Plant Healer Sample Issue
Jesse Wolf Hardin: For The Love of Plant Lovers!
Choosing An Herbal School!
Herbal School Directory! Phyllis Light: Tree of Life!
Paul Bergner: Critical Thinking For The Herbalist! !
Rebecca Altman: In Defense of The Quick-Fix!!
Stories of The Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous!
Herbalism On The Frontier: J. I. Lighthall! The Art of Plant Healer: Ernst Haeckel!
Herbalpreneurship & Making a Business Plan!
Kristin Brown: Make Your Own Herbal First-Aid Kit!
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Finding Your Path - Professional or Not!!
Matthew Wood: The Lymph/Immune System! ! ! Juliet Blankespoor: Growing Medicinal Herbs in Containers!
Sam Thayer: Wild Rice!
Sophie Rose: Elderberry Jellies!
Loba: Harvesting & Drying Wild Plants!
Susun Weed: Edible Seeds! ! Robin Rose Bennett: Everything is Medicine! !
Kiva Rose: Exploring Traditional Models of the Healerâ€™s Practice! !
Created, Edited & Published by Kiva Rose and Jesse Wolf Hardin Design, Layout, Posters & Headers by Jesse Wolf Hardin Research, Fact Checking, Proofing, Linking & Website Development by Kiva Rose Hardin All content (c) 2013 by Plant Healer Magazine and the Authors www.PlantHealerMagazine.com www.HerbalResurgence.org
I love you folks.
getting grass stains on your white lab coats, crawling on your knees to There, I said it. investigate a backyard sprout or ...Plant Lovers curbside blossom. To you who give By Jesse Wolf Hardin I love nearly every medicine your children the names of favorite making, dirt digging, flower sniffing herbs, strive to make your calling one of you. You, plant healers passionate about and livelihood one in the same, heed your dreams helping others, gardeners who grow, foragers who and needs. You formal nurses, trying to bring adventure, wildcrafters and craftspeople who create. understandings about natural healing into Tree climbing children and grandmother healers, conventional services and hospitals, and you who professionals and renegades. The Alder-tincturing diss’d formal training and found your own oddball and Elderberryways to survive, treat intoxicated! Love to and provide. You you forest explorers, who have practiced food aficionados and for three or four herbal tea sippers, decades, still getting plant ceremonialists giddy whenever you and flower arrangers, spot an unfamiliar kitchen witches and species for the first plant shamans. Love time, and you who to our herbalist have just begun a teachers, passing their study of herbs and experience and can’t contain your knowledge on to excitement. It’s others, to our writers possible for you to be giving plaintive voice to the green beings, and sufficiently resentful or dishonorable to dissuade choice words to the opus of our healing my affections, but even then I would find your commitment. To urban activist squatters and bibleextreme fascination with plants endearing, and to belt homesteaders. The free clinic herbalists, the some point, redeeming. street medics, the counselors helping with emotional as well as bodily distress. The botanists with I don’t mean this in the universal, rainbow or Masters degrees or Doctorates who hang seductive brotherly love sense, and there’s nothing saintly botanical glossies on your office walls instead of about it. While I admittedly have deep compassion pin-up girls, viewing each one as more than the sum and concern for every living human on the planet, I of its parts, seeing plants as art. Medical herbalists make absolutely no claim to loving them all. and self-described science geeks, readily risking Notable exceptions aside, I generally tend not to
For The Love Of
love lawyers or politicians, corporado bankers or real estate agents, police informants or war planners, constant whiners or self-abasing defeatists, hategroup demagogues or mean spirited art critics. Nor is love ever automatic for me, or wholesale, objective or impersonal. More than anything else, my love is a natural, personal response to the particular qualities that certain kinds of folks display, from the honor they exhibit, to the delight they show. It seems I cannot help but feel some degree of love for any authentic individual who deeply considers and truly cares, who notices the birds singing even amongst a clamor of traffic, rushes to aid a crying child, stands up to regulatory officials or barroom bullies, tends the sick, talks out loud to plants or dances in the rain. I find lovable – in one way or another – a majority of nature lovers. Scent lovers, food lovers, art lovers. Animal and plant lovers. And especially, I find it disarmingly easy to feel love for you – the special, and the especially sensitive – who combine a passion and sensitivity for plants with a determination to help heal not only other people, but this precious, wondrous world. Being a plant healer seems to come with a number of what I consider to be admirable tendencies and traits such as: A deep capacity to care, about people and their well being, their feelings and dreams; about other species, about the air and soil, the past and the future, tradition and change. Insatiable curiosity. An inordinate sensitivity when it comes to smells and tastes, both pleasurable and distasteful; to harsh noises but also to the details and elements of the best music; to the energies of plants or the needs and ailments of people. An innate ability to sympathize, or even empathize with what others are going through. An understanding of the power of story and mythos, with a need to know your role and calling. An appreciation for things real and natural with a healthy intolerance for the synthesized, artificial, faux and fake. An interest in the science of how things work, along with a valuing of the immeasurable, the magical, the spiritual, the mysterious.
While there have been a few famously arrogant or angry herbalists, and whether you are comfortable admitting it or not, almost all of you – including the pushiest green-anarchist clinic volunteers and crustiest herbal elders – are as sweet as honeysuckle beneath your protective tree bark. Most of you prefer hugs to handshakes, pledges to contracts. The most hurtful things you do are almost always caused by self doubt, self delusion and insecurity, rather than by selfishness, enmity or ambition. Many of you struggle with important critical thinking, but you are not critical people. You look for the best in all things and try to focus on adjustment and remedy, even when you cannot keep from also noticing what is wrong, what is unbalanced, and what hurts. You trust living things more than machines, treasure old books and hand drawn thank-you cards, and stop to listen to the rustling of leaves when there’s a stirring wind. You volunteer for tasks and outreach. You send packages of medicines and perfumes, hand made messenger bags and personally picked-out clothes, for no reason other than to acknowledge your friends and teachers. What kind of man would I be, how aware and true, if I didn’t feel deeply for the likes of you?
A Gift of Love – In Four Quarterly Issues As you may already realize, Kiva and I are not the types to act out of habit, obligation, or what’s customary, profitable or even reasonable. It was anything but customary to produce an eclectic magazine like this, mixing personal empowerment and art with rock solid herbal, dietary and wildcrafting info. It was unlikely we could make an annual event like the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous profitable enough to pay for itself, and rather unreasonable to imagine we could help seed and nourish what Paul Bergner named “the new nexus of a folk herbal resurgence,” affecting and helping grow an alternative folk herbal culture. The magazine you are reading, and all we do, are acts of love... demonstrations of our affection for and support of what we have come to see not as a disparate group but as a connected and coherent if widely dispersed tribe.
We love what we do, and we would do most of it as a hobby if it wasn’t already our core and defining work. No amount of income could ever tempt us into spending the tremendous number of hours necessary to bring all these projects and books to you, only the satisfaction of doing what we love, for a cause and purpose we love, for the kinds of people we find most lovable. Most of you, as well, are in love not just with plants but with your work, your healing mission and life’s purpose. And regardless of your innate levels of courage, that love encourages you to act out of a sense of what’s right instead of out of a fear of conflict, or the fear of upsetting someone. It is nevertheless one of the hardest things for us to do, to return for revision a well-meaning article that’s been submitted to the magazine, to turn down a
by Lauren Raine
teacher’s proposal to teach at the Rendezvous, or to upset a writer or reader with our content. If someone is upset about a cuss word used, offended by the racy art on a poster parody, mad that we give priority to teacher proposals that are uniquely tailored for us, bothered by our support for herbal underdogs or emphasis on the Medicine of The People, the one thing that keeps us from pandering or towing-the-line, censoring or diluting, is our love for this wild-child mission and those we seek to further inform, affirm, inspire, and awaken to the explicit pleasures, skills and responsibilities of the plant healer life.... ...our love for y’all and the work you’re given to do. Thank you, for being you.
What qualifies one as a good herbalist? An ability to also learning from books – which means from learn from experience, intuition or insight, intimacy someone else’s experiences and methods. There are with plants, and rapport with many extremely effective or clients are certainly all credible widely popular herbalists who An Herbal Education criteria, but utterly essential is have never had a teacher or your base and depth of by Jesse Wolf Hardin completed an herbal course, knowledge. Even the most however, including Susun intuitive practitioner could be Weed, Jim McDonald, Michael more effective with an intense Moore and Kiva Rose. study of medicinal plants and their constituents and actions, Disadvantages: It can be a lot of phytochemical and clinical harder to learn this way, with research, the history of no one to ask questions of, no herbalism and healing one to monitor us or correct us traditions from around the when we’re mistaken or doing world, botany and physiology, something counterproductive. psychology and counseling, A lack of requirements and business management and deadlines can result in a lack communication skills to name of focus and slowing of only a few. Even the wisest of progress. And this route teachers will quickly tell you provides none of the that they never stop being credentials and associations students, and the best that can be an aid when it practitioners continue to learn comes to professional new things for so long as they credibility, employment in the live. field, or gaining the initial trust of one’s students or clients. There would seem to be 4 main ways of learning the craft of herbalism. Advantages: The least financially expensive way to learn. Learning at home. An infinitely customizable These are, in brief: curricula. 1. Self Education
This “do it yourself” method is largely a misnomer, since it includes not only learning by experience, but
This system of learning as we work is one of the oldest. A teacher/practitioner carefully selects a
limited number of particularly apt and devoted students to work closely with, not only instructing them but giving them assignments that test the extent of their progress. Disadvantages: Usually requires extensive commitment, physical relocation, labor on tasks unrelated to herbalism, and often financial payment as well. Only a very limited number of apprenticeships available. Provides no credentials other than a certificate of completion, and credit by association (“I studied with so-and-so”). Advantages: As intimate a teacher/student relationship as is possible, close monitoring and support. 3. Home Study Courses Other than self-educating or apprenticing, an herbal school is the primary way to learn an intense amount of information in a reasonable amount of time. This form of distance learning is perfect for folks who don’t live near an instructor, but have access to a computer and take advantage of a home study course’s digital, audio or video components. Some schools include online conferencing. Disadvantages: Less student/ teacher interaction than when attending personally, and thus potentially less oversight and feedback. Cost. Advantages: Having an instructor, while studying in the comfort and privacy of one’s own home. A coherent curricula. 4. Attending a School Besides apprenticing, the best way to get a maximum amount
of personal instruction is to physically attend a school. Sometimes this means folks from the immediate area commuting to classes, other times it many mean living at or near the school site, and involve students relocating for a period of weeks or months. Disadvantages: May require taking time off from a job to attend. Increased cost, in tuition, transportation and housing. Sometimes provides teaching from only a single perspective, tradition or methodology.
Advantages: Teacher/student interaction, the ability to ask questions in person and get answers in a more timely manner, monitoring of oneâ€™s progress. A large number of hours dedicated to the lessons. The support and camaraderie of fellow students. Possible accreditation and increased income potential. A cohesive, coherent curricula.
mainly treat your family, volunteer at a free clinic, or practice as a community/folk herbalist. In all cases, however, you will want an education that is in-depth and not superficial, grounded in but not restricted to good holistic science, requiring actual practice, and aimed at personal excellence and effectiveness. The following are some of the more vital factors to consider, when researching, comparing and assessing the various herbal schools... in approximate order of importance.
School Selection 1. Does the school offer distance classes, day classes, on-site programs or lodging? What are the components of each? 2. Who are the main teachers, what is their personality and style of teaching, how much knowledge do they have, what reputation do they have and what do their former students say about studying with them? 3. Is most of the instructing done by the main teacher(s), or by assistants or guest teachers?
Choosing Your Ways of Learning Which of the above ways you choose to increase your herbal education, should be predicated on: 1. What you expect to get out of it, in terms of specific kinds of information and methods, personal instruction and guidance, credentials or certificates, a likely future income, purpose or role. 2. How the different means for learning fits into your already existing lifestyle, schooling, work, family and other commitments. Your nature, such as whether you need a lot of attention, an easy going or hard driving instructor, lots of structure or lots of options. 3. What you expect to be able to do with the information you gain. If you plan to get work as a clinician, your needs will be different than if you plan to teach, produce and sell herbal products,
4. What herbal tradition or traditions, methodologies, modalities and perspectives are being taught? 5. What specific information and skills are being taught? 6. What is the primary level of teaching â€“ beginner, intermediate, advanced, or a progression? 7. What is the commitment and cost? 8. What certification or credits come with completion of the course, if any? No one factor should make all the difference, it is best to carefully weigh them all and notice how it feels as well as how practical it is. The teacher and school that build on your existing experience, stretches your thinking, and fuels your already existing passion... will be the school for you.
Herbal School Directory The following is an extensive listing of current herbal schools in the United States and Canada. While the larger listings are paid, the basic listings are included here for free, so the only thing preventing a few schools from appearing here was their being too busy to send project manager Jamie Jackson their descriptions. You’ll find information as to the kinds of schools, programs offered and the primary teachers, as well as website and contact info. We recommend that you carefully look over the school websites before sending any queries, and we would appreciate you mentioning that you read about them in Plant Healer magazine. Happy learning!
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– American College of Healthcare Sciences is an accredited member of the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), and is one of the only accredited holistic health colleges offering fully online graduate and undergraduate degrees, diplomas, career-training certificates, and continuing education courses in alternative medicine fields, including herbal medicine, natural products manufacturing, herbal retail management, and wellness coaching. Founded in 1978, ACHS is committed to exceptional online education and is recognized as an industry leader in innovative and affordable holistic health education. ACHS has helped many students and graduates worldwide to change their lives and advance their skills in holistic health fields, such as: Master Herbalist, Certificate in Natural Products Manufacturing, Certificate in Herbal Retail Management, Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP), and Certified Wellness Coach. “ACHS has been an excellent education resource for me. I can't wait to continue my studies in herbology.” —Emily Atkinson, Cypress, TX. 2012 “I have been studying holistic health, particularly nutrition and herbalism on my own for many years. I appreciate the structure and content of the Master's program, especially its scientific emphasis. I am very pleased with the level of professionalism held and demonstrated by ACHS, the professors, administrators, and staff.” —Laura MacGhee, Eugene, OR. 2012
“I was not sure what I would find in coming back into the academic arena after so long, especially doing it online, but I have been delighted with the professionalism of this school and the ease of use of the online classroom.” —Nancy Delk, Huntsville, AL. 2012 For more information about accredited ACHS programs and community wellness events, visit www.achs.edu, call (800) 487-8839, or visit us on campus at 5940 SW Hood Ave., Portland, OR 97239. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Appalachian Center for Natural Health, directed by Phyllis D. Light in Alabama, emphasizes traditional Southern/Appalachian Folk Medicine, the elements, Southern Blood Types, and herbs found east of the Mississippi. Contact 256-931-0351 www.phyllisdlight.com Arctos School of Herbal and Botanical Studies -- Portland, Oregon. Fundamentals of herbalism, botany and ecology with practical experience. Advocating stewardship to the land, intimate relationship to the plants, and health to the community. www.arctosschool.org
Bastyr University - located in Seattle and San Diego. Offers a range of degree and certificate programs including naturopathic medicine, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, nutrition, permaculture, herbal sciences, midwifery, psychology, human biology and exercise science. www.StudyHerbs.Bastyr.edu Blazing Star Herbal School - Ashfield, MA. Offers apprenticeships, classes, distance learning, herbal lifestyle coaching through weaving social and political aspects of health healing through the study of medicinal herbs and food practices. www.blazingstarherbalschool.typepad.com email@example.com
Blessed Maine Herb Farm School of Herbal Medicine - Cross the threshold into the Way of the Wild Heart, engage the spirit and wisdom of the healing herbs with Gail Faith Edwards as your guide. www.blessedmaineherbs.com Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine integrates Eastern and Western traditions, focusing on local plants in order to treat the whole person. Students learn botany, wildcrafting, physiology, Chinese medicine, and clinical skills. www.BlueRidgeSchool.org Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine - British Columbia. Western Canada’s only accredited college offering a 4-year program culminating in Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine designation. Small class sizes and hands on learning set us apart. www.binm.org firstname.lastname@example.org California School of Herbal Studies. Located in Sonoma County. 400 Species Medicinal Herb Garden. Offering Long and Short term Classes Year Round. Connecting People and Plants through Herbal Medicine since 1978. www.cshs.com Cedar Mountain Herb School - Get into nature's classroom, get dirty, meet the plants where they live, start a lifetime relationship. CMHS is member of AHG, AHA, practicum supervisor at Bastyr. See ad this issue! www.cedarmountainherbs.com/school.htm Chestnut Herbs - near Asheville NC. Bioregional, hands-on courses focusing on medicinal herbs, botany, plant identification and wild foods in the beauty and botanical splendor of the southern Appalachians. www.chestnutherbs.com (828)-683-5233 Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism offers Introductory, Advanced, and Clinical training in Medical Herbalism and Clinical Nutrition in the Vitalist Tradition. Also offering a Bach Flower Essences Certificate with a clinical training component. www.clinicalherbalism.com Columbines School of Botanical Studies - Howie Brounstein. Unique programs ranging from entry-level community herbalism to three-years: botany, ecology, wildcrafting, clinical herbalism. Nearly three decades of outside classes for a truly ‘hands on’ experience. www.botanicalstudies.net email@example.com CommonWealth Center for Herbal Medicine - Boston, MA. Apprenticeship, advanced, and clinical training in traditional vitalist Western herbalism. Local herb walks & community classes. Recorded classes for distance learning. commonwealthherbs.com 617.750.5274 firstname.lastname@example.org Dandelion Herbal Center with Jane Bothwell – Located in the magnificent redwoods of Humboldt County, Northern California. Classes and travel adventures for beginners interested in basic herbal crafting techniques to advanced clinical studies. www.dandelionherb.com 707-442-8157 email@example.com David Winston's Center for Herbal Studies. On-line/On-site Two-Year Clinical Herbalist Training Program Begins Sept., 2014 - Aug., 2016. www.herbalstudies.net firstname.lastname@example.org Dominion Herbal College is North America’s Oldest School of Herbal Medicine offering basic to clinical level programs. Dr. John Christopher, Dr. Bernard Jensen, Jethro Kloss and Dr. Earl Mindell are renowned graduates. Visit us: www.dominionherbalcollege.com EarthSong Herbals – Massachusetts. Offers six-month beginning herbal studies to advanced classes in diagnosis and two to five-day intensives in participatory clinical practice. Contact Margi Flint AHA RH at 781-631-4312 www.earthsongherbals.com
East West School of Planetary Herbology - Michael & Lesley Tierra. Distance Learning Course combining Western, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Email for free sample lesson. www.planetherbs.com email@example.com Earth Angel Herbals - Brattleboro, Vermont. An introductory Plant Medicine and Earth Wisdom Apprenticeship. A similar apprenticeship for teens is also offered. www.earthangelherbals.com Farmacy Herbs - Providence/ West Greenwich, Rhode Island. Level1 Herbal Education and Training Program Mary Blue. Level2 Herbal Weekend Intensives - Dr. Noe, Deb Soule, Guido Mase, Dr. McGonigle, Kay Parent, Dori Midnight, Leah Wolfe. www.farmacyherbs.com Florida School of Holistic Living - Orlando, Florida. A non-profit 501c3 offering hands-on herbal education as well as distance learning programs, community herbal clinic, educational garden and botanical sanctuary, and herbal seed library. www.HolisticLivingSchool.org Forager's Path School of Botanical Studies - Flagstaff, Arizona. Small classes and field study in Southwest Herbs & Edibles, Ayurveda and Essential Oils. Emphasis on development of Community Herbalists and Bio-Regional Herbalism. www.theforagerspath.com firstname.lastname@example.org Foundations of Herbalism. A long distance learning program developed by Christopher Hobbs that offers the essential foundation needed to become a well-rounded herbalist. Includes herbal therapies for over 300 health conditions. www.foundationsofherbalism.com email@example.com The Gaia School of Healing located in Vermont & Boston, MA. Founded in 2001, offering 9-month apprenticeships in sacred plant medicine, ancestral knowledge, traditional plant medicine and ethnobotany, journeying with plants, and sacred circle. www.thegreenwoman.com Green Comfort School of Herbal Medicine. Located in the Mountains of Virginia, Teresa Boardwine, RH (AHG) 20 years teaching, Foundations, Apothecary, Nutrition, Clinical and Wild Food. Come for phytochemistry stay for bonbons and cordials. www.greencomfortherbschool.com Green Medicine Herb School in-depth, year-round classes with author Kathi Keville, herbalist & forager with 40 years experience. Plus, guest teachers. Herb medicine, gardening, wildcrafting, plant ID & aromatherapy in California’s Sierras. www.ahaherb.com
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Heart of Herbs Herbal School - Founded in 1998 based on the principles of herbalism and aromatherapy being a viable tool for healing that can be used by all. We have trained over 25,000 herbalists and aromatherapists world-wide. We believe in offering extensive student support and access. We strive to support students on the path they are on and meeting them on their journey with an open mind and open heart. We offer a range of educational levels for each program to allow students to come into the program and expand on their skill set. Our students work in a variety of settings and our programs are and have been taught in apprenticeship models, distance and eLearning, university and colleges all over the world. “As a doctor I figured I wouldn’t really be able to do much with the course, but a lot of my patients used herbs and I wanted to see what it was all about. Boy was I wrong, the MH course transformed my practice and my patients’ lives. Thank you for answering my endless questions and supporting me through my re-education.” -Dr. JB- 2011 7
“As a midwife I rely on herbs and I am so glad I relied on you. Working with you has really opened my eyes to the possibilities and made me a better midwife” Alice B.- 2012 “When you said you personally worked with all students I thought, well okay. Well you do and you have. If I didn’t have your support and kind words when I thought “this is too hard for me” I am not sure I could have completed such an in-depth and intense program, thanks.” -Patti C.- 2012 Our students reflect humanity coming from all walks of life and professional levels. The director Demetria Clark (Author Herbal Healing for Children) is personally involved with every student. 866-303-4372 firstname.lastname@example.org 501 Lindsey St. Reidsville, NC 27320 www.heartofherbs.com
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Hearthside Farm in secluded in Virginia Beach. Homesteading Classes - create healing herbal medicines, balms and ointments, many wild-crafted on premises. Beekeeping, dairying, cheese, soap, candle making, and more! E-mail email@example.com for details. Heartstone Herbal School @ Heartstone center for Earth Essentials - Van Etten, NY. 6-Weekend Apprenticeship Program: May-October. Continuing Education in Herbal Medicine - 2-4 weekends/year. Online Anatomy & Physiology. 607-589-4619 Facebook-Heartstone Center for Earth Essentials. www.heart-stone.com Herbal Coaching Community. New way to study herbalism, in a learning community where the better you play, the less you pay. Become a certified Herbal Coach or learn for the love of it! www.herbalcoachingcommunity.com Herbal Healer Academy offers home study in Herbology, Massage, Reflexology, Anatomy, Nutrition and Chemistry and more all towards a Naturopathic Certificate. www.herbalhealer.com/corresp.html Herbal Medicine for Women - Aviva Romm - herbalist, midwife, MD. Deeply powerful 400-hour herb course. Reclaim women’s wisdom - sacred, spiritual, and practical in women’s health. Be part of a thriving women’s herbal learning community. www.AvivaRomm.Com/study-with-aviva/herbal-medicine-for-women
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– HerbMentor.com is an online community of folks interested in edible and medicinal plants, herbal home remedies, and natural health, featuring beginning and advanced herbal courses, videos, podcasts, resources, articles, weekly quizzes, multi media reference materials, and an interactive community forum. The key to continued learning is having a community to stay in touch with. To not only have someone to answer your more burning questions, but someone to inspire you, give you ideas, direction and challenges. The focus is always on your personal empowerment. HerbMentor is so inexpensive, that even if you just log on to listen to an interview every moth and participate in the Forum, it’s totally worth what you pay for. “I have been interested in medicinal herbs for many years but never really felt comfortable doing anything with it. Since I found HerbMentor, I have begun making my own herbal remedies for use with family and friends. The videos and articles are so informative. The community forum has given me the opportunity to “talk” to other aspiring herbalists and some real experts.” C. Sobczak, Westbury, NY “I have learned to make tinctures and vinegars, something I didn’t think I would ever be doing! I love the videos as that helps me identify the plants in question better than just a picture in a book. I have really enjoyed the talks from the different herbalists. I also love reading the forums – there are so many wise people out there to learn from. I honestly can’t say enough good things about HerbMentor!” -C. Caturia, Olympia, WA) Designed for any level of experience, to work with the busiest of schedules, and as either a stand alone educational platform or to compliment any herbal school or course. Go to: HerbMentor.com and LearningHerbs.com. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Human Path is a Texas school offering courses in herbalism, wilderness and urban survival, primitive skills, off-grid engineering and homesteading, tactics and reconnaissance and much more. www.thehumanpath.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for calendar and information. Jim McDonald, Michigan herbalist, offers a Four Season Herbal Intensive that applies western energetic herbalism to organ systems and bioregional flora; as well as many day classes and divers presentations. www.herbcraft.org Sam Coffman Jeanne Rose© prepares you to treat conditions, and promotes vibrant good health and beauty. Acquire broad knowledge and experience and learn to use herbs. Our students have thriving businesses in many occupations. www.jeannerose.net/herbal.html email@example.com
Kathleen Maier - Classes for beginners as well as the Three Year Herbal Training Program on energetic western herbalism. Third year students run the free clinic which has been open for over 15 years. www.SacredPlantTraditions.com (434) 295-3820 firstname.lastname@example.org Live Oak School of Natural Healing - Dawn Gates, nurse. Herbalism taught in the vitalist tradition. Live and online. Herbalist & Master Herbalist Certifications. www.LiveOakSchoolOfNaturalHealing.com 877.281.0447
Living Earth School of Herbalism - Online distance-learning courses and in-class workshops in traditional Western herbalism for general interest or Traditional Herbalist clinical diploma program. Director: Michael Vertolli. Blog: michaelvertolli.blogspot.ca www.livingearthschool.ca email@example.com National College of Natural Medicine - Located in beautiful Portland, Oregon. NCNM is the established leader in natural medicine education and research. Discover the healing power of nature through Western and Eastern botanical medicine! www.ncnm.edu
Naturally Simple is operated in Iowa City, IA by herbalist Stephany Hoffelt. She has apprentice program that starts the 1st of November every year as well as teaching occasional workshops: www.naturallysimpleliving.org Northeast School of Botanical Medicine - Ithaca, NY . A comprehensive, hands-on herbal education focused on clinical skills, plant identification and wildcrafting, physiology, field trips, medicine-making and community herbalism. Three programs offered. www.7Song.com Northwest School for Botanical Studies, Professional & Clinical Herbalist Training includes 400 hours of instruction with Christa Sinadinos. Curriculum includes materia medica, physiology, pathophysiology, herbal therapeutics, constitutional medicine, medicine making, formulation, and more. www.herbaleducation.net; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohlone Center of Herbal Studies is an earth-centered, community-based, herbal medicine school. Our mission is to keep Western herbal knowledge alive by bringing the knowledge of plant healing to the people, empowering the ability of everyone in the community to heal one another through the use of herbs. Classes are small, interactive, experiential, and tailored to our students' needs – from medicine making, to clinical practice, to herbal explorations in nature.
