Kiva Rose

Kiva Rose is a practicing herbalist, co-director of the Anima Herbal School and Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous as well as co-editor and publisher of Plant Healer: A Journal of Traditional Western Herbalism.

Nov 292015

Plant Healer Interviews

Plant Healer Interview:


Culture-Shifter & Herbal Ally

interviewed by 

Melanie Pulla, Phyllis Light, Paul Bergner, Sarah Baca, & Mason Hutchinson

Jesse Wolf has done a lot for the herbal community as well as the plants we love, including interviewing both the respected elders and the new voices of the herbal resurgence for Plant Healer Magazine and our book series 21st Century Herbalists.  Now to mark Plant Healer Magazine’s exciting 5th Anniversary, the extra large Winter issue will feature an interview with rather than by Wolf.  This conversation between Wolf, a journalist and four herbalists, provides insights not only into the nature of my partner, but also the nature of the herbs and practice that we all so love.  An interesting excerpt follows here, with the entire much longer conversation available to member subscribers in the Winter issue releasing Dec. 7th.  You can subscribe by going to    –Kiva Rose

Jesse Wolf Hardin interview title page

Sarah: Jesse Wolf, as we talk you are coming up to your 5th Anniversary of publishing Plant Healer Magazine, and you just put on the 6th annual Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference.  How does it feel?

Wolf: Nothing else I have ever done has felt more effective than serving the well being of the all life by helping to inform, equip, encourage, and support a resurgence of empowered healing.  And nothing yet has been as satisfying as helping weave that culture of healing back together with the quest for meaningful lives and lifestyle changes, deepened purpose and individual roles, to social change and ecological restoration, to ancient mythic lore and contemporary mythic dimensions, and to the sensory and aesthetic rewards of our beauteous arts. 

Sarah: Over the last decade much of what you’ve been writing has been for an audience interested in herbalism, wildcrafting, and natural healing.  Obviously there were already tons of available books about herbs and how to use them, I guess what was missing from the literature were the actual considerations involved with an herbal practice?

Wolf: I need to know I am meeting important needs for people by spending so many hours in front of a computer, instead of wordlessly making art or blissfully wandering along the wild river that flows in sight of my cabin window.  I write to shine a light on the natural world and our true selves, to make the allies of wild and diverse life laugh, feel informed and affirmed, and I write to discomfort the  destroyers of nature and truth and wildness.  I write in defense of other species, and to awaken our own.  And most of all, I write whenever I feel I can contribute new information and new perspectives, alternate or additional ways of looking at things that increase and inform our choices.  This has meant a deep exploration of the motivations, intentions, definitions, ethics, practice, and culture of herbalism, including but not limited to: Its purpose and forms, options and roles.  The reasons for getting into the field and the difficulties faced.  Different ways of practicing, different areas to specialize in.  Making satisfactory income without feeling guilty about it, while providing service to those least able to pay.  The aesthetics and the art of herbalism.  The joys and satisfactions of working with plants.  The history of herbalism, as well as the latest health and plant research.  Elucidating the sources of inspiration, excitement, and beauty, as much as the means and methods.  Exploring the whys as well as the hows of a self-identified “herbalist” or “healer” role.

Polish herbalistMelanie: I’ve often found that there’s a sense of elitism within herbal circles in regards to whether someone has an active clinical practice or not, with the prevailing notion that being a clinician not only makes you more credible but also more respectable and worthy of the title “herbalist”. Certainly clinical work is one way of generating and growing your knowledge, however it seems no less worthy for an herbalist to be in their apothecary or kitchen spending hours perfecting an herbal recipe – or in the field for days keying out plants and learning their growing patterns. I love how in The Plant Healer’s Path you emphasize the validity of “clinical” work that occurs outside a formal clinical setting. Can you elaborate on why this kind of work is not only valuable, but also important?

Wolf: First of all, no one can tell you if you are worthy of being called an herbalist, not  a professional organization, or a federal agency, or even our peers with more experience than us.  We are made worthy simply by the strength of our intent and focus, and the degree of our efforts.  Levels of competency are another issue, but are only proven by our results and effects over time.   We alone can make the determination whether our knowledge, commitment and daily practice makes us an herbalist or not.  And whether others call us an herbalist or not, will hinge on the good we do in working with plants.

I have three things to say in regard to “clinical.”  First, there are many different forms of – and means and venues for – clinical work.  Second, not all important work with plant medicines is clinical.  And third, even entirely non-clinical work with plants greatly benefits by a clinical-level commitment to increasing knowledge, maintaining accuracy, increasing efficacy, and adhering to ethical codes.

For our purposes here, “clinical” means directly working with people, personal interaction with the intent of helping them regain their health.  This can certainly happen outside of a clinical setting, such as in client’s homes, or even on the sidewalk with “street herbalists” handing out shotgun remedies to the homeless, and herbal medics volunteering at the sites of natural and human-made disasters.  Making herbal tinctures in one’s kitchen can be done strictly by following a recipe, but the best formulas are created in response to observations and experiences, whether our own responses to herbs or the responses of the people we are trying to help.

Traditional Herbalist Hoodie-ashMelanie: Thank-you.  I love your vision of future medicine people proudly and boldly claiming their title, and integrating themselves in all aspects of community and place. I also appreciate that medicine is so often equated with an ingestible substance as opposed to a broader scope of practice that includes other modalities such as story, counsel, empathy, and healing touch to name a few.  As Asclepias of Thessaly wrote, “first the word, then the herb, then the knife.” Since you are so apt with semantics and etymology, would you mind sharing the way you personally define medicine?

Wolf:  I would agree with Asclepias if by “first the word” he meant we first address the condition with inquiry and intake, verbal comforting or re-envisioning, discussion, counsel and advice.  The addition of medicinal plants and foods, massage, realignments, acupuncture, massage and other noninvasive treatments can follow as appropriate, supporting the changes in attitude, perspective, diet and lifestyle that words explored and inspired.

The English word “medicine” derives originally from the Latin “medicus”, “the physician,” and commonly refers to ingested or injected agents of healing.  We also hear, of course, that “laughter is the best medicine,” that time is medicine for the grieving heart, and that love is medicine for the spirit or soul.  In historic cultural terms, the word for “medicine” was usually synonymous with “power” – not as in power over somebody or something, but as in the power to act and affect.  Ancient “hunting medicine” usually involved rituals of supplication and intent, but their purpose was to awaken the power to find and collect animals to eat.  The medicine of the Seer was the power to see into the truth of things, to see the patterns in the movement of energies and progression of events.  “Wolf medicine” might be the powers of discernment and courageous action.

To my reckoning, “medicine” is power, but more specifically, the power to help and heal.  This is certainly about more than the healing of illness and wounds, but also emotional, spiritual, social, cultural, and ecological healing, utilizing whatever medicine that each of us is born with, learns or develops, in order to contribute to health and wholeness.  The word “heal” originally meant to “restore to soundness,” and I would say medicine is anything that contributes to the regaining of soundness, wholeness, and animate vitality.

Medicine is more than tinctures and teas, it includes such things as empathy and concern, tending and touch, ritual or prayer, visualization and positive attitude.  There is the medicine of nature and place, which The Healing Terrain explores.  There can be medicine in art and music, medicine in beauty.  In reconciliation or resolution.  In giving, and receiving.  Medicine in love, medicine in a hug.  

There is even medicine in disruption, whenever habit and structure have proven unhealthy.  

It is for us to find our personal medicine: our individual mix of born gifts, special abilities and learned skills, our original innate power to affect other people and the world in meaningful, helpful and healthful ways.  And then to identify, mobilize and utilize the many medicines around us and available to us – including but not limited to medicinal herbs – for the essential purpose of healing.

Sarah: Could you speak about your personal journey and healing work, and the roots of your intimacy with plants and plant medicine?

Wolf: I grew up in the suburbs, nothing like the wilderness river canyon that has been my home for the over three decades.  That said, from earliest memory I was drawn to the natural world, its authenticity compared to the artifice of many people’s lives, its diversity and oddness, enchantedness and eloquence.  This led me to wildlife that was either pervasive enough or small and slow enough for my inspection… and to plants, easier to find, or fun to climb.  I spent much of my childhood exploring and finding refuge high in the branches of trees, as people walked busily below without noticing.  There may have been few coyotes in the neighborhood, but there were exotic green beings from around the word used to landscape the nearby yards, and my friends the weeds that I respected for their brilliance and tenacity long before I was aware of their medicinal value.  Even my mother’s house plants served as conduits to the natural world, as agents of a radical vision of intensity and liberty, seductively subverting the barefoot boy who studied their examples and helped tend their needs.

Wolf in Military SchoolSarah: You weren’t always an agent of alternatives, were you?  Weren’t you an accomplished student in church and military schools at one point?

Wolf: Church and military schools were just of few of the many varieties of private schools we tried, with my mother and I mutually searching for the more challenging curricula I hungered for.  I was kicked out of the church schools for insisting on asking all the wrong questions, and answering out of turn.  The military schools were more satisfying academically, if only I didn’t hate giving orders as much I hated getting them.  I was adept at repeatedly winning Sergeant stripes with fancy drill team work and high class grades, but proved just as good at losing those stripes for defending some shy boy from an upperclass bully, refusing a direct order that I found demeaning or stupid or both, and once when they discovered I’d been stuffing my bed at night to make it look like I was asleep, while sneaking out like a prisoner in a jailbreak movie, skulking through the alleys and backyards in the moonlight.  

I’ve often told the story on stage, of the day I realized I couldn’t stomach the regimentation a minute more, when even the sameness of the suburbs and a comfortable life with supportive parents would be too much tameness and sameness to bear.  Every afternoon after classes we were ushered out into a large grass field surrounded by a 10 feet high concrete wall, where we would line up into platoons and practice marching to orders.  You know, right face, left face, right oblique, like in war movies except we ranged from 6 years old to 17.  It seemed obvious early on that waiting for orders resulted in reduced independent thinking and acting, and that every “soldier” was pretty oblivious outside of their part in the script as “commanders” and “troops.”  I decided to capitalize on this fact by taking up a position at the rear of my platoon, and as we tromped past a particularly large old avocado tree at the edge of the field I tried dropping out of line to see if anyone noticed.  They didn’t, true to form, and I shinnied up the tree and into its branches.  From there, I could see  on both sides of the wall, and contrast the two.  On one side, were my all-male classmates marching in line like ants, kids taught to keep clean and hide their emotions and “act like a man” absurdly shouting out in unison chants like “G.I. Beans, G.I. Gravy, Gee I wish I joined the Navy,” with hardly a single one of them regardless of rank getting the least bit of enjoyment out of their role and activity.  On the other side, children of mixed gender who were probably supposed to be in school somewhere, were instead happily crawling around the as yet vacant lot, hiding behind the unleveled hillocks and in a rusty drainpipe, before leaping out and making the most undignified but happy sounds.  At the right moment, I leapt onto the wall and over, walking home to my always supportive if often perplexed parents.  I explained that they’d be saving money on my schooling thereafter, that I’d “jumped the wall”… and while I spent some more loving time with them the first few years after, in the deeper sense I never went back.  

I slept under bridges and in crash pads, traded for a Harley motorcycle that had been stolen from the California Highway Patrol lot, tripped with the hippies at Twin Poles, Topanga Canyon.  Visited Rolling Thunder, hung out on merry prankster Ken Kesey’s Springfield Dairy farm in Oregon, got in and back out of trouble, and then journeyed to this place I would call home for the remainder of my life.  Beyond the wall, as my difficult author friend Ed Abbey liked to put it.

Phyllis: You’ve ended up simultaneously serving as a teacher, example, and leader of an herbal movement dedicated to preserving and celebrating folk traditions.

Wolf & KivaWolf: Partnering with Kiva Rose, her passion for herbs and herbalism resulted in our infusing ourselves deeper into this community, and in our helping to inspire some deep ecological sensibilities – a sense of vitality and purpose meant to sustain folk medicine through the many challenges ahead.  We have dedicated ourselves to championing an herbalism that is accessible and empowering, individualized and personalized, diverse and wondrous, to encourage the organic growth of its aesthetic culture and earthen healing values.  I brought to Plant Healer Magazine and gatherings my perspective as a child of nature, runaway street kid, community volunteer, wilderness dweller and ecological activist.  In turn, folk herbalism has given me another important means for the healing of my self… and a language and tools for me to help heal bodies, psyches, communities and bioregions in need.

Phyllis: How did you come to incorporate herbal folk traditions into your environmental philosophy?

Wolf: Kiva and my approach to everything is “folk,” in the sense of things being created by and for the folk, the people, as opposed to systems used by an ascended fraternity of medical practitioners, benefitting only those who can afford it.  Folk music, even when it uses electronic loops and beats.  Folk art, regardless of when or how it is made.  Folklore, the mythic tales that infuse the plants and work with added meaning.  Folk means drawing from millennia of experience and discovery, and learning from a lineage of artisans… but it also means each artist and each generation putting their own mark on the field, holding true to the heart and root of traditions while adding a little something of themselves, their experiences, and their vision.  Folk arts are not slavish adherence to tradition, but respectful embellishment and adaptation according to sensibilities, needs, and new information.

