptoms. The similarity with Herbalism is that the raw material that Homeopaths start with are herbs.
Naturopaths and Herbalists can be very similar and, as you have stated in the question, could be considered as different points on a spectrum or continuum. Both Herbalists and Naturopaths employ a rich blend of plant based medicine, dietary supplements, lifestyle and dietary considerations in order to work with their clients toward the client’s health goals. Now, if you put them on a continuum, you might place Herbalists on one end of it where Herbalists tend to work more directly with plants by growing and harvesting them and then by making our own medicines with the plants- teas, tinctures, salves, lotions, syrups and more. Naturopaths would fall on the other end where they tend to work more with premade, standardized extracts and supplements. This continuum should be conceptualized loosely, however, as there are some Naturopaths who work very closely with plants, and some Herbalists who like to use premade, standardized herb extracts and most from both traditions who fall somewhere in between. Of course, in order to be a Naturopath, you must graduate from a regulated school of Naturopathy.
3 – At what point would you tell a client (or family member) to pursue a mainstream medicinal treatment for a condition? (For example, to see a dermatologist.)
The Code of Ethics of the Ontario Herbalist Association provides guidelines for how Herbalists should work with their clients and with other health professionals. It is generally accepted that it is in the best interest of the client to work co-operatively with other health professionals and to share information.
For example, if a client was seeking a natural therapy for high blood pressure, a Herbalist may suggest some herbs and dietary considerations. The Herbalist would also advise the client to make their family doctor or other specialists aware of the herbal protocol they are following and to monitor their blood pressure closely. Herbs which have an effect on blood pressure can be highly effective and so the client and their doctor should be aware in the event that the results of the herbal treatment require a change in prescription medication.
Items six and seven of the OHA’s Code of Ethics read as follows:
6) Member shall acknowledge the limits of their individual scope of practice;
7) Members shall make referrals to additional qualified practitioners when it is in their client’s/patient’s best interest.
There are certain circumstances when conventional treatment is certainly called for in place of herbal therapies. Exactly when, what and how would be determined by the particular circumstances of each scenario as well as the details of an individual client’s state of health. An example might be when a child has a high fever that is not responding to herbal treatment, accompanied by sore throat and/or bodily aches and pains and/or not being able to hold down any food or fluids. That child needs medical attention. Any concerns about the side effects of conventional medicine, for example anti-biotics, can be addressed by the Herbalist and client after recovery from acute illness.
4 – So the Baby Bug-a-Bye lotion I am testing also acts as a sunscreen. How is it different than a sunscreen you might grab off the shelf at Shopper’s Drug Mart? Is it as effective?
There is sunscreen and there is sunblock. This is not just semantics, but an important distinction. Many commercial sunscreens use chemical ingredients which prevent sunburn by absorbing UV rays into your skin and then chemically altering the UV rays so that they do not cause sunburn.
Sunblocks, on the other hand, use minerals, such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide which prevent sunburn by reflecting the UV rays away from your skin. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, both of which are in the Baby Bug-a-Bye, combine to provide a broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
There are a wide variety of chemicals that may be in commercial sunscreens. There is a lot of information online regarding the good, the bad and the ugly of chemical sunscreens. Also, most commercial sunscreens and lotions contain other ingredients which can be a cause for concern, for example ethoxylated emulsifiers and potentially harmful preservatives.
I try to keep my products and formulas as simple as possible and as unrefined as possible and yet still make a safe, quality product. The emulsifier (the ingredient that binds oil and water together) in our lotions is non-ethoxylated and derived from certified organic coconut oil. We use an excellent, natural product for a preservative: fermented radish root!
There are a number of other sunblocks that use Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide. We use the same amount of mineral sunblocks as these other products to provide an SPF of 30. It is effective; I will burn like a lobster in about 15 minutes, and Baby Bug-a-Bye effectively prevents my lobsterization!
5 – Which Honey Pot Herbals products are part of your daily routine?
Many!!!! Many of our products were, in fact, created to serve our own family’s needs: Magic Ointment to prevent and treat diaper rash was our first product, made originally back in 2000 when our first was born.
I carry around a family first aid kit with a whole whack of Honey Pot Herbals products. I always have Magic Ointment, Muscle & Joint Salve, Skin Salve, Baby Breathe Easy and the Skin Chiller Stick with me, as well as several tubes of lip balm!!