We offer a variety of classes, from one-day workshops to our formal Clinical Herbalist training program. This certificate program consists of 2-3 years of dedicated study, and culminates in the clinical internship, where students work directly with clients while being overseen by master herbalist Pam Fischer and other senior faculty. As a 501c3 non-profit, we maintain a strong focus on service. The community clinic is one of the most unique things about Ohlone, providing students the opportunity to begin building their practice while still in school. www.ohlonecenter.com –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Pacific College of Oriental Medicine - Turn your holistic lifestyle and passion for herbal healing into a career with Pacific College. Pacific College is one of the nation’s leading accredited institutions training professionals in the areas of Oriental medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy and Chinese herbal medicine. The school was founded in 1986, with the mission of training primary healthcare providers in the field of Oriental and integrative medicine. Campuses in San Diego, New York, and Chicago, and an esteemed faculty of professors from around the globe. "As the embodiment of the collective wisdom of generations of earth-based natural healers, traditional herbal medicine is a human healing treasure. The empirical experience of ancient herbalists throughout human history has been preserved through oral and written tradition, and should be studied and mastered by modern people through whatever available means. As natural healers, this is our responsibility and our joy." –Bob Damone, M.S., L.Ac. DAOM (Cand.), Academic Dean, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine The Master’s program is unique in that graduates are able to formulate not only acupuncture treatment plans, but herbal and supplemental treatment plans as well. Pacific College also offers a separate Certificate in Chinese Herbology at our New York Campus, which provides the Licensed Acupuncturist the fundamental principles of Oriental Herbology to integrate into the scope of their acupuncture practice. Take your passion for herbal medicine to the next level. 888-474-1416 www.PacificCollege.edu –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Pacific Rim College, located in Victoria, BC, Canada. Offers both a 3 year Diploma program in Herbal Medicine and a 4 month Certificate program in Community Herbalism. Please visit us online at: www.pacificrimcollege.ca/school_of_western_herbal_medicine.html ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
PCC Herbalism Professional Series Online - An interactive online course designed for those interested in enhancing their herbalism skills, becoming a credentialed professional herbalist/ developing a professional practice; entering the expanding complementary medicine, natural health and organic food industry; or those preparing toward The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) for Registered Herbalist (R.H.) status. Students receive a Professional Herbalist Award of Proficiency upon completion and will have obtained substantial academic knowledge toward applying for professional membership in the American Herbalists Guild, the only professional association representing herbalists in the United States. PCC Nutritional Therapy Online - Approved by the National Association of Nutritional Professionals. Successful completion of the program meets requirement to become a professional member of the NANP, and allows sitting for the board exam in holistic nutrition. For those with an interest in combining science (biochemistry and nutrition) and natural, drug-free medicine. “You are a wealth of information, I feel fortunate to be learning from you.” –former student Contact us at email@example.com for more information or visit www.pcc.edu/climb/health/ and click on either the Herbalism or Nutritional Therapy link. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Prairie Star Center for Herbal Studies, Four Winds Natural Healing Center - Omaha, Nebraska. This amazing herbal program/school was founded by Nicholas Schnell. 402.933.6444 www.fourwindsnhc.com Restoration Herbs – Leslie Alexander, PhD, RH (AHG), Medical Herbalist - NW Pennsylvania farming valley. Classes for all ages, focus on local flora and in particular herbs for the mouth. Prospective students and interns welcome. www.RestorationHerbs.com (814) 374-4119 Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute - Study clinical Chinese herbology. Seeking self-motivated, health-freedom-loving individuals. Also: diet; environmental toxicology; electromagnetic health issues; music, sound, and health. Download free interactive software; take our aptitude test. www.rmhiherbal.org Rosalee de la Foret’s Mentorship Program. Rosalee mentors enthusiastic herbalists who are inspired to dramatically accelerate their herbal journey by receiving one-on-one guidance. Topics include building your own practice, case studies, and learning advanced herbalism. www.methowvalleyherbs.com/p/your-herbal-mentor.html Sacred Earth Medicine Herbal Apprenticeship - Tucson, Arizona. Darcey Blue - Clinical/ Shamanic Herbalist. Deepen connection with plant medicines, wild-crafting, medicine making, botany, shamanic herbalism, seasonal lore, ceremony, nature awareness & skills, weekend wilderness field trips. firstname.lastname@example.org www.shamanaflora.wordpress.com/sacred-earth-medicine-apprenticeship Sacred Journey School of Herbal Wisdom, Austin, Tx -Ginger Webb. Herbalist Mentoring combine science & traditional wisdom with hands-on experience and intuitive understanding of herbal medicine and wild plants. Spring/ Fall programs, on-line courses soon. www.SacredJourneySchool.com School of Forest Medicine - Portland, OR. Psycho-spiritual Plant Medicine, Wildcrafting and Medicine Making with a spiritual focus, nine-month Immersion Course, weekend Plant Teacher Immersions, and more. Online courses coming soon! www.forestmedicine.net
Southwest School of Botanical Medicine offers 2 online courses. Videos of Michael Moore teaching Materia Medica, Constitutional Evaluation, and Herbal Therapeutics can be downloaded and/or viewed online. www.swsbm.com/school –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– School of Modern Herbal Medicine founded by Steven Horne, RH(AHG). The School of Modern Herbal offers practical training in clinical herbalism and natural healing. We offer instruction via a combination of correspondence courses, webinars and live classes. Our Certified Herbal Consultant (CHC) program is a series of 8 correspondence courses, with manuals, webinar recordings and DVDs that trains people how to consult using commercial herbal products and supplements. Our Advance Herbal Training Program is taught by Steven and Thomas Easley, RH(AHG) via webinar. We also offer a monthly member program with four webinars that train people in natural healing techniques, marketing and business development and emotional healing/trauma recovery work for just $19.95 a month. The program has a one-month free trial. We also offer many free webinars, as well as other courses, books and materials. Sign up for our mailing list at www.ModernHerbalMedicine.com. Request a free catalog by calling 800-416-2887 or by emailing us at email@example.com –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 2013 Sonoran Herbal Apprenticeship,120-hour field based Program with Sonoran herbalist, John Slattery. Learn plant identification, ethical wildharvesting, medicine making, wild food preparations, clinical applications, and vitalist energetics. www.desertortoisebotanicals.com www.sonoranherbalist.com Study with Susun Weed online, by correspondence, in the forests and fields, at workshops, or as an apprentice. Learn herbal medicine and spirit healing the Wise Woman Way. Woodstock, NY www.susunweed.com Tai Sophia Institute. Herbal graduate degree programs feature nature-based science and accredited clinical curriculum preparing graduates to turn passion for medicinal plants into thriving careers in the growing fields of healthcare and research. www.tai.edu Tree of Dreams Sanctuary - An herbal and healing arts educational center focused on Wise Woman and Shamanic herbalism, Shamanic healing, Reiki and energy healing. Workshops, classes and apprenticeship programs. On-site and distance learning. www.windyroots.com University of Bridgeport offers naturopathic medicine and acupuncture degrees, among others. The on-campus clinic, state-of-the-art anatomy lab, herbarium, and dual degree offerings provide hands-on learning. www.bridgeport.edu or firstname.lastname@example.org Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, a 501(c)(3) non-profit: rigorous training in a spectacular location. Weave science, spirit and grassroots activism. Practice herbal medicine in our community clinic. Pioneering 1300+ hour clinical program since 2007. www.vtherbcenter.org Vitalist School of Herbology - Ashland Oregon Director: Jon Carlson, C.H. Integrating traditional values with modern research. Providing transformative education in one of North America's most botanically diverse bioregions since 2003. www.vitalistherbology.com
Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center offers nature workshops focused on wild edibles and medicinal plants. Wild Bear offers a unique perspective into the high altitude ecosystems, located in the mountains of Nederland, Colorado. www.wildbear.org email@example.com Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine - Austin Texas. Bioregional EcoHerbalism. Hands-on field experience with wild plants, permaculture, medicine making, the art, science, and spirit of herbalism! Community & clinical programs, single classes, and webinars available. www.wildflowerherbschool.com Wildwood Institute is dedicated to educating and empowering people to heal themselves, families, communities and the earth. The Institute offers a comprehensive three year Herbal Apprenticeship, health consultations, and public herbal classes. www.wildwoodinstitute.com 608-663-9608 Wise Acres Herbal Educational Center - Pleasant Hill, Oregon. A farm that focuses on teaching you how to grow, collect, process and use medicinal herbs. There is something for everyone at Wise Acres. www.herbaltransitions.com/Classes.html 541-736-0164 ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
It is a family tree with branches spreading wide, house, a shell home. The company completed the reaching towards the heavens; its outside of the home watertight but left it trunk massive and firmly rooted in up to the customer to finish the inside Tree of Life the Earth. It was the tree that first themselves. No corners were straight and attracted her to the piece of land, that the ceilings were low, no plumbing, and by Phyllis D. Light and the well. There had once been a no electricity, and no inside walls, but it house next to the well, but the youngest child had provided a dry place to live in the meantime. The fallen in and drowned and then the house caught on house wouldn’t fully be completed until all the fire and burned to the ground. They just didn’t have children were grown and gone from home. They the heart to rebuild and so had moved on leaving wouldn’t have the money until then. the land to return to pasture and weeds. The tree is a mighty oak, That’s how Mama found a giant among trees, a it. She knew about the Family Tree. At the child dying in the well smallest part of the lower but that didn’t stop her trunk, the tree now from wanting the acre. measures 19 feet around. The well water was clean, The branches reach across there was plenty of room 116 feet of the front yard, to build a house, and providing shade to the there was a huge garden house. We didn’t have the spot with rich soil for luxury of air conditioning planting. And then, there but under its canopy we was the tree. shelled peas, shucked corn, ate meals, cooled She worked hard in the off, held family reunions, cotton fields the whole season. She hoed, chopped hosted visitors and watched the traffic go by. It was and thinned the cotton. She weeded the cotton. And an extension of the house and was kept as neat as later in the fall, when the boles were wide-open and any other room with extensive mowing and raking. white, she picked and pulled until her gloves were shredded and her hands were too. She managed to According to a formula from the International save every penny from her hard, sweaty work. Society of Arboriculture, the tree is about 363 years Saved $500 cash, enough to buy the piece of land. old. Of course, this is a rough estimate only. This means that about the time Descartes pronounced, “I With an acre homestead outright owned, Mama think therefore I am,” the tree was only an acorn then had the collateral to purchase a Jim Walter waiting to sprout.
The lower branches are so wide that you can walk across them but it takes a ladder to even reach them. Much of my childhood was spent under that tree playing games, reading, riding my bike, working and sometimes, just being. I wrapped my arms across the trunk and cried when my father died pouring my grief and sadness into its stout form. I sat on its exposed roots, leaned back against the trunk and told the tale of my divorce to a nonjudgmental and willing ear. I’ve felt the depth of its roots and the beating of its core, its heartwood, and I couldn’t tell the difference in our heartbeats. I’ve slept at its base and entered the doorway of another world. And it took it all. It is the center of the world, a perfectly shaped Tree of Life, beautifully illustrating the connection between the Underworld and Heaven. It is clearly a symbol of earth and air. It is the tree that stood in the garden, its leaves for the healing of the nations. It is a symbol of resurrection, losing its leaves in the fall as the sap moves to the core and sprouting them anew in the spring as the sap rises and moves outward. In Southern Folk Medicine, our bodies are like the tree. In the winter our blood thickens and moves inward to our core, keeping the vital Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt organs warm and protected. And in the spring, our blood thins and moves outward, bringing life back to our extremities, just as the sap rises to the branches. A host of indigenous peoples have legends of the Tree of Life. In Ireland, every clan had a mother tree, an oak, under which chieftains were appointed and
gatherings were held. African legends hold that the first man and woman were carved from a trees. The Celts believed that the soul of every person was tied to the soul of a tree. The Romans, and later the Catholic Church, destroyed many oak groves on the British Isles because they were sacred to the Druids. The Cherokee built the sacred fire from oak and burning twigs were offered to each direction. And who can forget that Tolkien’s Ents, man-like tree herders, symbolize the talking trees found in many cultures around the world. In Appalachia, a tree was often planted at the birth of a child; this was known as the birth tree. The tree and the child were linked and as long as the tree was healthy, the person stayed healthy. The clothes of a sickly child could be hung on a stout tree to make the child better, and, in this way, some of the trees strength was imparted to the sickly. Sometimes rags were tied to these trees and they were considered spiritual places where magic could still be found. And there were also bottle trees, so named because bottles were tied upside-down to tree branches to catch evil spirits. While the ancients respected trees, modern man tends to spurn them, cutting and hacking without regard to the spirit which rests within nor their greater role as the lungs of this earth. It is a shame and a testament to how far from Nature our culture has traveled. We speak of family trees. Darwin used the tree of life as a simile for his evolutionary theory. We talk of
bending like a tree in the wind, being as patient as trees or being up a tree with no way down. Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. And often, we bark up the wrong tree intensely believing that it is the right one.
We all have mama trees and each one is very precious. However complex your relationship with the person who gave you life, without her, you would not be the person you are today. And when our mama tree passes, a huge part of what made us who we are, will also pass. Regardless of our age, when our mama tree passes our childhoods are firmly and finally behind us and we are now the elders. But like the mighty oak, there is renewal and new growth from each experience and in each new season of life.
My family tree has many, many branches. Hundreds at least. Some as big around as the trunk of a smaller species and some much smaller reflecting its continued growth. I like to think of those branches as bits and pieces of our lives as a family. From my Daddy, I learned about the herbs and plants in the woods, how to read animal tracks, how to watch for snakes, how to throw a knife, how to read the Signs, how to let wild things be wild and how to wander. From my Mama, I learned about hard work, how to keep a clean house, how to raise a garden, preserve food and take care of kids, how to read dreams, how to tame wild things, how to pray and the importance of roots. She loves that piece of land fiercely and the stability it provided for her family all the more for the sweat put into its having. And I am ever grateful for the traditional healing knowledge that he and my grandparents carried across the generations. Those all are many branches on the family tree.
We are the seed that carries forth. We embody the gifts, thoughts, and history of those branches who came before us. Within us are generations of amazing people who lived, loved and died passing on their knowledge and traditions in ways that we may not comprehend at the moment but which becomes clearer with time. And we now have the same opportunity to continue passing on our g e n e r a t i o n a l knowledge. So let your branches grow stronger, lift your leaves to the heavens and stand rooted in your beliefs. Honor your mama tree while you can. Appreciate the gifts, the lessons, and the teachings that were given. Don’t hesitate to let her know that she did the best she could as you are also doing the best you can. Whether you are an acorn that didn’t fall far from the tree or one taken and dropped distantly by an animal, take a moment and remember your origins. Visualize that mother tree, her branches covering you. Her roots firmly embedded in the earth, her leaves reaching for the heavens. She is all mothers and all women. She is the earth.
It is my family’s mother tree. It stands at the center, just the way Mama has been the center of our family all these years. It symbolizes her strength of character and will, her indomitable spirit, and continued ability to endure.
Medicinal Uses of Oak White oak is an astringent and antiseptic and as such, stops bleeding internally and externally and draws tissues tighter. The leaves, the inner bark and the caps of the acorns all have medicinal properties. To avoid harming the tree, I generally gather new growth in the spring instead of gathering the bark. A tincture made of new growth, when mixed with water, can be used as a mouthwash to cleanse the mouth and tighten the gums and for gingivitis and pyorrhea. One of my favorite formulas to tighten teeth into the gums is a mouthwash, a decoction, of white oak bark, violet leaves, and plantain. This formula was very helpful when my children returned from the orthodontist after having their braces tightened. Dr. Christopher, the esteemed herbalist, also recommended white oak bark powder in his toothpaste formula. White oak can be applied externally for hemorrhoids and used both internally and externally for varicose veins. One client of mine who was complaining of extreme pain and discomfort from hemorrhoids reported playing tennis after four days of white oak treatment. It is excellent for enlarged and inflamed lymph nodes and also reduces fever. Oak stops bleeding both internally and externally. A bit of powdered oak bark can be sniffed to stop nosebleeds; a decoction can be used for intestinal bleeding and the powder can be applied directly to surface cuts. Inner oak bark decoction has a bitter, slightly acrid taste. It is excellent for stopping excess fluid loss especially from diarrhea or dysentery and can be used as a douche for excess vaginal discharge. A decoction is also an excellent gargle for sore throat and offers added anti-infective properties to a salve or balm. It can be used as a compress to relieve pain and as an anti-infective for burns, scrapes, and bruises. Native Americans made a meal of the leached and dried acorns which are high in protein. It is an important food for many wild creatures including deer and squirrels. Even today, deer hunters stop at Mama’s house and ask for her acorns to feed the deer. Due to its high tannin content, oak has been used to tan leather in many parts of the world. The oak symbolizes fertility, renewal, growth, longevity, luck, prosperity, health, strength and wisdom. For good luck, carry two acorns in your pocket. To determine if you have found your true love, place two acorns in a bowl of water. If they float together, it’s a yes. If they float apart, it’s a no.
Tree of Life © Sophy White
In this series of columns, I've described a Four how things have been done in the past. The most Directions model for common mistakes I see in this approaching herbal studies (or area are: Critical Thinking in “The North” any other studies for that 1) Incorrect information on the matter), the North being a study by Paul Bergner tradition – we didn't actually do of tradition, of the old books, or our homework on the fact in the recorded literature of question. We hear or make statements such as “This previous generations; the South is direct experience herb has been used for thousands of year for . . . .” by yourself or colleagues in your generation; from and in most cases the individual has not actually the East come new influences, new information, new done a close or critical study literature on the subject points of view, and in today's era much of that is and would not even know how to do so. This is very from scientific studies and approaches; in the West is common in statements about intuition, see the sixth folk herbalism. This is also column in this Herbal Rebel c o m m o n a m o n g series, on critical intuition, for contemporary herbalists who more discussion of that. Each have only superficially of the Directions is a way of studied old systems and not knowing, a possible doorway really understood their into the Truth in the Center. principles. My favorite peeve But each has inherent flaws. in this regard is the person Each requires a different sort who speaks of the Chinese of critical thinking to avoid organ systems, such as pitfalls, and a specialized spleen, kidney, or heart, as if education about the flaws in they were anatomical organs that way of knowing. Here I when in fact they are broad turn my attention to the functional systems that North, and how to avoid extend throughout the body. pitfalls of blindly what is 2)Mistaking the books of the written in old herbals and Tradition for the Tradition medical books. itself. In the reality of ancient Three traps in the North are times, or even the medical closely related: the Tradition history of the 1800s and early Trap, the Authority Trap, and 1900s, individuals learned The Book Trap. The Tradition their art under the guidance trap is simple: we assume of a mentor. Yes there were something is true because it is
books, but the mentor, who had some decades of practical experience, could help the student sort out what was useful, what needed to be modified, and what could be ignored in the books. The Book without the mentor, a master of the tradition, is like a set of laws without a judge. Also, historically the writer of the book was not necessarily be best practitioner. Galen is the most famous of the Roman physicians, this may be simply because he had a wealthy clientele who funded the publication of his many books. 3) We fail to take into account the changed conditions of the modern society. The conditions of life and general health of the population is radically different in the 21st Century than at any time in previous history. We hear “This system is thousands of years old . . .” a statement that should immediately make us question its relevance to modern life, unless adapted for modern conditions. Ancient systems developed around Agrarian people who mostly did manual labor to produce or earn their food, and ate nothing but organic meat, vegetables, and grains, and generally slept with the circadian rhythm. This applies to system from ancient times, and equally to the methods of the Thomsonian, Physiomedical, Eclectic, and Nature Cure schools of healing in more recent history. In my experience many methods of Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, or the herbal systems of the 18th Century simply do not work in today's population, or don't work until substantial lifestyle and nutritional obstacles have been addressed. These systems were developed with populations that did not eat large amounts of sugar, margarine, fructose, bad oils, or processed foods. Blindly looking at traditional literature we fall prey to the Authority Trap, but this fallacy of thinking can also apply to contemporary teachers, teachings, and literature. We are responsible for our own thinking, our own experience, to build our own reasoned and tested body of knowledge, and one of the easiest ways to give that up is to turn it over to an Authority. We like this Authority, we resonate with it, we trust it, so we then accept anything said or taught by the Authority as true. He or she has done our work for us, how comfortable it is to have all that knowledge delivered to us predigested! Now we are in possession of superior knowledge, and now we can repeat what the authority says with
confidence and feel very good about ourselves. We say and hear over and over again: “So-and-so says . . . .” followed by snippet of knowledge that the speaker has no practical experience of whatsoever. We channel the Authority, we repeat their stories, we think we are significant by association with the Authority, without having proven the information for ourselves. We've heard the Authority speak, with great confidence, and we are inspired that everything they say is true. Let me confess here that sometimes when I have been teaching, I have found myself bullshitting. Exaggerating a claim, exaggerating my actual experience, failing to say 'I don't know' when I should have. Saying something is true when it is only a rumor I've heard. I can say I was first inspired to think about this by my teacher from the 1980s, Cascade Anderson Geller, who I stood in awe of, when she answered a question from a student with: “I don't know, I am a novice as far as that plant is concerned.” I resolved on the spot that that was the kind of teacher I wanted to be. In that quest, I find I have a little bullshit meter somewhere in my spiritual heart that goes off from time to time. I've learned over the years to listen to that meter, and it has helped to hone me into a better teacher, to inspire my students to dive into their own practical experience rather than to blather what they heard from me. Recently at a conference, I was on a panel, and confessed to the audience that I sometimes find myself bullshitting when teaching, and I asked the three other panelists present, all prominent teachers, if they ever experienced that, and they each without hesitating nodded their heads and smiled. I am convinced that almost every herbal authority in the U.S. today does this to some extent, and a few have built their reputations on exaggeration, made up stories, faking of knowledge or experience, pseudoscience, and pseudo-tradition. This is not specific to herbalism or alternative medicine, it is a character of the human soul to do this, and the tendency can only be overcome with careful self examination and an intention and commitment to being honest. The best way to avoid this trap is to use the Authority as an inspirational starting point for your own testing and practice. A frequently repeated saying of the Tom Brown, Jr. the famous tracker at his Tracker School is “Prove me right or prove me wrong.” We need to be provers, not channelers of authorities. .
First cousin to the Authority Trap is The Book trap. The human mind has a weakness for the printed word. You can imagine how profound this was when there were few books, when they were copied by scribes and held in sacred or secure places, how hard it would be for someone to say that something in that book was wrong. Thus we had Western medical and herbal practitioners repeating Galen's anatomical and other medical errors for a thousand years; Chinese practitioners today still repeating the errors in the Yellow Emperor's Classic. It is also profound in today's publishing milieu. Somewhere in the back of our mind, we think that an individual would not have written a book and put things in it they did not actually know to be true, or heaven forbid, put gross errors in it. Or that the editorial and publishing process would have weeded out the errors. When opening a book, most humans become like a deer-in-the-headlights and assimilate whatever they find there. Think again. In the first place, authors are just as prone to exaggeration and posturing as the Authority described above. In the
modern era every publishing company wants to have herbal books for sale, because the public wants them. When I started practicing in the 1970s, there were fewer than ten books listed in Books-in-Print on the topic of herbalism. A search today on amazon.com shows 16,000 books on “herbal medicine,” and 130,000 on “herbs.” I would propose that 99% of these are written by people without grounded experience in clinical or even practical folk herbalism. That may be too kind, for I would have trouble naming 160 books on medical herbalism that I consider worthwhile texts for study. To enter into this morass of chaotic and undiscriminating information without some critical thinking is folly. Perhaps less foolish, but still a problem, is that handful of books written by people who actually have experience, who have actually mastered something. Is everything they write then infallible? Even if diligent in not exaggerating their knowledge, A level students make less than 10% errors, even an A+ student may make 5% error. So our contemporary works by A or A+ herbalists
contain 5-10% errors. I will readily acknowledge that this is true of the five books I have written. Any author's Book is a snapshot of their knowledge in time, and the more time that goes by, the more likely that author would be to revise or correct their original work. So some questions you can ask about a book:
the interest of preserving the knowledge, but we ought to label it as such, and not put too much positivity into it until we see it work ourselves. And ultimately use the book as a starting point for your experience, not an end point. At my school we advocate a practice to establish as a habit: take at least one herb a day and study its effects in yourself. This can expand into clinical experience with patients. One of the great old Eclectic writers, Eli Jones, put it this way: “I have aspired throughout my career to learn at least one therapeutic fact a day.” Jones waited until her had two decades of such practice and experience before writing his first book.
•Exactly who is the author? What is their experience? How can you find out what their experience is? •Are they writing from experience, or are they copying from other books and repeating rumors? (Too many instances of “. . . is said to be . . .” or “. . . according to so-an-so.) •Do they have an agenda or ideology? Are they writing from one “school” of herbalism. •Could they have distorted their information, or practiced selective citation in order to reinforce some dogmatic opinion. •Could they be exaggerating their certainty about the facts they espouse to be true? (Too many instances of “is” and not enough “may be.”
One variant of the Authority Trap/Book Trap is the Doctor Trap – the idea that what a doctor writes must be more authoritative than a non-doctor. Publishing companies are crucially aware of this , and use it to sell books. In one of my own books, the company hired a PhD reviewer and featured his name prominently on the cover so they could put Doctor in the title. In my opinion, all of the traps above have affected how contemporary herbalists have read and interpreted the writings of the Eclectic school of medicine in this generation. In my next column I will continue on this topic, and turn my sights on contemporary myths and misconceptions on the subject of Specific Medication.
The best general approach is to maintain a critical, curious, and inquiring attitude toward the old books. Be aware of your own tendency to shut off critical thinking in the face of Authority, or The Book. We may repeat things from the old books, in
Just after I first moved to Los Angeles, my neck herbalist complain that people no longer want to went out of alignment. I can’t remember why, but I commit the time and effort to deep healing, that remember being in a lot of pain. people just want quick fixes, and After asking around, I was In Defense of The Quick-Fix how frustrating it is. It got me recommended a chiropractor, who thinking about whether a quick fix Text & Photos I went to assuming that all is really such a bad thing. By Rebecca Altman chiropractors were the same- you lie down, they crack every bone in I spend my Sundays at a Farmer’s your body, you leave. I lay down, and he massaged Market selling herbal remedies. I might talk to 15 my back and neck for an people in the time I’m there, hour. It was a great, deep and of those 15 people, I and intense massage, and might give 12 a remedy for when I stood up I felt more something- whether it be open and aligned than I had one that’s already on my in months. But my neck was table, or a custom still out. I asked if he could formulation to be picked up adjust my neck, and he later in the week. explained how he doesn’t do ‘harsh’ adjustments like Some of them, I’d much that- that with repeated rather see long-term, or at treatment my neck would least for a more in depth adjust itself, as would the consultation than the 15 rest of my body which was minutes or so I get at the badly out of whack. I market-those with walked out of his office complicated situations, but I angry- I had gone in for a rarely have the luxury of neck adjustment and come being able to see them in out with a recommendation that fashion, either because to visit nine more times, and they’re visiting from out of my neck still hurt. While I understood his town, because they don’t think it necessary, because underlying philosophy- to fix the body on a deeper they ‘don’t have time’ or because they don’t fully level so that minor ailments stop arising- I felt as believe that herbs will actually work. Keep in mind though I’d been duped, as I wasn’t remotely that I live in Los Angeles, where the majority of interested in fixing things I didn’t know were wrong residents deserve every stereotype given to them. in the first place. All I wanted was a quick fix. I was My market is in an affluent area, where, even on a reminded of this recently when overhearing a Sunday morning, people are in a hurry. To capture
somebody’s attention, you have about thirty seconds of talk time before you lose them. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, and someone really does want to come in for a full consultation, but for the most part, I’ve come to take my fifteen minutes of face time as all I’ll get. So I make snap judgements. A woman whispering about digestive problems? While I listen, I clock images: thin brittle hair; ridges on fingernails that are obviously picked at; pale, weak complexion; high pitched voice. I ask what’s necessary to put together a basic formula, take some notes, give her an invoice, write down the name of a probiotic, tell her to eat some damn meat, and tell her to come by my house to pick it up in 2 days. Later, at home, I can go back, close my eyes and pull up her image looking for more details. Sometimes I’ll send out an email asking for more details, but more often than not, I use what I’ve got. There’s a common misconception in the herbal community that dealing with quick fixes is somehow lesser work than treating long complex conditions. Changing a person’s life from the ground up, and helping them through emotional crises is ‘sexy’, whereas handing out basic formulas to patch people up is not. I think that’s a bunch of crap. Every herbalist is different and every client is different. Many people don’t want to go through a foundation-rocking change they just want their symptoms to go away. In some cases that isn’t possible without a fundamental shift, but in many it most definitely is. First aid situations are a prime example- broken limbs, bad burns,
gaping wounds, nasty bites, and some infections. I often hear herbalists complain that people don’t want to commit to a long-term treatment plan, but quite honestly, when it comes to injuries like this, I really don’t want to hear from people again until something else happens. If I can send someone away with a formula and by the next week they’ve forgotten what it was for, that is a really positive outcome as far as I’m concerned. Areas where the distinction starts to get cloudy are acute conditions that indicate a deeper imbalancerecurring illnesses, recurring infections, skin conditions. I have three examples in which I treated situations like this in the Farmer’s Market setting. The first was a woman in her forties. She had a yeast infection. Her third in six months. This time, no amount of Monistat would clear it up. She was self-conscious, itchy and stinky, and wanted it to go away. In the fifteen minutes we had, I found out that she’s bipolar, on a cocktail of medications, gets constipated often, often experiences flatulence, wasn’t breast-fed, ate sugar constantly, and took a LOT of antibiotics in her life. She was ungrounded as hell, but while most people are ungrounded from the ground, she was ungrounded in her middle. I taught her to prepare a garlic bolus, told her to start megadosing on probiotics, and told her to pick up her formula from my house the next day. When she showed up to pick up her formula (Monarda, Rosa, Oenothera), she said that her symptoms were already dramatically reduced. 3 days later it was completely gone. She finished her tincture and in the last year and a half it hasn’t resolved. Recently she has voiced interest in addressing some of the deeper issues that I warned her were there- her gut dysbiosis, sugar addiction, possible blood sugar issues. She’d really like to
come off at least some of her medications. I responded by offering my support, and if she chooses to address some of these issues, she knows where to find me. The second was a 67 year old man with diabetes. He also approached me at the market, and pulled up his pant legs to reveal sores and scabs that wouldn’t heal. A really common complaint with diabetes, as people with the condition are much more prone to decreased circulation combined with loss of feeling in the limbs. He’d never used herbal medicine before, was somewhat skeptical, but his wife had sent him over. He did not want to come in for a consultation, which I would have preferred, to see if I could have done something to help his circulation as a whole, so I sold him a plantaincalendula-comfrey salve and told him to go to his doctor if it got worse. I didn’t expect to see him again, but the next week he approached me, pulled up his pant legs, and the sores and scabs were mostly gone. He bought every salve I had and has started sending his friends to me for various complaints too. Was he ‘cured’? No. Would I have preferred to see him for a more in depth consultation to help him on a deeper level? Yes. But when more symptoms arise, he is much more likely to turn to herbal medicine for answers, and may yet want to take a deeper look. The third was a woman with a fungal infection on her torso. It got worse from being sweaty (she was a runner). Her tongue was swollen with a white coat, and her nails were heavily ridged. She often
experienced constipation, flatulence and borborygmus. I sold her a Larrea-Salvia apiana salve, and told her to apply it three times a day, but also told her that it appeared she had deeper fungal issues, and that it might not work because it most likely needs to be addressed internally. She returned two weeks later to show me that her rash was completely gone. But also made an appointment to come in for a more in depth treatment. She is still a client: we’re working through her deeper gut dysbiosis issues but her skin fungus hasn’t returned. In all cases it would have been preferable to spend a considerable amount more time with the person. In all three cases the chief complaint was indicative of a deeper imbalance. I am convinced that, with the first two people, their health could have greatly improved with continued treatment, but with what was available time-wise, and more importantly, based on what they wanted, I did what I could and was effective. What is most significant to me about this is that all these people are now open to the idea of using herbal medicine in the future. The woman in the first example calls me for all her daughter’s health problems; whereas the man in the second moved to Las Vegas, but stops in to see me on occasion to stock up on salves, and frequently refers people my way. Another factor that I think is important is respecting the client’s wishes. If somebody doesn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars and months of time working on something then that is their prerogative
and I will not push the matter. The same goes for working through deeper emotional issues that often lie underneath chronic conditions. I don’t believe it is our place as healers to force these things- either people want to look at them or they do not. As healers it is our job to meet people where they are, not to sit on high horses complaining that they won’t climb the ladder. There are plenty of people who do want to go through the rigorous intense healing process, but for those who want something in between a doctor’s office and a full life overhaul, there should be options.
tongues out to show that the red bumps are gone or that the yellowish sides are now redder. Each week is, to me, an opportunity to teach more people about how simple, effective and non-frightening herbalism can be. I think a part of the reason this type of treatment is often looked down upon is that it borders on the allopathic. Western herbalists have done so much work to separate ourselves from Western medicine- to establish a strong energetic tradition that we’ve all come to greatly respect, that the idea of using herbs allopathically (or even borderline allopathically) just seems like a cop-out. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. People can deal with acute, semi-acute and chronic conditions at the same time, but the first two don’t always need a two hour consult and months of follow ups to treat. Each opportunity to educate a person or to alleviate their suffering is an opportunity that I’m going to leap at: the folk herbalism movement might seem strong from within its walls but its a fledgeling that can only spread through its roots. And people who discover that herbs ‘work’ for the first time at a first aid station, or farmers market stall, or even the supplement aisle at Whole Foods are going to keep looking to herbs for answers in the future. Maybe one day these people will want to take a deeper look at other, deeper aspects of their health; maybe they will want to learn more about how to prepare herbs, or how to use what’s in their garden. If they don’t, then it doesn’t affect me one way or another, but if they do, then they’ll know where to find me.
