Alternative medicine

Louisville Herbalists Explore Alternative Medicine and Herbalism

When Robert Gittli seriously injured his back at the age of 17, doctors suggested putting a titanium rod in his back to correct the injury, even though he wouldn’t be able to fully function after the operation. .

Not wanting to give up his mobility, he knew there had to be another way. So the teenager turned to traditional herbalism, the study or practice of the medicinal and therapeutic use of plants, to heal himself.

“I went through western medicine and they ended up wanting me to have surgery and I avoided it by using herbs and acupuncture,” Gittli said.

During a 14-month acupuncture regiment, a form of alternative medicine and a key part of traditional Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted into the body and prescribed herbs to repair his main back problems, Gittli got rid of his back pain and no longer needed surgery, which he credits to holistic naturopathic medicine.

the World Health Organization estimates that 65-80% of the population, including people like Gittli, use holistic naturopathic medicine as their primary form of healthcare, which can include things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, essential oils, massage , osteopathy and Reiki/energy medicine. Holistic health has grown in popularity in the United States as more and more people are moving away from Western medicine due to factors such as the high cost of health care, prescription drug side effects, and procedures. expensive.

Gittli, who owns Meridian Acupuncture and Phytotherapy at 311 Wallace Ave. in Louisville, has seen an increase in the number of people seeking alternative forms of medicine and treatment for a variety of ailments in recent years.

Her practice at Meridian offers services like acupuncture, massage, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, herbal medicine, cupping therapy and more. Gittli, who holds a degree in biology and Chinese language from the University of Louisville, a master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine, and who trained in China at the Traditional Chinese Hospital in Chengdu, applies the techniques of Chinese medicine to help clients uncover the root of their problems.

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“From a Chinese medical perspective, when we do our traditional diagnosis, we’re looking for the root cause of the disharmony as a whole,” Gittli said.

Herbalists like Gittli often attempt to find the root cause of illness, then choose herbs or treatments based on the symptoms or conditions a patient describes during the consultation. They can also perform a clinical exam, inspect certain areas of the body, and create a personalized prescription.

The practice can be applied to any problem, Gittli said, “everything from back pain, fertility issues… migraines… anything that comes through our door,” he said. “We’re looking for that underlying issue. The real disharmony within the person.”

And it’s not just about prescribing herbs or treatments to patients seeking pain relief. For some, including Louisville herbalist Therese Prentice, the art of herbalism is a calling, a way to connect the body directly with the natural world.

“I don’t use the term herbal medicine. I would say herbalism. …we have to learn to separate herbalism from medicine because it’s a different discipline, a different way and a different approach,” Prentice said.

For her, herbalism is more related to spirituality than to medicine because each plant she prescribes has a spirit. And often this spirit is associated with someone’s immediate surroundings.

“The plants that grow in the area where we live are the plants, or the cure, as I like to call it, for the people who live in that area,” said Prentice, a metaphysician, aromatherapist and holistic health practitioner. “These are their own personal remedies or the healing components of their body.”

It’s modern wellness, without chemical prescriptions or surgery, she added.

“I help people transform these herbs so they can use them on a daily basis,” Prentice said, including helping people make herbal remedies like cough syrup and hair growth remedies.

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At Meridian Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, Gittli and her team use raw herbs to create unique treatments for all individuals. According to his websitethe herbs are taken as herbal tea, or herbal decoction, which can be cooked at home or prepared at the clinic.

And to weeds of eden7505 New La Grange Road, owner and herbalist Myron Hardesty crafts artisan formulas with various herbs for individuals to take as he did on his journey to holistic health, which began over 30 years ago .

However, before beginning any new regimen of herbal remedies, the US Food and Drug Administration recommends that people consult their primary care physician in case a new supplement might negatively interact with a current prescription medication.

According to the FDA, herbal supplements like those offered by Gittli, Hardesty, and Prentice are classified as foods, not drugs, and aren’t subject to the same set of stringent regulations as traditional or prescription drugs. And while herbs may be advertised as “natural” or “organic,” not all products are safe, according to the FDA.

Dr. Leslie Kellie, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Internal Physician with Norton Community Medical Associatesstates that even though plants have been used for medical purposes for decades, herbal supplements “don’t go through the same scientific testing, manufacturing, labeling, and regulatory standards as prescription drugs. They can’t claim to treat a specific condition or prove their effectiveness.”

Kellie says herbal supplements can cause harmful and even life-threatening reactions, especially when mixed with other prescription or over-the-counter medications. She suggests people under the age of 18 or over 65, and those who have a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, to avoid take herbal supplements.

“Few herbal supplements have been tested on children. Older adults may also metabolize drugs differently. Always talk to your doctor before starting any supplement,” Kellie says.

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Hardesty, a qualified medical assistant and licensed herbalist, said his journey into herbalism began in 1986 when he contracted cat-scratch disease or Bartonella henselae infection, resulting in swollen lymph nodes and chronic fatigue that his doctors could not repair. It wasn’t until he moved to Colorado six years later that an herbalist suggested he take lymphatic herbs, such as redroot, ocotillo, and American bear’s foot, for a month to clean the blood.

“All the lymph nodes shrunk and I got my energy back,” Hardesty said. “Herbalism offered therapy for what Western medicine could not treat, but more than that it had an entirely different strategy in its approach…maintaining life force and helping the body heal itself.”

In 1994, he continued his career as a herbalist at Southwestern School of Botanical Medicine where he earned his Physician Assistant/Associate degree before returning to Louisville to open Weeds of Eden.

“I had an epiphany. It’s people’s medicine. No one was doing it in Louisville and I saw there was a deficiency in terms of the city’s resilience,” Hardesty said.

For Hardesty, the practice of herbalism is as much about healing others as it is about dispelling myths about the ancient practice, which dates back to the Shang Dynasty of Bronze Age China.

The first thing he mentions is that herbs are not “little drugs”. It’s about the relationships between our body and the herbs that surround us in a natural environment, he says.

“[It’s] …inhaled with every breath they take and ingested with every plant food they eat,” Hardesty said, adding that “80% of the rest of the world uses herbs as their primary form of medicine,” so this isn’t is not “unknown”.

“Herbalism is a private revolutionary act in the belief that you have the inner capacity to heal yourself – that plants are your allies in this revolution,” he said.

Ultimately, herbalists use natural methods to help support the body in what the body already knows how to do.

“The world of healing is subtle. The earth actually prefers to cultivate our health for us because it’s us,” Hardesty said.

Reach Gabby Bunton, Features Intern, at [email protected]

Herbalist in Louisville

For more information on meridian acupuncture and herbal medicine, visit

To contact Therese Prentice, visit

For more information on Weeds of Eden, visit