One of the wondrous and beautiful things about herbalists is that their training is rarely just in one area, nor do most herbalists ever stop learning. Many of the herbalists I have met over the years have backgrounds in psychology, neurobiology, music therapy, education, and medicine. Some herbalists have started on one path and have found that path diverting into learning of a different sort, and yet these paths all seem to meld together. One herbalist who has followed many paths is Chris Marano of Clearpath Herbals and Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine. His has been a path that has meandered, diverged, and coalesced into a variety of knowledge that can be used on its own or together .
Chris has been an herbal practitioner for over thirty-five years. His beginnings were paths that branched, came together, and branched some more before merging as one. Chinese Buddhism and Taoism began as Chris’ spiritual practice. Through this practice he discovered a love of healing and a desire to help others. This desire led to becoming an educator in biology and environmental studies and later as a clinical and community herbalist. Along the way Chris learned from a variety of teachers and guides from the human, plant, animal, and fungus world. For many people the idea of having plants, animals, and fungi as teachers may sound unusual, however, these three nations (and the natural world at large) have been teaching humans about what to eat, what is medicine, how to judge the weather, and so much more for as long as humans have been on this earth. The natural world as teachers is a long and valued part of many cultures around the world. It is when we stop listening and learning that we humans tend to get into and cause problems.
As a former pre-med student at Columbia University, Chris has an understanding of allopathic medicine. This serves him well as he enjoys staying up-to-date on current research being done in the science and medical world. At the Chang Center, Chris helped his teacher, the Venerable Master Chang Sheng-yen, by editing his magazine, ghost writing his books, and running classes and meditation groups. This was several years of deep immersion into a spiritual and healing path, a path he values highly. Chris’ study of Cherokee and Anishinaabe teachings followed a similar path. His journey to learn Spirit medicine and ceremony led to an education that expanded to health, ecology, and herbs. Herbalist David Winston rounded out Chris’ education in Western herbalism. He has made use of opportunities that have come his way, as well as sought teachers as his interests grew. Chris’ desire to learn, immerse, and share is something to admire.
How does a practitioner with such diverse learning know which modality fits a client who sees him? Chris first explained that all of these modalities use plants, often the same plants, but with different approaches. While Western medicine tends to be cause and effect or illness-based herbalism; Chinese and Native traditions look at the whole person, the energies that interact throughout the body, and from a place of staying healthy. In the case of illness, the latter forms are viewed from many layers and causes rather than as a single event. Clients are seen as individuals who have had their own unique experiences and have their own unique health system rather than being compared to all others with maybe one similar health experience. While Chinese medicine speaks to Chris the most, he finds that Chinese and Native medicine meld together in a beautiful way. Chris said that when a client sees him, he may think in one modality but ascribe the healing techniques of another. He may see a client as needing something from each different modality, or just one. Chris described it as wearing lenses, where he might put on one set or he might put on lenses that help him see in all three modalities. His ability to do so demonstrates the years of study and application Chris has put into his practice. Clients are informed as to the modality that he is ascribing and what that means so that clients know why he is suggesting one course of action or another. I would like to add that this is why herbalists ask for detailed information from new clients. Some of this information may not seem relevant to why a client is seeking herbal help, but it can be a piece of the puzzle. As Chris stated, “Imbalance comes from all directions, and health comes from all directions.” Clients who seek Chris out come from all walks of life, and with the desire to do the work for lasting healing.
When seeking a practitioner who has multiple modalities, ask questions first. What are their fields of expertise and how long have they practiced in each of those areas? Ask them which modality they use the most? How do they decide which modality to use on a client? What is the latest research they have been reading? What can you expect during a visit? Beware of practitioners who just name drop and don’t speak of experience. Whether managing multiple modalities or a single one, a practitioner should be a lifelong learner.
If you are interested in learning more, and want an in-depth and multi-level education in herbal practices, I recommend that you check out Chris Marano’s program at Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine. Look for beautifully made medicines coming to Chrysalis Botanicals.
The Web that Has No Weaver, Ted Kaptchuk
Between Heaven and Earth, Beinfeld and Korngold
Books by Matthew Wood, Stephen Buhner, David Hoffman, and Rosemary Gladstar.