David Harder RH (AHG) is a clinical herbalist and registered member of the American Herbalist Guild. He has been a student of nutrition and botanical medicine for over 30 years. He is trained in diet and nutrition as well as in the systems of Western and Chinese herbal medicine. He practices at Nature’s Way in Easton, Pennsylvania, a store he and his wife opened in 1975.
What motivated you to become a clinical herbalist?
I’ve always been a person who enjoys the outdoors: a woodsman, gardener, back to the roots type person. An interest in studying herbs came instinctually. Historically, all cultures used plants a means to better health, and I was fascinated by the subject.
I tried to bone up on my own, but I was reticent of just offering info I had read in a magazine or book. There weren’t a whole lot of resources that put together a local herbal system based on historical facts. A lot of what David Winston teaches is a system of how to apply use of herbs and being a person who respects facts, that made sense to me. Now I see how lacking most individuals must be in answering people’s questions.
How do you incorporate your herbal practice into your retail setting? How does DSHEA factor into your way of operating?
I use my knowledge to educate customers. I answer their questions in the aisles and also offer free services for 15 minute sit-downs on a given day. On Thursdays from 11–5 people can bring their bag of supplements from whatever they have been shopping and ask me about them. This is not a sales pitch, it is a free service that just helps develop relationships. It’s good marketing for the store, and really helps people. It helps me hone my skills, too.
I also offer appointments for a fee for those who require a more in depth service, where I can apply myself more thoroughly. I have a small office in the store. I do restrict my practitioner hours because I have a store to run.
People are hungry for information, especially that which has been used by their ancestors. They want to be able to help themselves and I can help them with that. DSHEA works well in this format. I educate my customer as to how they can strengthen their constitution, how they can nourish and improve the normal function of their body.
Do you advise this route for other retailers?
I think some retailers are not so concerned about dispensing quality information and some don’t want to take the time. Although the reality for my success in retail in the changing Natural Foods marketplace is founded on my expertise and the relationship I have developed with my customers who know I can help them.
How long did it take you to become a certified clinical herbalist and what were the most helpful things you did?
I started formal studies in 1991. I am still practicing, as they say. The hardest was transitioning from a well-educated student with skills to a craftsman who had experience to speak from.
What led you to study with David Winston?
I learned about David from a recently hired employee. David was relatively local. Again, instinctively I knew I needed to know more about herbs. After talking to David, I figured I’d give the studies a try. I got lucky: David was a very knowledgeable person with a special aptitude and passion for herbs and herbalism. There is no turning away for me.
Tell us about your involvement in the sliding-scale clinic operated by your fellow graduates of David’s program.
Kerry Adams, myself and a few other herbalists started meeting on a regular basis to exchange our experiences in practice. We recognized the need for a reduced fee service to enable some people to afford the “peoples” medicines who otherwise could not afford the expertise. Also we saw the need for a teaching clinic to help newly graduated students to get hands-on experience. We hope the clinic will serve both of these purposes. Also we hope to continue to learn more from each other in this scenario.
We meet in Changewater NJ, at Kerry’s office, Herbally Your’s. Although planning starting back 2 or 3 years ago, the clinic is just gearing up. So far word of mouth is the main way patients are finding us, but we are starting to do brochures. We work in a circle format where one is herbalist is primary and the others are auditors. We are working on adding more involvement from David Winston’s students.