Oct 312016



Treating Polarization With Diversity & Kindness Protocol

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Inspired by Election Acrimony, Attacks on Mountain Rose, Posts About Sam Coffman, Disparagement of The AHG, & Rosemary Gladstar’s Advice

I have lately felt besieged by both online pre-election stridence, and upset at the way some herbalists have taken to uncaringly attacking their fellow practitioners of the caring art.  I am also inspired by remarks on this very problem by the venerable Rosemary, pulled from the 21st Century Herbalists book interview with her I’ve been excerpting for the upcoming Winter issue of Plant Healer Magazine.  Kiva and I hope you give this post some thought, share it on FaceBook, inspire reasoned discussion, and help counteract counteract binary thinking and polarization in herbalism, a perceptual disease that could rip apart our vital healing field if left untreated.

|ˈbīˌnerē, -nərē|


1 a grouping, system, or notion, broken down and divided into two parts

We exist within an ever more binary paradigm, brought about by what I call the Binary Disease.  It is a disease infecting our society as ourselves, spreading by contact and example through entertainment, news and social media, with little research going into its prevention or cure.  In fact, it has even infected the community of natural healers, health providers and caregivers, much as it has the rest of our politic and culture, making it harder for people like herbalists to do their vital work.  Left unchallenged and unchecked, it can and will disorient, divide, and weaken us.  It is, as we speak, working to alter our very natures, resetting our traditional proven methods for interacting, evaluating, negotiating, compromising, adjusting, evolving, bringing together, getting along, influencing, and thus contributing to the wellness of each other and our world.

Symptoms of Binary Disease include:

•Increased inability or willingness to hear

•Gradual to complete loss of objectivity

•Loss of one’s reasoning facilities, or a growing unwillingness to utilize one’s ability to reason

•Expressed or feigned certainty, adamance, and righteousness

•Increasing mistrust of differences – of opinion, appearance, etc.

•Delusions, such as imagining it is fair to disenfranchise right-wingers but not progressives 

•Manifest disdain for other herbalists’ conclusions, approaches, or techniques

•Visibly increasing intolerance for not only disagreement but nuance

•Tending to be more reactive than response-able, more victimized than proactive

•Avoidance of interaction with anyone imagined to hold different views than oneself 

•Keeping company only with those who share the same views and lifestyle

•Increasingly viewing everything as “either/or,” good or bad, and people as “us” and “them”


Through the course of this disease, polarization and factionalization become accepted as the new norm, once praised “free speech” gets recast as an offense of the privileged, diversity of perspectives is demonized even by some who champion racial diversity, and root causes remain unaddressed as we blame some “opposing team”…all while human reason, diversity and unity get sicker and die.  


Pernicious Polarization

polarize |ˈpōləˌrīz|


1 to divide or cause to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs

What a waste of brilliant energy.”

                                                    –Rosemary Gladstar

The very notion of binary is largely unnatural.  There is not just life and death, but infinite degrees of consciousness and life.  There are unlimited shades of gender, not just the touted male and female.  There are never only two options in any situation, no matter what the hell we’re told.  There are limitless shades of colors, not even in the darkest of our collective nights is everything ever just black and white.  Nobody can be measured simply good or evil, no matter how clearly benevolent or harmful their acts may seem.  Every human is a complex mix of traits and actions which we assess as degrees of good and bad depending on the context, our vantage and perspective, past experiences and future hopes, needs, fears, and aims.  Nothing and no one is as simple or as separate as the Binary Disease would leave us to believe.

gender-binary-response-72dpi gender-binary-bites-72dpi

I am writing this piece in a national election year, a period when it proved impossible to tune into any media source or social media platform without being barraged with unreasoned attacks – not only on the deeply flawed candidates, but on each other’s associates and friends.  Discourse disappeared as reason suffered, and it was nearly impossible to criticize the anti-constitutional pro-elitist and anti-freedom tendencies of either without being loudly and unthinkingly attacked by online mobs.  Meanwhile, the greatest enemies of freedom, humankind, and all of natural life, are the same profiteering one-tenth of one percent who pull the strings regardless of which party holds office.  By focusing our attention on the trumpeted dramatic differences in tone or on a few hotbed issues, the destructive ruling elite elite effectively keeps us the electorate distracted from the greatest threat to liberty, justice, and the environment, that has ever existed: the rapid concentration of wealth and thus influence in the hands of an ever smaller percentage of the population, a concealed ruling class that is uncaring, unethical, and unjust.  Most of us will never even hear the names of these parasitical despots, so adept are their lawyers and media manipulators at fixing our gaze.  Like stage magicians, they manipulate our attention away from the obvious mechanics of their tricks.  But as in the classic book and film “The Wizard of Oz,” we have only to step out of their thrall and outside our group-thinking team or choir and pull back the veil: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”  


There are only two choices in the election, we were told, and it wasn’t supposed to matter that both choices were in different ways dangerous and unhealthful.  So it is with the big news outlets, with the two most polar getting most of the audience.  They are not only an effect of this process, but also its purveyor, vectors transmitting the Binary virtual-virus from hate filled newsroom to their half of the viewers.  Whether it be the so called left leaning CNN or “ or self named “conservative” FOX network, biases are proudly championed rather than either avoided or denied.  In both cases, viewers are subjected to a comparable degree of closed-minded fundamentalism and party-line cliches.  Both networks appeal to our greatest fears, separate us into opposing and un-considering camps, stir our reservoirs of moral indignation, incite us to either circle the wagons and raise the walls, or else light the torches and silence or expel the “others.”


Social media such as FaceBook and Twitter also have an extremely polarizing effect on discussion, thought, and potentials for agreement.  The programs’ algorithms determine what traffic we see, and those we agree with most end up being the majority that we read, limiting our exposure to a diversity of new and contending ideas, and thereby accelerating the spread of Binary Disease.  The focus on approval and anxieties about being unaccepted and “unfriended” drives users into competing “Amen corners” where agreement is assured and nearly total, and where strident derision of those outside the group is easy and encouraged.  It becomes first easy, then the modus operandi, then de rigeuer, to disrespect.  This disrespect, whether raging or jaunty, is humiliating to the recipient, and disenfranchisement combined with humiliation is a perfect recipe for the creation of the very monsters we might wish to be relieved of.

3D render illustration of social media shaming button

Additionally, separation into polar factions means that most attacks come not from the people whose actions we fear most, but from the very people we share the largest number of priorities with, and from whom disapproval or betrayal is hardest to take.  The greatest damage to the fabric, cohesion, effectiveness and spirits of a community – including the loving community of herbalist care givers – may be the in-house shaming, internecine bloodletting  and fractious humiliation that Binary Disease enables.

Game of Thrones

Infection in The Herbal Community

We’re so busy creating ‘camps’ that we’re forgetting that we’re all ‘fighting the same battle’. Or better put, 

that ‘we’re all in this for the plants’!”


It seems to me surprising as well as tragic that herbalism has so little immunity against Binary infection, that it too is so scarily vulnerable to polarization and extreme, dogmatic self righteousness and vitriol.


Current examples abound, such as the online shit-storm that consumed attention, monopolized conversation, and did far more harm than good this Fall – bitter accusations and hurtful name calling directed against one of this community’s bulk herb providers.  An adamant but civil and proportional challenging of any company’s policies or actions is instrumental as well as appropriate, but it deeply harms the community and services of herbalism in general to venomously undermine providers which are demonstratively dedicated to social and ecological justice, and open to input, reevaluation and change.

A second example were the ad hominem attacks against a certain opinionated herbalist teacher and writer, whose opinions are open to debate, but whose intentions and actions are in keeping with the herbalist tradition of giving a damn and trying to make things better.  Writing him off as a classist, militarist, or racist,  proved to distract from those issues deserving of scrutiny and debate, and made his least considered and most reactive detractors look foolish given that he is married to a Hispanic of Native American blood, and in the past few years has provided free volunteer herbal and first-aid services to disaster victims, impoverished villagers in Central America, and First Nations oil-pipeline protestors in the American Midwest.  Such highly personal and largely misplaced attacks are counterrevolutionary as well as counterproductive.


A third example is the unwarranted hate heard expressed against the American Herbalist Guild.  Despite the tone of many online comments, nobody as far as we know joins the A.H.G. in order to be part of an anointed elite, elevated above the non-vetted, better than or disapproving of the nonprofessional.  Members of this organization appear to me to be motivated by largely the same things as their unaffiliated sisters and brothers, which is to say inspired by the plants and the possibilities of healing, and devoted to practicing or spreading this healers’ art.  Like the rest of the herbalist community, their members cover a spectrum from informal neighborhood practitioners to academics and clinicians.  Their motivations for membership sometimes involve a desire for and belief in the possibility of herbalism gaining the acceptance, respect and approval of the larger medical establishment, but more often certification is simply a way to feel our qualifications are affirmed and enjoy the camaraderie of association.  A better target than the AHG for disparagement would surely be the American Medical Association (AMA) or the Food & Drug Agency (FDA), both of which continue to denigrate, marginalize, regulate and penalize herbalists whether we include official letters after our signatures or not.


Don’t get me wrong, herbalism has long been denigrated… but usually by potion-fearing religious dogmatists, territorial M.D.s, and profit-protecting pharmaceutical companies.  Based on my readings of history, it seems out of character for herbalists to factionalize and stratify, for once self anointed and self elevated group to look down on their folkier and non-vetted counterparts, for those who reject the notion of capitalism to lambast any herbal business that manages against odds to succeed, for a ‘progressive’ posse to inflict suffering on those who use objectionable language, or for plant lovers to sarcastically diss others who cite science or research.

Binary thinking and polarization constitute what can be an utterly debilitatingly disease.  It presents as divisiveness and other unhealthy conditions, threatening a community and practice paradoxically dedicated to wholeness and committed to healing.


Individuation & Separation

“I vow to be in sweet surrender to your vision, oh, grandmother/grandfather flora, and to follow with the best of my intentions and integrity your guidance, realizing there are many paths that weave through the forest, and bring us home to the hearth and heart of herbalism.”


To be really healthy is to be both vital and whole, something that’s as true for herbalism as it is for herbalists.  This wholeness is an amalgam of dissimilar members with varying roles and approaches, interacting in individual ways which in concert contribute to the entire community.  It is a product of dynamic diversity, fed by creative individuation, and not of entrenchment, conformity, purity or “correctness” of any kind.

There is a huge difference between healthy individuation and septic separation.  Individuation in nature is variety and adaptation within the context, pattern and purpose of the whole.  One develops individual traits, abilities and propensities in relationship to one’s environment, including all other beings.  Individualization can usher in what will become beneficial adaptations among an entire population or even species, in relationship and response to its ecological community and habitat, and apart from it.

What contributes to polarization is not individuation but separativeness, and this separative momentum is abetted not by individuality but by polarization, factionalism, and class.  If we are ever tempted to see things in terms of opponents, there are no enemies more deserving of our defense than this disease of polarization, our self-segregation into binary blocs and head-nodding coterie.


This is not to say there is no need for rejection sometimes, the eschewing of the mean spirited, unjust, and harmful, with is crucial to ours and society’s healthful development.  Nor is confrontation always wrong, it can prove crucial in the face of  immense institutionalized inequity and terrific forces of destruction.  But putting everything on a polar scale of “good” and “evil,” and aligning with cloistered groups who think like us, is to misunderstand the nature of reality and contribute to the polarization that divides us, turns us into chanting team fans, makes us ignorant of all outside our teams, makes us ugly and unkind, and helps perpetuate the very conditions and injuries many teams scream about.

