This statement might sound counter-intuitive to an aspiring herbal student or seasoned practitioner. However, given our current ongoing economic downturn and the difficult, controversial efforts surrounding healthcare reform, the reality is that the time couldn’t be better for herbal students and practitioners to actively involve themselves in their communities. The high cost of an emergency room visit, office visits that last 10-15 minutes and isolate health issues without regard for total health and the promotion and ease of access of prescriptive drugs (which often create additional health problems), are all strong incentives for people to look for something better; something that considers the health and well being of the whole person. Today, more than ever, people need to be and are becoming more proactive in addressing their own healthcare. This is a good thing in and of itself, yet daunting when you consider the number of people able to quickly Internet research symptoms and self-prescribe without the benefit of training or knowledge. A trained herbalist can and does offer knowledgeable holistic care that is affordable and effective. In fact, this is a primary mission of a serious Western Herbalist.
The Ohlone Herbal Center and its students are the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area herbal movement. Acting as an educational resource for medicinal herbs in our community, we are leaders and activists in bringing herbal medicine and knowledge to the people who need it. Be it through operation of our community clinic, supplying herbs to multiple other bay area free clinics or training herbal clinicians to work in them; we address our communities’ needs for health education. In addition, the Ohlone Center provides something most other schools don’t – we have an available Clinical Herbalists Group resource with a growing network of students and graduates and a unique referral system we make available to the public.
When starting an herbal training program, students are often concerned about the viable employment opportunities that await them. We are a community-based School on the cutting edge of the alternative health field. Our training and support networks offer everything needed to establish yourself as an herbalist. While much of the time studying at Ohlone is in the realm of the plants, not income, our program graduates are trained in starting their own private practice as well. After graduation we continue to help our herbalists with referrals, business services, ongoing workshops and clinician support groups. We actively create opportunities for professional positions by helping our community care clinics expand into plant based medicine. In addition, Ohlone Center has shown leadership year over year in developing modes of complimentary practice that translate into additional career opportunities for our graduates. There are multiple directions graduates can take; private practice, working with medical practitioners in complementary care facilities, free clinics, medicine making and/or manufacturing, teaching, sales, or consulting to name a few. What the Ohlone Center provides is an exceptional education which allows and encourages graduates to use their own business savvy coupled with the support of the Center in finding their individual niche within their own communities in private practice, healing centers, or hospitals.
Medicinal herbalism is the longest uninterrupted practice of healing art on the earth. It is still used as the primary medicine of 75% of the world’s population. In other first world countries such as Germany, Japan and England, herb effectiveness is recognized and used as part of the health care delivery system. It is a sustainable, non-polluting renewable resource with some answers for our worsening health care crisis here in the US. The herbalist plays an important role in today’s health education and prevention. Herbalism is affordable and healing; the plants tone and invigorate dysfunctions returning the body to health.
This current crisis provides well trained herbalists with great opportunities to make a living providing health education and herbs for healing to their community without injuring the planet or joining the rat-race. There is great opportunity in crisis. We can’t know what students and practitioners will do with the knowledge they have gained or imagine all the wonderful innovative businesses they will set up. But we can provide them with a solid network of herbal practitioners to call on for support and provide our unique referral service.
By Pam Fischer, Executive Director on August 9, 2009