HERBALIST PROFILE: Gord Cooper, B.A., C.I., R.H.

originally published in The Canadian Journal of Herbalism WINTER 2006

Q: Tell us about the journey that led you to become a Herbalist?

A: The Beatles song title “Long and Winding Road” comes to mind. To me, herbalism is an integral part of many spiritual paths on this planet, and as such I came into an interest in herbs for healing and longevity uses while studying the eastern esoteric traditions from the age of 11. At the same time, I personally found a need to find healing for myself.

In my teen years, I was heavily involved in athletics of various sorts, but partly because of over- exercise (and also perhaps feeling isolated because of my ‘radical’ spiritual views) I began feeling physically burned-out and emotionally depressed. I went to a medical herbalist, who gave me the simple suggestion of trying Siberian Ginseng. Amazingly, within 5-6 days the depression lifted and my athletic endurance returned. After this experience, I began reading more on herbs in general, and while, over the years, I began to search for a meaningful career path, I saw herbalism as a conscious means of helping others while being part of a life path that I had a love and passion for. This was an organic process that spanned almost 20 years of trying different career avenues but nothing gave me the satisfaction that holistic healing offered. The rest is history.

Q: Along with being a Herbalist, you have many different interests in the area of natural health. Would you briefly describe them?

A: As I have already touched on, I believe herbalism has come out of a timeless world view that asserts that humanity has an inseparable connection to nature and this connection is also a spiritual one. The modern West has largely ignored this connection, to our peril. Today we see the fruits of dominating and exploiting nature for greed. Environmental disaster is upon us, and this has had a direct influence on the health of the individual. So people are returning to ‘natural’ healing in record numbers. I am not anti-science or anti-technology as long as technological advances include respect for the earth which is the only home we have. There is a Native American saying that goes something like: After the last tree is cut, after the last fish is caught, after the last stream is polluted, we will finally realize we cannot eat money!

My interests in other areas of natural healing include moving toward the ideal of being more conscious of how we tread on the earth and helping others to appreciate nature in their daily lives. So I encourage clients to practise some form of meditation or prayer and to also reconnect with nature.

I also include the use of Iridology analysis in my clinical practice. This is such a helpful tool because it shows changes in tissue health when a client goes through the healing process. It also indicates levels of tissue toxicity and tissue weakness.

I have also recently become certified as a Tachyon Wellness Practitioner. This method of healing uses “Tachyonized” disks and internal remedies that have been altered at the sub-molecular level to become antennae for zero-point energy. Tachyon means ‘faster than light’, and brings higher states of order to states of entropy or decay. It is a scientifically verified ‘youthing’ process! This brings all the bodies (physical, etheric, emotional, mental, and spiritual) back into energetic balance. I have seen remarkable healing effects after only a single treatment! People in chronic pain have found almost immediate and lasting relief. Tachyon also protects against the negative effects of EMF’s. Anyone with a cell phone should be using this technology. This is one positive application of science for the healing of humanity.

In my continuing education, I am taking the “Plant Spirit Medicine” course with Eliot Cowan, who is a shaman trained in the Huichol Mexican Indian tradition. This healing modality uses the spirits of the plants to heal deeper imbalances.

Finally, I am also researching how sound, sacred names, and other energetic therapies (like gem mineral essences) can be applied to accelerate not only healing on a physical level but ones spiritual growth as well. There is an emerging spiritual science which is determining how our DNA responds to various ‘energetic’ treatments.

Q: In an ideal world, how do you see your future?

A: Ideally I would like to be involved in writing about and creating integrated healing retreats/clinics that focus on total health creation and spiritual evolution. This would also entail creating sustainable communities worldwide that incorporate balance with nature, as well as low impact, high technology renewable/free energy applications.

Q: If you could recommend only one book what would that be and why?

A: For me, this is not a fair question and is impossible to answer, because no one book does the totality of herbalism or natural healing proper justice. So I’m going to recommend three books.

I’d say on the spiritual level “The Book of Knowledge: The Keys of Enoch”. For me this is the most advanced book of spirituality and higher revelation (not channelled) I have studied. (see www.keysofenoch.org). It is a merging of a scientific approach to explaining an open ended cosmology with the highest level of the perennial spiritual teachings. Although it takes time to understand the language and terminology, it is well worth the effort for those with a serious desire to understand and apply a ‘bigger picture’ perspective.

On a more practical level, Gabriel Cousens M.D. has just come out (©2005) with a new book called “Spiritual Nutrition: Six Foundations for Spiritual Life and the Awakening of Kundalini” (this is an extremely expanded version of the 1986 Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet). Gabriel Cousens is one who has “been there” and back. This new book provides a distillation of his extensive experience and knowledge on the relationship of nutrition, healing, and spiritual awakening. I believe it will become a classic as a reference tool in the nutrition/healing/spiritual growth category of books.

(see www.tachyon-partners.com/total-life-systems)

Herbally, “The Energetics of Western Herbs” by Peter Holmes two volume set is one of my favourite herbal texts. It provides an in-depth framework of the history and development of herbal healing globally, which allows the reader to understand the ‘whys’ of herbal healing, vs just take ‘this herb’ for ‘that ailment’ reductionistic approach.