Folk herbalism is often defined in opposition to conventional modern medicine, or in contrast to professional clinical practice, similar to how folk art is contrasted to so-called fine art.  Fine art is touted as evolved, refined, complex, and sometimes subtle, while folk art is referred to as primitive, innocent, simplistic, and maybe quaint.  MDs and some lettered clinicians use related terms to describe folk practices, while holding up their systems or approaches as superior.  Even some herbalists that adamantly eschew official status, such as Susun Weed, still associate the term “folk herbalism” with superstitious and uninformed practice. 

To the contrary, Folk herbalism – as you, Phyllis, have said – is at its core simply herbalism for regular folks, medicine for the people.  As such, it’s best defined neither by adherence to custom nor by its rejection.  Folk is ever-evolving, therefore it doesn’t require we follow any herbal dogma or stick strictly to any time tested protocol, any more than it requires that we diss the latest medical research or the methodologies of professional and academic herbalists.  After all, herbalism only stops being “folk” at the point that we support stratification, organizational hierarchy or a vested elite, or act as if income or status are even close to being as important as the act of providing care.  And all herbalism is folk that seeks to empower individuals to help with their own and others’ healing, regardless of approbation, certification, registration, or legislation.  It is thus a broad perennial tent that a wide range of herbalists can intertwine, grow and bind under.  Folk does not divide body from mind, or the healing of the body from the mending of our society and the land.  And because of all this, folk is the herbalism we want most to encourage and promote. 

Helping others is how we achieve our humanity.  Those who denigrate or regulate folk herbalism, or assert that the work of healing is meant for a privileged, vetted few, are harming not only art and tradition but our humanness at its very best.

Paul Bergner and Jesse Wolf HardinPaul: I don’t see you engaging in this, but what can you say about the tendency to cultural appropriate that is common in some herbalists in North America?

Wolf: After hundreds of years of being systematically exploited by colonial empires, it is easy to see a similar exploitive pattern in someone copying a culture’s ideas or ceremonies and possibly making money off of them. It can understandably be offensive for someone who grew up in a tradition to witness a seemingly generic honky dressed up for the part, performing ancient healing rituals out of context and probably doing them wrong, or handing out the wrong herbs or advice.  To appropriate, however, is most understood as to take something away, to take for oneself, and what is most criticized as appropriation might be more accurately called emulation instead. 

This emulation can be intrusive and dishonorable if it involves publicizing secreted or sacred knowledge, exploitive if done for commercial gain, fraudulent if we claim a culture that is not our own, and tacky and offensive if we are mimicking… regardless of our best of intentions.   On the other hand, emulation is one of the ways that knowledge, values, ways of perceiving and doing are spread.  All aspects of culture are influenced and informed by “outside” groups.  Especially when it comes to healing knowledge, it is not something we can ethically restrict to any one group, nor in most cases is it possible to keep the information from getting out in spite of any efforts to ensure its exclusivity. Arabic art techniques motifs were replicated through much of Africa and Europe, even influencing far away Viking jewelry design, but how much was unattributed copycatting of a profitable craft, and how much was actually the advancing and furthering of Arabic sensibilities and cultural reach?  Western medicine owes much to the Greeks, who learned most of their healing craft from Arabic sources.  Westerners  wisely avail themselves of Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine constitutional models and formulas, and health practitioners in India have understandably incorporated Western medical research into their knowledge base.  When it comes to herbs in particular, they are a boon to all but are born for themselves, thus no one can claim them as their own, neither a corporate researcher wanting to patent the elements of life itself, nor any indigenous group.  

The line between exploitation and dissemination lies in the how as well as why we do what we do.  Respect your human sources.  Respect all honorable existing cultures and respectable traditions.  Ask to learn or share, don’t assume or take.  Don’t pretend to be anything but what you really are, which is most often a multi racial, multi cultural, eclectic mutt.  Ultimately defer to neither modern civilized authorities, traditional conventions or taboos, so much as to the plants themselves – and to our common, ancient, global mission of healing.

Rhiannon hugging Anima Sanctuary AlderMason: What wild, native Gila plant nourished you the most this year?

Wolf: The Alder with its twisting exposed roots gripping fast to rock and bank even during the most violent floods, drinking from the same river as me and the rest of the living canyon, setting into motion fantastical quests and instigating yet more tales and books with its enchanted-forest visage. 

Phyllis: Your love of the earth is apparent in your teachings, writings, and other works. Was there an event or events in your life that brought you to the awareness of the necessity of taking better care of Mother Earth?

Wolf: For me, it was a growing awareness of the de-naturing and destruction that started before I could barely speak, concurrent with my engagement with and love for the natural world.  Since I was a child I have been blessed with noticing and intensely experiencing nature in all its forms, even in the various cities and suburbs where I grew up.  I concealed myself in ornamental hedges and then laid my head at ground level to observe life from the perspective of a bug, observed the growth of baby birds no one else seemed to see or care about nesting in hollow street signs, was enraptured with the wondrous dandelions growing at the edges of the concrete.  It seemed impossible for me to pass a single butterfly or as yet unidentified plant without pausing to take it in, but this same ability or compulsion to notice everything also meant being unable to ignore the suffocating asphalt and screaming sirens.  The young eyes that followed the bridge swallows first flights, could not miss the remains of  birds and dogs and cats and raccoons killed by our species’ speeding vehicles.  Watching the clouds to see what whimsical shapes they might take, meant painful awareness of the valley smog those cars and our factories produce.  I would go to the very edges of the housing developments to seek out the still wild, but that made it even more painful when the bulldozers continued scraping ever farther in service to sprawl.  

Pained as this awareness made me, it too proved a blessing.  Witnessing hurting life forms required I be their champion if not hero, injustices clearly demanded resistance and redress, and every tragic imbalance seemed to call for a remedy.  The more I saw people pulling and spraying those Dandelions, the more effort I put into gathering their seeds, sneaking into gated yards, and pressing them into the ground with my little fingers.  As a teen, knowing what our government was doing to our draftees as well as to the Vietnamese people and ecosystems meant I must join in the demonstrations to halt the war, even in the face of charging riot police, and so it was inevitable that I help lead campaigns to save ancient Redwoods and Firs from clearcutting once I had walked beneath their towering branches, and that I would stand in front of a land-clearing DC8 Caterpillar after having held the leaves of the coastal White Sage like the holding the hand of a lover. 

That is perhaps the key lesson here.  Not just that there are things worth defending, restoring and propagating… but that it is what we come to love most, that we’re likely to care for best.  And falling in love is something that requires our intimate observation, adoration, involvement, participation, and relationship.

For over a dozen years I was a core organizer for the radical wilderness activist group Earth First!, melding music and entertainment with civil disobedience and media campaigns.  In the 1980s I gave hundreds of public speeches and musical performances under the nome de activist “Lone Wolf Circles,” at rallies we called “The Deep Ecology Medicine Shows,” and I worked to bring together conservationists and herbalists including by inviting Michael Moore to give an herb walk at an Earth First! Rendezvous in the Jemez Mountains.  I launched workshops and courses on spiritual ecology, that addressed the healing of our psyches along with the wounded natural world.

Wolf & Dana Howling Gonzo Poster 1991It had by then become clear that everything I have ever done has been in one way or another been in the name of healing: addressing the wounds of unnecessary wars and the injustices to indigenous peoples; the dissolution of natural ecocentric cultures and destruction of the Redwood and Fir forests; the extirpation of New Mexico Wolves and California White Sage; the unwholeness and stress of good people unsure of their rights, worth and abilities.  That it evolved into my working for the plants, and working with plants, feels only natural and right, as does the interweaving of bodily healing and the healing of our world.

Wolf New Settler Interview cover 1986Protest Against Clearcuts USFS HQWhatever else I have been or become, I’m dedicated and determined, grateful and appreciative of this mission… and fully excited about the possibilities of each purposeful healing day.

Melanie: Wow, that’s beautiful. I got chills hearing this. It’s so true that we all come to this work on our own path, and that we all bring a diverse and unique background to the work. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to follow the thread of healing from addressing social injustices to restoring ecological health to championing a new paradigm for herbalism. It’s quite a powerful trajectory!

Phyllis: Tell us about Earthen Spirituality. 

Wolf: The winding river canyon where we live is host to many dozens of now primarily indiscernible subterranean pit houses, homes once inhabited by the peoples that archaeologists call the Mogollon, but who knew themselves as the Sweet Medicine People.  And near this exact bend where we built the pine board hobbit houses of our teaching center, can be found the remains of the largest kiva in the area.  Kivas are the underground chambers dedicated to religious ceremony, and at least one such structure marks those places selected to be the center for group ritual for an entire region.  At certain significant times the black tressed natives would have walked from many miles both further up and down the river, gathering to exchange stories, to trade and to flirt, but foremost to attend or actively participate in the ceremonies and prayers that they believed would ensure their peoples’ well being.  Many is the retreat guest or student who has come to us with a tale of having heard the muffled sound of drums or flutes emanating from the cave-pocked cliffs, or heard laughter intermingled with the glug, chortle, and bell like ring of the river as it rolls over rocks and plunge pools.

For them as us, all the world would have felt alive.  For people living so intimately with the land, everything would have felt personable and energized, endowed by a creator or creative force with a spark of spirit deserving of acknowledgment and respect.  The myriad plants springing forth from the unlikely alchemy of seed and soil, the complex creatures that provided humankind with vital lessons and valuable examples as much as they did clothing and food.  An energy or spirit vibrating in the volcanic rocks, glowing in the light of a setting sun.  Spirit in taste and scent, struggle and fun.  Given voice through the river, recorded in the patterns of tree bark, danced in the Fall spiraling of cottonwood leaves.  Spirit tracing its own movements, in graceful designs in weed lashed sand, and spirit empowering every giving person’s helpful hand.  Spirit in the hopeful child’s face, in the hearts and deeds of they who served love, truth and place.  Spirit taking flight in songs, echoing off the kiva’s earthen walls, and emboldening young alders to do the “impossible” by planting determined roots in what is an always unpredictable, shifting shore.  

Anima Sanctuary cliffs in mist

These immanent aspects and qualities of the canyon are no less discernible to the residents and guests arriving today, whenever we quiet the persistent commentary of the mind long enough, and they become too intense to ignore as we begin to reawaken our physical senses, our intuition and ancient dormant instincts.  They are, in fact, so vitally present that even the rare distracted visitor who is nearly unconscious of their surroundings, will still sometimes stop in mid sentence to try and gauge what they are feeling, wondering why they are responding emotionally when they intended to keep the conversation constant and superficial, or why they are now beset by repressed memories of unfulfilled needs or unlived hopes, missions or dreams.  At the least, nearly everyone experiences the canyon’s sometimes unsettling intensity, usually leading to a sense of all things’ interconnectedness and the ultimate connivance of their purpose and design.

This earthen spirituality I’ve called “Anima” is a unifying and animating force of creation and proliferation, of adaptation and manifestation, of life begetting life.  What I put forward was an evolving study and practice for living awakened, ultra-aware, purpose driven, choice filled lives… informed by the Anima and all elements of the natural world.  Discussion and disagreements about religion can be helpful, but can be set aside in this case.  For the agnostic or atheist, Anima can be readily described in the language of new science, and for the religious it can be explained in terms of a God-given force that animates and fuels as well as connects all things to one another, as choice/divergence, transformation/evolution, set into motion by divine intention.  

An Anima practice begins with awareness we can’t suppress, insights we can’t ignore, the noticing of distraction and dishonor we can no longer tolerate, and a calling that won’t let us be.  It involves self exploration, growth and actualization.  Conscious interdependence, interpenetration and interaction.  Expanding understanding and heightened sensation.  Compassionate contact and reciprocal contracts with the inspirited land.  Such a life could be called “spiritual” by those so inclined, but a spirituality that neither denigrates nor denies desirous existence.  Life’s hungers, disappointments and pleasures are as catalysts accelerating our manifestation, transformation and growth.  It is an assignment that we of necessity sign up for again and again, each and every moment anew, promises kept and the dance each of us do. 

There is something awesome, mysterious, “spiritual” or “magical” about all of life.  This is true even of that which has been scientifically analyzed and explained, being no less amazing and incredible once comprehended, and inevitably leading to other directions and questions, patterns and possibilities beyond our ken.  It is as unhelpful to dismiss or ridicule all things “spiritual” as it is to claim that everything important that can be known has already been both proven and written.  

Awakening to the experience of hyper alertness, being and belonging, can be both transformative and blissful, a state of self-realization and intense mindfulness sometimes referred to as a “shamanic state,” “rapture,” “satori,” “samadhi,” or “enlightenment.”  Such states are not so much about transcending matter or flesh, however, as about re-immersion in the depth and breadth of embodied reality: deep seeing, deep tasting and smelling, deeply dreaming…. touching and praising the universe through the world that is not “ours” but “us.”  Contrary to what we may have heard, enlightenment is neither “forgetting the question” nor figuring out all the answers.  It is casting a light, not only on outward form but on the inner recesses of truth and being.  It is the intense experience of conscious interpenetration, the wordless, timeless thrill of being propelled into realization, relationship and responsibility, challenge and delight. 

Jews, Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Pagans, Agnostics, Eclectics and all others… we have the option of growing past both spiritual and anti-spiritual dogma, and working together to co-create the world, not as the pawns of fate but as beings born with inherent responsibility, and some potential for critical thinking and decision making – and at our best, the ecstatic organs and effective agents of a larger whole.

Phyllis: Your life seems to have helped shape your concept of “rewilding.”  Could you define it for us?