Oneness, not sameness, is a fact of the universe.  We are inevitably different, yet invariably related.  And we can rightfully oppose, but we can never be opposite.  Natural living beings do not seek to be or see themselves as the opposite of anything else, only to be wholly, effectively, satisfyingly themselves.  Life seeks to flourish (not survive!), to absorb new information and benefit from lessons (not to resist new ideas!), to evolve (not rigidify!), to celebrate and express (not whine or repress!), and to diversify (neither conform. nor toe the line!).

It is the shared values and customs of a community or tribe that preserves their group identity, but is it is diversity and change within its members that makes truth, understanding, improvements and healthy changes possible.  This is only possible when we truly listen to other perspectives and other peoples’ ideas, feelings, and criteria for decisions, and when we can integrate those differences into our patterns of knowing and acting.  We are made more effective, and therefore safer, through increased awareness of the source and often validity of other groups’ fears, needs, and intentions.  Silencing free expression and amicable debate reduces awareness and understanding.  Stifling the offensive makes serious offense more possible.  Shaming those who hold objectionable views makes it more likely they will act out in ways that hurt us and themselves as well as the living planet.  Misdirected anger not only damages our diverse community, it wastes our finite hours, our energy, and the vehemence that might be better aimed at the most harmful notions, presumptions, attitudes, habits, morays, dogmas, injustices, regulations, and institutions of our times.


Picking Our Targets: The Enemy is Us

“I think that we are our biggest threat.  Somehow, over time, we’ve developed very strong egos that want to make us ‘right’ and other herbalists ‘wrong’, our way the best and others not so good.  We let it get in the way of seeing the bigger picture, and end up fighting amongst ourselves.”


Clearly, we need to work harder to address issues, to confront and either evolve or rectify.  This is most effectively accomplished when we confront harmful concepts and acts, instead of humiliating any perpetrators.  We need to carefully pick the targets of our indignation and recriminations.  When we do identify and prioritize the people, businesses and institutions that perpetuate harms, our response needs to be one that makes betterment and healing more possible, not less.

After a lifetime of taking actions against the profiteers, manipulators, and agencies of injustice, classism, and destruction, I could fill hundreds of pages naming the most blatant progenitors and delivery systems of evil today.  From corporate giants in immoral enterprises from tar sands mining companies and nuclear weapons manufacturers, to rabid bigots and rogue, protestor-beating cops.  But given that we and our self-limiting biases are such an integral enabler of the disease cycle, we might want to stop thinking in terms of targeting and punishing altogether, keeping mending and bettering and healing our mission and forte instead.

Without a doubt, we need remain witness to the utterances and acts of our associates and friends, helping keep them honest and open… as well as stay on as questioners, fact checkers, assessors and evaluators of the deluge of supposed ‘facts’ being bandied about for various reasons.  It is only our responsibilities – our ability to respond – that function as a reasoned human counterforce to delusion and lies, to oppression and harm, to the current bifurcation of our healing movement into incompatible extremities.  We can, however, respond in ways that are more reasoned, open minded, receptive, purposeful, just, considered and considerate.  We need to care about not just the issues that matter to us, but about the people who do not share our ideas or values, and about the diversity and wholeness and vitality and future of this living Earth.


Diversity Treatment Protocol

“Diversity is where strength resides; all of us who love nature know this to be true. The more diversity within a community, the greater the strength of the community.”


In the case of any disease or ailment, one needs to:

•Make an accurate diagnosis

•Decide what the preferred or ideal outcome might be

•Determine the least harmful and likely most helpful treatment to facilitate that outcome

•Instigate or administer that treatment

•Monitor effects and results

•Modify and improve treatment as needed

When it comes to Binary Disease, a positive outcome might be the recognition that we are in the eyes of different groups the “others,” and that what we may see as “others” are in the most important ways “us.“. Communication that really communicates, which requires listening as well as speaking.  The speaking of truth and expression of understanding and concern.  Discussion that stimulates new ways of thinking.  Critical analysis rather than unthinking criticism.  The identification of common threats and shared problems, where and how they manifest.  And alliances for investigating, addressing and remedying them.  

We may thus identify an insidious trend towards following the “party line” of our chosen affinity groups.  We can observe symptoms, such as the fact that dogmatic rancor is getting worse, as exchanges are filled with unkind criticisms devoid of any real critical thinking.  We might determine that the natural immune system has been compromised by the Binary Disease, and is in need of herbs that help stimulate its immune functions, making us less thin-skinned and less likely to react, making it easier for already existing open wounds to bind and heal.  Rather than treating symptoms, we get better results by addressing and affecting the condition’s underlying causes.  If someone demonstrates displeasure, agitation and anger, we might realize it grows out of insecurity and pain, and therefore offer an infusion of recognition, understanding, acceptance or assistance.  A potential harm may need to be brought to light in order to be  halted or prevented, but we may choose to do that respectfully and reasonably.  We hopefully watch closely for effects and results, and then adjust our treatments accordingly.

In the case of social media, the gentle folk – the balanced reasoners and peace makers, the still sensitive souls whom are as yet neither calloused nor inured – regrettably tend to go silent online after being rat-packed for their attempts to understand or accommodate, assailed or dismissed because of their public statements of accommodation and hope.  And yet, it is the their voices – your voices – that are most essential if there is to be any return to productive reason, to compassion, pluralism and balance, both online and in society writ large.  As with a “stagnating liver,” a stimulating herb may be called for, in the form of a wide variety of voices, diverse thought, expression, creation, and solution.  An “angry inflamed liver” can be treated with calming herbs and anti-inflammatories, suggesting a strategy in which conditions are calmed and inflamed feelings cooled.  Even in rare but dangerous situations requiring immediate intervention, every effort must be made to neither inflame, exacerbate, or over-medicate.  We don’t want to try to enforce our own regimen, our group’s standards for health and behavior on others, as that would only encourage them trying to impose their ideas and traits on us.

While it is the shared values and customs of a community or tribe that preserves their group identity, it is diversity of and within, its members that enables truth, understanding, improvements, innovations, and healthy changes.  We need to deeply listen to a diverse range of perspectives and other peoples’ ideas, feelings, and criteria for decisions, and integrate those differences into our patterns of knowing and acting.  We are enriched, informed, stirred and stretched by diversity.  We’re made more effective, and therefore safer, through increased awareness of the source and often validity of other groups’ fears, needs, and intentions.  Even those forms of diversity and divergence that we find most challenging or discomforting, together contribute to ours and herbalism’s health.  Silencing debate reduces awareness and understanding.  Stifling the offensive makes serious offense more possible.  And shaming those who hold objectionable views makes it more likely they will act out in ways that hurt us and themselves as well as the ecology and integrity of the planet.

This is not to say there is no need for determined rejection, for the eschewing of the mean spirited, unjust, and harmful, something which I consider important to our’s and society’s healthful development.  Nor is confrontation always a bad thing, it can prove crucial in the face of immense institutionalized inequity and terrific forces of destruction.  The culture of shaming must also be challenged wherever it permeates, which can only be done by speaking out on behalf of the shamed.  But being judgmental without nuance, critical without consideration, and confrontational without weighing effects, harm, and the many possible consequences, damages us as well as other people and even our own aims.  Putting everything at one or the other end of an extreme polar scale of “good” and “evil,” and then aligning  ourselves with cloistered groups who think like us, is to abet and spread the Binary Disease, contributing to the polarization dividing us.  It can turn us into chanting team fans, and contribute to our ignorance of everything outside the perspective and precepts of our rah-rah groups, in the end making us ugly and unkind, and helping perpetuate the very conditions and injuries we oppose.


A Dose of Kindness

I believe in part we’ve forgotten the healing power of kindness.  If there’s one thing I think we’re missing not so much among herbalists, perhaps, but with humanity in general, it’s the ability to be kind to one another, and to listen deeply.  Then we might be able to move forward in a better way.”


Binary disease can be greatly reduced among herbalists, even if never expunged from the whole of society.  The rates of infection can be dramatically reduced, and those who already suffer from its effects can experience a lessening of symptom severity.  While decoctions of diversity can jump start the healing response, it may be best to follow up with restorative tonics suck as a dose of old-fashioned kindness.  A kind observation goes well with unpalatable revelations, making them easier to swallow.  You need not “turn a blind eye,” only a kind phrase.  Genuine concern can make discomforting suggestions feel like strong medicine rather than infliction or attack.  People hear best, whenever we know we are heard.  We do less damage to others, when we feel related to them, accepted by them, a part of them on at least the bio-organism or species level, on a spiritual level or the level of shared loves and and allied purpose.


Fellow Members, Shared Purpose

In our community, the center or the ‘whole’ is our love of the plants.  

Knowing this, how come herbalists can’t honor our differences, embrace our diversity, recognize its importance, 

and gather around the center – that unifying love of the plants?”


Even if we imagine that not everything living deserves to be treated with respect, surely we can be respectful, reasonable and kind with those who feel the same love we do for plants, they who get a tear in their eye when digging up and harvesting roots, who dance a jig and squeak with joy at the first appearance of herbal sprouts, who like us choose a poorly paying career trying help people or nature, and who suffer the same repression by this society and defamation by the many corporate, governmental, and elite nemeses of herbalism and herbalists.  Surely we can be careful with our treatment of fellow care givers, be kind to those who kindly give of themselves to the plants who bless us and the people in need.  Whatever issues or attitudes, loyalties or fears led to our enlistment by polar factions, we are still fellow members of a wondrous and honorable coalition of the relatively few, with a common if sometimes taken for granted purpose, an essential plant-hearted mission even if we sometimes forget that.

We in herbalism need in some ways to be more impassioned, responsive, adamant, forceful and insistent, without losing sight of the fact our work is to heal not wound.  The pertinent problem is not so much the imagined flaws and transgressions of some other group, but the Binary Disease that leads us to view them as “other” in the first place.  History shows us what terrible acts can be committed against “other” races, nationalities, and religions, and then handily justified.


When it comes to herbalists, those we posit as polar opposites happen to be given to the same mission as us, no matter how differently they may seek to accomplish it, and they’re certainly judged as no different than us by herbalism’s genuine enemies.  Indeed, all herbalists face the same threats and weather the same put-downs, share not only a kindly intention but a covenant and commitment to make things better.  

Hell, all plant healers belong to a single coalition of caring, as wildly divergent as we are, and as wholly diverse as we must be.  

The honorable way – the way that honors contrasting practitioners and brings honor to ourselves – is to act accordingly.


(Please do spread and repost this piece, thank you!)


Oct 192016


Announcing PreOrder for The New 2016 Plant Healer Annuals

949 Pages b&w 8.5×11”

2 Volume Softbound Sets

Every Winter we produce a strictly limited edition of 300 hard-copy book sets containing all the articles from the previous 4 quarterly issues of Plant Healer Magazine, as a special service to PHM member subscribers only.  The many amazing articles often end up in other Plant Healer compilation books as well, but this will be the only opportunity to have the complete year’s material in a single easily referenced place.

If you are already a PHM subscriber, you can order your Annuals book set by logging in to your personal PHM Member Page.

If you are not a Member-Subscriber of Plant Healer yet, you can still get a set of 2016 Annuals by ordering our discounted Plant Healer Enthusiast Package: a set of PHM Annuals shipped to you address, along with a 1-year re-subscription to the quarterly, full-color digital magazine. 



Contributors include many of the most inspiring and pioneering herbalists in the field, including quarterly columnists like Guido Masé, Jim McDonald, Paul Bergner, Thomas Easley, Phyllis Light, Sean Donahue, Mathew Wood, Wendy Petty, Angela Justis and Dara Saville.  Departments include therapeutics, materia medica, radical herbalism and healthcare justice, cultivation, medicine making, wildcrafting, plant art, plant lore and the history of healing. See the complete Table of Contents at the bottom of this page.

