All this time away from the internet has created a lot of space for reflection. I am a constant question asker, and of course I ask myself questions related to herbalism. One such point of reflection is simply: what are my goals?
- Attend more conferences. I love conferences. I have gone to a few and always learn a ton. Plus, it is great to be surrounded by all the plant people! I can only be a solitary learner so long before I start craving learning from an actually person, not a book. Here are a few I have my eye on:
- Medicines from the Earth. I am going this year and can hardly wait.
- Mid America Herb Symposium. Held in Winona, MN.
- Women’s Herb Conference. I got to go in 2007, and it was a such a blast! It was good for the soul to be around so many fabulous women herbalist.
- Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. I have never been to the Southwest. Now I have even more of a reason to get down there; this conference sounds amazing!
- Years ago, I spied an international botanical medicine conference in India that seemed interesting. Of course now I can’t find it. Here is the International Herb Symposium that happens every other year in New England.
- Finish Home Study Course. When I was an intern at Sage Mountain, I received a copy of Rosemary Gladstar’s home study course in herbalism. I read through it all when I was interning, but didn’t start the course work. That was almost 3 years ago, and I have barley started since. It is such a gift to have received it and I want to finish it! I love how it combines different aspect of herbalism; materia medica, body systems, action categories, food and nutrition, health philosophy, ect…
- Learn about Western herbal history, from way back when to Greece to present day. I am fascinated by healing and medical theories, and want to learn more. Much of my interest was sparked by this comparison of the history of Chinese medicine and Western medicine By Roger Wicke, Ph.D.
- Explore different types of herbalism. Who are the Eclectics, the phisomedicalists, Thompsonions? They all interest me. The little taste of Southern folk herbalism history I heard from Phylis Light was brand new and intriguing to me. And what’s going on in European herbalism? I majored in Anthropology and delight in exploring the cultural implications of different schools of thought. I would like to delve deeper into plant spirit medicine, shamanism, and Native American herbal traditions, too.
- Continue meeting plants. Plant identification is a journey that never ends. I have lost some of my taxonomy sharpness since I’ve been out of college, so I need to brush up on my plant families and the relations in between them. This year I have meet a few new plants and want to figure out who they are! Soon I’ll post some questionables.
- Streamline classes. I have been teaching a couple basic herb classes for a while. Each time that I do, I find that I make them more simple and to the point. I have learned that information needs to be accessible and built on a solid foundation, I’d like to apply this to more classes.
- Learn from other herbalists. One of the reasons I am moving from Duluth is that I need an educational community. I don’t have a lot of experience, so I thirst for the opportunity to learn from others’. Which is one reason I love reading blogs and books!
- Read intro books on Chinese medicine. I know I’ll be steeped in Chinese medical theory in school this fall, but I can’t wait. This summer I want to read/reread these three books:
- Between Heaven and Earth. A Guide to Chinese Medicine. by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold.
- Wood Becomes Water: Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life. by Gail Reichstein.
- The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. by Ted Kaptchuck.
- Organize and downsize! My herb paper work is a disaster. My overzealous tincture making is bursting at the seams. Do I really need 20 ounces of bugelweed in brandy? Help!
- Work as an herbalist. Yes, I’d like to be a practicing herbalist someday! I have seen a few clients, but I would like to see more. When I’m ready I’d love to embrace herbalism as my full-time job. This is a long-term goal.
- Promote herbal teas. People ask me all the time where they can buy my teas, besides the web. I have them in one store (Rooted Folks Community Wellness), and I think I could find a couple others, too. I need to get over my fear of marketing and being in business. Yes, I admit it, it is challenging to me. But I’m working on it and realizing that being in a healing field doesn’ t mean that it’s a sin to charge for your services, and that promoting a product doesn’t mean your deceptive.
My oh my, it has been quite a while since my last entry! I have no excuse except I have been enjoying the glorious summer in every moment I wasn’t running around busy with work and projects. Sometimes you need a break from the computer, ya know?
I had anticipated a summer of non-stop gardening, based on the fact I had about four plots and twenty-some different species of medicinal seedlings started in my basement. As soon as I planted out my seedlings in early June, a week of threatening frost, non-stop rains and high winds did not spare a single plant. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. After that miserable week, the weather cleared and I was able to plant out a few varieties; tulsi, figwort, chickweed (one can never have too much chickweed!), elecampane, teasel and wild carrrot fared the best.