Q: What herb are you most drawn to and why?

A: Again, there is no one herb out there for all things. So I’m going to mention two.

I’d say for general use in the area of adaptogens, Cordyceps sinensis, rates high on my list. Actually, this herb is a mushroom which grows wild only on the high slopes of the Chinese Himalayan mountains, but is now cultivated. This herb provides benefits too long to list, but as a ‘whole body invigorator’ or ‘stress adaptor’ it is one of the very best. Its effects are: anti-fatigue, anti-cancer (immuno-modulating), renal tonic, blood sugar balancer, respiratory, heart and liver tonic, and blood fat modulator. With no toxicity at normal dose levels and no known contra-indications, virtually anyone in the modern world would benefit from this medicinal.

A herb I have been truly ‘drawn to’ has been Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Not only does it also have a wide range of uses as an anti-microbial, a digestive herb, a female tonic, a vascular tonic, and an amazing tissue healer (both internal and external), Yarrow, the plant and its spirit, speak to me of being able to impart a higher level of consciousness, balance, and order in the mind, body, and spirit. The very shape of the plant alludes to this, with its tall erect stem, leaf formation and its ‘thousand flowers’ (millefolium) alluding to the crown chakra of the thousand petalled lotus in the Hindu/Yoga tradition. Even modern shaman Tom Brown’s ‘Grandfather’ considered Yarrow a king of herbs.

Gord Cooper has a clinical practice, in Aurora, Ontario, and includes Herbology, Iridology and Tachyon Wellness Healing.

HERBALIST PROFILE: Betty Aiken, Herbal Elder

originally published in The Canadian Journal of Herbalism WINTER 2007

The Ontario Herbalists Association has introduced a new sub-category of membership. Professional members who have at least 10 consecutive years with the OHA, whose age and years of professional practice add up to at least 85, and who the board feels represents those qualities appropriate for a respected healer in our community, will be awarded the title of ‘Elder’ and a certificate, and will receive a lifetime free membership in the OHA. Presently, we have one member who qualifies for this – Betty Aiken. Anyone who knows Betty will agree that she has given much to our association and to herbal medicine. She truly embodies the spirit and knowledge of herbs and is worthy of the title Elder.

I, Betty Aiken was born at home near Own sound, Ontario on February 17, 1929. I completed grade 10 and attended 8 months of Business College. I worked as a typist at the North Grey Registry office where all land deeds and records are registered. Then on June 17, 1950 I married and started raising a family.

As the world is a learning place, I began my journey in health research and testing in 1973. At the time I felt I had to find a way to help more people help themselves. This is when I started working with and testing herbs.

In 1979 I met Dr. Sir Leo Schafer of Schafer’s Health Centre Ltd in Unity, SK and Christina Richa Devi, the first President and founder of The Ontario Herbalists Association. These two people persuaded me to study Herbology. I started my courses in 1980 and 4 years later received my Masters of Herbology. As I got 100% in all my exams they gave me a Fellowship in Botanical Medicine at the same time.

In 1985 I received a Certificate of Proficiency in Anatomy and Physiology because I felt I had to have a fair knowledge of the body parts and organ functions in order to choose the herbs that would work with peoples’ bodies and improve their health. Give the body the right herbs and water and it will heal itself – you only get out of the furnace what you put in it.

In 1991 I received Professional status from the OHA.

If I had the chance to give any advice to the next generation of herbalists it would be this:

  • You should focus on education and study, study, study.

  • You should be positive, possibility thinkers.

  • You should be dedicated and have a good attitude.
  • You should do personal research, investigate courses, books, and learn from healers with experience.
  • You should use products and food that are organic and compatible with your body.

  • You should always eat your food in moderation.

  • You should wear clothing made from natural fibres whenever possible.
  • You should be aware of the damage that comes from accumulation or long term effects of heavy and light metals, sprays, chemicals, radiation, herbicides, fertilizers, Teflon, plastics, aluminium, contaminated water, and pollution.
  • You should educate yourselves to recognize your own symptoms, know your own body, and work on body, soul, and spirit.
  • You should share your knowledge with others.

  • You should do charitable acts with friends and community.

  • You should build healing circles with prayers and good vibes for people in need.

  • You should support older people and listen and learn from them.

  • You should help the next generation realize that the planet Earth needs their care giving now.
  • And last you should become aware of the energy fields and energy healing around you.

Money can buy a bed but not sleep.

Money can buy a house but not a home.

Money can buy medicine but not health.

You cannot see the whole world right,

Nor all the people in it.

You cannot do the work of years,

In just a single minute.

But keep one little corner straight,

Be humble, patient, labour

And do all the work that each hour brings,

And help your next door neighbour.

It is a great honour to be made the first OHA Herbal Elder and first Honorary Professional member.

May God bless you all and thank you,

Betty Aiken


originally published in The Canadian Journal of Herbalism Iss. # 2007

Interview by Karen Parsons

CJH: What made you decide to become a herbalist?

RD: Back in 1974, when I was in college, I was asked to drive a fellow student up to Guelph, Ontario. After dropping him off, I visited the local health food store to buy some juice before heading back. While paying, and for no apparent reason, I asked the owner if he knew who could teach me about herbs.