Wolf: I coined the term “ReWilding” in writings in 1978, and introduced it widely to audiences during my 1985 Deep Ecology Medicine Show tour.  Others have adopted it since, some who apply it only to the act of restoring human-impacted lands to something similar to their previous wild and natural state, and some for whom it is means anarchic liberation.  In my original essay on the topic, I call for a re-wilding (return to empowered real/original nature) of land, social relations, the human mind and body.

Wild Herbalist by Jesse Wolf HardinRewilding is a coming into self, neither a retreat to the past nor a transformation into something new.  Instead, it is a re-formation, a reflowering, a reinhabitation of natural form.  It is the uncomplicated if difficult cessation of pretense, artifice, conditioning, labeling, distraction, manipulation, domination, preoccupation with the future, suppression and repression.  For the land, this can mean the replanting of logged or mined property, the clean up of toxic wastes, minimizing the over-competition of invasive exotics, the reintroduction of extirpated native species, and basing future human interaction and residency on its effects good and bad.  For society, it surely means an evolution in what we value most, in how we relate and interact, and our relationship to money.  It may mean a reduction and redistribution of governing power so that the worst that can be done is committed by individuals or small groups rather than by a corporate/governmental complex and its elite, the fostering of truly democratic regional governance.  It would surely mean treating a healthy environment as invaluable to the well being of people as well as other life forms.  For us, it means being our real selves, the best most vital selves we can be, taking responsibility for who we are and we do or don’t do.  Wild mind means tuning into our instincts and insights, stirring our awareness, seeing the world in fresh new ways, daring to imagine what is possible, daring to envision what could be but may have never been before. Wild body is present, sensory, communicative body, giving us constant feedback about what we eat, how we do what we do, and how much sleep we get.  It houses our hungers for food, touch, sex, and it acts as an agent for our awareness and the choices that will come of that.   

Naturally sensitive and compassionate healers sometimes seem uncomfortable with their innate, irrepressible wildness, associating it with childishness, disruption, a lack of discipline and the disruption of peace.  As I write in The Healing Terrain, rewilding can be a discipline, an intentional practice of re-becoming that maximizes and unleashes our natural propensities, abilities and gifts.  The most enlivened, conscious, effective and joyous healer is the rewilded healer, and as Stephan Buhner puts it,“We herbalists are nearly the last bastion of the wild.”  If you want to picture an image of rewilding person, just picture a kid at an age before succumbing to insidious self-doubt, fearful obedience and stultifying conformity… embodying, trusting, expressing, and acting on her or his feelings and knowings, crying when sad and laughing uproariously when happy, valuing adventure over comfort and safety, willing to risk adult disapproval by running barefoot through grass and mud, picturing whatever they want to become, and not seeing any reason why they can’t accomplish their grandest goals.

Paul: The concept of a Calling is central to most of your teaching, its importance in connection to Nature.

Wolf:  Yes indeed.  As you so well know, a calling isn’t simply doing what we think is most needed, nor what gets the most approval or benefits us the most financially.  Neither is it simply doing something we enjoy instead of feel indifferent about or oppressed by, though one indication we have found our calling is how incredibly compelling, gratifying and satisfying we find even the most arduous or challenging aspects of our work.  Our calling is the optimum role that we – our natures, constitutions, characteristics, abilities, predilections, and interests – can fulfill.  It is one of the greatest gifts to us, at the same time as our most significant gift and service to the world.  

I have a sense that we – as integral elements, agents and organs of the planetary whole – are informed by that whole at a deeper level than we understand, that we are connected to a biotic grid not unlike the way trees are hooked up to and can communicate through a vast fungal mat just beneath the ground to an energetic network that connects all things, and through which the whole exerts influences on the direction of its parts.  If so, a calling could be the ways in which we are purposed.  And if so, it would remain something we need to recognize, choose, assume, and fulfill… similar to destiny which we must seize or walk through like a door, as opposed to fate which we have no say in.

In no sense is it a summons from an outside authority, a call from something apart from ourselves.  Even if it is the prodding of nature rather than just our own desire and compulsion, we are integral to and an extension of nature, so it is more akin to one bodily system calling on another system to fill a crucial function.

It seems terrible to spend a lifetime working at things that we’ve resigned ourselves to, that we’ve justified as being practical, doable and profitable, with little consideration of the effects on our spirits, the sidelining or even suspension of our dreams, the losing of our focus on what moves us most, the de-prioritizing of our creative urges and deeper missions, the failure to utilize our greatest potentials.  Enlivened and fulfilled are those who ride their passions like dragons in a purposeful direction, who respond to a particular imploring song that only they can hear, and fill a role that contributes in their own special way to the healing and wholeness of the world.

Melanie: You have written about herbalists having been “marginalized” as a result of their interests and practices, and “a minority today among all the health approaches and professions.” This comes across as an astute but surprising observation since plant medicine is an important and valued component of countless cultural traditions. Can you elaborate?

Stellaria 72dpiWolf: Regional systems of plant medicine were not only traditional but crucial for most if not all human societies from the very beginning.  Yet, by the 18th and 19th centuries this had all begun to change, with anti-herbal propaganda and legislation becoming the new norm.  Today, interest in herbal “supplements” has continued to increase, and yet the vast majority of the population continue to associate the use of herbs with either ignorant country hicks or what they consider “New Age nonsense.”  There is a subset of licensed nurses struggling to recommend herbal alternatives without violating their professional codes and corporate regulations, but there are only a relatively very few mainstream health professionals who give herbal therapy a thought.  This is the reality today, and we face further estrangement, regulation and possibly even official prohibition in the future.

This should tell us two things at least.  First, that we need to consider the degree to which we hope to market to or influence the values of the dominant culture, and take into consideration how our attitude, image, language, education, level of competency, accreditation or non-professionalized folk approach effect our goals.  Secondly, it should tell us that no amount of accreditation or professionalization will earn herbalism the support of the corporatized, pharmaceutical-centric  medical system, that we need not feel inadequate or freakish for practicing “archaic” plant medicine.  There is no work more important than the healing of bodies, psyches, spirits, and the land… and no greater role we could play today than embodying a holistic alternative to the separative mainstream paradigm of distraction and destruction, corporate greed and drug dependency.

Herbalism does not need mainstream acceptance to be valid or viable.  Folk herbalism is an alternative stream, divergent, un-dammed, serpentine, free flowing continuously throughout the times of acceptance or nonacceptance, popularity or obscurity.  It is incredibly empowering to look to one’s own intuition, studies, research, and especially personal experience and results… for reassurance of the value of healing plants and the importance of this work.  When we understand and accept the relative rarity and alternative nature of herbalism, we come to see how embodying the role of herbalist today is an act of liberation from a system and its lies, and recognize the natural world as place of reconnection as we take on the responsibility for our own health and the health of the people and even ecosystems around us.

Trends and even cultures will come and go, but there will always be a need for self care, community health care, and plant medicines… and at least an impassioned and dedicated minority giving their lifetimes to the day to day furtherance of herbalism.  I’m excited that this living thread – this story – is ours to live and tell.

Phyllis: Are you concerned about the regulation of natural health approaches to personal care in this country? 

Wolf: I worry greatly about the hurtful effects it will have on practitioners, and the clients of healers and community clinics that may have trouble getting help once presented with the likely scenario of onerous or prohibitive regulation.  I do not worry about the survival of herbalism one bit, however, even in the face of the most oppressive imaginable laws and the most invasive possible enforcement.  It is impossible to stop people from using the plants that grow in their yards, fields and lots, and impossible to prevent them from advising and administering to each other when in need.  They can make it dangerous to run a public business, sell medicine out in the open, or advertise, but knowing folk herbalists as I do, most will continue making medicine with one hand, while flipping off the regulators with the other!

Wolf portrait Nov2014Phyllis: What about it being our responsibility to determine the direction of the practice of herbalism?

Wolf: Absolutely.  But we can only ethically and sustainably do that through education, influence and example, not by voting for a platform, making official proclamations, and then trying to make everyone tow the line. Plus, as in the natural world, it is far more effective to lead through example than to try to herd cats. 

Herbalism is and will be known by the identity we collectively impart.  Each of us contributes elements of personality – from punky antiauthoritarianism to dignified professionalism, and from nature loving sensibilities to a passion for ensuring justice – that together constitutes, defines, and expresses its complex character.  My hope is that its character will always include the greatest love for plants and healing, and the greatest determination to serve both.

Mason: How do you see the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference evolving? 

Wolf: Every year we try to balance reuniting the loyal core teachers that have helped define the event, with new teachers, new and unusual topics, and in that way new voices, new ideas, new perspectives and ways of thinking… and always with the characteristic TWHC/Plant Healer feel and flavor.  In this way we retain the cohesiveness and continuity of tribe, while letting the event continue to develop and morph.  We’ve considered growing it and involving some non-herbal, food and community related classes… and imagined the benefits of shrinking it to a smaller and longer event with a limit on the number of people.  In practice we have had no such options –  each Autumn we find that the next year’s event has been decided and defined by the teachers we selected, and by the passions and directions they each bring to this cauldron of possibilities.

One thing for certain, is that it will always be “different,” with the amazing folks who attend being the ones defining, manifesting, and celebrating that difference.

Sarah: When I hear people talking about Plant Healer, there are three things that get repeated again and again: how effectively you inspire a deeper relationship with the natural world, how you and Kiva have have become a champion for neurodiversity including autistic people, and how you have made so many people of all different kinds feel like they have a voice and a group where they feel recognized and accepted.  Is there some thread that connects all three of these?

Wolf: The diverse natural world, neural diversity, and diverse healing ways and roles are all threatened by the mechanisms of the dominant sociopolitical paradigm and the pressures to normal and same.  And likewise, all three can provide treatment, option or solution.

In the case of nature?  For thousands of years there have been great efforts made to transform the natural world to a commodity consisting of profitable “resources” and manageable monocultures, an incredible diversity of food species and seeds reduced to a relatively few crop varieties, single-species tree farms spaced perfectly for mechanical harvesting, mountains leveled for coal mining or development, winding rivers forced into straight canals, expressions of uncontrolled wildness suppressed with the aim of making things more acceptable, profitable, comfortable, and theoretically secure, with the engineers of these projects and campaigns seeking prestige from a professional and political elite.  The remedies we hope to help inspire involve: Support for genetic diversity through the protection of habitats, the conservation, propagation, and banking of viable, natural and heirloom seeds, along with fervent resistance to development that threatens plant and animal species, and opposition to Monsanto patenting seeds and big Pharma patenting organisms.  Teaching people to recognize the intrinsic value, and value to the ecosystems, of all species regardless of their perceived monetary or resource value.  Engaging in and encouraging personal immersion in the natural world in ways and at times that heighten our senses and increase awareness, stir compassion, bolster a palpable sense of interrelation and incontrovertible responsibility, alert us to our instincts, and awaken us to our feelings, and needs, and visions, and most meaningful dreams. NEURODIVERSITY-Message-72dpi

Neurological diversity?  For at least the 50,000+ years that humans have been considered “civilized,” divergent ways of thinking, believing, appearing and acting have been increasingly and methodically suppressed.  It is natural for creatures to fear the unfamiliar, but the more civilized, urbanized, organized, stratified, and “normalized” humans have become, the more there has been systematic ostracizing, marginalizing, institutionalizing, and even demonizing of any members of our own species deemed to be different.  This increase is evidenced from the Catholic Inquisition’s torture and execution of heretics (those who think differently) to Adolph Hitler’s eugenics and massacre of not only Jews but gays, gypsies, the “mentally handicapped,” intellectuals and free thinkers.  Today we see it peaking in religious intolerance with extremest Christians, Islamists verbally or physically attacking anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs, anyone who doesn’t look or act as they do, and in social and political intolerance with right-wingers hateful of progressives, and with some politically correct liberals distrusting and dissing anyone who takes exception to one of their strong opinions, tenets or assumptions.  Original thinkers who were in some times and in some contexts treasured for their abilities to perceive “outside the box.” adapt and innovate, are now mainly valued in manufacturing and commerce while being shunned or attacked for suggesting alternative ways of perceiving and living.  Current campaigns to “stamp out” Autism are scarily reminiscent of the eugenic campaigns of the 1930s and 40s, labeling neural diversity a disorder, and positing a standard for normalcy that everyone either measures up to or fails.  The fact is that everyone is in some ways unique, with a personal mix of weaknesses and strengths, difficulties and abilities, personality traits and ways of seeing things, and there may be no true normal condition or behavior beyond people’s efforts to conform or pretend!  The remedies we encourage for this involve: Educating people about the value of all diversity including neural.  The vociferous defense and support of the neurally diverse including but not limited to the much maligned Autistic community.  The celebration of neural, perceptual, and psychological differences, knowing that neural diversity can lead to experimentation and deviation, and therefore can be a driver of biological as well as cultural evolution.

