Mar 242014
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Free March Herbal Newsletter Ready For You

The Plant Healer Newsletter is a color pdf supplement to Plant Healer Magazine, featuring abridged reprints from the magazine as well as interview excerpts and original articles about herbs and herbalism from you – our folk herbal community.  It is absolutely free, in order to provide inspiration and information even to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.  Subscribe by simply filling in your email address on the appropriate line, at:

The March edition sends out today, 35 pages that includes:

Herbal Treatments for Sinusitis – by Jim McDonald – A lengthy, in-depth article from one of our core Plant Healer writers and teacher at the upcoming HerbFolk Gathering, excerpted from the Herbal Resurgence Classes Book.

Traditions Not Trademarks – by Rosemary Gladstar – Addressing what could be only the first in coming threats to our folk recipes and even our expressions and terms, the shameful trademarking of her freely shared term “Fire Cider” by ignominious Shire City Herbals.

Fire Cider Recipe – by Kiva Rose – Encouraging the free sharing of “the people’s medicine.”

HerbFolk Gathering Updates & News

The Portal – An entire introductory chapter from our upcoming new book The Enchanted Healer, with text overlays on lush illustration taken directly from the book’s pages.

If you aren’t already subscribed, you can still download the latest issue by clicking on this complimentary link: MARCH NEWSLETTER LINK


Enchantment PreOrder Poster 72dpi

The Enchanted Healer Book

The Enchanted Healer is the second in our trilogy of books for herbalists and healers of all kinds, this time focused on the spirit of the craft, developing awareness and the senses, plant totems and savoring the enchantments of herbalism.  It’s been at the printers for awhile, and should be in our hands in a very few weeks now.  We’ll start shipping to those who preordered earliest.  Again, you can see the entire first chapter at it appears in the book, in the latest Plant Healer Newsletter linked above.  You can preorder your full color copy on the Bookstore Page at

“What Kiva and Jesse have delivered through the labor of their dreams and shamanic schemes is a great ride!  In The Enchanted Healer, they do not write ABOUT herbalism, dreams, a healers path; rather they invite us IN to experience the texture, smells, sounds and urgings that the plant world so lovingly beckons us to.”
Kathleen Maier, Sacred Plant Traditions


2014 HerbFolk Gathering News

Preparations continue for the upcoming Plant Healer event: The HerbFolk Gathering – Sept. 18-21, 2014.  This will be our 5th Annual event, including the earlier Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference with its Western and clinical emphasis, and the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous with a focus on the Medicine of The People and herbal access for all.  This time our latest incarnation, The HerbFolk Gathering, will have an Enchanted Forest theme evoking Herbalism’s many enchantments as well as the latest in practical herbal knowledge.  Teachers like the visionary herbalist David Hoffman, Matthew Wood and Sean Donahue will be presenting spirit infused topics like never before.  But one thing that all Plant Healer events have had in common, is the particular community it attracts: the most interested and interesting, unconventional and visionary of herbalists, wildcrafters and culture-healers!

From that first unlikely conference at New Mexico’s famed Ghost Ranch in 2010, to 2014’s celebration at the awesome Mormon Lake Resort in the forests of northern Arizona, Kiva and I have been blown away by the support, affection and enthusiasm of our wilder tribe.  It has been an honor to create what our friend Paul Bergner called a “new nexus of the folk herbalism revival,” an opportunity and place for the coming weaving together of community, learning and celebration, helping to usher in not just a more natural healing paradigm but also a healthier world.

2014 Teachers

David Hoffman • Matthew Wood  • Guido Masé • Sean Donahue • Chuck Garcia • Phyllis Hogan • Kiva Rose • Jim McDonald • Kiki Geary • Merihelen Nuñez • Ben Zappin • Kristi Shapla • Asia Suler • Irina Adam • Rebecca Altman • Shana Lipner Grover • Elaine Shiff • Stephany Hoffelt, Jesse Wolf Hardin and more…

“What an exciting conference! Plant Healer events are the new wave of herbalism, featuring speakers and a community rich with a combination of long hands-on experience and fresh creativity.”
-Paul Bergner

Plant walk with 7Song-72dpi

Networking HerbFolk

With all our wonderful teachers selected and the site contracted, we’re now busy with getting the word out to folk through Kiva’s social media presence and the help of people like you who are mentioning it in forums, or announcing it on websites.  Anyone asking can get an HerbFolk graphic for use online, a pdf info packet to share, or poster master to print out and post wherever appropriate.  Write us at: with “conference networking request” in the subject line please.

If you have a website, you can link to our web graphics below.  Grab them from this post or write us to send you copies:

Link To:

Link To:

Link to:

Link to:


Masquerade Ball:
Get To Work on That Costume!

Remember that the main night’s entertainment will be centered around an all-species, faeries and woodfolk Masquerade Ball!  Come as you really are on the inside, as the magical character, animal or plant that speaks and dances through you!

There will likely also be a second night of dancing with a live band, if we can find a fitting group to perform.  The Enchantment theme narrows down the possibilities a little bit, and there are very professional groups of interest in Arizona, so we are researching more bands in California again.  If you have a suggestion for an enchanting but also danceable, earthy group, send us an email with the subject “HerbFolk Band.”

Plant Person cartoon-72dpi
Receive Free Tickets, Vending Table
& Advertising as an
HerbFolk 2014 Sponsor

Applications are available for HerbFolk Sponsorships, earning benefits equal to the level of your contribution.  Promote your business, school, craft or practice, through our website and at this unique herbal event this September 18-21.  Write us for the new app with full details:


HerbFolk Tickets

Tickets for Plant Healer’s 2014 event go up in price in June, so get yours soon for the best deal.

Group Discounts

The more folks that you get to participate, the cheaper it is for everyone to attend: 10% discount for 6 to 9 people, 20% off for 10 to 24, and a full 30% discount on groups of 25 or more.  The director needs to submit all the names at one time, and to make sure that all participants pay within a week from submission for discounts to apply.

To Register or for More Info click on the Events Page at:


Mormon Lake Lodging Cabin 72dpi
Cabins Should Be Reserved Now!

Many of you like to camp in the trees near the event site, or choose to stay at an inexpensive motel in nearby Flagstaff, but those of you hoping to rent a cabin this September will need to reserve yours soon.  Cabins always sell out long before the event, so we’re asking folk to please fill the rooms to capacity even if it means inviting friends to share it.  More people can be accommodated that way.  Contact the Resort directly to make reservations:
928-354-2227 Ext 10


“There’s nothing like your Plant Healer events, by any name… truly nothing!  I am affirmed.  I am empowered.  I am changed!”
Karen Colter


(Share & RePost, Thank You)

Plant Healer - The Magazine Different -

Plant Healer – The Magazine Different –

Mar 102014

We recently received a final proof of the new book by Wolf and myself, The Enchanted Healer, the last step before printing!  While the pages arrived unbound, we were able to see how amazing the color reproduction is, brilliant tones bringing its subjects of heightened senses, awareness, plant spirit and he self-care for Herbalists and other kinds of Sensitives, Seekers and Healers. The Enchanted Healer has now gone to press, and we expect the completed books to be done and shipped in a very few weeks… with those who order earliest getting their copies soonest.  To Pre-Order go to the Bookstore Page at

Enchanted Healer by Jesse Wolf Hardin

The Enchanted Healer is 8.5×11″, and will be our first book ever to have full color pages, evoking the magic, wonder and delight of the Healer’s work.  We’re so excited to share with you a few quick photos of the book’s interior.

Enchanted Healer by Jesse Wolf Hardin

We’ve also gotten some emails from folks wanting to see the chapter titles before ordering, so here is the Table of Contents as they appear in the book:

Enchanted Healer by Jesse Wolf Hardin Table of Contents 2-72dpi

We were pleased to have the much respected Matthew Wood write the Foreword to The Enchanted Healer, reflecting his interest in plant spirit and shamanism as well as herbalism:

“The enchanted healer is one who has gone to that other world, been changed, and committed himself or herself to the All Life, and in a real and often painful manner, died to the mechanical world.  She or he no longer seeks the approval of the skeptic, but rather to heal all things, to bring them into right relationship with all others.  The boring world stops at the door of Earth-with-a-Soul.  I hope the reader enjoys this journey into the enchantment of the healer as much as I have.”
Matthew Wood, Herbalist

Enchanted Healer interior 4-72dpi Enchanted Healer by Jesse Wolf Hardin

We paid quite a bit extra in order to have the colors and backgrounds extend all the way to the edges of the page, instead of the usual and less expensive pages with white unprinted borders on all sides.

Enchanted Healer interior 8-72dpi Enchanted Healer by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Most of the 290 pages were created as photoshop images, making it possible to enjoy different colored fonts on colored backgrounds.  The woman we deal with at the printers wrote us several times to say how “incredibly beautiful” she thinks it is.  We’d love it if you felt the same.

 Like all our books, The Enchanted Healer will eventually be available on where folks outside of our community will be able to order it, though it will appear there as two separate volumes due to their on-demand printer's limits on the number of pages.

Like all our books, The Enchanted Healer will eventually be available on where folks outside of our community will be able to order it, though it will appear there as two separate volumes due to their on-demand printer’s limits on the number of pages.

Enchanted Healer by Jesse Wolf Hardin

We included art work as well as photographs, both vintage and contemporary.

Pre-Order go to the Bookstore Page at

“Most books written by fabulous herbalists, activists, artists and poets such as these would be described as a ‘great read’ or something like that. What Kiva and Jesse have delivered through the labor of their dreams and shamanic schemes is a great ride! My sweet birch broom stands magnificently on the ready as they remind us from whence we came and to what truths we owe our possibilities.Feral is the word that they have brought to my mind and heart and days now as their teachings are  spiralic and the book has a movement that at first may seem chaotic but then settles down into that place in our souls that actually hungers for a lack of linearity. In The Enchanted Healer, they do not write ABOUT herbalism, dreams, a healers path; rather they invite us IN to experience the texture, smells, sounds and urgings that the plant world so lovingly beckons us to.  With delight and reverence for the Magic in our lives, Kathleen.”
Kathleen Maier, Sacred Plant Traditions

You can Pre-Order you personal copy now and help us with the daunting printing costs… by going to the Plant Healer Bookstore Page at

(Thank you for sharing and re-posting…. -Kiva)

Feb 182014


by Kiva Rose

“The Enchanted Healer” is the second in our trilogy of books for herbalists and other natural Healers.  While the previous “Plant Healer’s Path” focused on education and empowerment, this second volume is all about heightened physical senses, awareness, plant spirit, Gaia and ecocentric spirituality, magic, enchantment and enjoyment for the Herbalist and other Healers and healthcare providers.  It’s our very first all-color book, with the evocative color paintings and photographs assisting its mission to enchant and inspire. 

Quoting Jesse Wolf:

As important as clinical research is to a healing practice, just as important is the child-like curiosity, entrancement and obsession that leads to fruitful investigation and new ways of perceiving and practicing.  The faculties that can make us better Healers are the same senses and sensibilities that make it possible for us to truly, deeply enjoy our studies and work.  Reason and emotional, spiritual and “magical” ways of perceiving are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, ultrasensory engagement, heightened awareness, shamanic therapies, and an open mind are all crucial to a powerful practice… and enchantment is often a necessary ingredient for remaining in love with and being satisfied by our work and missions.


