Tami Bronstein Of The Medical Herbalist Apothecary: “PRACTICE AND REVIEW REGULARLY”

Amongst this process of capturing your ideas and aims into reliable go-to systems for review, you will need to get into the habit of reviewing your chosen systems of capturing ideas regularly and planning your days and weeks in a way that is reasonable. As a part of our series about the women in wellness, […]

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Amongst this process of capturing your ideas and aims into reliable go-to systems for review, you will need to get into the habit of reviewing your chosen systems of capturing ideas regularly and planning your days and weeks in a way that is reasonable.

As a part of our series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Medical Herbalist-Physiologist, Tami Bronstein.

Tami Bronstein, BSc Phyt (Hons), MNIMH, RH(AHG) is a University-qualified Medical Herbalist-Physiologist, nearing 30 years in-practice. She graduated University of Wales/College of Phytotherapy (Cardiff/London, U.K.), and Hofstra University, Exercise Physiology with Psychology (New York). Through Post-Graduate Fellowship alongside Medical Doctors (France), Tami Specializes in the study of NeuroEndocrinology, providing support through Plant Medicine and Dietary Remediation.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

It is my decided pleasure to be invited to share! My story is one of consistent evolution, and as with most journeys that precede mainstream acceptance, it has spanned more than three decades! With this in-mind, I’ll aim to condense the details and begin with what drew me in to the world of Health and Wellness from the first round of University study.

The 1980s precedes internet access to information, so there was little in printed books to direct me. I initiated my first Bachelor of Science quest in an unrelated field of study. College is quite loaded with responsibility compared to the High School experience, and the broad realm of Liberal Arts/Broadcast Communications felt unfocused, with prospects after college that did not resonate (for me). I needed to have a focal point of what I was working intensely to achieve at such a cost, so I instead envisioned what I would like my daily life experience to FEEL like. This led me to explore what more was available to me at Hofstra University.

As a child and teen, I had been active in the Performing Arts, with the physicality of dance. I enjoyed the unstructured schedules, lots of variety and change from day to day. I enjoyed physical movement and learning about the human body. Beginning that first degree in 1989, I learned of a budding new field (at the time) known as Exercise Physiology. It opened up options within Cardiac Rehabilitation, Athletic Training, and what called to me at that time: Corporate Wellness.

“Wellness” was a term newly coined at that time, and largely on the fringes of “Mainstream” mindset.

Exercise Physiology involves a foundation of Behavioral Modification in Lifestyle, in addition to the Human Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology, Nutrition, and other physical sciences. As a result, my major required a strong emphasis on Psychology. This led me to obtain a Minor Concentration in that field of study as well — which would help prime me for working with Individuals and understanding a bit about Neuroscience. Little could I predict at that time how profound the study of Neuroscience would become in this digital wireless era we are in now, and its role in both Health and Pathology of Disease!

I will take pause to note here that my choices in study at each phase of professional life were always about 10 years ahead of “Mainstream” acceptance. That is to say, most people I met along the way could not readily grasp precisely what I was immersed in, nor what I would “do” with each formal degree I earned.

Challenged by quizzical responses, I received a more than frequent dose of “snarky remarks” about working in Wellness. It is almost impossible to believe (now) that this attitude existed, since Mainstream has finally caught on to the value and viability of clinically-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine modalities since that time.

This very article is a case-and-point example of how far we have come since I embarked on this professional path in 1989! Being “ahead of my time” by more than a decade at each milestone of formal education makes this moment with you even sweeter.

The acknowledgement and invitation to share my journey is proof that the public mindset has come a long way!

Furthermore, finding steady and viable income in the early years of each discipline within which I specialized was a notable strain and struggle. In many ways, I have been “the struggling artist” for far more years than I care to admit.

Curiously, there IS most decidedly an ART to the SCIENCE of Health and Medicine, and I was simply not the type of person who could fit neatly into the corporate cubicle or routines of the 1990s. This point specifically highlights the next chapters, and why I continued further on my Academic Journey.

You see, upon graduating from Hofstra University, I could not find that ultimate goal of “the full time job with benefits” in my field of study. Rather, I found part time work as a Wellness Consultant for companies like Johnson & Johnson in their Live For Life Fitness Employee Health programs, as well as Personal Training and teaching fitness classes for various corporations — none of which included benefits, and most which paid me as a contractor.

The palpable sense at the time was that the future was going to be all about contracted work, and all the features of professional life that “self-employment” denotes in terms of creating our own opportunities.

Keep in-mind, in the early 1990s, we STILL did not have “The Internet” as we know it today, with its vast access to information, resources, or social connectivity. Amongst many largely time-consuming and unproductive methods to network and educate the public, it involved accreting deep debt to run adverts in the Yellow Pages of several phone books (yes, relying on people to actually know about my work and then seek me out in the local 4-inch thick catalog of display ads and text listings)!

