How did you first become interested in herbs and what path led you to David’s center for the herbal studies course?
I first met David in the early 1980s. I was at a crossroads in my life where I was looking at changing my career path. I had been doing social work, working in the prison system and working with adolescent girls in a group home. And, while I was enjoying this work, I was interested in helping people in a different way, something bigger and deeper.
I was living in Boston at the time. My friend Katie had heard about David’s herbal studies program and specifically about a course that he was offering on Swann’s Island in Maine. We signed up for the course, which was held on a beautiful, pristine island. It was really a wonderful experience from so many standpoints and, for me, the beginning of a 30 year career in holistic health.
But the best part of the experience was being introduced to David and his way of approaching plants. Of course, I had never experienced anything like this before. As you know, David has intuitive relationships with plants as well as an incredibly knowledgeable mental database of the plant world. So, he has both right brain—deep understanding and left brain—academic knowledge.
I remember the first day of being on Swann’s Island, he convinced us that we—all of us—could communicate with plants telepathically. In order to prove this, he sat each of us down in front of a plant that we had never seen before and he asked us to spend an hour with the plant and said that the plant would talk to us and would tell us what it was used for.
Although we were very skeptical at first, we were there in such a beautiful setting and so we were willing to spend that time outdoors communing with our plant. And, in fact, at the end of the hour when we all came back together, it turned out that everyone had gotten it right. We were all 100% correct about our plant.
How has your training with David influenced you?
During that first trip, we would walk with David through the forest, observing and picking certain plants. David knew everything about every single one—where it was commonly grown, its history, what other plants grew around it, most of its chemical constituents (could run into the 100s), its energetic properties and its common uses. For me, knowing that there was a person living on planet earth who was this knowledgeable about the medicinal qualities of the plant world really came as a shock to me because, before that, I was only familiar with the concept of pharmaceutical drugs. I never really questioned where these drugs came from, the origins of their formulations and all of their different chemical constituents. What’s inside a medicine or what’s inside a plant? I had never asked this question.
And then, suddenly, here’s David, who has both an intuitive relationship and an academic relationship to these plants and really knows, really understands both— their energetic nature as well as their chemical components and what they can be used for. So, this opened up a whole world for me and it became a kind of model for what a holistic practitioner could be.
How do you incorporate herbs into your health care practice?
Well, I’m now and have been for almost 25 years a licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Nationally Certified.
At the beginning was my study of western herbs with David. When I began, some of the western herbalists called it a “kitchen practice” meaning that you had a few herbs in your kitchen and people could come and knock on the kitchen door and say, “Oh, I have a sore throat” or “I have a pain.” And, you would go to your little shelf of herbs, whether it’s herbal teas or tinctures, and you would choose something for them that would help to address the problem.
I started that way and after a while the kitchen practice started growing because more and more people were showing up at the kitchen door to ask me for herbal advice and to buy herbs. At that point I realized that I had to make a choice about whether I was going to go full time into some kind of holistic health career. I had some knowledge of western herbs and I wanted to learn more, in order to have a truly integrated holistic health practice.
So, I decided to go to acupuncture school for three years. This was twenty-five years ago. I learned about Chinese herbs along the way, about homeopathy and, just generally filled in the blanks with a lot of holistic health information.
Now, herbs and botanicals are incorporated into my practice every day. I have a healing center in Miami, Florida. We have about a dozen people who work here; different types of therapists including herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists and nutritionists. Each of us integrate western herbs into our therapy. In fact, I’ve designed a holistic training program that introduces 21 single herbs and 21 herbal combinations, all from Herbalist and Alchemist.
We also use Chinese herbs. I would say that we probably spend several thousand dollars a month on western and Chinese herbs.
H&A put this item into a 2014 newsletter:
Dr. Janet Galipo traveled to a remote location in Nepal to bring healthcare to impoverished villages. She joined other medical practitioners on behalf of Be Healthy Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing healthcare for people of low income.
Would you please talk about your use of herbs in your philanthropic work?
In 2014, I was part of a twenty-person medical team that travelled from the United States to the Himalayas. We were in Nepal, on the Nepal-Tibet border, and there were several doctors, about six acupuncturists, and other therapists, chiropractors, nurses, and different kinds of energy workers.
The idea was to bring some health care treatments to this remote mountainous area which really had no health care at all. One of the surprises was that there was literally no medical care. We thought that there would be a public health nurse or something. But the area was too remote and so the public health nurse was only able to visit the village maybe once every six months.
Before we arrived, the trip organizer had spread the word that this team of medical practitioners was coming, and we were able to treat over a thousand people in five clinics over a ten-day period. It was very successful. We wanted to give folks the treatment of their lives and so each person was able to be evaluated and, in many cases, to see more than one practitioner.
Since there were just a few, rare medicinal plants that grew there, all of clinic patients were extremely interested in the medicine that we had brought from the United States. We had asked Herbalist and Alchemist if they would donate to this trip and they very, very kindly asked us to prepare a list of what we thought we would need. This was challenging because we really had no idea of what we would encounter, but I did prepare a list. David supplied everything we asked for. It was at least a couple of hundred bottles of herbal extracts.
We were trying to anticipate what we might need. Lung herbs? Digestive herbs? Pain and arthritis? There was a fair amount of guess work involved, but it turned out very well. And all of the herbs were used.
We were able to supply the people who needed it most with very high quality herbal medicine, David’s extracts. They so much appreciated it! And it was wonderful to be able to distribute these botanical extracts which had been prepared a world away and brought to this Himalayan kingdom. We are arranging another Nepal trip for this October 2017 and hope to approach Herbalist and Alchemist again!
How do you envision herbal medicine evolving based on what you have seen throughout your herbal career?
In my opinion, the need for herbal medicine grows greater each day. If we think about what is in a plant, there is such a complex assortment of compounds to maintain and restore health. They include antibiotics, anti-fungals, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, etc. etc. Plant medicine is the basis for at least half of the pharmaceutical drugs we use. The chemical compounds within the plant world are absolutely necessary for our human survival.
These days, many of our food sources are being questioned. A great deal of our food supply has decreased nutritional content due to current farming methods and transport methods. Organically raised or wild-crafted plants add rich sources of vitamins and trace minerals to our diet. They also help to reduce the effects of toxic exposure that comes from modern living – air, water, radiation exposure, and other environmental toxins
If you look at the chemical constituents found in a plant, it’s amazing. An adaptogenic herb such as nettle leaf or Schisandra contains hundreds of chemicals and it’s all within a single plant. Why not just pick the plant and use it? It’s perfect just as it is.