I also carry certain glycerin tinctures with me when I know we will be away all day or for a few days at a time. For anyone who wants to know more about tinctures, please visit my blog. Simply, tinctures are a concentrated liquid herbal extract that can be used therapeutically to treat a wide variety of concerns. I always have Echinacea tincture with me as well as a Sleep Easy tincture for me, to help me sleep; two different tinctures for sore tummies: a mild one made with Roses, and a more potent, anti-viral tincture made with Goldenseal and Moonwort (Artemesia ludivociana), and, our Baby Fuss Ease tincture.
I regularly drink Honey Pot Herbals’ nutritional tea, especially as an iced tea mixed with a little juice. I drank this tea all the time through my pregnancies (four kids!) as Raspberry leaves help to tone the uterus for childbirth and Nettle, Alfalfa and Red Clover are all full of vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed in liquid form. I also drink the Nutri-Chill Tea regularly to help me relax before going to bed. It is similar to the Nutritional Tea with the addition of relaxing herbs: Chamomile, Skullcap, Lemon Balm and Bee Balm.
Also, when our family is struck with illness we use herbal remedies, usually tinctures and teas, to treat things like sore throat, fever, cough, cold and flu, aches and pains and injuries/first aid. We have also had great success with treating our son’s asthma with a glycerin tincture of New England Aster and other herbs.
6 – What would you like my readers to know about your business in particular? For example, can a person who isn’t local still book a consultation?
Yes, we do online consultations.
You can contact us through the web site, and we will send a confidential intake form in a fillable PDF format. You simply need a .pdf reader on your mobile device or computer to complete the intake form and return it. From there I will either book a phone consult or work through email. We are very excited to soon be setting up a local clinic and store where it will be much easier for me to do in person consultations!!
Our business is a family-run business. We work very hard to make high quality, effective products using ingredients we grow or gather ourselves or which are locally sourced whenever possible. All of the honey and beeswax we use, for example, is purchased from another local, family-run business.
We love to get feedback from our customers: What did you like, what didn’t you like? What could we do better? What kind of products would you like us to make? Some of our most popular products were made at the request of our customers to develop a product that met their health needs.
Also, we have recently started a “Herb Box” subscription program. Basically, you subscribe for half a year or a whole year and every other month you are mailed a box of seasonal, handmade herbal health care products. The products in the box are created from locally and seasonally harvested herbs and are sent to you when you are most likely to need them. For example, a soap for poison ivy rash in the summer and Elderberry Syrup in the fall or winter. We also have a “Mom & Baby” option for the Herb Box where you can choose to have products in the box suited to your needs as an expecting mom or mother to a newborn or infant.
7 – How do you develop a new product for Honey Pot Herbals? What kind of testing and trial and error typically happens before you would add something new to your Etsy shop?
Our family always tries everything! Magic Ointment, Baby Breathe Easy, Chill Out Skin Chiller Stick, Baby Bug A Bye, Muscle & Joint Salve, Get Lost Outdoor Spray, Critter Check Hair Oil, Shampoo & Conditioner, soaps, lotions and other toiletries are all functional products I created in the first place so that our family would have effective products to use that I was comfortable using. By this I mean that I felt good about all the ingredients in the products from both a health and environmental perspective. I didn’t/don’t want to slather all kinds of synthetic chemicals all over our family members!
Some products were developed at the request of customers whom we have come to know well. For example, our Neem Lotion was made first at the request of a client whose husband suffers from psoriasis. She asked me if I could make a lotion for his psoriasis, so I said I would put something together and she could let me know how it worked. Her and her husband both loved it and the Neem Lotion has since become a bestseller.
A lot of research and herbal education goes into developing products as well. I researched sunscreens, sunblocks, how they work, health and safety concerns of sunscreens/sunblocks and their ingredients, what goes into them and reviewed a wide variety of suncare lotions for a couple of years before I even started experimenting with formulating the lotion. I was the perfect test subject as I burn very easily. So, applying the lotion to one shoulder and not the other when going to work in the garden on a hot, sunny day provided me with all the proof I needed that the product was effective! I had to play with the recipe and tweak it several times, however, before I had a lotion that was both effectice AND pleasant to use.
Finally, herbs have a long history of use in health care around the world; herbs are, in fact, the oldest form of health care. There is a great deal of empirical evidence gathered from the long history of people around the world using herbs for healing that herbalists can draw on in order to formulate their products. This kind of traditional knowledge is often the starting point for developing a new product.
I care a great deal about the products I make and how those who purchase them experience them and so I put a great deal of research, care and testing into them before I feel comfortable selling them. If its not good enough for my family, its not good enough to sell!
So, did you learn something new about Herbalists? Have you ever consulted a Herbalist?
Gotta pay the bills...