Saturday, August 2, 2008

The NW Herb Fest and Directions to the Gallagher's House

As previously reported I headed down to Eugene Oregon last weekend to attend Sharol Tilgner’s NW Herb Fest. I went not only for pleasure and my own learning experience but also to support and the Gallagher family by vending their fabulous herbal adventure game, Wildcraft!

The fest itself was very well organized with a large variety of herbalists attending as well as classes offered.

I think the highlight of my trip was meeting Robin DiPasquale, a naturopathic physician who worked at Bastyr for a number of years and now lives in Madison Wisconsin. Her classes on Oligomennorhea and Ammenorhea, The Liliaceae family and the female connection, as well as her plantwalk on trees contained just the right amount of botany, research, personal experience, herbal taste testing and sensitivity to emotional and spiritual aspects. Plus she is one of those people that glow with kind radiant energy.

I also really enjoyed two classes with Paul Bergner. One on insulin resistance and the other one treating pain with herbs. You can read more about insulin resistance here. The most interesting thing I took away from the pain lecture was how muskuloskeletel pain can be a symptom of food allergies. Paul reported that he had a big “Ah hah!” in his clinic when muscle aches and pains were inadvertently decreased when possible food allergies were taken out of the diet. So, of course, one student in the class asks what labs he uses to determine allergies. Paul’s reply is that he uses a very simple test that is over 80% accurate. He asks that client, “If there was a food that you might be sensitive to, what would that be?” For the most part people already know. He said if they needed further prompting he says, “You know the food that gives you heartburn, headaches, nausea, etc.” and they say, Oh, of course, when I eat (fill in the blank) I get … I appreciate that kind of testing. ☺

The other thing that I learned this weekend was the many different approaches to herbalism. I went to this conference looking forward to taking more intermediate to advanced workshops. I was ready to move on to that next level. However, in so doing I think I took a number of workshops not really suited to my own herbal approach. It seems like the more advanced classes were instructors disseminating clinical research for clinicians such as ND’s, MD’s, etc. As a result I took a class on Neurotransmitter Herbs that was a complete waste of my time. (Not that is was a bad class in general, just for me.) In Structural Medicine we spend a lot of time on the Nervous System as this is something we commonly need to effect for permenant change, so I was really looking forward to seeing an herbal role in this system, however, the whole hour and a half was spent describing the nervous system – something that is very complex, but can easily be read in any physiology textbook. I had gone to that workshop instead of one on moxibustion, so that was definitely disappointing.

Luckily my husband went to all the plant walks and brought back loads of practical useful information. If I go next year I will enjoy the plant walks instead of taking more advanced classes based on clinical research trials and textbook physiology.

It was overall a great weekend meeting so many other herbalists, getting a view into Chinese medicine, and seeing all the various places people take the amazing world of plants.

I think most importantly I confirmed for myself that learning to be an herbalist comes down to personal experience and focus with the plants themselves. Keeping it simple by learning from plants is my preferred herbalist path.

Now, you may be wondering how to find the Gallagher’s house (I hope you don’t mind me passing out directions, John.) So, head to Western Washington and stop at the largest patch of plantago major you see and there you will find the Gallagher’s house.