I recently attended the Herbal Medicine Conference run by the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH). It was a very interesting & encouraging experience. The strapline for the event was “stepping forward” and it really did have a feel of new growth and vibrancy to it.
Since I am a member of the United Register of Herbal Practitioners (URHP) it was very reassuring to be welcomed by the NIMH in fellowship, and over the weekend, the various seminars were a reminder of the great diversity of herbal practice, and a desire to move forward together. This was reflected most acutely in the Sunday seminar Making Giant Leaps – the role of herbal organisations in Stepping Forward, which was a discussion panel composed of a number of schools & membership organisations. It was clear from the various opinions voiced on the panel that there is room, and there is perceived to be room, for open, accessible and diverse routes into herbal medicine which The Hippocratic Institute stands for.
This diversity & accessibility theme was replicated over and over again during the weekend, from Ann Armbrecht’s Medicine of Place and the Business of Botanicals: Following Herbs to the Source, to Fawz Farhan’s Reaching New Patients Through Pharmacies. I was particularly moved by Nat Mady’s Hackney Herbal – Wellbeing through herbs, which gave an excellent insight into their highly successful community herbal medicine project. Grassroots herbalism was again in the spotlight during the panel discussion by Sue Evans, Karen Rose and Nikki Darrell in Re-rooting and re-routing: A panel discussion exploring the impact of colonisation on herbal medicine and how the herbal community might respond. Claudia Manchanda also gave a brilliant seminar on Decolonising Herbal Medicine, with a focus on how deeply-embedded cultural colonialism erodes access to land and ancestral medicine. This was ably echoed by Peter Conway in his Botanical Medicine and the Apocalypse: A Call for Deep Herbalism. With all these interlinked talks, one could not help but go away with the belief that we are in transition times, and herbalists are, like it or not, right in the middle of it.
Of course, there were also the staples you might imagine on a herbal medicine conference, like a tour through Anne McIntyre’s garden, and a masterly exposition of Functional Herbal Therapies by Kerry Bone. This was a somewhat validating presentation to hear, because the curriculum at the Hippocratic Institute is purposively designed to address naturopathic nutrition and functional medicine approaches before teaching herbal medicine. The net result of this is that graduates from our school will, by training, be able to include a functional medicine perspective in their herbal medicine treatment strategy. This is right in line with current developments in herbal medicine, as illustrated during the conference.
So, all in all the Herbal Medicine Conference was an inspiring weekend, and I am all fired-up and looking forward to the URHP Annual Conference at the end of this month.