“The Enchanted Healer” is 295 color pages long, and will be arriving from the printer in March.  Foreword by Matthew Wood. You can Pre-Order your personal copies now and be among the first to receive a book when they start shipping… click on the Bookstore & Gallery page of our new website:


The following is my personal introduction to this important volume, part of my own journey to enchantment… I hope it can help inspire you in yours.  –Kiva

woman in light 72dpi

“The enchanted Healer is one who has gone to that other world, been changed, and committed himself or herself to the All Life, and in a real and often painful manner, died to the mechanical world.  She or he no longer seeks the approval of the skeptic, but rather to heal all things, to bring them into right relationship with all others.  …The boring world stops at the door of Earth-with-a-Soul.  I hope you readers enjoy this journey into the enchantment of the Healer as much as I have.”Matthew Wood, Herbalist (from the Foreword to The Enchanted Healer)


The Enchanted Healer is a new book whose mission is to enchant the reader, assisting us in maintaining and growing a sense of enchantment in our daily lives as well as in our individual healing practices. Its art and insight cast a spell invigorating our curiosity and wonder, our inquiry and our ecstasy. Author Jesse Wolf Hardin invites us “to and through the portal of awakeness and awareness to a place of discovery and delight”, a wholly interconnected world rich with the wisdom, beauty and power of inspirited Nature. The “Healers” this book seeks to empower, excite and celebrate come in many forms, not only the Herbalist and Physician, Acupuncturist and Massage Therapist, but also the Nurturer from gardeners and conservationists to caring parents and artful cooks, the envisioning Seer, the spirit-mending Shaman, and the paradigm-changing CultureShifter…. not just helping heal bodies but feelings and spirits, family and community, society and the endangered living land.  As Wolf writes:

“Healers help assist, adjust, counterbalance, shift, direct, nurture and mend…  Healing is an active contribution to the balance, integrity and expression of a whole that is and should be always dynamic, morphing, unfolding, improving, and revealing.”

We each come to the portal of our enchantment the same as we come to our healing paths: in our own personal ways, following a circuitous route that is as unpredictable and magical as it is deliberate and planned.

The Journey to My Enchantment

The Journey to My Enchantment

My Journey To Enchantment

“Faërie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.”J. R. R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories


I was first drawn to the work of the Healer through my experiences of spending time with plants. Down on my hands and knees in the grass, surrounded by the wild plants I was only beginning to know the names of, I could easily become lost for hours at a time in the detail of their intricate leaf veins or trailing roots or by the way they moved in the wind and rain. Even in the small patches of woodland oasis amidst the surrounding urban chaos I would find myself transported into another world by the patterns of light flickering across dew-damp wildflowers. These threads of wildness that wove through the city were surrounded on every side by traffic, but still insulated me from the harsh sounds and often frantic pace of the human world. In my green havens I could slip into a sort of reverie, and imagine myself in Tolkien’s tree guarded Lothlorien or the forbiddingly dark forests of Grimm’s fairy tales. As a homeless teenager, I spent many nights in city parks, climbing up into welcoming branches and sleeping with my legs and arms wrapped around the comforting body of a living tree. I told my secrets to their leaves,  and listening to them whisper back with every small breeze.

While some seek talismans in technology or human wrought things, I have always found my portal into the otherworld through the plants. One taste of a feral Mulberry or inhalation of Honeysuckle on a humid night can send my senses reeling past the veil and into a Faery touched landscape. Not only have plants ignited my passion and imagination for most of my life, they’ve also provided me with focus, love, and direction in my darkest hours. Learning how the weeds I grew up with could tend the wounds of the body, as well as those of the heart and spirit, only drew me further into the enchantment that began with my first memory of a Yarrow flower as a toddler. As fellow lovers of plants, I know that you – too – have come to this journey and mission as much out of love and passion as practicality or necessity.  You more than likely recognize something magical in the effects of medicinal herbs and in the very processes of healing and repair.

“The plants have open our minds and hearts to new ways of looking at the world and your purpose within it, revealed the presence of spirit in all things and the potential for apparent miracles in our practices and lives.” The Enchanted Healer book, too, is not only a resource but a revealing… of “how wonderful we can feel, of all we can be, of all the possible ways we can help ourselves, others, and this world to heal.” —-

Portal to Enchantment

Envisioning & Manifesting In The Enchanted Healer, Wolf also discusses the many ways in which a Healer can manifest, providing a look at the twists and turns of how we practice, and how far that healing can extend: “A mark of a Healer is feeling drawn – compelled, even – to try to ease suffering and help remedy unwellness, unwholeness and imbalance wherever and whenever it is encountered.  This often manifests in careers as health care providers, but also shows up as hospice work and counsel for the dying, a dedication to plant conservation or land restoration, habitat protection or wildlife rehabilitation, and even stopping to comfort a lost kitten we see.  The instinct to help and heal seldom ends here, however, and often extends to empathy for the homeless and volunteer work on their behalf.  Awareness of the corporados’ destruction of the last wild places, and activism to address it.  Soon it can get to the point that it would feel hypocritical to help a woman with bruises on her face without trying to free her from an abusive relationship, perhaps even volunteering at a shelter.  Or to administer herbs unless we know they are from a sustainable and ethical source.  Or to make a good income from a healing practice without donating some time or money to those who cannot afford health care.  Or to meekly conduct an under-the-radar practice without facing or taking a stand on increasingly onerous regulations.

The Enchanted Healer covers subjects as diverse as Healer archetypes, plant spirit, plant and animal totems, utilizing and heightening our physical senses, so-called extrasensory perception, eros and sexuality, the magic of cooking, self care and nourishment, Anima and the vital life force, Gaia the living Earth, healing vision quests and places of power, and creating sanctum and sanctuary for ourselves.  It is a book intended to both inform and inspire, to clarify and create space for further imaginings and understandings:

“To ‘envision’ is not simply to foresee or forecast, but to recognize patterns and possibilities, to mentally create ideas that beg to be acted on and tested, models that can then be sculpted, manifested, realized in the physical reality.  To continue on a path, we must either see or envision the way ahead.  To treat a symptom of bodily, cultural or ecological disease, we conceive of its causes, and imagine the best possible treatments, acting on not only what we already know and can see, but also on our growing understanding and experience of the unseen.”

We need not only inspiration, but also clarity, discernment, focus and follow-through. It’s so easy to become diffuse and pulled in too many directions as a Healer. By the very nature of our vocation, we Healers must be multifaceted, but the complex and competing work of study, clinical work, medicine making, sorting through current research, botany, activism, gardening, wildcrafting, and much more can be overwhelming and lead to a feeling of being pulled in too many directions. Wolf effectively breaks down many of the most vital elements and aspects of being a Healer, and makes them accessible, exciting, and achievable for all of us.

The Enchanted Healer also provides in depth insights into the working practice of the Healer, and delves into the vital importance of self care.  Many of us fall madly in love with our vocation, pouring our whole selves into studying, practicing, and endlessly striving to become better at the mending and nourishing that healing entails.  But at some point most of us will find ourselves at a crossroads, wondering whether we are good enough to deserve the title of Healer, when tending others has taken its toll on our energy levels, when the complexity of physiology and chemistry is overwhelming, and when we don’t know if we can continue down this path with more support and strength. On those days when we wake up tired and worn down from our work, what we most often need is self nourishment, and the time to re-emerge ourselves in the enchantment that first drew us to healing in the first place. Once exhausted, it can be difficult to even remember what that was, or it can seem faded out or inaccessible when seen through such tired eyes. The Enchanted Healer both looks honestly at this important subject, and also suggests ways in which to nourish the self and recharge:

“We can only optimally nourish others, of course, when we have and continue to nourish our selves, our body with all its hungers, our emotional and spiritual needs, tending and feeding and watering all that we need to heal, strengthen, deepen, manifest, and bloom.  Whatever your role in this life, you will be better at it and more satisfied with it if you take the time – and do what it takes – to nurture your inherent gifts and talents, imagination and creativity, ideas and desires, calling and missions, hopes and dreams. It is then that we can best nurture other people, their well-being and their dreams as well as  the community we are a part of and the land that needs us.  It is as Nurturers, too, that we make things better.  And it is making things better that makes us Healers.”

The Beauty & Song 72dpi

The Beauty & Song The Enchanted Healer is beautifully illustrated with over 650 photos and paintings by many talented artists including Wolf and our friends Katlyn Breene, Lauren Raine and Madeline von Foerster, with its look and feel intended to be an important component in the spell this book weaves. Words and images merge to create a portrait of a magical life, a Healer both enchanted and enchanting, and opening a portal into the storybook forest. Turning the pages is choosing to walk through the open door, and step into a mushroom marked fairy ring where the ancient dance of the healing arts continues each and every moment.  As Wolf tells us:

“Enchantment is not about being bewitched or bewildered, it is a healthy glamour that amazes us with revelations of magic in the mundane, of significance in the overlooked, misunderstood or undervalued. It is neither hallucination, feel-good diversion, self delusion, sleight of hand tricks or entertainment. It is allure, necessarily followed by engagement with what fascinates us engagement with the ever so real world and our work within it… albeit a world that will always be at least in part a wonderful mystery, and everyday healing work that is northing less than extraordinary – not so much credible as incredible, not so much known and conventional as mysterious, adaptive, and mind blowing… with effects and results that can be astounding, awe inspiring, and incontrovertibly phenomenal.  The portal to our enchantment is often closer than we think, disguised as something common but betrayed by a faint smell of wild herbs, ocean fog, or forest moss, or concealed by Fir and Spruce boughs sweetly singing in the wind.”

Enchantment is the place of magic and meaning where we gather, and where we recognize each other.  The gift of the book The Enchanted Healer is not only that it awakens and empowers our lives and practices, but also that it brings us together. I’ll meet you there.
–Kiva Rose –––––––

PreOrder your copy of The Enchantment by going to the Bookstore & Gallery page at:

And if you happened to have missed the last issue of the free Plant Healer Newsletter, featuring free herbal articles, you can download the color pdf simply by clicking on:

Plant Healer Newsletter Feb. 2014

(Thank you for sharing and re-posting)

Enchantment PreOrder Poster 72dpi

Feb 102014

Jesse Wolf HardinUNITY MANIFESTO: Celebrating Differences, Healing Schisms

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Herbalist Schism

Factionalism & Diversity

Plant Healer is dedicated to encouraging and celebrating diversity in herbalism.  This means including, welcoming, and empowering students, enthusiasts and practitioners of every kind, from hobbyists and plant-fans to folk herbalists, clinicians and academics, no matter what their level of expertise or what practices and approaches they might take.  We’ve fostered new kinds of conferences, helped others create bioregional events representing the widely varying flavors of the healing arts,   Our own events – like the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous and this year’s HerbFolk Gathering – are home to even those people who feel like the oddballs and outliers, who don’t belong to any group or fit into any norm.

That said, my partner Kiva and I worry to see the degree to which diversification seems in some cases to be turning into divisive factionalism.  Various camps and clicks have begun to sound like “true believers” in their approach or cause, loudly and insensitively criticizing others, and showing little tolerance for other people’s opinions, methods, beliefs and styles… at a time when we need to be feeling the sense of family and shared purpose that comes from being fellow lovers of the plants, allies in the shared cause of healing and wholeness.  It’s okay to offer information that could assist or sway someone, or to kindly point out what you believe to be errors in their thinking or work, but to publicly shame someone for their lack of knowledge, or to insist there is only one right way, can only damage our tribe and aims.

Factions and differences have always existed, of course.  Consider the trashing of Vitalists in the 19th and 20th Centuries, or the last decade’s acrimony between those insisting on the importance of becoming an officially registered herbalist and those opposed to all organizations or even all standards.  But now, in the age of internet and social media, it is possible to do more damage to each other and to the reputation of herbalism in general… with only a few poorly considered words.  We’ve seen the longstanding reputations of elders sullied by needless accusations and infighting, as well as beginners brought to tears by ill-considered attacks, with folks tentatively taking their first steps into the the field of herbalism sometimes feeling isolated by the indifference or apparent superiority of those who have practiced for years, though a lot of the evident meanness actually stems from insecurity and a desire for love.  Instead of humiliating the less experienced among us, the more experienced herbalist needs to embrace the newbie as well as the simplest practitioner, both to help them develop and learn, and also so that the veterans and elders can benefit from their questions, fresh perspectives, and sometimes new ideas.  More than almost anything else, we need conscious relationship and intention-filled alliances, leading to a harmony of action and shared goals.


