Buy Nothing Day and the Dilemmas of an Organic Herbal Business
When we setup Organic Herbal Remedies we had a vision for a better health system. We worried about the NHS being a sickness service rather than a health service. A service in some ways led by the pharmaceutical companies to provide “a pill for every ill” using relatively short term random control trial research to gain approval for drugs that are often aimed at hiding symptoms. Drugs that often have side effects, some of which do not reveal themselves until after a license is issued. Drugs supplied by pharmaceutical companies that will hide the results of some trials because they reveal those side effects. Pharmaceutical companies driven by profit rather than the desire to improve health.
In addition to the problems with the pharmaceutical companies there are issues with how health is “delivered”. The average GP knows relatively little about nutrition and its impact on health despite the huge amount of research that demonstrates its importance. Similarly, some GPs will prescribe drugs to hide symptoms when they are fully aware that it is lifestyle issues that are causing the problems for their patients. They may get lectures on these subjects over the course of 5 years at medical school but it plays a small part compared to areas such as physiology and pharmacology. And of course, they get no formal training in herbalism, although they may be made aware that many drugs provide concentrations of phytochemicals originally extracted from plants. They may also get some perspective of the use of herbs when looking at the history of medicine. But there is no general understanding of how herbs work with the body as nutrition and take a more gentle approach to restoring health and how a “cure” for many ailments can come from looking at lifestyle and nutrition to take a genuinely holistic approach.
So our vision for Organic Herbal Remedies was to play a small part in moving towards a genuine integrated health service. A health service where, from the moment a baby is born, a GP takes responsibility for the health of that child, guiding its parents through the diet, exercise and other aspects of lifestyle that promote health and wellness. A health service with an open mind to complementary medicine that always looks to take the most appropriate route to a “cure” and avoids pills that just hide symptoms. A health system integrated with the education system to prevent childhood obesity and avoidable ailments that can affect quality of life.
In the past, some systems only paid physicians when their patients were well and payment stopped if they got sick. Sickness was seen as the doctor’s failure. We are not advocating going quite that far but would like to see a change to how the NHS proactively approaches the nation’s health
We haven’t lost that vision and we have seen some progress. TV programmes such as the Food Doctor demonstrate that there is a growing understanding of the importance of nutrition amongst doctors practicing conventional medicine. There are integrated GP practices combining nutritionists and complementary practitioners to provide a more holistic approach to health. We even have some doctors that order our products for their patients! There is a growing understanding (and financial support) for the importance of supporting mental health and it is now common for mindfulness classes to be “prescribed”. It is often said that the NHS finances will only make sense if a far more proactive approach to preventative medicine is taken although more political will is required to make that happen. And of course, the ridiculous regulations around traditional herbal medicine mean we have to sell our products as food supplements and cannot make health claims but we muddle along.
Linked to our vision for a nutritional approach to medicine is our “belief” in organic farming and consumption. As long term members of the Soil Association we know that as well as it being healthier not to consume permitted levels of herbicides and pesticides this is a more balanced way to work with the soil and to provide the world’s food needs while fighting climate change.
So what has this all got to do with “Black Friday” or “Buy Nothing Friday” depending on your outlook? It’s because we face the dilemma of trying to promote the sales of our products within an environment of relentless consumerism around Christmas. To opt out would mean not promoting our wonderful ranges of organic beauty products at the time of the year when they will sell the best. To opt in is to join the with all the other promotions you will receive today. Just like the pharmaceutical companies we need to sell our products!
So our answer is this blog, which we hope you find thought provoking and not too commercial. Perhaps we can politely request that you #BuyNothingFriday today and then go for #OrganicChristmas with @OrganicHerbal tomorrow!