Dr. Orest Pelechaty
How and when did you first become interested in formal training for herbal medicine?
Let us start with some background. My family were refugees from Ukrainia, and before being displaced by WW2 they lived pretty much a lifestyle from Little House on the Prairie. I spent my childhood summers in rural New Jersey with my grandparents, who were young at the time of the Hapsburg Empire. So, Allopathy and junk food were rare phenomena. My mother has a great love for plants and studied to be a pharmacist, so besides experiencing cultural relativity I was aware of herbal remedies from an early age. Then with the counter-culture experiences of the 1970’s I was exposed to Macrobiotics, Back to Eden and Euell Gibbons and various plant entheogens.
I started formal studies in western Phyto-Medicine during my 3rd year of my Acupuncture training, when Simon Mills MH would fly in from England to teach monthly weekend intensives. By then I had already had two years of TCM Pharmacognosy with Ted Kaptchuk OMD.
What year did you begin David Winston’s two year herbalist training program?
It was 1982 I believe.
Did you also take the advanced class? Are you involved in his continuing education seminars?
When I attended classes with David, it was early on in my career and also earlier in the life of his School of Botanical Medicine (now known as David Winston’s School of Botanical Medicine). At that time there were no advanced class. In recent years I have on occasion tuned into his Herbal Therapeutics Research Library teleclass seminars, for professional review purposes , to receive NCCAOM professional credits and to see what my dear friend and mentor is up to. Yet on some level I feel that I have received advanced teachings, albeit on a different dimension than the formal curriculum.
My relationship with David has been around Amerindian spirituality before, during, and after my herbal studies with him. So for me the intuitive, non-linear, and sacred have always been an aspect of his teachings about the “green nations”. Let me talk story for a bit.
In the late 70’s I was present when one of my Buddhist teachers Dr. Yeshe Donden, a very senior Tibetan physician-monk, visited Earth House and held an informal symposium with David, sharing their common insights while we all sat in a meadow near the woodlands. It was quite inspiring. A return along the spiral occurred in 2005 when I was able to invite David to a rare Naga ceremony in Upper Black Eddy on the Delaware River, being performed by Lama Dr. Tsewang Rimpoche, my Tibetan medicine mentor and a powerful tantrika. It was incredible to sit at a table with the sponsor (a musician from Peru), David, and Rimpoche and hear how each of three cultures has the exact same spiritual insight into the crisis on our planet. We followed that with an herb walk at the Community ceremonial site, and Rimpoche and David found great commonality between the Eclectics and Buddhist Ayurveda in the various plants and their uses. By the way, the next few days saw a massive flood all the way down to Trenton and yet not one person was seriously harmed. Maybe the local nagas (water spirits) were indeed pacified?
What has your formal training in herbs encompassed?
My professional training is built around Oriental Medicine. I also apprenticed with Dr. Aija Lee in NYC, pursued studies with Rev. Jeffrey Yuen, and did post doc work at Khyung Hee Medical University in Seoul. As most of my 8,000 patients have not been Asian, my interest has been to integrate medicinals which are ‘western’ and local whenever possible. For me naturopathic, homeopathic, and essential oil therapeutics all share a common source. I often teach Herba Est Luce, which is Latin for “Plants are of the Light”. There is a Hermetic message there.
I have also done as much side study in Tibetan Medicine as possible; (outside of attending formal schooling in Dharamsala, India or spending a decade in close apprenticeship with a master physician in the Himalayas). Remember, it was only this year (2009) that the first graduates completed a formal 3 year TM program in the USA.
How much of your practice encompasses herbs?
Quite a bit, actually. Although I use energy medicine a LOT, especially Acupuncture and it’s ancillary therapies, the foundation of healing has to be a balanced lifestyle, meaning good food and dietary herbs first. Then secondly is supplementation (whole food and herbal based) and then therapy is third (planetary herbalism and classical TCM). The background gestalt is of course a clear Shen (Spirit) grounded in a harmonized body, meeting one’s individual Destiny with joy. This is how I approach a truly integrated holistic medicine.
Do you formulate your own, provide products by companies such as Herbalist & Alchemist, or do your patients buy them elsewhere, or a combination of these?
Sidestepping the vast topic of Oriental polypharmacy and answering your question only about western (and now more a planetary) herbalism, the short answer is ‘yes’. In clinical practice one cannot formulate without a documented pharmacy meeting GMP standards and other FDA criteria. So at my practice (Center for Integrated Holistic Medicine) I dispense prepared botanicals primarily from Herbalist & Alchemist. Just as with aromatic medicines I use Young Living essentials oil almost exclusively, and stock only a few select lines of homeopathics.
Most folks will understand the need for quality to achieve true efficacy. Although the marketplace has improved significantly for many herbals, I do educate patients to select the premier labels, such as Herbalist & Alchemist.
My major project now is to develop Old King Farm near Fair Haven VT, for bio-dynamic and wildcrafted medicinal plant production, and as a long term sanctuary for rare and endangered species. It is an amazing and historic place, with a Foundation envisioned as a center for holistic education with a large library collection and as a dharma center focused on the healing arts. For more information about the project see okfdharma.org/