Man in Schism

Imagined Schisms & Conscious Relationship

Many of the apparent schisms that herbalism suffers from at this time are without a sound basis.  There is, after all, no inherent conflict between professionals and folk practitioners, between paid herbalist teachers and dumpster-diving anarchists… anymore than between those utilizing Western or Chinese or Ayurvedic systems.  Nor between intellectual and emotional motivations, book studies and hands-on experience, social activism and herbal practice, personal and societal health.  The pragmatists’ and cynics’ dismissing of anything bordering on alternative, spiritual or mystical is as unfounded and unhelpful as New Age practitioners writing off the importance of research, critical thinking, public relations or practical results.  When we were putting together our new book The Enchanted Healer, we thought about those magically-minded folks we know who might be put off by its call for a balance between critical inquiry and wonderment, and we had to consider the skeptical professionals among our friends and readers who might never even pick it up because of its title and topics.  There is, however, no natural division separating seriousness, practicality, credibility or professionalism, and heightened senses, emotional connection, revelations, a sense of magic or spirit, a state of great passion or deep sense of enchantment.

If anything, what we need now is an active and intimate relationship and alliance between learned academics and field practitioners, plant artists and botanists, clinic personnel and field or “street” herbalists, shamans and scientists, herbal cultivators and culture creators, wildcrafters and conservationists, registered herbalists who can work with and influence the bureaucracy and those creating a healthy counterculture, organizers and those who love to resist the excesses of organizations.  A heartful covenant between wild eyed imagineers and determined implementers.

Similarly, our personal well being, our effectiveness as healers or herb providers, the herbal community, and the way herbalists are seen by outside of the community, can all benefit from a mating of different approaches and styles, ideas, ways and means.  It is pure foolishness to ignore Arabic, Indian or Chinese diagnostic models and treatment methodologies when one can integrate these ages-old knowings into our personal understanding and practice, and likewise how silly is it to act as if there is no valid Western contribution to herbalism, or to insist on and go crazy over Asiatic herbs whenever there are Western herbs that work in the same way?  Professional herbalism needs a folk herbal heart, sense of social justice and concern for health care access for the disadvantaged, while folk practices have to take into account new knowledge, accept positive criticism, adapt to the times, and respect the influence of plant-obsessed professionals on the prevailing institutions.  To diss all scientific research and findings is to greatly handicap ourselves, and so is automatic dismissal of the possibilities beyond the already known and “proven,” ignorance of the unmeasured but evident life force in us all, or outright rejection of the spiritual, the magical, the incredible.


serious woman b&w 72dpilaughing black woman b&w 72dpi

The False Dilemma of Credible vs Enchanted

(excerpted from the upcoming book “The Enchanted Healer” available for pre-order Feb 14th from the Bookstore page at

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
Mark Twain

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up… not me!”
J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)

In the story of Peter Pan, Peter faces what is framed as a dire choice between clinging to the perspectives, liberties and joys of childhood – his enchantment – and growing up to assume his place and role in society.

Barrie had reason to suspect the trap of adulthood, and to resent the efforts to control and “tidy up” children’s minds.  He resented the degree to which it limits our explorations of self and universe, deadens our fun, and prevents our spirits from truly flying.  The institutions of civilization, it seems, have always   mistrusted things like diversity of opinion, new or alternative ways of thinking and perceiving, individual liberty, unbridled imagination, and what it often calls “over-excitement.”  Academia and some models of professionalism exacerbate this tendency by trivializing the unofficial and unorthodox, the informal and unmetered, the emotional and emotive, the experiential and anecdotal, the personal and subjective, the imaginary and fantastic.  And yet to the child, and to the natural human mind, nothing that the somber and cynical adult model offers is as compelling as this world seen through the lens of our enchantment.


Peter pan flying 72dpi

Society teaches that we become something else when we get into and past our teen years, that we become grownups, that we “turn into” adults.  The supposition is that in the act of maturing we are no longer the same creatures we were as children, but rather, someone different, held to a different set of standards: a more tamed and sober animal, rational, disciplined, ready to trade our curiosities and indulgences for the world-view and life assignments of the currently prescribed adult world, willing to give up wild unsupervised play time for staged events and daily scripts.  From puberty onwards, we may be taught that to cry out loud indicates weakness, that to chase our dreams shows our naivete, to make crazy animal sounds or giddily interact with the herbs in our gardens demonstrates infantilism and hence unreliability… and that even for us to hope to change the world, or to devote ourselves to the often impractical missions of healing and betterment can be a sign of immaturity.  Who could be blamed for refusing to climb down from the boughs of a magical looking tree, into the cold arms of societal expectations and rote assignments, dampened passions and debunked mysteries?

We damn sure don’t need to do “what we’re told,” if what we are told is to unquestioningly accept their reality, to “straighten up,” “settle down” or “get with the program.”  We do need, as we’re advised, to “come down to earth,” but in terms of getting closer to elemental life and the living world we’re a part of, and actually experiencing rather than simply conceptualizing and analyzing, doing as well as planning… not in terms of letting go of our lofty hopes, cutting loose our cherished dreams, doubting and turning our backs on our visions, rejecting the giddy extremes of sensing and savoring, or retreating from the depths of ecstasy and brilliance of visions.  We need to “get real,” as most of us have been admonished, not by abandoning fantasy but by doing all we can in the real world to make the fantastic and visionary come true.  We need not grow “up” but “inwards” and “within,” growing not bigger but better.  Growing more beautiful.  Growing more healthy, more hopeful, more imaginative, more creative, more determined to be healed, and to help heal others and this earth.

serious herbalist 72dpi


laughing woman with salad 72dpi

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”
J.M. Barrie

On one level, we don’t need to ever grow up… only to learn how to act in public so that we don’t handicap our efforts or endanger ourselves or our goals!  On the other hand, humankind and the entire planet does need us to take on the best attributes of adulthood, including mature consideration and reflection, discernment and critical thinking, patience, focus, responsibility, initiative, service to a good that is greater than ourselves, self-discipline, follow-through, pledge keeping, and sacrifice when and as required.

As adults we have more entrenched disbelief to get over, and more preconceptions to overcome, but at the same time we have a deepened capacity for a more complex and greater realized enchantment than we knew as kids, a state of ecstatic wonderment made richer by our actual experiences, informed by our memories, feeding our creativity, and fueling our healing purpose.


Smiles 72dpi


Fire Cider, The Prioritizing of Battles, & a Respectful Opposition

I would never use the popular expression “it’s all good,” because it isn’t.  Not everyone’s abilities are equal.  Some treatments and herbs work better than others in particular people and situations.  At all times there is an optimum choice and action depending on need and conditions, and choices that are counterproductive or downright harmful.  Repressive or onerous governmental regulation needs to be actively opposed, not just censured or ignored.  Even the actions of herbalists are not without potential consequences for our clients and our society, both good and bad.  There are wrongs committed by the system, and also by ourselves.  Our failure to respond to injustice can itself prove harmful.  And there are harmful as well as helpful ways to oppose any wrongs.


Fire Cider Folk Medicine 72dpi

A case in point is the unfortunate actions of an herbal beverage maker in 2013/14, and the herbalist community’s various reactions to what they did.  The manufacturers actually trademarked the term “Fire Cider,” apparently ignorant of the fact that it dates back at least a few decades to when the esteemed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar introduced it to the public through her books and other writings, and that many people have freely marketed their personal versions of Fire Cider over the years… effectively removing it from the public commons, and making it illegal for anyone else to use it!  More egregiously, the offending manufacturers have sent out numerous “cease and desist”orders to pre-existing small-time makers and sellers of Fire Cider, threatening legal action if their products aren’t removed from the Etsy craft sales site.  Without any pushback from us, we can be sure of more companies appropriating and monopolizing the terminology of our folkways for their sole profit, acting increasingly like insensitive corporate thugs.


"Officially Trademarked" Fire Cider

“Officially Trademarked” Fire Cider

A number of cherished products are at risk.

A number of cherished products are at risk.


In this case, however, the offending manufacturer is not even a large corporate entity, and it seems the owners are more hipsters than they are industrialists.  And some of the responses from herbalists seem acrimonious to the point of undermining our moral authority.  Even true enemies of herbalism should be opposed in a respectful manner, strong and insistent but also considerate, and these people are leaning on us to make money, not in a campaign to hurt herbalists or herbalism.  I am not a pacifist but a confirmed activist, a sometimes forceful defender of rights and of innocence against injustice and exploitation, but how we comport ourselves matters.  Not all wrongdoers are truly our opponents, and our true opponents have reasons they can cite, needs they hope to meet, and feelings we can hurt.  I applaud those who are opposing this kind of commercial appropriation with respect and compassion.  Whenever the cause is so serious as to deserve it, let us do what it takes to right the recognizable wrong… yet remain considerate, honorable, and respectful, even when taking the strongest of measures.



We also need to prioritize our peeves and causes, with only just so much indignation to tap, only so many hours and so much energy with which to act.  It is important that we not only pick our battles, but also determine how much of our precious time and effort to give each one, making sure we are not depleted by whatever cause or issue is currently most in vogue or in our face.  Anger is not always a bad thing, I assure you, but your reservoirs of justified animal anger might be needed for urgent campaigns to save the damaged and threatened natural habitats where our medicinal herbs evolved and still struggle to survive, or in protests on behalf of the freedom to practice our craft without increasing corporate-fostered regulation.  While causes such as the Fire Cider trademarking issue should definitely not be ignored, we should always keep in mind that the same energy reserves we might expend lambasting ill-reasoning herbal entrepreneurs are also available for us to create new herb businesses with, to launch free clinics, educate the masses, and otherwise co-create a new nature-informed culture of healing.

We need to do it all, in the most honorable ways possible.

HerbFolk Conference teachers united - by Adrienne Alanis

HerbFolk Conference teachers united – by Adrienne Alanis

The Call for Unity

It may sound funny to you, but I can’t think of too many things more disagreeable to me than a population of people agreeing about absolutely everything.  That wouldn’t serve diversity, nor contribute to balance or healing, change or improvement.  Differences of opinion and approach are essential to social evolution, the same as the divergence of species propels biological adaptation and contributes to a dynamic ecological whole.  Differences among us are not just tolerable or excusable, they are actually vital if we are to avoid boring conformity, restrictive dogma, and the rigidification, gentrification, corporatization, and institutionalization of herbalism.

On the other hand (as I so often like to say!), a consonance and confluence of values, priorities and actions is necessary to keep a group/community from splitting into factions and failing in its missions.  Unity is not sameness, it does not mean that we need to be the same, think, practice or otherwise act the same.  Being unified means that we are all part of a integral and purposeful whole, not that all parts are or should be alike.  And it means we’re in a conscious and committed relationship that requires our most considerate and honorable interaction, doing our individual parts to heal not just ailing bodies but the any schisms in our community, expressing diversity while avoiding factions.

Plant walk with 7Song-72dpi

While I am generally distrustful and disparaging of manifestos, no matter who provides them or what they describe, there would seem to be a clear need for a manifesto of unity, a proclamation of our determination to unify and strengthen the community and field of herbalism we not only practice but live… and love.  Elders, luminaries, and enthusiastic beginners.  The politically correct and willfully incorrect.  Caring businesswomen and free providers.  Conservatives, leftists, and even the I’m-always-right-ists.  The pragmatists and visionaries. Cholerics and Phlegmatics.   Scientific researchers and explorers of the magical realms.  Skeptical practitioners and wholly, gladly enchanted healers.  Together in our glad differences.  And all one, in our purpose, our struggles, our joys.


Juliet & Kiva Rose squared 72dpi


(We encourage you to re-post and share Wolf’s message widely – thank you –Kiva)


The next issue of the complimentary Plant Healer Newsletter will feature herbal articles by Juliet Blankespoor, Jim McDonald, Matt Wood and Catherine Skipper.  It will be available for download on Feb. 14th

You can subscribe for free at

Jan 262014

Muscle Aches and Tension:

Materia Medica, Part II

by Kiva Rose


(This is part two of three in the Muscle Aches and Tension series, you can part one on internal therapeutics right here)

The most effective and nuanced external treatment of muscle aches and tension requires a basic knowledge of energetics and differential diagnostics. Don’t be intimidated though, all you need is a simple understanding of a few basic patterns and you’ll be to apply your herbal knowledge with a great deal more subtlety and precision.

