Don't panic! Unless of course you think you might be unexpectedly pregnant. In which case, panic and pee on a stick!*
Belle Benfield shares with us her deep rooted connection with Elecampane. She became a herbalist after years of studying on an apprenticeship with Karen and Fi from Sensory Solutions and now works side by side with them.
Around this time last year I was in a pretty low place. I'd just decided to basically pack all my previous business ideas up because, after a year or two of doing them, they weren't working for me. I hadn't done enough research before launching them and there was no room to grow. I decided in amongst this depression to re-brand and re-launch. I looked for what had been lighting me up all this time and I found that it wasn't herbal medicine. It was women's health.
It often seems like I'm working on the front-line of the demise of herbal medicine as we once knew it. The degrees which I studied on are slowly all closing. I currently work part time at Middlesex University on their herbal medicine masters programmes, as a dispenser, which will be closing in Summer this year.
I have watched every single herbalist I ever saw working at Neal's Yard Remedies therapy rooms come and go following months of little to no patients. This month, I'll be one of them as I finish using their space. My patients prefer to talk to me using video calls. Most of them have hormone problems and I simply don't need to see them face to face. Those who do will be coming to my home.
I'm still not making the money I aspire to but I can see now that I'm back at the very beginning again and I have to give it time. I'm ok with that.
The few herbalists I know who are fully booked with patients also have herbal shops and rent out therapy rooms. I've come to realise that the way I was taught to practice as a herbalist, just doesn't suit the life I want. I'm also seeing that degrees are not how the next generation of herbalists will learn their trade.
Question is; does this spell disaster?
I don't think so. I think herbalists' need to focus on who they help not on explaining what herbal medicine is. Our skills are valuable. The trouble is, no-one but us (or people already converted) values us. I think we're actually too good to be true and people don't trust what we're saying we can do for them. The idea that you could get a diagnosis of all your problems from a singular practitioner as well as all your symptoms dealt with in one bottle just sounds totally ridiculous when you've been raised to believe the exact opposite is necessary. One drug, one practitioner per problem.
Last year I was exhausted with life. Disillusioned.
This year I see hope. Hope that the brand I'm creating has guts, soul, and a fire up its butt. I've observed that when I tell myself I can't do something, it makes it so much harder. But when I say "This struggle is fun" the experience is totally different (exercising taught me that). I'll be testing new product ideas before they launch. I'll be writing a solid business plan. I'll be writing enough content that I'm a year ahead of myself and most importantly I'll be working in more collaborations with brands than ever before. These aren't just brands, they're friends, people I've come to know and continue to inspire me.
Last year I just kept going because I had to. This year I feel fired up. I've let go of my ideas of what it is to be a herbalist. It's not a bottle of herbs after all, it's a philosophy. A philosophy that's deep in my bones, in my very being.
What's a herbalist without their herbs?
A friggin' herbalist!
I'm listening to a podcast about insanity and mental illness. The stories in it are making me smile. But as I smile, I look up and catch the eyes of a stranger, and they look at me as if to say, are you crazy?
Smiling without a perceptible cause to the observer is seen as a potential sign of madness in england.
So you've had a stressful week. You had to do some extra long hours to stay on top of things and make sure you've got enough money at the end of the month. The stress has you sleeping rough all week and you've woken up groggy every morning with barely enough energy to get up let alone make breakfast. So you reached for the coffee and got on with the day on an empty stomach. By the end of the week you're exhausted, accidentally falling asleep in front of the TV, maybe you feel like you're catching a cold too. Next week you'll get back into your swing of things.