From Herbalist to Author: the Writer’s Journey

How long does it take to publish a textbook series? For this naturopathic doctor and renowned herbalist, the journey spans nearly a decade.

“I think this is the culmination of my many notes and class handouts and conference venues and powerpoint presentations or lecture notes that I would give to students or give to conference attendees. My books have matured from my several decades of teaching. So, I don’t mean I was really working on the books for a decade, but the basic knowledge base and the notes just got more fleshed out, or more research-backed, or evidence-based…when I go back and look at my very earliest notes, they were very rudimentary.”

It’s no wonder that Dr. Stansbury’s familiarity with the medicine is light years beyond most of ours. She has been in naturopathic practice for over thirty years, and in that time, she has truly gotten know herbs
throughout North and South America, leading botanical medicine teaching brigades into the wilds of South American rainforests to meet the herbs in their natural habitats. Over time, and with many students under her tutelage, she noticed a growing trend: her students understood the materia medica, and they were understanding more of the plants’ “personalities,” but to create formulas that were clinically appropriate and effective was proving more of a challenge.

“Some people might treat a minor flare up of IBS with little gas and bloating with the same intensity that they were treating acute infectious hepatitis. When is this really an urgent situation when we’re trying to keep someone out of the hospital…and when is just a simple cup of tea a fine starting point? There’s a lot that goes into selecting good formulas. That’s where I saw many students struggle.”

And that’s where her entire approach to herbal medicine shifted. As an advocate for practical uses of herbal medicine, she is clear about her priorities when choosing the right forms and formulas for clinical use.

“When to be aggressive, what form of medicine to use, what kind of combination might we want to make a formula most fine tuned for any individual? There’s a bit of nuanced thinking there. [Herbs] that are expensive, or exotic, or endangered, may have a few little niche situations when they are really appropriate. And [herbs] that are run-of-the-mill, common, non-endangered, nontoxic, building, nourishing, trophorestorative herbs can often be the foundation of so many formulas. Alterative herbs, adaptogens, herbs as food, more flavonoids in the diet, berries, leafy greens, then complement them with herbs that might be most specific for that individual. Starting with those nourishing trophorestoratives is always ideal, then we can choose which [more specific] herbs are most energetically and situationally correct…for the person, not the diagnosis.”

But research is regrettably not very individual, and relies heavily on diagnoses to investigate the effectiveness of treatment. How does she extrapolate from the research to create individualized formularies?

“Of course, all of the research is on the diagnosis or on a molecular pathway, so I’ve also tried to weave in that evidence, but not be a slave to thinking only in that way. We use that research to our benefit but come to an individualized formula, which always comes back to the folkloric uses, [on our own].”

Dr. Stansbury, thank you for your tremendous contributions in educating this generation of herbalists on the both the physical and energetic levels of each plant. We are so excited for the launch of your newest text, Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Volume 2!

Watch the Full Interview with Dr. Jillian Stansbury

Buy the Book(s)!

To purchase Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Volumes 1 and 2, please visit Chelsea Green Publishing. Be sure to use coupon code NATCE to take 35% of the purchase of either tome, valid until December 31, 2018 at 11:59 pm. Cannot be combined with any other offers.


Sarah E Ouano ND

After graduating from National University of Health Sciences (IL) as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in 2011, Sarah completed a residency in Seattle, WA, which focused on infectious disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder. While there, she also served as a volunteer physician at an LGBTQIA homeless shelter, acting as a primary care physician for both youth and adult patients. In 2016, she completed a term of AmeriCorps VISTA service, and has since become heavily invested in the intersection of public health and social justice, and how an individual’s health picture shapes a community.