I have omitted potentially toxic or mind altering herbs from this list post, and hope to cover low dose external botanicals at some point in the future.

Please don’t allow the pain relief of herbs to fool you into thinking you’re totally healed right away. Proceed with caution, listen to your body, and rest as needed.



Abies spp.

Warming Herbs

Warming herbs for muscle aches and tension tend to be stimulating, diffusive, and often counter-irritant, and thus initiate healing partially be bringing blood to the affected area in order to initiate healing by the immune system.

These herbs are generally most appropriate on injuries or issues that are cold in nature. Meaning dull, stiff, achy, and better with heat and movement. They are often, but not always, chronic or old issues.


Arnica spp.

Overview: One of the most well known herbs in mainstream commerce, making it also one of the mosts widely misused herbs known. It is indeed a wonderful plant for healing any injury that needs increased blood flow to the affected area when used appropriately.  I learned from my teacher, Michael Moore that Arnica is specific to pain on movement, and to use Arnica immediately after an injury happens, and if that’s not possible, use something more cooling initially and go back to Arnica once heat is desirable and active inflammation with heat excess has diminished. If heat does NOT feel good, don’t use Arnica.

Hint: I tend to prefer Arnica in cold, chronic situations rather than acute, or in formula with cooler herbs to help moderate it’s heating tendencies.

Preparation: Flowers or all aerial parts can be extracted in alcohol, oil, or water to varying degrees. Works great as salve, massage oil, or liniment.

Note: This is a very warming herb and I have seen it aggravate acute inflammation with heat excess.


Goldenrod – Solidago spp. 

Overview: Goldenrod is a warming and stimulating herb with many uses, but externally it is phenomenal at healing damaged muscles, even old or chronic injuries. I have repeatedly seen it alleviate the pain and stiffness of old muscular injuries in dancers and other athletes. It can be helpful in some joint pain as well, but my experience indicates it is most helpful at healing the actual muscles.

Hint: Try Goldenrod even on severe muscular issues like separated muscles for pain relief and possible long term healing.

Preparation: The fresh flowering tops extract well into water, alcohol, and oil based preparations. Use as needed.

Note: I find that the most aromatic species tend to be the most helpful in this context, but otherwise, any species of Solidago may be used.


Cottonwood – resinous Populus spp.

Overview: A gentle but effective herb that is warming and stimulating, but mild enough to be used directly after an injury, especially in an individual with a constitution that tends toward coldness or has impaired circulation. Cottonwood infused oil is one of my most used external remedies, especially after straining a muscle, for an overall achy body, or working old tension out of cold, tired muscles. It is warming and stimulating enough to apply to cold extremities in the winter to help avoid aching in the small joints and cracking of skin.

Hint: It’s difficult to go wrong with Cottonwood bud preparations, and it’s also very valuable as an anti-microbial in general salves.

Preparation: Resinous buds in oil or high proof alcohol. Resin is not water soluble, meaning that water based preparations or low proof alcohol will not efficiently extract the resin that is desirable for therapeutic use. In fact, I prefer to always use 95% alcohol when tincturing resinous plants as it’s the most efficient method way to extract the medicine. Very useful as liniment, massage oil, or salve.

Note: Please don’t strip all the buds off of a branch, as the tree needs its leaves. Take small amounts from numerous trees. Also, be sure to harvest before the buds split open and reveal green leaves inside… by that time you run the risk of your buds spoiling from excess moisture and bacteria, especially in oil based preparations.


Conifers  – Pinus spp.,  Abies spp., Tsuga spp., and allied non-toxic genera. 

Overview: Conifer leaves, resin, and bark are warming and drying with a notable counterirritant effect. They bring blood to the surface of the skin, increasing circulation and immune response in cold/chronic injuries so that the body can better heal itself, while also warming the area and causing cold, achy muscles to release tension.

Hint: Add small portions of Conifer leaves to massage oil formulas for the amazing aroma and muscle warming effect.

Preparation: Conifers are resinous and generally most efficiently extracted in alcohol or oil, but can also impart mild warming properties via hot water, as in a hot bath. Pleasantly aromatic, they bring a little extra warming zing to many pain relieving formulas, whether salve, massage oil, liniment, or soaks. The leaves are the mildest part of the plant with the resin being the most heating and intense.

Note: Conifer resin is not water soluble and would make an extremely messy bath, and it’s also much more warming than the other parts of the trees, so I recommend sticking primarily to leaves for water based preparations, and using much smaller amounts of the resin in formulas.



Alnus spp.

Cooling Herbs

Cooling herbs for muscle aches and tension tend to be relaxing, permanent (non-diffusive), and anti-inflammatory, and thus relieve pain and tension through directly relaxing and cooling the area.  These herbs are generally most appropriate on injuries or issues that are hot in nature. Meaning sharp, stabbing, tense, sometimes red, and better with rest and worse from heat.

Please note that I do not advise using ice on musco-skeletal injuries, cool water can be appropriate but in general the overt cooling of an injury will just slow the healing process and possibly lead to an acute issue becoming a chronic one.


Lobelia – Lobelia inflata

Overview: An acrid antispasmodic, Lobelia is excellent for acute injuries accompanied by muscle spasms and notable tension. It can be helpful applied to areas where joint/skeletal issues are causing muscular spasms, and also to recent injuries with signs of heat and tension. Additionally, Lobelia can be useful in cases where overt emotional tension is manifesting as cramping or spasming in any part of the body.

Hint: Lobelia is specific to significant tension with muscles spasms, especially those that move around or vary widely in intensity.

Preparation: Liniment (alcoholic or acetic tincture) or infused oil of seeding plant.

Note: Excessive external application of Lobelia liniment can cause some sensitive individuals to feel nauseous. Apply with moderation and build from there based on tolerance.


Comfrey – Symphytum spp. 

Overview: Comfrey is a rather infamous herb that I also consider invaluable for external application in tissue healing where there is acute trauma, including post surgery recuperation.

Hint: Comfrey excels at cooling inflammation and knitting damaged tissues back together. It is most specific to acute injuries or post surgery conditions where heat and dryness are preventing full healing.

Preparation: Comfrey is soluble in water, oil, and alcohol, and can be prepared in many ways, including liniment, massage oil, salve, poultice, foment, soaks, and more.

Note: Comfrey can initiate very quick healing so make sure that there is no infection, dislocations, unset fractures etc., so that Comfrey doesn’t knit together something not yet ready for healing.


Alder – Alnus spp.

Overview: Alder is a cooling anti-inflammatory with some pain relieving properties, and a general affinity for tissue healing. It is widely applicable in musco-skeletal injuries and inflammation, and can be used wherever there are signs of heat excess with pain, tenderness, and tissue trauma.

Hint: Alder is blood (part of the mechanism for pain relief) and lymph moving while still being cooling, therefore being an excellent herb for almost any hot/acute muscular injury.

Preparation: Leaves and bark an be extracted in alcohol, oil, or water. A great addition to almost any liniment, salve, or massage oil. Also makes a wonderful soak for sore muscles.

Note: Alder is gentle and generally without negative side effects, but it’s still cooling, so please combine with more warming herbs for chronic injuries or cold signs.


Credit, References, and Resources

7Song – personal correspondence

Jim McDonald – personal correspondence and

Michael Moore – Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West

Matthew Wood – Book of Herbal Wisdom

Darcy Williamson – Healing Plants of the Rocky Mountains

Jan 232014

Asperger’s and Autism are much misunderstood conditions, featuring brain and behavioral patterns that are abnormal but in some ways more interesting and advantageous.  The problem for anyone dealing with this condition, is finding the healthiest ways of functioning in this society without dissing one’s true nature, gifts and needs.  Asperger’s has made things difficult for my partner Kiva Rose when it comes to social interaction, but has also helped to make her the unique and admirable person she is.  The following is an eye-opening look at this topic from our friend and ally Katja Swift, excerpted from a longer version found in the Winter issue of Plant Healer Magazine.  You can learn about the herbal courses being offered in the Boston area by Katja Swift and Ryn Midura, by going to their CommonWealth School of Herbal Medicine website at:

To purchase the entire back issue or to read more of Katja’s articles, subscribe to Plant Healer Magazine at:



Towards A More Holistic View of Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, & ADHD

by Katja Swift

Forget everything you think you know about Asperger’s and ADHD – let’s look at this another way.

cognitive-therapy for aspergers-72dpi Asperger's woman-72dpi

First, let’s agree on some basic foundations:
Your head-brain isn’t your only brain – there is also your heart-brain and your gut-brain. These aren’t figurative analogies, as Joseph Chilton Pearce so nicely explains:

The idea that we can think with our hearts is no longer just a metaphor, but is, in fact, a very real phenomenon. We now know this because the combined research of two or three fields is proving that the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings.

Molecular biologists have discovered that the heart is the body’s most important endocrine gland. In response to our experience of the world, it produces and releases a major hormone that profoundly effects every operation in the limbic structure, or what we refer to as the “emotional brain.”

Neurocardiologists have found that 60 to 65% of the cells of the heart are actually neural cells, not muscle cells as was previously believed. Quite literally, in other words, there is a “brain” in the heart, whose ganglia are linked to every major organ in the body, to the entire muscle spindle system that uniquely enables humans to express their emotions. About half of the heart’s neural cells are involved in translating information sent to it from all over the body so that it can keep the body working as one harmonious whole. And the other half make up a very large, unmediated neural connection with the emotional brain in our head and carry on a twenty-four-hour-a-day dialogue between the heart and the brain that we are not even aware of.

If you google “gut-brain axis”, you’ll find a very enormous pile of similar statements about the neural plexus in your guts. The digestive system has exponentially more neurotransmitter production and receptors than does the brain, which is part of why St. John’s Wort is so effective, but best when taken as tea: your gut-brain needs to taste it.

All three brains are critical, and in order for us to be healthy, they need to be in some sort of balance, which may not be equal! I would argue that we probably need our gut-brains and our heart-brains to be stronger than our head-brains, but for the moment I’ll just leave it with “some sort of balance”.

While we’re here, let’s also acknowledge that this balance is not one single point, but instead a range: people who are balanced more in favor of the gut will have particular talents in certain areas – perhaps they will be better at making very quick decisions or handling emergency situations. People who are balanced more in favor of the head may be better at writing software or databases. Those balanced in favor of the heart may have stronger powers of empathy. You might initially be thinking about where you think your balance point is, and perhaps you’re wishing it were somewhere else – but it’s just like any other constitutional balance. We need fiery people, we need watery people, we need all of us.

Second, let’s establish that there is no such thing as “neurotypical”. Neurotypical is the word we invented so that we weren’t comparing folks identified as Asperger’s, ADHD, and other things to people who are “normal” – which was an important step. But it turns out that neurotypical is in fact still too constricting: it still carries an implication that there is something more normal, at least by merit of being more common, than something else.

Let’s work instead with the concept of “normative”. Normative is defined as: of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard; based on what is considered to be the usual or correct way of doing something; conforming to or based on norms.

For example, “children should eat vegetables”, and “those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither” are normative claims. On the other hand, “vegetables contain a relatively high proportion of vitamins” and “a common consequence of sacrificing liberty for security is a loss of both” are positive claims. Whether or not a statement is normative is logically independent of whether it is verified, verifiable, or popularly held.

Relevant to our discussion, we can consider neuro-normative, or socio-normative, or culturally normative – each of these describes a state that is considered normal or appropriate by society in this moment in this location, but that norm is volatile. It is “trendy”. The norm itself does not imply absolute value, only that in this moment and in this time, a certain this is valued by a certain segment of society.

