Since the early '70s, Paul has studied herbology, natural medicine, bodywork, and philosophy with a variety of luminaries including Viktoras Kulvinskas, Michio Kushi, Vasant Lad, Stan Malstrom, Hua Ching Ni, Swami Satchidananda, and Michael Tierra. He received his B.S. from Trenton State College in 1975. He received his degree in Naturopathy in 1982 from the Southeastern School of Naturopathy. In 1987 he received certification from the Academy of Oriental Heritage in Vancouver, B.C. In 1988, Paul completed further training in Tui Na massage, Qigong, and Tai Chi at the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In 1989 he completed his Masters and certification as an herbalist from East West Herbal School. Paul is certified by the National Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Asian Bodywork Therapy and board certified as a Diplomate of Chinese Herbology by the National Council for the Certification of Acupuncturists in Washington, D.C.
Since the mid-'70s, Lisa's passion for healthy living has inspired her study of natural forms of health care. In 1978 she became certified as a yoga instructor. She graduated from Kennesaw College in Georgia in 1980 and became a Registered Nurse working in Labor/Delivery/Postpartum and Nursery at in in-hospital Birthing Center. In the years since, she has continued to work as an R.N., doula, and a yoga teacher. In 2007, Lisa became certified in Firstline Therapy, a therapeutic lifestyle program designed to promote and restore health, prevent degenerative disease, and foster healthy aging. Lisa is currently enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, studying holistic, cutting-edge nutrition and health coaching.
Paul Olko and Green Lake Healing Center were recently featured in the ‘Clinic Profiles’ section of the Journal of The American Herbalists Guild (Volume 9, No. 2). Please read the interview.
Paul Olko and The Healing Herb Shoppe were recently featured in the ‘Clinic Profiles’ section of the latest issue of the Journal of The American Herbalists Guild (Volume 9, No. 2).
Where is your clinic located?
My clinic is located in the ground floor of my home in Charlottesville, VA, which is centrally located in the state and is the home of many great healing arts. We have a large number of natural health care practitioners in this area.
Describe the clinic’s facilities.
Our operation has two services. The first part of our operation is my private practice, where I see patients by appointment. The second part is our herb pharmacy, which serves my patients as well as the patients of other practitioners. The herb pharmacy is managed by assistants that I have trained and that I oversee. Other than acting as a consultant, I have very little to do with the day-to-day affairs of running the pharmacy. Most of my time is spent caring for patients and keeping up with research as necessary.
Our herb pharmacy consists of over 900 raw and bulk herbs including Western, Chinese, and Ayurvedic herbs. In addition we also carry herbal pills, liquid extracts, and granule concentrates as well as salves, balms, oils, and other herbal preparations, some of which we make ourselves. Our facilities include a patient waiting and reception area, and a treatment and consultation room. We have a welcoming patio entrance with benches, an herb garden, and a walkway bordered by plants.
How many people are seen annually in your clinic?
As a practitioner, I see about 1500-2000 patients annually, not including those who are served by other practitioners but use our herb pharmacy as the source for their herbs. These practitioners fax or email their orders to our pharmacy and we fill their herbal prescriptions.
What are the most common health conditions treated in your clinic?
The conditions that we treat in our clinic are varied, and range from support for cancer patients going through radiation and chemotherapy to diabetes and arthritis.
I really promote the clinic to help people with acute as well as chronic conditions. If someone wants to avoid drugs and antibiotics, and wants a natural herbal approach, we encourage folks to use our clinic in that capacity. So the question that I have is when people get “really sick,” do the patients then go to the “real doctor” and do they want to take “real medicines?” I think the average patient is very willing to take natural herbal medicine for an acute condition if they know the herbs will work just as quickly. In my experience, I have seen high quality herbs used in the proper dosage work just
as effectively as drugs for acute conditions—barring a true emergency where, of course, someone needs to go
to the emergency room.
Are there other types of practitioners in your clinic?
My wife, Lisa, is an RN and certified lifestyle educator who works full-time in our clinic. This complements our clinic nicely since we support a healthy lifestyle through nutritional education. Lisa has her own patient load as well as people I refer to her who need more detailed instruction on nutritional guidance, especially concerning weight loss, body composition analysis, detoxification, and chronic degenerative diseases that require advanced nutritional monitoring and support.
What is the cost of an initial consultation? Follow-up visit?
A comprehensive initial visit costs $125; follow-up visits are $85. I also welcome acute conditions that need immediate attention at a cost of $85. The fee for children is $85. Herbs and other supplements are an extra cost. Oriental Bodywork is $50 for 1/2hr., $85 for 1 hr. and $125 for 1 &1/2 hr.
What comprises an initial consultation?
Each patient completes a comprehensive health history form. We then sit down together and the patient shares the story of his/her health situation. I ask questions for further clarification and analyze
the symptom-sign complex. I then do an analysis of the tongue, pulse, face, eyes, and pressure points to determine what imbalances we would like to address.
What do patients typically leave an appointment with? Specifically, do you provide herbs at the initial visit? Articles? Instructions? Natural recommendations?
Patients always leave with the proper herbal remedies for the conditions we have agreed to work on. The herbs could be in raw form to boil into a tea, granulated extracts, or a convenient form of herbs, such as tablets, capsules, or tinctures.