The nice thing about being a community herbalist is that it stays human. People go to the same markets every week; plenty of the people who come there I’ve known since I moved here as we frequent the same coffee shops and grocery stores. In a huge impersonal city, we’re got a relatively tight-knit community. It isn’t a cold, sterile doctor’s office, it’s a bright bustling market stall with a fake plastic Persian rug on the floor. I’ll sit people down. Take their pulses. Give them a cup of tea. Listen to them. Ask after their family members or how work is going. Genuine interest helps. Sometimes people are just happy to sit down for a quick chat, happy that someone remembers that their daughter wrote an article for the New York Times last week, and happy that you remember that their toe was hurting. On a quiet day, I’ll show people how to read their own pulses, or how to gauge changes in themselves by looking at their tongues. Some people come running up with their 116
Stories of the 2012 Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous Sept., Mormon Lake, Northern Arizona Reprinted from the Herbal Resurgence Newsletter â€“ Subscriptions Free from www.HerbalResurgence.org The following are just a few of the stories of the 2012 gathering, from its valued participants Jamie Jackson: My whole adult life in the corporate world was filled with boring and worthless conferences with useless information. They were more of an excuse to get out of town. That's why I don't like to call this a conference. For me the word conference evokes memories of long gray tables, tall gray walls and rows of gray people. This is much more than a conference, this is an immersion of knowledge, this is a movement and it's certainly not gray. I like what Paul Bergner said best, that this is "the nexus of the new folk herbalism resurgence. Sometimes you can sit in the presence of a person for just a few moments which feeds your soul and their mind feeds your heart through their words. This conference is 3 full days of being around people
that fill you up till you are verily drunk in the heart. Sometimes I had to steal out alone for a minute and be still and quiet in the Coconino forest and fields of yellow flowers to digest it all. I was able to get a deeper understanding and personal clarity in areas I need to focus my time and energy on. Prior to the conference I struggled with feeling my energy so dispersed, trying to learn about and work on too many things. I feel like my vision and focus is clearer now as I'll start focusing on fewer things, but with greater energy. That alone was worth the trip, but not even remotely all I gained.â€? It was more than just classes, weed walks and an intensive learning experience though; I met the members of my tribe, made lifelong friends and created a support network.
Charles “Doc” Garcia: Herbal Resurgence/Medicine of the People was the best damn herbal conference I have attended... ever! Hands down the absolute best. Thank you thank you thank you, Kiva Ringtail & Wolf again, for a life changing event.
Stephany Hoffelt: Last year, I came home from the Resurgence/TWHC conference and belted out a blog post without much thought. It was instinctive and heartfelt and I meant every word of it. That conference changed my life for the better. Now, a year later I am home again after spending days in a beautiful and remote location with most of my favorite people in the world. It was everything that last year had been, and more…
The presenters were eloquent, witty and informative, as per usual. My only wish is that I could have cloned myself, so I could take more of the classes. While last year, I focused on a lot of workshops on energetics, this year seemed to be the year of working with clients. Tania Neubauer’s presentation of case studies from her the clinic in Nicaragua, made me want to do the three week field trip to the clinic more than I already did. Paul Bergner’s class on “How to Sit with a Patient” was beautiful and moving. The amazing teaching duo of Jim McDonald and Kiva Rose and their tips for “Creating a Personal and Dynamic Practice” were awesome. And then there was Matthew Wood, who completely lived up to my every lofty expectation. Rebecca Altman: Finally I want to say something to Kiva and Jesse Wolf. You work so hard to pull this all together, to give us all this support and encouragement to go home and create an herbal resurgence in our own communities and in our own lives, to allow those of us who spend so much time giving of our energies, a chance to recharge. There are no words for the gratitude I have to you for nurturing our tribe and creating this place for us to come home to. I love you all and I will see you next year.
Rosalee de la Foret: Another amazing event! All the classes I took were incredible as well and the location was great, and Saturday night may have been one of the funnest nights of my life. I can't believe I have to wait another year to go again!
I'm having a really hard time coming up with anything loud-mouthed or opinionated because every time I think of it my heart swells up and I just want to talk about how much I love everyone, and how nice it is to be in a place where you are free to be yourself, dance how you want, ask as many questions as you want, disagree with whoever you want, drive whatever you want, wear whatever you want, shave your legs (or not, if you want), swear as much as you [fuckin’] want, and still be accepted as a part of the community. Christ, I even left with the flu from staying up too late, waking up too early, and drinking too much of someone's herbal-infusedtequila-combination and it was the happiest flu of my life; all 9 hours of the drive home, shivering, I had a happy grin on my face and kept calling all my new friends to tell them how much I missed them.
Mary Everson, Natural Endeavor: This was my first time to attend an herbal conference! I am fairly new to learning about using herbs for my health. But once I discovered them...I knew!...this is what I had been looking for. I so appreciate being able to attend and learn from such magnificent teachers. I met many new friends and look forward to seeing them again. I took in much and have much to learn from reading the teachers notes. I want to thank you, Kiva and Wolf, for the amazing amount of work you did and continue to do, including the fantastic magazine that I have enjoyed since its birth and before that the many herbal articles that were published online. Blessings and thanks to all.
Kiki, PoppySwap.com: I encountered a breathtaking resonance in every second! You foster such a profoundly deep community, I'm honored to be included.
money and live in a society which bears down on them quite harshly for what they do, even though what they do makes perfect sense and is in the best interest of the greater good. That makes herbal community sacred, and why its so very vital to this community and each other to share genuine support for the good work and positive attributes of other herbalists.Â
Gwendolyn Garcia: A few years ago, I began to make my noisy, chaotic, insensible, shame and guilt ridden, lost, angry, heartbroken entrance into the herbal community. Somehow, in the course of the last few years, the herbal community recognized an agonized call for help. It became, in sorts, my mother and my father. Each person with whom I had interaction, in their own way, gave me a dose of something I was desperately needing but didn't know I needed it. Whether it was intolerance and rejection, understanding, listening, sisterly friendship, loathing, priceless advice, I have slowly been given the tools I was seeking to build a happy and fulfilled life. Finally, it was the loud, unsettling smack of silence upside the head which made me realize how very much I'd been given. It started yesterday, when I started to practice listening to the silence, as Rebecca Altman suggested. What I heard was the seeds of death that I'd been sowing, the seeds of a life that I thought I had left behind. Shaken and terrified, I interpreted it to mean that I could not be an herbalist. But, when I wrote to tell Kiva Rose of what I was hearing, she informed me that such feelings of self doubt are not uncommon amongst herbalists. Her words, as always, stopped me in my tracks and made me think. Of course. Herbalists are sensitive and caring, predisposed to hear and see living things in mysterious and wonderful ways. Herbalists don't usually make a lot of
Itâ€™s made me realize that I'm one of the fortunate ones. Not only do I have a desire to give something worthwhile, but I have the ability. I am an herbalist! I have a talent and a gift. More amazingly, I might never have become aware of my gift if not for that scholarship that gave me entrance to the Medicine of the People conference. And more amazingly still, there exists a community of uniquely gifted people, stunningly beautiful, varied, skilled, and genuine, and I have been welcomed to be a small part of this miraculous whole.
When I came home from the conference, I realized more clearly than ever that I was spinning my wheels, that what I wanted to do more than ever was to start working directly with people and trying to help them find sensible, natural, gentle ways to feel better. Yet, I came home with my vision still tainted by the kinds of over-the-top goals that saturate this American culture that I am a part of. Over-the-top goals which I have always been at odds with and rebelliously defied yet which have simultaneously left me feeling like a failure for not living up to them. I felt that the only way I could give back to my herbal community was if I did something huge and amazing and awesome and wonderful, that only then could they love and accept me. Then, I listened to the silence and crumbled. The weekend I spent at Herbal Resurgence/Medicine of the People was amazingly inspiring, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally healing. I got to meet Rosalee de la Foret and thank her personally for all the blog writing that she does. I got to look Jesse Wolf Hardin in the eyes and thank him for the writing and artwork that pierced my consciousness, opened my eyes, and inspired me to take the painful steps of opening my heart to a more vital existence. If not for the work of Jesse and Kiva, I probably would never have found my place in this world, and would have continued drifting as an outsider, convinced that my talents were really a curse. Most importantly, I got to meet Kiva Rose. It meant so much to me to talk to her and thank her. She is such a strong, solid individual, so competent and multi-talented. She is able to give in so many different ways and to so many people. I am humbled by her strength and often don't feel very worthy of her support, but I know she wouldn't want me to see it that way. Because of her, I feel inspired to focus on everything I've learned in the past few years, to take some time in solitude to not only figure it all out, but to learn how to put it into affect in my life, to work hard and discipline myself, to rise above.
Medicine of the People. In the major scheme of things, I felt like a small, barely discernible, and ghost-like piece of the whole. The herbalists seemed like fairy folk, and I felt like a half-human visitor being allowed to observe. I was very lucky to walk amongst the Fae folk for a little while and to catch a glimpse of their strange and intriguing beauty. This herbal community presents me with just the kind of multi-dimensional challenge that I always needed and wanted, and it gives me a deeper appreciation for the phrase, "from the ground up". I definitely feel myself crouched low, fingers sifting the dirt, which is absolutely where I belong because I can feel all the parts moving in and around me as I am listening to the feeling of wholeness and of finally finding home. I don't know if there is anything more empowering than the feelings of being surrounded by people who are all attuned to the restoration of balance and able to do this in a multitude of ways. The more I interact with the herbal community, the more I realize that every interaction is, in some way, a move towards balance, which means that I can come closer and closer to total appreciation for every experience, including the ones I don't like. Every person I talked with helped me to see the greater picture, the deep chasms, the spaces between. Each person seemed to significantly embody a distinct aspect of the whole in their own special way.Â I tend to think of myself and others in relationship to my plant observations. My experience at the conference made me see how herbalists heal much like the plants themselves heal, a complex combination of constituents all working most effectively together, different constituents acting differently depending on the interaction, the human, the situation. I felt a healing by various energies, and I know that the healing I experienced might be similarly experienced by someone else, but that my experience was nevertheless unique. It was really quite a remarkable phenomenon, and I felt wondrously astonished to be a part of it.
Holly Torgeson: Medicine Of the People freakin' Rocks! I already miss the mountains, and the people, and the magic of the Southwest.
©Stephany Hoffelt 161
* See you Sept. 19-22, 2013 *
The Diamond King Valued Nostrums, Herbal Showmanship & The Old West Medicine Show
by Jesse Wolf Hardin “We are wonderfully made. We are a greater mystery to ourselves than [are] all our surroundings.” –J. I. Lighthall Years later, folks liked to remember the first glimpses of the brightly painted wagons pulled by nobly dressed horses, growing slowly in size as they approached ever closer to the town limits. One held a handful of Indians in full regalia, a second carried a ventriloquist with a smiling “Mr. Healthy” dummy and wretched looking “Mr. Ill” propped on his knees, along with a band featuring trumpets and a giant bass drum. With each beat of drum, the man in the lead carriage tossed out another handful of nickels to the kids and adults now following eagerly behind, bending over to pick up the coins and then running to catch up. His great hat set back on the crown of his head, his long curly hair buoyed by the wind, the elaborately dressed gentleman was recognizable by all. Carefully placed articles in the newspaper would have long foretold of his coming, and advance riders had alerted the throngs that the show was soon to go on.
The bills read: “Dr. Lighthall’s most stupendous medicine show on Earth... or in the other place.” J. I. Lighthall caused quite a stir in every Western town he visited with his wondrous Medicine Show, quickly becoming one of the most talked about characters of the American frontier. His name would regularly be mentioned in the same breath as other showmen like Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill Cody, though famed for his glorious hawking of herbal medicines rather than any feats of scouting or dusty-street shootouts. Often stories circulated about the efficiency and speed at which various gunfighters had silenced their opponents, with such dazzling figures as “killed three men with four shots,” or “four people shot in less time than it takes to tell it”... while in contrast, James Lighthall’s oft recounted claim to fame was “extracting 14 people’s teeth in 19 seconds.” While there were many a Medicine Showman in the 1870s, none were splashier than these, and all in the business looked up to the man whose jewell encrusted vest and sombrero had caused
him to be dubbed the “Diamond King.” A typical Lighthall tent show would begin with musical selections, half of which were rousing patriotic songs with the rest being popular minstrel dance songs. A series of comedians, puppeteers and sometimes fire-eaters would be followed by the Diamond King offering free dental extractions to anyone in the audience. In places where there were few dentists and few folks who could afford one, as much as a third of his audience might volunteer for the procedure. One witness reported the Doc “busy as a butcher preparing a barbecue for a firemen’s picnic, hurling molars and incisors hight into the air like shooting stars on a dark night.” The climax came when Lighthall himself stepped out onto the stage in a full length beaver fur coat with his dazzling crystal headed cane, and immediately launched into an impassioned spiel on the ailments of the time and the herbal nostrums brewed to treat them.
far less dangerous than most of what contemporary physicians administered. “Modern” medicine in the 19th Century was a scary proposition. Licensed doctors routinely bled their patients still, for all manner of debilities. Bones were set and wounds stitched with no anesthesia, and infection commonly set in that either slowed recovery or even cost the patient her life. Unlike the often addictive, suppressive or otherwise harmful “wonder drugs” being sanctioned and sold by the big companies, Lighthall’s preparations were never marketed as “cures”. As he puts it in his 1883 “Indian Household Medicine Guide”: “Medicine never cures anything. It is a natural tendency of a majority of diseases to get well within themselves. Medicine simply assists nature to remove the cause that obstructs her acting in a natural condition.” Herbal preparations like Lighthall’s “Spanish Oil” and “King of Pain” remedy offered a reasonable alternative to audiences estranged from “city doctors” yet already removed from the herbal practices and knowledge base of their own cultural ancestors.
Calling out a litany of common ailments, he would suggest a different formula for each. Handbills filled with optimistic health claims would be tossed into the crowd, “Read the testimonials from home, folks! If the high price of paper didn’t prevent, we could give you thousands more just like ‘em!” Lighthall’s Indians would then do a medicine dance down the aisles between the seats, handing out bottles of tinctures and linaments for fifty cents to a dollar from the many in the audience with raised and waving hands. The Doc’s preparations were lambasted by publications such as the publication “Texas Quackery,” as part of a campaign against patent medicines and home brews of all kinds, supposedly in the interest of “family safety” but predictably financed by the big eastern corporations striving for a complete hegemony of pharmaceutical drugs.
There were Medicine Men who sold preparations that were either devoid of useful herbs, but the Diamond King was not one of them. And while he freely admitted he was fond of making money, he was also known to wrap a five dollar bill around a bottle of medicine and give it free to someone in need. And Lighthall’s death at a young age showed how much he cared as well. On a selling tour through south of the border in Mexico, the charismatic herbalist from Peoria, Indiana heard about an outbreak of smallpox in a nearby village. Canceling the remainder of the tour, he and most of his troupe rushed to volunteer their aid. Believing that his vital force was too strong for him to be susceptible, he was undoubtedly surprised to find he not only contracted the disease but steadily worsened. James I. Lighthall was transported back to San Antonio and a private room within site of the Alamo, when on January 25th, 1886, Mexicans and Anglos alike cried... and the one, the only, Diamond King died.
As his Materia Medica of 1883 demonstrates, Lighthall actually had an unusually sound grasp of herbal actions. We can never know to what degree his preparations were truly inspired by Native American herbal practice as claimed, but he clearly sold known plant medicines that were 90
“The ‘divine spark’ is usually understood to be ‘reason,’ dealing with the seeming irreconcilability of his and is ascribed to man as a radical and deepening visions mental function distinguishing and the customs and Ernst Haeckel: him from all ‘irrational assumptions of 19th Century “A Perpetual Flux Of Being & Becoming” animals.’ Comparative Europe. psychology, however, teaches by Jesse Wolf Hardin that this frontier-post between While “utilitarians” formed man and beast is altogether the vanguard challenging Welcome to our new department devoted to untenable. We must either take entrenched beliefs in Great showcasing the most evocative or intriguing the idea of reason in its broader Britain in the latter part of the of plant and healing inspired artwork... sense, in which case it belongs to 1800s, in Germany, Haeckel because beauty and meaning matter. the higher Mammals (the Ape, was more influenced by soDog, Elephant, Horse), as much called “idealistic as to the majority of men; or we philosophers” including must conceive it in its narrower Goethe and Hegel. He share sense, and then it is lacking in their contention that there the majority of men, as well as in was a natural process of most animals.” (Ernst progressive perfecting, that Haeckel - letter to his parents, was part of a universal “plan” 1856) of creation, a creative (inspirited) and organizing force. His assumption that it Many of us growing up with must lead to a impassioned hearts and “recapitulation” of that plan curious minds suffered from traceable in the growth of the a struggle between intuitive embryo was disproven, yet sensing and practiced recent findings at the very reasoning, an apparent frontiers of science have schism between the begun to lend credence to a approaches of science and number of his conclusions or nature, prescriptive religion revelations. and the sensate appeal of the material world. So it was Haeckel’s other major with the biologist and influence was Charles botanist, artist and Darwin’s culture-rocking cosmologist Ernst Haeckel, book Origin of Species. which
understanding based on the evidence of our five senses [are] not only possible side by side but also necessary, just as justified and even infinity more important.” (Ernst Haeckel) Ernst Haeckel was born on February 16, 1834, in Potsdam, Prussia, enrolled in medicine in Berlin, studied botany at Würzburg, earned a doctorate in biology and then a PhD in zoology, choosing not to practice medicine but to serve as a free-thinking professor of comparative anatomy at the University of Jena for 47 years instead. It was while illustrating his field studies and findings of invertebrate groups including radiolarians and poriferans (sponges), and in his drawings of simple plants, that the symmetry of their designs and predictability of their sequential adaptations began leading him to a truly graphic sense of familiarity, repetition
he used to support both his scientific theories and his arguments with the church. “The real cause of personal existence is not the favor of the Almighty, but the sexual love of one's earthly parents.” (Ernst Haeckel) Unlike Darwin, however, he was never convinced that natural (sexual) selection was the sole mechanism or driver of evolution, asserting that creation (the animate environment, the natural world) also acted directly on organisms in some directive way, influencing the adaptations and tendencies by which we mark evolutionary change. “I myself can only find comfort and peace...by my admitting this life of faith [and] the life of knowledge and 72
and unity no less palpable and impassioned than the sensibilities of the mystic, the soothsayer, the adept.
humanity’s ancient tribal ancestors, and clearly a precursor to and seeding for modern unified theory, Gaian cosmology, the study of fractals, even the vital field of ecology... a word first coined by Haeckel himself!
Hacekel has been called a “visionary” and a “foremost father of evolutionary thought” by those enamored with his work, while being labeled an “evangelist of evolution” and “apostle of deceit” by Creationists. His bigger than life personality and writings had a profound effect on people of great historical significance, not merely the genocidal Nazis that came into existence after his death and appropriated his most unfortunate ideas of racial superiority, but also the pioneering Jewish psychologist Sigmund Freud, the American inventor Thomas Edison and controversial sensualist author D. H. Lawrence. Most laudable, is his early championing of a unified, purposeful force of life, not far removed from the animist assertions of
One needs only to spend a little time with his amazing artwork, to realize what a seer, ecstatic and celebrant Ernst Haeckel really was. Even as one part of him postulated a hierarchy of species and races, the artist and mystic in him was clearly seeing the near-magical interconnectedness, directedness and resolute motion of all creation or life... and in this way, he was indeed seeing clearly. “Nothing is constant but change! All existence is a perpetual flux of 'being and becoming!' That is the broad lesson of the evolution of the world.” (Ernst Haeckel)
It breaks my heart when I hear that an herbalist is The first step to building a successful herbal giving up her practice or business is writing a business business because she can't Herbalpreneurship & The Importance plan. This is not only a good make ends meet. These days idea; it's an absolute of a Business Plan it seems to happen all too necessity if you want to Text & Photos by often: an herbalist makes a succeed as an entrepreneur. by Mélanie Pulla go at running his business, And contrary to popular lasts a few months or maybe belief, a business plan a few years, ends up flat broke, and then has to doesn’t have to be a cumbersome, bureaucratic resort to getting “a regular job”. The result is a deep paperwork process created solely for the purpose of sense of discouragement and maybe even failure; an obtaining financing. A business plan has three main overwhelming sentiment that “it's just not possible elements: it is a strategic visioning tool that to make a living as an herbalist." incorporates multiple advisors; a management plan that creates the infrastructure required for running a I find myself asking: how could this be? The use of business; and a financial guide that prepares you for herbs is at an all-time record high. Global Industry successes and anticipates potential setbacks. Analysts are forecasting that the market for traditional medicine will become a $114 billion An ideal business plan is treated as a living, industry by 2015. 1 By these standards, shouldn't all breathing document that is continuously referred to herbalists be making an abundant living doing what and updated as needed. This ensures that it they love to do? accurately reflects the current state of your business. The fact is that if you generate your own income, you’re running a business. And if you run a business, then you must learn the skills necessary to do it well. Rather than blaming the universe for not supporting you on your path, it’s time to focus on building the necessary skills that will allow you to build a successful herbal practice. This requires using your own talents wisely, being honest about your limitations, and taking responsibility for your own successes and failures.
Any business starts with an idea, but if you want to determine whether this idea is feasible, then you need to start with a market analysis. Opening a business without doing a market analysis is like sailing a ship without a compass and hoping that you eventually hit land. You have to know in which direction to steer your business in order for it to survive. For example, when I first set out to start my own business I wanted to open an old-time apothecary shop that sold creative herbal drinks. I envisioned
my new store as a place where you could go and “drink your medicine”. I decided to open this apothecary in a small artsy village in Quebec, Canada, and I was so in love with the idea of the business that I was very resistant to “wasting” any time doing a market analysis and writing a business plan. I wanted to jump right into the fun stuff: writing recipes, selecting furniture, and ordering herbs. Plus I was already emotionally invested in my idea, and didn't want anyone telling me that it wouldn't work. On the advice of strong advisors, I finally relented and completed a market analysis. The results were very interesting. I realized that my original idea wasn't feasible for the community: there wasn't enough population density and the apothecary really didn't meet the needs of the residents. The market analysis ultimately helped me to see that the community really needed a health food store. So my original idea evolved. The main concept now included a bulk health food store, with the apothecary and herbal juice bar adding the unique
plant medicine twist that set the store apart from the competition. Consciously creating your vision is probably the most satisfying feeling ever. And like any creation, it takes the proper tools to make it happen. Trying to will your dreams into existence and hoping divine intervention will send you a sign is just not enough; you have to anchor your dreams in tangibles and then create a road map on how to get there. It's also very important to believe in your vision and to describe it with as much detail as possible. Discussing your ideas with experts, advisors, and financial professionals will provide you with indispensable knowledge that can save you a lot of time and money. A business mentor once told me that one of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is to be overly secretive about their idea for fear that someone else will steal it. By doing this, entrepreneurs insulate themselves from constructive criticism and fail to identify potential downfalls of their strategy. In reality, not everyone has the stamina and perseverance required to be an
entrepreneur, and the chances of having your idea stolen by someone else are relatively slim.
busy responding to my short-term needs. These factors slowly but surely separated me further and further from my original business plan; a plan that should have served as my ultimate guide to success. Referring to my original plan became more and more difficult because it no longer accurately reflected the portrait of my business. It wasn't until I became pregnant and realized that I wanted to sell my business that I could account for these discrepancies. And it was a long road back; one which included numerous meetings with financial analysts, re-filing my taxes, overhauling my inventory systems, and implementing several new protocols. It took me over a year before I could even think of posting my business for sale, which lead to a very stressful six months after my son was born. All of this could have been prevented if my business plan had been used to its fullest potential.