The word normative is, again, a range. Think about your friends – they come in many flavors. Even the ones who are normative to whatever scale you are using – even they fall into a range. Let’s use, for example, the normative range of people who are herbalists. Within that norm, you might find an RN at a family practice who often suggests herbal supplements to her patients and educates parents that it’s ok for a child to run a fever. You might find a pharmacist who has studied herbalism and stocks cranberry extract tablets for UTIs and turmeric capsules for inflammation, and drinks tea instead of coffee from his travel mug. You might also find people who have no room in their cubbards for plates and bowls because there are too many jars of herbs in them. You might find some people who grow long hair and move out to the country to grow herbs and raise goats and sheep and don’t even have a cell phone. Some will be vegetarian, some will be paleo, some will eat gluten and some will not. All of these people would fall into the spectrum of Herbalists, and could be identified in the broader scale as herbalist-normative. But within herbalist-normative, you see, there’s still quite a broad range.



Why is the shift in language so important? Because with our current standards of “normal” vs. ADD, or even “neurotypical” vs Asperger’s, we are making a statement that something is wrong with one of the people in this equation. But if we establish the idea of three brains (who knows, maybe there are more!), and we look at them the same way we would look at someone’s constitution, we realize that there isn’t anything wrong with someone who is “normal” or not, ADD or not. There is no disease or condition or diagnosis, there is just a person. There is nothing “wrong” with the person; there is simply an imbalance, just like any other imbalance. If you consider your friends, is there anything wrong with the one who has a fiery temper? It might not always be convenient, but there’s nothing wrong. In fact, sometimes it can be quite handy to be fiery. If you consider your friend with the watery emotions, is there anything wrong? Perhaps that person doesn’t like violent movies, but there is nothing wrong. What if we consider someone with dry skin? Here we can still say, there is nothing wrong with the person, they are still a person, just one who has an imbalance in the direction of dryness.

People who can be grouped as “Asperger’s”, which is itself a normative scale, may have very strongly developed head-brains, and may have damaged or compromised gut-brains. We know from observation that people diagnosed as Asperger’s and ADD tend to fall abnormally into the high end of gut dysbiosis, and that they fall into the high end of gluten/casein sensitivity. But is there anything wrong with the person here? I contend that instead what we really have is a person who’s head-brain is full speed ahead but that they don’t have the grounding balance of their gut-brain due to damage and impaired development in the gut. To take that further, this person’s heart-brain might also be suffering, because, due to the permeability in the guts, the heart may be simultaneously too open – because of the heart’s inability to build healthy walls due to underdevelopment tied to the gut issues, or simply because the heart is too busy trying to compensate for the damage in the gut-brain. This may result in either the person feeling emotions too intensely, or, for protection, shutting them down altogether. I suppose we could identify the damage to the gut as something “wrong”, and if we’re looking for something diagnosable, then that would be the thing. We can diagnose a fever, too, but each person will respond to that fever according to their constitution: our firey person will sweat it out fast, one who runs cold may need help to get it hot enough. This isn’t enough to say there’s something wrong with a particular person, it only identifies them constitutionally.

Another factor in this puzzle is zonulin, a hormone that is responsible for tight junctions in the body. These are present in the intestinal lining, but also in the skin and the brain – the blood-brain barrier. An upregulation of the hormone zonulin (caused by the ingestion of milk proteins, gluten, or other factors we haven’t figured out yet) causes the holes in these permeable membranes to become larger. We have identified that folks with Asperger’s and ADD have higher rates of gut permeability than folks not diagnosed, and we can recognize that the permeability of the gut is tied to the permeability of the brain. Which gives us our tie-in: where there is leaky gut syndrome, there is “leaky brain syndrome” – a brain with a filter whose holes are too big. Too much can get in or out, too easily. We acknowledge this even in our speech – “he has no filters” is something we often say about people on this spectrum. But to me, this also looks a lot like anxiety – too much is able to leak into the brain, and a person is unable to hold it out because the filters aren’t working. And so this damage to the gut-brain ends up affecting even the way that our head-brains develop.

Regardless, there is nothing about this person that needs to be cured. There is simply an imbalance that, if restored, can make it more comfortable for this person to get through a day. Much like our person with dry skin – when we restore moisture to the person, they feel less itchy.

It’s also worth noting that Aspies and folks with ADD are not the only ones who have imbalances in this way – it is simply that they have imbalances that follow a reasonably identifiable pattern which has been labeled as outside the current norms. Folks with Asperger’s, for example, typically have their imbalance inclusive of a very strong head-brain development – which means that the imbalance shows up in a certain more obvious way. Someone else might have similar imbalances in their gut-brain and heart-brain but without the over development of the head-brain, and that person is not necessarily going to fit into the norm of Asperger’s or ADD. They might get by as “neuro-normative”, because so much of society today has compromised guts and hearts: this person wouldn’t stand out. It doesn’t mean this person isn’t experiencing discomfort because of their imbalance, but they are not diagnosed with a problem because they fit in with the general trend towards imbalance in our society.

Which is a very important point: this type of imbalance is uncomfortable for everyone! Perhaps, if we were all in perfect balance with our brains, if everything was functioning appropriately, it wouldn’t be the case, but as it is, interpersonal relationships are difficult for everyone! Just look at the whole series of commercials centered around men’s inability to express emotions – “I love you, man!”. That inability is a reflection of this imbalance, and how we got there is of course another whole discussion. But that imbalance is socially acceptable enough that it will sell beer. Just think about the last week in your own life: little misunderstandings, little annoyances, little grudges – getting along with each other is hard for everyone. If we can identify a particular group of people who have this difficulty in a roughly similar way, we can have a few reactions to that. We can label that group as flawed and try to cure them, which is what is currently happening. We could also identify that this group of people is more highly sensitized to a problem endemic in society right now, just like a person who lives in a highly polluted area might have more sensitive skin or more sensitive lungs – we can put them on steroids, or we can change the imbalances that are causing the problem: change their environment, improve their sleep and nutrition, give them supporting herbs to rebuild and strengthen compromised tissues… The latter takes longer, but in exchange, the person doesn’t have to worry about not being able to get their steroids when the zombies come!



Our current cultural obsession with normativity itself is also a problem. Everyone is not actually supposed to be the same. We’re SUPPOSED to have different skills and different talents. A person who can be identified as ADD – maybe that person would feel comfortable and happy as a forest ranger, but because we live in a society where only certain types of jobs are respected, that person is raised to try to fit into a place that is uncomfortable and poorly suited to his nature. We can consider two developments that are socially acceptable: one a NFL football player, one a lawyer. Each of these people, during their maturation and training, will choose parts of their nature to develop, even to over-develop. The result is socially acceptable, and so they are considered “normal”. These imbalances are considered acceptable, those are not – there’s a very arbitrary factor in what is considered “normative”.

Stimming falls into this category as well. The definition of a stim is simply a repetitive habit, often a body movement, for the purpose of self-calming. Socio-normative society says that rocking or flapping the hands isn’t an acceptable method of self-calming – but smoking is. Going to a bar is. Playing Grand Theft Auto is. The reality is, everyone self-calms. Let’s consider rocking chairs – it used to be every house had one! Rocking as a form of relaxing or feeling calm was acceptable for most of American history, but today it’s either a quaint antique or a stigma.

In my case, and for others I know, I like to press my nails into my palms. I’ve done it ever since childhood, but recently a friend who is an acupuncturist noticed. It turns out that the place where your fingernails meet your palm is actually an acupuncture point used in cases of adrenal depletion! All along, my self-calming behavior was actually acupressure. Perhaps instead of telling people their stims are not socially acceptable, we should learn about them – our stims might be telling us something.

By this point, I hope you’re with me on a foundation here: what we currently identify as Asperger’s or as ADD/ADHD are just imbalances, like any other constitutional imbalance, and not a disease that must be cured. Like any other imbalance, this imbalance can have some advantages, but may also cause discomfort.

Lots of times people will call or write asking for my “protocol for Asperger’s” or my “treatment plan for Asperger’s”. I don’t have one! No one who can be grouped in the spectrum of Asperger’s is the same – each is an individual, and each feels the advantages and discomforts of their personal situation differently. This is true for anyone – take two people who were raised poor. One perhaps grew up with a chip on the shoulder, and strove to earn lots of money and buy fancy things. Another maybe didn’t mind much and goes around with the attitude “we make our own fun”. In my family both of these are represented, and the nature of each one is drastically different, despite that the initial situation was the same. In the same way, two people with Asperger’s or two people with ADD will have different priorities. One may feel great discomfort in a situation where another does not, and it is those discomforts that must drive the way I work with each person. It’s not up to me to say, “oh, we better fix this about you, so that everyone will think you’re normal”. Instead, I simply ask about what would make a person feel more comfortable in their world.

I go about this the same way that I would for any other client – we use the same “compass” that we do for any imbalance. What can we do in a person’s diet, sleep habits, and lifestyle to create more comfort, and what herbs can we use to support those changes? And at this point, we’re back to being “boring herbalists”, as Paul Bergner teaches. There’s nothing new here. Once we realize that everything is just a matter of getting closer to constitutional balance, we realize that all the answers are the same – north is still north. How each client gets there will be different, and how we can be creative in our encouragement and motivation of each client will be different, but moving towards balance itself will continue to be the same old “boring” work (yes, please!).



Earth: nourishment

In our practice, we always start with food – there is always some improvement we can make there. Folks with Asperger’s and ADD have been identified as having more gut dysbiosis, higher levels of gluten sensitivity. And we know that we’re looking at imbalances in the three brains, so we’re of course going to try to strengthen the gut-brain. We will almost always suggest going gluten-free and dairy-free very first, along with any other allergens that the individual may have. Also we’re going to suggest removing stimulants – when we know there’s imbalance, we don’t want to be pushing it further along by stimulating one or more parts of the axis. Stimulants aren’t just caffeine – we’d also look at sugar, sodas, additives, other foods with engineered supersaturated flavors…

In each of these cases, there is always a negotiation. The goal here is not to build a new norm to convince this person to adhere to! The goal is to bring a person to their own balance, to bring a person to a place where they can get comfortably through their day. They may occasionally still eat some cheese, and recognize that for a couple days afterward they feel a lot of discomfort – that’s part of the journey. Someday that might convince them it’s worth cutting it out entirely, or maybe they decide that sometimes they can live with the discomfort.

We’re also going to emphasize full-spectrum nutrition (protein, fats, minerals, vitamins) required for all the body’s systems to function optimally, and boosted for the repair of tissues that are damaged. We’ll encourage a person to eat lots of colors, to eat consciously, to focus on as high quality as is attainable. In this case, we’re also going to stress a couple of supplements, most notably D3, which, among many other things, functions as the counterpoint to zonulin: once zonulin has opened the tight junctions in the permeable membranes, D3 closes them back down again. Magnesium is another that we regularly recommend, as even with an organic diet high in green leafies, our soils are so depleted of magnesium that it’s difficult to achieve the levels the body needs with food alone.

Herbs can be food, and we include many in this category! Specifically green ones – nettle, dandelion, red clover, horsetail – all very high in minerals. Horsetail in particular is interesting as I have been studying lately about its ability to impact connective tissue – I have been making it a point to include in all my mineral formulas for folks with impaired gut function.

Burdock root, dandelion root, codonopsis root, and small amounts of solomon’s seal root are another base blend great for building nourishment. We like folks to put these roots in a bone broth soup, preferably with seaweeds added. Solomon’s Seal root in the broth is a new trick I’ve been playing with since hearing Karyn Sanders speak about it: previously I only used Solomon’s Seal as tincture because it is not an abundant plant. However, in some recent workshops she’s given, Karyn has talked about using small amounts in broth, and specifically for people who don’t know how to be true to themselves. To me that phrase really sounds like Asperger’s and ADD – you could be true to yourself, but society says that’s not ok. Even if you can drop into yourself, the brains aren’t in balance, there’s some internal turmoil. What is myself? In my notes from that workshop, I wrote “equalizes the balance of power – even within yourself!” – all of which boils down to lately, I’ve been adding a little Solomon’s to the mix, and both I and my clients really like it.

