A Wylde one
How did you spend the first weeks and months of lockdown? Start a new exercise regime? Pick up a new language? Finally learn to play the guitar?
Maybe, but probably not.
It is far more likely that you spent that time working your way through the entire Netflix catalogue while trying to avoid being your local takeaway’s main source of revenue. And yes, also learning that certain work colleagues are capable of being just as annoying in a videocall as they are in real life.
Given how unnerving the whole time was, that would be completely understandable. Yet that is also what makes the achievements of Kathie Bishop during those early months so deserving of the Innovation in Practice Award at the National Institute of Medical Herbalists Herbal Medicine Awards 2021.
When lockdown was imposed in late March 2020, Kathie had already been planning to launch a product which she had been working on for six years and which had a decade of research behind it. The timing was incredibly bad luck but Kathie pushed ahead.
The result was the launch of Wylde One.
Wylde One is an herb and water-based lubricant for women which has received high praise from consumers and mentions and features in national newspapers. The product was inspired by the Kathie’s experience of talking to women in her practice and elsewhere who, for a number of reasons, find intercourse difficult or painful.
Many of the conventional lubricants on the market contain ingredients which produce unpleasant side-effects that sometimes defeat the whole purpose of the product. Wylde One is a lubricant made by a medical herbalist and not the sort of standard lubricant in green-washed packaging which tries to pass as ‘herbal’.
Kathie’s motivation for this was not one single moment of inspiration, but a background which made her repeatedly aware of the suffering women can experience. She wanted to help to ease this suffering, even if she couldn’t prevent it. One significant reason of painful intercourse is recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis which affects 138 million women annually across the globe
This is a big number by any measure which Kathie believes doesn’t receive the level of concern or resources that it should. Part of this is due to the social shame still attached to such conditions and female sexuality in general. Society talks a good game, but there’s still a long way to go.
You can lean more about Wylde One and the Wylde Wide scheme for practitioners on the Into the Wylde website
Kathie is also a consulting herbalist specialising in vaginal health – you can find out more on her own website
The damage goes far beyond the physical pain and discomfort. As Kathie points out, chronic conditions like these can also bring negative effects on “women’s mental health including depression and an increased likelihood of finding it difficult to leave the house or take part in social activities.”
What is perhaps most striking to consider is the amount of creativity and potential which is lost every day, week, month and year because so many are suffering in a way that prevents them from living fully. This loss can even be estimated in cash terms, with an August 2018 paper in the Lancet suggesting an annual cost of $14.39 billion in high-income countries in terms of lost productivity.
Statistics like these involve a certain amount of estimating, but it is arguably a conservative number as of course it won’t account for the emotional cost. Those costs are always harder to measure and inevitably harder to bear for the individual. It is also only one of the reasons, along with operations, emotional trauma and menopause, which can make intercourse painful for women and take away enjoyment from a significant part of their lives.
This exceptional product can bring some measure of relief to the suffering of many worldwide and it will also have an increasingly global reach. That is thanks to another remarkable innovation by Kathie.
In September of 2020, only months after the Wylde One lubricant had been launched, she set up a scheme to support her fellow medical herbalists and make the product more readily available to women through qualified medical herbalists. This scheme was Wylde Wide.
Wylde Wide was not launched in spite of the pain created by the sudden restrictions on normal life, but precisely because of it. It was clear to Kathie that many practitioners, now largely unable to see their clients in person, were struggling under lockdown.
This scheme allows them to sign up easily, get all the information they need to know about Wylde One and then buy it in multiples of six. They can purchase it at a lower cost than the standard retail price, meaning that in this difficult time medical herbalists can benefit financially from participating in the scheme.
It also gives their clients access to a certified vegan and organic product which has already met with great success in the relatively short time that it’s been available. Sixty clinics and practitioners have already signed up to the scheme and a lot more look set to follow.
The National Institute of Medical Herbalists has been hugely impressed with Kathie’s “speed of thought and action” in setting up this scheme as well as her commitment to emphasising the herbal and green credentials of the product. Those efforts go a long way to educating people on the benefits of herbal medicine and serve as good PR for the profession as a whole.
The result is that a product made by a medical herbalist and recommended to clients by other medical herbalists is now finding its way to those who need it. This is truly something which can help practitioners and clinics putting, in Kathie’s words, “herbs front and centre of their clients’ nightstands”.
At a time of so much dislocation, it also strengthens connections within the community as much as it builds new connections outside of it.
Kathie will continue to do more of this with her upcoming book: “It’s Your Power Portal: Take Back Control of Your Vaginal Health with Herbal Therapeutics and Holistic Strategies”.
The book is written for all people and has accessibility in mind; it empowers people in methods of self-help and also advises on when is the correct time to seek professional help. As she explains, these should be topics of concern for everyone. Even those not directly affected by these issues will almost certainly care about someone who is.
There are many important issues which don’t get the attention they need and by pursuing her interests and her desire to help in this area, Kathie efforts have paid off for her and many others.
Apart from making her a very worthy winner of this award, that is also central to her message to others in the profession: Within herbal medicine, there are many routes and opportunities to exploring various interests and solutions. By finding your interest and pursuing it, you will be more effective, and your interest will attract and inspire others.
The need is also there for more fully qualified herbal practitioners. With the clear benefits that innovations like these can bring, it is easy to see why. It is also exciting to think of the impact that the determined action of any one of these future herbalists could have.
Old sayings about acorns and oak trees are clichés for a reason. It is how nature often works and it is how sometimes, one person’s idea and commitment can make a hugely positive difference.