Keep in mind that this will be a limited edition printing of your digital magazine, they will not be reprinted, and are certain to sell out early. To be certain of getting your personal copies of these limited editions before they sell out, PreOrder now. PreOrdered Annuals will begin shipping mid-November.  

table of contents part 1 page 1 table of contents part 1 page 1 copy table of contents part 1 page 1 copytable of contents part 1 page 1table of contents part 1 page 1 copytable of contents part 1 page 1 copy 3

Again, if you are already a PHM subscriber, you can order your Annuals book set by logging in to your personal PHM Member Page.

And if you are not a Member-Subscriber of Plant Healer yet, you can still get a set of 2016 Annuals by ordering our discounted Plant Healer Enthusiast Package: a set of PHM Annuals shipped to you address, along with a 1-year re-subscription to the quarterly, full-color digital magazine. Order the Package by clicking on the Bookstore Page at:


(Thank you for sharing this)

Sep 222016

There is no doubt that this year’s Plant Healer event was more exciting than ever, with a record 345 folks – the sweetest, most vision filled, most diverse ever!  For many it had not only the feeling of coming home to a tribe and way of being, but also like a movement in which we co-create an alternative healthful alternative culture.  To see pictures and read about it, go to the Plant Healer website splash page and enter your name and email address on the left of the screen:



The 2017 Good Medicine Confluence

June 14-18 • Durango, SW Colorado

Over 80 classes by Over 40 teachers!

Now our attention goes to 2017’s all new Good Medicine Confluence, a broadened and colorful palette of topics under the motto “The Art of Healing, The Savoring of Life.” Stretched to FIVE full days, there will be over. As always, what we make available to you will be specially tailored to this tribe and mission, unique classes found nowhere else, creating with unique you a one-of-a-kind experience. The intention of every class will be to empower us, “enabling” action, manifestation and fulfillment long after the Confluence is over.


Please check out and share online this pdf about the new event:

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Invite


The location is incredible, lodging cheaper than ever, and we can hold many more people and include many more teachers and classes. Can you believe 80 classes, and not only by herbalists?

The new Good Medicine website is designed, up and ready to be viewed, at:



$100 Discount on Tickets

In 2017 you more than twice as many classes for about the same price as before!

In addition, you can get a full $100 discount if you purchase your tickets before the end of the year. Deadline: Dec 30th

Vend or Sponsor

For the first time we have room for lots of vendors besides sponsors, and you can get vendor tables, free tickets and more by becoming a Good Medicine Confluence Sponsor. Download and check out:

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Sponsor Info & Application http://www.mediafire.com/download/913itv6b5welae3/2017_Good_Medicine_Sponsor_Application.doc

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Vendor Application



2017 Teachers & Classes

As always, it is difficult to get a balance between our longtime teacher cadre and the new voices that we want to rotate in and give a venue to, or the balance of information and inspiration.  At this point our herbalism class slots are basically filled, even if we have not agreed on topics and titles, and now sadly we have to start turning down proposals from folks we honor and love. We’ll save them for ’18!

We are still open to hosting teachers known for distillation, brewing, botanical dyes, cultivation secrets, cannabis edibles etc., with an invite to indigenous teachers and herbalists of color. If you or someone you recommend would like to apply, please fill out and return as soon as possible:

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Teacher Application



Here are just some of our already confirmed teachers, and what they will be offering in this eclectic and empowering mix:


Paul Bergner:

Comparative Materia Medica: Herbal Affinity Groups or Specific Medication?   1.5 hrs

A New Look at an Old Devil: The Risks & Benefits of Coffee   1.5 hrs

Sam Coffman:

The Art of the Free Clinic 1.5 hrs

Herbal Wound & Infection Management in the Field or at Home 1.5 hrs

Percolation Tinctures, Oxymels, Syrups & Simple Formula Making 1.5 hrs

Betsy Costilo-Miller:

Shifting our Story- Working with Body Dysmorphia and Eating Disorders 1.5 hrs

The Language of Lymph1.5 hrs

Sean Donahue:

Tryptamines: Human & Wild 3hrs

Oppression & Expression: Herbs for Chronic Stress Among The Oppressed 1.5 hrs

Thomas Easley:

The Hepatic System: Herbs & The Liver 1.5 hrs

Comparing Herbal Dosage Strategies, Past & Present 3 hrs

Lisa Ganora:

Cannabis Extraction – 1800s Pharmacist Style 3 hrs

Charles “Doc” Garcia:

The Secrets of Herbal Shotgun Syrup 3hrs

Amy Glasser

To Be Announced

Shana Lipner Grover:

Smokable Herbs 1.5 hrs

Topics in Wildcrafting (with Dara Saville) 1.5 hrs

Jesse Wolf Hardin:

ReWilding 1.5 hrs

The Calling: Purpose, Mission, & Role 1.5 hrs

Kiva Rose Hardin:

BrambleSong: A Bardic Approach to Herbcraft 1.5 hrs

Fairy Thorns: Walking The Third Road With Firethorn, Hawthorn, & Blackthorn   3 hrs

Kathleen Harrison:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Marija Helt

Plants of the Southern Rockies Plant Identification Walk 3 hrs

Favorite Substitutes for Osha 1.5 hrs

Medicinal Shroomery in the Southern Rockies 1.5 hrs

Stephany Hoffelt:

Working With Sexual Assault Survivors (with Alanna Whitney) 1.5 hrs

Being the Bean Feasa: Women As Keepers of Knowledge 1.5 hrs

Nam Joti Kaur:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Guido Masé:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Katherine “Kat” MacKinnon:

Plant Identification Walk: Medicinal Plants of The Mountains & Mesas 3 hrs

Weaving the Wild: Making Baskets for Gathering & Storage 1.5 hrs

From Seed to Seed: The Science & Spirit of Growing Your Own Herbs 1.5 hrs

Jim McDonald:

Sanguine Temperament: Inspired Action 3hrs

Ow! My Fucking Back!: Using Herbs for Back & Joint Pain 1.5 hrs

Gut Healing Teas 1.5 hrs

Joshua Paquette:

Colorado Materia Medica 3hrs

Neurognostics: Gathering Knowledge From the Heart of The World 1.5 hrs

Missy Rohs:

How to Afford Herb School: Involving Community and Embracing Creativity 1.5 hrs

Herbal Remedies in Times of Oppression: Nervines for When the World Overwhelms 1.5 hrs

Ramona Rubin:

Cannabis Topical Treatments 1.5 hrs

Dara Saville:

Drought & The Future of Medicinal Plants 3 hrs

Pedicularis: Community Coordinator & Facilitator of Change 1.5 hrs

River Restoration & Medicinal Plants 1.5 hrs

Topics in Wildcrafting (with Shana Lipner Grover) 1.5 hrs

Emily Stock

Star-Gazing Herbalists! 1 hr

Jen Stovall:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Jonathan Treasure:

Weed Wacking: Misinformation & Misconceptions About Medicinal Cannabis 1.5 hrs

FUQ: Medicinal Cannabis (Frequently Unasked Questions) 1.5 hrs 

Evidence Based Herbal Medicine – New Block on the Kids 1.5 hrs 

Angie True:

Waking Up From Psychiatric Drugs 1.5 hrs

Thyroid: At the Juncture Between Self and World 1.5 hrs

Roxana Villa:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Ginger Webb:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Alanna Whitney:

Transgender Therapeutics1.5 hrs

Pregnancy for Everyone Else: How to Get Pregnant Like a Lesbian 1.5 hrs

Working With Sexual Assault Survivors (with Stephany Hoffelt) 1.5 hrs

Briana Wiles:

Bodyworker Herbs, Oils, & Toils 1.5 hrs

Yarrow Willard:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs



Help Spread The Word – & the Movement – Please!

You can be a great help by printing and putting up posters in local herb shops, or spreading online the low res poster and graphics. If you would like us to send you already printed posters or postcards for Good Medicine Confluence, please write us at: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org

2017 Good Medicine Confluence 8×11 Poster for Printing


2017 Good Medicine Confluence 8×11 Poster for Online


2017 Good Medicine Confluence Small Graphic for Online


2017 Good Medicine Confluence Horiz. Graphic for Online



Thank you so much! You make it happen!

(Share and RePost Please)

Aug 212016

2016 TWHC Final Scholarships poster 72dpi

Plant Healer gatherings are rightfully known as the “Medicine of The People,” serving a unique community of herbalists and others who are not only professionals but everyday people, the common folk: part-time practitioners, backwoods mothers, volunteers at nonprofits, and kitchen-sink medicine makers.  As a result, few attendees of our past gatherings have been able to easily afford the trip to the beautiful Southwest, let alone the price of the ticket.  It is partly for you folks that we pick sites that has free camping in the adjacent national forest, and it is for you that every year we make available work trade positions, accept barter, arrange for time payments, and give away a significant number of scholarships to attend.  

Because we aim to support the marginalized and those at an economic disadvantage, it can be difficult for us to cover the bills… so it remains crucial that our community purchase enough tickets to cover the high costs of putting on the conference.  If you pay for herbal school, classes or online programs, please consider TWHC to be a component of your herbal education that is equally worth saving for and paying for.

If, however, you cannot afford to attend, don’t let a lack of funds get in your way!

We welcome you to apply to assist with work trade, make time payments, offer barter, and/or to receive a free scholarship… in support of your healing path.

1. Work Trade

We need a limited number of folks each year to assist with registration and sales in the Healer’s Market, and to shuttle teachers from the airport to the site.

We can also use help spreading word about Plant Healer publications and events through social media etc., and making calls to potential sponsors if either is something you would like.

2. Make Payments

It’s great to get time payments from those of you who with an income, who can’t afford the entire ticket price at once.  The value of a ticket for this purpose is $300.  You can take from 6 months to a whole year to cover the total, even when that means paying part of it after you have already attended.  All we need is your sincere commitment, and for your follow through on whatever payment arrangement that you commit to.

3. Barter

You can offer a mix of part payments and part barter, or even all barter, to cover the $300. value of your ticket.  Trades need to be for things we will actually use, so we’ve included some possibilities in the application below.

4. Scholarships

Scholarships are meant for those of you who are for whatever reasons unable to pay for your herbal education, including for schools and courses, and who do not have enough barter.  You can request a scholarship to cover either part or all of the cost of a Plant Healer event ticket.  We are more than happy to support those in need who are devoted to learning and practicing the herbal arts, it’s part of our mission!

To Apply For Assistance to Attend, please write for an application soon:


For more information about this year’s Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, click on the Events page at:


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Jul 202016

2016 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

You Are Personally Invited to Join Us – Sept. 15th-18th

for Plant Healer’s 7th Annual Gathering:

The 2016 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

–High Atop Sky-Island, New Mexico–

This year’s Plant Healer event will be the last held in Southern New Mexico before our move to the next site, and this may be your final chance to experience the awesome Cloudcroft area perched in an alpine forest 8000 feet above the surrounding deserts.  And as always, it will be an opportunity for the like-hearted oddkins of this plant-loving tribe to rendezvous together, enjoying an unusual weekend of practical herbal information, deep inspiration, and wild celebration.

50 Classes Like Nowhere Else • Native Plant Walks • Dance Concert & Masquerade Ball

For advance discount tickets, navigate to the Registration page from:


A list of Scheduled Class Topics follows for your convenience:

  2016 TWHC Classes 1-72dpi2016 TWHC Classes 2-72dpi2016 TWHC Classes 3-72dpi

For advance discount tickets, navigate to the Registration page from:


(Thank you for sharing this)

Jun 272016

Aysgarth Close Up Waterfall

Clean Water For Health:


by Sam Coffman

As healers, herbalists have a responsibility to address all causes of illness including diet, lifestyle, and environment… and to recommend treatments and remedies besides herbs when appropriate. Access to clean water is one such problem that Plant Healer’s can’t ignore, as brought to light by recent events such as the contamination in Flint, Michigan pipes and the pollution of sources by the annually increasing number of floods worldwide. The following article is an excerpt from the Summer issue of Plant Healer Magazine, offering important information and materia medica for those of you not yet subscribed to our quarterly. Its author, Sam Coffman of the Human Path School, brings a wealth of practical info and beaucoup  experience to this and other vital topics.


