Interview With David Hoffmann
by Patricia Kyritsi Howell, RH (AHG)
Medical herbalist David Hoffmann has been a political activist for decades. As a Green Party candidate in Wales in 1983, he stood for election to a seat in the UK Parliament. After moving to the United States, he was a founding member and past president of the American Herbalists Guild. He now serves on the advisory boards of both the American Botanical Council and United Plant Savers. He has published 17 books, teaches at the California School of Herbal Studies in northern California, and is a visiting faculty member of Bastyr University in Washington state.
A Fellow of Britain’s National Institute of Medical Herbalists and a practicing phytotherapist for thirty years, Hoffmann is a leader in the debate about the ecological impact of the increasing demand for herbal products in the expanding global herb marketplace. I spoke with David by phone at his office at Traditional Medicinals in northern California.
Howell: When you were studying to become a medical herbalist, how much did conservation issues influence the materia medica you used?
Hoffmann: In none of my training was there any mention of conservation. The silence stood out to me, because I had just finished getting a degree in conservation biology and had sort of a paranoid ecological perspective that caused me to really look at conservation issues. At that time I felt that ecological collapse was imminent. I suddenly realized that if I hadnot done any botany studies before beginning my herbalist training, I could have earned my degree without ever seeing a plant! All of our tinctures were made with dry herbs. I was accustomed to using a lot of lady’s slipper, and thought it was a great herb, but I guess I should have known by its cost alone that it was an endangered plant. I started to push the National Institute in Britain to look at conservation issues.
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