Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meredith Murdock, a Registered Aromatherapist and Master Herbalist, for Mystic Mag. She was kind enough to share her views and experiences with herbal and aromatic therapies and discuss related topics with us.
What inspired you to become a herbalist, and how did you start your journey in this field?
The safety of others is really what propelled me into this career. For many years I was the Practice Manager and Owner of an integrative health clinic. During my time there, I found many of our patients taking “natural” remedies and hurting themselves. I decided to take a “quick” safety class on oils and herbal medicine. This then changed my life and I went further down the worm home until I was certified as a Registered Aromatherapist and Master Herbalist.
Can you tell us about a particularly memorable experience where you helped a patient with herbal remedies?
My most memorable experience was with a woman I will call Mary. Mary came into my store looking for essential oils that would help her kidneys and liver. She was just notified by her Primary Care Physician that both her liver and kidney levels were abnormal on her blood tests.
I suggested to her that we should look more at herbs than oils and she briefly argued with me. She told me that she has been drinking essential oils of peppermint and lemon in her water on a daily basis for as long as she could remember. When I inquired as to why her labs were abnormal, she said her doctor couldn’t figure it out.
From there I explained the danger of drinking essential oils in water, especially on a long-term basis. She was absolutely shocked that these things could happen. We started her on a herbal regime with dried herbs in teas.
She took those herbs for 8 weeks and went back to her doctor for more blood work. Her levels had come almost back to normal. She was so excited.
She still comes in once every few months to say hello and refill her herbs. In this process, she has also said she has gained more energy and felt better than she has in years.
What are some common misconceptions people have about herbal medicine, and how do you address them?
The main concern that I have is when people assume that “natural” means safe. Many people do not understand the amount of education that one has to go through to become certified in these modalities. There are many misconceptions because they are not applied to by the state so anyone can know about herbal and aromatic therapies. The truth is there is so much science and chemistry involved.
Many of us will have a nursing degree. If we don’t we will have to take Anatomy and Physiology, Pathophysiology, Organic Chemistry, and Pharmacokinetics. This can take the average person many months if not years.
Our job is always to educate. Those in our fields will always try to educate before we “sell” anything. It’s just the nature of our education and training. We are here to tell you if Dr. Google is right or wrong and why. We are here to understand your wellness concerns and how to support them.
Many people when they hear what I do have visions of long hair with dreads spinning around the moon at night and asking the universe for an answer. I have been called a “tree-hugging hippie” and other somewhat derogatory names.
However, my schooling and my understanding of the human body is just as strong as some other low-level healthcare practitioners. We need to know what herbs and oils support certain conditions and which herbs and oils can interact with other medications. People may not know that our training is very functional, meaning that we look at the person as a whole. A true Herbalist or Aromatherapist will work with you from a body, mind, and spiritual standpoint. Not just from one area.
In that way, we are also trained in concepts of other medicine, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and others from across the globe.
How do you stay up to date with the latest research and developments in the field of herbal medicine?
In both the aromatic and herbal practitioner communities, there is always new research coming out. I am fortunate enough to sit on boards and go to conferences where some of the brightest in research are out every day building trails and creating scientific research projects.
Due to the smaller number of practitioners in our industries, you could say we are a global community. Technology has connected all of us so much that all information is dispensed quickly and professionally.
There are also numerous books that come out and others in university settings that are doing research. This information can be found at the National Institute of Health (PubMed) in the USA.
Can you share with us your favorite herb, and why it is so special to you?
There are so many favorites that I have depending on what I am trying to accomplish. But I think if I had to choose just one or two, I would choose Ginger and Rosemary. Both of these herbs, while they are well-known culinary herbs, also serve so many other purposes. I also grow both of them in my garden. I think because of that, they warm my heart more than others. However, there are so many other beautiful species that it is truly hard to just pick one.
What do you love most about your profession?
I love plant science. I love learning about the chemistry of plants and how this translates to possible actions within the human body. I am currently taking a continuing education course on essential oil constituents. These have always fascinated me. How one chemical constituent that one plant makes changes the way other chemicals react and behave. To me, it’s fascinating and brings attention to the plants that are so desperately needed.