by Ashley Litecky Elenbaas, M.Sc, RH(AHG)
This July 4th as we are celebrating the birth of our free nation here in the US we should also consider the ways we can advocate for the freedom of plants and the use of plant medicines. In a country where free speech and now marriage are constitutional rights, we should also carefully scrutinize our freedom in health care choices. While the Affordable Care Act has made medical services more accessible I think we should ask ourselves if this is really enough in creating a nation of well people.
No matter who we are, our voice and actions have power. We can all positively impact the world in simple ways. Here is a list of three easy ways you can step up and advocate for the future of plants, health care freedom, and the continuance of traditional herbal medicine.
Advocate for the Plants – Plants are intrinsically valuable. Herbalist, author, and poet Stephen Buhner mentions throughout his book, “Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm” plants are highly intelligent, soulful, and adaptive beings and deserve to be respected and protected as much as any other creature of the planet. One way we can advocate for endangered medicinal plants is to become involved with United Plant Savers. United Plant Savers' mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the US and Canada and their habitat ensuring a renewable supply for generations to come. It is very easy to join the United Plant Savers and a yearly donation of $35 helps to fund projects across the country to protect plants in danger of being overharvested and protect habitats that house some of our most beloved medicinal species. You can purchase seeds from their site to help repopulate endangered plants in your area or register for upcoming events and trainings.
Advocate for National Health Freedom Coalition – You may not know it but in recent history herbal medicine and naturopathy were under the threat of being considered “unlawful” after a powerful case was brought to court in Minnesota in 2000. The case was filed against a farmer who was selling colostrum and because he did not carry a license he was being charged for practicing medicine without a license. There was an uprising because if this farmer was found guilty then herbalists, homeopaths, naturopaths, and many other holistic practitioners across the country could be also be charged and this would severely limit the range of health care options available to the general public. The National Health Freedom Coalition (NHFC) was founded to ensure access to all health care information, services, treatments and products that the people deem beneficial for their own health and survival and to promote an understanding of the laws and factors impacting the right to access in order to promote the health of the people of this nation. This group is filled with powerful voices from lawyers to folk herbalists who all believe that access to any kind of health care should not be limited. It is easy to get involved with your local State Health Freedom Group and stay up to date with any legislation in your state that could affect your access to the health care or your freedom to practice herbal or holistic medicine. They also have materials to help you set up a local discussion group and many other ways to get more involved.
Advocate for the American Herbalists Guild – Another crucial piece of keeping plant medicine and plant culture alive is through communities of people who believe in the power of plants. The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) was founded 25 years ago by a diverse group of herbalists practicing in the US who wanted to create an organization for herbalists regulated by herbalists. The Guild advocates for those who practice any form of herbal medicine from folk herbalism, traditional western herbalism, Ayurveda, and southern Appalachian herbalism. With free webinars, a scholarly journal, a yearly symposium on a variety of plant topics, and a board of herbalists who register professional herbal practitioners, the AHG is a hub for herbal information, education, and support. For those who love plants and wish to be more connected to other plant people the Guild provides a general membership option for $70, student membership for $60 and over a dozen local chapters so you can link up with herbalists from all walks of life and both study and contribute to the field of herbal medicine.
So, as you tip your glass of chilled herbal tea or cocktail to our nation’s birthday and celebrate its sovereignty, you can also feel good knowing that you have made a contribution toward the protection of our nation’s plants and its plant loving people! Happy July 4th everyone!
Ashley Litecky Elenbaas is a Clinical Herbalist and owner of Sky House Yoga, a donation-based wellness collective in Silver Spring, Maryland. www.skyhouseyoga.com