In a world where modern medicine often takes center stage, there's a growing curiosity about alternative paths to health and well-being. Dr. Lillea Hartwell, a distinguished Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Herbalist (RH AHG), whose journey is as fascinating as her expertise. With a passion ignited by the healing power of nature and a dedication to sharing its benefits. In this exclusive interview feature with DeliveryRank, we delve into her background, her perspective on the significance of herbal remedies, and her practical insights for incorporating these remedies into our diets and daily routines. Join us as we embark on a journey of discovery with Dr. Lillea Hartwell, exploring the transformative potential of herbal remedies and their role in achieving lasting well-being.
My story really begins when I got chickenpox from my babysitter’s grandchildren when I was 7 months old, it nearly killed me. When I was 3 years old, I developed a serious infection that caused doctors to place me on three rounds of antibiotics. These antibiotics failed leaving the lymph node under my left ear to swell to the size of a marble over a year. Eventually when doctors expressed nothing short of surgical removal of the infected lymph node, a close native friend of my father’s urged him to bring me to a local tribal medicine man. One week after treatment from the medicine man, my lymph nodes healed. Although I do not personally remember this experience, I believe it sparked my keen interest in traditional healing in all cultures including Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, African, Amazonian and Native American medicinal plant use in addition to Mexican Traditional Medicine. I grew up with Mexican traditional medicine with family who used herbs to heal. I traveled many places across the world to study indigenous use of botanical medicine and on global medical missions. Diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions and chronic infectious diseases that my doctors told me were incurable by my early 20s, doctors frequently told me there were no new treatments and often did not believe my symptoms. Being who I am, I sought answers for myself and found them in the many modalities of naturopathic medicine. Before attending naturopathic medical school, I completed rigorous coursework to earn my Honors Bachelors of Science in Plant Sciences, with an emphasis in medicinal ethnobotany and a minor in Environmental Sciences from the University of Arizona. A true outdoorsy plant lover, I find plants and the use of plant medicine fascinating. I also love controlled environment agriculture. I completed work within the University of Arizona Honors College and the University of Arizona Natural Product Center on building grow systems and growing medicinal plants in greenhouses using hydroponic and aquaponic grow systems. This interest also prompted me to seek further training in botanical medicine like the 100 hours of additional training I completed in Western Herbal Medicine with a registered herbalist.
I took a circuitous journey through life. Diagnosed with one autoimmune condition by the time I was in middle school, another my junior year of college, and another at the end of naturopathic medical school, I recognized that the current medical system allows folks to slip through the cracks. I spend my time in my practice supporting the population that I belong to, autoimmune patients, in the way I wish I could have been when I was first diagnosed.
Well the reality is that our food is medicine. What we choose to consume 3 times a day has great influence over our health. The human body needs many minerals, nutrients, biochemical compounds for normal human processes like nervous system regulation, hydration, metabolism of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, hormone generation, and much much more. Human bodies have many significant and rather complicated biochemical processes taking place all at one time, even when they’re at rest. Our food choices and the choices of other items that we consume like herbs or processed foods or pharmaceuticals can contribute or take away from allowing those processes to take place. Many herbal medicines are consumed regularly as spices and teas. Knowledge about them is important to understanding how an individual can be helping or harming their health without knowing it. Take an astringent herb like Camellia sinensis for example, known colloquially as green tea, it is consumed by many on a daily basis. However, consuming it near food can prevent absorption of key nutrients the body would otherwise extract from food due to green tea’s astringent (tannin rich) properties. So it's important to make informed choices about pairing foods, herbs, pharmaceuticals, etc to optimize the body’s ability to heal.
This is a great question, but it would be best to individualize my response to the person in front of me rather than make a wide generalization. In my clinical experience, not everything works for every person’s schedule, commitments, and the way they enjoy and interact with their life.
One of the main practices that I find is generally lacking in our modern society is interacting with nature. That is something that everyone could stand to experience more of. Some studies have shown that even looking at photographs of nature while in their cubicles at work can have beneficial effects on their physiology. The classic response is that there isn’t time to get outside which I can identify with as a busy professional myself. However, it doesn’t have to be a huge commitment, especially not at first. Can you commit to leaving for work 10-15 minutes early and driving a more scenic route to get some nature exposure? Small moments like that accumulating over time can become habitual and incrementally more time can be committed for these healthful habits.
The key resource would be to seek a practitioner that is well-educated in botanical medicine. An herbalist or a naturopathic doctor who graduated from one of the schools accredited by the U.S. Department of Education would be my recommendation. I, personally, am a naturopathic doctor that graduated from one such school but beyond that I sought extra training through apprenticeships with herbalists and have studied indigenous uses of botanical medicine in regions all over the globe in addition to graduating with my Bachelors in Plant Sciences, cum laude with Honors. In my treatment plans I bridge the traditional uses of plant medicines with evidenced based practices. This is important because plants are not benign, they have great power just like pharmaceuticals. They can interact with medications, nutrients, and other plants. They can also be unsafe in certain individuals with preexisting conditions and can affect the way medications work. Accurate dosing of botanical medicine is key too, it's important that the right plant part be used to treat the condition at an appropriate dose, that its safe for the patient, that the dose is strong enough (but not too strong to be unsafe), that the delivery method of the herb is best to extract the active constituents that are necessary to achieve the goal of prescribing that herb and that preexisting conditions of the patient have been considered.
A great example of how we can combine the uses of traditional medicine and confirm them via science can be found in this research publication: https://www.gavinpublishers.com/article/view/evaluation-of-the-anti-yersinia-activity-of-botanicals-used-during-the-black-plague. I wrote this publication after years of scientific laboratory experimentation applying traditional botanical medicine used during the Black Plague.