However, it's not enough to write a stellar business plan - you also have to keep it up to date. And the more often you update it, the easier it will be to keep it current. Shelving your plan and losing touch with your initial project makes it difficult to understand the consequences of the changes that occur both within and around your business. I find myself completely guilty on this count. My original business plan was written out of necessity - I needed it in order to get the seed money for my retail startup. As soon as I secured the funding for my business, all my files were relegated to the deep dark recesses of my hard drive. "Whew," I thought, "I'm done with that headache!" My second mistake was to become so absorbed and engrossed into running the daily operations and working in my business that I did not take the time to step away and work on my business. I was too
A thoughtful and well-defined plan provides an opportunity to follow the trajectory of the business, and to compare and measure its evolution. This
means consulting and rereading the plan as needed to ensure that it is followed or to understand why you strayed from it. This will help you to react appropriately and make conscious decisions when they present themselves. Your business plan has the potential to quickly and easily show you the impact that your decisions will have on your business.
financials without trying to understand or interpret the facts. The most important part of financials is to understand the difference between the anticipated financial figures and the actual finances: namely the net profit, sales, and costs. It's important to not only consult the financial section of your plan, but also to understand the variations and discrepancies in your plan since the inception of your business, and to seek to explain the impact this will have on elements of your business including such things as: inventory, disposable income, and employees. If you can't do this by yourself, then make sure to provide monthly financial statements to your accountant, bookkeeper, or account director, and then ask them to explain what it means. Understanding your weaknesses and anticipating the consequences (how your limitations can make your business vulnerable) will allow you to set up emergency responses and contingency plans when necessary.
The healing arts have always involved an exchange of energy. A few generations ago a farmer might have offered a chicken or a goat in exchange for a healer's remedies; today this exchange involves money. I often hear herbalists and healers say that they don't feel comfortable accepting money in exchange for their services. It's as if money itself is somehow tainted with a negative energy, and that being poor will make you more honest and pure. Money is simply the new currency - the modern day chicken and goats. In order truly to thrive doing what you love, it's important to make peace with money as today’s accepted form of energy exchange. As an “herbalpreneur”, understanding financials can be the most challenging aspect of writing a business plan. In fact, it can be the one factor that dissuades you from beginning the process in the first place. Understanding your strengths and limitations - and seeking appropriate help to support you in areas where you need it is crucial. When I initially wrote my business plan, for example, I had a lot of help with the section on financials - so much, in fact, that I barely understood what it all meant. I wasn't too concerned by this, however, because at the time my ultimate goal was to use my plan to secure funding. Over the course of the first two years in business, all of my financial paperwork remained a blur - I had a complete mental block about it; I would look at a page of numbers and they would all melt together. I could ask someone to explain the basic terminology to me in great detail, and still forget it the next day. I completely relied on my accountant and bookkeeper to let me know how my business was doing. I was in the driver's seat, but I was definitely not in control. When I finally signed up for a series of business classes and began learning how to manage my own finances, I couldn't believe that I had gotten so far without understanding this basic information. I had made the very common error of looking at my
In the current economic climate, long gone are the days where people stay in one organization for 30 years, work their way up the corporate ladder, and then retire with a fat pension. These days the majority of working professionals are building a diverse resume and leveraging their current job to land a more desirable job at a different organization. Therefore, most people are essentially entrepreneurs regardless of whether they run their own business or have a traditional job. Being an entrepreneur is about creating a career for yourself and generating your own income – sometimes that income may come from a position within an organization, and sometimes that income may come from a clientele or customer base. Accepting your entrepreneurial nature and taking responsibility for own career trajectory will empower you to create the kind of livelihood you want. This makes becoming a professional herbalist not only feasible, but profitable on so many levels.
Global Industry Analysts, Inc. "Alternative Medicine A Global Industry Outlook."PRWeb. N.p., 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 June 2012. <http://www.prweb.com/releases/ prwebalternative_medicine/homeopathy_chinese/ prweb9087888.htm>. 1
This Fall, kids at the Herbal Next, come up with a list of Make Your Own Herbal First Aid Kit Resurgence/Medicine of the basic types of herbs you text & photos by People Rendezvous had the might need. For us, we need opportunity to take a first something to stop bleeding Kristine Brown aid class for kids with Linda and possibly pack wounds Garcia. Some of you reading this article might have with, a green salve for treating scrapes and bruises, even been one of those lucky participants! herbs to help with stings, bites and allergic My kids, Jaden and Sage, loved this class and reactions, an antimicrobial herb, and some herbs to wanted to add herbal remedies to their first aid kits help with digestive complaints. Then decide in what so we took a day to decide what would go well in forms the herbs would best be utilized. their kits as companions to the assembled kits Your list might look Linda made for them. something like this: Perhaps you’d like to add some herbs to yours as well! •Powdered Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) First, decide how the kits and/or dried Usnea would most likely be (Usnea spp.)- to staunch used. We live on a farm bleeding and pack deep and there are lots of old wounds wood and metal items •A green salve made with lying around. Injuries healing herbs such as around here include cuts, Calendula (Calendula scrapes, scratches, bruises, officinalis), Comfrey twisted ankles, splinters, (Symphytum officinale), upset stomaches, irritated Plantain (Plantago major, eyes, sunburns, bee and P. lanceolata), Chickweed wasp stings and mosquito (Stellaria spp.) and bites. Assess your local P ru n e l l a ( P ru n e l l a stomping grounds and vulgaris)- for treating make a list of what cuts, bruises, scrapes and injuries you, your family more. Use singly or in and your friends are most combination. likely to or most often get.
Usnea (Usnea spp.) Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
•Peach (Prunus persica)(leaf/bark/flower or Plantain (Plantago major, P. lanceolata) Tincture for stings and allergic reactions, drawing out splinters
•Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) tea bags - use for upset stomachs, nausea, inflammation, insomnia, headaches, indigestion, skin irritations, puffy, irritated eyes (use tea or tea bags)
•Osha (Ligusticum porteri) Tincture - for severe allergic reactions, asthma, altitude sickness, indigestion, toothaches, headaches
•Candied Ginger (Zingiber officinale) root - nausea, upset stomach, indigestion
(E. purpurea, E. angustifolia) or Elderberry (Sambuca nigra) tincture – antimicrobial/immune assistant and wound flusher
•Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) extract antiseptic cleanser •Aloe (Aloe vera) gel - sunburn relief, burns, soothing scrapes
•Lavender (Lavendula officinale) essential oil - use for burns, bug bites, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, antiseptic
•St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) tincture or oil - burns, sunburns, nerve pain
•Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil -
•Willow (Salix spp.) bark or Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) tincture - for inflammation, headaches, pain
mosquito bites, antiseptic
•Peppermint (Mentha x Piperita) tea bags - use for upset stomachs, nausea, inflammation (use tea or tea bags on sprains, puffy eyes, etc)
Just remember that these are simply suggestions. You should personalize the kit to match your needs as well as the herbs that are local to your area and that you are familiar with. When you are finished assembling your herbal items, handwrite or type up a list of what you’ve selected and add all the uses for each herb. Make a second list starting with the injuries/ailments and then list all the herbs that can be used to treat them so if someone is unfamiliar with herbs, they can consult your list and know what to use in case you aren’t around when the kit is used. Let’s talk containers. Usually, I prefer glass, metal and paper when it comes to storing my herbs but in the first aid kit, it’s often more practical to use good quality plastic containers to store your herbs in. Plastic bottles won’t break like glass will. Also, use screw on lids for your salve containers or make single use packets from unused drinking straws (you can see a tutorial for making these on my blog at: http://lunaherbco.com/2012/03/individualsalve-packet-tutorial/). Screw on lids and single use packets ensure you that they will not ooze salve all over your other containers if they sit in a hot
environment (such as the car on a hot summer day). Individually wrapped tea bags keep the tea fresh. Ginger chews are a great choice for candied Ginger as they also come individually wrapped to keep them fresh longer. If you can’t find travel sized containers of Aloe and Witch Hazel, go to the travel section of your local store and get two bottles of hand sanitizer. Generally these cost about 99 cents which can be cheaper than buying empty bottles. Dump out the hand sanitizer, peel off the labels, wash and dry the bottles and they are ready to be filled with Aloe and Witch Hazel from bigger bottles. Be sure to place new labels on them! Health food stores usually sell tincture bottles and salve containers. I’ve listed a few sources at the end of this article for online sources of bottles and jars as well. (have you heard of specialty bottle?) (kidding!) You can use a small back pack to store all of your first aid items. We pick small back packs up at the thrift shop all the time for about $2 a piece. You might wish to use some red or green felt cut into the shape of a cross (plus sign) and sew it on to the back pack so others will know it is dedicated as a first aid
kit. You can also purchase patches to sew on to your back pack inexpensively online. Be sure to add your kit from the conference into your pack.
Mini swiss army knife and/or small knife and tweezers Fingernail clippers A flashlight (with batteries!) Magnifying glass
For those of you who were unable to attend Linda’s class, you can assemble your own basic kits at home when you put together the herbal portion of your kit.
These kits are easy to make and you might wish to make one for each car as well as one for around the house or for taking with you when you head out for a day at the park or a hike in the woods.
First aid items you may wish to add to your kit include:
Unsterile gauze pads for wound cleaning and to stop bleeding 2x2 sterile pads Stretch gauze bandage (sterile) 1 roll self adhesive bandage 1 small roll of medical tape Assorted size bandaids 2 large Safety pins 1 triangle bandage or sturdy cloth 40”x40”x56”
Plastic tincture bottles and salve jars: http://www.specialtybottle.com http://www.sks-bottle.com First Aid patches: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=searchalias%3Daps&field-keywords=first+aid+patch
pro•fes•sion: 1. a paid occupation, esp. one that involves formal training and qualification.
means or place in the broad field of herbalism today, would do well to begin with:
Part I: We each have an ultimate To Be, Or Not To Be? personal role to fulfill, one that by Professional or Not its very nature maximizes our That is the question. Or at Professionalism At Its Best, abilities and imparts maximum least, it’s one of the first of A Defense of Amateurism, Adepts, meaning to our daily acts. While many important questions. & Standards We Can Share In Common it may look something like the roles we see others assuming, it If you choose the costs and by Jesse Wolf Hardin will in certain ways be benefits of becoming a significantly different from what professional, then you need to everyone else does, a position, purpose and way for promptly commit your time and funds to the which we alone are required formal ideally suited. We’ll education, and then need to choose again and apply for and submit to again between options the judgements of both and paths as we progress accrediting associations in that fulfillment, basing and regulating agencies... each choice on our sense preferably without first of what that evolving giving too many years to role might look like. being uncertain, unfocused, uninvested or One’s personal path of directionless. Likewise, herbalism forks early on, if you end up choosing to providing an initial and forego the costs and fundamental choice benefits of going pro, between two distinct – there is no need to run and distinctly valuable – courses we could take. up a huge bill for a university education. You can There will be many other forks and branches as we look instead to unaccredited herbal schools, to go along, but one of the very first choices we need to apprenticeships and even self-education... and when make is between doing what it takes to be a and how you practice will be determined by you. professional herbalist, be it clinician, researcher, professor, or product developer... or going our own Before we continue, let me offer this disclosure: I am way, independently and informally studying and not, by any account, myself a professional. practicing. Anyone considering their role, purpose, 189
While I impose upon myself some mighty high standards, I generally put style and results ahead of both professionalism and income. I am but a an increasingly wise nonprofessional with satisfyingly no need or desire to be vetted, endorsed, approved or certified by any board, group or agency. I do not consider my work on this planet to be my profession, even in those rare situations where it makes me money, no matter how many years I have dedicated to it or how much gratitude or acclaim it may have earned me. My work – of teaching, writing, painting, organizing, activism, wilderness restoration, plant conservation and healing in all its forms – is far more my passion and art, my calling and purpose, my mission and thus my source of greatest satisfaction. That said, I can step back and see not only problems and drawbacks to professionalism, but also a number of incontestable pluses making a profession of one’s work, investing the long years earning necessary degrees and then qualifying for the recognition and acceptance of honored peers.
Potential Benefits to Being a Professional
•Qualification B e i n g a professional means to be qualified, which means to have one’s recountable knowledge, skills and abilities tested by those vested with the authority to make such determinations. Whether it is the government, a university or an established herbal guild doing the testing or approving, the resulting accreditation, title or stamp of approval can result in greater public trust in the value (and safety) of what you have to teach, sell or otherwise offer to the world. ! Even in herbalism, there may be roles you’re interested in that are easier to get with a professional
degree from an upper tier college, including teaching herbal medicine at the university level. Both college degrees and certification by peer groups and guilds can contribute to getting hired by professional clinics, certain herbal schools, and businesses involved with the research and development of herbal products. A standard of competency is a worthy aim, in this form or others. One of the best measures of our knowledge and abilities comes from holding them up to a recognized standard. Another is to be fairly challenged and tested, whether by circumstance or in the course of vetting and protocol. •Legitimacy Becoming professional is a process of legitimization in the eyes of our qualified peers, the vested authorities, and our students and clients. It requires, assumes and advertises adherence to professional codes and obedience of regulations and laws. Unless and until the practice of herbalism itself is outlawed, the professional will have the greatest immunity from enforcement and harassment. •Authority ! An accredited professional is also considered to be an authority and have a “legitimate opinion” that’s more deserving of being listened to. Like it or not, professional status is what it usually takes to qualify as an authority figure in the larger society... hence we see that the officers giving the orders in the military are professional soldiers, that people spend billions of dollars seeking health care from what they trust are professional if sometimes unbelievably unhelpful doctors, and the public tends to grant even the most thuggish policeman the status of law enforcement professional. ! If we want to be able to direct the activities of others, or if we simply want to be listened to and given credibility by the greatest number of or most influential of people, we should at least consider going the professional route. •Connections Being recognized as a professional, results in connections to “powers that be”, but also in being
able to link up people, information and medicine in what can be effective ways. As Bevin Clare (Vice President of the American Herbalist Guild) defines it, “the goal of professionalism is to be able to connect with people.” And she uses her own experience as an example: “When I began practicing and reaching out to a more financially affluent community in Boston I realized quickly that some parts of my appearance were making my clients feel uncomfortable since they were considered, by them, to be unprofessional. My initial reaction was that I wasn’t going to change who I was to make them comfortable, but when I sat with it I realized these things weren’t my values, and my values dictated that I bring plants and their medicine to as many people as I could.”
striking of a woman, and ratting on one’s partner if captured... and the most heinous of villains are those politicos and corporados who, regardless of what they might say, truly have no ethics to anchor, temper or guide them.
! A mission statement of general intent is not hardly enough. Our particular codes of ethics should be spelled out, to ourselves and all others. Studied and deeply considered. Tested, and then either resisted if found faulty, or honored and adhered to at all costs if proved worthy. •Income ! Even the most non-materialist of herbalists has a need for a certain amount of financial income, not only to survive in this day and age, but also to fund those passions or causes that mean the most to us. The sometimes greater incomes of professionals in any field, can fuel plant medicine research, fund health care for the under-served, or pay for the organizing and activism that may prove essential to the future of this craft. •Published Codes of Ethics ! Every profession is expected to have a code of ethics that its members subscribe to, a standard of behavior that reflects membership morality. The most laudable of the old time Western outlaws heeded a code that prohibited cowardice, the
•Crediting Professionalism involves not only garnering credit, but also giving credit, beginning with the citing of sources, referencing of research, and the attribution of quotes. •Infiltration & Integration ! Recognized professionals may have additional credibility to help introduce and integrate plant medicine into publicly funded health clinics, hospitals and hospice care, elementary and secondary school curricula. ! One way I enjoy thinking of it, is as infiltration – infiltrating a government approved and subsidized, corporate influenced, often unhealthful paradigm with the seeds of change... via those plant extensions
and herbal agents who are willing to make the sacrifices, jump through the hoops, speak the language, and conform to a degree necessary to initiate change and ensure improvement. What we must weigh these benefits against, are the potential problems with professionalism as we often see today. Only upon consideration of both its advantages and drawbacks, can we determine which of the two main paths to take to our shared general goal of healing with, through or being inspired by nature and herbs.
•Problems with Qualification & Inorganic Hierarchy ! Hierarchy in itself is not only unavoidable but totally natural, one of the ways that species and individuals within each species sort themselves out according to purpose, role, ability and skill, penchant and character, energetic and action. It is not always hierarchy involving dominance, as is the case in wolf packs for example, but always a planetary self-evaluation that arranges and assigns according to manifest – both shared and individual – gifts, weaknesses, uses and needs. ! The problem with human created hierarchy is that it is often constructed of a very limited number of social classes (roles, and ways to belong), and that those classes are clearly disproportionate in both importance and reward. In an organic hierarchy there are innumerable subtle variations and there is much overlapping, with a large and adaptive range of roles arrayed not only in order of importance or authority but in patterns of alliance and purpose, ecotones and transition zones. Professional models usually split all aspirants into a few inflexible castes, beginning with those accepted, and those rejected. A further breakdown may be between guest members and professional members, or between professional members and executive members. But usually lacking, is a form that grants a degree of acceptance and support to all well intended and effort making people, with a role (a means to be focused, effective and free valued) that is in at least some ways unique to them, with acknowledgement that truly sees what they offer and do rather than merely grading them as qualified or unqualified, “pass” or “fail.” An inorganic two or three tier system can result in folks viewing it as an exclusive club, an elite caste to which the common folk need not aspire, or as the only approved means to do the work we’re called to do.
Potential Drawbacks to Professionalism
The following are indicative of contemporary professionalism in general. It remains for those making herbalism their profession, to avoid any dangerous pitfalls.
•The Unmeasured ! While length of study or practice can be measured, and stored knowledge tested, many valuable skills for both professional and non-professional herbalists can’t be or usually aren’t, including: real wisdom, dedication, genuine intuition, empathy,
communication skills, connection making, and the ability to synthesize new ideas and methods out of existing information and models, determining new healing approaches or uses for specific plants. •Requirement for Permission ! Being (or remaining!) professional requires acceptance and approval from one’s “superiors,” along with their direct or codified permission to do things. This is true for employed nonprofessionals as well, though not with as much on the line to lose. •Potential for Disempowerment ! It can feel powerful to come together in a group with a common cause, reassuring to win admittance and approval, but it can also be disempowering when it leads us to imagine we were ineffective before being admitted, that we are only competent if others agree that we are, only somebody special if a panel of directors confirms, only an herbalist if we have our diplomas or certificates, only free to practice and help this world if and when the latest government regulators allow. The more we are paid a professional wage, the more we likely need to be concerned about pleasing the market or not contradicting the politics or ethics of our employers. The more we function as professionals, the more restraint is often expected of us, and the more subject we’re likely to be to external controls. •Conformity ! A need to meet qualifying standards or regulations can in itself contribute to conformity unless guarded against, and is the more problematic when qualification depends on the approval of either feared or admired individuals in power. When we know not only what the directors, council members or agency directors want, but also what they seem to personally like, prefer or favor – what their politics are or what kinds of people and things they least admire – we tend to reign in those aspects, appearances or attitudes that we worry may be unappealing or offensive, as well as to exaggerate those traits, opinions or styles we consciously or subconsciously feel could win us acceptance.
•Feeding Into Self-Worth Issues ! The drive to be admitted, accredited, certified or made legal, can be more of a desire for acceptance and approval than a strategic choice to be a professional herbalist. The fact that Herbalism is generally sidelined in this society, largely cast as fringe and outside the norm, has increased herbalists’ hunger for acceptance... and acceptance is rooted in the very natural need to belong. ! The problem is when self-worth becomes dependent on admittance and membership, or for that matter, on the approval of any person, entity or group outside of our selves. No one knows our aims, weaknesses, strengths, compromises, failures or accomplishments better than us... when we are honest and paying attention. ! Hundreds of years of herbalism being increasingly trivialized, denigrated and vilified by the mainstream, has resulted in many plant people today automatically questioning their role and worth, wondering if they’re “really herbalists” if they don’t have a store front or letters after their names, wondering if they have a place, if others herbalists will accept them, and simply if they are good enough. Professionalism can feed into herbalist’s self-worth issues, calling attention to our being evaluated, unrealistically inflating the egos of some of those who are accepted, and seriously stifling the aspirations and enthusiasm of some who are rejected. •False Advertising ! Being an accredited professional is formal assurance of knowledgeable, qualified, quality, competent, effective consultations, medicine making, research and conclusions, writings and teachings. Students, clients and readers expect a level or degree of product or service that is both immeasurable and uncertain. Professional MDs with enough framed certificates to fill an office wall have in instance after instance done more harm than good to their patients, and many an unflattered granny-wyfe has done wonders while displaying no paper and making no claims. !
Professional standards can be misleading, just as the grades a kid gets in school can sometimes lead to the wrong conclusions about his strengths, problems or potential. Consider how a practitioner may be especially good at one thing such as evaluations, not quite so good at something else such as therapeutics, intimate with a few powerful plants and utterly unable to key out the identities of some others. And an herbalist may be less than competent when addressing some condition or illness, but have an awesome track record when it comes to treating others. A practitioner or teacher’s reputation is the best indication of their likely effectiveness, though even this is no guarantee. And how good you actually are at your work, is in no way dependent on either professional status or official recognition. •Commercialization ! Professionalizing one’s work tends to mean commercializing. At its most basic, this is simply assigning financial worth to our services, products and time, so that we can actually make a living from doing what’s needed and loved. Plus we aren’t helping or affecting people if they don’t buy (aren’t exposed to) our medicines or consultations, and my writings aren’t aiding or inspiring new people unless they’re exposed to (purchase) my books or Plant Healer magazine. ! The problem is that once we begin to measure our work and apportion our finite hours according to the number of units sold or dollars made, we run the risk of increasingly providing a more profitable
but less meaningful, deep, challenging, controversial or life changing product or service. Linking selfevaluation and self-worth to the amount of income produced, gives short shrift to the various cultural, political and aesthetic considerations. A corporation is forced by design to make decisions based on the projection of maximum profits, even when those decisions might run counter to its own founding mission or other company aims. Somewhat similarly, professionals are bound to protocols and priorities that make it hard to put beauty and purpose, effects on the community and planet, ahead of success and profit. ! Herbalists need an income they can live on. But what herbalists provide to people is invaluable, even (or especially!) when they do it for very little money. •Formalism ! Professionalism is rife with formalism: excessive adherence to prescribed approaches, forms and methods. This includes the emphasizing of “formal training” and university degrees while deemphasizing informal training, apprenticing, and the value of individual experience. An example in the herbal field is requiring a clinical assessment model from an established tradition, with no provision for a unique personal or eclectic, synthesized variation. At its worst, formalism obstructs change, dampens spontaneity and makes adventure and debate less likely, constricting natural interaction and
relationship similar to the way a professional’s business suit constricts movement, stereotypes them as stuffy and unexpressive, and makes fun food fights less likely. •Hypocrisy ! While most professions and professional organizations have codes of ethics, the pressure to appear to fit in, meet standards and retain support, approval or legitimacy can lead to much fudging and pretense. One needs only to think of the hypocrisy of physicians sworn to the Hippocratic Oath. Bringing “no harm” is an impossible goal in the natural world, especially when asked of those risking dangerous measures to potentially save a life... but claims of ethical intentions and standards by the wholesale purveyors of so often harmful pharmaceuticals is disingenuous at best, and often criminal in truth. Herbalism has so far been one of the least hypocritical and most intrinsically ethical professions, and it is crucial that it stay that way. •The Religion of Professionalism ! All too often professional groups give off the vibe of being exclusive, privileged, superior, elevated, its members ensconced behind a wall of certification like wealthy families sheltering inside the walls of a gated community, cleanly removed from the uncomprehending or even resentful residents of the surrounding ghetto or barrio. •The Relegation of NonProfessionalism/ Amateurism ! It is extremely difficult to have a vetted, officially qualified, professional class/caste without the implication that Nonprofessionals/Amateurs are by means of process inferior: less knowledgeable, effective, safe and trustworthy. This remains an inherent problem of perception, even though many professionals may personally hold certain amateurs, kitchen witches, housewife medicine makers, street herbalists, self-taught practitioners and teachers in high regard.
am•a•teur: noun: 1. a person who engages in a pursuit (esp. a sport) on an unpaid basis; 2. a person considered contemptibly inept at a particular activity. adjective: inept or unskillful.
Hey dictionary, thanks for nothin’! I personally happen to like thinking of myself as an overqualified amateur, from whom nothing can be expected but anything is possible... though I concede the word is considered nothing but a put down by most people these days. “Amateurish” is used to mean “unskilled”, though I have never heard the efforts of amateur Olympic athletes – many of who can outperform their professional counterparts – derided as amateurish. Even the dictionary definitions suck, since 1. many nonprofessionals are well paid for their efforts, even in the field of herbalism, and 2. there are many skillful amateurs or nonprofessionals, and plenty of examples of inept professionals in every field I know of. While I often choose the ambiguous sounding term “non-professional” to avoid misunderstanding or lengthy explanation, I am also happy here to reclaim the label of Amateur, and confidently run alongside or ahead of the pros in my own satisfyingly nonconforming style. Amateurs arise and be counted! It’s high time to put an end to anti-amateur legislation and amateur bashing, time for Amateur Pride hoodies. An Amateur/Professional Alliance. A major coming out!
Potential Advantages of Being a Non-Professional, Amateur, or Adept
a•dept: noun: 1. a person who is highly proficient and accomplished at something. (period)
While I am fine with the word “amateur,” by my redefinition it still covers the entire range of nonprofessionals from the very least competent to the most able. A better term for nonprofessionals who are focused and devoted, wise, experienced and consistently excel at what they do, is “Adept.” As with the adjective, the noun originates from the 17th century Latin “adeptus”: to achieve. Adepts are achievers, and that achievement is attributable to their knowledge and abilities as much as to their natures and drive.
Nonprofessionals are often better as shape-shifters that can transform rather than conform, selfapprove rather than wait and apply for approval, and choose to practice herbal medicine regardless of any regulations or laws that may ever be passed against it. Advantages include:
•Knowledge is attained from wider sources (an infinite reading assignment list, openness to the approaches of other traditions and cultures) and through Rodne Galicha, Philippine environmental activist alternative and often more intimate means (personal experience, family tradition, apprenticeship with a healer).
Just as there are adepts in spiritual traditions who have given decades to the study and practice, so are there martial arts adepts who are the best in their field, and herbalist adepts who have with or without formal training become not only capable, but exceptional when it comes to the uses of plant medicine. Calling someone a “Master” herbalist or master anything else seems absurd, since nobody ever completely masters (controls, knows everything about) any darn thing! Calling someone (or ourselves) an adept, however, says only that they are profoundly wise and extraordinarily proficient and effective, while allowing that there is always room for further learning and improving. There can be, of course, no set criteria for when someone is to be considered an adept. If anything, it is determined by their continuous performance, accomplishment and results, and is spread beyond immediate witnesses and beneficiaries via story and reputation. An adept may very well be a professional, but not all adepts are professionals by any stretch.
•Nonprofessionals make evaluations based on someone’s inherent nature, wisdom and day to day acts, rather than on their position or accreditation. •One can act on a need, desire or calling immediately (open up an herbal practice, buying land and growing herbs, spending weekends wildcrafting, resist unjust regulations) and without waiting first for any degree, certificate, invite from an agency, or other formal process that would slow you down or derail you. •The nonprofessional acts out of her or his own personal code of ethics, rather than needing to agree completely with and act according to an organization’s or agency’s ethical guidelines. •Freedom (given, imagined, or seized and insisted on). •Personal empowerment. No permission is sought, and none required, to do what feels best. •Succeeding or failing at one’s aims is the only qualifying exam.
•Status is determined by performance (evidenced skill, ethics, results) rather than conferred by title. •There are infinite natural hierarchical levels for one to fit into, organic, overlapping, shifting and transforming, based on wisdom displayed, skills utilized, and the perceptions and needs of those around us. •Nonprofessionalism comes with fewer pressures to conform, along with more opportunities to distinguish oneself. •Informality, beloved informality, making it easier to relate to, communicate with and influence the other nonprofessionals of the world, everyday folks who have grown to distrust the pronouncements of so called “experts”, the intentions of corporate managers and regulations of agencies and authorities. A nonprofessional, community/folk herbalist speaks the language of the people being served, and is as good at being heard by plain folk as the pros are at getting the ears of business, school and government administrators. •If regulation or prohibition of herbalism increases, being a professional may no longer provide any immunity, and a nonprofessional, nonclinical model may be the only choice left for continued practice.
Potential Drawbacks to Being a Non-Professional, Amateur, Adept
•There is usually only one set of tests that someone has to pass before being ever after considered a professional, but the nonprofessional and outlier is daily tested. •Less credibility with professionals and bureaucrats means less direct influence on groups, business and agencies. •Unlike being thought of as a professional, being called an adept is no advantage when it comes to access to the institutions and powers-that-be, and in fact causes a lot of red lights to go off in the minds of bureaucrats and administrators.
