Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Who or what is the herbal community?

In the last couple of weeks, I've heard tales of several "takes" where what can only be considered vultures, swoop in and seeing the glimmer of gold, take it from someone else.  Just tonight I read about the brutal Candy Swipe trademark take away.  This morning it was an article about a quilt pattern being trademarked.  There are also tales about trademarks on terms like "soap loaf", "lotion bar" and "tub tea".  Of course the one that is really on my mind right now is the very old remedy made with vinegar and honey blended with lots of hot roots, etc that herbalists have been making for decades, and Rosemary Gladstar wrote about (and named) in her books and class texts.  Chances are, if you know an herbalist, they make this firey cider brew.

The hardest part for me to watch is that herbalists, who have every right to be outraged by this action, are being portrayed as backwoods hippies and  hicks who are supposedly jealous because they didn't make this selfish move first.  Yes, that's it. Thousands of people who have peacefully and generously shared, taught, and sold this brew for all these years are just jealous.  Because that's how we roll, right?  

Well let me tell you a little about herb folks - just in case you might actually believe that bilge.

Nearly everyone I know in herbs gives back more than they take.  Always.  Let's not even bother talking about all the work they do to rebuild habitat for plants and wildlife all around them.  Nor the urban FREE gardens they build for inner city people.  Instead, I'd like to say that any time you see a natural disaster or a country that needs help, you can be sure that herbalists have worked to get help into the area.
A good example is Samara Botane, whose website states, "We also directly support a variety of nonprofit organizations that go into the field and provide valuable services such as midwifery education and aromatherapy help for our troops and emergency disaster workers across the globe."  I've personally been involved in several group efforts, beginning with Hurricane Katrina, and most recently with Hurricane Sandy.  Soapmakers are to me a sort of subset of herbalists, and members of a forum I've frequented challenge each other to make donations to Kiva Loans, an organization that helps people start their own micro businesses all over the world.  They continually reinvest the money they loan as they are paid back.  As a group, I imagine these soapers have loaned 100's of 1000's of dollars to help make life better for others.

But that's really the tip of the iceberg.  There are free clinics, street medics, people who feel called to help wherever they can.  Others disseminate information, teaching others through blogs, informal gatherings, books, writing for magazines like The Essential Herbal, and on and on.  This is one generous community, and herbalists have heart.  Yes, they are trying to make a living, but it's pretty hard to find someone who would stand by and not help someone who couldn't afford to pay for a remedy.  Many times we squeak by financially, but usually happily cheer each other on when success comes to one of our cohorts.  What's good for one of us is good for all of us.  I can't say herbalists never step on each other.  We're human.  But that isn't the typical behavior

Who are they?  The others?.

In something like 1993 or 1994, The Natural Product Expo arrived on the East Coast for the first time.  Somehow, my sister and I found it and attended that first year, thrilled to have found exactly the wholesale show we needed for the herb shops we had at the time.  Almost every booth was staffed by the people making the products.  Blue jeans, long hair, and happy people selling their wares, proud of the things they'd made.

THE VERY NEXT YEAR we attended again, and were mortified to see that "the suits" had arrived.  Gone were the tidy little booths.  There was glass and steel, booth bunnies, and track lighting.  Every thing gleamed.  A couple aisles in, we were stopped by a big sweaty dude (I can only assume he'd been guzzling the all natural energy drinks) in a suit who wanted to tell us about the pills he had that cured genital herpes.  "Cure?" I said, "Reeeeally.  What's in it?"  He had to stop and look at the label on the box, and I suppose due to an inability to pronounce the ingredients, he said, "Oh, it's all natural.  A bunch of herbs!"  I asked if I might take a look.  There was a list of vitamins, some other stuff, and NO herbs at all.  When I told him there were no herbs, he said, "herbs... vitamins... whatever."

And THAT, my friends, is what happens when people who haven't the heart or the soul to understand herbs or the herbal community decide they can make big bucks from them.

It is a total lack of respect for the incredible abilities of herbs, a lack of respect for herbalists, and a complete and utter disregard for the customer.  They see dollar signs.  They think that if we don't play it that way, it's because we have no business savvy.  They themselves don't think the product has any real value, but that the packaging and marketing and the "snake oil biz" is what it's all about.  They get all bent out of shape when the government won't let them make medical claims, because they are alllllll about the medical claims.  They bring scrutiny to the industry because they want alllll those dollars.

So back to the firey cider brew.
Is it any wonder that we want to protect our tradition, community, and old remedies from that?  This kind of disregard is more than insulting.  For weeks, people have been trying to explain these concepts to the people who appropriated the name of this formula, forcing others who have been using it for decades to remove it from their on-line shops, but it has fallen on deaf ears.  Instead, they mock the herbalists, making fun of the qualities and sensibilities that make us who we are.  It's no wonder, really.  It's two different worlds, two different languages.  Unfortunately, I'd hoped that they would be able to hear, but they have chosen to force a legal battle.  Please sign the petition to help make that happen.
The Petition and watch the video in which Rosemary Gladstar teaches it (again) and gives the recipe!


Jenza said...

Love it!!

Sandra Hess said...

Thank you very much. Such a shame it needs said and for action to be

LeAnn said...

Well said!

Sandra Meyer said...

Well written, well said. Thanks.

Shannon Buck said...

Thanks for writing this!!! I was waiting until February 10th to see if Shire City Herbals would make the "right" decision, but sadly they did not. I have signed the petition and have spread the word. I know that in the end they will lose the unethical claim to our much beloved Fire Cider. Our wonderful Mother Gaia will see to it.


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