Water is vital to life, as we all know.  Often, for those of us living primarily in a first-world environment, we take water completely for granted.  Turn on a faucet and water appears as though it were magic.  Flush the toilet and it just disappears.  Where it comes from, where it goes to and what happens to it in the meantime are all processes that are – most of the time and for most of us – completely disconnected from our daily lives.  Between our disposal of wastewater and what we pull from the tap, water in our first world, urban environment goes through filtering processes, destruction of all biological, living material, accumulation of numerous pharmacological and chemical toxins that aren’t filtered out, deposition into ground water and eventually back into our kitchen sink.  This is a far cry from the wild water coming out of a spring in the ground (which may have its own set of organisms that could overwhelm our body), and there are many humans –particularly in our country – who have never consumed any kind of water except the kind that comes out of a tap somewhere after being on the aforementioned journey through a public water system.

Flint Water Protestors

Whether wild water or tap water however, there are several important points to ponder on the topic of water and health:  What is the state of our water (i.e. quality and quantity) both in this country (USA) and around the world?  What can we do on a personal level to enable better water quality and quantity? How can we deal with water-borne illness? The World Health Organization estimates over 800,000 deaths per year due to water-borne diarrhea alone.  

When I first started doing medical work in developing nations it struck me as odd that a medical  mission would involve treating diseases that were obviously related to the quality of the water (e.g. parasites, kidney and urinary tract diseases, liver issues) without even so much as considering the need to address ways to change the source of the problem.  I saw so much of this that I realized any realistic health care effort in any community (anywhere on the planet) has to include water quality.  To take it to the next level, if you want to set up any kind of clinic and provide any kind of meaningful health care as an herbalist, you absolutely must have clean water at your disposal.

Sam Coffman Water Purifying Project

As herbalists in the USA this may not seem that this is an issue for you.  You can buy distilled or filtered water and have exactly what it is you need (whether to drink or use for medicine making) right at your fingertips.  However, herbalists have the extra responsibility of understanding health from the most organic and basic fundamentals.  This starts literally with at least knowing something about the source of healthy food and water.  Water quality (and quantity) plays a central role to any clinic you set up – whether in the middle of an urban area or in remote wilderness.

This article will focus on water purification methods and herbal strategies for water-borne diseases. The means to purify water are numerous, and depending on what kind of technology is available to you, can vary from primitive to advanced. Purification methods can be chemical (manufactured or even phytochemical), heat-based, radiation (UV) based and particulate filtration. One of the most reliable methods is heat.  Roughly speaking, if you can heat water to over 160 degrees F for at least 30 minutes, or above 185 degrees F for 5 minutes, or bring water to a rolling boil at all, you have created enough heat to purify water.  However there is at least one caveat to this.  You still should clean the particulate matter (turbidity) out of the water as much as possible before heating.  The clean the water looks, the better the results will be that you achieve by heating.   Another note about heating is that this will probably not remove chemical contamination.  The purpose of heat is to kill pathogens.Water borne Bacteria magnified

Aside from heat there are many other methods of water purification:   These include reverse osmosis, ultraviolet, ozone, ceramic, ion exchange, copper-zinc systems, distillation and more.  Many of these systems rely upon technology in order to be effective to any scale and are outside the scope of this article.

However, I would like to briefly cover one of the simplest and most effective water purification methods I know of that can be implemented even in a completely off-grid environment.  This method is called slow sand filtration and is a way to filter water very sustainably for a home, a clinic or a small community.

Slow sand water filtration is the type of system that the non-profit organization we work with and support (Herbal Medics) has built in villages and urban and rural clinics in Central America.  These systems are bulky and take a bit of labor, but they can be easily constructed using local materials just about anywhere in the world.   Building one together with a community is an excellent way to teach others how to set up their own sustainable water filtration system, because anyone helping will know how to do it for themselves by the time you are finished setting up the first system. The most difficult part of building slow sand filters is finding clean (food grade) water barrels and some kind of piping such as PVC.  We have set up prototype systems using tubing that consisted of bamboo connected by bicycle inner tubes, but PVC makes a much longer lasting and robust system of course.

There are a few critical concepts involved in the construction of a slow sand filtration system.  First, the most active part of this filter (within about 3 weeks after running water through it) is the biolayer of the filter.  Once this layer has formed, you do not want to starve it or dry it out.  Second, the vertical column length of sand is important.  Skimping on this distance will greatly diminish the quality of your filtration.  Finally, the flow rate (drip rate) of water through your filtration system is critical.  If water percolates too quickly through the filter, the amount of filtration that occurs will be greatly diminished.

So what are the details of these critical concepts and how can we make a slow sand filtration system?

At its most basic level, the slow sand filter consists of a single container (a 55 gallon, food-grade barrel is perfect) that has enough height to allow for at least 30” of sand.  From top to bottom, the filter has sand for at least 30” and then gravel (pea gravel size) for the bottom several inches.  The gravel at the bottom is primarily to keep the plumbing from becoming clogged with sand.

Sand Filter poste

At the bottom, we have to have some type of outlet for the water to come out.  The best way to do this is by using PVC pipe and drilling holes in it.  Making a “U” shaped PVC collector at the bottom using ½” or ¾” PVC works well. This then merges to a single pipe that exits the barrel (along the side) an inch or two above the bottom.  From here, the drain pipe needs to make a 90 degree turn back up to the top of the barrel on the outside.  This allows for a pipe (1” – 2” diameter) that we can fill with small chunks of charcoal.  A screen on either end of the pipe fittings keeps the charcoal from coming out into the water.

The important idea here is that the drain pipe final level (back near the top of the filter) is between the top of the water and the top of the sand.  In this manner, the top layer of sand should always be under water.  This allows our biolayer to form.  The term “Schmutzdecke” (also called “filter cake” in English) is a living layer of organisms that form within about 21 days after running dirty water through the filter.  This living layer of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms, eat the pathogens that are in the dirty water coming into the filter.  I would note however, that even without waiting 21 days for the filter cake to form, I (and my teammates) have drunk absolutely noxious water (prior to filtration) that has been filtered through the sand filter, and have never suffered any ill effects whatsoever.  This has been necessary from a liaison perspective.  When we set up a slow sand filtration system for a community somewhere, it’s not very effective (socially) to tell them that in 21 days everything will be fine, while waving goodbye.  I have to demonstrate the effectiveness of the filter before we leave if we are to have any credibility as an organization.  Once we have run about 100 gallons through the filter and the water is clear coming out, it’s time for me (and whoever is in charge of the primitive engineering team, at a minimum) to do a “bottom’s up” raising of the glasses and drink away!  This is usually followed by a lot of laughing and joking and everyone else drinking water from the new filters.  I am never worried about the locals, as they’re getting far better filtration even without any biolayer formation, than they were getting prior to us setting up the filter in the first place.

Slow_sand_filter diagram 1

In order for the filter to work correctly, the flow rate needs to be kept between 3 and 5 gallons per hour.  This limits the amount of water that a community can draw from a filter.  The maximum that a filter like this is good for, is about 120 gallons per 24 hour period, and in order for there to be 120 gallons per day, it is necessary to add a couple of pieces to this filter setup.  

First, a raw-water (pre-filter) container is necessary.  This is where the dirty water is pumped or scooped into, and can be any size.  The larger the better, and in a typical gravity fed system of course its outflow will have to be positioned slightly higher than the filter’s in flow.  The manner in which the water flows into the top of the filter needs to be controlled so as not to disturb the top of the sand too much.  This is normally done using baffles (PVC pipes with holes drilled in them something like drip irrigation systems).  We usually take a few $8.00 float valves with us when we’re setting these up, as it is the easiest way to control the flow between the raw water container and the filter.  There are certainly other ways, but the float valve makes everyone’s life easier and is so simple to install as a valve that opens and closes based on the level of water in the filter tank itself.

Slow-Sand-Filter diagram

Next, a final collection tank is necessary if you want a 24/7 water filter functionality.  The collection tank is fed directly from the filter.  This means that the full filter setup is a 3-container system:  A container for the raw water, the filter itself and a collection container for the water that has been filtered.  To use the system, a person first takes the water they need from the third container in the system – the collection container with clean water in it.  If there’s not an automatic system that fills the raw-water container, that same person can get the same amount of water they just used and put it into the raw-water container.  For instance, pulling it from a well and refilling the raw water container after taking the clean water from the filtered water container.  This ensures a 120-gallon per day maximum capacity of the water filter.  Calculating 1 gallon per person per day drinking water only, this system can serve over 100 people in a community.  However, we usually set up one filter for every 20-30 people, which allows for a minimum of 4 gallons of filtered water per person per day.


This approach gives me, as an herbalist, an entirely new approach to working with a community where a hugely disproportionate percentage of the population has the same health issues that are obviously related to poor water quality.  Between fracking, coal mining, corporate agriculture and political corruption (i.e. Flynt, MI), water quality is not something that is limited as a problem to only developing nations.  So if you are researching the health issues of a given community and are facing some type of water-borne epidemiological syndrome, then following along the same logic that a clinical herbalist should be using (work with the core problem whenever possible rather than just palliating the symptoms), this may give you another tool in your toolbox to consider using.

Let us address water-borne disease now, and some of the herbal approaches to resolving these disease states.

First, what are the common water-borne pathogens?  We can become ill from water that contains viruses (for example: hepatitis A and E), bacteria (for example: cholera, shigellosis), protozoans (for example:  giardiasis, cryptosporidium) and helminths (for example:  roundworm, tapeworm).

While it is possible to run down a list of specific pathogens and cite studies (whether valid studies is a whole different question) as to the effectiveness of a particular herb used for a specific pathogen, I think it is more effective to start the discussion with some of the general approaches we can take in the case of exposure to water-borne illness.  

First, the ubiquitous, acute onset of gastroenteritis that probably comes to everyone’s mind when discussing water-borne illness.  Narrowing down a set of options is a lot easier to do once we have gathered some information using even as simple of a mnemonic as SAMPLE:  Signs and symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Last known intake (food and water) and last known menstrual period if appropriate, Events leading up to the illness.  In addition to SAMPLE we can also use OPQRST to narrow down specifics on pain or discomfort:  Onset, Palliate/Provoke (“what makes it better or worse?”), Quality (“throbbing,” “sharp,” “burning”), Radiate (“does the pain radiate to other parts of the body?”), Severity (“on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life…”), Time (“how has the pain changed with any of the previous questions, since it started?”).

Bear in mind that beyond just working with one individual, you may be watching for patterns in a clinical environment.  After the third or fourth person comes in with the exact same symptoms, you have to start addressing community health questions.  How you go about doing that can range from quarantining (in the case of something like cholera) and helping set up water-treatment & hygiene plans in a remote or post-disaster community, to contacting local (e.g. county) health officials in a more first world setting.


In acute presentation of gastroenteritis, the herbal protocols are often going to be symptom-based.  Is there nausea and vomiting?  If so, can they keep anything down at all?  Dry heaves?  Blood? Diarrhea?  Color and consistency of the diarrhea if so (e.g. “rice water,” bloody, mucous, etc.), cramping?

Our primary concerns in the case of an acute onset of severe gastroenteritis (assuming that the herbal approach is the only option for whatever reason) are to prevent the patient from dehydration and support the recovery of the gut mucosa.  The latter is simple in theory but not always in practice.  Some of the most effective approaches involve helping clear the gut of what is causing the problem and reducing the inflammatory responses.  