A primary emphasis of our clinic is to insure that our patients are on board with their treatment. This is accomplished in a number of ways, by educating and supporting them in a healthy lifestyle. I educate my patients by giving them handouts and other educational materials with recommendations associated with their condition. I have also prepared and written multiple articles, which I share with patients as appropriate. Dietary recommendations are almost always made, and those are either based on Western naturopathic guidelines or Chinese medicine guidelines. Each patient receives clear and concise instructions for how to make and take their herbs. Sometimes patients are given further educational materials to help them understand their condition and what we are doing.
I refer patients to yoga, tai chi, and qi gong instructors, as well as hypnotherapy and bodywork (which we also provide at our clinic). I have recommended patients for mental health counseling as well.
Is any conventional screening or lab work done in the clinic? What “alternative” methods are used?
All necessary medical screening or lab work is referred to a medical doctor.
Are labs sent out for clinic patients? If yes, how have you arranged this?
As previously mentioned, when medical lab work is necessary, I refer the patient to a medical doctor. There are several doctors that I have a relationship with if patients do not have their own MD.
Do you include the interpretation or review of conventional medical documents, i.e., lab records, in your appointment?
I sometimes help patients get clarity on their lab work, especially when it concerns understanding optimum test result levels. As an educator, I will occasionally review the medications that patients are taking to help them better understand the drug’s side effects and its relationship to their disease and if they are suffering any side effects from the medication.
What type of practitioners in your community provide referrals to the clinic, if any?
Acupuncturists, herbalists, medical doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, yoga instructors, physical therapists, martial arts and tai chi teachers, as well as midwives.
Do the patients in your clinic generally see conventional medical practitioners in addition to receiving care from your clinic?
Most patients that I work with have an MD that they also see. As a general rule, patients are using me as a complementary practitioner to their medical doctor. Certainly there are times when someone has come to me because what their MD has been trying with them does not seem to be working. One example where an MD has referred patients to me because there is no effective Western medical treatment is for mononucleosis; there are effective herbs for this condition.
Do most of the patients’ doctors know they are receiving care from the clinic?
Yes, and I provide a comprehensive list of the herbs the patient is taking so they can be shared with the doctor. In the list I include the pharmaceutical nomenclature for the herb along with its common name. In addition, I keep the lines of communication open so the doctor can feel comfortable calling me or I can call him/her in the event I have some particular questions to ask.
Are many of your patients concomitantly using herbs and conventional medications? If yes, do you communicate with patients’ doctors about possible interactions?
Yes, a small percentage of patients take prescription medications while they are also using herbs. I have the patients take their herbal medicines an hour apart from the medication. I analyze the patient to see if there are any contraindications with the drugs they are taking and, when necessary, I speak with their medical doctor.
How is your clinic funded?
The clinic is self-supporting through the income from patient visits and from the herb pharmacy.
What is the income range of most of the clinic patients?
Because I make my work accessible to anyone, the income range of my patients is from poverty level to upper class wealth.
Does your clinic accept barter? Use sliding scale?
I work with patients on an individual basis. If there is a financial need, we will discuss the estimated cost of treatment over a certain period of time to determine their budget for the work that we might do together. I do use the barter system when the barter can work for both the clinic and my patient.
Does your clinic accept medical insurance? If not, how do most patients pay?
We do not accept any medical insurance; and, in general, most medical insurance will not pay for natural herbal care. The vast majority of our patients pay out of pocket.
How do you advertise the services of your clinic?
The services of my clinic are promoted by word of mouth. I do run one ad in an annual local publication as a service to those who might want this type of care but may not otherwise know about it.
What are the biggest financial challenges facing your clinic?
The clinic is financially stable and we have chosen to remain small so that our family can take care of our own health and enjoy the special things in life. Once all of my children are out of the house, perhaps there may be room for expansion of the clinic and occasional travel for lecturing, and
completing my book called Herbal Healing.
Is your clinic well accepted in your health care community? If yes, please describe how this has been achieved and if not, please describe some of the obstacles.
The clinic and my practice are very well received in the health care community and I believe this is achieved by providing a highly communicative and effective service to my patients.
How did you and your staff obtain herbal medicine training? What other credentials do you and your staff carry? Did any additional credentials make it possible to start and run the clinic or was being an herbalist sufficient?
I have been using herbs to treat illness since 1971. My initial training and self-study was through the book Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. I studied the book inside and out and started using herbs to help friends, family, and fellow college students. My more formal training began with a course in trans-cultural herbalism with Allen Jay, ND; African Herbology with Little Tree Rahota; Dr. John Christopher; William LeSassier; the East-West course with Michael Tierra; Stan Malstrom, Own Your Own Body; and Dr. Chou Leung, Chinese Herbal Medicine. I am certified as a diplomat in Chinese Herbology by the NCCAOM. I am also a naturopath and received my training through the Southeastern School of Naturopathy.
My expertise comes from actual clinical experience in working with patients with a wide variety of conditions for over forty years. These conditions range from chronic disease to acute illness. For example, I had a patient come to me at 9 PM with a kidney infection. She wanted to use herbal medicine to treat her condition. I was willing to see her at that time and she was very thankful for it; the herbs began to work within a 12-36 hour period. Whenever herbs are used for acute conditions, they should begin to work within 36 hours if they are the correct herbs in the correct dosage for that particular patient and condition. The patient should be made aware of this fact.
Are there any plans/visions for the clinic’s future?
Our clinic will continue to grow by adding more herbs in different forms, getting more practitioners to utilize our pharmacy, educating the public, and training students in herbal medicine.
My mission statement:
To heal the sick with natural medicine and to assist people in avoiding drugs and surgery whenever possible.