Nancy Brillaut, owner of Touch of Earth Herbs and staff educator for Vitanica Supplements, speaks with The Herb Companion.
Name: Nancy Brillault
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona, and San Diego, California.
Occupation: Herbal and aromatherapy consultant as well as owner and operator of Touch of Earth—her own company that also hosts workshops and carries a retail line of aromatherapy products (www.touchofearth.com). Author of a book currently in process, How to Thrive in the 21st Century (to be published next year). Visiting faculty member at the North American College of Botanical Medicine in Albuquerque. Part-time staff member at a residential home for people with eating disorders in Tucson. Staff educator for Vitanica, a line of herbal supplements. Member of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists.
Education and Training: Bachelor’s degrees in Native American studies and sociology and a certificate in women’s studies from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Participated in the foundation and clinical programs and enrolled in nutrition and herbal classes at the North American College of Botanical Medicine. Numerous certifications in aromatherapy.
How did you first become interested in alternative medicine?
While I was getting my degree in Native American studies, I was fortunate to study with Native American medicine women. This really piqued my interest in alternative medicine—especially the study of ethnobotany, the use of plants for food as well as for medicine. This was just the beginning of my journey. My great-grandfather was also an herbalist, so it does run in my family. I’m also passionate about the environment. I believe that healthy people in mind and body equal the health of the earth.
What do you see happening with the interaction between Western and alternative medicines?
I see a huge, huge transformation taking place, and it’s coming on fast. My experience working in natural food stores was where I initially heard people voicing their dissatisfaction. Many just refused to accept what their physicians were telling them and came to the store for another opinion. They were aware that there were other choices, often healthier ones. Our ability as change-makers lies in our power as consumers. We need to refuse to pay for mediocrity and inferior care. There is power in our pocketbook. We want choices. I see integration, but I also see a trend toward more alternative therapies. Conventional medicine is catching up, but it still has a long way to go. This shift toward alternative therapies is a wonderful transformation. I’m happy to see it, and I think all of the earth’s creatures will be healthier because of it.
What is your daily routine of alternative therapies?
Lifestyle is huge for me. My daily routine includes some form of exercise every day, whether it’s biking, walking or hiking in the mountains. I have a treadmill in my house and I have a dog. I always tell people who want to start walking to get a dog. I do yoga regularly and I stretch every day. I also believe in doing some form of ritual every day, such as journaling, meditation, or lighting candles and incense. I use aromatherapy. I eat almost entirely organic. It’s so crucial that we eat clean food. Not only does this serve our own bodies, but it also helps support the local organic farmers. I eat some raw foods every day—fruits, nuts, seeds, bitter greens, and I eat seaweed. I avoid caffeine. I take supplements on an as-needed basis, including minerals, B vitamins, and herbal teas. I believe that if we are conscious about what we eat, we can get most of our nutrients from our food.
What would you say to someone considering alternative medicine?
I tell my clients that our bodies are the best healers we have. Tune in and listen to what your body is telling you. So often, simple lifestyle changes can make the difference between illness and wellness. If you need to search out a practitioner, do your homework. Get referrals, and above all, ask questions of the practitioner. As in all things in life, you need to feel comfortable about your decision. Education is important, but so is experience. Whoever your practitioner—M.D., N.D., or herbalist—if you don’t feel comfortable with that person, get another opinion. I like to remind people that we often take better care of our cars, with regular tune-ups and competent mechanics, than we do our most important vehicle, our body.
What are your hobbies?
I love to travel, and I love to spend time with my three daughters. Two of them live in California, so I get to spend lots of time near the water. I enjoy reading and spending time with my animals—one dog and two cats. I dance! I just started taking West Coast swing lessons and they’re lots of fun. And I sing. For me, music heals the soul. I putter in the kitchen, so I’m a pretty good cook, and it’s relaxing, too. I love quiet time by the beach and taking walks in the mountains.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
Years ago, I was at an herbal conference in Oregon and attended a workshop by John Douillard about Ayurveda and sports medicine. He said something that has really stuck with me. I often share it with my clients and I’d like to share it with all of you. He said that as humans, we tend to make our lives so difficult when they can really be so simple. If we would watch how the squirrels live (in harmony with nature and the seasons), we’d be much happier and healthier. We spend so much time swimming upstream; learn to go with the flow of the river. There’s no need to battle upstream like we tend to do. Simplify your life. Make this lifestyle change and lead a simpler, richer, more meaningful life. My advice would be to take deep breaths and try to give up one crazy habit. It’s not as hard as we make it out to be.
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