He thought about it briefly, and then said I should go and see Dr Albert Thut, a herbalist and traditional naturopath. A week or so later, I called Dr Thut and spoke to him about my interest. After asking a few questions, he told me to come and visit him.

When I did so and stepped through the door, you could smell the wonderful aroma of herbal tonics simmering on the stove. His office looked straight out of the 1930’s, filled with old antique oak desk and furniture, and behind his chair was a wall containing jars of herbs and liquid tonics. On the adjoining wall were old herb books and texts… I was smitten and totally taken with the idea that herbs could heal!

After that, I would visit him occasionally and, a few years later, began what turned out to be an apprenticeship lasting about ten years.

CJH: You’ve been a herbalist for many years now; what changes have you seen since you began?

RD: Too many, I think…

CJH: Really? How so?

RD: Well, there’s a lot more acceptance of herbalism as a valid healing modality and many people now go to a herbal practitioner, so that’s all well and good…the problem is, however, that in order for it to gain stature in the field of medicine, education, or society in general, there has been a ‘dumbing down’ of its core principles to fit within accepted paradigms.

CJH: The scientific model?

RD: Yes and the current medical model as well.

CJH: People need to understand it in an objective way, don’t they?

RD: Absolutely. I am not saying that these models are irrelevant; rather, that they are limiting and prevent us from appreciating concepts or constructs from outside the box.

The early herbalists, eclectics, and physio-medicalists used herbs more as sanative, nutritive, and restorative agents in addition to their capacity to deal with pathogens and diseases. Today, we are seeing what I believe is far too much emphasis on the latter and not enough on the former.

CJH: So, it’s fair to say that you’re a traditional herbalist… do you see any parallels between your approach and that of TCM or Ayurvedic medicine?

RD: Yes, although perhaps not as robust as Peter Holmes in his great work The Energetics of Western Herbs, Vol. 1 & 2. The constitutional deficits that he refers to in TCM terms and the use of specific herbs to address them is a superb description of the melding of Eastern and Western thought on the matter. My approach is more along the lines of herbs as very specialized foods for the cells of the body.

Insofar as both TCM and Ayurvedic theories promote more harmonious balance (ch’i or humoral), that same effect is noted through periodic use of herbal tonics to balance the organs and glands behind the flow of ch’i or, in western terms, the vital force.

CJH: Can you elaborate on this?

RD: Let me offer an example: in treating something such as arthritis, there is an imbalance in the pH of the blood and tissues. Ideally, the blood should be slightly alkaline, and the tissues slightly acidic. In arthritic conditions, excess acids abound from poor diet, lowered kidney and bowel activity, and negative emotions; this will irritate and inflame synovial membranes, articulated joints, and the like.

Thus, part of any regimen – dietary or herbal, must include a re-balancing of this errant body chemistry. The gnarled, swollen joints indicate a deposition of calcium which can be put back into solution by the introduction of organic sodium, an alkalizing mineral needed to shift the pH in blood chemistry. Equally, herbal formulae are needed to tone the function of the kidneys and liver, both key filters of the blood. The blood in turn can be assisted with blood purifiers, which, along with diet, re-establish the correct array of various minerals and nutrients indicative of optimal pH. This is just a rudimentary analysis but it captures the gist of what I’m saying.

CJH: Is this issue of pH well known in the healthcare field?

This whole issue of pH has largely been side-stepped by both modern medicine and even some proponents of natural medicine. One needs to start with an understanding of the biological terrain theory of Gunter Enderlein. In addition, good nutritional chemistry and a solid understanding of biological transmutation are needed to complete the foundation.

With this knowledge base and a solid grasp of herbal therapeutics, one can deal with a variety of conditions. It helps to realize that most of the conditions we see today are the result of over-acidification of the blood. In this scenario, the blood is low in Oxygen, and high in Hydrogen from the H.+ ion of any acid. As they are inversely proportional, the resulting lowered Oxygen levels favor the development of fermentations and mycoplasma-based conditions. Candida is an example of an ailment that can develop in this acidic environment. Further, Candida and its analogues are a component of IBS, Crohn’s disease, MS, CFS, and other conditions. I believe Candida is an unrecognized pandemic.

CJH: Before we go, can we talk a bit about the political situation; you’ve been involved in these issues as well. What are your thoughts here?

RD: It’s a double-edged sword. On the federal level, the regulation of the NHP industry comes with a shake-out in the industry, with small companies collapsing and big companies taking the lead. Product availability and CODEX and international harmonization issues will come back to haunt us.

On the provincial level – where the practice of complementary professions is slowly growing, adherence to certain paradigms, as mentioned earlier, is a tacit pre-requisite for regulation. We are already seeing the “drug-ification” of NHP’s (natural health products). I believe that we are also witnessing the “medical-ization” of natural healing. Is this a good thing? It may work out quite well, but to be honest, something will get lost in the ‘translation’. I feel that our true connection to the art of healing will be forfeited; we will have the science down pat but we may throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Rick DeSylva runs the Herb Works in Rockwood, ON