Activated charcoal is a very useful substance in the initial clearing of the gut.  Whether toxins (e.g. food poisoning), bacteria or even protozoan infections, charcoal adsorbs and also helps to slow diarrhea.  As an initial protocol before giving any herbs, charcoal can often be very helpful.  The dosage can range as between one and two grams of charcoal per kilogram of body weight, every 4 – 8 hours.  Be aware that the person’s feces will likely come out black, and it should slow diarrhea somewhat.  Normally (in the absence of diarrhea), it is important to note that charcoal can cause constipation.  Note that we would not want to ingest charcoal at the same time as any herbs we were taking.  Much of the herb would bind with the charcoal, rendering both the charcoal and the herb ineffective.

Moving into herbs, what are some of the primary considerations?  We want to reduce gut inflammation.  We want to help restore normal gut mucosa function.  We want to overwhelm or kill off causative pathogens.  We want to support liver and kidney function (detoxification and elimination).  We want to palliate symptoms like cramping and nausea.  We also want to prevent dehydration, which involves both a rehydration solution as well as helping the gut absorb the fluids.  

“Gut inflammation” is a sort of generic term given to the physiological set of responses by the gut to a disruption in healthy function.  Pathogens have many various methods of fulfilling their own life cycles in their own quest to survive, colonize, feed, reproduce and find more hosts.  During that process that may be happening in our own gut, there is inevitably going to be an inflammatory response by damaged tissue of the gut.  Anything that reduces the pathogenic potency, increases our own tissue healing curve or both is going to reduce gut inflammation.  

Most berberine-containing herbs kill handle many of these aspects of dealing with gut inflammation.  They provide an astringency that helps reduce water loss.  They tend to have a directly anti-inflammatory effect on the gut.  They are usually anti-microbial.  They are also usually stimulate and support liver function.  Herbs that fit into this category are the Berberis and Mahonia species.  Other herbs include Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Chinese Goldthread (Coptis chinensis).  My favorite herb to use for acute gastroenteritis is Algerita (Berberis trifoliolata).  The root of this plant is intensely bitter and yellow with berberine, while the leaf is somewhat sweet, a little sour, and an excellent anti-nauseal.

Another herb that is highly anti-microbial, astringent and wound-healing on the gut is Walnut (Juglans spp.).  I use the Juglans microcarpa here in central TX but the most commonly used medicinal species is the Juglans nigra.  I like to mix the unripe (but just starting to soften) hull with the leaf of this tree, about 50/50.

Juglans nigra Eastern Black Walnut

Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) is not a North American plant, but can be grown here in the most southern climates, or grown in pots and wintered indoors.  It has been referred to as the “king of bitters,” and for good reason.  Aside from its overwhelming bitter qualities, it is another herb that is highly antimicrobial and has an astringing, anti-inflammatory effect on the gut.

I like to use Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) as well as its milder cousin, Western Mugwort (Artemisia ludoviciana) for acute gastroenteritis as well. Both are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory to the gut tissue, bitters and cholegogues. Both are also decent anti-nauseals, even when a person is already vomiting.  

Another antimicrobial that is also a superlative smooth muscle relaxant for cramping is Silktassel (Garrya spp.).  I know of herbalists who have used the leaves of this plant to mix with water as a form of water purification.  While I have not used it this way, I do use it quite often as an anti-spasmotic for smooth muscle throughout the body, to include the gut.  I use the leaf and bark of this plant, tinctured fresh.  I usually harvest it by pruning a bush and taking all the leaves and bark off of what I prune.  This usually comes out to being about 70% leaf and 30% bark.

Any mucosal vulnerary is going to have a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect on the gut.  This can include Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) root and leaf, Prickly Pear (Opuntia spp.) cactus flower, Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) leaf (if you don’t have a problem with the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which another topic), Plantain (Plantago spp.), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.) root and many others.  These are best prepared as a cold infusion, which also helps with hydration.  If you are preparing a rehydration solution anyway (1 teaspoon salt, 6 teaspoons sugar per quart of water is one of the most basic formulas), you can put it all together in a mucosal vulnerary rehydration drink.  

As a side note, Prickly Pear cactus can be used to filter water as well.  Fillet the pad and chop it into small pieces so that lots of surface area is exposed of the demulcent, gooey inside of the pad.  Put those pieces into a container with the water you wish to clean (pre-strain to clear as much turbidity as possible).  Shake, let it sit about 30 minutes, shake again and strain.  It is not anywhere near the filtration of a slow-sand filter, but the Prickly Pear pad is a flocculant and will stimulate aggregation of small particulates (fomites – homes for pathogens to live on) into larger particulates while adsorbing the same.

In a pinch, the Prickly Pear cactus pad can even be used to boil water!  Take a large pad, cut off the pointier end, fillet down the center very carefully to within about an inch of the edge (from the inside).  You can prop the sides open at the top using a small stick and pour water into the pad.  Water can be heated to easily 160 degrees for about 30 minutes in coals, without burning through the pad

All of the antimicrobial herbs mentioned above are going to give relief and help the body cope with a protozoal infection such as giardiasis or cryptosporidium.  Another strong antiprotozoan for those two infections particularly, is Chaparro Amargosa (Castela spp.).  



Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) is another anti-protozoal and one of the primary ingredients in formulas I have used to work successfully with cutaneous leishmaniasis infections, which are protozoal.

With any case of infectious gastroenteritis, it is imperative that the liver and kidneys be supported as well.  Support of the liver should be gentle to help it detoxify waste products that make it into the hepatic portal system.  Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) seed is of great use here.  Also helping to support liver function gently are Chicory (Cichoreum intybus) root and Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) leaf.  I like to use Burdock (Arctium lappa) root and Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) root a lot as both gentle liver support as well as gentle diuretics whenever helping the body deal with toxins, pathogens, infection, lymph stagnation or other disease processes that increase the body’s need to deal with and excrete waste products. 

Parasites (helminths) are another topic that is a discussion on its own.  There is generally not going to be a singular herb or even a set of herbs that are anti-parasitic for all parasites across the board.  However as a rule, some of the general anti-parasitic herbs that work in formulas either directly, or supportively, are: Any of the aforementioned berberine-containing herbs, Elecampane (Inula helenium), Horse Radish (Armoracia rusticana), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum spp.), Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) Garlic (Allium sativum) and Cayenne (Capsicum annuum).

The importance of clean water cannot be overstated in the full spectrum of holistic understanding of our health.  In the case of infectious disease, it is paramount that we have a clear understanding of both the epidemiology of the area as well as the tools we can implement to create better preventative health for a community.  Once we have helped create sustainable, clean water, we can continue even better than before as herbalists and health care providers.




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Jun 132016

diversity faces herbalism

The Value of Cognitive Diversity, NeuroDiversity, & a Diversity of Approaches to Herbal Practice

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Violent attacks by anti-gay and anti-American extremists are indicative of the fear of social diversity, just as fear of neurodiversity and differences in perspective/response manifests as intolerance for anything but the accepted “normal.” The following defense and celebration of diversity is an advance excerpt from an upcoming Plant Healer Magazine column, by Plant Healer co-editor Wolf Hardin… feel free to share it with others and thereby advance this important discussion in these troubling times.


Diverse |diˈvərs, dī-| adjective
1. very different; demonstrating a great deal of variety
Origin: From the Latin ‘divursus’: meaning to ‘turn in individual ways’

We might find differences interesting and the exceptional may excite us, but it is sameness and normalcy that are most often sought. When entering a crowded party, we may gravitate to those most like us. Parents are known to brag about how their child is “just your average, typical kid,” apparently relieved if they grow up neither smarter nor less intelligent than those around them, fitting in by looking at and acting within this ol’ world in the same ways that the majority do. In fact, when most parents are handed their newborn child in the hospital, the first thing they do is to count the number of her fingers and toes, giddily announcing that everything’s alright: “She’s normal!” Never mind that a sixth digit could prove immensely useful, or that it is the child’s unique personality, particular differences and peculiarities that will make her most precious and memorable.

Diversity – a multiplicity of differences – is typically shunned in the larger society. It is not just perceived racial and gender diversity that’s often found threatening, nor the diversity of political beliefs and contending religions, but also the biodiversity that impedes or contends with the monocultures of agribusiness, the old or innovative architectural diversity that detracts from a city’s chosen modern theme, the diversity of thought that can make the job of controlling human behavior more difficult for the managerial systems of the elite minority. Variety – generally superficial variations of the same accepted things – is both acceptable and profitable. Diversity, on the other hand, is by its very nature complex, unpredictable, and to some degree resurgent and unmanageable… just like the field of herbalism itself.

My teaching, publishing and organizing work happens not in society writ large, but within a special herbal community that is characteristically nontypical, and that with few exceptions vocally supports ethnic, biological, and some other forms of diversity. And yet, even here, there is often a reluctance to value differences in opinions and perspectives… and there’s a percentage of herbalists who hold that divergence – including neurological diversity – is a malady needing to be addressed or cured. If none of us shared a common neurology, and the ways of seeing and interpreting the world which follows, it would be hard to imagine us coalescing and functioning smoothly as families, clans, neighborhoods or nations… and yet it is differences in perception as well as form and function that open new doors for personal, cultural and biological evolution. And the health of earth and life, as well as of our own personal life experience, is contingent on the interrelationships between wildly diverse things, beings, and ways.

Let’s take a diverse look, if you will, at how these themes influence, impact, impede or propel elements of an herbal practice.

Diversity sign

Tradition & Diversity

Tradition – the best as well as worst of traditions – depend on our doing some things in a closely similar way to our peers, elders and ancestors. A diversity of ways can feel threatening as well as confusing. Throughout history, we have understandably valued sameness for its familiarity and the relative security it provides. Change has often been tragic, and differences often proven dangerous. People who looked, dressed, and acted like us, were more likely to be related and less likely to be invaders from another place. Eating the same culturally prescribed meals prepared in the same ways, might logically reduce the chances of being poisoned by unfamiliar toxic species or improperly handled foods. Healers sticking to the same well-tested materia medica could ensure greater predictability when it came to effects and outcomes.

Traditions, including healing traditions, require a degree of uniformity and continuity to retain their usefulness, meaning, distinctive character and flavor. At the same time, they cannot further develop, deepen, improve, or repurpose without a separate or even counter current within them that challenges and tests their assumptions, advances new perspectives and possibilities, and suggests divergent ways and forms of manifesting. Diversity is the milieu for cross pollination and exponential variation, increasing ideas and options, mixing new colors from out of the enlarged palette, and enriching and informing any participants.

The ideas and principles that we treasure most, often sounded bizarre, absurd, or heretical when first uttered by impassioned outliers and oddballs. They were often dismissed at first, if not outright condemned. People who look and sound nothing like the norm have often inspired or instigated revolutions in thinking, in science, in culture and our social relations, and in the healing arts. We grow our materia medica and advance our formulations not through adherence to what is already known, but through intuitive leaps and mad adventures, through exploration and experimentation, through unheard of applications and unlikely combinations.

Certain societies and traditions have found healthy ways of incorporating and utilizing the “medicine” of divergence, valuing those individuals that are different, the holy fools who act as a counterforce to the pretentiousness of religious leaders and arrogance of rulers. Those beset with visions might in some cases be assigned the role of shaman or soothsayer. They who seem to exist in their own separate reality, could be tapped for ways of seeing outside the self-limiting box of “knowns.” While homosexuality was punishable among some Native American nations, there were also examples of incorporation such as the accepted transgendered “Contraries” of the Plains tribes, riding into camp backwards, speaking in virtual koans that disrupted normal perception. In historic Europe, being just a little different could get you ostracized, whereas being extremely, flamboyantly different could result in appointment as a jester, an emissary, or an advisor. These days, it’s not uncommon for teams of product designers and software developers to include one “free thinker,” tasked to add novel perspectives and make wildly unexpected suggestions to a working group otherwise made up of the practically conventional and cautious.