And helping people feel especially at home in the Plant Healer community? There are relevant parallels as well as connective threads.  It was the strangely impassioned and partially crazed folks that human kind once looked to for divination and direction, to launch movements and to lead wild expeditions, to act as communicants and mediators between the human and natural or spiritual dimensions.  But then came the thousands of years of fear-based pressure towards uniformity during which the different were increasingly seen as disruptive or threatening.  In some places the handing out of herbs was no longer considered the realm of precious community wise women and medicine men, but was instead said to be the work of the devil.  Beginning in the mid 1800s and cresting in the 1950s, infatuation with modernity and technology combined with anti-herbal pharmaceutical industry propaganda to destroy most Americans’ trust in plants’ ability to heal as well as in the purveyors of plant medicine.  Herbs were portrayed as dirty and impure, either marginally effective and greatly bested by the latest drugs or else dangerous to use.  People were led to believe they should set aside their opinions and experiences, mistrust their instincts, put their lives in the hands of certified professionals, and thus turn away from the mothers and midwifes and herbwyfes, the traveling medicine show sellers, and the plants themselves that humans had relied upon since taking our first steps on the surface of this planet.  The same day that I read about the latest Orwellian FDA restrictions on making medicine, 

I also recently read a certain Arizona herbalist’s rant against “hippie” herbalists, and followed that to online discussions about how we should all dress more conservatively in order not to give herbalism a bad name with normal people, and to announcements for conference workshops on how to comply with unjust stipulations.  Clearly the social and regulatory pressure to conform, abide and obey is as great as ever, with herbalism in danger of being ever more formalized and burdened until the likely day when it is essentially made illegal.  The pressure that so many herbalists today feel to fit into a uniform, acceptable mold, necessarily makes me think about how neurally diverse folks must feel as a result of campaigns to “cure” autism and push people into becoming more “normal.”  And it might remind us of allied campaigns to tame wild nature, or to elevate certain species of plants while denigrating and attempting to eradicate unqualified and apparently unacceptable weeds.

Providing for the folk-minded herbalist in all her and his many varieties and forms has meant also creating a valued place for the delightfully divergent, for the outliers, independents and mavericks, for both the quiet unseen introverts and “unseemly” extroverts.  Creativity is itself deviation from the norm, and I have so loved joining in helping to create a “home” and a venue for human diversity of all kinds including neurodiversity, a nexus for the valuing of and defense of biological diversity, a context wherein cultural diversity is celebrated and furthered by the naturally and the gladly anomalous!  The truth is that variation and individuality are inherent and universal, nobody is exactly the same as the next person, and therefore nobody can fully be considered normal no matter how hard they are coaxed to try, or how much pressure and manipulation they suffer.  Let them be free of the need for the approval of the destroyers and the normalizers – because what justice or beauty is there in the supposedly normal, in the normal politics that oppress us and the planet, in the normal ways of treating women and people of color in this society, in buying normal if not necessarily tasteful fashions made by exploited workers, in the normal business of exploiting and bankrupting the living earth, or in what is now thought of as normal medical care?  I am glad to affirm and join in their happiness with their weedy selves and atypical ways… and to be a participant in an ever more conscious evolving of our diverse expressions.

Sarah: What do you see as problems in the herbal community, apart from matters of registration and regulation?

Wolf: I don’t see a lot of problems – in need of processing and solving – so much as as pitfalls and traps to be wisely avoided.  I detail many of these in The Plant Healer’s Path, including:  Imagining we will never be good enough at this work, or don’t know enough yet to be of any help to others… or on the other hand, imagining that anyone can be equally good at the healing arts regardless of studies or experience.  Projecting our feelings, motivations, and thoughts onto the plants.  Thinking that herbs exist for us, rather than for themselves first and then the entirety of the interdependent ecosystem.  Political correctness and guilt, at the expense of nuance and discussion.  Being afraid to express opinions that could discomfort others, or raise issues that likely need dealing with.  Looking to authorities and organizations for permission and approval.  Worrying we’d be better off if we and our craft “fit in” better with prevailing system and ways.  And taking ourselves too seriously.

I don’t mean to suggest our work and goals, or illness and suffering, are not serious matters.  It is precisely because they are so important and sobering that we need to balance that with laughter and frivolity – what I call the “Four Humors”: Dark humor (also known as “operating room humor, an effective pressure valve underutilized by many among our gentle and sensitive herbalists.  Silliness and light hearted play, including with our pained clients.  Teasing, fooling, and playful irreverence.  And especially, knowing how to laugh at ourselves, our ailments, our contradictions, and especially the beliefs we’re most attached to.  Each of these four can contribute to helping make both our clients and ourselves feel better – and isn’t that a big part of our missions?

Melanie: Rather than prioritizing the implementation of regulations and standards, as some within the field are doing, you emphasize the importance of sharing our own story – of collectively writing our own narrative. This portion of your book is a definite “call for action” where you present a very compelling case for why this is important, followed by clear guidelines for how we can each begin to effectively share our own story. In your opinion, what would be the ideal outcome from herbalists stepping forward and claiming their voice through story?

Wolf: All of life is a story, either composed by our selves as we create, form and direct our own lives, or largely written and directed by others – by controlling parents, critical teachers and peers, corporate driven media and advertising, fashion fascists, dogmatic religious leaders, political leaders and elected officials regulating every aspect of our existence.  Our personal story, and our collective story as a community of healers, will only avoid being shaped by others if we take responsibility for shaping it ourselves.  This is true in a very practical, not just metaphoric way.  Herbalists, like any conscious group of well meaning people,  can easily be misrepresented if we don’t show ourselves, if we don’t tell them and demonstrate to them who we are and what we are about.  We can be controlled and even crushed if we do not assert ourselves and make sure the story turns out different.  We can fall into traps of uninteresting conformity and unquestioning obedience into the system’s ready made script for us, with a prearranged progression, a shortage of dramatic depth, and a meaningless end.

Storyteller Poster

Melanie: So essentially, our sense of power comes through owning and sharing our own personal stories; through being the primary writers of this script. If we want herbalism continue to evolve as a powerful vocation, then we need to own and share our personal stories as healers, artists, activists, scientists, and generalists. We need to define the story for ourselves rather than allow external forces to define it for us.

Consider the analogy of herb schools teaching students as being similar to fertile plants producing lots of seeds. In order for these seeds to be capable of sprouting and maturing themselves, then they have to be equipped for the elements through proper nourishment and hydration. One of the reasons I love your book The Plant Healer’s Path is that it provides nourishment to those parched seeds – the herb students who graduated without a clear understanding for what to expect in the real world.

Wolf: Our personal destinies, and the destinies of human kind and other life forms, all depend on the reclamation of meaningful purpose, on a radical rewriting of our stories so real and empowering that even the best fiction pales… the remaking and healing and manifesting of our lives, and the glad telling of our tales.

Phyllis: Jesse, you are a man of deep passion and fire. What fuels that fire? 

Wolf: I believe that as an internally impelled choleric/wood I was born with fuel a-plenty, and challenges motivate me more than discourage.  And I am conscious and sensitive enough that there are always needs and causes to respond to, address, and hope to heal.  

What I require is direction for this energy and drive, signs of the most effective routes and means, triage, and prioritization… and I need inspiration.  I need inspiration the way I need each vital breath of air.  Motivation is provided by the wrongs that I can try to address, the injustices I am called to resist, the suffering of people and other life forms that I long to ease, but it is inspiration that suggests to me remedies, cures, alternatives, and solutions, that has me look up and forward instead of only down at the difficulties and details.  It’s inspiration providing me with reasons for hope.

Wolf with Guido MaseI am inspired by the responses of the plant healer community, their love for the natural world, their courage in doing this healing work even when they get little support and make little money, and their gratitude for an herbal movement that includes rather then excludes them.  I’m inspired by Kiva’s work on healing her damaged self, body and psyche, even more than by what she knows and is able to do.  I am inspired by the teachers and writers we attract and support, by watering the seeds of their potential in whatever ways we can and then watching as they blossom and flourish – such as the inspiring Jim McDonald, Sean Donahue, Asia Suler, Shana Lipner Grover, all the wonderful gifted people writing for Plant Healer Magazine or teaching at TWHC… and so very many more.  I’m inspired by the caring community of employees in the dozens of special eco-hearted companies we work with like Mountain Rose Herbs, and the hundreds of small herb shop proprietors like Julie Caldwell’s Humboldt Herbs serving not just as sources of medicinal herbs but of advice and concern, as centers for community arts, education, and the resolving of issues.  Inspired by kickass people like Wendy Hounsel melding herbalism and nursing, and by those balancing science with folk tradition and alternative sensibility such as Larken Bunce, Phyllis Light, Juliet Blankespoor, and the rather amazing Guido Masé… but also by Paul Bergner’s incisive critical thinking.  Inspired by those providing free herbal care on the streets of Oakland, in Guatemalan clinics, in the underserved villages of Tanzania, and by all those working on herbal justice, access, and herbs for mental health, such as Janet Kent and Dave Meesters.  By Thomas and Terrie Easley’s devotion to what matters most.  And it sometimes creates loops of ever greater excitement and vision, such as how inspired I am to hear when attendees at our events were themselves inspired enough by us to launch their own herbal businesses, activism, clinics, regional events and radical conferences.

And most of all, I am inspired by the plants, inspired by their familiarity and strangeness, known properties and utter mysteries.  Inspired that they affect everyone a little differently, depending on one’s condition and constitution.  Inspired by the fact that Wild Yam stops my gall bladder attacks every single time, even though there is almost nothing we can find in the literature to explain it yet.

Sarah: You call your community a “tribe,” but I thought the word was reserved either for existing indigenous peoples, or else used as as put-down.  We mostly use the expression the Hopi “people” now rather than Hopi “tribe,” for example. What is that makes this group of folks you gather tribal?

Wolf: We’re not an organization in the sense of set institutions, bylaws, or approved membership.  We are too populous and diverse to be a family, as close as we may feel to each other.  We are a tribe, in keeping with its dictionary definition as a recognizable society united by specific traditions, with social loyalties and alliances, a shared nature-inspired and nature-informed culture including associated literature and arts.  Sure, the word has been applied by colonists and conquerors to peoples considered primitive and uncivilized, but that just makes us all the prouder.  Membership is self defined, not determined by superiors.  Those who feel similarly about the earth, plants and healing, who speak a common language of thinking and caring, and who feel drawn to and intimate with our people and purpose, become by their nature and choice an integral part of and contribution to the wilding Plant Healer tribe.

We are a truly diverse tribe of oddkins, individualists as well as communalists, misfits when it comes to the status quo, visionaries and doers, allied in our quests to learn and to assist, bound by our love and our commitments.  And we are part of a larger coalition as well, one rooted in our ancient history of healers, if expressed in greatly different ways.  Plant Healers are allied with numerous forms of natural healing practice, not just with folk herbalism.  

No matter what herbal community any one of us identifies with, we are thrust together by the very fact of our love for plants, appreciation for nature, service to something beyond mere survival, income and comfort… and our compulsion and dedication to our chosen healing processes.

Sarah: Not everyone has access to herbal knowledge, or for one reason or another will ever even try using herbs.  It’s not easy today to stay out of the often harmful medical system, let alone to have an impact on human culture or the environment.  And I can only imagine the challenges to becoming a practicing herbalist considering all there is to deal with.

Jesse Wolf Hardin 2015Wolf: Sure, we need to face the reality of living in trying times of corporate hegemony and social conformity, environmental destruction and citizen resignation or complacency.  We’re in a time when we will have to act to ensure herbal access and justice, and need to do a lot more to protect the plants that heal and protect us.  But we are also living in a place and time of possibilities, of more choices than ever before, and with potentially more information, synthesis, comprehension, and motivations to act on our determinations and follow our paths.  

In spite of all the challenges, obstacles and handicaps, it remains possible to better orient ourselves in the physical world, and to explore our personal gifts, needs, feelings, purpose and direction.  Possible to deepen our awareness and understanding of natural authentic self.  To awaken our bodily senses, learning to better sense the world we are an integral part of.  To recognize more patterns and notice more beauty, to hear more exquisitely, to taste every nuance of our food, to savor even the mundane details of our mortal lives.  To tap our bodily knowing and creature instincts, and sometimes to increase intuition.  To deepen our sense of place… of family, home, land, ecosystem and bioregion.  Further our awareness of and active relationship to the natural, revelatory world.  Recognize the intrinsic nature of and animating force in everything, and every thing’s intrinsic value apart from human use.  Increase our sense of self worth and confidence, based on our true abilities rather than imposed or imagined characteristics and gifts.  Come to better understand our fears, and how to use them as markers for what needs our attention, as fuel to act, to change what needs changing.  Realize that we are a co-creators of not only our reality but our world, and commit to acting accordingly.  Discover how to give back to the earth that provides and inspires.  Learn how to grow from every mistake or misdirection.  Get beyond victimhood.  Detach from unhealthy habits, expectations, judgments, and ways of thinking.  Develop healthy attachments to life, spirit, values and missions.  Make every moment a decisive moment, and take responsibility for what we both do and don’t do.  Reawaken a childlike sense of wonder and connection.  Learn how to best utilize our gifts and skills for the good of ourselves and the world.  Discover how to actively fulfill our individual most meaningful purpose.  Learn to better celebrate and deeper savor….

Sarah: Wow!  Anything else you’d like to add?

Wolf: The need and calling for self-care and community care skills like herbalism has never been greater.  As the price of pharmaceuticals continually goes up and their dangers become ever more evident, and whenever the general economy is shaky, herbal knowledge is again accepted as it was in the days before the advent of “modern” medicine – as essential.  There is a new and rising wave of herbalists of all ages, insistent on learning the old ways and the new twists, treating their families or serving their communities.  It’s that which has us giving nearly all of our time to these projects, the necessity for a “Medicine of The People, By The People, For The People”… and the satisfaction that comes with helping to feed and further this aroused herbal resurgence.

