Goin’ mobile: Holistic health care hits the road

Kristin Henriksen can now come to you in her 1985 Volkswagen Van. – Kelsey Perrett

Kristin Henriksen of Reindeer Bridge in Vineyard Haven puts the “whole” in holistic health practitioner. Her training includes nutrition, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, reiki, and shamanism. She also has a product line of organic blends which she formulates herself — including salves, body sprays, soaps, and herbal tinctures. Recently, she took her practice on the road in a 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia. Ms. Henriksen sat down with The Local in her van, Goldie, to discuss her career and the role of holistic health in modern society.

Before you started your practice, you had a successful career in landscaping. How did that lead to your work as an herbalist?

I have a degree in landscape design. I also started a plant nursery and worked in habitat restoration. During that time, I got really interested in native plants because they were in trouble. It’s in my nature to see broken systems and try to fix them. I studied ecology and plant and soil sciences and became what you would call a backyard botanist.

Recently, I decided I missed gardening, so I came up with this idea called “kitchen medicinals,” personalized medicinal plant gardens. I evaluate clients at home, then we plant medicinal plants, mixed into your landscape or garden. The beauty of it is the plants live with you.

Why did you decide to go mobile?

Doing house calls was always my favorite aspect or my practice. Having a mobile holistic health clinic, we can meet anywhere, we can go for a walk on the beach or meet at a coffee shop. The other thing that inspired me is the Herb Bus, a volunteer herbal clinic in Portland, Oregon. They set up in parks and serve the homeless. I thought ‘I want to make it easier for people to explore and use natural medicine before jumping to pharmaceuticals.’ Not that I have anything against any of that, but I think a lot of times people don’t know how to approach natural medicine. They Google something, and just decide to buy a supplement at a health food store. They don’t understand that there’s actually herb/drug/vitamin interactions; it’s really important to speak to an herbalist or a trained holistic health practitioner about these kind of things.

So what are some of the ways we can use natural medicine? What is the bridge between allopathic and holistic health care?

I come from a family of allopathic practitioners. My grandfather was a surgeon, my mother was an ICU nurse, my sister is now an RN. It’s always been what I wanted to do. I understand it, and I relate to it, and I grew up believing in it. I’m not against Western medicine at all. In these times, I think it’s critical for acute care and diagnostics.

But doctors don’t study nutrition as much, and they are under a lot of pressure from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, administrations, the American Medical Association. They are really only given 15 minutes to see someone.

We all know now that we have to be our own advocates. What we’re starting to see is in order for people to gain and maintain honest health, they have to come back to natural care practitioners. People come to me and we can look over their history, any imbalances there might be in the body, and ways to regain health in the different body systems. Sometimes I end up having more questions about the nature of their illness and I can help them develop language to go back to their physicians and advocate for themselves.

Of course, if you’re having a heart attack, you don’t go running to the herb chest. But at the same time, for instance, if you’ve developed a bunch of food allergies all of a sudden and you can’t figure out what’s going on, your best bet is to go to a holistic health practitioner where you really have the time to explore the nature of that. What I, and people like me, are trying to do is help people become very informed advocates for themselves and make the physician’s job easier with the limited time that they have.

Why is your company called Reindeer Bridge?

It turns out that my ancestors are Sami, reindeer herders of Northern Finland and Russia.

The bridge is partially about the Shamanic aspect of what I do. Shamanism is an ancient form of meditation used to connect with oneself, to connect with what some might call the universal or cosmic web, to ask questions, to observe, and to make connections. So it’s about bridging this world and that world.

It’s also about creating bridges between allopathic medicine and natural medicine. And creating bridges of communication and trust between physicians and natural healers. I hope we can show that the negative stigma that was put on natural medicine is not true, and it’s not necessary.

You can catch Ms. Henriksen, and her daughter/helper Aidan at the Chilmark Flea Market, which runs from 9 am until 2 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 508-693-2505.