Folk herbalism feels like a natural home for the different, for the relative minority who do not accept the pervasive spin of the medical and pharmaceutical establishment. This field attracts people with an uncommon degree of caring and compassion, an unusual degree of desire to make their lives ones of service and benefit to the world, and often a strange compulsion to frolic with plants. By contemporary American standards most herbalists are categorically strange. Even those with white lab coats or professional letters after their names are, with very few exceptions, still a bit odd… just think about it for a minute! And even herbalists who work hard to be accepted by the mainstream will almost always be seen as fringe and suspect by the MD, the politician, and the average citizen. Herbalism is marked by a diversity of characters, philosophies, approaches, traditions, constitutional models, skills, treatments, and plant medicines… and the overall field benefits by any political, lifestyle, ethnic and gender diversity that we’re able to encourage and facilitate.

Plant Healer Diversity Poster-72dpi

NeuroDiversity & Autism

What is called “Autism,” like any other condition, exists as a spectrum of characteristics with a wide range of degrees. At one end of this spectrum, these characteristics can be so extreme as to make functioning in “normal” society nearly impossible without assistance, with every sight and sound seeming to assault the person’s senses, and all human expressions and gestures menacingly indecipherable. At the other end, someone with Asperger’s may not only have learned to adapt and function, but also to conceal their condition from casual observers.

The way that an autistic person might perceive and communicate is not objectively wrong, it is simply different… and one question, as always, should be “what is the message, lesson or benefit to evident differences?” Having a partner on the spectrum, I have witnessed the ways she is handicapped, but have also been witness and beneficiary of ways in which she is blessed and equipped. Because she thinks visually, my art and writing is perpetually fed new and improbable imagery, her proclivity for patterns brings new factors to light, her absence of filters means she expresses herself literally, and her inability to strategize means I can trust the in-the-moment sincerity of any purrings or outbursts. Not automatically knowing what “normal” people would do or say in a given situation, means she provides fresh if not always gentle input and response. She is a constant compulsive creator, and her obsessions have resulted in the development of helpful new herbal uses, the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference and Plant Healer Magazine. Her built-in intolerance for the clamorous and the pressing, the hurtful and the illogical, for great mistakes and common untruths, is – regardless of its neurological or psychological causes – both helpful, and commendable.

Looking to that percentage of autistic people who struggle to interact in society without anxiety and panic, it is natural for an herbalist or other health care specialist to want to address the distress and ease the unease. It becomes even harder not to label autism a disease, when the internet is full of organizations devoted to “stamping it out,” and scary stories attributing its cause to vaccinations, or a government conspiracy against the lower classes. In balance, we might look to contemporary literature and research linking Autism Spectrum “disorder” in some cases to creative genius, discovery and innovation.

Evolution is adaptation under stress, a process of bold experimentation with many forgettable dead ends and some truly significant new avenues of being and becoming. Social and cultural evolution has almost always been seeded, fomented and furthered by an odd and impassioned few, not by the norm nor the masses. Intellectual and societal breakthroughs have been spearheaded by rather abnormal thinkers and doers, crazed generals and mad scientists, mystics and marvels… and some of these exhibited what have been identified as autistic traits: Issac Newton challenged the religious and scientific establishment. America’s revolt against the English monarchy and the principles of its Bill of Rights owe much to the very Aspergy Thomas Jefferson. Alternating current (AC electricity) resulted from the unusual mind of the inventor Nicola Tesla, the very untypical Herman Hesse gave us ground breaking spiritual/philosophic books like Steppenwolf and Magister Ludi. George Orwell proved with his book 1984 that, contrary to popular citation, he could see that “the emperor wore no clothes.” Albert Einstein postulated theories of space and time that radically changed how we look at the physics of the universe. It took someone like Joy Adamson to personalize lions for the public in her book and then movie Born Free, and more normal people seem less likely to raise the priorities of animal conservation up to the level of those regarding human welfare. Pop music benefitted from the introspection of Nico, John Hartford, Ladyhawke and Mozart. Bisexual novelist Patricia Highsmith allegedly felt more comfortable with animals than most humans, and took lesbian lit to places it had never gone before. Alfred Kinsey wrote about human sexuality in radical new ways. There would one less Wonderland in our collective consciousness without the bizarre imagination of socially-handicapped Lewis Carroll, and Pink Floyd would have been a much more ordinary rock band without the psychedelic ministrations of Syd Barrett’s Autistic brain.*

celebrate neurodiversity

To the degree that we accept the value of ethnic and other forms of diversity, we must reasonably also accept the value of NeuroDiversity, the diversity of alternate mental, emotional, and perceptual states. Clearly, when herbalists and others work with clients with autistic spectrum or other supposed psychological or neurological “disorders” attention should be given not to cause movement towards some baseline or version of normality, but towards maximizing their positive experience, and assisting their healthful manifestations of their particular differences and individual gifts.

diversity kids no background

Cognitive Diversity & a Weirder Norm

However science eventually categorizes, describes or measures autism, and whether it is mapped chemically or electrically, it will likely always be helpful to explain it through the use of visual models and metaphors, such as referring to a persons cognitive “wiring.” An autistic person is thus said to be wired differently than average, resulting in different patterns of recognition, interpretation, and response. And this atypical wiring can result in atypical ways of experiencing, understanding, and altering or solving otherwise imperceptible, inexplicable, or intractable situations.

We live in a society rife with injustices, inequities and evils, in a time when keeping things the same would amount to perpetuating harm. Against a vast backdrop of normal and even institutionalized wrongs, from corporate hegemony to hateful dogma, exploitation, the destruction of nature and endless wars, any difference or change has at least a decent statistical chance of being an improvement, and it is only diversity of thinking that prevents the complete solidification and codification of the unhealthful condition of sameness.

It is perhaps sameness that we need to create a movement against, instead of against autism or deviance, divergence or diversity. Something like Societies For The Eradication of Sameness, for the sake of the world we hope to leave in one piece for our descendants. Websites raising funds to prevent the spread of unquestioning obedience and dangerous assumption. NGOs chartered to find a cure for the plague of clueless acquiescent normalcy. And I would add, with less tongue-and-cheek: a growing cadre of enthusiastic volunteers dedicated to the diversification of thought and approach, the diversification of monocultures and the monotheistic, of the monotoned, the monopolistic and monocratic.

At no point do I mean to say that autistics or other neurodivergents have an exclusive lock on originality and innovation, or even strangeness, nor that they are born to be the sole translators, arbiters or interlocutors between the worlds of the magical and the muggles, the normal and the wondrous, the mundane and the surprising. That mission belongs to all of us, the well-adjusted as well as the maladjusted. The relatively normal as well as we classifiable freaks. Cognitive diversity is no less important to our personal and societal health than biological diversity is to ecological balance and well-being of ecosystems. It is for us to develop and pass on to others an understanding of health and living that is conscious of differences and encouraging of diversity and divergence.

Face it, what we know of as the norm is going to get weirder as we learn more. If we look closely enough, we might see that “healthy” looks different depending on the person. And if scientists ever can locate, describe and map out cognitive variances including autism, I expect that we will find all people are “wired” at least a little bit differently from each other, that none of us are fully normal, that we all harbor and can express traits that are unusual, differences that distinguish as well as personalize us, and a diverse cognitive ecosystem by which grace we shine.

diversity hands in air

*For lists of more famous folks with apparent autistic traits, see:



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Jun 072016

Now For Sale – Our Summer Book Release: 


Feral Herbalists, Free Clinics, & Guerrilla Gardening

Drawn from the pages of Plant Healer Magazine 

Edited by Jesse Wolf Hardin & Kiva Rose Hardin

Foreword by Paul Bergner

48 Chapters by 31 Impassioned Herbalists:

Paul Bergner • David Hoffmann • Guido Masé • Phyllis Light • Kiva Rose • Renee Davis • Sean Donahue • Janet Kent • Sam Coffman • Susun Weed • Dara Saville • Charles “Doc” Garcia • Rebecca Altman • Lisa Fazio Ferguson • Aviva Romm • Alanna Whitney • Susan Leopold • Jen Stovall  • Dave Meesters • 7Song • Rae Swersey • Nicole Telkes • Sarah Baldwin • Michelle Czolba • Bri Saussy • Leaf • Roger Wicke • Leah Wolf •  & Jesse Wolf Hardin

428 Pages – $29 B&W Softbound

Order your copy from the Bookstore Page at:


Radical Herbalism Book.tif

Herbalism is the “People’s Medicine,” a skill historically and necessarily accessible to all regardless of one’s class, status, gender, race, or financial situation.  Radical herbalism is “root” herbalism, inextricably linked to and drawing sustenance from this lineage of personal empowerment and insistent natural healing.  And not just the healing of bodies, but of our psyches and spirits, community and culture, immediate environs and global ecology.

This new book defends and celebrates the People’s Medicine, in 31 distinct but deeply allied voices.



Radical Herbalism.tif

The 48 chapters were written by 31 of the leading herbal educators, drawn directly from the pages of Plant Healer Magazine, and with a powerful Foreword by the “Herbal Rebel” himself: Paul Bergner.  Each and every contributor to Radical Herbalism has their own personal perspective, focus, and approach, and not all are in agreement by any means.  In concert, the effect of their diverse contributions is to inform, inspire, and embolden us – the readers – in our co-creation of a radical, healthful new paradigm.

The complete contents follow.



$29 Softbound – You can order your copy by clicking on the Bookstore Page at:


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May 242016

Wendy Butter Petty by Wolf framed 72dpi copy


Presenting The Wisdom of Plant Healer & Wild Forager
Wendy “Butter” Petty


People get into the art of foraging for different reasons, including saving money by integrating wild and free fare, treasuring how much better foraged foods can taste, and knowing that they are often healthier for us than anything we can get from a grocery store. Our newest Plant Healer Magazine columnist, Wendy ‘Butter” Petty, has at least one other motivation: she is wildly in love with plants, animals, in love with all the natural world, its difficult lessons as well as beauty and insights. Butter’s quarterly column is entitled “Foraging Matters,” beginning with an article of elemental foraging advice, and proudly excerpted here.

“I hail from farming families on both sides,” she tells us. “My father can recount tales of growing up in the Midwest, and how picking wild foods was a natural part of the way they fed a large family. A big group of kin would pile into pickup of the old Chevy, then strike out into the woods to fill buckets attached to their top overall buttons with things like Morels, Raspberries, and Hickory nuts, each in season. Nobody called it foraging, and it was neither fancy nor intimidating. Harvesting wild foods was a natural part of the cycle of life.”

As a young adult, she felt a “deep-seated need to be anti-domestic” and identify as a scientist. her my ambitions had everything to do with being a scientist. “To be honest, I’d come from people who sewed and canned and hunted. I wanted to end up far away from any of that. And yet the pull to the mountains was even stronger. “The only thing I really knew about myself when I graduated school was that, despite my degree in chemistry, I wanted to be near to my beloved Rocky Mountains, which were as essential to my being as the thin air that bathes them.”

hiking gathering in colorado forest

Her return to foraging was a slow process, and yet today “It is at the core of who I am. I try to eat as many wild foods as possible as a part of my year-round diet. This requires quite a bit of planning, harvesting work, food preparation, and hours sunk into preserving.”

Today, Butter not only writes about gathering and wildcrafting in Plant Healer Magazine and her online blog, she also instructs others about it, infecting them with her unbridled enthusiasm.