Informed Folk Herbalism is only one piece – albeit a very important one – in what is a larger interweaving of social action, earth stewardship and crucial cultural change. With increased attention to the self-empowering field of herbal healing, we will again and again be making the connection to the necessary, active healing of our wounded hearts and psyches, healing the schism between us and the rest of nature, healing our communities and the damaged earth that we and our herbs together grow from.

This – and so much else – is cause for wild celebration!


You can read the complete interview in the Winter 2015 issue of Plant Healer Magazine, releasing Dec. 7th.  You can subscribe to by going to:

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Nov 222015


A Sneak-Peek at the Largest-Ever Plant Healer Magazine Issue

360 pages of information, inspiration, & a fond look back…

Plant Healer’s quarterly issues are released the first Monday of every month, with your Winter issue being available for download Dec. 7th.  If you aren’t a subscribing member yet, you can be sure of receiving this special Anniversary Edition by going to:

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PHM Sneak Peek Winter2015-72dpi


Advertising in Plant Healer Publications

Advertising space in Plant Healer Magazine and Herbaria Monthly is provided mainly as a service and prices are kept down for the sake of low-income herbalists and businesses that are just starting… costing between 1/2 and 1/10th of what other publications with similar subscriber numbers charge.  For info on reaching tens of thousands of herb lovers through our publications, please download this pdf with its required Insertion Form:

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Submit Your Ideas For Articles

Your experience and perspective are unique, and we want to encourage you to trust you have insights and information that would be of interest and use to others in our community.

We happily consider original, previously unpublished articles for this magazine, and submissions of articles (previously published or not) for Plant Healer’s free Herbaria Monthly  Please download the:

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The deadline for the Spring Issue of Plant Healer Magazine is Jan. 1st.  There are no deadlines for submitting to Herbaria Monthly.


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Nov 152015

Now Available to Order, the New Plant Healer Book:


Herbal Actions & Treatments, Diagnostics, Therapeutics, & Clinical Skills

Edited by Jesse Wolf Hardin & Kiva Rose Hardin

620 pages • 8.5×11” • Over 1,000 Illustrations • $45 B&W Softcover

One of the primary missions of Plant Healer Magazine is to provide the skills and tools required to develop the most effective herbal practice possible.  As a result, this respected publication has attracted contributions of in-depth essays from some of the greatest thinkers in the world of herbal medicine today, 87 of which are pulled directly from the Quarterly for the pages of The Herbal Clinician.  25 different writers/teachers cover a wide range of topics related to seeing clients and treating their ailments botanically.  

Order Now

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Full details Here

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Nov 082015

November Herbaria – Free Ezine for Herbalists

A Sneak Peek:

The free November issue of the Plant Healer’s Herbaria Monthly will be mailed out Nov. 10th.  To be certain of receiving a download link, be certain you are subscribed before then.  Simply go to our Plant Healer website splash-page and fill in your name and email address in the appropriate location on the far left side of the page:

Herbaria Free Herbal Ezine

Herbaria Free Herbal Ezine

November’s issue is 54 color pages in length, and includes:

Introduction to The Herbal Clinician

This issue of Herbaria will introduce our latest Plant Healer compilation book, over 600 pages long with over 1,000 illustrations: The Herbal Clinician, pulled directly from the pages of past Plant Healer Magazine issues.  25 different writers/teachers contribute 87 original pieces, covering a wide range of topics related to seeing clients and treating their ailments botanically.

Jim McDonald & Lorna Issacson

Jim McDonald: Understanding Relaxants

10 pages of fascinating information on herbal relaxants by PHM columnist and TWHC teacher Jim McDonald, excerpted from the new book The Herbal Clinician.  Jim begins by saying:

“The general term “relaxant” is frequently bypassed in favor of referencing specific types of relaxants; people more frequently refer to “antispasmodics” or “nervines.”  However, I feel that the underlying, inherent quality really is best defined simply as relaxant… you look at a person, and ask the general question: “does this person need relaxants, and to what degree?” Then you think about specific applications. We also, when looking at relaxants in a broader sense, forgo distinguishing between physical and mental or emotional tension – assessments first, then move on to specific refinements when choosing your herbs.” 

Melanie Pulla

Melanie Pulla: Herbs, Income, & Art of Receiving

Also excerpted from the new The Herbal Clinician book is a great tip-filled piece by Melanie Pulla for herbalists in business, and those considering starting an herb related enterprise.  She writes that:

“Herbalists are poised to create and grow some of the most visionary businesses imaginable. However, we must first care for our financial needs by addressing our core and limiting beliefs around the generation of income, and implementing the necessary tools that will enable our businesses to thrive. This will allow us to generate deep and powerful roots as herbalists – roots that are capable of nourishing entire communities.” 

Teachers & Attendees at Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, NM

Teachers & Attendees at Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, NM

2016 TWHC Teachers Announced

It was very difficult, but we have confirmed our 2016 conference teachers and classes.  See them announced here first.

Crabapple by Elka

Crabapple by Elka

Elka’s Recipes & Tales: Crabapple

Wonderful Crabapple juice and sauce recipes, and Harvest-time abundance!  Elka explains:

“Crabapples just might be one of our country’s most underused treasures. They don’t always look or taste like much, but they can be a real treat! If you know somebody with what you think might be a Crabapple tree in their yard, don’t be shy! Ask them if you can harvest their Crabapples, and whether they might want a jar of the delicious sauce in exchange!”

Paul Bergner & Tania, Herbalists

Paul Bergner: Praising The Community Herbalist

Some people in the herbal community diss “community herbalism” in comparison to “clinical,” while others like us consider community herbalists as fundamental, and clinical work simply a subset of the many important ways of practicing.  Paul, our PHM flagship columnist, has his own thought-out perspective, and provides here tips for making that practice more effective.  He tell us:

“In 18 years of running clinics in Boulder, I supervised a little more than 3000 cases. In 4 years of running the store in New Haven I figure I had exposure to more than 200,000 opportunities to observe people engaged in changing their health. I met more people, more kinds of people, people of more age groups, and people in more stages of health in the community setting than in the clinical setting. Of course the quality of information from a brief conversation on and floor of a store is different that that obtained in a formal intake or follow-up, but I can say unequivocally that the experience with the public in this setting established a foundation upon which all my further work was built.”

Charles Garcia & Lori Pino

Charles Garcia & Lori Pino

Herbalist Interview: Charles Garcia -Curandero

We love including eclectic, idiosyncratic, politically-incorrect (P.I.) herbalists in the wild mix that is the Plant Healer tribe.  Doc Garcia is one such character, a streetwise ex-cop potty mouth with deep relationship to herbs, a most compassionate heart, and service to the homeless.  Featured in this issue of Herbaria is a poignant excerpt from our lengthy discussion with him, first featured in our book “21st Century Herbalists,” available from the Bookstore page at:

“I go looking for the sick. I bring my goodies in a canvas sack or cheapie backpack and walk the streets like a cheap crack whore looking for a trick. In the old days, the sick came to you or if they could get word to you, off you would ride on your hot-blooded stallion…okay grandpa probably used a mule and later his Model T Ford. Now where they merge is speed. You might be able to make a diagnosis, you might not. Either way you will treat the symptoms first and watch what happens. I carry a portable stove in my bag. I carry some herbs which can cover a large amount of ailments and if I’m lucky, I can give treatment. Sometimes I can go out on the street and find Fennel, Yarrow, wild Chamomile, Ginkgo, certain tree leaves, ornamental Rosemary, etc. If you know where to look, you’re never more than a couple of hundred yards from herbs. With a buck or two I can run down to the nearest mercada and buy an onion, a garlic rose, maybe a squash, and make soup for the sick. In an hour or so I can treat the homeless with the same efficiency as if they came to my home. ‘Work fast heal fast’.” 

For your issue, go to our Plant Healer website splash-page and fill in your name and email address in the appropriate location on the far left side of the page:

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Oct 212015

We are pleased to announce the selection of teachers and classes for our 2016 TWH conference and celebration atop New Mexico’s mind-blowing Sky-Island.

It’s been harder and harder to make selections each year, as we struggle to balance our championing of new voices with our desire to bring back a core group of vital teachers that just keeps growing.  And hard it is to tell dozens of hopeful folks with great proposals that we cannot fit them in.  Even with 5 classes per slot, the spaces quickly fill up, with applications us receiving teacher application 1 to 2 years before each TWHC.

As always, we sought a balance of topics as well as personalities, with emphasis on their uniqueness as well as usability.  As usual, none of the 52 classes will be less than 1.5 hours in length, with the ticket price covering 14 in-depth 3 hour long intensives.  A full list of teachers can be found on the poster below, including the returning Paul Bergner.  Welcome back, Pablo.

Advance Tickets will go on sale Dec. 1st, a full $100 discount off of the Sept. price.

Imagine classes on bioregional herbalism, setting up a free clinic, doing effective intakes, plant identification, making potions, reading pulse, medical cannabis, herbs for Trans folks, dealing with Lyme’s disease, herbal activism and plant conservation, herbal cocktails for medicine and pleasure, and and and….

The complete 2016 Class titles will be announced in the November issue of Herbaria ezine, which you can subscribe to for free at:

2016 TWHC Poster-72dpi

Finally, the 2015 TWHC Class Essays Ebook is now available for sale to all, and can be found on the newly revised Bookstore page at:

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Oct 062015

October 12th is the release date for the first issue of Vol. VI of the remade Herbaria Ezine, an over 50 pages-long monthly supplement to the nearly 300 pages-long quarterly Plant Healer Magazines, providing content even to those unable to afford needed educational materials!  Issues feature abridged articles from the magazine and contributions by you – our empowered herbalist community.  First for you to see, is the new Herbaria masthead for 2016… we hope you like it.

Herbaria Free Herbal Ezine

Herbaria Free Herbal Ezine

And below you’ll find a sneak peek at this month’s Herbaria articles.

To be sure to receive the link to download your color pdf, enter your name and email address in the appropriate place at the left of the page on our website:


Herbaria’s October Contents:

Introducing The 2015 TWHC Class Essays

Providing a first look at the new Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference “Class Essays Ebook” – over 400 color pages of full length essay articles give away free to TWHC attendees, and this month being released for sale to the general public through the Bookstore page of the Plant Healer website.

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Kiva Rose Hardin: The Rosaceae 

An excerpt from Kiva’s extensive article from the 2015 Class Essays Ebook, on the medicinal properties and uses of various Rose family plants, in this section focused on common and wild Roses (Sweetbriar) –– including properties of the rose such as a relaxant nervine and liver relaxant, blood mover, anti-inflammatory, hyperimmunity, anti-infective and hemostatic, and its uses treating insect bites, abrasions, burns, and cellulitis.  She also shares with us here the recipes for her much loved “Rose Winter Tea” and special “Heart of Guadalupe” elixir.

Cannabis Medicine

Ramona Rubin: Cannabis Medicine Synergy

Ramona gifts us with a second excerpt from the new 2015 TWHC Class Essays Ebook
Resources for Herbalists, this time focused on medicinal Cannabis for use by herbalists.  She does an excellent job of covering historic context and prejudices, cannabinoid research, safe usage and dosage considerations, topical uses and drug interactions.  She writes:

“Until such a time that broad and systemic changes come to our medical system, herbalists and other holistic health practitioners have work to do on the front-lines, engaging patients in conversations about their Cannabis use and how to optimize it. When such healers and health advocates come from an informed, caring, non-judgemental place, they can support the patient to work with this “teacher plant” in ever more respectful and intentional ways, with clear objectivity and reflection. As we move towards decriminalization and reduced barriers to care these changes will extend onward to doctors’ attitudes towards medicinal and recreational Cannabis use.”

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Elka’s Recipes: Making Use of Acorns

In keeping with the Autumn wildcrafting season, Elka wrote for you a detailed article about utilizing the nuts of various Oaks: making Acorn flour, Acorn/Fir Tea, and yummy Acorn Mochi Cakes.

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Herbalist Interview: Matthew Wood

Matthew Wood is a true wise elder of the folk herbal tribe.  His early clinical books remain essential reading for plant healers, and each of his quarterly columns in Plant Healer Magazine are greatly anticipated.  Here we include a short excerpt from our conversation with Matt in our book “21st Century Herbalists,” providing inspiration and example for us all.  As he says:

“I feel that my generation did its job.  We discovered that herbalism worked, we rediscovered the lost art of Western herbalism, and we defended our rights.  But there are also a lot of prickly egos in the ranks of herbalism and it is not possible for my generation to critique ourselves or compare and integrate our own discoveries. So we leave it to the younger generation to flush out and integrate, test and prove, and add plenty of new things.  Cite us for our discoveries, and then make your own.  Have fun, enjoy! Teaching at Plant Healer events, I truly felt the torch being handed on.”

Stories & Photos: The 2015 TWH Conference

It has long been said that Plant Healer events are like none others, and last month’s 2015 conference and celebration was by almost everyone’s estimate the best TWHC ever!  It was as if all who came understood and were in tune with a resurgence not only in folk herbalism, but a resurgence in themselves that has ramifications for all they are and all they’ll do.  In our pseudo-official way, we proclaimed everyone present as Certified Wonderful, forever free to put these letters after their names in all correspondence: SEC, KWMM, PHF, BAH – Self-Empowered Caregivers, Kitchen Witch Medicine Makers, Plant-Hearted Fanatics, and all around BadAss Herbalists.  I can’t tell you how many people came up to us to say how the gathering reminded them “of why I do what I do, the original reasons for getting into herbalism”…. which wasn’t acceptance by the dominant medical paradigm, it was following our hearts and addressing a need.  It wasn’t about income, no matter how much we need to make a living, it was the possibility of a different way of life.  It was, we were told by person after person, about making our lives into gifts.  It was about caring and loving.  It was about the plants.

