If you are like many other people these days, you’ve probably hopped onto the Alternative Health bandwagon. Whether you're riding it fully in the box, or you’ve got one leg dangling out, chances are you have recently purchased, or thought about purchasing some form of Herbal Medicine. Herbal Medicines come in many forms, like tinctures, flower essences, essential oils, oxymels, salves and teas, just to name a few. Most likely you’ve heard that this plant is good for that ailment, or that this plant worked for so-and-so so it should work for you, or that this essential oil is a magical bullet for all that ails you.
So you hear about this plant, and you decide you want to purchase it. Where do you go? Most likely not to your local Herbalist/s, which is unfortunate. No, you most likely go to a big box store that you know and love, or to the big name supplement store on the same block, or you go ask that friend of yours who’s job title is listed as “Wellness Advocate” on Facebook.
One thing that all these sources have in common? They don’t give a damn about the plants that are harvested, how they are handled, or the people that they are selling them to. They only care about their profits and their annual revenues, not about whether that herb has been harvested ethically, prepared spiritually, and administered mindfully. They don’t care if that herb is actually a fit for your personal constitution, and that “Wellness Advocate” you know, may have a heart of gold and really really want to help, but at the end of the day they are selling products for huge companies who don’t give a damn about you, or them for that matter, as much as the companies like to say otherwise.
So why should you buy from a local Herbalist instead of big name companies? There are so many reasons! Here are just a few:
- The plants used are much more likely to be ethically, sustainably and mindfully sourced.
- Most small time Herbalists harvest their own plants and make their own medicines, giving each remedy its own infusion of personalized magic.
- Plants that are harvested locally have the same bio-regional imprint as your body, making them a much better fit for you.
- The money you spend stays in the community, instead of going to line the pockets of already too rich CEOs.
- You are helping that Herbalist stay in business and do what they love to do.
- You could very well be putting food on that Herbalists table that evening.
A local Herbalist is also much more likely to care about your health and wellbeing, and be more willing to sit down with you to come up with a formula that will match your needs, personal constitution, and current tissue state/s.
In British Columbia, an average herbalist, if they’re well known or work in a clinical setting (and lucky), will make, on average, about $44,000 CD per year Source. A beginning Herbalist, will not make even a small fraction of that. Compare that to some of the bigger names in the Natural Health Care World:
- Young Living made $1.9 billion USD in 2018. (Yes that's billion with a B!) Source
- Doterra made $307.4 million USD in 2020. Source
- St. Francis Herb Farm has an annual revenue of $7.75 million USD Source
- Bach Flower Essences are now owned by a company called Nelsons in Great Britain, which is the UK’s largest manufacturer of Natural Healthcare products. Nelsons had an annual 2019 revenue of $71.40 million USD. Source
Now imagine if that money stayed in communities. Studies have shown that when money is spent at small, local businesses, 52% of their revenue is put back into the local economy. That number is just 14% for big box stores and other chain retailers. Source
We also need to take into consideration the long term sustainability of these huge corporations. Just think of how much raw plant material is needed to make an annual profit of $1.9 billion, and the resources required! We are basically factory farming our medicines. How many of those plants are picked and prepared mindfully by hand? How many of those plants are harvested with love and longevity in mind? How many of those plants are treated with respect, instead of as another commodity to line pockets with? But also, how much of that $1.9 billion actually goes back to the hands of the farmers, or to the people doing the leg work at the bottom of the pyramid? To even be enrolled as a distributer for companies like this, a person has to spend a fortune up front to even make it worth their time, and then they sell super marked up products, and only get a fraction back (4-8%) in commission.
This post may anger some people, especially if you yourself, or someone close to you has “Wellness Advocate” or “Influencer” or some other sort of job title. I understand that people who are in these roles are also just small business, looking to make ends meet, and help people along the way. They are selling a product they truly believe in and there is nothing wrong with that. My issues are with the large multi-million dollar corporations pulling the strings, and screwing people over along the way.
I’m going to close this post with a quote from a very well written article that you can find on the United Plant Savers website...
“... we would like to think that the path this product has taken from its origins to our shopping cart is free from atrocity, dirty business, and unkind environmental practices. But is this really the case? How, for example, can the bark of Hawaiian sandalwood (Santalun albun) or palo santo (Bursera graveolens) be “sustainably harvested” when the biological, ecological, social, and economic data that would define its sustainable harvest do not exist? Can there really be such a thing as “ethically wild crafted” or “ethically harvested” when we are purchasing a critically-threatened species? Can a product be sustainable when an entire culture has become enslaved by its sale on the international market?” Source