One other blend that falls into this category is not here for its own nutritive merit, but for its vulnerary merit: that is the standard Gut Heal blend we learned from Paul: Calendula, Plantain, Chamomile, Catnip, and Mint. We change this up quite a bit depending on the situation, and for my folks with Asperger’s and ADD, Self Heal and Violet often make it into the mix – these are two that I feel reach out from the gut-brain up to the heart-brain and start to stitch the whole back together. Sure, both have some vulnerary and lymphatic action as well, so physiologically they’re great, but it’s their sweetness in the delicate repair of the threads between gut and heart that I love most. St. John’s Wort is another we love to add here – such a supreme digestive system healer!

Water: relationship & recovery

Relationships are our deepest sources of psychological nourishment. At this year’s Herbal Resurgence conference, teacher James Snow was talking about studies that have been done recently that show that feeling alone, out of relationship with our pack, causes biologically measurable inflammation and stress. But it’s not just relationships with other humans that affect us. Our relationships, or lack thereof, with our environment – with the plants and animals and rocks and waters around us, with all the non-human intelligences of the world – these relationships make it possible for us to understand who and what we are. Cross-reference ideas like Nature Deficit Disorder and the new phenomenon of Forest Bathing, and the fact that a majority of children today grow up more in the virtual world than they do in the world of nature, and we see a very fundamental causes of the imbalance in our brain axis. Many of us as herbalists see this – in our friends and clients on the spectrum who “self-medicate” by spending time outdoors, with animals, and in nature, and who feel calmer and more comfortable in their lives because of it. (Again and again we see that Asperger’s and ADD are just the very noticeable part of a larger trend in society.)

In general, we want to help folks (not just folks with Asperger’s and ADD!) build relationships that are nurturing and sustaining. Once they meet that criterion, there are no other criteria for “rightness” – the relationships can be with horses or horsemint, adults or children, whatever is comfortable. We can start with relationships that are the most comforting, and slowly work through to relationships that are desirable but difficult. Recognizing that interpersonal relationships are difficult for everyone, we don’t blame this difficulty on the Asperger’s or the ADD. We just acknowledge that they are difficult and find creative ways to cope. Some tricks I have used here are emulating a role model (what would someone I respect do?) and good old fashioned scout work: if you have to go into an uncomfortable situation, learn as much about it ahead of time as possible. Figure out where the bathrooms are from someone who has been there before, or figure out the guest list ahead of time from the host. Plan a place that feels safe to start out in, so that you can get comfortable before you have to be in the middle of things. This works great at a party, for example: I feel comfortable in a kitchen, so I always take guacamole to a party. It has to be made fresh, so I have a “socially acceptable” excuse to spend time in the kitchen with my hands busy, getting comfortable in a new place before I really have to talk to anyone.

There are lots of herbs we can use to help out here – one of my very favorites is Wood Betony (Stachys, though we recently got some Pedicularis for the first time, and that seems to also have beneficial effect, although differently). Wood Betony, more than any other plant, gives me a sense of being in my body – in other words, that my gut-brain and my heart-brain are in control. Some other allies here are Hawthorn, Linden, Violet, Tulsi, and Mondarda, especially when you feel like everything is buzzing like a swarm of bees. Sage can be excellent too for overwhelming situations. Ryn would say I should add Kava to the list, and though I don’t love it most of the time, Kava is tremendously useful for lots of folks.

Flower essences are so useful here, too. There are so many, but one in particular that stands out is Indian Pipe. It’s calming, anchoring, and helps feelings of disconnectedness. Indian Pipe flower essence is also fantastic for anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed.

Sleep falls into this arena as well. I don’t know anyone who handles situations well when they’re tired. It’s just a normal fact of life! If we have a person with a known imbalance that is causing discomfort, and part of the discomfort is coping with interpersonal situations, then it’s only logical that we should make sure this person gets good sleep! Again, this may call for creativity on the part of the herbalist – for some people simply explaining that adults need 9-12 hours of sleep per night (and children even more!) is enough. For others, various sleep hygiene routines will need to be put in place to ensure that sleep comes more easily.

Fire: movement & expression

In our current sedentism-normative, productivity-normative culture, finding time for movement and expression can be difficult even for people who fit in to that culture. For many kids (and adults) diagnosed with ADD, a lifestyle that focuses on movement and eschews the sedentary can be enough to find a balance point. Asperger’s has been linked in some research with Neanderthal DNA – if this is true, then perhaps those of us who fall into that category are simply suffering from the lack of our evolutionary norm of walking 6-9 miles a day. We could in that case consider ADD and Asperger’s not diagnoses, but simply evolutionarily-normative, as opposed to sedentarily-normative!

Not only that, but expression is important! Society accepts expression in an extremely limited form right now, which is a problem not just for folks labeled ADD and Asperger’s – we talk about this problem as it affects men and women individually, as it affects our national levels of education now that arts are more and more widely cut from public education, as it affects anyone with a heart. Art is what it is to be human: there is no group of humans anywhere who did not make art. Music, dance, painting, drawing, ritual and ceremony, weaving, sculpting – even their work was art. This was still true even up until some relatively recent point – just look at the architecture. At some point, buildings stopped being ornamented: that ornamentation was the art of the workers.

In these areas, we can encourage movement according to individual nature: one might prefer walking, another dancing, another climbing trees (or playground equipment, or rock gym walls, if no trees are available). We can encourage expression according to nature too – it doesn’t matter if it’s poetry or pottery, and it doesn’t even matter if it’s “good”, but humans must make art and we must be expressive. As herbalists we can help our clients (Asperger’s, ADD, or otherwise!) to make room in their lives for these things, and sometimes act as an advocate with schools and employers to make appropriate space for these things.

Adaptogens can be very helpful for motivating movement, and when expression is difficult, herbs that protect the heart – expression is a risk! – are so useful. Flower essences are useful here too, one in particular being Fleabane, which is excellent for expressive blocks. Sometimes though, the best support is simply someone who appreciates the expression, and the risk it took.


Air: stress regulation

Writing about stress would be another entire article, but a foundational factor at play here would be the impact of stress on the physiological function of the three brains: stress, and prolonged exposure to cortisol, impairs gut function, constricts heart function, and degrades hippocampus function, among other things. (The hippocampus being particularly important, as this is where we convert short term memories to long term memories – in other words, this is where we “get over it”. Prolonged exposure to cortisol makes that process extremely difficult.)

In the case of folks with ADHD and Asperger’s, where there is already a shift in the balance in favor of the head-brain, often the response to stress is going to be falling further into the direction of “airiness”. Some may meet stress by pushing harder with cerebral productivity, for example, or by engaging in cerebral stimulation as a self-calming exercise – using television or a movie, for example, to tune out the other noises. Neither one of these things is inherently bad, but they can be done to discomfort, and that can cause trouble.

Also, it turns out that humans respond better to stress with their gut-brain and their heart-brains. Head-brains are useful for some types of work, but they’re not ideal for dealing with stress. So in stressful situations, a person who is out of balance in favor of their head-brain is likely to experience more than average discomfort.

In many ways, the work done in the first three elements will help here drastically: getting better sleep helps us deal with stress better. Having relationships we can lean on in times of stress help us cope. Eating nourishing foods and working to heal gut permeability help us to restore our gut-brains and also the heart-brains. Most any nervine will help here too, used appropriately for the person in question. However, there are also some habits that, if we develop them, will help us bring our head-brain back into its rightful place, as well.

Change how you think: meditation, affirmation, forgiveness, compassion practices – these practices start in the head-brain, but their purpose is to weave our head-brains back into balance with our heart-brains and gut-brains. Healing the gut will allow the gut-brain to pull our head-brains back towards balance, but exercises like compassion meditations turn our head-brains into willing participants in the journey towards balance.

Similarly, think less and live more – attain presence; practice intuitive living skills. Oh, dear, even if you’re not entirely sure what that means, to anyone who is head-brain centric, those words are can initially be quite uncomfortable. How on earth is it even possible, in our current culture, to think less and live more? We’re all tied to computing devices most of the day! That’s a good place to start – reign in your computer and let your body run free a little more often. Going outside more will help – and if that’s difficult, adopting a dog will help! Lots of dogs need loving homes, and a dog provides a relationship with a non-human intelligence that will help you get outside and moving more often!

As practitioners, we must recognize that people can’t do this by fiat: making these choices starts not with self-control, but with self-care. As we learn to care for the self, we are building relationship with our bodies – something many folks with ADD and Asperger’s have never done before. Draw on the other elements to help this: nourishing, flavorful food engages our attention; fulfilling emotional entwinings hold us in the now; artful movement practices teach us to fully inhabit our bodies.

All of the grounding herbs will help here – pulling us down from the air and into the body. But this is a place where some of the more decadent preparations are quite useful! I find that when I encourage people to take time to drink tea as self-care, compliance is spotty. But when I teach people how to put herbs in wine and enjoy an appropriate glass of herbed wine as self-care, suddenly this is an easy task! Elixirs are another lovely way, as well as mixing herbs with chocolate. These are ways that we can feel pleasure in our bodies, which makes them more inviting to the mind who is only lightly tethered.

And that’s it. That’s all there is. The secret is, that’s all there is for anyone. Recently I learned that Asperger’s is being taken out of the DSM, in favor of a return to “high functioning autism” – proof of how arbitrary all this stuff really is. Getting through a day in our current society is difficult for everyone. If it’s hard for you in a particular way that you have in common with others, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means you have friends on the journey.


(Please share this important article on this important topic… thank you)


Jan 072014


Creating Our New Book “The Enchanted Healer”

Every moment that I wasn’t working on Plant Healer Magazine projects or the HerbFolk Gathering in the last two years, I have been giving to the creation of our next book, “The Enchanted Healer.” The second in what will be our trilogy for Healers of very kind, this will be our first full color book, and the first to bring light to subjects of plant spirit, shamanism, awareness, the senses, and awakeness and enchantment in our work and lives. For those of you who enjoy feeling like a part of our efforts, here below are some journal entries about the production process. They are numbered rather than dated, but roughly appear in chronological order.

Entry #1: Inspiration For A New Book
As important as clinical research is to a healing practice, just as important is the child-like curiosity, entrancement and obsession that leads to fruitful investigation and new ways of perceiving and practicing. The faculties that can make us better Healers are the same senses and sensibilities that make it possible for us to truly, deeply enjoy our studies and work. Reason and emotional, spiritual and “magical” ways of perceiving are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, ultrasensory engagement, heightened awareness, shamanic therapies, and an open mind are all crucial to a powerful practice… and enchantment is often a necessary ingredient to remaining in love with and satisfied by our work and missions. Hence what will be our next book, “The Enchanted Healer.” Much to do, to pass on the necessary information and tools, and to cast the equally necessary spell of awakeness and delight.


The Enchanted Healer


Entry #2: Who This Book is For
“The Enchanted Healer” is written with our core audience in mind, our community of wild-hearted folk herbalists, wildcrafters, alternative therapists and natural Healers… but also many other kinds of Healers doing their best to contribute to the wholeness of our bodies, families, neighborhoods, societies, and ecosystems. This includes people giving helpful holistic counsel, doing body work, making natural medicines and body care products, cultivating endangered medicinal herbs and other species, creating visionary paintings and films, teaching healthful values and tools to either children or adults, opposing environmental destruction or injurious s, practitioners of with the aim of increasing not only a healer’s effectiveness but also their enjoyment of every aspect of a life of ultra-awareness, deep connection, inspirited and heartful service.

