In which I explain why we should revive domestic medicine…

I have heard a lot of people complaining that their doctor didn’t help them when they had Covid, to which I reply, “I am glad that you didn’t have a severe case.” I mean let’s be honest, medical professionals have no idea what people who are sick can do to feel less miserable, especially since the research scientists have told them it’s not always great to tell people to take OTC cough syrups or hand out antibiotics as a placebo. The most advice you can realistically expect from a doctor is rest, ibuprofen, and fluids.

As I had a rough bout of Covid and am currently experiencing long-Covid, I understand that their advice doesn’t cut it. I honestly don’t know how people who don’t have a closet full of herbal preparations are managing. Physicians have never had a satisfactory treatment plan for post-viral syndromes, so I don’t know why we have the expectation that they are going to have a plan for long-Covid, either.

I don’t fault the physicians, though. Doctors today are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They are fixing people when they are broken or so sick that they are unlikely to live at home. There is no “cure” they can hand out for a virus, and they haven’t been taught how to make sick people more comfortable.

If you have been in a hospital recently you know that nurses really don’t do much of that anymore, either. I’ve discussed this with some of the instructors at the nurse-practitioner program I have guest-lectured for. Nurses used to receive training in nutrition and long-term care. There’s no point in that when insurance companies rarely approve extended hospital stays anymore, so the focus of nursing has changed to skills that, for better or worse, are more appropriate to the modern healthcare system.

Unfortunately, the medical profession has been marketed in our society to the point that we have unreasonable expectations of them.  I am guilty of that at times myself and want my doctor to “fix” things that can only be addressed by lifestyle changes.  As an informed consumer, I learned long ago to consult the doctor when I was in over my head, but my wellness depends mostly on me. Sometimes I forget this when the stress of navigating late-stage capitalism wears me down.

I get some medical professionals are off-putting, at times.  Having spent some time in a pre-med program, (one of my community college degrees was meant to transfer to a BSN program) I can tell you that they are pummeled with the idea that they are the definitive source of information when it comes to our health, yet for the most part they have very limited knowledge of nutrition or self-care practices that are good “preventative medicine.”  They can seem cold, dismissive, and are often guilty of not really listening to their patients. That is what we call physician burnout.

I chose to pursue a degree in clinical herbalism because I didn’t want to get bogged down in that.  Unfortunately, I have learned that professional herbalism really isn’t much better than professional medicine. A lot of herbal clinicians are also off-putting at times (this is an understatement) and too many are just marketing fad diets and nutraceutical alternatives to pharmaceuticals.

The field is unfortunately riddled with unqualified covid-denying, anti-vaxxers who use scare tactic marketing to make you distrust medical science and doctors, because they want your money. I won’t do that. I loved my science classes in college, especially biochem which makes me some sort of oddity, I know. We are so lucky to live in a time when we have science to help us identify whether a practice is safe for everyday use, should be used with discernment, or should be left in the history books.

That’s not to say there aren’t decent herbal clinicians out there. There are also decent doctors, physicians’ associates, and nurse practitioners out there. I have taught at herbal medicine conferences and taught continuing education to practitioners of professional medicine, and I am confident that there are doctors and herbal clinicians who want to work collaboratively to achieve the best outcomes for their clients.

But I propose you and I forget all that. In the past we did not involve “professionals” so much in our day-to-day pursuit of wellness and there’s truly no point in doing so now. Most of the time you don’t need a doctor, nor do you need an herbal clinician. You just need some good old-fashioned home healthcare.

Whenever I start to talk about traditional folkways on social media, I hear from people who are typical American mutts who don’t know about the popular healthcare culture of their ancestors. It really doesn’t matter.

The idea that you need to pay an “elder” or a “professional” to teach you how to take care of yourself is also a patriarchal idea that people have used to market “lost remedies” at you. It’s a snapshot of how capitalism commoditizes everything. That false narrative serves to make information seem limited and consequently turns what was once common knowledge into something people have to pay to access. There is no such thing as a “master” herbalist. That’s a made-up title used to market at you. Even my friends who have master’s degrees in clinical herbalism from accredited schools don’t call themselves that.

The information that was passed around in the old skill sharing networks was free and didn’t always come from an elder. Sometimes they came in a letter from a friend, from a conversation with a neighbor, or even from a consultation with a professional medical practitioner. Regardless of the source, the receipts came from a person who had used the receipt and was actively engaged in taking care of sick people or overseeing their care. That’s also not the case in the modern Herbal Community™.

If I had to align myself with an historical practice, I would say I am closest to an apothecary because I dearly love concocting and more to the point, I am trained in safe methods of doing so. I am also an empiric in that I privilege praxis over theory. That’s why I don’t have much time for most social media influencers. There are a lot of people who call themselves herbalists on social media whom I can tell are not.

I have decided to just let the professionals bicker and the theorists, theorize, and ignore them all. Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and let’s talk about the daily things we can do to meet our non-emergent care needs.

I propose the revival of a strong popular healthcare culture, and to do my part I decided to put together this shiny site with some posts pulled in and spruced up from my other blog and some new ones.

I would like you to view the information I share on this site as correspondence from a knowledgeable acquaintance. I am just passing along knowledge you would have been taught growing up if professional trade unions hadn’t used scare-tactic marketing to cause people to doubt their own skills and experience.


[i] Morris, Zoë Slote, Steven Wooding, and Jonathan Grant. ‘The Answer Is 17 Years, What Is the Question: Understanding Time Lags in Translational Research’. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 104, no. 12 (December 2011): 510–20. https://doi.org/10.1258/jrsm.2011.110180.

Published by Stephany Riley Hoffelt

If you want to read more about me, it's on the website www.domestic-medicine.com

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