It was a clumsy, slow process to evolve.

Within the work as a Wellness Consultant at J&J, the concept of Massage Therapy was borne. Their program required a 5-minute massage at the end of each Personal Training session, for which I had no idea how to provide effectively. This led me to pursue the next Diploma and various National Certifications in Neuromuscular Therapy, Myofascial/Structural Integration bodywork, Osteopathic techniques for Pain and Rehabilitation, and other ancillary practices to enhance efficacy and therapeutic “wholeness” to the treatments.

I had simultaneously taken a position as Adjunct Faculty at a local Community College, in addition to Personal Training, Group Fitness Instruction, and providing manual/bodywork treatments as a Private Practitioner.

It was now the late 1990s, and I had worked with Individuals from in-numerous backgrounds and lifestyles. I knew I was not going to be schlepping a massage table up and down staircases in my 60s and beyond, and the time plus expense of travel to homes rendered the in-home treatments unviable any longer.

Mid-way through high school, I had a book on Herbal Medicine and began as early as my teen years with a deep interest in natural ways and means to managing health issues. Of course, I was not aware of a formal education path to working with it professionally in the 1980s — at least in the United States.

What stood out to me with my appointments as we approached the 2000s were notable points:

  1. Many clients were taking variable medications, yet wished for support with unrelated issues, to enhance their wellbeing naturally, or to manage medication side-effects.
  2. Massage Therapy was becoming popular but there was a maximum number of hours I could perform physically in a day or week.
  3. Hurdles like inclement weather, rising fuel prices, and other factors made that work limited, and I could not get ahead of all my educational debts. If everyone who I provided care for wanted the same appointment time, there were only just so many appointments available in a day or a week. Additionally, if people were traveling on holiday, having guests, with sick children, or other scheduling issues, it was lost income that could not be recovered; Last-minute cancelations are often hard to replace.
  4. At that time, people still were largely unaware of the depth of my education, so I didn’t feel I was utilizing all of my value in the work.

This led me to explore adding Natural Medicine to my existing practice, and I found that any training for Clinical Herbal Medicine in the United States did not have the same clinical depth or formal University quality as what I could pursue in the United Kingdom. As a result, off I went to University for a second, 5-year Bachelor of Science degree (a Masters in the field was not yet available in 1998).

The 3-year Fellowship with Medical Doctors of France followed in 2008, and it was a profound influence in my work to this day. Since then, my early years studying Neuroscience has been deepening as clinical research, technology, and access to information is rapidly gaining traction. This further immerses my understanding of hormonal integration between the Brain and Endocrine Hormone coordination.

Learning and Knowledge are never “complete”; The moment we think we know it all, we cease to grow and deepen our understanding.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

This is a loaded question, because I get to know many interesting people through my work. Meeting and getting to know people to the depth for which my practice requires provides many lessons in life, as I must approach everyone from the most objective, neutral perspective.

It is through this approach to being fully present and pausing my own inner dialogue to listen with intention that I can tune into the Individual in the moment.

The subtleties and nuances of someone’s life and physical concerns are where this work shines. There is no chart matching symptoms with remedies, as we are not merely looking to provide a “natural alternative” to a symptom just to replace a pharmaceutical — we are seeking to remediate the cause of the imbalance for more lasting resolution or management.

This said, I would say that the most exhilarating moments are when I have helped couples conceive a child — notably after they have tried and failed with other measures.

I don’t take these moments for granted — because I cannot guarantee the results — so every time I get that call to hear the other end of the line exclaim, “I’m PREGNANT!” it is a decidedly physical “rush” of sensations and emotions like nothing else.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The biggest mistake I made was largely a product of lacking access to information at the time. As a result, I financed much of my ongoing education, travel/living overseas, clinic set-up and daily operations on credit card debt. In addition to being 10–15 years ahead of Mainstream acceptance and the drag of slow growth in awareness for what I have to offer, this has been one of the heaviest burdens I continue to bear.

The lesson I learned is to not berate myself for what I did not know. We can only do our best with the information and resources we have in the time we are living at the moment. I would say that doing more extensive research on the practical aspects to our goals is just as important as our passion for the projects we pursue.

That said, there was no work-around to the costs of advertising and promotions that existed back in the early days (1990s to early 2000s), and without any possessions or collateral at that time, I was unable to obtain low-cost loans. The road was inevitably up steep hills to gain traction in the flow of Patients, and there was simply only the course of time and arduous dedication to my work to be done.

So I did what I had to do at that time to make the magic carpet fly — and I continue to work on overcoming the financial demands of those early days to be here with you now, in this moment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The unwavering emotional and moral support of my Parents, first and foremost. There were many moments of doubt and struggle, for which I could always turn to them without fear of judgement. What kept me going in those moments has been their enduring faith in me, while I received comments such as, “When are you going to give this up and get a real job?”