•Because nonprofessionals have less credibility and access, they have to work even harder to change the system from the outside. •Without management oversight and professional pressures, it can be dangerously easy to start putting less effort into projects, or to get unfocused, distracted or diffuse. •The pay for nonprofessional work can be pretty shitty. •Hypocrisy & The Religion of NonProfessionalism: Noncomformist, anarchic, alternative and low income folks can be hypocritical in unfairly writingoff the professionals in their field. And it is more of a challenge or more heroic to be nonprofessional or poorly paid, thank it is to deal with university b.s., put on a dress skirt or suit and try to make a difference in the often hectic and unpleasant environs of a county clinic, a public school, a too brightly lit research lab or State Senate building. Our allies are all those who share our earth-hearted values and healing intent, no matter what the title, label, costume, or means for making a difference.
Frank Cook and friends
Non-Professional Herbalism At Its Best
There are ways to make up for any inherent drawbacks in nonprofessional herbalism. Inability to access institutions can result in you finding creative new ways of affecting your community and culture. While a high paying professional career can be difficult and painful to move on from, failure to be hired by a company can prod you to start your own herb related or other business that you have always wanted to. Not worrying about professional status, can make changing school majors or job focus easier, and not being bound to the accepted norms of professional dress and demeanor means you can more openly voice your real opinions, and more wildly, loudly and colorfully express your true self. You can set your standards and goals for studying and practicing as high as the most rigorous professional group, or even higher if that is your need or desire... but the inspiration, direction and drive is daily up to you.
Being an effective nonprofessional or adept may require that we: •Seek continuous education throughout our lives, from unconventional sources, with the intention of being ever more effective at healing or whatever we believe matters most. •Ensure that we are tested and improved through hands-on effort, experience and experiment. •Give equal attention and value to both means and results. •Use our reasoning minds as well as our hearts to evaluate and make choices. •Study science and consider evolving research, and weigh it against our intuition and experience... even if we have found reason to distrust corporate
controlled science or detest its bias against natural healing. •Stop resenting the existence of money and feeling guilty about making any. •Develop a personal code of honor/ethics, and live by it. •If we don’t accept direction and discipline from “superiors,” then it is all the more important we be self-directed, and disciplined in the pursuit of our aims. •Working without imposed form or protocol, means we must ourselves create form for purpose, and avoid the dreadful, nebulous, amorphous “it’s all good” mush.
Herbal Professionalism At Its Best
Many of the potential negatives associated with professionalism can be eliminated, lessened, remediated or compensated for if professionals and their organizations are diligent and make the effort. Mountain Rose Herbs is an example of a company that functions in a highly professional manner, with qualified and often accredited staff. They are a commercial seller of bulk herbs and more, and yet the plants they work with do not feel commercialized so much as valued... and shared. Their need to make profits does not prevent them from making conservation and environmental issues, cultural sensitivity, fair trade policies and education their priority when decision making.
•Take great care as to what we commit to, and then keep our commitments (“in a professional manner”!) •Categorize priorities and schedule hours. •Insist on either not-so-highly paid work that feeds our souls and serves our purpose, or else better paid work that bankrolls our real work, our off hours medicine making or book writing. •Function in a professional environment sometimes, whether we like it or not.
I’ll include a list here of guidelines and things to watch for the professional herbalist, with none more important than putting core values at the heart and forefront of all one does. As Bevin Clare explains: “In herbalism, firmly evaluating and establishing your embodied values is the first step to becoming a professional. What is a core value for you which cannot shift, and what is part of your image which can adapt and change? These values for herbalists are typically larger than the self, they involve the health of the planet, the plants, the wider herb community, access to plants, etc as well as many other more personal and individually oriented values. You may find that parts of who you are can adapt to help those around you to feel more
comfortable without compromising your core values. Without these strong and acknowledged values you may find yourself compromising for the sake of professionalism, which is a slippery slope.” Always, we need to not only look with our minds but our hearts, and not only at the personal, immediate and local, but at the bigger picture, at ramification and reach, potential consequences and future possibilities. “These values can help you determine your stance and view on a number of challenges which appear as we navigate the professional world,” Bevin continues. “They can help you make decisions for the whole, asking questions about how things have an effect beyond your own professional status and how they help your immediate community, larger herb community, the planet and plants as a whole. Walking the world as a professional with a global and big picture view can cultivate deeper healing in many ways.” Being a professional and an herbalist at the same time would seem to require that you: •Understand why you got into herbalism or healing in the first place, and hold on to that original inspiration, motivation, and joy. •Be willing to dress in a suit and tie or wear your hair up if that’s what makes it possible to get increased access to those systems doing the most to help or hurt this world, or otherwise contributes to your being more effective in your work... without, of course, pretending you are something you’re not, repressing your true self or setting aside your values. As Bevin Clare puts it, “Simple changes in my appearance opened doors to me and allowed that professional connection with a wider audience, and more plant medicine in more lives.” •Work to change the businesses, associations and agencies that we work with, so they better serve your empowerment and aims, rather than submitting to overt or subtle pressures from employers, government and groups to compromise or conform.
•Recognize and emphasize the non-monetary value of your services and products, the deeper noneconomic reasons for what you do, even as you work to make a living from your products or services. Take regular note of the ways you give to the world, income producing or not. •Remember that your degrees, accreditation, salaries and awards do not make you better than any other herbalist, only in some ways better equipped... and take care not give the impression that non-professionals are inferior or inconsequential. •Make not just profit (or even effectiveness!) your only criteria in decision making, but also authenticity, honesty, deeper significance, justice, education, environmental and social impacts, and beauty. •Fully exploit your position and advantages for the good of your larger aims of education, helping and healing. If you have a degree, put it to use. If you work for the government, you may be one of the few chances it has of implementing healthful and liberating policies. If you are professor, continuously develop the curricula beyond the known templates, challenge yourself and the administration as well as your students. Even if you are being paid lots by a supplier of supplements, make ethics and honesty of claims a priority along with product quality. If you discover dishonesty in advertisement or ethical violations, take it up with your employer and go public with the info if need be. If your position involves directing and management, take risks to do the right things, seek information and input and then bravely initiate changes, launch programs or products, and otherwise further what is your most essential and meaningful mission. •Be willing to earn less, or even be fired from your job, if it threatens to compromise your ethics or lessens instead of increases your ability and likelihood of fulfilling your most valued goals.
Standards for Both Professionals & Non Whether we seek to be professional or not, there are many characteristics and values that all can strive to embody and proliferate. Only a few examples follow: •Form, Function & Result ! While professions and their members can become rigid and un-adaptive, nonprofessionals can be transitional and amorphous to a fault. Function and results are sometimes downplayed as less important than art and expression by the non, while pros may error in stressing functionality but not meaning or beauty. And while results should never be the only criteria or measure, they certainly do matter. •Reason & Feeling ! Crucial is a balancing of left and right brain, intellect and heart, reason and feeling. Lean too far in either direction and we err, failing ourselves and those we might wish to help.
•Respect ! Essential for all, is basic respect. Respect for each other, free of the smug superiority and righteous disdain that professionals and non can sometimes display for one another. Respect for everyone’s personal connection to plants and calling to help heal, for students as well as teachers, volunteers as well as paid workers, for the enthused young as well as the learned elder. Respect for new ideas and approaches as well as for established schools of thoughts and traditions of herbalism. •Politeness ! Since childhood, I have abhorred how phony and fatuous politeness can be, shallow conversations characterized by a rote and impersonal civility rather than the expression or real feelings and honest opinions. Even the most discomforting of remarks can seem preferable to the practiced superficiality and disingenuousness of the polite
corporate spokesman engaged in public relations whitewashing, or the polite sounding politicians working to regulate or even eliminate the practice of herbalism by the people of this country. ! On the other hand, there’s much to be said for the art of courteous discourse. Exchanges in person or in emails can address issues without projecting our personal issues, and minus unhelpful drama. •Punctuality & Follow Through ! There are few qualities of professionalism more useful than following through on commitments in a timely and punctual way, qualities that are sadly all too rare amongst us proud non-professionals. ! •Accountability & Responsibility ! Professionals are accountable to their peers, organizations and employers, but accountability is no less important for all of us needing an honest public measure of our accomplishments and mistakes, effects and results. When not mandated by rule or protocol, it becomes necessary that we volunteer our work for inspection, and take responsibility for both what we do and fail to do. Professionals or not, we need to learn to accept, assume and deepen responsibility for our choices, actions, and failures to act... defined in the Anima tradition as the practiced “ability to respond.” ! •Proficiency ! People sometimes use professionalism as a synonym for proficiency, though all can and likely should strive to be as proficient as possible at whatever we do, for the sake of excellency and effect regardless of the level or lack of expectations.
In The End Knowing whether or not we want to go the professional route can make a big difference in the realization of our most meaningful purpose and ideal role. And yet, devoted professionals and nonconforming non-professionals alike may be
attributing too much import and baggage to what is but a derivative term. If we look up the roots of the word “profession,” we see that it derives from the Latin “profiteri,” meaning only to “declare publicly,” from the notion of being “an occupation that one professes to be skilled at.” (Indeed, the expression “the oldest profession” didn’t arise because historic prostitutes formed professional associations that qualified and certified its members, but rather, because the not always unhappy practitioners professed to be sex workers... often loudly, in public spaces, and sometimes in the form of a most lovely song.) If we profess to be a plant healer, then, we are in the original sense already a professional herbalist... if always and forever a student with more left to learn! And no matter how many degrees or certificates we might earn, no matter how many accomplishments or awards or how professional our actions or demeanor, most of us will always sense ourselves as something more than simply professionals. Plants, the natural world and what they teach and give, are seldom experienced as just a profession by any of us. They are our interest and infatuation, our passion and obsession, our calling and service, our pleasure and delight. I’d go so far as to say most professional herbalists would be more chill about being referred to as amateurs, if they’d take a look at the roots of this word as well: Amateur, from the late 18th Century Italian amatore, from the Latin amator, from amare... yes, “to love”, it means the most extreme expression of our caring! Being paid or not isn’t really what distinguishes amateurs or adepts, it’s that they love what they do so much they’d do it regardless of income or lack of income, and whether or not they get permission, approval or acclaim. Hell, it’s actually true of most of the herbalists I have ever known, and all that are precious to me, from papered botanists, research scientists and herbalist guild leaders to undocumented curanderos, kitchen medicine makers, and anarchic plant providers working the streets: What they do – what we do – is rightly done out of love.
Illustration from the new novel for herbalists by J. W. Hardin, â€œThe Medicine Bearâ€?
“From the stomach and intestines the chyle is absorbed both by veins and lacteals. That which is taken up by the blood-vessels is carried forward by the portal vein to the liver, there to be sorted, trained to the activities of the body, and distributed in several ways according to its quality. That which is absorbed by the lacteals is carried through a labyrinthine network, knotted by many glands, called the mesentery, and is the collected into. . . the receptacle of chyle. Here it is mingled with the lymph returned by the lymphatics from all the viscera of the abdomen and thorax; and then, through an irregular tube called the thoracic duct, it ascends nearly to the neck, emptying usually into the vein that returns the blood from the left arm to the heart.” ––––– John Worcester (1889, 75) One of the great principles upon which my system is founded, is that all disease originates in obstructions of the glands, and if not removed becomes scrofulous; and the only remedy is to
Introduction to The Lymph/Immune System An Exclusive Excerpt from the Upcoming New Book by
by Matthew Wood
remove the obstructions by raising perspiration by steam and hot medicine. In all my practice for nearly forty years, there has bee nothing that I have succeeded more completely in, than the cure of scrofulous complaints, such as salt- rheum, St. Anthony’s fire, scalt heads, cancers, king’s evils, rheumatism, and consumption. –––––– Samuel Thomson (1825, i:166). The cells of the organism are bathed by the waters of a vast internal ocean, through which supplies and waste products move to and from them. Some of the waste requires special ducts for removal – the lymphatics. The internal waters are policed by immune cells that are coded to distinguish ‘self’ and ‘non self’ and remove the latter. These police cells and related enzymes and mechanisms constitute the immune system. Thus, together the great internal ocean, the lymphatics, and the immune system constitute one large organ system which functions largely as
a unit, the ‘lymph/immune system.’ The ancient physicians did not have the capacity to understand these mechanisms as we do today, but their more intuitive approach allowed them, nervertheless, to name, describe, and treat this system. They understood that the local parts of the organism needed to be fed and cleansed, so they imagined an organ system that was responsible for nourishing the tissues with the materials received from the digestive tract and carrying away waste. Both in Chinese and Greek/Arabic medicine this organ system is called the ‘spleen.’ This organ is the largest in the lymphatic or lymph/immune system, so their intuitive conception was appropriate. For all practical purposes, the old physicians were able to treat the simpler diseases of the lymph/ immune system. This would include swollen lymphatics (called ‘scrofula’ in Greek medicine) and poor tissue feeding and cleansing (called spleen deficiency in China or ‘spleeniness’ in Western folk medicine). The inhabitants of northern regions, from Europe to China to Japan to North America possessed tonics to help them cope with the stresses of winter – calendula, astragalus, shitake, comptonia, sumach, ledum, to name a few. Today we would call these ‘immune tonics.’ They also knew how to treat allergies and diminish immune overactivity. We can even say that the old physicians were prepared for the ravages of the immune system which have appeared in modern times, because the protease inhibitors used to control AIDS are derived from a Chinese herbal remedy, bittermellon (Charantia momordica). But we cannot boast that they were the masters of some of the complex blood and immune diseases that stump doctors today as they did in the past. In order to understand the lymph/immune system and its treatment we are going to break it up into parts: the great internal ocean, the lymphatic system, and the immune system. We will also examine the separate parts of the lymphatic system, such as the spleen, thymus, and thoracic outlet, as well as the different types and functions of immune cells, and the cascades which power up an immune response when there is an invasion from without. The pathological and treatment concepts of the old physicians will also be related to the modern perspective of the system.
The Great Internal Ocean Life began in the ocean. The single cell organism consists of a membrane enclosing a portion of this ancient water, within which various ‘organelles’ undertake the processes of life. Single cells aggregate together to form multicellular organisms. The water surrounding the cells in these organisms also reflects this primal ocean. These internal waters are called the ‘interstitial fluids.’ Through these waters move the oxygen, food, replacement parts, and water needed to nourish and support the single cell. After consuming the necessities of life, the cell dumps its waste products into the internalized ocean to be carried away for elimination. These clean and dirty contents are all mixed together in the waters around the cell. However, the trash is always being sorted out so that waste products will not overwhelm the system. Oxygen, food, and replacement parts are brought in by the blood capillaries, which discharge their cargo across the capillary lining into the interstitial fluids, where they become available to cells. Meanwhile, cellular garbage is carried out through the veins. Some of this material is too big, so it is carried away by the lymphatic ducts. A constant sloshing around of the interstitial fluids is needed in order for this feeding and waste- removal to take place. The interstitial fluids do not have their own pump, so rely on the in-and-out movements of the diaphragm to squeeze the waters slowly through the body cavities. This moves the fluids much more slowly that the blood moves in the cardiovascular system. For instance, it would take a particle about two and half days to move throughout the body and back to its original spot in the fluids while it would only take twenty minutes in the blood. The diaphragmatic pump is assisted by the movements a person undertakes during daily life. The more sedentary the lifestyle, the less the internal water gets jostled around. Paraplegics and quadraplegics have trouble with this mechanism. The traditional exercises used to move the lymph and interstitial fluids are horseback riding and trampoline-jumping.
To facilitate the movement of fluids through the interior cavities there is a ‘lubricating’ mechanism. All cell walls are charged positive on the outside, so they tend to repel each other. This keeps cells from clumping up and blocking the flow of water. It also keeps the red, white, and platelet cells in the arteries and capillaries, while pushing the serum to the outside. Uncharged water molecules, food fragments, gases, and salts move through the membranes more easily. The positive charge on the outside of the cell wall is due to the fact that the energy the cell produces from oxygen and fuel (blood sugar) is taken to the wall of the cell by the ADP/ATP mechanism and stored there. The wall operates like a battery, with a positive and negative pole, the inside of the wall being negative, the outside positive. Where the cells are joined together into tissues, the wall of the tissue has a positive charge. The Lymphatic System The blood in the capillaries feeds the interstitial fluids and the fluids feed the cells. Some of the waste products, like carbon dioxide gas, excess water and salts, and small fragments of protein, can move back into the veins, but an additional network is needed to drain the larger pieces back into the circulation. Lymphatic capillaries form vast networks in the fluids that pick up big chunks of protein from dead cells and bacteria. Protein fragments are usually negatively charged, so they are attracted into the positively charged lymphatic capillaries. As soon as water enters the lymphatics it is called ‘lymph.’ The lymphatic capillaries join together into long tubes with frequently spaced nodes or glands
through which the lymph is filtered. These glands harbor white blood cells (WBCs) that help break down these protein chunks into smaller pieces. The WBCs can diffuse across the lymphatic tissue membrane, back into the interstitial fluids. They leave back through the vein, which hurries them along to the liver and kidneys, where – if they are old and worn out – they are processed into replacement parts or waste products. The lymph moves more slowly than the venous blood – they are like a slow river and a fast one. The immune cells in the lymph glands or nodes are like grinders that grind the protein fragments down to a size that makes them more transportable in either the lymph or the veins. Physical movement particularly helps the particles move into the lymphatic ducts. Herbalist Michael Moore notes that if one has been inactive for a long time, a sudden bout of activity (or a lymph- activating herb) can stimulate movement of particles into and through the lymphatics, causing them to dump their contents into the blood stream. This can results autotoxicity symptoms like achiness and tiredness, with stress on the liver and kidneys. In addition to draining the internal waters of the body, they lymphatics also drain the inside of the surface of the skin and mucosa. Chunks of protein may get through these surfaces via insect venom, allergic reactions, or coagulated blood from injuries. The lymphatic capillaries also drain the membranes of the small intestine. The villi or tiny ‘hairs’ lining the intestinal wall each have a vascular capillary and a lymphatic capillary (called a ‘lacteal’) to carry away the byproducts of the digestive process. Blood vessels bring in fresh blood for the cells of the intestinal walls and pick up blood sugar and strands of protein fragments (three amino acids or less), while the lacteals absorb lipids, and carry them to
larger lymphatic ducts where the contents are filtered through glands full of white cells. The purified contents are shipped through the lymphatic ducts to the thoracic duct and into the blood stream. The rivulets of digestate flowing in through the lymphatic capillaries and ducts from the small intestine form a milky yellow/white mass called “chyme.” Fats are “slippery,” so to speak, so some of them slip into the inner waters as they travel along in the lymph vessels. They do not have the positive charge on their walls that keeps the white cells in the ducts. In the interstitial fluids lipids are discovered by cells and picked up to provide lipid pieces needed for replacement parts. The lipids consumed in a meal do not generally become the trouble-making triglycerides and low density lipoproteins (LDLs) that create fat deposition and vascular disease. These come from excess the blood sugar that is overconsumed so readily these days. Excess glucose is bound up for storage as triglycerides, rolled into big balls to make LDLs, and shipped off to fat deposition areas or retained in the arteries as plaque. During the digestive process there is a surge in the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow, in order to provide plenty of immunological support to break down aberrant chunks of protein, bacteria, and toxins that are penetrating through the membranes of the small intestine. There are also immune or white cells implanted in the intestinal walls to help break down the digestate and white cells in the lymphatic ducts downstream from the lacteals to filter the chyme. This immunological surge has to be considered a part of the digestive process. If immunity is weak, the digestion will be weak and the organism poorly nourished. This is why the old doctors considered the lymphatics (or the spleen, the flagship of the lymphatic system) to be a digestive organ. The lymph/immune system participates in the final step of digestion, which occurs as the digestate enters the body. There are many remedies which are for asthenia, emaciation, anemia, and poor immunity. In traditional Chinese medicine the stomach is considered to be in charge of digestion, while the spleen is responsible for building the flesh. In Greek medicine the spleen is also associated with nutrition.
It is still a recognized expression in Maine and New Hampshire to call a person or farm animal that does not thrive ‘spleeny.’ The old doctors and herbalists recognized that there was an important relationship between the bone marrow, what we call immunity, lymphatic function, and digestion. Here is a wise account by one of the old physicians, Dr. John H. Clarke, a homeopath (Indigestion, Its Causes and Cures, c. 1910, 3): [The digestate] is rendered ready to be taken up by the absorbent vessels called lacteals which abound in the intestines. In the lacteals it is a fluid and looks like milk. After passing through the abdominal glands, where it undergoes some further preparation, the fluid is at last collected from all the lacteals into one large duct (the thoracic duct) and poured into the current of the blood. This is the [culmination of] the primary digestion. . . but there is also a secondary digestion, to which I will briefly refer. All the tissues of the body are in a state of ebb and flow. Where life is there is no standing still; everything is in a state of motion and change. The tissues once build up from the food no sooner reach their perfection and perform their function than they begin to decay and make room for more. Some tissues change more rapidly than others – the soft tissues more rapidly than the hard – but all change and break down into their elements. The secondary digestion consists in the absorption of these decomposed elements by the lymphatic vessels and glands, the elimination of those elements which are entirely waste, and the recomposition of those that are still utilizable into blood and new tissues. This process is one of vast importance, and which is easily deranged. Some people naturally have a more active secondary digestion than others, and these are generally thin. Tissue-change goes on rapidly, and it matters little how much they eat, they can never fatten. In spite of their spareness they have generally great vital heat, and are of an active, nervous, and restless temperament. Others, on the contrary, eat little, but grow constantly fat. With them the process is slow; the tissues burn away (for it is essentially a burning process) less rapidly, and they are of a quieter, more easy-going disposition – lymphatic or phlegmatic. But when there is not merely slow tissuechange, but, in addition to this, a defect in the carrying off of the effete matters from the tissues, then we have various kinds of diseases arising as the effete matters accumulate in the system. If it is lactic acid, we have
rheumatism; if the predominating substance is uric acid, we have gout. These are, in general, diseases of the secondary digestion. It is, of course, possible, and indeed common, to have defects of the two digestions combined, but they are distinct things nevertheless.
The Immune System The immune system is the inner “police force” of the body, patrolling the internal waters, looking for and pouncing upon foreign genetic materials that have somehow gotten into the body and aberrant or misplaced cell growth generated within the body itself – the beginnings of cancer. The immune system begins development during early childhood, so that it is able to differentiate “self” from “not self.” It primarily works through different kinds of white blood cells or leukocytes that are modified to carry out different immune functions. These react to foreign invasion to provide both (1), innate, nonspecific, and (2), acquired, specific immune reactions. The first response allows for a quick, general reaction to invasion that destroys the intruder or keeps it at bay until second response (which takes longer to get up and running) is available. Sometimes the second reaction is not necessary.
This observation about constitution is explained by modern findings about the immune and endocrine systems. As Hans Selye demonstrated when he discovered the function of the adrenal cortex, there are two responses to stress – glucocorticoid (GC) dominance and mineralocorticoid (MC) dominance. The former is “anti-inflammatory” in its immune response, while the latter is “pro- inflammatory.” In the GC or cortisol dominant type the lymphatics are somewhat suppressed, along with the proinflammatory side of the immune function, so that water and toxins collect in the interior. He calls this type “syntoxic,” since it coexists with toxins. It also has high blood sugar and insulin, leading to weight gain. In the MC dominant type the proinflammatory side of the immune system is more active, the lymphatics are larger and better developed, and the organism is better cleansed, so it is “catatoxic” – it burns up toxins. This type is more lean (Selye, The Stress of Life, 1974).
White blood cells are mostly manufactured by the stem cells in the bone marrow. Under different signals, the bone marrow makes red or white cells, platelets, or “replacement” cells for the organs of the body. Only the signal for red blood cell production is known – the hormone erythropoetin, from the
kidneys. Some lymphocytes are also manufactured in the nodular glands of the lymphatic ducts, while some migrate from the bone marrow to the glands where they lie in wait, to be activated in an immune response. When a pathogen or toxin has gotten past the barrier of the skin or mucous membranes it moves into the connective tissue layer. If it is a pathogen, it starts to multiply and release toxins that are poisonous to the body tissues. It tries to get into the body stream to spread, but the body is already trying to isolate it in the connective tissue through phagocytosis (immune cells eating pathogenic cells). There are three main groups of phagocytes: (1) neutrophils, (2) mononuclear phagocytes (monocytes in the blood and macrophages in the connective tissue), and (3) organ-specific phagocytes (in the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, lungs, and brain). Some neutrophils and monocytes are stationed in the connective tissue, where they scavenge for invaders. If the invasion is big enough, they are joined by neutrophils and monocytes that squeeze out of the blood vessels and move into the connective tissue. Meanwhile, the monocytes release a chemical that signals the hypothalamus to set the thermostat of the body higher – to produce a fever. These nonspecific immune cells also release interferons, which interfere with viruses. The second, acquired, specific immune response follows up the first, if that is not sufficient to contain the invasion. This response is acquired and specific because it involves lymphocytes that have acquired, specific responses to the external genetic material they come in contact with. The body maintains a cellular library of foreign genetic configurations which it will attack when these enter the body. (This is how a vaccination works: it conveys knowledge of the foreign genotype to the body). The cells with the memory of the specific alien genetic program then are triggered to multiply. It takes a while for them to build up the millions of cells required to combat the invader, so this mechanism is slower than the innate, nonspecific method. However, it is required if that one does not do the job by itself. This secondary response involves the use of lymphocytes, of which there are two main kinds, Tcells and B-cells. The former are lymphocytes, manufactured in the bone marrow, but circulated
through the thymus, where they are trained to recognize external genetic configurations and not react against the host organism. This training is acquired in early childhood, after which the T-cells retain the memory of self and not-self, passing it on to future cell generations. They move to the site of the invasion destroy the intruder directly. The Bcells, on the other hand, are manufactured in the bone marrow but circulated throughout the fluids of the body. They secrete antibodies that interact with the antigens – the alien protein codes on the surfaces of the invading cells – to neutralize and destroy the invaders. Together, T- and B-cells provide immunity to viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Antibodies are proteins that are suited to the recognition of different proteins associated with different bacteria so they also represent a specific response. These proteins are also known as immunoglobulins. Some are suited to work in the more external secretions like saliva and milk, others are more internal. They grab onto the antigen, can rupture the wall of the invader cell, or anchor a complement protein which strangles the bacteria. Tcells do not use antibodies, but lymphokines, or interleukins for their coding purposes. The T-cells have additional functions as well as stopping external invasion. They are the “brains” of the immune system, carrying the codes for the recognition of self and not-self. Hence, they not only attack foreign bacteria, but also aberrant cells that arise within the body and would go on to produce cancer, or misplaced cells growing in the wrong places in the body. They are assisted by T-helper cells and controlled by T-suppresser cells. They are related to “natural killer cells” that nonspecifically destroy incipient cancer tumors. In areas of the body where there is special need for police-work the immune cells are incorporated into the linings to be at the sites where they are most needed. This kind of tissue is called “lymphoid.” It can be found in (1), the back of the throat and nasal passages – tonsils and adenoids – to protect the respiratory tract, (2), the small intestine to protect the body against alien genetic material and also to break that material down and absorb it for use as food, (3), at the end of the small intestine (Peyer’s Patches) to protect against septic material coming
up from the colon, (4) in the spleen, and (5), in the liver, to help the detoxification going on there. Immune response is partially regulated by the adrenal cortex. The cortisol side inhibits the immune response so that it is anti-inflammatory and syntoxic. The mineralocorticoid side is immunestimulating, pro-inflammatory and catatoxic. These two sides balance each other but one side or the other will dominate in a person. This creates constitutions in which toxins build up and there is a tendency to low immunity, congestion, and certain types of cancer, while in others toxins are eliminated rapidly but there are tendencies to heat, inflammation, allergies, auto-immune disease, and a different set of cancers. Interestingly, women have a more proinflammatory immune response; men have one that is slightly more antiinflammatory. Lymph/Immune Pathology Local inflammation occurs when a bacteria or invader (even a splinter) gets through the skin or mucosal barrier. The local neutrophils and monocytes in the connective tissue are immediately attracted to it and begin the immune response. Phagocytosis is used to consume the invader. The plan is to keep the invader in the connective tissue. Signals are sent to call in blood borne immune cells and begin the secondary, specific response of the Tand B-cells. Histamine and other chemicals released by the mast cells cause
vasodilatation, so that these new cells can get to the site of the infection. This causes increased blood supply, with redness, swelling, and warmth. Pressure on nerves cause tenderness or pain. Dead bacteria and leukocytes immediately pile up; they are digested by enzymes released by macrophages to produce pus. If the infection is in an area of the mucosa, the pus combines with mucus to form white, yellow, or green mucus â€“ green representing active bacterial infection. Eventually the local inflammation subsides.