Entry #3: New Book Chapters Selected!
The final choice of chapters for our new book “The Enchanted Healer” have been selected! There will be 25 chapter topics and a bunch of sidebars and Kiva essays, that I am anxious for a chance to announce. Included will be the following, and more:
• The Portal: Opening To The Magic & Wonder
• The Healer: Seeker, Seer, Shaman, Nurturer & Culture-Shifter
• Seekers & Teachers
• Deepening Awakeness
• Lessons of The Hummingbird: Agent of Awakeness, Bringer of Life
• Practicing UltraPresence
• The Work & The Reward: Self Exploration & Self Worth
• The Feeler: Healing, Emotion & The Senses
• Planet Eros: Connection, Wholeness & Bliss Through Enlivened Sexuality
• Body Mind Balance
• Growing & Exercising All Levels of Awareness
• Prophecy & Destiny
• The Healing Arts & The Aesthetic of Healing
• Sacred Indulgence: Nurturing & Tending Ourselves
• The Enchantment of Cooking
• Satisfaction & Hungering
• Inner Sanctums: Creating a Sanctuary Conducive To Our Enchantment
• Imaginariums & Cabinets of Wonder
• The Enchanted Drum: Healing Reconnection Through Rhythm
• Walking The Edge: High Water & Ecstatic Living
• The Totemic Journey: Finding & Learning From Our Plant & Animal Guides
• Places of Power
• The Healing Quest
• The Song of Gaia: Epiphany of a Living Earth
• The Enchantment

Entry #4: Kiva Rose Contributions
Hardly a week goes by that we don’t get emails asking when my partner Kiva Rose is going to bring out a book of her works. She still plans on an exhaustive collection of her personable herb profiles, though delayed because of her having so many “irons in the fire.” I was, however, able to encourage her writing 10 amazing pieces that reflect her spirit, interests and passions more than any before – strongly and sensually evocative, folkloric with mythic sensibilities and intent, celebrating what is most enthralling about the healing arts and being an herbalist. As fascinating as her personal story and style, their most powerful contribution to “The Enchanted Healer” is the way they provoke the reader’s own exploration and embrace of their true selves, of the mysterium, and of contemporary Healer roles. So far we’re sure this book will include these Kiva’s pieces:
• Creating New Healing Traditions
• Reinhabiting – 3 Steps To Here
• The World In a Flower
• A Ballad of Brambles (Plant Folklore)
• Enchanted Medicine Making
• Flowers From Stones
• My Spiraling Return
• Talking With Plants
• Enchanted Medicine Making
• Where My Skin Ends & Flowers Begin

Entry #5: Involving Other Writers
My original idea was to include sections from other writers in “The Enchanted Healer,” much as I did with the previous release, “The Plant Healer’s Path.” But several of the people whose wisdom I especially value turned out to be predisposed. We were sad that Paul Bergner and David Hoffman, due to family and professional responsibilities, did not have the time to provide contributions like they did for the last book, and Phyllis Light needed to turn attention to nurturing and healing herself after an accident that blessedly slowed her down are helped refocus her priorities. It is just as well we didn’t have more pieces to try to include, however, since the illustrations are taking up so much space. And there are still substantial wise quotes by Paul, amongst the hundred or so other author/teachers whose remarks I’ve managed to include among the chapters.

Entry #6: Design & Color
With the order of the chapters for “The Enchanted Healer” decided on, and with nearly all the chapters written, I need to think about illustrations. A big factor is whether to go with color or black and white interior, since picture selection hinges on it. Many extraordinary photos require color for contrast as the tones are near the same, and if it is to be B&W like “The Plant Healer’s Path”, then I need to select for contrast ahead of time. I’m getting more and more attached to the idea of color content, I confess, though we can expect it to cost a lot more. Why? Because this book is meant to literally enchant and not only inform but enchant, visuals are at least as important as words for that purpose, and there is nothing as effective in that regard as incredible, lush, vibrant hues. The many fairytale-like images are evocative and transportive when dressed up in color, supporting the book’s central theme of revealing the enchantments of the healing arts, the magical in nature, and the wondrous in the everyday.

Entry #7: Course Materials Included
We’ve decided to add about 15 pages of helpful self-exploration questions and practices/exercises, mostly taken from the “Senses” and “Awareness” sections of the Anima online courses. With the courses temporarily suspended and available to only a few exceptions, here is my chance to share some of the core material that we’ve seen help our students so very much.

Entry #8: Book Appearance & Flavor
This book just keeps getting bigger, and it is now going to be impossible to keep much below 300 pages in length! To take maximum advantage of the big 8.5×11” color format, I built full page color images in Photoshop that fill all the way to the edges of the paper, with special framing, the text often appearing atop beautiful botanical image “bleeds”, contrasting color fonts, collages and design elements. Kiva and I spend hours picking out what we consider to be the most perfect possible illustrations for each chapter section or page, selected from among tens of thousands of images. Every photo and painting then requires editing and sizing, before being inserted into the design. Making these full page composites is taking many, many times longer to arrange and lay out than the quarterly Plant Healer Magazine issues, even though roughly the same length. Even though it is my own hands manipulating the trackpad, I fees as surprised and excited as any child to see each page take shape out of the mist – on this MacBook “screen of infinite possibilities.” I can only hope that our readers will find it as exciting to turn to each page, and as hard to leave each page behind… that it they will come away not only thinking new thoughts but with a feeling. Elation. Inspiration. Exhilaration. I started to write “I can only hope,” but I can do so much for than that. I can give this book my very best.

Entry #9: Book Design
I chose Times New Roman font as the most legible for the main text, and Cretino for the main titles. The complex Cretino family has the feel of old folkloric letter styles while evoking an edgy contemporary feel, hopefully conveying that folk healing and enchantment are as vital today as they ever were in our historic past. Illustrations include classic paintings, amazing plant portraits, Left out of “The Enchanted Healer” are the sometimes campy or tongue-in-cheek images that I enjoy having in the magazine, and I’ve instead gone only for the art and photos that may contribute to the enrapturing of its readers.

Entry #10: The Decision To Print in Color
Today Kiva researched the cost of printing an initial run of a few hundred copies of “The Enchanted Healer” books, for nearly 300 pages of color, on high grade coated paper with a soft cover… turns out it requires as much money as a new luxury car, and more than I spent on materials to build the cabin that we wrote it in! Scariest, of course, is that we have to pay it all up front, emptying our business account with no certainty of how many copies will sell or how quickly the investment will be recouped. Recouping the expense will be slower regardless, since printing costs are so high we feel we can’t mark the price up very much above what we pay for them. As crucial as is is that we meet our expenses, making an income has never been as important to us as affecting, affirming, inspiring, and stirring as many good people as we possibly can… and an all-color, highly visual book just might help with that!

Entry #11: The Book is Done!
Okay, wow, it is finally finished! “The Enchanted Healer” is now completely illustrated and laid out, after many 16 hour days of hard work on it…. all except for the Introduction which I still need to write, a Foreword (possibly by our esteemed friend Matthew Wood), the finalized table of contents with page numbers, and the graphic covers of course. I can’t seem to stop myself from repeatedly scrolling through the thumbnails of the finished pages, first looking for any little glitches in need of fixing, then just enjoying the way the color themes and striking forms transition from one chapter to the next. I so hope it helps to bring increased delight, wonderment, and indeed enchantment… to our loving Healer readers.

Entry #12: April Book Release
With another issue of Plant Healer Magazine to put together soon, I am pressing hard to first get “The Enchanted Healer” completely ready for the printers, probably in the next few weeks. The plan is to begin accepting pre-orders sometime between now and March, with the first copies being shipped out in March or April (yes, 2014). We’re so very excited!

Entry #13: Help Reaching Beyond The Choir
This is the first book I’ve written in awhile that has the potential to be appreciated and utilized by folks outside of the herbalism and natural healing fields. With “Healer” defined more broadly, there are many people involved in self exploration, the heightening of awareness, spiritual seeking of any kind, ceremony and ritual, teaching and counseling, shamanic studies and cultural -co-creation who would surely benefit from the information and inspiration that we intend “The Enchanted Healer” to provide. Kiva and I will be depending on our devoted core community to help announce and network this book to other audiences, online and otherwise. We will likely ask folks soon for suggestions in this regard, as well as requesting assistance in getting this message of empowerment and enchantment out “beyond the choir.”

Entry #14: Feedback
Before printing a book, I always send my manuscripts out to a few folks whose feedback helps improve the end product. I value the response whether positive or not, I often put to use any suggestions, and I especially need to know when and how I might ever offend some group. My aim is to stretch readers to seeing things beyond and outside of their assumptions, but I need folks to hear me and consider what is said and I can’t have them closing their ears to what might help them the most. The first feedback to come in is from the herbalist, Plant Healer writer, and care-giver Virginia Adi. Besides her other helpful observations she wrote that: “I actually feel as though it was written just for me and I am pretty sure most of your other readers will have the same reaction, feeling ourselves indeed to be seers, nurturers, artists and visionaries….Wonderfully readable.  There are some excellent observations and quotable remarks that I have read so far and I will give you more feedback when I finish it – I do not want to forget to remark on the little stuff as I go too.  Some favorite lines from “The Enchanted Healer” include:
• ‘Healing who and what needs healing-not just bodies and not just people’
• ‘We can be neither right nor particularly effective if our powers of seeing are limited by the fears of what we might find, or if the truth of something is distorted or obscured by our assumptions, our expectations, or our projecting onto something what we want to see.’
• ‘We need to feel enchanted again…’

Entry #15: Enchantment Book Cover
Alright, the front cover for “The Enchanted Healer” is done. I had so many ideas for what to put on the cover that is was difficult narrowing it down to a single image. My first temptation was to draw something for it, but for this book trilogy I’ve opted to work with photographs and photoshop instead. Since this book begins and ends with allusions to portals – openings to enrapturement and wonder in the everyday world – I felt strongly that their needed to be a picture of a natural opening in a forest or in the cliffs. Perfect for this purpose seemed to be a view looking out to the light from inside a special, magical feeling cave. Given the title, Kiva agreed it also needed a human figure worked into it, and it needed to be a figure that is clearly turning to face the opening before stepping out into an amazing world of limitless possibility. Now that the cover is ready for people to see, I can post some of these entries about the book creation process, and share with us our growing excitement.

I hope this handful of entries give some insight into the creative process here at Plant Healer, and afford a sense of the love and devotion that goes into each publication.  We pour into them not only our hearts and knowledge but also the hours of our finite existence, making “The Enchanted Healer” not just a gift of enchantment but a gift of our very lives.

If you have a well read blog or newsletter, or are able to post on a popular online group or site, you may be interested in writing an advance book review.  If so, send us details along with your request at: PlantHealer(at)PlantHealer(dot)org

–Jesse Wolf Hardin

(Thank you for re-posting and sharing)

Jan 052014

Muscle Aches and Tension:

Materia Medica, Part 1

by Kiva Rose


Pedicularis procera

Pedicularis procera

The cold moons are a time when many longstanding aches and pains worsen, and also when recent injuries often become more problematic. The low temperatures seem to make the pain  and stiffness seep into the very bones and can make free movement difficult indeed.

In part one of this post, I’ll be covering a few important herbs for internal use. In the next post, I’ll cover herbs for external use, and in the third, I’ll cover a few herbs specific to muscular pain related to joint issues.

This first post is a quick and dirty overview/breakdown of herbs that can be used internally to loosen up skeletal muscles, thereby making movement easier and also potentially bringing longer standing healing to the area.  All of these suggestions are intended to bring about fairly quick, if not entirely instant, gratification. Dealing with longstanding or chronic muscular pain often requires a different approach, and will usually incorporate lifestyle and nutritional changes. While I touch on this here, this post is meant to address the symptoms in a general way

There are many more herbs that can be useful within these parameters, but I have chosen the ones I am most familiar with and that grow in my bioregion.

For a greater understanding of the anatomy being referenced here, please see:



Nutrition is often a primary element in healing muscular issues, particularly if they’re of a chronic or reoccurring nature. Vitamin D3, magnesium, and omega 3s are just three very important nutrients for musco-skeletal well being that many of us are deficient in. Jim McDonald’s article on Herbs for Back Pain is a great one, not only covers herbs, but also provides a look at relevant nutrients.


