Last weekend (March 7-10) we went down to the Natural Products Expo West trade show. As always, it was a great opportunity to renew old friendships and make new ones. And once again, I was struck by the unique nature of the people at that show, and in this industry. Expo West is a great place for people-watching, because there are so many different people from all over the world, with so many different cultures and ideas. I enjoy it so much!
Newcomers to the industry sometimes ask, as a young man did last weekend, "what is the most important herb to know about and use?" The answer, of course, is "whichever one you need." Every body is different, and has differing strengths, weaknesses, and challenges. Which herb is most important to you depends both on your needs right now, and what herbs are available to you locally. Every body reacts a little differently to different things, and though some broad observations can be made, the devil is always in the details. What is best for one person is not always best for another.
I often hear people say that natural products are much safer than drugs, and in fact, experience shows that they are. But why are they safer? Hemlock is natural, and so are arsenic, lead and mercury. All of these materials occur naturally, and they are not safe to ingest. Even small doses can be poisonous. So you really can't say that all natural things are safe.
But natural products, as an industry and as a whole, are very safe, and remarkably effective too. Why? I think it is because we humans have experienced our natural world, with all its many natural foods and herbs, for many thousands of years, and have recorded that knowledge and experience for almost as long. During that time, a lot of knowledge has been accumulated about which herbs and materials are helpful, which are harmful, and how they can be safely used to improve health and enhance living. Each of us continues that tradition as we share our own experience with our children, relatives, friends and acquaintances. The world becomes better for us, as we experience more and learn more about how it works. There is no substitute for experience, and clinical trials are only one (very short-term) form of experience. A bigger part of experience is provided by the great diversity of people and cultures, trying things in much less precisely controlled environments, also known as "real life".
So to all of you who share in that tradition, and help to improve health by increasing knowledge about natural healing and natural health, I thank you. You brighten my day, and give me hope for a great future!