In early June I was able to attend the inaugural Mid-America Herbal Symposium, held in Winona, MN. The conference brought in incredible herbalists from across the country to my state; there was no way I was going to miss such an opportunity! At the time of the conference, I was inthralled with exploring herbalists’ healing and health philosophies. I opened up my favorite herbals, and rather than flipping to the index to research the topic or herb on my mind as usual, I instead turned to the forward or introduction in the beginning of the book. Here the author introduces the topic of herbalism and expounds upon the simple idea (fact!) that plants can and do heal. While at the symposium, I kept picking up tidbits of the presenter’s healing philosophies that represent the basics of herbalism. One that kept grabbing my attention was, “treat the individual, not the condition”. Nicholas Schnell from Omaha, NE reminded us in a particularly insightful lecture about herbs for the GI tract, “don’t get caught up in the disease, but see how it manifests in the person”. This simple reiteration struck me like a thunderbolt; it has really revolutionized how I look at herbalism.
The lecture about the GI tract inspired me to make it a topic for the monthly study group, along with herbs for a healthy sleep, and a review of the rose family. The monthly study groups were a constructive outlet for me to focus my studying on a particular topic and to organize and present my information to a small group. As time goes on, I find I am becoming more comfortable sharing the itty bitty bits of knowledge I have. I also led two classes at a woman’s gathering on the south shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, one on herbs for pregnancy and another about the menstrual cycle herbs to promote a healthy cycle. The latter was a bit overwhelming to teach; there is so much information and possibilities. I love the interplay between all the different hormones and structures of the endocrine system. Here I am again, getting stuck in the details…
Speaking about herbs for pregnancy, I have been putting together some basic pregnancy formulas and selling them here and there. Who knew it’d be so fun making big batches of raspberry leaf tea blends?! I love getting out the fancy scale and making a big, aromatic, herbal mess on my dining-room table. One of my current herb goals is to make herbs more accessible to people in my community, and this is one tiny step in that direction. My biggest frustration is that there isn’t an herbal apothecary in Duluth that can formulate gobs of remedies for all sorts of people. Of course, I hope to be doing just that in the not-too-distant future, but until then all I can do is give people resources.
Back to the plants. I was able to explore a few mini-ecosystems in my region, such as the sandy forest of northern Wisconsin lake country (Hayward area), where I saw tons of blue flags, boneset, bugleweed, two types of meadowsweet, blue vervain, sweet fern (comptenia), cinquifoils, wild blueberries, lady’s thumb and the world’s tiniest violet-the flowers were about 1/4 inch in diameter. Down in central Minnesota outside of St. Cloud where it is flat, fertile and hot, I found rattlesnake master, native astragalus, yellow and purple coneflowers, prairie sage, wormwood, elecampane, bee balm, black eyed Susan, gravel root and nettle. One of my favorite finds was driving about an hour south of Duluth on highway 35: glorious pleurisy root, attracting bumble bees and monarchs to the its florescent array of orange flowers. Up on the Superior Hiking Trail, I found a patches after patches of Solomon’s seal, and harvested an eight-year-old root.
There were surprises in my own urban neighborhood, too. One sunny July day I woke up and decided I needed to order some figwort for the lymph stagnation I was experiencing. Sure enough, I found a stand of flowering figwort on my morning walk, on my favorite route that I’ve walked hundreds of times before. It was growing next to a group of aconite I’ve never noticed before, either. How can you miss the dramatic dark purple of monk’s hood?! I am so thankful that I found that figwort patch. Another plant I never noticed until this year is wild carrot growing abundantly in an ally by my house. How it missed my eye I do not know; as I sit at the computer I can see them across the street and through the window. Was it possible they were not there until this year? Perhaps, but I also think plants reveal themselves to you when the time is right.
This summer I delved into tincture making. I ventured over the bridge to Wisconsin to buy some grain alcohol with hopes of standardizing some tinctures, but I never found an accurate vessel to measure milliliters, so I just guessed. So much for standardizing! I have red clover, St. John’s wort, anise hyssop and other mints, boneset, blue vervain, tulsi, California poppy, bugleweed, horsetail, rose petal, rose petal elixir (inspired by Kiva Rose), sweet meliot, yarrow, shepherds purse, cottonwood, mugwort and the list goes on. In the next herbal study group, we are going to harvest roots, barks and twigs. Today I hope to gather some choke cherries and the green seed tops of wild carrot; and this week I am getting glycerine to make elixirs from the mints from the garden.I hope the fall is as productive as the summer has been; there is certainly a lot of harvesting left to do!