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With herbs, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

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The young woman was introduced by a friend to herbal teas, much to her delight. For various health complaints, she was informed, there were herbs--easily taken as delicious drinks--that could help without use of pharmaceuticals. Having only limited income from a part-time job in a fast food chain, and therefore no insurance, either, the woman set out to buy as many boxes of teas as she could carry.

Before long, however, the new herb user was setting herself up as some type of expert on the subject of herbal medicine. Reading wasn't her long suit--but she could make out the ingredients on the labels with some help. Unfortunately, not every box she purchased explained what the herbs could be used for in health issues. Many of the products also contained blends of various plants and she had no clue as to what these could accomplish together, what with their various attributes combining synergistically. Herbgirl also never realized that certain conditions would be negatively affected by specific plant materials, either. In short, she just merrily went along "prescribing" these teas for herself and all her friends, many of whom were seriously ill already.

When the herbalist she had first consulted (for free, by the way, pleading her cause based on her poverty) got wind of her actions, she was appalled. In no uncertain terms she explained how such improper use of herbal medicine, with no consultation of the patients in advance, could cause severe reactions. At worst, she was not likely to help anyone, with extremely little knowledge of herbal medicine. For example, did she know if any of her friends were pregnant, taking blood thinners, or addicted to any substances? Were any of them already taking pharmaceutical drugs that could interact badly with the teas, causing further illness?

The young woman only blinked, completely oblivious to what was being discussed. She went back out after this lecture and blithely continued giving misinformation, as well as free tea bags, to anyone she knew. It didn't matter if her friends had a cold or cancer, Herbgirl set herself up as an expert despite not even having a highschool diploma let alone education in herbal medicine.

In Michigan, the laws on this topic are fuzzy; while it's not strictly illegal in some senses to practice any form of alternative medicine including herbal, you can't claim to be healing any health condition. The wording is ambiguous at best and you need, in such a field, to navigate carefully. While there is no requirement as of yet for a licence to practice herbal medicine in our state, the dangers of wrongly diagnosing and treating someone should be enough to cause caution. No one really would want to inflict harm through carelessness, surely, or they wouldn't want to get into such a field to start with. That's why there are schools that are approved by the state to teach these professions, such as Blue Heron Academy at several locations throughout Michigan (see www.blueheronacademy.com).

There is also an organization--Michigan Natural Health Coalition (see www.michigannaturalhealthcoalition.org) which is battling to enshrine the rights of all Michiganders to use alternative health measures of any sort they wish. This group also is attempting to make sure that all legitimate holistic practitioners in this state can function as they are trained to do and help people without harming them. For more information on this group and their efforts, go to the above link and please sign their petitions, get on their mailing list, and help in the struggle to keep the door open for alternative medicine practitioners and their patients.

If you'd like to attend Blue Heron Academy but can't get to Grand Rapids or their other locations from Detroit, see this link for their special "e-learning" programs:

http://www.blueheronacademy.com/elearning.htm

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