It is our privilege to present for you in the October Herbaria a selection of photos by ourselves and attendees, along with some of their stories, to share with you the feel of this TWHC’s empowering studies, sweet camaraderie, revitalized inspiration, and wild celebration.


Once subscribed, you can look for a download link to this issue in an email on Oct 12th.  Enjoy!

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Aug 302015

A Sneak-Peek at the Nearly 300 pages-long
of Plant Healer Magazine

Plant Healer’s quarterly issues are released the first Monday of every month,
with your Autumnal issue being available for download
Sept. 7th

To receive this issue when it comes out, make sure you are subscribed prior to the 7th, by going to:

Plant Healer Magazine Fall 2015

Along with our usual plant profiles and clinical skills, you’ll find this time a number of articles telling the fascinating history of herbs and herbalism, by Todd Caldecott, Thomas Easley, Lisa Ferguson and myself. Dave Meesters returns with a piece on radical vitalism coauthored with his partner Janet Kent, and we are running excerpts from our new “Wild Medicine, Wild Cuisine” book by Rosalee de la Foret, Elka, and Kiva Rose. For this issue’s interview, we bring you a compelling conversation with Boston based herbalist teacher and valued Plant Healer Magazine contributor Katja Swift.

For the first time we present the important new PHM column about competently treating animals with herbs:
“Animal Medicine – Herbal Healing for The More Than Human World”
by the caring, knowledgable, and experienced Cat Lane. It is time to give more attention to properly tending these amazing beings who hurt like we do, and who bring such great joy to their human companions. Please join me in giving a big welcome to Cat!

Sylvia Linsteadt provides our younger readers with a conclusion to her Herbalist Rabbit series, and we encourage you to suggest writers who might be able to create fun and educational herbal articles for our kid’s section in the future.

In keeping with Plant Healer’s “herbalism at the edge” approach, we have been increasingly hosting conference classes and featuring articles on the topic of medicinal Cannabis. As Kiva points out, it has too often either been denigrated and vilified or else trumpeted as a cure-all by true believers. The truth is that Cannabis has many positive medicinal effects whether smoked, vaporized, or used topically, and that there are also health concerns for at least some of those who constantly imbibe. Integral Plant Healer columnist Paul Bergner writes that:

“The battle-cry for legalization for many decades now has been “It’s safer than alcohol.” This is undoubtedly true, and it is also safer than Valium for insomnia, than opiates or NSAID for pain, and is effective for some people when pharmaceutical alternatives are not. But these are arguments for decriminalization, not arguments to fully inform patients and providers to the risks of daily heavy Cannabis use relative to its benefits. Practitioners working with patients who are heavy Cannabis users should be educated about the likely presentation of side effects and symptoms of withdrawal and dependence.”

In this same issue, practitioner and proponent Ramona Rubin writes about safe internal and topical uses of medicinal Cannabis, explaining that:

“My goal involves returning Cannabis to a well-informed place in the herbal pharmacopoeia. I see an emerging need for herbalists as educators and partners in the medical Cannabis field. As greater numbers of people learn about Cannabis for healing, and more research comes out about the positive effects for various conditions, people have questions, and herbalists are natural choices for knowledgeable plant healing advice. I hope this can be a starting place for a new generation of herbalists that can begin to sort through the emerging health research and strain development to assist patients find the optimal safe medicine at an optimal dose.”

As always, you can look forward to impressive pieces written by Plant Healer stalwarts Matthew Wood, Phyllis Light, Dara Saville, Sam Coffman, 7Song, Sabrina Lutes, and Julia Blankespoor. Returning herbalist author Wendy Hounsel offers some incredibly clear and useful information about some of the most common and important lab tests and values from the “2015 TWHC Class Essays” Ebook releasing in October, and awesome new columnist Guido Masé talks about integrating herbs into hospital settings while describing his latest fascinating trip to help the people of Tanzania, Africa. Methinks you’ll enjoy!


Sneak Peek Fall2015-72dpi


Advertising in Plant Healer Publications

Advertising space in Plant Healer Magazine and Herbaria Newsletter is provided mainly as a service and prices are kept down for the sake of low-income herbalists and businesses that are just starting… costing between 1/2 and 1/10th of what other publications with similar subscriber numbers charge. For info on advertising in the magazine and newsletter,
download this pdf with its required Insertion Form:
PH Advertising Info


Herbs on Vintage Scale


Submit Your Ideas For Articles

Your experience and perspective are unique, and we want to encourage you to trust you have insights and information that would be of interest and use to others in our community.
We happily consider original, previously unpublished articles for this magazine,
and submissions of articles (previously published or not) for
Plant Healer’s free Herbaria Newsletter and its thousands of readers. Please download the:
Submission Guidelines

The deadline for the Winter Issue of Plant Healer Magazine is October 1st. There is no deadline for submitting to Herbaria Newsletter.


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Aug 172015

Now Available:


Modern Wildcrafting of Food & Herbs

Just Released!: 76 Essays on the contemporary art of wildcrafting medicinal and edible plants,blending materia medica & moving inspiration – including: 62 in-depth Plant Profiles (materia medica), with suggestions for how to harvest, cook, or make medicine out of each.

528 pages 8.5×11 – Over 1500 Illustrations – Available From The Bookstore Page at:


Wild Medicine, Wild Cuisine -

Plant Healer is thrilled to present for your pleasure and education an awesome collection of wildcrafting essays by 28 of the most articulate and informed American wildcrafters of this century, pulled directly from the pages of Plant Healer Magazine.  Learn about using wild plants for medicine and food from the empowering teachers, committed herbalists, sensory-filled cooks, caring conservationists and heartful wildcrafters helping to fuel the new paradigm of nature-connectedness and emerging culture of healing:

Phyllis Light • Dara Saville • Wendy Petty • Juliet Blankespoor • Samuel Thayer • Sam Coffman • Robin Rose Bennett • Elka • Rosalee de la Forêt • Erin Piorier • Christa Sinadinos • Charles “Doc” Garcia • Reneé Davis • Rebecca Altman • Henriette Kress • 7Song • John Slattery • Sophia Rose • Leaf • Corinne Boyer • Sean Donahue • Sabrina Lutes • Jared Rosenbaum • Rebecca Lerner • Susan Leopold • Tracy Picard • Kiva Rose & Jesse Wolf Hardin

Rhiannon gathering amaranth at Anima Sanctuary, NM

Rhiannon gathering amaranth at Anima Sanctuary, NM

More and more people are buying herbs to treat their problems before resorting to seeing an MD for a pharmaceutical prescription.  A large number recognize the degree to which medicinal herbs and natural foods can contribute to our health, well being, and enjoyment of the feast and challenge of life.  And a smaller but growing number of us realize that wild plants can be some of the strongest medicines, as well as contribute to some of the healthiest and tastiest meals.

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Unexpected Benefits

There are more and deeper benefits to wildcrafting than simply finding high potency herbs or free and healthy food, including the effect of wildcrafting on us personally, on how we feel, and how we see the world.  When wildcrafting, we are of necessity more aware, sniffing the air for signature scents, tasting flowers we find and the tips of new fir needles, scanning for the shapes and silhouettes of species we might hope to discover.  In the process, we develop an increased intimacy with our own natural senses and abilities as well as with the natural world we are all inseparable members and components of.  Before we have consumed a single bite or single dropper-full of our wild environs, we are immersed like seldom before in the features and flux of the elemental world, enriched by the experience of existing for however many awakened moments as a seeker and hunter, gatherer and guardian, participant in and celebrant of wildness again.

Slavic mushroom gatherer art

Wild Sustenance, Wild Tonic

Plant Healer Magazine contributors are as wildly diverse, robust, and impactful as the species they write about, each creating pieces that reflect their personal knowledge, experience, attitude and approach.  From systematic clinicians to an intemperate street medic, each adds to the potion and flavor.  The resulting collection constitutes a healing formula… and a substantive meal.  Learn, practice, tend, feast, and enjoy!

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 Order from the Bookstore Page at:


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Aug 102015

Free August Issue for Herbalists:


The free August issue of the Plant Healer’s Herbaria Newsletter will be mailed out Monday, Aug 17th.  To be certain of receiving a download link, be sure you subscribe before then

Simply go to our website and fill in your name and email address in the appropriate location on the far left side of the page:

This month’s issue features the following:

Kiva Rose: Growing Our Roots

In hopes of encouraging the folk herbal resurgence in the Southwest and local involvement with our September TWH celebration, Kiva put together a great article about our herbal heritage for New Mexico’s arts and culture magazine “Desert Exposure.”  But it is far too inspiring to only be seen regionally, so I have also included it in your August issue Herbaria.  As Kiva tells us there:

The wisdom of healing runs through every bloodline and our inborn relationship with the plant world informs us at the most cellular level. Every grandmother who tells the little ones at her knee the stories of ‘Seng hunting in the old days and teaches them the magic of rose petals infused in whiskey strengthens the web of our herbcraft just as every little boy singing secret songs to the trees and sharing wildcrafted watercress with his family brings new life to it. We are gathering, not just at the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference but all around the world, like-hearted Plant Healers and plant celebrants.  We link up as we awaken, from the backwoods of Maine to the back lots of Los Angeles, from the misty Northwest to the peaks of New Mexico… and from the treasured past to the unfolding future.  Our herbalists’ web is homespun and weathered, but it is also strong from the hands of a thousand generations weaving and reweaving, infusing it with wisdom, song, blood, and the wild insistence of weeds.  We are growing and advancing our traditions, together, from their roots.”

roots of trees 72dpi

Introduction to The Upcoming Plant Healer Book: “Wild Medicine, Wild Cuisine”

August 17th is the upcoming release date for our latest book for herb users and practitioners, pulled directly from the pages of early issues of Plant Healer Magazine.  The focus this time is on the contemporary wildcrafting of medicinal and edible plants, 523 pages of information and illustration by many of the leading herbalist teachers of our day.

“More and more people are buying herbs to treat their problems before resorting to seeing an MD for a pharmaceutical prescription.  A large number recognize the degree to which medicinal herbs and natural foods can contribute to our health, well being, and enjoyment of the feast and challenge of life.  And a smaller but growing number of us realize that wild plants can be some of the strongest medicines, as well as contribute to some of the healthiest and tastiest meals.”


Urban HunterGatherers

Wendy Petty: Suburban Zip Code, Wild Heart

Our 1st excerpt from “Wild Medicine, Wild Cuisine” comes from our friend and forager Wendy “Butter” Petty, wherein she makes clear that:

“It is a misconception that one can only be a proper wildcrafter while living deep in secluded wilderness. By night, I lay my head down in the pink glow of the city; by day, I am fanned by urban buzz. I am no less a forager, nor less wild at heart.  My greatest resources in the suburban landscape are the abundant plant species growing in irrigation ditches, the “weeds” that populate vacant lots, the stray greens that set up home in fallow fields, oddball ornamentals, and the fruiting tree limbs that overhang fences. These plants, particularly the native herbs which by necessity of living in a city that views them as pests, are lovely and tough abuelas. And the dry heat of makes for surprisingly sweet fruit and potent plant medicine. These plants are just as special as the ones adorning the slopes of the Rockies, and my relationship to their magic is unchanged. What is wild lies at the core, and is essential to the planet and plants, no matter if a city happens to be sitting atop it. The vital force of Nature is bigger and stronger than buildings and laws; cities are just a change of clothes upon our sweet Earth.”  


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Traci Picard: Foraging Medicine

Our 2nd excerpt from “Wild Medicine, Wild Cuisine”, herbalist and activist Traci Picard brings us a celebration of foraging and tips for ethical wildcrafting, wherein she makes the point that:

“Foraging is healing. We cultivate gratitude more easily, more deeply when we meet our food in nature, as compared to pulverized, pasteurized, fortified and wrapped up at bigboxmart. The mask is removed. It brings great pleasure and a deep satisfaction, as if hitting the proverbial g-spot of our primal soul. It is like scratching an infinite itch. We climbed out from the primordial ooze and immediately began the pack-bonding hunt for food. No one had to teach us how to look for foods because it is a natural instinct- the fulfillment of which our modern society literally blocks. Foraging stimulates creativity, promotes good circulation and encourages healthy elimination. Maitake hunting keeps our elders’ minds sharper than bingo and crossword puzzles. Learning to find and identify plants in the woods serves our children’s needs better than making endless cut-and-paste pilgrim- turkey tableaus. Foraging provides exercise. Foraging sharpens the mind, sight and memory. Foraging gives us time and space for processing, thinking, forging bonds. We learn to know and trust our instincts. It is a powerful medicine indeed!”


Robin Rose Bennett: Herbal Magic Part II

In Part II, Robin – an herbalist in the Wise Woman tradition – discusses herbal oils and ointments, herbal baths, and tree magic according to various historic practices and contemporary cultures.  In a section on White Pine, for example, she tells us:

“Tree magic, the easiest thing to do is sit or stand with the tree and let your imagination flow. You may not know how to identify trees. I hope this will inspire you to learn their names, or at least to look more closely and appreciatively at those trees that live around you. Listen to what the tree is telling you. Ask it for what you need. You could do some writing or drawing as a form of trance-work, perhaps working with a question like, “What can bring more peace into our home? What is keeping me from feeling at peace? Is there something that I can do to help?” Let the white pine of peace stimulate your inner peace, and help you to be and bring peace into the world around you. The tea is helpful for calm, deep breathing, which is known to help you properly focus and release or direct your anger.”