The immune system strives to keep the infection within the connective tissue. If it penetrates into the blood it tries to keep it localized – hence we see swollen glands in the area of the infection. If this fails it moves into the bloodstream as a whole, resulting a prolonged, low grade fever with prostration, exhaustion, and putrid discharges. If pus is produced deep in the body there will be “congestive chills” and fever. (This was not uncommon in the days before antibiotics). If the internal organs are attacked there will be fever with wasting, prostration, and fluid loss. The symptoms of the movement of inflammation from the superficial to the deep level was known to traditional doctors, who saw it undisturbed by the use of antibiotics much more frequently than modern doctors. The “four stages of cold induced disease,” used in traditional Chinese medicine to measure the layer of attack of a “cold pathogen” describe this process.
sweet pores at the end of the fever represents the body returning the periphery to normal. It was too closed up through the fever and this supported the bacteria. They release exotoxins that may induce sweat pore closure to keep their environment intact.
General inflammation or fever occurs when pathogens gain entrance to the body through a more generalized area, such as a large portion of the respiratory or GI tract. Monocytes send signals to the hypothalamus, which is in charge of the “febrile mechanism.” The hypothalamus opens and closes the vents of the body – blood vessels, sweat pores, the shivering mechanism – to keep the body from being overly impacted from without. This is the “first line of protection,” before the immune system is engaged. The body that is chilled or overheated is more susceptible to pathogens. When the monocytes signal the hypothalamus it raises the general body temperature. The peripheral capillaries are dilated to move the heat from the core outwards to release at the surface. When the fever “breaks” the hypothalamus signals the sweat pores to open up and release fluids. The temperature goes back down to normal. The function of fever and the fever breaking mechanism are not understood in conventional medicine. From the holistic standpoint we can, however, make some observations. The closure of the sweat pores or the opening of the peripheral vasculature may have already started before the immune reaction. Traumatized by external environmental factors – cold closes the sweat pores – the periphery became disordered and the pathogen gets a foothold. Thus, opening of the
The Hippocratic physicians explained fever by the idea that the body needed to “cook” the separated “humors” in order to break them down and make them less toxic. As the fever fell the “cooked humors” (pus, mucus, turbid urine, black stools, etc.) left the body. It was also recognized from an early date that diaphoretics would open the sweat pores and sometimes this would release a fever. It must be remembered that the “febrile mechanism” (regulation of the surface by the hypothalamus) is the first line of defense; the immune system is second. We often need to address problems in the first line in order to relieve the immune response. This is a truism modern medicine has forgotten.
Dilation of peripheral vasculature may also precede the immune response. The body got overheated, perhaps from too much time in the sun, and the peripheral circulation opens up to move more blood to the surface. This releases heat from the body. (Conversely, the chilled body is pale because it keeps the blood in the center, to stay warm). In fever the blood goes to the surface. This serves two purposes. It provides more access for white cells to get to the area of immune response, and it allows for the discharge of heat. Immune activity is overactivity (as we know in the case of autoimmune disease) and the body needs to release heat produced by activity.
If we do not understand the level at which the disease is operating, we will not use our medicines effectively. For instance, the Indians first introduced the use of echinacea for the ill-effects of snake and insect bites – not to antidote the venom, but to assist the body to remove the byproducts of the invasion (basically, pus in the blood). Echinacea was adopted by the eclectic physicians, who used it for septicemia (bacteria and pus in the blood). Pharmaceutical scientists who were not herbal practitioners showed that echinacea contains polysaccharides that stimulate production of some kinds of white blood cells. This led them to theorize
but if it is overly responsive it can create terrible disease. Immune Deficiency. The system is frequently encumbered by low level infections which heal slowly. Stressful situations cause prostration and illness. Cold and flu symptoms may come and go for a month or more. Scratches are easily infected. Extremities and skin may be cool. Can be induced by a low protein diet, chronic infection, chronic gum or tooth infection, or chronic lymphatic congestion and swollen glands which are not eliminating the products of immune reactions fast enough. Immune Excess. The system reacts to foods and substances which do not bother most people, making it difficult to navigate between allergens. These people are often sick, due to the overreaction, with respiratory ailments, allergies, and eventually, chronic respiratory problems like asthma, or they have food sensitivities that make eating a picky affair, or mold allergies that limit their housing and living choices. In more severe cases the immune system begins to react against the body itself. The lymphoid tissue in the respiratory or digestive tracts is continually inflamed. Connective tissue, where the immune response starts, is easily affected. Joints and skin become inflamed and structural changes occur. Lupus, scleroderma, Shogren’s disease. Generally, these people are hot, with warm skin and extremities. Color tends to be pink or carmine, showing engorgement of red blood cells in the capillaries.
that it would increase the white cell response to a viral infection like a head cold. This theory flies in the face of experience; clearly, the Indian and eclectic uses suggest instead that echinacea is suited to septic infections where the bacteria and pus is widespread in the blood stream. Septicemia is a bacterial infection, not a viral one, and there is no traditional evidence supporting its use in antiviral treatment. Not surprisingly, echinacea has failed to prove itself in extensive trials for head colds and upper respiratory infection. The rebuttal that large doses were not used in the study reflects unholistic thinking; it is not health-promoting to force the body to do something through massive dosage. The immune system can be subject both to “low immunity,” or lack of a sufficient response, in some area or another, and “autoimmune disease,” when there is an overreaction. The immune system has to be alert and poised to response to external attack,
Many people come in saying that they have “low immunity” when they really have “excess immunity.” In both cases, people can be sick all the time, but one is a deficiency condition, the other excess. 87
The reasons for growing plants in containers are containers can be used to keep them in more modest many: it often provides the sole proportions. Finally, people in means for growing herbs or Growing Out-of-the-Ground: wheelchairs or with special needs vegetables when tending a garden around mobility, can access large Medicinal Herbs in Containers is simply not possible, or when containers, such as elevated raised Photos & Text the available ground is beds in wood frames, more easily. by Juliet Blankespoor contaminated. Containers can also help to create a miniPlants preferring wetter soil: microclimate, such as well-drained soil, moist soil or Containers can help to hold in moisture and can be even a water garden. used to create a moister Containers may allow for a microclimate for herbs who habitat adjustment, such as appreciate the moister side of growing an arid plant under life. Avoid terra cotta with such cover in a climate that receives plants as the clay wicks away more rainfall than the plant moisture and the pots dry out would tolerate, or providing quickly. The larger the vessel, shade on a porch when little the easier it is to maintain shade is available in the garden moisture. If applicable, use a or surrounding landscape. saucer and apply mulch to hold Growing plants in a vessel can in moisture. Compost, clay, and also prolong the growing peat can be added to the soil to season by allowing for increase water retention. You portability â€“- a plant may be may consider hooking up a moved indoors or to a roof water catchment system protected location when the directly to the containers of temperatures dip below the these water-loving herbs. plantâ€™s cold tolerance. Gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae), calamus (Acorus In addition, many containers calamus, Acoraceae), skullcap White Sage & Nasturtium are works of art and provide (Scutellaria l a t e r i fl o r a , accents in the landscape, Lamiaceae), yerba mansa creating a variety of textures and colors and (Anemopsis californica, Saururaceae), boneset differing plant heights. The portability of container(Eupatorium perfoliatum, Asteraceae), vervain grown plants can help fill in bare spots in the garden (Verbena hastata, Verbenaceae), meadowsweet during seasonal changes. Many plants will quickly (Filipendula ulmaria, Rosaceae), yellowroot overwhelm the garden with their innate exuberance; (Xanthorhiza simplicissima, Ranunculaceae), and
nettles (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae) are herbs with an appreciation for wet feet. Depending on your climate and garden habitats, containers can help provide the extra moisture needed for their thrival. Plants preferring well-drained soil: Consider adding very coarse sand and/ or pine bark fines (see notes below) to increase the drainage of the soil. Perlite is also an option, although it is less sustainable. Water only when the soil dries out. If you are in a climate with extra rainfall and humidity, you may want to keep these pots out of the rainâ€™s reach. I keep arid climate plants in a sunny spot on my porch or in my greenhouse. Be careful to only water the soil and avoid watering the foliage, as these plants are more susceptible to fungal diseases. Ma huang (Ephedra sinica, Ephedraceae), prickly pear (Opuntia spp., Cactaceae), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, Lamiaceae), lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora, Verbenaceae), garden sage (Salvia officinalis, Lamiaceae) and white sage (Salvia apiana, Lamiaceae) are a few medicinal plants that appreciate drier soils. Plants preferring shade/part-shade: If you are trying to grow temperate or cool-weather plants in an especially hot climate, providing afternoon shade will often keep the plant happier. If you donâ€™t have shade in your garden, you can grow many woodland medicinals in containers on a shaded porch, deck, or even in the shade of your house. Gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae), Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum, Curcubitaceae), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum, Geraniaceae), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides, Berberidaceae), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculaceae), are some of the plants I have seen grow well under shade in containers. Sensitive herbs: Cold-sensitive perennial herbs can be grown outdoors in a pot during the warmer months and then brought indoors or to a sheltered location when the weather grows colder. Many of these plants will go dormant during the winter, and can be overwintered in a basement, attic or warmer sheltered spot. In contrast, some of these hot-climate plants will require sunlight during the winter: place them in a greenhouse or in front of a south-facing window. This is a lovely option for those of you who
live in climates where it freezes infrequently. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora, Verbenaceae), white sage (Salvia apiana, Lamiaceae), lemongrass (Cymbopogon spp., Poaceae), gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae), ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae), turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae), Aloe vera (Aloe spp., Xanthorrhoeaceae) and Citrus (Citrus spp., Rutaceae) are some of the tenders, which you may choose to baby a bit.
Retired ceramic bathtubs, sinks and toilets: These are some of the greenest container options available as they are often destined for the landfill or available for cheap. They are long-lived, resistant to cracking from temperature fluctuations, and often provide a sizeable growing area that holds moisture quite effectively. Plastic pots: Black nursery pots or plastic buckets are often cheap or free, and lighter than other pots, with an increased ease of portability. The downside of plastic vessels includes their shorter lifespan and the heavy environmental toll in their creation. Often landscapers throw away large pots, so reuse helps keep them out of landfills. I have concerns about the possibility of chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering the plants via the soil substrate. Many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics are powerful endocrine disruptors. This is an issue that has kept me up at night with worry about the possible contamination of medicinal herbs grown in plastic containers in my own nursery. Terra cotta: Terra cotta, or clay pots wick away moisture quickly so they need to be watered more frequently than pots made from other materials. These pots will also crack and break with the expansion and contraction of freezing soil, so they need to be emptied and protected from moisture during the winter in temperate climates. Terra cotta pots can sometimes be found used but the new pots are typically imported from Asia. However, there a few domestic producers still around, but their pots are typically more expensive and not widely available.
Calamus (Acorus calamus) and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) growing in a retired bathtub
Ginger being grown in an unheated greenhouse attached to the south side of a house
Glazed ceramic: These pots hold moisture more effectively than terra cotta pots, and are less likely to crack during the winter. They also provide beauty with a variety of colors and textures. The cons to glazed ceramic includes increased weight and the fact that most are produced abroad, with the attendant environmental costs of transportation with possibly unfair working conditions. However, some purveyors of fair-trade goods offer these types of pots. Recycled â€œwhat have youâ€? vessels: Consider reusing olive oil, large old cans, and coffee tins as containers, but see the above comments on potential chemical contamination; these metal food vessels typically have an inner plastic lining. Fiber pots: These have become more popular lately, and include pots made from peat, manure, and
excess pulp. These containers will typically last one season or less, but have the advantage of being compostable upon retirement, Most of these are manufactured abroad; inquire about the production location. Wooden containers: Many nurseries sell old wine and whisky barrels, which offer a considerable planting area and are less likely to dry out than smaller containers. Large raised beds with wooden forms also fall into this category; these are easy to access for folks in wheelchairs or who canâ€™t bend easily. Rot-resistant sustainably harvested wood, such as cedar, cypress, white oak, osage orange and black locust will greatly increase the longevity of these containers. Often the rough ends or slab ends of logs, sourced from local saw mills, are more affordable than standard straight edged lumber. Avoid pressure-treated wood as its toxins leak into
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae) growing as a potted porch plant
the soil and accumulate in the food or medicine being grown. Soil and Drainage Considerations Drainage is a big issue in container culture as soil compaction more easily occurs. Add a 12-inch layer of criss-crossed sticks to the bottom of larger pots before adding soil and elevate the container from its saucer or the ground with bricks or large rocks. Typically garden soil or topsoil is too heavy for container culture, it can be used with amendments such as pine bark fines, composted leaf mold, aged fluffy manure, and worm castings. Pine bark fines are the ground-up bark of pines and are a byproduct of the pulp and lumber pine industry; they offer porosity and water retention and have a neutral pH (did I just say heaven, or what?). Three parts pine bark fines, one part composted manure, and a touch of lime, organic fertilizer, mycorrhizal inoculant and worm castings makes a wonderful all-purpose soil
Container-grown Ma huang (Ephedra sinica) strobili (seed-bearing reproductive structures)
mix for containers. Please see the previous notes about amending soil mixes to meet a specific plantâ€™s requirements. It is possible to reuse soil for multiples seasons. I take out the top fourth of soil, compost it, and mix in compost, worm castings and a touch of lime to the remaining soil. This annual treatment usually spruces up the soil sufficiently for it to be used for two to three seasons. May your gardens be bountiful, beautiful and healing!
My most treasured container planting
We push the canoe out into the clear water and paddle excitedly toward the opposite side of the lake, where a light green sheet, like Aspen leaves in springtime, spreads across the water.
Sacred Stuff For Sale: Wild Rice
By Samuel Thayer
“That’s the color you’re looking for,” I tell Korbin as the boat lurches forward and the paddles leave little tornadoes in the water behind us. “Wild Rice is the only aquatic plant that light green. Even from a mile
away you know it’s not Bulrush or Cattail. And notice how it’s green, not brown. If it’s brown you’re too late or something’s wrong.” I tell her this last part so she can note the difference from a lake that we went to earlier in the day where the rice was half dead from brown spot disease, a fungal infection that kills the plants and causes them to abort their kernels. Korbin tells me she wants to become a Wild Rice harvester. I tell her I want to teach her if she is serious; and I think she is serious because she told me she was so excited thinking about it that she could hardly sleep. Manoomin does that to some people. It’s windy. The first rice we get to is sparse, short, and almost sideways in the wind— nearly impossible to harvest—but I still stand up and start using the pole instead of the paddle. Off in the distance we see another boat of ricers moving briskly through the rice bed closer to shore. As we head in their direction the plants get gradually taller and thicker, and it’s now possible to lean some over the boat to knock the kernels in. But the harvest is still slow. We find a vein of better rice and follow it; I poling, she knocking. I notice that our trajectory might bring us close to the other pair of harvesters in a quarter-mile or so, something I’m apprehensive about. I tell her some things about ricing etiquette: to stay away from other harvesters when reasonably possible; find an area to harvest and move through it systematically and thoroughly so that other sections are left untrammeled for other harvesters, and never unnecessarily cross the trail of another harvester who is making careful, systematic trails. I tell her stories about different odd characters and the disproportionate frequency of jerks that one runs
into when ricing. I explain how the jerks usually give themselves away almost immediately by asking, “So, how much rice you usually get in a year?” but I have to hush this kind of talk as the other boat comes near us. We stop to chat. That’s how it often begins with jerks. But luckily, these are nice people: a younger man and an older woman, maybe a mother and son. We talk for a few minutes and pole away from each other with smiles; they leave for the day and we pole north looking for better rice. An eagle soars into view, and I send it up a prayer of thanks. The Ojibwa tell a legend, which I share with my partner, about migiizi. He watches from the sky to see if any people are still keeping the old ways, and reports to the Creator; as long as some of us are living close to the Earth, He knows we still might find our way. It is very rare to spend a day ricing without being seen by migiizi. I am a Wild Rice harvester. Or, as we say around here, a ricer. You can tell because there are four ricing poles leaning up against the garage. Five if you count the broken one. There are seven sets of rice-knocking sticks in the garage, plus a lone stick whose match has been lost. There’s a beat-up ricing canoe sitting on top of my car on a weathered 2x4 roofrack that has a white mushroom growing out of it. My bumper sticker reads “Wild Rice: you haven’t tried it until you knock it.” I have about 60 grain sacks in a loose pile in the corner of the lean-to shed, plus 17 that are stuffed full with dried rice. There are three tarps spread across the lawn upon which Wild Rice lies in various states of drying. My ricing shorts are hanging by the door.
Every year, sometime around the 24th of August, the other minor concerns in my life get put on hold for a few weeks so that I can lean an aquatic grass over the side of a boat and hit it with a stick. I don’t need a calendar to know when it’s ready. The Chokecherries droop with plump fruit, the tips of the Hazelnut husks begin to darken. Loose flocks of nighthawks, slowly meandering south, drift around the evening sky. Wild Plums soften, Elder berries darken, and hungry birds pluck off the last Blackberries. Every year, for the rest of my ablebodied life, I know where I’ll be when this time comes. I have trouble explaining to people why I do this. It is very strenuous work— perfect cross-training for marathon runners, only it is a decidedly uncomfortable kind of strenuous. The firsttime ricer is often incredulous, flabbergasted, by the rice worms and the spiders. I’ll ask him ahead of time if he has a problem with little creepy things, and he’ll say no. But he has no idea what he’s getting into: a boatful of inchworms with fierce little jaws and a propensity to ascend the tallest object around —namely, the guy standing with the pole. Not that they bite often—it only takes one misbehaving moth larva trying to chew through your groin to bring cuss words upon the other 400 inching across your body. The several thousand spiders that clamber around the boat trying to catch rice worms are notably less troublesome. Maybe they’re just full. And then there are a million or two miniscule rice hoppers—I don’t even know what they are, or what they eat. They leave me alone, I leave them alone. But none of these arthropods is really worrisome; the dangerous part of ricing is the rice itself. Each kernel is protected by a barbed husk and an awn— like a brittle porcupine quill—designed specifically to deter hungry mammals. These poke, itch, scratch, and sometimes puncture various parts of the human body—and if they get into your mouth or eyes, they can mean serious trouble. Combine that with heat, sunburn and fatigue, and you can see why most
people assume that I would only do this for the money. But that’s not the case. I rice because I like to watch turtles basking on the piles of rice stalks that muskrats cut and pile on old logs. I rice so that I can look for muskellunge lurking under the logs, waiting for perch that circle around hoping to engulf a fallen rice worm. I like to hear mink frogs chirp an occasional clackety-clack while resting on a fallen clump of rice, to see otters bob and dip in search of crayfish and shiners, to marvel at trumpeter swans paddling in and out of the rice. If I didn’t rice, I wouldn’t get to see soras, bitterns, or least bitterns, and I’d never shudder at the thundering wingbeats of three thousand blackbirds exploding in unison from the dense grass. I rice so that I can eat the most n u t r i t i o n a l l y, spiritually, and ecologically health-giving food in the world—and so that I can share it with others. So that I can dream of a distant time when the world eats more of this magic. Yes, I harvest wild rice for money. And on a good day, it’s pretty good money. When I used to pile lumber for a living, I could occasionally make as much money ricing on Saturday as I earned all week in the sawmill. But that doesn’t explain it; I only started selling rice because I loved ricing so much that I accumulated way more than I could possibly eat. One day it dawned on me that all of this gourmet grain was a commodity with substantial value, which gave me the opportunity to do something that I loved for a part of my living. That’s how I became one of a handful of commercial wild rice harvesters in Wisconsin. I riced like crazy, sold my extra rice, saved my money, and eventually used it to print a book called The Forager’s Harvest. I still harvest Manoomin for money, but I also go to conferences and workshops focusing on wild rice, set aside some of my rice for seeding projects, and compromise many of my best harvesting days to initiate new ricers.
In the eyes of some, when I started selling Wild Rice, I became the enemy—greedily appropriating the gifts of Nature for my own financial gain. Indeed, many people feel that the commercial sale of wild plants is immoral, and a threat to their existence. But the answer is not so simple. There are indeed people who harvest and sell wild plants, and in the process endanger them; Ginseng and Goldenseal have been extirpated over entire regions that way. Bittersweet in some places has been collected to death for wreaths and garlands. But in other instances, wild plants are exterminated because they are not harvested. When the great groves of Pecan and Shellbark Hickory in Illinois and Missouri were girdled and burned to make way for cow pastures and wheat fields, it was only because the people who once ate these nuts had been driven away from their ancestral lands. For untold generations, Camas meadows bloomed their deep blue from coastal hillsides of the Pacific Northwest—but when the harvest of these bulbs for food stopped, the Camas meadows shortly disappeared. The Prairie Turnip, once a staple food plant for the Lakota and other Plains tribes, has been exterminated from nearly all of its former haunts through agriculture and overgrazing. But in western South Dakota a few people still do harvest this legume in quantity, and some even sell the roots—and they do their best to keep the cows and the plows out. Quite simply, an economic relationship to a plant is the best assurance that people will understand, observe, and care for that plant. As we pole along the shoreline and pass a few lakefront homes, I point out the places where people have pulled out large sections of Wild Rice in front of their docks. “It’s illegal, but people do it anyways, and nobody enforces it,” I say in disgust. Many of the fisherman and weekenders with lake cottages hate Wild Rice; you can’t fish in it, you can’t swim in
it, it clogs the boat motor, and it blocks the view. If it were up to them, they’d get rid of the crap. In fact, fifty years ago there were no laws protecting Wild Rice. It was up to them, and they did get rid of it; the rice beds have been destroyed on the vast majority of lakes where it once grew, to the delight of most residents. Only where there are Manoomin harvesters does anyone speak up in defense of this “water weed” that is the keystone species in its ecosystem. We eventually find some better sections of the rice bed and Korbin tries her hand at poling. She remains fascinated by my stories of the many hostile ricers I have encountered over the years, and I am happy to recount some of the more entertaining instances. “Does it seem like the commercial harvesters are less friendly than the casual ricers who just get a little for themselves?” she asks. I have to think about that for a minute, because I have never asked myself that question. “No,” I resolutely reply, “the people who sell rice are definitely nicer, in my experience.” “Really? I wonder why that would be.” Me too, so I think about it for a while. Korbin is done trying her hand at poling. She has a blister at the base of each finger, two of which are torn open and bleeding. “That’s a reasonable medical excuse to be done for the day,” I tell her. “There’s no way I’m quitting right now,” she responds. I no longer entertain any doubts as to whether or not she is serious about learning to do this. “I think it’s because the more you harvest rice, the more sacred it becomes. All the hard-core harvesters are crazy about rice.” I say after a few pensive minutes. “It’s never commercial harvesters who ask
me how much I harvest in a year. This is not something to be debased by competition or jealously. Every commercial harvester that I know thinks that way. Plus, we have rules. Casual harvesters and new people hate the fact that there are rules and expectations placed upon them.” The rules I speak of are old and traditional, based on generations of people doing this for a living and having to get along with each other, having to share, and depending for their survival on the survival of the rice. Some are law: the hours and days open to ricing, the size of the canoe, the design of the knockers. Others are just seen as moral obligations: you don’t knock it before it’s ready, and you don’t beat the crap out of it. The rules work, and that’s why we like them. After watching some ducks fly off, I add, “I have to balance the commercial and the sacred.” “I think you’re doing a pretty good job,” she says. I’m not doing anything new; the sacred and the commercial have always been mingled. In traditional cultures all across the world, it has always been those plants and animals that were most economically important that were granted sacred status. The traditions that developed around these plants and animals served to make the economic relationship sustainable, and to mediate the inherent conflict between the various people depending on a limited resource. In the absence of these traditions, of sacredness, people do tend to lapse into destructive behavior when harvesting plants to sell. Last spring I was cutting a Cow Parsnip stalk to eat, near a lush patch of enormous Wild Leeks where I like to collect. As I munched the stalk, I walked over to visit the leeks.
Probably a day earlier, someone had dug up the whole clump. I was furious. Not because they were “my” leeks—this was on public land—but because the harvester wantonly destroyed an entire colony of them, which may take a hundred or more years to grow. And there are only two reasons to do that: greed and laziness. I immediately assumed that it must be a commercial harvester; over the years, I have grown to despise commercial Wild Leek collectors. They typically decimate the locales they harvest, and have systematically eliminated Wild Leeks from many areas —and not once have I met a collector who had any reasonable protocol for conserving the plants he harvested, nor any realistic idea of their reproductive rate. We who love the land stand at a crossroads: should we stop harvesting Wild Leeks —and every other plant for which there is no well-established tradition—or should we build traditions that assure the plant’s continued prosperity? Should we sever the relationship and lose all that it offers, or accept the small responsibilities that make it work forever? The sun is burning into some Spruce tops on the west horizon as we pole back toward the boat landing. Korbin really wants to break 100 pounds for her first day, so she’s giving it all she’s got for this final few minutes, despite her blistered palms that occasionally elicit the subtle wince of a tough girl. “I know it’s going to be hard to stop,” I warn her. “Feels silly passing through rice without knocking it, but there’s no ricing after sunset.” “Yeah, I know,” she sighs. The sun melts away shortly before we hit the open water. “OK, time to lay down the sticks.”
“Do you want me to paddle?” “No, I want you to relax and enjoy the view. This is the best part.” A loon wails as we approach the open channel. A big fish, probably a musky, maybe a sturgeon, swirls in an opening beside the boat. A barred owl hoots from the woods on shore, a lone peeper calling nearby. Nighthawks and silver-haired bats zig and zag across the water. Looking far to the north, the rice gives way to Sedges, then Alders, then a Black Ash swamp, then a big hill covered with hardwoods and White Pine: nothing but wildness for miles. Wildness—which gave us this incredible heap of
incredible of food, and renewed my vision that someday our civilization will re-learn to feed ourselves not by destroying Nature, but by nurturing it. Not by commercializing the sacred, but by sacredizing the commercial. “94 pounds, my estimate.” “Not bad,” she underestimating.”
We clean it all out, bag it up, and drive off.
After weighing it at home, I email her: 109.
While it's unlikely that you'll receive any to remove the large seeds. •Simmer the remaining liquid until it is somewhat complaints when dispensing Elderberry syrup, outlined below is a way to make it extra palatable thickened, stirring often to avoid burning. •Add honey or sugar to taste and continue to heat and child-friendly. Not only is this a fun way to take your medicine, but you gently until incorporated. •Store in refrigerator or freezer receive the added health benefits Elderberry Jellies of high quality gelatin—which (syrup will not freeze solid if sugar strengthens skin, hair, nails, content is high enough) by Sophia Rose digestion, and joint mobility! Try adding Rosehips, Creating all manner of herbal Variations: jellos or jelly candies using the Ginger, or Hawthorne berries to the below method (with a strong Elderberries in the first stage of infusion or decoction in place of the Elderberry cooking for synergistic nourishment and medicinal syrup) can greatly increase compliance in the effects. younger set—especially when dispensing herbs not Instead of water, use an unsweetened fruit juice, like quite so delicious as Sambucus.
tart cherry or blueberry, for added antioxidants and flavonoids!
Prepare elderberry syrup by your own favorite method or follow the directions below before transforming your syrup into a gelatin-rich treat. Use as you would Elderberry syrup, at first sign of cold or fever, as a gentle expectorant, or simply enjoy as a delicious and antioxidant-rich treat! Elderberry Syrup •Simmer fresh or dried Elderberries in a wide shallow pan with just enough water to cover. •Keep at a bare simmer and continue to add water as needed. •Once the berries appear spent and all of their medicinal goodness has been extracted into the cooking liquid, use a food mill or fine mesh strainer
Elderberry Jellies •Dissolve 5-10 Tablespoons gelatin (more gelatin for a “stiffer” jelly) of in a small amount of cold water. Great Lakes is wonderful brand of Grass-Fed based gelatin •Boil ¼ to ½ cup of water and pour over the softened gelatin. •Stir until dissolved. •Add 2 cups Elderberry Syrup, a generous splash of Vanilla, Honey or other sweetener to taste, and a pinch of salt to round out the flavor. •Pour into ice cube trays, silicon molds, or square baking dish and refrigerate until set. If using baking dish, cut into cubes or use cookie cutters for even more kid-appeal.