“My passion and hope for the future is to establish foraging as a pillar of social/food justice. People who would define themselves as foragers are a small group. On one hand, you have the world’s leading chefs like René Redzepi and Magnus Nilsson inspiring great high-end cuisine. On the other, you have the group that is widely regarded by the rest of the world as the “twigs and berries” crowd. I see a whole gray scale of people in between who might really enjoy or benefit from adding one or two wild foods to their pantry. I want to get real and meet people where they are without an ounce of judgment about how they already eat, and share my forever bubbling-over zeal for wild foods. Bottom line is that wild foods taste great. That’s a wonderful place for us all to meet and say howdy.”

When it came time to write the following introduction to her first Plant Healer column, she chose to do so in the form of a letter to her once novice self… but it serves, indeed, as a letter to us all, as we each stand at the doorway to a lifetime of ethically gathering, savoring, and conserving the nutritional and medicinal gifts of the living planet.

“Standing at the crossroads, looking both forward to promoting foraging as a pillar in food justice, and over my shoulder at the young woman who found herself through harvesting wild food, I can see my own journey a bit more clearly. There are a lot of things I’d do differently as a fledgling forager, if I had it all to do again. Even though most of these things add time to the task of foraging, they pay off in the end. I’ve written a letter to myself as a novice forager, hoping that others can benefit from where I got it wrong, as well as what I did right.”

You can read the entire longer article in the Summer 2016 issue of Plant Healer Magazine, available for download June 6th: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

–JWH, PHM CoEditor


Foraging Matters – Wendy Butter Petty – Plant Healer Magazine



By Wendy Butter Petty


Dear Young Butter,

In retrospect, it all makes sense that you became a forager. While your schoolmates were playing video games or dressing up dolls, you were running wild in the ditches, distracted for hours on end by flowers and trees and the dirty elbows of the creek. As you matured, your friends endeavored to climb to the top of all the 14’ers. You got left behind, barely more than a few steps from the trailhead – photographing flowers, sniffing trees bark, and exploring behind boulders. As you come of age, your love of the outdoors and food combine into a passion you never could have expected: that of a wild foods enthusiast.

As a young woman who aligns with Riot Grrrls, I know you may want to push back against my advice that follows. But please, open your ears and just let it sink in. As much as you’ve always wanted to rebel, you’ve remained a good listener. These things will make foraging easier in the long run:

-Respect for the plants

Thanks to your deep connection with the land of your home, you’ve almost always done the right thing as a forager. You’ve not harvested more than you could use, nor left an area less beautiful than you’d found it. You’ve always understood that, like yourself, wild foods are all part of a bigger web, and are as connected to the insects and dirt as they are to you. You’ve never thought they were yours to pillage by right. That’s an ethic that you now pass down and emphasize to every student you teach, helping to ensure that foragers are doing right by the place where they harvest. This is the most important aspect of being a forager. Listening to the plants, respecting their lives and existence and place in the world.

-Got to know each plant slowly

You were bone-headed enough to study and learn wild edible plants on your own. It turns out that this tactic of learning plants at an agonizingly slow pace has paid off. You’ve been able to see plants in each stage of growth and how they overwinter. That’s often necessary to nailing down a difficult ID. It also helps to make a lasting pattern of recognition. Better yet, learning plants slowly, on a manageable scale, enabled you to introduce them into your kitchen one at a time, gaining a deep understanding how each plant tastes and behaves in recipes.

-Making wild foods a real staple in the kitchen, more than just nibbling

Of course, there are all different types of foragers out there, but I applaud your ability as a newbie forager to make the wild foods you bring home workhorses in your kitchen. As an instructor, I now see lots of people who are interested in wild foods, but no matter how many classes they take or books they read, wild edibles never really become a real part of their kitchen repertoire. Your interest in foraging was driven by a desire to sample new foods from the start. That same love of food is what secured a big place in your heart and life for foraging.


Gathered Wild Foods berries & shrooms


-Not letting things go to waste if picked

I’m glad it’s always been so heartbreaking to you to see wild foods go to waste. It’s always seemed disrespectful to the plants, hasn’t it? It’s also just a big waste of time. On a practical level, this is tied into kitchen economy. For one to get the most bang for their so-called buck, they must actually use the foods they put into the fridge/pantry. You’ve always seemed to get that a combination of intuitive cooking, seasonality, and economy are all deeply entwined in a wild foods kitchen. Wild foods stretch your creativity in a way you thrive on, but they also force you to consider what ingredients are on hand and how they can best be utilized to make a meal. You’ve always understood that using wild ingredients in cooking is as simple as swapping out familiar ingredients in known recipes. Orache and Dock replace the Spinach in lasagna. Ditch Plums are used in place of Peaches in Gran’s famous cobbler. Porcini are now the star of good old cream of mushroom soup. One of your greatest delights is in combining whatever odds and ends are kicking around the fridge with fresh wild foods, and serving up a meal that will be slurped up by even the pickiest eater. That’s a skill that will continue to benefit you well.

-Respect for delicate and native plants

From day one, you’ve always been sensitive to the fact that plants and fungi aren’t yours to dominate, that some technically edible things are simply too beautiful or ephemeral to eat. Others, especially the natives, have populations that must be protected.


-Foraging needn’t look a certain way

Thank you for not holding to any romanticized ideal of what a foraging must look like. For sure, there are people who forage with a basket spun of angel spit gently swaying from their arm as they tiptoe through the forest in perfectly dappled light with animated birds flitting from branch to branch around them. For you, foraging has largely been a sweaty, muddy, back-aching affair done with plastic grocery bags the neighbors have saved for you, and that’s never bothered you a bit. There’s room enough in the world for angel-spit basket foragers and upcycled-baggie foragers alike.

-Learn the trees first

I know, I really do, that when you were first starting out, you’d do anything possible to identify plants and get them to your dinner plate. In the rush, you skipped over some of the most important aspects of the environment, the one element that could give you more clues to what’s going on in a bioregion than anything else. Learn the trees first. Trees are the alphabet; all stories begin with them. Think of how many hours, enough to add up to whole days or weeks lost, you wasted by searching for Morels under Plains Cottonwoods and Peach-leaf Willows when you couldn’t distinguish between those trees and Narrow-leaf Cottonwoods under which morels grow in Eastern Colorado. The arm-span of one adult equals approximately 50 years of growth in a tree, so you can tell just by looking at the circumference of a tree whether it predated white settlement in a particular area. Knowing bark patterns and overall shapes of trees helps you spot new peach, plum, and apple trees while wandering around in the off-season, which is an important aspect of scouting new locations.

Types of tree buds

-Learn botanical names

Botanical names seem big and scary because you didn’t grow up learning them. They aren’t as cuddly as common names. They’re long and odd and you can’t pronounce them. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody really knows the correct way to pronounce them. Do your best, and understand that in doing so, you are communicating. Latin names are important. In the beginning, it is so tempting to only use common names. Then you start to understand how nonspecific common names are, and how the names pigweed or snakeweed could refer to any one of a dozen plants. When it comes to accurate identification, botanical names are everything, completely essential, non-negotiable. When you realize that plants are from the same family, you’ll start to understand characteristics they have in common. There are about a zillion species of Mustard in your area. Knowing that the flowers of Mustard plants have four petals arranged like a “+” sign and their seeds tend to spiral up the stem like a squirrel tail helps you to immediately place an unknown plant as belonging to the mustard family.

-Know which plants are on the invasive species list

You are now aware that there are two different viewpoints on invasive species. Some believe that they are a threat to native plants, and must be fought at all costs. Others think that they are a part of the flow of change on the planet, and can’t or possibly shouldn’t try to be managed. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, it is important to know which species are invasive in your area for two reasons. The first is that invasive species are the ones most likely to be targeted for herbicide sprays. Secondly, invasive species are usually some of the most abundant in a given area, so you won’t impact their population by harvesting them at will.

Wild asparagus

-Take a class

You endeavored to learn foraging all by yourself. While there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s no reason to do so. Translating what you’ve read in a book to the field is flat out difficult. Nothing can replace first-hand knowledge from someone who already knows what they are doing, and seeing/smelling/touching plants firsthand does wonders for remembering them. Take a class! Take advantage of the knowledge of more experienced foragers and go out on plant walks with them, join forays with the Mycological Society. Even if you don’t enjoy being around people, it enhances your ability to learning plants.

-Label pictures, even if you are only guessing

Congratulations on taking pictures of what you are harvesting, for taking pleasure document the plants to help you learn. But for Pete’s sake, if you don’t label those pictures, they are darned near useless later on. There is simply no way to sift through all of the thousands of unlabeled pictures you have archived to find the one you need. Sort them by seasonal and plant-specific folders, and label as many as you can manage. Even label plants about whose identity you are still uncertain with your best guess and a question mark.

-Have a well-labeled and easily accessible pantry

Having come from a family of hunters and canners, you already knew to label everything you put up. Mercy, though, those few that sneak past you can really be a nuisance. Remember how you thought putting away dried plants in any old tin you could find from the thrift store was a good idea? They did indeed keep the light out, and with the lack of humidity on the Front Range, keeping moisture out was never an issue. What you didn’t anticipate was that having tins of every shape and size made them very hard to manage on the shelf. Worse, the fact that they were disorganized and you couldn’t see into them kept you from using the plants you’d stored. You didn’t remember those rose petals you’d put up until it was nearly time for them to bloom again. You used them eventually, but that kind of thing is really a shame. You may be a messy person and like it that way, but in this case the anal crowd really has it right – greater organization in the foraged pantry leads to greater efficiency, which means you make better use of all of those beloved plants you harvested. Pantry stores are meant to be used, not turned into a museum.


-Know both the ideal and the easiest way to process something

Alright, so you spotted that amazing recipe and you have your heart set on making it, say apple-sumac powder. All well and good, except you are exhausted from foraging nonstop throughout the growing season and can’t bear to prepare a single recipe more. Keep that ideal recipe in mind, and make it if you have the energy. However, if you’re too worn out to peel, core, slice, dry, and powder apples, no big deal! Instead, core the apples, cut them into fat slices, and dry them. The task barely takes a few minutes, and dried apples keep forever and are loved by everyone.

-Know what processing can be put off until the off-season

I know, you couldn’t have imagined that you’d be completely engulfed by foraging, that it would become your deepest passion, your whole life. As it started to consume you, though, you realized how much time it took, and that with the short growing seasons where you live in the Rockies, there isn’t enough time to pick and process all the foods you want and need to get through the winter and also work other jobs. Relax, there are tasks you can put off until the off-season. Ditch Plums can go straight into a bag and into the freezer. Acorns can be roasted then frozen in their shells. Black Walnuts and Pine Nuts can be picked from their shells during snow storms. Nettles can be dried, and later stripped of their tough stems on the longest days. Seeds can be harvest and left in paper bags until you can deal with them. Manage the best you can, get help from extra hands and pay them with a good meal. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.

foraging sloe-Speaking of the off-season, study then

Hey there, grasshopper, you live in a place where there are no things growing for 5+ months per year. Hibernation time is important, but think also about how this time can be used wisely as a forager. Take out your copy of Botany in a Day, sign up for an online course, go out and master the identification of two different trees by their bark alone.

-Keep records from year to year

I realize that it takes time to keep a log of what you foraged day to day, what the weather was like, other thoughts you had about the conditions on any given day. It gives you so much in return, though. Being able to go back and see when a particular crop emerged from year to year helps you predict how the plants and fungi will behave in the future. And over the long haul, it helps you remember other events. You thought you’d never forget the big flood, didn’t you? Now you struggle to remember how many years have elapsed since it happened.

-Foraging and Herbalism

What you don’t understand now as a novice forager is that foraging and herbalism are two sides of the same coin, not separate fields. During the season in which you collect rose petals or hips for food, make a point of studying how those same parts can be used as medicine. Understand that in addition to making a really nice ingredient in salad dressing, rose vinegar cannot be beat for cooling the heat of burns, and make a double batch. There are all types and degrees of both foragers and herbalists in the world. Let the fields bleed into each other and integrate; they’ll add color and depth to your understanding of the big picture.