Toddler Noah Gathering Herbs

Amy Jean Smith: Little Noah’s First Herbal Harvest!

Amy sent us photos of her young son’s excited first herb harvest and medicine making for a 2014 issue of Plant Healer Magazine, and I couldn’t resist sharing these delightful images with our many Herbaria readers as well.  Amy Jean writes:

“Thank you for sharing this magical experience with us.  We hope you are inspired to cultivate and care for plants and create herbal medicine with even the very youngest members of your family.  It’s not every day that a 2 ½ year old gets to grow, harvest and make his or her own plant medicine so I thought I might just share a bit of Montessori knowledge that can be helpful in empowering even the youngest children to care for themselves and the natural world around them. Our joy and delight in the magic of the natural world and the realm of plant medicine is a beautiful inspiration to our little ones and those other little ones around us.  It is deepened and takes root when we slow down and gently and gracefully offer them the gift of helping them learn to care for the pants first and then to make plant medicines themselves.


Elka: Deconstructed Stir-Fry with Wild Fennel Flowers, Parsnips & Lamb’s Quarters

Elka, Plant Healer’s resident food-magician brings you another tasty recipe from her woodstove-hearted kitchen.  As she explains:

“This time I decided to do things differently and cook the parsnips, onions, and fennel in a single pan, simply boil the lamb’s quarters in a pot, and then serve any meat on the side. Wild venison had already been simmered on the woodstove all day, with molasses, mustard, barbecue sauce, onions and cranberries. But a simple dredging of sage or thyme and cornmeal and a quick fry in bacon fat or butter would work great as well, as an accompanying dish, if the cut is tender enough. Or if you’re vegetarian or vegan, just have some eggs or tempeh on the side, any way you like!”


Herbalist Asia Suler

Herbalist Interview #1: Asia Suler & Sean Donahue

We continue with our series of interviews featuring inspiring herbalists, bringing to light their plant medicine knowledge as well as personal stories that can help us navigate our own personal healing paths.  For August we present my conversation with two allied practitioners, both of whom contribute to Plant Healer Magazine and  teach at TWHC:  Sean Donahue and Asia Suler. One of the questions I asked was “What’s the most liberatory, wholistic, beautiful, meaningful, healthful future you can envision for the herbal community? ,” to which Sean replied:

“I see an herbal community where phytochemists and Hoodoo root doctors and Latina curendaras and western herbalists and plant magicians share knowledge and discoveries, recognizing that we are working with the same medicine even if we are using different languages and metaphors and frames. I see people paying careful attention to the health of plant communities, and harvesting only what they need, whether or not a plant is on a list of endangered or threatened species  (though I greatly appreciate what United Plant Savers does to identify the most at risk plants.)   And I see people developing practices grounded in work with the medicine that grows around them.  Plant Healer and the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference are already doing a tremendous amount to make this vision a reality.    And I think we can each contribute to it by teaching and practicing and living in ways that honor and respond to the living communities, human and ecological, that we are part of.   Connecting with plants reminds me that the world is alive and makes me fall in love with its beauty over and over again.”

Asia tells us:

” [I can envision] an earth community where everybody is an herbalist, because everybody recognizes their innate connection to the green and growing beings around them. I see, and feel, and call into being a community that is no longer defined by species, but celebrated as a diverse and co-creative family. A community that values the mutidimensional healing of all beings and ultimately recognizes that true healing comes from within. Herbalism, like any discipline with a name or definition, is just a bridge back to the truth: the knowledge everything is alive and important and that all we truly need to heal is to remember the truth of our being.”



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Herbalist Interview #2: Jim McDonald

Jim McDonald is a Michigan based herbalist with an excellent mind for the particulars of plant healing, and a gift for communicating it in ways anyone can understand.  It has been our pleasure to promote his work and raise his visibility over the years, increasing the number of herbal students who benefit from his knowledge and insight.  Jim is a featured presenter at this September’s Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, a Plant Healer Magazine columnist, and instructor both in his home state of Michigan and at selected national events.  Among his other tales and tips, Jim speaks to us in Herbaria about what it means to “qualify” as an herbalist:

Like Plant Healer, I’m pretty populist in my approach to herbalism.  I want all the people who “want to be an herbalist” to just be one.  No one needs to tell you what, that, or who you are.  No one’s blessing is required.  All you need to do it is to connect with the plants and learn how you can use them to responsibly help the people around you.  Do that, and you’re an herbalist.  There’s no need to compare yourself to others, or live up to any standard that’s not your own.  Let it be your life, let it be your art, your expression.  Be honest, be humble, respect your limitations, and honor your strengths.”


Hooker's Evening Primrose, blooming alongside a rewilded San Francisco River, SW New Mexico.

Hooker’s Evening Primrose, blooming alongside a rewilded San Francisco River, SW New Mexico.

Still Spreading Like Weeds

 Herbaria subscriptions are now reaching many thousands readers with its free content.  Unlike with Plant Healer Magazine, which goes out primarily to committed herbal students and practicing herbalists, subscribers to the newsletter and blog include crossover folks just getting into herbalism, or with natural healing as a side interest.  It feels like one way to spread this mission of healing and love – this weedy revolution!

Advertise Inexpensively

Display ads in Herbaria Newsletter are priced low enough to be affordable to folks launching new herbal related projects.  Space in our pages is intended for the common folk, small operations and family businesses… large corporations would need to explain why they deserve to be an exception. :) You can download the combined magazine and newsletter advertising pdf here:

Advertising Info

Share Your Knowledge, Submit Your Stories

You don’t have to be a professional writer in order to have something worthwhile to share with others.  And unlike with PH Magazine, it’s ok f your writings have been printed or posted before, so long as they haven’t been too widely distributed before.  Therapeutics, herb profiles, medicine making recipes, tips for practicing, clinical skills, conservation and gardening.   If you’d be interested, please download the:

Submission Guidelines



 Wild green blessings to you allKiva & Wolf

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Aug 022015

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Free 300 Page Ebook for Western Herbalists

Many of you will be excited to hear we’re putting together a nearly 300 pages-long color Ebook, featuring lengthy and informative Class Essays from 25 of the awesome teachers presenting this year’s Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference.  The fully illustrated 2015 Class Essays Book (valued at: $29) will be given absolutely FREE to all TWHC attendees, Sept. 17-20 atop New Mexico’s Sky-Island.  And come October it will be listed for sale to the rest of you who for whatever reason were unable to attend our classes and celebration.  Other events may provide some class notes and outlines, but we are the only conference to produce a full length book packed with the teachers’ wisdom and tips.

Below is a sneak peek at the massive 2015 Class Essays Ebook, and you can register or find out more information about attending TWHC by clicking on:


      The Herbal Clinic: Questions & Considerations For Setting Up a Functioning Clinic

Rebecca Altman & Shana Lipner Grover

      S.W. Plants, S.W. Constitutions: The Influence of Place on Conditions & Treatment

Juliet Blankespoor

      Medicinal Trees & Shrubs

      Photographing Herbs

Larken Bunce

      Tongue Assessment for Western Herbalists

Julie Caldwell

      How to Use Your Herbal Practice to Grow Health Community

Sam Coffman

      Wound Healing, Infection & Plant Medicine

      The Herbal Street Medic

Sean Donahue

      Neurodiversity: Human & Wild

      Phytochemical Conversations

Lisa Ganora

      How to Taste and Feel The Power of an Herb

Charles “Doc” Garcia

      Reflections on The Poison Path

Kiki Geary

      Stardust Goes Dancing: The Fire Element for Western Herbalists

      Mushroom Medicine

Shana Lipner Grover

      Michael Moore’s Constitutional Physiology

      The Multi Faceted Nature of Ceanothus

Emily Han

      Herbal Cocktails, Fermented Drinks, Bitters, Infusion & More

Jesse Wolf Hardin

      The Wild Herbalist: 

Kiva Rose Hardin

      Rose Family Medicine

Wendy Hounsel

      Lab Values for Herbalists

      Cervical Dysplasia & Abnormal Pap Tests: Treating Them Naturally

Julie James:

     Urban Wildcrafting

Guido Masé

     The Cardiovascular Exam

      Plant Saponins

      Healing & Magic From The Dolomite Alps

Jim McDonald

      Understanding Sympathetic Stress: Fight, Light, Freak, & Freeze

      Tending The Choleric Fire

Ramona Rubin

       The Role of Cannabis in The Herbal Healing Tradition 

Dara Saville

      The Joys of Being a Bioregional Herbalist

      Yerba Mansa

John Slattery

      Wild Edible Plants of The Sonoran Desert

      The Marvels of The Malvaceae Family 

Jen Stovall

      Herbalism as a Tool For Social Justice

Asia Suler

      The Medicine of The Land

Katja Swift

      Birth Control & Post Abortion: When & How Herbs Can Help

      ADD & Aspergers: A New Perspective

For tickets to the 2015 TWHC, go to:

For more book titles especially for herbal students and practitioners, go to the Bookstore page at:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Jul 312015

The journey to the upcoming Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference & Celebration is one of the most amazing drives in the American Southwest, starting in the colorful desert elevations and winding upwards through oak and piñon covered hills, dramatic rock filled canyons, and into the lush aspen and fir forests at cloud height.  The plant life in these Sacramento Mountains is diverse and wondrous, with both plentiful and rare species of medicinal interest.  Both Phyllis Hogan and 7Song will be leading lovely plant identification walks at the event, and my partner Kiva Rose offers below a short overview of some of the herbs you can expect to find there. For more information about this year’s TWH conference or to register, go to:



Warming Herbs from High Places: 4 Upper Elevation Forest Herbs of the Sacramento & Guadalupe Mountains

by Kiva Rose Hardin

The plants I’ve chosen to write about here are not necessarily the most common, well known, or widespread. I’ve chosen them based on their medicinal value, and my personal experience with them. All four of them are exceptionally healing herbs with a long history of use in traditional medicine. They also all happen to be rather warming, and are perfect to study, harvest, and prepare for the cold moons ahead. 

In some cases, as with Oshá, I am specifically writing about them because I know they tend to entice herbalists and I want to provide a realistic look at the ethics of harvesting the plant as well as talk about a potential replacement in some situations. With both Angelica and Oshá, I want to stress the importance of having a solid knowledge of field botany and the ability to positively ID a plant from a field guide (preferably a dichotomous key) before even attempting to harvest either plant because of the danger of mistaking them for potentially toxic lookalikes.

If you attend the TWHC, please use your common sense, respect, and ethics when you harvest ANY local plants. As with many high elevation ecologies of the American Southwest, the Sacramento and Guadalupe Mountains contain many sensitive and endemic species. Be sure to positively identify (preferably with a dichotomous key such as Flora Neomexicana) any plants down to at least species level, and that you are harvesting in a sustainable manner! If in doubt, don’t harvest. 


Abies concolor – White Fir

Ecology & Abundance: An ornamental in many parts of the country, White Fir is native to the America West, including the mountains of New Mexico. All of the species within the Abies genus that I have worked with have very similar properties so if you find other Firs nearby they’re very likely to act and taste in the way I describe here. 

I especially like working with trees so that I can carefully harvest without doing any notable damage to the plant or population. In the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, White Fir tends to be an understory tree in mixed conifer forest, usually growing underneath much larger tree likes Douglas Fir or various Spruces. 

Medicinal Traits & Actions: Like many conifers, White Fir is a stimulating expectorant that can help facilitate the clearing of respiratory bogginess and stagnation. Unlike some conifers, White Fir is tasty and gentle and less likely to cause aggravation of heat signs. The sap and resin of this Abies species is one of the sweetest and most appealingly aromatic of all the conifers I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. 

I like to work with this plant when I’m seeing any sort of chronic lung issue that’s resulting in a wet cough, inability to actually cough up the fluids, and general feelings of coldness, lethargy, and weakness. I find that it works particularly well in combination Aralia spp., Sambucus spp., and Inula. Oshá, Lovage, or Angelica can be added in cases where cold signs are especially pronounced, or if the signs are more mixed and include respiratory tension, then Lobelia and Cherry or Peach are more indicated.

Additional Thoughts or Notes: White Fir is also a great addition to many foods, whether savory sweet. Infused into vinegar, oil, butter, syrup (simple syrup or maple syrup), honey, salt, or just chopped finely and added when desired. It has something in common with Rosemary but is much less sharp, and also has a delicate citrus flavor. Too much will taste bitter, but used in moderation almost everyone enjoys the the aromatic tang, I even think it makes a great homemade ice cream flavor! 

Actaea rubra fruit

Actaea rubra – Mountain Cohosh/Sweet Medicine

Ecology & Abundance: A widespread plant throughout much of the United States, it prefers high elevation mixed conifer forests in the mountains of the Southwest. While certainly not weedy in its distribution, it is a hardy plant and can survive floods, logging, forest fires, and more. It often grows on wooded slopes, but can also be found in shady arroyos, and sometimes even in heavily logged areas.

