Herbalists Support Health Freedom

Herbalists, both those practicing and teaching at the national scale and those living and working right here in Massachusetts, have spoken out to support Health Freedom. We’re pleased to share a few of their statements!

If you’d like to help us work to pass our Health Freedom bill here in MA, please head over to our crowdfunding campaign and make a donation!

The Health Freedom movement is, in my opinion, the perfect solution to ensuring the right of herbalists to practice, without resorting to licensure or other measures that will (intentionally or not) create a hierarchy amongst herbalists. On a larger scale, establishing health freedom is one of the most important goals we can work towards in regards to protecting our rights to choose how we take responsibility for our health and who we choose to help us explore the many options available to us. It’s an option that doesn’t just serve us, but the communities we serve…

Jim McDonald, Michigan herbalist


During the 1990s alternative practitioners in Minnesota were hit by a series of prosecutorial law suits (prosecutions for the practice of medicine without a license) launched by the Board of Medical Practice and the State Attorney General’s office.  The first two cases, brought against a dairy farmer selling colostrum milk in rural Minnesota, ended in hung juries.  The third case was brought against a highly qualified and high profile practitioner in the state, a naturopathic doctor licensed in Washington and a graduate of a four year naturopathic medical school.  Public reaction against this persecution was so great that a secretary at the governor’s office complained to a caller, “could you please get your people to stop calling, we can’t get any work done.”  Unfortunately for the governor, we didn’t have an organized phone tree – our cause was just that popular!  We organized a lobby group and went to the legislature.  After saving our friend, we went to work to pass a bill that would protect all practitioners.  This resulted both in the passage of legislation protecting the consumer’s right to access alternative medicine and the establishment of a national lobbying organization, National Health Freedom Action.  Since that time, our bill, or variants modeled upon it, have been passed in many states.  The first to follow us was your neighbor, Rhode Island.

Another positive results was that the Board of Nursing in Minnesota passed a law the next session protecting the right of nurses to practice alternative medicine (and use their nursing credentials on their business card and advertising) as long as they could document training in the field to the Board.  They claimed that these methods were historically within the scope of practice of nurses and still belonged to that scope.     

The health freedom act model protects the consumer’s right to access to alternative medicine, and in this way protects the practitioner.  We are not allowed to practice medicine – that is to say, diagnose illness or use prescription drugs or surgery.  Nor can we interfere with biomedical treatment.  What we are allowed to do is practice our own discipline.  We may use non-biomedical evaluation methods and categories.  These would be methods like pulse and tongue evaluation and categories like “yin deficiency,” “tension,” “low immunity,” “sympathetic excess,” etc.  We can also orient our treatment strategies based on the biomedical diagnosis.  We cannot guarantee positive results, though we can describe case histories in the past where alternative treatment has relieved symptoms or removed conditions.  

Such a scope may or may not have protection in various states under judicial decisions, but the need for a good protective law is necessary because, according to our research, the medical practice acts in forty-nine states defined the “practice of medicine” so strictly that a mother giving her child aspirin was practicing medicine without a license.  The Board had the right to charge virtually anyone, but deferred from such acts.    

I was active in the battle to establish the health freedom act fifteen years ago and I am gratified and proud of the result in Minnesota and elsewhere.  I lost an amount of sleep, energy and time over this endeavor that I feel I will never recover.  Something went out from me that I can never get back.  There is a price to pay for freedom.  Therefore I fully support the efforts of people in Massachusetts and elsewhere to establish their basic rights to access to medical practices of their choice.  Hurray for the freedom state and it’s people.    

Matthew Wood
MS (Herbal Medicine)
Registered Herbalist (AHG)


As a trained clinical herbalist, I know that if the Health Freedom Act passed in Massachusetts, I would market my services more openly and be able to help more people achieve a healthier lifestyle and feel better in their bodies.  When people feel better, they’re more productive. The ripple effect would be great.

K. Gekas, Deerpath Herbals LLC
Newton, MA


I am a holistic herbalist stating my support for the Massachusetts Health Freedom Act.  I believe that we are ultimately the only ones responsible for our own health, and as individuals, it is up to us to make our own healthcare decisions.  Practitioners of alternative therapies are educators. We provide information to our clients, so that they can be as informed as possible about their health. My job is to help people to understand what their options are, so that they can make the right decision for their own bodies. I believe that we all have the right to seek whatever supportive services we think may be helpful, even if the law does not consider these services to be medicine. Furthermore, I believe that holistic practitioners in Massachusetts deserve the legal protection from criminal prosecution that the states of Rhode Island, Minnesota, and California have already seen fit to implement.

Gavin McCarthy, herbalist
Roslindale, MA


Additionally, the American Herbalists Guild has released a statement of support for Health Freedom Acts. It reads in part:

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) is a non-profit, educational, member-based organization founded to represent the goals and voices of herbalists specializing in the medicinal use of plants. The AHG’s primary goal is to promote a high level of professionalism and education in the study and practice of therapeutic herbalism.

The AHG mission states that [emphasis added]:

The American Herbalists Guild promotes clinical herbalism as a viable profession rooted in ethics, competency, diversity, and freedom of practice. The American Herbalists Guild supports access to herbal medicine for all and advocates excellence in herbal education.

Consistent with the spirit and intention of this mission the AHG supports state-level health freedom legislation designed to simultaneously protect the rights of diverse health practitioners while protecting the public through written disclosure and consent requirements. Such legislation has already been passed by several states including Colorado, Minnesota, California, and New Mexico.

Read the full statement!


We thank all the herbalists for their support!

If you want to defend the herbalists right to practice, please help us reach our goal!