This included people close to me — whether it was direct or implied — making the struggle that much more poignant at times when I was at a low. Yet, I endured because I knew my visions for what could be were not foolish as many may have not-so-graciously expressed to me.

Thank heavens I had that moral and energetic support to turn to for a caring ear and shoulder to cry on through the heaviest moments! Specific stories are a bit of a blur, admittedly. It has been a protracted path to this moment.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I believe I am an Individual energy in a larger Collective Movement. There are many philosophies in the practice of Health and Wellness. As Professionals, we don’t all agree or find synergy between our approaches to these aims — but the overarching aspect is that my work contributes to the public having OPTIONS in how we manage dysfunction, as well as achieve and maintain our health.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Top 5 “Lifestyle Tweaks” is a tall order! I could likely speak on this for hours, but let me see if I can distill some digestible wisdom here!

  1. PLANNING AND ROUTINE.

As a person who also struggles with constantly changing schedules, I appreciate when Patients express trouble being consistent with herbal medicines or any aspect of self-care, and I work to provide assistance by exploring this aspect to making the most of my Care toward their progress.

Consistency is Key.

Just as with nutrients that need to be consumed daily through our meals for best function, achieving our aims requires CONSISTENCY of herbal medicine dosing combined with healthy habits that comfortably fit our lives. I find that following Productivity podcasts, such as Cal Newport’s Deep Questions, has been most useful to my living a Deep Life — professionally and personally.

He is a Computer Scientist PhD and Professor at Georgetown University, with several popular productivity books. My mentioning him here is his thrust is about Time Block Planning, using methods of capturing our ideas or goals, configuring into methods of storing these ideas for reference on a regular basis, and then implementing on a quarterly/weekly/daily basis.

You need not use his own planner. I happen to use one from AnecdoteGoods.com for yearly, monthly, quarterly, weekly and daily planning. For new ideas and projects, I use a book called Hatch Notebook by https://twotumbleweeds.co

2. PRACTICE AND REVIEW REGULARLY.

Amongst this process of capturing your ideas and aims into reliable go-to systems for review, you will need to get into the habit of reviewing your chosen systems of capturing ideas regularly and planning your days and weeks in a way that is reasonable.

Small, steady changes made over time — repeatedly — cultivates the habits you will need to foment for lasting change. Cal Newport reiterates this process in various ways. At its core, is the discipline to follow-through long enough for these habits to require less and less reinforcement as they settle into more automatic tendencies.

Habits are established habitually! Day after day, we “wash — rinse — repeat” until it becomes automatic, and results are cumulative.

Cal is a prolific author on various aspects of living deeply in Academia and Professional Life, but much can translate into our professional and personal lives. He introduces his listeners to other Productivity podcasts and publications, to explore beyond his own. Give it a listen while you take a regular walk! It may not all resonate for your own life, but within most topics, viable tips can be mined, and they will accrete toward your benefit.

3. HABIT TRACKING

Remember: Good or Bad, habits are hard to break; It is far better to reinforce good habits than bad, but both require the same consistent practice to become established.

Cal notes the value of Habit Tracking, which helps to keep me accountable whilst providing trackable notes and helps me find ways to refine my daily lifestyle. I convey this to my Patients, as well, and I encourage them to track habits.

This becomes very useful when troubleshooting any unwanted symptoms or changes they bring to me for their support; I will often ask what time of day or evening the herbs are taken, or any other food concentrate, medication, or beverage they may be taking.

Many times, a simple change of timing and routine adjustment can make the most profound impact without the need for any additional preparations! Often, we are able to streamline and eliminate superfluous and redundant — or detrimental — preparations.

4. BUCKETS, PILLARS, CORNERSTONES

One of Cal’s Deep Life concepts includes clarifying aspects of our lives to enhance Productivity and Depth. He calls them “buckets”, whilst other Productivity and Lifestyle experts may call them “pillars” of health.

Personally, I happen to like the term “cornerstones” (for the moment), but the concept is similar to clarify facets in our lives to refine for a deeper, more meaningful life. Cal has an affinity toward the use of alliteration:

Craft — Profession, Hobbies, Quality Leisure

Constitution — Healthy Habits, Physical and Mental Health, General Wellbeing

Community — Family, Friends, and the wider Community of connections requiring non-trivial time of our attention and interaction

Celebration — Includes meaningful time for pleasure and personal enjoyment

Contemplation — Matters of the Soul, reading, meditation, adequate solitude for time with your own thoughts

The general concept of refining the cornerstones is performed through dedicating a set timeframe of intention over a 1–2 month period for each.