Medicinal Traits & Actions: Actaea rubra essentially shares all the well known medicinal traits of its close (and much more popular) relative, Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa), only it’s far more widespread and adaptable. It’s specifically useful for cold signs in the reproductive system, such as achy, crampy pains in the uterus. It’s also more generally helpful wherever there are cold signs accompanied by overall joint pain and body achiness. It’s a warming, sweet and acrid herb, so you want to use it where movement is needed and there are little to no excess heat signs. It’s not necessarily the right herb to use on its own for stabbing, sharp menstrual cramps with a red tongue and flushed skin. Look more for paleness, fatigue, and achiness. I find this herb to be incredibly helpful in cases of liver deficiency and vacuity, with symptoms of delayed or scant menstruation, lethargy, sensations of coldness, and digestive sluggishness and stagnation.

Additional Thoughts or Notes: When used where not indicated, Actaea species can cause a frontal headache and possibly a generally hungover and overheated sensation that’s very unpleasant. Should you feel that Actaea is indicated for a person demonstrating heat signs, moderate it’s warming, moving tendencies with more appropriate herbs in a formula. This is a very blood moving herb, and like most in that category, is not appropriate for pregnancy.

Black River - Ligusticum porteri flowers4Angelica ampla – Giant Angelica

Ecology & Abundance: Angelica is not uncommon in the American West, but certain species can be much rarer than others. Angelica ampla is considered to be endemic to the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico. This species of Angelica prefers high elevation wetlands

Like Ligusticum, Angelica is a member of the Apiaceae family, and can be mistaken by the inexperienced for a number of other, toxic species. Know your field botany, and only harvest when you have confirmed identification beyond a shadow of a doubt. Yes, I said beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

Medicinal Traits & Actions: Seeds and roots are both very useful, the seeds being milder and more palatable to most folks. Angelica is probably best known as an aromatic bitter used to calm and move stagnant, cold digestion. It is indeed very useful this way, and I frequently combine a bit of Angelica or one of its close relatives when giving cold alkaloidal bitters like Berberis or a cathartic like Iris to help prevent cramping or excess coldness where there are existing cold signs or a colder constitution. 

In addition, Angelica is a stimulating diaphoretic, especially the seeds, and very useful in stimulating the immune system at the first signs of viral onset in someone with chills and little sweating, along with other cold signs. Likewise, Angelica is a diuretic and the seeds are a traditional treatment for gout. Personally I only use Angelica in very specific chronic cases of gout where the person has clear cold signs, suppressed urine, and no acute inflammation. 

Look for cold and stagnation, such as boggy lung conditions, suppressed/scant menstruation, lack of sweating and cold sensations during viral onset, chronic constipation and flatulence, or achy pains.

Additional Thoughts or Notes: Not recommended during pregnancy, for those already exhibiting heat signs, or in large doses for those with existing overstimulated digestion. If in doubt, using something gentler and more general, like Yerba Buena or Chamomile.

Black River - Ligusticum porteri flowers4

Ligusticum porteri – Oshá

Ecology & Abundance: Oshá is sometimes considered at risk, especially at the edge of its range here in southern New Mexico. It can be very locally abundant, but given the plant’s popularity (okay, fine, cult status) and the tendency for individuals, schools, and companies to dig it out with wild abandon, I strongly suggest moderation and caution when harvesting. 

Medicinal Traits & Actions: Oshá shares much in common with Angelica, including its actions as a stimulating diaphoretic, immune stimulant, respiratory stimulant, and stimulating expectorant, and warming aromatic bitter for stagnant digestion. However, it seems more generally appropriate in nearly all respiratory infections or respiratory centered viral onset, with signs of sore throat, yellow phlegm, difficulty expectorating, and often a spasmodic but unproductive cough.

Note that while Oshá is generally seen as a lung herb, it’s far more multifaceted than it’s often given credit for, and can also be used in sinus infections, for the achy joints that often accompany influenza, treating acute allergies, water retention, and even for altitude sickness. Even tiny amounts of the root or any preparation of the plant can dramatically help the headache, dizziness, and other symptoms of altitude sickness, especially if ingestion is started before symptoms become acute. 

Oshá is great as a tincture, elixir, infused in honey, and any number of other preparations, but I do prefer to give small amounts of the fresh or dried to root to be sucked on slowly whenever the person is willing to deal with the taste of what my late teacher, Southwestern herbalist Michael Moore, termed “celery from hell”. It combines very well with herbs such as Aralia and Elderberry which can both potentiate the Oshá and make it go further while still retaining its effectiveness. 

Additional Thoughts or Notes: Do note that Oshá is frequently mistaken for other members of the Apiaceae family, including some very toxic genera. You must be 100% sure of your ID to harvest with this plant. Another potential concern is that other roots can become entangled with that of Ligusticum’s during growth and it can be difficult to differentiate between them. Trace every root from the plant to ensure that you don’t accidentally add Aconite root to your Oshá infused honey in a potentially deadly mistake.

Ligusticum leaves are quite tasty, and I love them in all sorts of stews and with wild game. Like Lovage leaves, not every cares for it, so start with a light hand until you get used to its unique flavor. Seeds and flowers are also both flavorful and medicinal. 

While not exactly an analogue, Lovage root has many actions and traits comparable with Oshá’s, and should be considered as an easy to grow replacement for many of Oshá’s milder and most commonly desired medicinal actions, including as an aromatic (and thus having an antibacterial action on the respiratory tissues) and warming expectorant. 

Ligusticum is a blood moving herb and not appropriate during pregnancy.

Resources & References

Western Herbs in Chinese Medicine: Methodology & Materia Medica by Thomas Avery Garran

Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Practitioner’s Guide by Thomas Avery Garran

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore

Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

The Herbal Medic by Sam Coffman

Writings by and Personal Correspondence with 7Song

Writings by and Personal Correspondence with Jim McDonald

(RePost and Share Freely – with credit and web address please)

Enchanted SIte page poster

For more information about this year’s TWH conference or to register, go to:

Jul 262015

Excitement continues to grow for the upcoming Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference & Celebration, over 50 in-depth classes for the students and enthusiasts of herbal medicine – Sept 17th through the 20th high atop New Mexico’s picturesque Sky-Island.

The Lodge is offering attendees a special discounted meals package, but these packages must be purchased in advance, and they have a strict deadline in which to reserve them.  If you intend to eat meals at The Lodge during TWHC, you MUST call them and pay for yours prior to their


See the poster below for full details on this meals package.  And for more information about this year’s TWH conference or to register, go to:

Eating poster

Jul 132015

July Herbaria – Special Free Edition for Herbalists

A Sneak Peek:

The free July issue of the Plant Healer’s Herbaria Newsletter will be mailed out Monday, July 20th.  To be certain of receiving a download link, be certain to subscribe before then.  Simply go to our website and fill in your name and email address in the appropriate location on the far left side of the page:

This month’s special issue is overgrown – nearly 70 color pages in length – and includes the following:

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Dara Saville: Connecting With Our Heritage Through Herbal Practice

Our friend Dara of Albuquerque Herbalism writes about how working with herbs increases our connection to all those healers who came before, with an intimate look at Early American healing practices prior to the rise of pharmaceuticals and the first onerous laws harming medicine sellers.  As Dara concluded:

“While herbal medicine in post-industrialized America is usually lumped into the category known as ‘alternative medicine’, many of us know that it is actually traditional medicine, and the original ‘Medicine of the People'”

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Juliet Blankespoor: Plant Photography for Herbalists

The ever-awesome Julietta of Chestnut Herbal School explains here how to take great photographs of the herbs we use, in advance of her Plant Photography class this September at our 6th Annual Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference.  Subjects in this great article include aperture, shutter speed, composition, and background:

“Choosing a beautiful background is almost as important as choosing your subject. I will often look for contrasting colored flowers as a backdrop to my subject. Bright green light is also pleasing. Dappled light in the background can create an airy or painterly feeling. As mentioned earlier, shade in the background will often translate as a black backdrop in a photo if the image is illuminated with sunlight. Your background should add interest or contrast, but take care that is doesn’t distract from the story you are telling.”


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Plant Healer Event Reminisces

To start getting in the mood for the upcoming event, we’ve included both stories of the past five years of TWHC & Herbal Resurgence, and a bunch of fun pictures of you folks who attended.  One of the many contributors is Heather Luna of Nevada City Herbs & Tea, who wrote among other things this encouraging reminder:

“Saying good-byes were both sweet and challenging.  As herbalists, it is our job to inspire and awaken vitality in those who come to us, and here my own were re-animated and rekindled.  The good work in the world may now continue!”

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Robin Rose Bennett: Herbal Magic

Robin Rose shares with us here a piece on herbs for magical intention and ceremony, presenting an excerpt from her classic book “Healing Magic: A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living – 10th Anniversary Edition,” with sections on Plants for Burning, the uses of specific herbs (and trees!), Here is a tempting quote from it by Robin:

“Plants are conscious beings of feeling and spirit, and they are blessed with an abundance of gifts to share. I have found that all plants are consciousness-altering. In this sense, plants grow us. They are wonderful allies to human beings, filled with love for us. Like birds and animals, plants don’t have to remember that they are part of nature; they simply are who and what they are. This inevitably helps us resonate with who we are as part of nature. Each specific plant also brings its own particular essence to a meditation, spell, or ritual.  Much of my time with plants is spent working with them as physical medicine for our bodies. I have discovered that there is a correlation—sometimes subtle, often obvious—between the physical medicine a plant offers and the spiritual/magical energy it imparts.”

You can find out more about her work at Wise Woman Healing Ways.

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Interview #1: Emily Han – Herbal Cocktails for Pleasure & Health

For the past several issues of Herbaria we’ve been including 2 interviews with compelling herbalists, whose plant medicine knowledge we are pleased to share, and whose personal stories help us navigate our own individual healing paths.  Emily literally “wrote the book” on herbal cocktails (see her site Roots & Marvel).  She will be teaching us about bitters, elixirs, cocktails, and how to ferment and blend at TWHC in a couple of months, do we’re glad we got to pick her brain a bit in advance!

“My intention for the class is to be accessible and fun as well as educational. We’ll talk about the art and science of crafting balanced cocktails; I’ll share some classic formulas and ratios as a foundation, and then encourage folks to put their own creative and healing spin on these. I’m coming out to New Mexico with a bunch of cocktail-making tools and ingredients and we’ll put them to good use in the hands-on part of the class. We’ll taste each other’s creations, and all go home with new skills and inspiration. …I envision a culture in which everyone practices herbalism to some degree, taking care of themselves, their families and friends, and the natural world around them. Thus, I believe my role – and the role of many herbalists – is to (re-)introduce people to herbs and empower them to integrate herbal practices into their daily lives through medicine-making, cooking, wildcrafting, gardening, having a sense of wonder, caring for the earth. If we can spark an interest in herbalism in various ways (such as cocktails or cookbooks), I think we can ultimately help create a healthier world.”


Interview #2: Guido Masé

Guido is an exceptionally gifted and perceptive herbalist teacher from northern Italy, a co-director of the unique Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, and valued columnist for Plant Healer Magazine.  We think you will find his words here fascinating and enlightening, a carefully selected excerpt from the much longer conversation undertaken for the future Volume 2 of Plant Healer’s “21 Century Herbalists” books of interviews.  For now, here’s a sneak peek for you:

“What I appreciate most about bioregional herbalism is the idea that the medicinal plants that grow really, really close (same watershed you drink from) are having an experience very similar to yours, they elaborate different chemicals than the same species four hundred miles away, and in so doing link you up to your local environment in a really profound way. Without eating wild medicinals that grow right outside your door, you are really just a guest, a transient in the environment. Folks who get all their food processed from the grocery store aren’t really as much of a part of the ecology-as-being as those who eat weeds. Taking bioregional herbs means you’re actually a part of the world around you, not just a guest. It doesn’t matter what herbs exactly – to a certain extent, just snacking on lambs quarters with a side of goldenrod tea allows you to be a functional, contributing part of the ecological organism.”


A New Herbal Networking Site

We want to help network the exciting new “Herb Rally” website created by Mason Hutchinson.  Mason’s caring vision is of a one-stop online hub, offering a comprehensive list of currently available herbal courses, media, workshops, and conferences nationwide… provided free as a service to all students, enthusiasts, and practitioners of herbal medicine.  If any income is generated through affiliating with organizations like Plant Healer, that money will go to fund herbal scholarships given out to those in need!  You can submit the details and dates of your classes, events, etc., and/or browse current herbal educational opportunities but clicking on:

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Spreading Like Weeds

 Herbaria subscriptions have more than doubled since this time last year, now reaching many thousands readers with its absolutely free content.  Unlike with Plant Healer Magazine, which goes out primarily to committed herbal students and practicing herbalists, subscribers to the newsletter and blog include crossover folks just getting into herbalism, or with natural healing as a side interest.  It feels like one way to spread and grow this mission of healing and love – this weedy revolution!

Advertise Inexpensively

Display ads in Herbaria Newsletter are priced low enough to be affordable to folks launching new herbal related projects.  Space in our pages is intended for the common folk, small operations and family businesses… large corporations would need to explain why they deserve to be an exception. :) You can download the combined magazine and newsletter advertising pdf here:

Advertising Info

Share Your Knowledge, Submit Your Stories

You don’t have to be a professional writer in order to have something worthwhile to share with others.  And unlike with PH Magazine, it’s ok f your writings have been printed or posted before, so long as they haven’t been too widely distributed before.  Therapeutics, herb profiles, medicine making recipes, tips for practicing, clinical skills, conservation and gardening.   If you’d be interested, please download the:

Submission Guidelines



 Wild green blessings to you allKiva & Wolf

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