By Sandra Nomoto
Master herbalist and author David Crow is one of the world’s experts in botanical medicine and grassroots healthcare. A renowned speaker, poet, acupuncturist and aromatherapist with over 30 years of experience in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, he is the Founding Director of the e-commerce boutique and academy, Floracopeia.
After graduating from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1984, Crow began practicing acupuncture and herbology. An interest in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine took him to Nepal three years later, where he studied under several masters of ancient healing.
As he began to understand how medicinal plants could be the key to solving the problems in healthcare, poverty, environmental destruction, and loss of ethnobotanical knowledge, he also witnessed widespread ecological destruction and the subsequent loss of medicinal plants on which ancient medical systems depended.
This journey inspired the genesis of Floracopeia, which preserves and promotes the use of botanical medicines as solutions, and supports ecologically sustainable agriculture in communities around the world.
His learnings and stories were also well-documented in his first book, In Search of the Medicine Buddha, which was published in 2000 and has since been translated into three foreign editions. Subsequent books include Plants That Heal: Essays on Botanical Medicine and Sacred Smoke: The Magic and Medicine of Palo Santo, which documents mysterious synchronistic encounters leading to his meeting with psychotherapist turned alchemist Dante Bolcato (El Artesan).
In addition to teaching extensively for over two decades in the US and Canada, Crow has spoken about his vision of healthcare, preservation of botanical medicines, and the use of plants for ecological restoration to hundreds of audiences. In 2003, he spoke in New York alongside presidential candidates, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, Nobel Peace Prize nominees, activists, and actors at a town hall event welcoming the Dalai Lama.
On the Mind Body Spirit Network podcast, Crow talked about the accessibility of herbs used in medicine today. “We’re in a ‘Golden Age.’ Everybody has always just been dependent on the herbs that are around their village. Now, we have herbs from every indigenous culture and ethnobotanical medical system. We have access to everything. Furthermore, we have access to all of this online education, scientific research, and traditional teachers.”
He continued: “I now have access to really high quality herbal products that are far superior to anything that I was coming across in Kathmandu in Nepal, and India because [back then] those traditions were still in their very early stages of coming to the West.”
He warns that although accessibility has increased, traditional knowledge and clinical applications can’t be replaced.
“A lot of people who are experimenting on themselves are getting problems because they’re not doing it right. They’re just taking too many things and putting essential oils directly on the skin. A basic rule to go by in this New Age Internet medicine scene is [that] if somebody tells you that if your inflammatory reaction is detox, run away. It’s not detox. People are not getting detoxing reactions. People are getting toxic reactions.”
Through his teaching, activism, and work at Floracopeia, Crow promotes the creation of a grassroots healthcare system based on community gardens. He co-founded The Learning Garden at Venice High School in Los Angeles, California, which has become one of the country’s largest and most successful school gardens.
While Crow is optimistic about the natural medicine movement, he acknowledges the barriers to making it widely acceptable in the Western medical system.
“We could absolutely have all the healthy food and medicines that we need if it was a social, political, and economic priority, but unfortunately it’s very low. The work I’ve been doing has contributed to this big movement of interest in natural medicine. Over the last 30 years from being one of the few people actually going to Asia and having this education, to now being a part of this gigantic community of practitioners who use natural medicine. Now it’s percolating up to the higher levels of politics, but it’s still got a long way to go before making the preservation of the Amazon a top priority for producing medicines.”
Crow’s progressive vision of medicine, ecology, and spirituality has undoubtedly helped transform the lives of thousands.
You can follow him on most social networks at @floracopeia.