In Which I Explain the Modern Relevance of Domestic Medicine

The volunteers in our mutual group sent out hundreds of care packages to people who were sick at home with Covid. I was the point of contact for handling requests and offering recommendations for herbal adjunct care.

Many people complained to me 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.” If you are not in the hospital, the most advice you can realistically expect to hear from a doctor is rest, ibuprofen, and fluids.

There is no “cure” they can hand out for this virus, and they haven’t been taught how to make sick people more comfortable. 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 critically ill. Physicians have never had a satisfactory treatment plan for post-viral syndromes, so I don’t expect that they are going to have a plan for long-Covid, either.

As I had a rough bout of Covid and am currently experiencing long-Covid, I understand that this is frustrating. I honestly don’t know how people who don’t have a closet full of herbal preparations are managing.

If you have been in a hospital recently you know that nurses really don’t do as much of that type of work 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 convalescent 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.

Yes, there are still nurses who work in long-term care, usually in elder care or assisted living settings but palliative care is different than convalescent care. Most nurses don’t follow what I am talking about when I mention that.

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, 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.”  Right now they are overwhelmed. They may seem cold, and 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. I know many. 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 conventional 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 that 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.

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 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” to you.

This is a snapshot of how capitalism commoditizes everything. That false narrative serves to make the information seem exclusive and consequently turns what was once common knowledge into something people must pay to access.

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™. There are a lot of people who call themselves herbalists on social media whom I can tell do not actually work with clients.

If I had to align myself with a 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.

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 the 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.

Published by Stephany Riley Hoffelt

If you want to read more about me, it's on the website

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