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Harvest season in the canyon most often finds us may also depend on when they’re harvested. In here with all available general, plants gathered early in countertops, porches, even some their season are preferable, but Harvesting & Drying floors of our structures covered there are some notable Wild Plants for Tea & Cooking with plants. Field Mint and Bee exceptions. I harvest Lamb’s Balm hang in bunches from the Quarters and Amaranth usually By Loba kitchen ceiling. Lamb’s Quarters, when they’re between three and Amaranth, Bee Plant and Nettles five feet tall, just before they go cover huge tarps set in the shade, or hang in great to seed. They’re big enough to yield many leaves per bunches out on the main plant and still tender porch. Mushrooms are enough to cook well after spread all over the porch drying. Our Stinging on screens, then moved Nettles here in the canyon into the smoker for a spell. must be harvested very Kiva’s medicinal plants fill early for drying (for the baskets on the drying cooking purposes), or else racks in the Medicine they cook up quite chewy. Lodge, and most likely The way around that, as I cover a large portion of the learned from some native floor. Every chance we get, herbalists, is to cook up we are harvesting, drying, the much larger mature and processing the dried plants and grind them into plants, stripping leaves off a paste, picking out the and packing them into five most fibrous stems, and gallon buckets, glass jars, then to dry the paste. Of or ziplock bags. What a joy course it’s best to avoid it is, to feel the satisfaction drying plants in direct sun of harvesting so much of as there is a great loss of our food and medicine for nutrients. I have dried the year! cooking greens in partial sun, however, at times Experiment to find out when there was no other which of your native wild way to dry large quantities greens will dry and cook quickly enough without well. Certain species of the spoilage. Climate and same plant will dry better for cooking than others. It weather will have much to say about how feasible it
may be to dry things without any assistance from the sun. Of course, if you’re able to use a dehydrator, that’s not a problem. I’ve never used one myself. Lately we have added a metal storage shed to our homestead, and the upper shelves in the shed are perfect for laying out plant matter. The metal of the shed acts kind of like a giant lowtemperature oven, and will dry our greens in just a few days.
here in New Mexico can be four to five feet. We wait till the plants are about half that, harvest, and hang the clover in bunches around the house, or lay it out on trays or tarps out of direct sun. The leaves are very easy to strip off once dried. We use dried Sweet Clover mostly for tea and infusions.
Here are some of our favorite plants to dry for tea and cooking, and our preferred methods.
Field Mint I love to serve Field Mint tea with honey to guests who have just arrived in the canyon, as a way of putting a soothing taste of wildness in them as a worthy welcome. Its spicy simplicity has a powerful effect. I try to keep the guest lodges well stocked with it, too, and I get many requests-- “may I please take a bit home?“ My favorite way to drink it is outside on the porch stoop, at sundown, with a bit of dark chocolate to nibble on. We try to harvest our native Field Mint before it goes to seed, usually when it’s about a foot tall. I prefer to harvest it before it branches (when the leaves are all on a single stem) as it’s much easier to strip. Our mint can be a little fussy to dry-- it likes to brown a bit more easily than many of our other favorites, so be sure to hang it in small enough bunches, or spread it out. If any portion of it turns brown, be sure to compost it, as it will taste quite musty. We use dried Field Mint mainly for tea, on its own, or added to one of our many yummy mixes.
Sweet Clover When I used to host Wild Women’s Gatherings here at Anima years ago, many mornings we would brew a huge pot of sweet clover tea. Actually it was more of a Sweet Clover decoction, as we would boil the fresh clover for a while over the fire before each of us would dunk our mugs into the blue enamel pot. How I relished the looks of amazement on each woman’s face as she discovered the glory in her cup of lovely green clover broth! We harvest Sweet Clover ideally before it gets to its full height, which
Bee Balm Here in New Mexico our favorite all-purpose Bee Balm,() will dry in about two days piled on a tray in the kitchen. I just shift the pile around a bit every half-day or so. If you live in a damp climate, however, you may want to spread it out more, or hang it in bunches. We try to harvest Bee Balm during its flowering, as the flowers are great for other uses and the leaves are wonderfully potent at that point in time. They are so very, very beautiful in flower, gathering them feels like a journey through
Keep in mind when reading the suggestions for the different plants that there are plenty of times we have harvested plants at times that are not ideal. While there are some guidelines that can be quite important, in some cases there is room for flexibility. As in just about every case, experiment to figure out what works best for you, and in the process you’ll find out a whole range of possibilities. We’ve harvested Bee Balm, Sweet Clover, and Field Mint as late as October. I’ve harvested hundreds of pounds of Lamb’s Quarters that had completely gone to seed, and made countless panfuls of deliciousness with them. Take whatever opportunities you can find to gather and store the wild foods of your home, and don’t forget to use and share what’s in the pantry!
an enchanted faeryland! Kiva, Rhiannon and I try to go on several Bee Balm harvesting expeditions every summer, although we’ve had to adjust the amounts we can harvest lately due to drought. On a good year, we love to gather huge baskets full while butterflies and bees fly around our heads, and we pile more into our arms. Being around flowering Bee Balm seems to have the effect of making me feel a bit giddy, as if I’m a butterfly myself, instead of an elk-woman! It’s always grounding to come home and make some tea and sit down on the kitchen floor with Kiva, as we pull the flowers off the plants for medicine.
Lamb’s Quarters and Amaranth Greens (Quelites) Affectionately known as “quelites” here in New Mexico, Lamb’s Quarters and Amaranth Greens are my favorite wild greens to dry for cooking, as their flavor quality is truly remarkable. When I cook my favorite Quelites dishes, folks are amazed to hear that they’re eating greens that’ve been dried. The keeping quality is also incredible. I have cooked Quelites that have been in storage for one or two years with indistinguishable taste difference. Even three year old Quelites are still worth cooking, if they’ve been kept in a cool dark place. (at least here in New Mexico, that is!) This is wonderful especially because there are years when the Quelites harvest is less than abundant, so a good year can see us through to the next year of fortune. Great incentive for us to harvest plenty while we can!
As I’ve said, I like to harvest Quelites when they’re three to five feet tall, and just about to go to seed. Amaranth greens have kinda prickly seeds, and the leaves seem to shrink extra fast once they start producing them, so I take extra pains to be on time. I aim to harvest at least one-hundred pounds of
Quelites on a good year, over the course of the season. After harvesting, the best thing to do is to strip the leaves off all the stalks right away, and spread the leaves out to dry on or in whatever you have handy. If there’s not enough time to strip the leaves right away, and you need to dry the whole plant, take care to strip the leaves so that very little stem matter mixes in with the leaves. If you find too much stem matter has gotten mixed in with the leaves, be sure to sort out as much as you can, as their texture after drying gets quite woody. A big tarp works well for large amounts, flat baskets are great for smaller amounts. A well ventilated shelter works well for this if you live in a dry climate, ideally a screened porch so that if the wind picks up your leaves don’t go blowing all over the place. Bee Plant On the years when there’s not any Lamb’s Quarters or Amaranth to speak of, we can still often harvest plenty of the gloriously lovely Bee Plant. Walking into the Anima Sanctuary in the Summertime, one is welcomed by acres of this beautiful, tall, purple flowered plant with bitter, spicy-tasting leaves shaped similarly to Sweet Clover. Bees and butterflies of seemingly infinite varieties are attracted to their flowers. I love to stand near them in the morning light, in barefoot rapture, taking in the buzzing symphony and the fluttering dance of so many wondrous winged creatures in one place. I had heard about how this plant is so high in nutrients that the Apaches used it as a staple survival food. Oddly enough, it’s been only recently that I’ve made time to discover the wonders of this plant as a drying and cooking green, as I most often simply used it as a spicy accent to salads. It’s so intensely flavorful raw that I assumed it would be a little overpowering cooked. But really, the opposite is the case. The flavor mellows out considerably
when boiled. It is a bit bitter, but I find it pleasantly so. I most often prepare it in exactly the same way as Quelites, and, like Amaranth and Lamb’s Quarters, it is also very tasty simply boiled until tender (rinse once if you like) and served with butter and salt. I usually dry large quantities at a time, with the whole plant spread out on tarps, as the structure of the plant makes it very easy to keep the leaves aerated. Or the leaves can be stripped before drying, as for Quelites, if one has the time. Mushrooms Our most readily available edible wild mushroom is the wonderful Boletus, which we are able to harvest in great quantities up in the mountains a short drive away from our home. As soon as we return from such a venture, Kiva and I sort through the mushrooms, picking out the most perfect ones for drying. We slice them up and lay them out on a large screen which covers most of the kitchen floor. The next day we lay the screen out on the porch and let them dry out in the wind. Once they have shrunk a good amount, we put one batch at a time on a small screen and set it in the top of our smoker to get the rest of the moisture out. It’s amazing how much a large bunch of mushrooms can shrink down to fill less than a quart jar! Stinging Nettles There have been seasons when it seems the entire canyon has transformed into a giant Nettle garden, and under countless cottonwood and oak trees there’s a community of Nettle families. The species of Stinging Nettles we have here is so vibrantly full of wildness, it is truly an intense undertaking to harvest them. And I’m not just talking about the way they sting! More on that subject in a future article...Our Nettles do sting much more readily and intensely than many other nettle species, also, so we usually wear gloves if we want more than a bagful for soup that night. I like to sing to them, and to stop
every so often as I’m harvesting to admire the amazing facets of each leaf; the beauty of their (stingers-what is the actual name of them Kiva?) shining in the sun.
was still so yummy! I put the mortar-full out for an Animá snacktime with some homemade corn tortillas and it disappeared in a flash. Nettles will never fail to amaze me.
We harvest huge quantities of Nettles on these goodnettle years-- sometimes well over a hundred pounds. We harvest the young plants and dry the tops whole to use for garnishing soups, but the vast quantity of our Nettles are harvested when the plant is about a month shy of seeding, usually about one to three feet tall. Nettles that are harvested after seeding can cause kidney trouble in sensitive folks, so resist the temptation! We boil and bag many pounds of Nettles for the freezer, and some we dry for infusions. We lay the whole plant out on large tarps out of the sun and turn every day till they’re dry, then strip the leaves and store in buckets. Of course if you’re drying a smaller amount you could hang them in small bunches, or spread out the leaves in flat baskets or trays.
Fir and Pine It was Kiva’s dedication to finding us the perfect bioregional morning beverage (her now-famous Acorn-Fir Tea!) that first got us harvesting White Fir and Ponderosa Pine like crazy! Fir and Pine are both wonderfully easy to harvest and dry. We go up to the mountains to harvest many branches of our favorite species, and strip them in the weeks that follow. After stripping, it works well to spread them out in shallow cardboard boxes (or use trays or baskets for smaller quantities) and simply stir them around every few days until they feel dry. Then they can be stored in jars and used for tea, making syrup, vinegar, or flavoring soups and any number of foods. Anything that’s good with the piney flavor of Rosemary is good with Fir or Pine!
Before I had the luxury of freezer space in town, I used to make large amounts of dried Nettle paste for cooking purposes. I would cook giant potfuls of the whole plant, let it cool, and pull out the toughest stems. Then I would drain out the broth (and use for soup), squeeze out the excess water, and grind the cooked nettles on a metate that was found on our land. In later years I discovered that a blender worked just as well, although lacking in the manyleveled joys of grinding ancient plant matter on ancient stone. Anyhow, after grinding the Nettles to a paste, I would spread the paste onto cookie sheets and lay it out to dry in partial sun, and use for soups throughout the year. Often I would add salt, minced garlic or other spices or herbs to the paste before drying. It was always good to know that even in the dead of Winter, Nettle soup was still a possibility. I also loved to make Nettle gravy with the dried nettle paste to serve over mashed potatoes. Can’t tell you how many good ‘ol Catron County boys I won over to the flavor of Nettles with that-there gravy over the years! and I’ll tell you what-- that Nettle paste is some hardy stuff-- it seems to keep about forever, stored in the dark, in glass jars! I had some around for so long I was tempted to toss it, but before I did I put it to the taste test. I soaked it in hot water, ground it in my mortar, and mixed it with creamy things, Preserved Lemon, oil, and garlic-- it
See the next article for some of my favorite things to do with dried Quelites!
¡Quelites! I’ll never forget the night I fell in love with Quelites. I’d cooked with them plenty of times, and liked them pretty well, but it wasn’t until I ate Filiberto’s Quelites that I experienced their bliss-provoking potentials. Filiberto was a tough little hombre from Peñasco, in Northern New Mexico, one of the only people I’ve ever seen to pick Wolf up from behind and crack his back! His girlfriend was staying with us for a while, and one night when he was visiting he insisted on making supper for all of us. I didn’t know quite to expect, but I was amazed by every single thing that he made, especially his Lamb’s Quarters, prepared in a traditional New Mexican manner with onions and chile. I just kept going back for more until, I do believe I polished off the rest of the panful! I wrote down his method for getting the Lamb’s Quarters to that state of perfection, and with a few little changes I’ve been cooking them that way ever since! Of course, over the years I’ve worked out countless variations and fun ways to use the Quelites in other dishes.
In Mexico, the word “quelites” refers to any wild greens that may be cooked like spinach, and it also can refer to the dish that is a preparation of cooked greens, usually sautéed with onions and chile, and often boiled first. Wild Amaranth and Lamb’s Quarters are the most common greens referred to as “quelites”, and can be used in exactly the same manner. Amazingly, you can use dried Quelites in any of these recipes and the result will be very, very close to using fresh. Enjoy!! And don’t be put off by the potent smell that happens when boiling the greens-it’s just part of the magical process of transformation! Basic Quelites This is the basic recipe from which many good things cometh! Boiling and rinsing the Lamb’s Quarters before sautéing them works a great magic, and the sweetness of the sautéed onions really mellows the strong flavor of the greens. The chile can be left out altogether for those who prefer their food less spicy. 6-8 cups fresh lamb’s quarters leaves, or 3-4 cups dried 2-3 medium-large onions, diced rather small (about 3-4 cups) 4-6 cloves garlic, minced 4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or butter 1/2-1 teaspoon salt (to taste) 1-2 tablespoons chile pequín, or other hot red chile with seeds, or 1/2-1 teaspoon mild red chile powder or ancho chile powder (for tender tastebuds) Put the Lamb’s Quarters in a medium-large pot with enough water to cover. Boil for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times during the cooking to make sure the greens are thoroughly submerged. Put cooked greens in a colander and rinse at least once with fresh water. This will mellow the flavor, and it also helps to minimize the effects of the oxalic acid in the greens. In a large skillet, sauté the Onions and Garlic with a bit of salt in 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil over medium heat until the Onions are lightly browned. Add the rinsed greens, more salt and butter or oil, the crushed chile pequín or other red
chile, and continue to sauté until the greens have absorbed the other flavors; about 15 minutes. Creamy Quelites The addition of coconut milk or some combination of dairy products makes an even more irresistible dish! I would make them this way every time if there were Coconut Palm trees or milk-laden goats in the canyon! Basic Quelites 1 can coconut milk ! or 1-2 cups half and half or goat milk ! or 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup sour cream " or 1 cup cream and 1-4 tablespoons goat cheese or cream cheese 1-3 tablespoons Tomato or Red Pepper paste (optional) After adding the greens to the onions, add the creamy items of choice and the Tomato or Red Pepper paste (if using) and simmer for 15 minutes. Quelties con Salsa y Maiz Fresh Corn kernels add a lovely texture and sweetness. Sometimes I toast the Corn in a little butter or oil in another skillet before adding to the greens, for a different, nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture. Basic Quelites about 1/2 cup salsa 2-3 medium-large ears fresh corn kernels, cut off the ear (or 2-3 cups frozen corn) Add the salsa as soon as the greens are added to the onions. Simmer about 10 minutes, then add the corn kernels, and simmer another 5 minutes. Variations: Quelites con Salsa y Maiz with Sun-Dried Tomatoes Soak 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in 1 cup boiling water for 1 hour. Chop and add to quelites when you add the corn. Quelites con Salsa with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pinon Nuts
Same as above, but instead of the corn add 1/3 cup toasted pinon nuts to the Quelites. Quelites con Salsa with Artichoke Hearts and Cream (& assorted Mediterranean Veggies) Instead of the corn, add 1 cup coarsely chopped artichoke hearts and 1/2-1 cup heavy cream. Roasted Red Peppers and Kalamata Olives are great with this version, too. This is an especially good version to serve enchilada style on Acorn-Corn tortillas, with melted sheepâ€™s milk feta (or some other irresistible cheese) melted on top, in your broiler. Fun Things to do with a batch of Quelites: Make an omelet or a quiche Stuff an enchilada, with or without some scrambled eggs and meat Layer in lasagna or a polenta pie
Make a pilaf with any cooked whole grain, or just eat piled on top Mix with mashed or fried potatoes and eat with eggs over easy Make a casserole with baked fish, quelites, eggs and goat cheese Stir into a pot of simple white bean soup, with roasted garlic and peppers Use as a filling for Buckwheat Tamales (see PH Vol. 2 issue 1) Mix with chopped Preserved Lemons (PH vol. 1 issue 3) and soft goat cheese for an amazing dip for roasted veggies or a spread for crackers
Celebrate your local wild plants-each and every day! Love, Loba
Give it all, all, all youâ€™ve got (and then I invite you to harvest and eat some Part V some). wild seeds after reading this article. The East: Profligate, proliferate, procreate, provide. There is much to be gained by such an Edible Wild Seeds Make the most of the least. endeavor. Wrap good things in tiny packages. by Susun Weed Eating wild seeds increases the amount Take advantage of even the smallest of trace minerals available to our opportunity. immune system, helping us ward off cancer. Eating Profligate, proliferate, procreate, provide. wild seeds provides fiber to help the gut move Seedy weedy, humble fertile, abundant smoothly and maximize nutrient uptake. Eating Blessings! wild seeds magnifies and amplifies the vitamins Food for the finches and for me. available to us, especially the antioxidants. Welcome again to the Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses. Please join me here as we continue to explore the East, the place of food. Corn woman has grown tall; her kernels are fat and full behind her curtains of green. Bean woman has split open; her shining seeds beckoning to us. These are the grain crops of the East, the annuals whose seeds sustain us. Among them, unbidden, less or more tolerated, are other annuals, weeds, in fact, whose seeds are also nourishing: amaranth, lamb's quarter, chickweed, wild grasses, and shiso (once planted, forever volunteering). Also the biennial and perennial weeds whose seeds are edible, including nettle, plantain, yellow dock, panic grass, and evening primrose.
Eating wild seeds helps us stay healthy as we age, for wild seeds are exceptional sources of protein (our protein requirements rise as we grow older) and omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for healthy functioning of the brain and the heart. Eating wild seeds ties us to a time before agriculture. Eating wild seeds awakens memories of a time when we played at our lives, like children, happy in the moment, with no need to tend, water, weed, plan, or plant ahead. We had only to reach out when we hungered, and Mother fed us from her abundant larder.
The Iron Age burial of a hanged man so perfectly preserved his stomach contents that we can say with assurance that his last meal was a gruel of linseed, barley, and many wild seeds including lamb’s quarter. Edible, non-aromatic, seeds are in the East in our Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses. If they are pressed for oil, they move to the North. While rich in vitamin E, seed oils of seeds lack the fiber and other nutrients found in the whole seed and are often extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids, which some link to inflammation. Unlike cultivated seeds, weedy seeds, if they are sold at all, are almost never refined, altered, or enriched, blessed be. Note: Aromatic seeds, like celery, caraway, fennel, anise, coriander, dill, and cumin, due to their slightly poisonous volatile oils are in the North of the Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses. The answers to the first two questions are the same for all edible seeds. What part? The seeds. When harvested? When ripe and dry. No mold!
Plantago major ©Kiva Hardin
Plantago patagonica ©Kiva Hardin
I cut plantain seed stalks when it they are more brown than green and lay them on newspaper- or tissue-paper-covered baskets. When fully dry, I grasp the stalk in one hand and use the other to pull the seeds and husks off, starting at the bottom and pulling toward the top. That’s it! The husks are edible, so no threshing or winnowing. How prepared? Plantain seeds may be added to any grain, including oatmeal, while cooking. Or they may be soaked in cold water overnight; the seeds and liquid are consumed as a bulk-producing laxative drink. How much consumed? No limit; no problems.
Nettle seed (Urtica dioica)
Plantain seed (Plantago majus is the easiest to harvest but any seed from any plantain may be used) !
How prepared? I harvest nettle seed on a sunny day and hang the entire plant to dry. The hulls are edible, so no need to winnow. I add nettle seeds to corn bread, pancakes, oatmeal, rice and other grains while cooking. They are delicious when added to tomato sauce and vegetable soups early in the cooking period.
Yellow Dock seed (Rumex crispus, obtusifolia, aquaticus, et al)
How much consumed? No limit, though some people are sensitive to nettle leaf harvested from the seeding or flowering plants, so I make an extra effort to clear all the leaf matter from the seeds before using it. The dose of the tincture is 1-3 dropperfuls a day, or as needed.
Urtica urens seeds
Yellow dock is related to buckwheat and the seeds of the many yellow docks can be used just like buckwheat. There are problems with using this wild seed however. First, there is a large amount of unpalatable, astringent hull around the seeds which is quite difficult to thresh and winnow out. Secondly, the seeds themselves are extremely hard and resistant to cooking. It is best to roast and then grind them and add the flour to other foods. How prepared? Add yellow dock seed flour to baked goods, pancakes, and the like; go easy, the taste is fairly strong.
Rumex crispus seeds
Yellow dock seeds make a tasty vinegar that helps counter anemia and constipation. How much consumed? As desired; no overdose. A tablespoonful of the vinegar per day is excellent.
Lamb’s Quarter seed (Chenopodium album) Lamb’s quarter seeds, like they cultivated sister quinoa, are a warming chi tonic and are considered the easiest “grain” to digest. They have the highest protein content of any grain; and that includes rather rare (in plants) amino acid lysine, which makes it exceptionally nutritious.
Chenopodium seeds contain (per ½ cup) 13 grams of protein, 3mg zinc, 740mg potassium, 9mg iron, 410mg phosphorus, and high amounts of vitmain E and the B vitamins, especially folacin (49mcg), thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. I harvest and eat (both in salad and as a cooked green) the tender tops of lamb’s quarter throughout the growing season which has the dual benefit of making the plants bushy so they produce more flowers and seeds. Fossils reveal that lamb’s quarter seeds were a regular part of the diet of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and early Iron Age peoples in Britain. The Anglo-Saxons knew it as “melde.” How prepared? After covering the floor with newspaper, I hang the mature plants, cut at ground level, to dry. No need to winnow, as the hulls are palatable. Cultivated quinoa seeds are naturally coated with a soapy substance that must be rinsed off thoroughly before use, but the wild seeds aren’t, making them easier to prepare. Toasting or roasting Chenopodium seeds helps us get more nutrition from them whether we prepare them by boiling them in liquid (as we would cook rice) or by adding them to other grains when making breakfast porridge, muffins, pancakes, and breads. A handful of lamb’s quarter seeds in tomato sauce gives it a rich flavor and the umami taste of high protein. How much consumed? As much as you are willing to eat; there is no known overdose. Amaranth (Amaranthus species) This edible seed has been cultivated for about eight thousand years, yet it is known as “the grain of the future.” Amaranth was a sacred plant to the ancient Aztecs; it is still regarded as sacred by the Zuni, as well as in modern Peru, where it is known as kiwicha. There are more than 60 species of amaranth; and every one of them has edible seeds, even the ornamental ones like Love Lies Bleeding. One pound of amaranth is 700 thousand seeds; but a single plant can produce up to 50 thousand seeds.
Chenopodium album seeds
Amaranth seeds are a cooling chi tonic and are recommended as a foodstuff to increase stamina and energy, and to prolong life. They are higher in protein and calcium, cup for cup, than milk. Amaranth is not only good for the bones, itâ€™s good for our faces too; it contains the anti-wrinkle compound squalene. The lavish amounts of iron in amaranth seeds (and leaves) make it an ally for women with fibroids or endometriosis, and those who bleed heavily. How prepared? Amaranth seeds are toasted in a cast iron pan or roasted in a medium oven until they pop, then cooked with other grains in water (or water and whey, even better), or added to baked goods. Roasted amaranth seed can also be ground into a Amaranthus spp. seeds
gluten-free flour. Some varieties of amaranth have a particularly hard seed coat (as does wheat) and, like wheat, provide the most nutritional access when ground and then cooked. How much consumed? There is no overdose of amaranth seed. I keep a jar of it in the kitchen and add it liberally to soups, porridge, brown rice, tomato sauce.
Amaranthus spp. seeds
More Wild Seeds No time to tell you more, but donâ€™t forget to play around with these wild edible seeds of the East: Shepherdâ€™s purse seed (Capsella bursa-pastoris) was used as a flour extender in Russia during lean times. Chickweed seed is easily harvested by placing fresh flowering chickweed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The seeds will mature and fall out right in the bag.
Oenothera spp. seeds
Evening primrose seed oil is in the North of the Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses. It is a respected alternative medicine used by midwives to hasten the ripening of the cervix, and by many women to ease menstrual and premenstrual problems. The seeds may be harvested and eaten as well.
We will return to the East next time we meet and consider the uses, medicinal and culinary, of cultivated small seeds such as poppy, pumpkin, sunflower seeds. Until then, I wish you a life filled with green blessings.
One of the most common ways of healing self, medicine. Medicine is anything that heals, family and friends is with including, and perhaps homemade herbal especially, positive energy Everything is Medicine: medicines called meals. As such as comes from genuine Common Foods, Herbal Honeys and Vinegars Hippocrates said, “Let your kindness extended to oneself & Your Spice Rack food be your medicine and and others. your medicine be your By Robin Rose Bennett food.” Think of the Our kitchens, including our An Exclusive Advance Excerpt from Robin’s expression “in mint spice racks, can be an soon to be released new book!: condition”, and imagine abundant source of effective Green Treasures what it means and where it medicine for us, safer than comes from. Mint plants, so what we find in the rich in anti-oxidants and pharmacy. And when our helpful for digestion can help keep us well and in food is prepared with love and care, these foods and tip-top shape, which is to say, in “mint” condition! spices are among the best medicines in the world. And many healing spice Along with a sense of plants are in the mint connection to a community family, such as basil, sage, of people, and to nature, rosemary, and lavender. they truly form the foundation of good health. There is medicine all around us. Open your mind My student, Bobby* (*not and your senses to the his real name) told me the broader possibilities for following story. He comes making healing feasts in from a very close, Italian your own kitchen. family. His sister, who was a Common herbs, foods, and mom of a young child, had condiments such as basil, been run down and garlic, salt, onions, carrots, constantly sick or relapsing dark leafy greens, honey, for almost two months. He vinegar, and so much more had been taking herbal provide remedies for a vast medicine classes with me variety of conditions. for quite a while by then, and knew what to do to If you’re eating well and help, but she would have feeling gratitude for your food, you’re taking good none of it. Herbal medicine was not for her. He felt
like he was at his wit’s end. But he’s a clever and determined guy, and came up with another plan. He remembered what I said about making our food our medicine, and he made her a very large pot of healing soup.
day, who, in her late 80’s, was very weak, ill with both pneumonia and with her underlying lung infection (acquired years before in the hospital when she’d gone in for a hip replacement) and she, of course, was coughing.
It contained an assortment of fresh vegetables including parsley and carrots, celery and tomatoes, squash and cauliflower and whatever else looked good to him. He remembered to put in as many colors of foods as possible. He sautéed lots of garlic and onions and shiitakes and other healing mushrooms in olive oil, and added some oregano, basil, ginger, and other healing spices. He put in some astragalus roots and added nettle infusion and herbal vinegar to the soup. I think he may have snuck some seaweed in there, too. He said it was delicious and she never suspected a thing.
What if I had been exposed to some bacteria or virus that “got” me? I started to feel panicky, but then I reminded myself:
He reported that by the time she got to the bottom of the soup pot in about a week, she was well. She never made any connection between her soup and her sudden wellness. He smirked a little, happy with himself at having gotten his stubborn sister to take her medicine. “We’re Italian,” he said by way of explanation. “Did you think she was going to turn down my home-cooked food?”
Love is stronger than fear. Love strengthens and love is what heals. Fear and anxiety, self-doubt and worry all provoke illness, bog down the body’s vital energy, feed the conditions which give illness a place to take hold … no, I did the right thing…visiting, loving my friend, hugging her, touching her…and yet I knew I needed to take care of myself, too, emotionally and physically. I was hurting and having a strong emotional response to my beloved friend’s deteriorated condition, to seeing her attached to an oxygen tank, growing weaker day by day. But the symptoms I was experiencing were also physical. It was time for some self-care. I boiled water, and put a small spoonful of dried lavender flowers into a mug to make a soothing, anti-microbial tea. Now lavender may be the least commonly found herb in the kitchen or spice pantry of the herbs I’ll talk about in this chapter, but to me, dried lavender belongs in the kitchen. Lavender is extraordinary. It is lovely to cook and bake with, and is any plant better for putting the mind at ease and calming the heart than sweet-smelling lavender? I find it to be an unfailing ally. After ten minutes, I poured off my tea through a little mesh strainer and stirred some homemade lavender honey into my cup, too. So simple to make! All you need is lavender, honey, and a jar.