For our context of Health and Wellness, if you are refining your Constitution (health), you may begin by learning about better Time Blocking your days and weeks to include good habits you wish to cultivate. You may try new approaches for a few weeks to explore resonance in your life to decide if you wish to commit 1–2 months establishing them as integral to your daily living.

I can’t do his work justice in a brief interview here, so I recommend listening to his past podcast episodes. Start from the earliest episodes and follow the evolution of his channel to current day for pearls of wisdom to apply for yourself. Better yet, PLAN to listen on your scheduled walk, and it will force you to walk for 40–90 minutes, depending upon episode!

5. LOVING KINDNESS, REALISM, INTENTION

There is no shortcut to cultivating a Lifestyle. The plethora of “lifestyle hacks” online can set you on a course for betterment, but results are found in the application — to do the work, consistent review, revision, and practice of these measures day after day. It is all about custom tailoring to You, Your Life, Your Personal Qualities.

Times when the planned schedule is derailed? It happens. When the schedule is overridden, take pause to revise the plan and do what you can with whatever time remains in the day. Do your best, and close the day trusting this.

When it comes to essential new habits to incorporate, such as adding new herbal medicines into the routine, I take the time to deeply listen to my Patients recount what their days look like REALISTICALLY. Life is dynamic and we must allow some latitude, flexibility, and alternative options when the day goes awry. Guidance is only as good as that which can be realistically applied, and tailored to the Individual.

Having Self-Compassion and Patience with your ability to adapt over time is an acquired quality in this fast-paced world, where social media highlight reels send us into a negative self-comparison down-spiral.

“They are doing so much better than me.” Social media posts can move us from bits of inspiration that motivate us, and unexpectedly trip us under a loaded weight of diminishing oneself — Social media is a slippery slope.

Cal speaks repeatedly about living with intention, and where social media fits (or doesn’t!) into a productive, deep and meaningful life. For the most part, he is profoundly not a fan. Truth is, it must be very mindfully — judiciously — consumed, as it can be one of the biggest detriments to our Health and Wellness Lifestyle.

A Patient once mentioned this quote in an appointment that bears repeating:

“Comparison is the thief of Joy”

Be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey. My aim is to help you get to your goals, and they often don’t look like anyone else’s highlight reels.

We can read a book that outlines the most stellar diet, routine, or other “hack” to reach our goals — but if it is too disruptive all at once, it can be paralyzing and cause us to give up.

Methodical. Realistic. Consistent. These approaches pave the way to your personally-ideal Lifestyle.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I venture to guess that is on the mind of every Practitioner in this realm. It may be safe to say that most Practitioners are seeking to make their mark in the world by helping people. This is what we do. As a Collective — despite the variations of philosophies, approaches, and tools we apply — Health and Wellness is a mindset and a movement in one.

There is no singular “be all, end all” modality to Wellness. We each address different facets that contribute to Wellness. Care of the Mind and Body is different for everyone, as it should be.

At the very core is the need for appreciating the Individual, and that there is no one-size-fits-all for everyone. Each journey requires making the most with their current state of health — in a way that resonates for them — between Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Energetic Well-being.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Truth is, I don’t know that I would want someone to tell me too much before getting started. You see, even the term “Wellness” was so new when I started my first foray into this broad field in 1989. When I mentioned that word, many people couldn’t even spell it or even understood what it meant.

Seriously. It was THAT NEW.

The name of my practice has evolved over the years, but the term “Wellness” has been a constant component. Early on, it was met with direct questions such as “What is Wellness?”

My Dad forewarned me about the challenges of being self-employed. He equally encouraged me with the advantages of self-employment. All those years ago in his own work and observations of the world around us, he saw the proverbial writing on the wall: The way of the future is working for yourself. If not fully self-sustaining, at least in some part working solo and pursuing a craft of my own choice.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Each of these are noble causes carrying immense value. Hot topics, for certain. Each has a place in how I live and provide care. Asking me to choose one over another is something I am challenged to rate.

Clearly, we cannot survive and live this life of Wellness without protecting the Environment. An uninhabitable planet surmounts all causes if we cannot survive. Clean air. Clean water. Clean soil. These are critical essentials.

The way to preserving the planet are through Sustainability measures, and the Vegan movement draws attention to the environmental challenges of factory farming. Mental Health is far more complex and nuanced than most people are aware about, and there is a tremendous influence of toxic environmental factors involved. Hormonal Disruption also plays a key role — some of which is influenced by diet, chemicals in food, and what is polluting our air, water, and soil. It is not simply a matter of taking a medication or talk therapy, if these other factors are not addressed.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I have a website: https://medherbalist.com for basic information and links to social media.

Occasionally I post on my blog: https://medical-herbalist-daybook.blogspot.com/

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

Warmest Gratitude for including me in your series! It has been a pleasure to share with you and your readers.

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