Little pat of Butter, I’m so pleased that you’ve finally found your place in the world, and the knowledge you are amassing. I love the way you can now look out across the land you hold dear and read it like never before, and how foraging has strengthened and enhanced your bond with your home. The wonderful thing about foraging is that you will never be able to know all there is to know, and a lifetime of wonder lies ahead of you.

Most sincerely,
The Mature (cultured) Butter

Wendy Butter Petty, Plant Healer


To read the entire, longer article in the Summer 2016 issue of Plant Healer Magazine (340 color pages releasing June 6th), you need only be subscribed: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

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May 162016

IntroOne commitment of Plant Healer publications and events is to provide an accessible, non-exclusive nexus and welcoming home to the existing diverse community of herb users, nature lovers, and community healers.  Every issue of Plant Healer Magazine is a coming together of the wide ranging tribe, a plant-communal intercoursing and exchanging of ideas and tools, and each September’s conference in New Mexico is a rendezvous and reunion of like-hearted souls, students of health and agents of change. At the same time, we’re given to the mission of reaching out beyond known and self proclaimed herbalists, to fuel the interest of others, encourage interaction with allied disciplines, and publish and host new teachers, new writers, new voices with new perspectives and a different quadrant of knowledge to share.  Our guest post below is written by one such new voice, Ramona Rubin, since 2015 bringing to the Plant Healer Community a sharp mind and atypical skill set, a deep knowledge of medical marijuana science and issues, and an excited hunger to learn all she can about herbs and personal/planetary healing.  Her recent story serves as encouragement to everyone getting into this field or attending a Plant Healer event for the first time. The path of the Plant Healer begins with a simple moment of realization, and profound intimacy with a plant itself.  –Wolf & Kiva

Every Herbal Journey Begins With a Single Leaf-72dpi—————

The Herbal Journey Begins With a Single Leaf

by Ramona Rubin

It was just over one year ago that I attended my first Traditions in Western Herbalism conference. I was awed at the open-hearted sharing of herbal wisdom and inspired by those practicing a vibrant healing tradition. I was also significantly overwhelmed at how much foundational information about plants I did not know. The names of many plants swirled around me in waves of Latin, indistinguishable hues of leafy green against my ears.

I understand all the plants are all related, that they evolved from oceans of algae to colonize the land so many many years ago. I know modern genetic techniques are revealing further secrets about the evolutionary history of plants. Yet I felt like the outsider at a family reunion, hesitating on the sidelines just trying to make sense of the relationships and connections, catching clues as to who has co-evolved with whom, picking up glimpses of shared morphological structures, parallel phytochemical strategies, or niche ecosystem function.


Plant Walk at Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

Plant Walk at Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference


Returning home from the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference last September, one of the first things I did was order a copy of Thomas J. Elpel’s Botany in a Day. I then consulted google for directions, and headed up to the East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden where I spent the afternoon meeting California Native plants, sitting with them, reading their ID tags and attempting to key them out. My first goal, I decided, was to first gain a broad and basic understanding of the family tree of the plant kingdom, the basics of how to recognize a plant as a member of its family. Once that was clear I would then learn everything else.

That first visit in the garden ended so beautifully, playing my flute in the lush creek canyon area at the bottom of the garden accompanied by the sounds of birds and flowing water gurgling stream. I decided right away that I needed to return, return often, and share this great learning place with others. A week later I sent a text out to a few herbalist and naturalist friends.  Five of us gathered in the garden. We made our way slowly, greeting and introducing one another to plants we know, ones that caught our eyes, ones we want to know better. 

It was winter, so the manzanita was in bloom, but many of the annuals were sleeping for the winter, and not all that showy. My friend Lauren paused by some modest little leafy sprouts as we passed the pond. 

“Do you know Yerba Mansa? This is an amazing healing plant here!” she exclaimed. 


anemopsis - yerba mansa


We all gathered around to learn from one another about Yerba Mansa and ended up sitting on the grassy lawn by the pond for the better of the next hour. Some of us were familiar with the plant in medicinal formulas, had never seen it growing, but knew of it as a local and sustainable substitute to over-harvested, ecologically-threatened goldenseal. Sitting there in the winter sunshine we crushed a fresh leaf and let the fragrant oils saturate our fingertips, the aroma spicy, pungent, deeply medicinal smelling.

On our way out, as the garden gate was being closed at the end of the day, I asked the gardener how to learn more about the garden and get involved.  “Our docent training program is about to start next month” he replied. 

Back home I researched the garden that was founded in 1940 and managed by the East Bay Parks District. For a modest subsidized fee I would receive over 60 hours of training, covering botany, California geology and geography, Indian uses of plants (ethnobotany), plant adaptations, pollination, seeds, gardening and cultivation, as well as how to lead tours. 

————-Tilia americana - American Basswood


My training began in January and ran through June. I rescheduled my work to allow for those blissful Tuesday mornings, spent half in lecture taking notes, and half walking the garden paths, learning plants and taking photographs I would later look up and annotate and post to the California Native Plants Society Facebook page. 

I took hikes as frequently as I could that spring when despite our severe drought wildflowers faithfully decorated the hills and woodlands. I discovered the amazing potential of my cell phone camera macro lens setting and spent hours identifying the plant in my photos using the Calflora website as a reference. 

When it came time to present a plant talk to my classmates I brought us back to the grassy field next to the pond. The shy tender little leaves that had graced that pond back in December had leafed out and flowered, and the Yerba Mansa was in full bloom. I was prepared and had done my research. I shared about the herbal uses of Yerba Mansa, the ethnobotanical lore of use in prevention of snakebite, occurrence at sites known for human habitation, springs across the Southwest. 


peeking through leaf-72dpi


I began leading full tours in the summer, opening the walks with recognizing the amazing beauty and abundance of the state. With great pride I would introduce those on my tours to those special plants whose hotspot of biodiversity are in the state. The manzanitas, the ceanothus (redroot), eriogonum (buckwheat).

Last fall I returned to TWHC at the new site in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Another amazing lineup schedule full of topics and teachers of fascinating variety. 

This year, I sat in classes listening to healers discussing the botanical allies they turn to, what grows near them that they rely on and make medicines from in their homes throughout the country. The Latin names no longer washed over me in glazed-eyed waves. Names would elicit pictures in my mind, of friends back home. I’d recognize the genus, but maybe not the species, and think “ah, I know your cousin back home in California, your relatives grow there”.


Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference 2015 –PlantHealer.org

Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference 2015 –PlantHealer.org


I share this story because I am amazed myself at what one year meant in terms of my learning. Finding local resources, connecting to the bioregional bounty, gaining a comprehensive overview of the plant families and an appreciation for the multitudinous variation of flower design. In getting to see the garden evolve and change over the last year I gained an appreciation of how the medicinal components of the plants represent ecological roles and communication with the environment. I gained a deep appreciation for botanic gardens in general, and their role at the intersections of conservation, research, horticulture and nature therapy. On the way home from Cloudcroft we stopped at a desert botanic garden in Arizona. My goal for the next year involves visiting more gardens and appreciating the ways that these different social values of conservation, medicinal plants education, habitat cultivation, intersect in harmonious and beautiful ways. I also strongly encourage herbalists to become involved in caretaking and promoting places where people can come together and learn about their local botanical heritage.


Ramona Rubin - Plant Healer


Ramona welcomes you to attend her two compelling classes at the 2016 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference atop New Mexico’s Sky Island, Sept. 15th-18th:

Topics in Cannabis & Neuropsychology

(1.5 hrs)

This class will discuss selected topics of the psyche, which may include such ideas as memory and forgetting, the healing of PTSD, sexuality, or authentic motivation in the context of the endocannabinoid system and cannabis use. Our goal is to develop a working understanding of the endocannabinoid system and its role regulating the appetites, neural development and homeostatic regulation. Some of the material will draw on traditional uses of cannabis in precolonial cultures, and we will discuss the early psychological research published in the 1970’s on through some more contemporary findings, as well as the emerging movement of combining cannabis with yoga and mindfulness for healing benefit.  There is an emerging interest in cannabis for addressing women’s sexuality and we will discuss some ways to maximize these benefits with supporting herbs and formulas.

Exploring The Water Garden: Stories of Aquatic & Riparian Plants

(1.5 hrs)

According to many creation narratives, including that of science, our planet earth was once a watery soup. Plants evolved to colonize the emerging habitat of dry land. In the garden mythologies of the planet, water is a key element, and a necessary ingredient in life. This class will take a metaphorical walk through the water garden, encountering some key allies adapted to an aqueous or riparian habitat. Central to our exploration, the sacred lotus, will be encountered from global religious and spiritual traditions, as well as the wonders of modern chemistry. Other plants we may encounter along the way include cattails, clubmosses, horsetail, yerba mansa, water lily, water mint, calamus, and watercress.


For more information on this event, or to take advantage of the advance discount tickets, go to the Events page at:



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May 102016


Now Available for FREE Download:

Herbal Education Guide & Herbal Schools Directory

Every 5 years Plant Healer Publications produce for you a Directory of herb schools and online learning opportunities, along with an evolving educational guide describing our options as to what, how, where, and from whom to learn more from as we each continue our lifelong studies and practice of plant medicine. 

Your complimentary 2016 to 2020 Directory is now available to download and share.

Plant Healer Herb Schools Directory www.PlantHealer.org

Download Now:

Free 2016-2020 Education Guide & Herb Schools Directory 

Created as a service to the community, we encourage you to spread the link widely and freely so that everyone who wants can make use of this information while planning one’s continuing learning path.

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Mar 292016

Please Help Us Spread The Word 

About the 2016


The Herbal Resurgence



Your help is needed again getting the word out: Facebooking, putting up TWHC Posters in your area,  and distributing Postcard Announcements if you have or know of an herbal-related retail business.

Growing a Resurgence

It is our mission not only to provide an annual “home” for the returning TWHC tribe, but also to inspire new folks to participate in the excitedly growing herbal resurgence.

Please be so kind as to announce TWHC 2016 on social media, distribute cards to your customers, and print-out or request from us color posters to put up.  We’ll do what we can to outreach your business in turn.

2016 TWHC Postcard -72dpi

New TWHC Postcards

If you have 300 or more herbal customers, we can have a batch of color, postcard sized announcements printed and sent directly to you for distribution.  It’s great if you can put one in each customer bag, or in outgoing shipments when you fill orders.  We can also add your business logo the the front if you’d like.  Please email us your physical address, and tell us how many cards you think you can use between now and the end of August: PlantHealer@PlantHealer.org


2016 TWHC poster www.PlantHealer.org

New 11×17 Posters (300 dpi for Printing)

It’s been a few years since we made large posters for this event, but we couldn’t resist for 2016, hope you like how it looks!

We’d love it if you would either print out or have us send you copies to put up at herb stores, schools, and cool hangouts in your region or town.  It’s best if you can get permission from store managers or owners to leave them up until August, in store windows facing the sidewalk, and on or near the checkout area.

If you need us to snail mail you some copies, please email with your physical address and how many posters you think you can put up:


If you have access to a large color printer or copy store, please just download and print out this high-res (300dpi) JPG poster:

2016 11×17 Color Poster File


Posters & Banners For The Internet (72dpi for online use)

For using with your Blogs, Facebook, Instagram and so forth, we have a few options.  Please simply click on, copy and paste your choice of the following 72dpi images, thank you!:

2016 TWHC Announcement-72dpi

2016 TWHC poster 2 -8x11-72dpi

2016 TWHC Masquerade Ball Poster-72dpi

2016 TWHC Spooning The Cool poster-72dpi


Thank you so much for caring enough to take the time to help with this outreach effort.  Hope to see you in September atop Sky-Island, and to hear from you anytime!

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