A Healing Story: I began to cough strongly and didn’t like the sound I heard or the way it felt at all. The coughing hurt my throat and felt as if it came from smack in the center of my chest. It was like the inside of my heart hurt. Then I got scared…I had visited a dear friend that
Lavender Honey recipe Lavender flowers – fresh (*or dried) Honey – enough to fill the jar you’re using Fill a wide-mouthed glass jar loosely full with fresh lavender flowers. (*Fill it half full if using dried
lavender flowers.) Cover them with the best quality honey you can afford. Pour it over the flowers slowly while poking around them with a chopstick to make sure the honey completely saturates all the lavender. Stir it in as needed. Close the jar and wait as long as you can, and then enjoy it, in tea, on toast, or simply by the spoonful. I try to wait about a month before using it, but that’s not always “possible”.
deeply satisfying about knowing where your food comes from, who grew the vegetables or raised the chickens, and how they take care of their land. It brings you into a more direct relationship with Earth that feeds you. That is a healing revelation, especially to urban and suburban people who have access to 24hour markets, and don’t necessarily think about all the miles the food they are buying has traveled to get to them, not to mention all the hands, trucks, and warehouses it has passed through. At one point when I lived in NY City, I was lucky enough to live a couple of blocks from one of the most vibrant farmer’s markets in Manhattan. I learned so much when I began buying my food there. For example, I would ask for a particular vegetable and be told that it was not in season yet, or that the season for that had passed. And even though that seems obvious to me now, it wasn’t obvious to me then. It gave me new insight and information that was important to my health.
This antiseptic honey is also a wound healer and can be applied externally to a burn or other scrape or open wound to prevent and/or heal infection. Lavender soothes and comforts, brings ease, and cools things down physically and emotionally in her uniquely sweet way. It was healing and delectable! This simple homemade medicine soothed and softened my dry bronchia. It cooled down the irritated tissues and deepened and relaxed my breathing. And in another few minutes I felt quite a bit more comfortable, physically and emotionally. I sighed a sigh of relief. As I relaxed I realized I’d actually been “taking medicine” all night in my mostly organic, local food. When you buy local food it is fresher and more full of vitality then food you buy in a supermarket or big box store, even if you are buying organic food. When plants or animals are raised as if they are “things” being manufactured in a factory, the generous essence of life feeding life is lost. The relationship chain gets broken. There is something
It also brings communities together when it is your neighbor who is growing food for you to buy in a local farmers’ market. You know they care about what they are providing for you because they will also see you in the post office, or the bank, and if the food isn’t good, they will hear about it! Of course they are feeding you what they feed themselves and their families. You also come into deeper understanding about the risks they take to bring you tasty, nourishing food, and have more appreciation for the uncontrollable effects of weather and climate change, for example. If you have your own garden, you know how much work it is to build the soil and keep it healthy for the plants, so you eat your food with more gratitude. You come to care more personally about the health of the ecosystem you live in because you understand more personally that its health and your health are inextricably linked. On a more basic level, simply looking at locally grown food you can see that the colors are more vibrant. Tasting it, there is no question that a simple food like a fresh tomato can range from divine to bland. Years ago a friend who had only eaten conventional and processed foods from the
supermarket, came to visit in New York. I remember him taking his first bite of freshly baked whole grain bread, made by, an authentic bakery in upstate N.Y. (Bread Alone). The look on his face was one of pure astonishment. He said, “I’m learning right now that bread is actually a food, not just something to put around the insides of my sandwich!”
is one of the healthiest, most nourishing fats available for daily use, providing essential fatty acids and benefitting most every system in the body beginning with the cardio-vascular system. It is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants like chlorophyll, carotenoids and vitamin E.
Food is the basic medicine we take every day. My meal that evening had been delicious. And almost everything in it had supportive medicinal properties for my respiratory, nervous, and immune systems. It contained immune strengthening anti-oxidants, nerve-nourishing minerals, anti-infective vitamins and phytochemicals, and healthy fats to strengthen the cardiovascular system. Consider the ingredients that made up the pesto I’d enjoyed. Though it’s most commonly made with Genovese basil, you can make pesto with any greens, such as nettles, wild mustard, mint, catnip, lamb’s quarters or many other choices. I made this one with half purple basil and half parsley, both from our own garden. Basic Pesto Recipe Basil leaves - 2 cups basil (or other) leaves Olive oil -1/2 cup Garlic – 3 large cloves or to taste Walnuts (or pine nuts) – ¼ cup *Cheese (optional) – ½ cup of Romano or Parmesan (*I generally make mine without cheese, finding it rich enough as it is) Basil and garlic each have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and are specifically helpful to the respiratory system, so were good for my cough. All species of basil that I’ve encountered lift our spirits as well. Basil is a magical plant. Parsley has minerals galore including a good supply of iron. It’s high in folic acid, which helps relive stress by strengthening the nervous system. Parsley is well known for strengthening the functioning of the kidneys. (Remember, kidneys are connected with fear and anxiety in Chinese medicine, as well as considered to hold our “essence”.) The salt in the pesto is a great anti-bacterial (that’s why we gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat). And olive oil
Later that evening I had a simple, wonderful dessert: Berry Rich Desert Yogurt* – 1 cup Blueberries – ½ cup, frozen Cherries - ¼ - ½ cup, frozen Coconut flakes – 1/8th cup, shredded Cinnamon powder - to taste Vanilla extract - to taste (*Plain, organic, whole milk yogurt with live cultures) Cook the berries and cherries over a low flame, just enough to thaw them. Cook them with a watchful eye on a low enough flame and the water in the frozen berries will ensure they don’t get scorched. (If you prefer, you can use fresh berries and cherries, same instructions.) Put the berries in a bowl when they’re ready and then stir in the yogurt and coconut flakes. Add the cinnamon powder and vanilla extract. By the way, if I want to have this dish for a meal, you can make it more substantial by adding fresh
fruit such as apple or pear, and walnuts, cashews, almonds, and ground sunflower seeds for protein. Again, this is immune enhancing food that tastes amazing. Freezing and cooking the berries actually makes their nutrients more bio-available to us. Blueberries are not only scrumptious, they are rich in anthocyanins, (the anti-oxidant flavonoids that make the berries blue), and the plentiful live bacteria in the yogurt nourishes digestive and immune system functioning. I felt so much better later that evening, and went to sleep knowing I would most likely be well come the morning. And come morning, I was!
Blueberry (Vaccinium species) Blueberry is a well-loved, familiar fruit. It is tanninrich, anti-oxidant, and provides potent medicine. Blueberry is strengthening to our veins, capillaries, and especially healing to our eyes. Blueberry is a food medicine, vibrating energy directly into our blood and our cells. Eaten, tinctured, made into elixir or syrup, or even as an ingredient in dark chocolate bars, blueberry is good medicine. Berry brandy is particularly helpful for digestive troubles from vomiting to diarrhea to an inflamed liver. Leaves can be used as a tea, or powdered and added to food, or taken in tincture. They have been shown to help regulate and lower high blood sugar, making them a plant medicine to
consider in hypoglycemia and diabetes. Alma Hutchens writes about the “blueberry like bilberry” in her 1973 book, Indian Herbology of North America. Bilberry is a close cousin of our Native American blueberries, so I’ll quote her: “It may be of interest to know that in Russia, bilberry has a well established reputation as being similar to insulin for sugar diabetes.” Modern research has affirmed this. Spiritually, blueberries offer us the medicine of sweetness. They seek to remind us of the sweetness of life on Earth, the sweetness of flowers and fruits, of friendship. Here on Earth we are part of her living community. I live at the edge of an oak and pine forest full of high and low bush blueberries. The spring flowers are small, waxy, white-pink bells that are like stars. Blueberry once told me she isn’t from this planet, but that she came here to help us, and has now been here for a very long time. She said if I were to pick a berry and gaze into the starpattern at the bottom of it, I’d be taken to the star spaces inside myself. I tried it, wondering if I might be able to see where she was from. I sat quietly, letting my thoughts go. I felt pulled by a vortex of energy through a deep, dark spaciousness and then floated far out into the cosmos. I don’t know where I was, but I felt expansive and free. Recently I found the following information in a Native American ethno botany database from the University of Michigan, “The blossom end of each berry, the calyx, forms the shape of a perfect fivepointed star; the elders of the tribe would tell of how the Great Spirit sent "star berries" to relieve the children's hunger during a famine.” Native peoples have often used dried blueberries in pemmican, a nutrient dense, dried food preparation that typically contains meat, fat, fruit, and spices. Pemmican is still useful to sustain a person on a long journey or sustain a community through lean times. Science tells us that blueberry fruits and leaves contain anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These compounds are flavonoid molecules that give the fruits their deep blue color. Blueberries can be enjoyed fresh or they can be dried or frozen, whole, for later use.
People have been benefiting from our Native American blueberries long before science took the plant apart in a laboratory to examine and determine its constituents. We learned about plants through our senses and our sense of oneness with them. We can still do this. The plants remember why they are here and when we approach them with love and respect they’re our willing teachers and healers. Singing has always been a part of Earth-based healing traditions. Any plants or trees I’ve met so far, love to be sung to. I haven’t yet developed the sensing ability to hear their songs. Perhaps one day I will have that pleasure. This is a call and response song/chant that my apprentice June taught to our circle when we were in the woods harvesting blueberries. I love singing with groups. Sincerity of heart matters more than perfect pitch, or even the ability to carry a tune! The author gave his blessings for the song to be included here. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.) When I met a cinnamon tree in the tropics for the first time I was so excited that I kissed it and gave it a big bear hug, much to the amusement of our guide. Cinnamon is such a delicious warming spice. The powder (made from the bark of one or the other of two different types of trees) can be added to many foods and it blends well with everything from vanilla to curries. It is also potent medicine, being anti-microbial and a clinically proven moderator of blood sugar. When I was a little girl one of my favorite comfort foods was “cinnamon toast” (toasted white raisin bread with margarine melted on it, and topped with a blend of white sugar and cinnamon powder sprinkled on top). Though I remember it fondly, that is definitely not the best way to take your cinnamon as medicine! Here’s a healthier, more delicious variation for the present:
Cinnamon-raisin toast Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin bread – 1-2 slices Butter (Organic if possible)- to taste (or coconut oil) Cinnamon- about ¼ teaspoon Raw Sugar- about ¼ teaspoon Optional: Rose Honey Toast the whole-wheat raisin bread and spread butter on it while it’s still warm. Sprinkle the cinnamon and raw sugar on it freely, to your taste, or pre-mix them in a mortar and pestle or small dish and spread a thin layer all over the toast. There are various recipes for Cinnamon Friendship bread. There is something “friendly” about them. Stomach Soothing Cinnamon Infusion Cinnamon sticks- 6 Water – 1 quart Put 6 cinnamon sticks into a mortar and pestle and break them up into pieces. Put the pieces of broken up cinnamon bark into a one-quart jar. Cover them with boiled water. Cap. Let it sit for about one hour. Strain and drink warm or hot. It can be refrigerated and gently re-heated if desired. Cinnamon stick tea is often the quickest help I know for nausea and vomiting during and after the flu. It will allay fierce nausea. This fragrant, spicy tea is warming and great for a simple upset stomach or an acute case of diarrhea, too. Cinnamon can also be tinctured as a simple. Spicy Cinnamon tincture Cinnamon sticks – 10 -15 sticks Vodka - 1 liter Put the cinnamon sticks into a mortar and pestle and break them up into pieces. Put them into a wide-mouth jar that holds about a liter of liquid.
Cover them with 100-proof vodka and fill the jar to the top. Wait about 6 weeks. It isn’t necessary to strain the cinnamon out, though you can if you like. Otherwise, simply pour the cinnamon tincture through a strainer when you want to use it.
leaves. Now, everyone I know uses the bark not the leaves, but I’d smelled them and they seemed strong to me, so I’d gathered some. I pounded up one of the leathery leaves and poured boiling water over it to soften it and open up the cell walls to release its antiseptic compounds. He held it over the site while I bandaged it so it would stay put.
Cinnamon tincture, straight or diluted, is a winter party favorite, lifting the spirits, balancing blood sugar, stimulating digestion and being strong, tasty and warming. It can be added to tea or coffee, diluted into water, or served neat in shot glasses.
Well, the story ends quite happily as he had no more pain, no swelling, no infection, and was completely fine by the next morning! Our local friends later told us that they had never seen a bite from a large centipede not swell and hurt for days. They were very impressed. My poor guy had to show off his armpit to everyone and the next thing I knew folks were asking me for consultations! Of course I said yes, and there went the holiday! (Later, on the other side of the country we met local and indigenous folks who work with healing plants. I didn’t get a chance to ask, but I’m sure they have their own favorite effective remedies for centipede bites.)
Cinnamon is a good antiseptic herb. I had reason to be grateful for this on a trip to the tropics. A large tropical centipede bit my partner when we were visiting the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. Centipedes are the only poisonous creatures there, but one managed to find him, crawl up under his shirt and bite him under the arm. This compounded the challenge because that invited the poison to circulate directly into his lymph system! I was quite alarmed and gave him whatever antibacterial tinctures I had in my travel kit, some Echinacea and some yarrow, first directly under the tongue and then in water.
Finally, here’s a cinnamon blended tea for you to try: Belly Bliss Recipe
I ran to our next-door neighbors to find out how poisonous the centipede venom was. I was checking to find out whether or not I had to get him to an emergency room. He was pale, and felt anxious and a little woozy. Everyone there was familiar with centipede bites and I was informed that it would inevitably swell up and turn red at the site. He might have some systemic symptoms, such as headaches. He’d certainly be in pain or at the very best feel quite uncomfortable for 4 or 5 days, but then he’d be fine. So I was told I shouldn’t worry. Well, that was easy for them to say, and I was relieved he wasn’t in danger, but I wasn’t going to give up 4 or 5 days of our holiday that we’d worked so hard to afford ourselves, at least not without doing whatever I could to help him heal faster!
Hawthorn berries- ½ cup Marshmallow leaves and flowers – 1- 1-1/2 cups Cinnamon sticks – 6 sticks, broken into pieces in a mortar and pestle Mix the dried herbs into a half-gallon jar, cover them with boiled water and let the brew sit out on a counter overnight. This overall sweet, yet complex mixture offers a combination of good effects in the body. It is soothing, stimulating and nourishing. Hawthorn adds a healthy supply of Vitamin C, digestive enzymes, and iron. Marshmallow is nutritive and its moistening mucilage soothes the stomach and inflamed mucous membranes in the digestive or urinary tracts. Cinnamon’s stimulating oils help to warm and stoke the digestive fire, and it increases blood circulation. Drink this blend to soothe and nourish your digestive system and bring more warmth into your belly. It can also be enjoyed as a yummy tasting infusion that supports your general wellness.
I wanted to supplement the internal herbs with a topical, drawing medicine, a fresh leaf applied directly to the site of the bite. But I was unfamiliar with the local plants, so what leaf? I wracked my brain for something I could use, and then I remembered that I’d gathered some cinnamon 44
“‘When a medicine woman hugs you, if she means it, she arts. The problem came when I began to feel drained will move you to the side and and exhausted by my put her heart on yours... studies and work, not Corazón a Corazón Have you noticed how the Exploring Traditional Models of the Healer’s Practice just from the endless Yoris [white people] hug?’... hours I put in, but the by Kiva Rose Hardin ‘They never put their hearts very nature of studying together. They lean in and the plants separate from barely touch the tops of their chests, and they hang their the larger medicine that serves as the very matrix of asses out in the wind so none of the good parts touch. traditional healing. While strictly clinical work Then they flutter their hands on each clearly serves some herbalists others’ backs. Pat-pat-pat! One-twovery well, I could feel in my three! Then they run away!” aching heart and restless feet that I needed more in order to feel “From that day forward, Teresita fully satisfied in my work again. always hugged people with the left side of her chest pressed to them, and she Returning to the work of my let the good parts touch if they had to.” heart, I’ve begun to broaden my –Luis Alberto Urrea, focus again, back to its original The Hummingbird’s scope, the multifaceted mantle of Daughter the Medicine Woman. In this (Medicine man, Manuelito, to his model, counseling and many student, Teresita Urrea) other aspects of healing get equal priority alongside herbalism. Skills such as counseling, Even after so many years of nutrition, lifestyle, story devotion to the plants and medicine, and much more, are experiential practice in herbalism, always necessary components of something just didn’t feel right... any herbal practice to some At some point in my healing degree, but not usually given the Maria Teresa Valenzuela studies, I narrowed my focus same emphasis as the plants. almost entirely to herbs, cutting Rooted in my personal out much of the focus I’d previously given to a experience, I’d like to explore some options that are wider array of medicine ways. During that time, this prevalent in a wide variety of folk healing traditions was a very efficient way for me to hone my skills but are often under-utilized in mainstream herbal and give sufficient time to what is surely one of the practice and education. most demanding and complex fields of the healing
To provide some context for what I discuss here, I should explain that I work and live within a primarily Latino culture, and thus am most familiar with its particular terminology and perspective. For this reason, I will use curanderismo for many of the examples and conceptual understandings here. However, it’s very easy to find vast world-wide similarities when one looks at folk medicine across the globe, from early Celtic healing ways to African medicine. And indeed, I have found incredible parallels between New Mexican curanderas to the healers known in the culture of my ancestors as znakharki, the wise women of western Ukraine. Whether we were born in the same corner of the map or speak the same language matters little when it comes to the commonalities that working as a healer provides us.
shifting tapestry of healing traditions that many of us know little about. Alongside and woven with the powerful indigenous practices of the Americas, immigrants have brought their knowledge from all corners of the world. I recently spoke to a curandera from Sonora who integrates Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostics and Ayurvedic constitutional theory into her existing framework of Aztec/ Huichol/Hispanic healing. I also know a number of herbalists in the Southeastern United States who draw from both Irish/ Scottish traditions as well as African and Latino. Everywhere we look, there are plentiful examples of the magic made where people touch, change, and overlap.
One of the most amazing things about herbalism in the Americas is its vibrance and diversity. We’re a wild bunch, and that’s a good thing! By Americas, I don’t mean just the U.S., but also Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. The beautiful blends (and sometimes painful clashes) of cultures, ethnicities, languages, ecosystems, and flora has come together to create a unique and constantly
Conversations about looking at or emulating models of practicing from traditional cultures inevitably leads to concerns about cultural appropriate and disrespectful uses of other peoples’ traditions. To me, this highlights the reasons to avoid mindless adoption or undiscerning amalgamation, and the distinct need for first-hand experience of and in the culture.
Eclecticism can result in an unwieldy, ineffective mess, especially if cherry picked according to wishful thinking and romanticized notions about cultures with Toda la Gente: The which we have no actual Dynamics of Diversity interaction with or foundation in. On the other “Dominator culture has tried hand, more organic blends to keep us all afraid, to make that arise from actual us choose safety instead of experience and personal risk, sameness instead of interaction can bloom into diversity. Moving through something new, dynamic, that fear, finding out what and incredibly beautiful. connects us, reveling in our Diversity is the lifeblood of Bulgarian Medicine Woman differences; this is the process our work, and an that brings us closer, that important element of gives us a world of shared power that underlies our values, of meaningful community.” work as healers and allows us to keep growing and - Bell Hooks learning from each other.
Most all of us are of mixed blood, and have inherited ways of being and doing alongside hereditary hardwiring, that together contribute to making us the unique individuals that we are. It’s no secret that all cultures have begged, borrowed, and stolen from each other for as long as they’ve had contact. In most cases, we call that assimilation and integration rather than appropriation. However, with mass colonization, this has become a more difficult and heated matter. Respectful dialogue and community building often go a long way toward creating an atmosphere conducive to sharing with and learning from each other, regardless of culture, race, gender, or other potentially divisive factors.
further loss of this valuable knowledge, it’s imperative that at least some of us take on the task of learning the healing ways of our ancestors and the land/people we belong to. For some of us this will result in a crazy mix, but this blend, once integrated through experience, can become another strand in the vibrant weave of healing traditions across the world. La Visión Clara: In Consideration of Convention, Conformity, and Creativity “I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself” -Rita Mae Brown
We’re all in danger of losing precious wisdom garnered by previous generations, with so many healing traditions dying out in the face of disinterest by recent generations, and the pressure from mainstream society to emulate modern biomedicine. I have see this personally, and listened to Latino, Ukrainian, Apache, and many other elders mourn the disinterest of their own children and grandchildren in traditional healing ways. To avoid
Nina, Ukrainian Medicine Woman
The other side of valuable traditions with their hard won wisdom, is the trap of convention that makes us feel as if we all need to hold to a certain predefined role, and holds us back from developing and impedes our growth as healers. There can be pressure for herbalists to conform to the mold of conventional medicine, to work behind a desk in an office, to treat whoever makes an appointment, and
see as many clients as we can fit into the day. While I reckon that the current biomedical model needs work in any case to be fully effective and sensitive to the patient’s needs, it can still present a valid and fulfilling template for some of us, especially those who choose to work alongside medical doctors in a more widely accepted setting. However, it need not to be the measure by which we all evaluate our abilities.
through which all healing is transmitted. At its core, health is about relationships. Our relationships to each other, to the herbs, to our food, to our bodies, and ourselves as a whole within the context of our communities.
I spend a great deal of time observing and considering the ways in which healers interact with the people they work with. With special consideration given to There are abundant examples understanding the specific of other models of herbalism intimacy and relationship we through history and enter into when we reach out currently, we need only look our hands to try to help, to around us. If not on our own facilitate wholeness within block, then very likely in the our villages and nearest barrio, or in many neighborhoods. It’s not neighborhoods where enough, however, to just look cultural traditions are still and understand. This alive and celebrated. Besides particular aspect of these excellent models, we traditional herbalism needs also have the option of revival nowhere more than in developing new ways of a culture that often promotes envisioning our practice and politeness, superficiality, and ways of interaction with efficiency at the price of real plants and people. Wherever Patricia Padilla, Taos, NM Curandera sharing and hearing. Not there is convention, there is being heard creates its own also the opportunity to break kind of sickness, and certainly free and come up with a totally new way of doing exacerbates existing issues in most folks, especially things. since most illness is accompanied by fear and uncertainty about outcomes. In the Ukraine, babky El Corazón: The Heart of Healing (grandmothers, or older women serving as healers) often spend part of their treatment time comforting “No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” and reassuring the patient in whatever ways they - Gabriel García Márquez can, with hugs, smiles, and warmth being common to many folk healers across the planet. A significant part of many traditional healing models is what is called a plática here in the Curar del Susto: American Southwest (as well as throughout much of Addressing Fear & Giving Support Latin America), a heart to heart talk in which the healer listens carefully to the person she’s working “I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear. I release with, and can often include some amount of you. You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I counseling. I can’t emphasize the importance of don't know you as myself” listening skills enough, as so much of the healing for - Joy Harjo many is found in the chance to finally be heard and to tell their story. This heart to heart connection In Many Places, the healer not only provides between person and person, between person and counsel, but also a degree of emotional support place, between person and plant, is the channel through words, comfort, and usually a spiritual
method. In most cultures, there is some concept of the damage that can be done to a person on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level by fear and trauma. If not addressed immediately, this fear can work itself deep into the core of the person and begin to make them sick in various different ways. In Latin America, the fear sickness is known as susto, while in the Ukraine itâ€™s called liak or prystrit. Under whatever name, the symptoms are very similar, including insomnia, restlessness, digestive upset, bad dreams, muscular spasms, a lack of interest in formerly engaging activities, among other signs. Traditionally, these manifestations of fear sickness are considered at least as important as other, more popularly recognized, ailments. In biomedicine, the most severe forms of fear sickness would likely be called post traumatic stress disorder or even schizophrenia, but milder or less obvious forms are often ignored entirely or quickly medicated into suppression, which in traditional thought, only drives the sickness deeper.
I have found it incredibly useful in my practice to allow people to express and talk about their fears and the context/story they stem from before actively attempting to do anything about them. Additionally, recognizing the symptom pattern with an actual word like susto or some other appropriate term can in itself be incredibly helpful Sometimes these two elements alone are enough to purge the issue and allow for healing. Other times, a combination of herbs, counseling, ritual, and long term support is necessary to work through issues, especially if they are deep seated and long term.
La Cantadora: Healing in MythTime & the Storytellerâ€™s Work â€œBy creating a new mythos - that is, a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave - la mestiza creates a new consciousness. The work of mestiza consciousness is to break down the subject/object duality that keeps her prisoner and to show in the flesh and through the images in her work how
duality is transcended. The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts.” " " " " -Gloria Anzuldúa
challenges, and their whole conception of health, can provide more wellness than all the herbs in the world. Not all story telling and shifting is entirely comfortable or pleasant. In order to shift perception we must often challenge assumptions and ask people to look at things they’d likely rather avoid. In stories from across the world we’re presented with characters in the roles of medicine people and witches. Very often, these characters both heal and frighten, usually the challenging aspects also serving as a deeper form of healing. It’s not unusual for these characters to initially reject, threaten, or even harm the hero or heroine of the story. Respect, acceptance, and even safety have to be earned by tenacity and services rendered.
Traditionally, healers not only providing herbs or massage or steam baths, but also comfort, counsel, ceremony, and common sense to the folks they help. Additionally, most healers acted as storytellers and lore-keepers to some degree. Speaking to experienced herbalists, curanderas and similar folks, I could often listen for hours to the stories they have to tell about the plants, people, traditions, ways of being, and ideas about health and healing. Beyond holding and retelling information and experiences, healers often help clarify, bring to light, and even change a patient’s personal stories.
While herbalists in the United States are unlikely to wear a full on Baba Yaga visage, we still present questions and challenges that often seem frightening or threatening, at least initially. This is part of the larger role of a medicine person, taking on more than just the temporary physical comfort of a client. In this way, we meet much deeper needs that could ever be addressed by a practitioner of conventional healthcare.
Medicine people are also myth keepers and myth creators to some degree, assisting the people they work with by helping to shift perspective. As herbalists, we need to be listeners, but we can also help adjust, and sometimes transform, people’s stories. This is its own kind of healing, and one of the most lasting kinds. Giving people new ways of viewing their life journeys, their illnesses and
Russian/Siberian Medicine Woman
Espiritú de La Tierra
“It was hard for an Apache-raised girl to understand how some could see the planet as but a lifeless rock, upon whose surface a bounty was distributed for the good of man. Who saw animals not as spirits but as steaks, fur and wool, pet or threat. Who saw trees only as lumber to be turned into buildings or to shade the sun. Who judged plants as being decorative or itchy, weeds or crops. To Omen, they were not just wondrous sunshine-eating entities, without whom humans and most of the life on Earth would die. They were proof of miracles, and reason for hope. The inspiration for a good and balanced life, and examples of how to live it.” - Jesse Wolf Hardin, The Medicine Bear In every tribal culture I am aware of, there has been a word or understanding of the vital force that enlivens human and herb, raven and wildcat, bacteria and stone. It is this intelligent and powerful spirit of life itself that healers across the world have recognized. From the earliest indigenous medicine woman to the Eclectic physicians of the 19th century, we have given names to that which makes us alive. The labels vary from place to place, but the bone deep knowing remains the same.
Likewise, the plants represent more than just chemical compounds that cause certain physiological changes in the body, they are personalities and forces in their own rights, and add their own fibers to the overall weave of the story of healing. All traditional healers seem to know this innately, and I have yet to meet a single traditional herbalist of who doesn’t recognize the power and personality of the herbs. Again, how we give language to our understandings changes from culture to culture, but what matters most is that we acknowledge and respect the living spirit of the plants, of our own bodies, of the earth herself, Nuestra Madre Tierra. Whatever model of healing we work from, what we share is both powerful and old. Rather than forcing ourselves to fit into a mold, or criticizing others for practicing in a different way, we all benefit by celebrating the incredible diversity we hold in our many joined hands and hearts, with a common cause and love for people and plants. As the medicine people for a world in turmoil, we offer a guiding light for our communities, illuminating both our ancient traditions and the new paths we’re learning together. Corazón a corazón, heart to heart, we walk the medicine trail.
© Gleb Raygorodetsky Altai Medicine Woman, Maria Amanchina, in Siberia/Russia 290