Sunnyfield Herb Farm


The True History of Joe Pye Weed

Urse of reviewing Occam’s diary, two 20th century ethnologists, Frank Speck and Ernest Dodge, discovered the following entry for July 14, 1787:

Saturday July 14. Some [time] in the morning we went to see Joseph Pye,
alias Shauqueathquat, and had very agreable conversation with him, his
wife, sister & another old woman about their Heart Exercises and they
asked Some Questions and I answered them, and after a while I went back.
(Speck and Dodge, On the Fable of Joe Pye, Indian Herbalist, and Joe Pye Weed; Scientific Monthly, volume 61 pp 63-66, 1945). 2.

During the 1990s alternative practitioners in Minnesota were hit by a series of prosecutorial law suits 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 medical naturopathic medical school. Public reaction against this persecution was so great that a secretary at the governor' 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, the National Health Freedom Coalition. Since that time, our bill, or variants modeled upon it, have been passed in many states.

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 treat 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. Practitioners must abide by a simple code of ethics and consumers can file complaints for sexual harassment, misadvertising, etc., according to the Minnesota law. No registry or list of alternative practitioners is maintained.

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 act 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.

Health freedom bills do not limit alternative disciplines from becoming licensed, if they choose to pursue that direction. Shortly after passage of our bill, acupuncturists became licensed and within a few years naturopathic doctors set up a registry with the Board of Medical Practice.

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 a “pint of psychic blood” 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.

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

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