By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Each Thursday, Dr. Albert Lewis adjusts his microphone, pushes a button to greet his first caller and performs a feat that once fell to grandmothers and aunts on plantations.
This means he leans into his microphone and names specific herbal supplements that will mitigate hypertension, cancer, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and other ailments, on his weekly radio show, “Tellin’ It Like It is With Dr. Al Lewis,” a live-radio-call-in show that airs each Thursday from 12 p.m.-1 p.m., on Hampton University’s radio station, WHOV-88.1 FM.
While some African American grandmothers and aunts would mix a few Bible verses with a bag of herbal remedies for slaves, relatives or neighbors, Lewis mixes technology with spirituality, and herbal supplements to help hundreds of residents regain their health in Hampton Roads.
“Our first show at Hampton University aired on February 1, 2013,” Lewis explained in a recent email interview.
“Our topic was integrative health, and our guest was community stalwart, Dr. Vivian Anderson, who recently passed in 2021,” said Lewis who was 38 when he relocated to Hampton Roads from New York and soon launched his first Herbal Farmacy store around 1989 in Norfolk with less than $100 and a case of ginseng he bought from a Korean merchant, according to news reports.
“We have been told that our appeal was primarily based on three factors,” Lewis explained.
“No.1 (our radio-call-in show uses) a down-to-earth approach in explaining health concepts, by way of analogy, to a largely lay audience,” said Lewis who is a graduate of the University of Holistic Theology in Birmingham, a school that focuses primarily on holistic or spiritual health and wellness, according to its website.
“No 2– our listening community was hungry for natural and alternative approaches to health, as witnessed by the large number of phone calls that often flood the phone lines,” he explained. “No. 3–we use humor and relatability to get our message across.” For example, Lewis said he often tells his listeners, “Love yourself to life and quit loving yourself to death.” “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”
This is the point. Whether Lewis, a grandmother, or an aunt hands you a bag or a bottle of herbs today, they are all a part of the booming herbal supplement industry, which earned $10 billion for the first time in 2020, according to a Sept. 15, 2021 American Botanical Council (ABC) press release,
This means consumer confidence caused herbal sales to soar, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Real humans from all demographics walked into drug stores, pharmaceutical outlets, and shopped online for herbs that treat stress, inflammation, heart health, diabetes and cancer.
“These sales data suggest that millions of people seem to have realized that they have something called an ‘immune system,’ and that they can enhance its function by modifying their behaviors, including, but not limited to, an improvement of their diets, and the consumption of various dietary supplements,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, in a Sept. 15 news release.
“Consumers in the United States spent $1.6 billion more on herbal supplements in 2020 than in 2019, which is more than the annual spending increases from 2017 to 2018 and to 2019 combined,” Blumenthal said.
Today, many callers wait in line to question Lewis on his weekly radio program, now that the herbal supplement industry is a respected and thriving business.
During his weekly radio call-in show, Lewis’ callers describe a list of symptoms including fatigue, blurred vision, inflammation, and severe pain. Lewis pulls the microphone close and names several herbal mixtures, which are available on his website or in his store. Prices for individual herbs or speciality blends range from a few dollars to about $45, according to signs in his store and his website.
“Since opening the Herbal Farmacy in 1989, we have seen an increase in our client growth on a monthly-to-yearly basis,” Lewis said.
“This trend exists, we believe, for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, prescription medicine recalls; side effects of medicines; the high price of medicines; the increase of plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan diets and lifestyles; the opioid crisis; and, more recently, the current pandemic,” he said.
“You can’t argue with positive results, ” Lewis added. “As more people try herbs and obtain good outcomes, we are pleased to see the word-of-mouth effect growing. .
Will herbal remedies mixed with spirituality actually heal you? Lewis quoted a Bible verse from Genesis 1:29, “God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.’ “
“God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.’ ”
To read the entire article, see New Journal and Guide, February 10-16, 2022.