Internal Approaches


Betony – Pedicularis spp.

Overview: Pedicularis is a general relaxant for the skeletal muscles, making it highly useful in many skeletal muscle oriented formulas, and plays well with many of the other herbs referenced here.  Pedicularis is excellent for overall tension being held in the muscles, and may even result in a “limp noodle” effect if taken in the appropriate situation where there’s a great deal of muscular tension. The benefit of its overall and generally mild effect is that it can help in almost situation where there are tense, painful muscles. Especially if the pain is worse with stress and/or anxiety, as it’s also a relaxant nervine.  Keep in mind that ingesting it in reasonable doses will cause many folk to feel quite relaxed and even potentially sleepy or lethargic, depending on one’s response to nervines.

Hint: When I have an abundant supply of Pedicularis I tend to include it in most of my formulas that I create for folks with aches and pains that either result from or result in tension, including overworked or strained muscles from physical activity.

Dosage: 10 drops – 2 teaspoons of tincture (usually above ground parts in flower) every 3 hours or as needed. I usually begin with a dose of 1 ml and work up or down from there depending on how the person responds. A small percentage of people respond very strongly to Pedicularis and may suddenly become very sedated/sleepy.

Note: Please realize that Pedicularis is not a weedily abundant plant and that care should be taken to either wildcraft it with consideration, or to purchase it from a responsible and ethical source.


Black Cohosh/Baneberry – Actaea racemosa/Actaea rubra

Overview: We don’t necessarily think of it in this way, but Actaea is an excellent muscle relaxant, having an effect on both skeletal and smooth muscles and working to effectively alleviate many kinds of muscular and join pain. Actaea can even help manage the pain of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is not a cure, but it can be helpful with pain management and relaxing the muscles.

Hint: Actaea can work as a great general muscle relaxant, but is sometimes especially effective for the sort of deep, constant aching that can cause the person’s entire emotional outlook to become gloomy and depressed.

Dosage: 3-20 drops of fresh root tincture. The two species listed can be used interchangeably and should be dosed similarly as well.

Consider: Actaea can cause frontal headaches in sensitive individuals or in excessively large doses. If the headache occurs even at a low dose, discontinue its use.

Silk Tassel – Garrya wrightii 

Overview: While most folks generally familiar with Silk Tassel tend to think of it as a smooth muscle relaxant, I learned from my friend and mentor, 7Song, that it can also be quite useful in the treatment of skeletal muscles. I have utilized it numerous time in situations where someone has hot, acute pain after aggravating an old injury in a muscle or the spinal column as a whole.

Hint: Silk Tassel is a cooling herb usually best suited to to hot, acute pain so I don’t suggest it’s continued use in cold, chronic conditions where the pain has turned achy and low grade unless thoughtfully formulated with warmer healing herbs. I personally tend to use it only during the acute phase and then switch from damage control (reducing pain and spasms) to more active healing.

Dosage: 10 drops-1/2 ml tincture (usually leaves or leaves and twigs) every 3 hours or as needed.

Consider: Some herbalists consider Silk Tassel to be an anticholinergic with an affinity for the pelvic area. Be careful exceeding the suggested dose and if dry mouth or dilated eyes accompany usage, reduce or stop ingestion.

More: You can read more about Silk Tassel here:


Vervain – Verbena spp./Glandularia spp.

Overview: In some ways similar to Pedicularis, Vervain is an excellent herb for relaxing tension, easing pain and anxiety, and cooling heat/inflammation. It is equally versatile, but also has a very specific action on neck tension, especially when rooted in the trapezius and then spreading through the neck and shoulders.

Hint: Where Vervain is very specific, a low dose (just a few drops) can sometimes entirely relax the muscles, significantly reduce pain, and initiate healing in the area. It is especially helpful where the muscular tension is related to a larger pattern of poor digestion and emotional tension.

Dosage: 2 drops – 2 ml of tincture (flowering tops) every three hours or as needed.

Consider: Be aware that Verbena and Glandularia spp. can cause nausea or even vomiting in some sensitive individuals, so start with a low dose.

More: Read more about Vervain here:


Lobelia – Lobelia inflata

Overview: Lobelia is one of the best antispasmodics for acute muscular spasms that I know of, especially for the type of spasms that clench and freeze and just won’t let go. This is one of the few plants that doesn’t grow in my region that I always keep on hand as I find it invaluable for all sorts of spasmodic and wind type afflictions.

Hint: Lobelia is an acrid herb, and tends to work exceptionally well on spasms that come and go, and may even move through the affected area instead of being centered in one particular spot. I have seen three drops entirely stop spasms that were previously rippling across someone’s entire back and had them writhing in pain.

Dosage: 1-25 drops of fresh flowering/seeding tops tincture.

Consider: At high dosages or in very sensitive individuals, Lobelia can cause nausea and vomiting. This is much less likely to happen if you start with the smallest dose and go from there.

Credit, References, and Resources

7Song – personal correspondence and

Howie Brounstein – conversation

Jim McDonald – personal correspondence and

Michael Moore – Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West

Matthew Wood – Book of Herbal Wisdom

Dec 242013

Holiday Wishes from Plant Healer-72dpi

Holiday Blessings & Year’s End News

It’s been a busy year for Plant Healer and Anima Sanctuary.  For over 6 months we were unable to drive in to our canyon property, with everything being carried in and out across the river on our backs… but still we managed to make some improvements to our water and solar electric systems, remake the Plant Healer and HerbFolk Conference websites, produce 4 more issues of acclaimed Plant Healer Magazine plus 30 blog posts and a dozen free Newsletters, and publish “The Plant Healer’s Path” book as well as the 2013 Plant Healer Annuals.  Over the past 12 months we’ve increased our impact with the addition of several thousand new readers.

New Plant Healer Annuals Have Been Shipped To You!

We quickly sent out all the available new 2013 Plant Healer Annual books, and Thursday received another 3000 pound shipment which we’ve used to fill all remaining orders.  If you haven’t received your copies yet, you can expect them in the mail very soon!  Two full b&w volumes over 1,000 pages in length, along with the full color “Art of Plant Healer” graphic supplement.  Non-members can purchase the Annuals along with a year’s subscription to the digital magazine for a combined discount price.  Go to the magazine page at the revised Plant Healer website:

Upcoming in 2014

• The Spring issue of the Plant Healer Magazine quarterly will release on the first Monday in March.  The deadline for article submissions is Jan. 1st (though you can write and ask for an extension if needed), and the deadline for advertising is Feb. 1st.

• “The Enchanted Healer” is the title of our next book, due for release in April – the second in a trilogy of books for the healing and herbalist communities, addressing topics like heightened senses, ultra-presence, growing our awareness, shamanism, vision questing, plant spirit, Gaia, and the reclamation of our native wonder, awe and delight.  So many of you have asked for it to be brought out with the beautiful illustrations in full color, that we may do that though if it costs more.  A “shout-out” goes to Traci Picard for working hard to get it proofed as we speak.

A Special Books For Herbalists Guide will appear in the Summer issue of Plant Healer Magazine, and will be made available as a free download thereafter.  It will feature an overview of herbal literature, a lengthy list of books in print by most of the top herbalist authors, along with excerpts from many of them.  If you are an author or publisher interested in being included, or if you want to recommend titles, give us a write at: planthealer(at)

Another Dozen Plant Healer Newsletters, with herbal and wildcrafting related articles excerpted from the magazine and contributed by various herbalist writers, sent out absolutely free to anyone interested.  The next full length issue will be sent out in mid January.  To subscribe, go to any page of the website and fill in your name and address where it says “subscribe” in the far left margin:

Herbfolk Gathering will be our 5th annual event for folk herbalists and plant lovers of all kinds.  It will be Sept. 18-21 at forested Mormon Lake, south of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, with the 2014 theme being “The Enchanted Forest”.  All classes will include folkloric and hands-on elements, and most will be 3 to 5 hr long intensives.  For full details, download the information pdf: 2014 HerbFolk Gathering Info

Thanks for joining us in this mission of healing, connection, and celebration.  Be ever so good to yourselves, and we’ll talk to you next year!

–Wolf & Kiva

Dec 172013



The 2014 HerbFolk Gathering (Sept 18-21, Mormon Lake AZ)

Steep Advance Discount – December 13th–31st Only – See Full Details At Bottom



I had lots of trouble with the sign-up boxes on the website, but they’re finally really fixed.  You can now go to any page on the Plant Healer site, click on where it says subscribe on the left side, fill in your name and email address and you will be good to go!

You’ll receive from 8 to 12 issues per year, 10 to 30 pages in length, filled with inspiration and information for herbalists.  Included will be advance excerpts from upcoming Plant Healer Magazine issues, abridged articles gleaned from past issues of the magazine, interviews with herbalists, wildcrafting tips and recipes, and original articles by ourselves and contributing writers.  If you would like more exposure for your work you can submit pieces for consideration in the newsletter, and possibly reach our thousands of dedicated herbalist and wildcrafter readers.

  Plant Healer Newsletter by Jesse Wolf Hardin

There is no cost for the newsletter, so please recommend it to any folks who might otherwise not be able to afford herbal info and publications. The next full length newsletter issue will be available for download the second week of January, and may include articles by Jeremy Ross, Sam Coffman and myself (Kiva Rose), along with beautiful art and HerbFolk updates. Subscribe free at:

Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous Site

HerbFolk Gathering & Celebration Site, Mormon Lake Arizona

…and for a limited time, big savings on registration for the upcoming:

The 2014 HerbFolk Gathering (Sept 18-21, Mormon Lake AZ)

Steep Advance Discount – December 13th–31st Only

Ticket sales for next year’s Plant Healer event are now open, with the best prices of the year for a limited time.  As a special thank you to our most devoted attendees,

we offer a $70 Early-Sprout discount…

…for a limited time:

Regular $325 adult tickets are

Just $255

Dec. 13th–31st Only

You must register BEFORE January 1st to get your discount.  Go to the Registration Page now at:

7 song leading a plant walk at Plant Healer Magazine's HerbalResurgence 2013

Our friend 7 song leading a plant walk at Plant Healer Magazine’s 2013 event

“What an exciting conference! Plant Healer events are the new wave of herbalism…”   –Paul Bergner

For full details and loads of pics, click here and download the special 30 pages long:

2014 HerbFolk Information PDF

(Thank you for RePosting and Sharing)

Plant Healer Bookstore


Dec 092013

Interview with Plant Healer CoCreator


by Melanie Pulla

My dear life and work partner Wolf Hardin has interviewed over 30 different herbalists and wildcrafters for Plant Healer Magazine ( and books over the past 5 years, sharing the in-depth stories of the best known herbalists but also up and coming new voices of the community and craft.  A few months ago one of our gifted writers, Melanie Pulla, asked to interview him for her excellent HerbGeek blog.  We’ve decided to welcome questions for this longtime teacher-healer-activist-artist from others including Paul Bergner, Phyllis Light and Chuck Garcia, and to combine them for the next volume in the 21st Century Herbalists books series (available from the Bookstore & Gallery page at book series.  But for now, we’ve decided to share with you here the complete transcription of his conversation with Melanie.  I hope you will write to tell us your thoughts.  –Kiva Rose

          Jesse Wolf Hardin 2012

Melanie: You have a unique perspective on herbalism and plant medicine. Can you share a bit about your background and how it has shaped your approach to healing with medicinal plants?

Jesse Wolf Hardin: We all come to this work – to the plants – on our own path, a personal and highly individualized winding from discovery to actualization.  Some first become familiar with medicinal plants as they explore ways of treating their own limiting conditions, which evolves into using herbs to help others.  Others grow up with an urge to serve, help and heal, beginning with an herbal study and practice but then expanding to include the necessary healing of families, neighborhoods and ecosystems.  Deeper intimacy with plants may lead to deeper intimacy with nature in general, and to a reawakened sense of the enlivenedness, connectedness and sacredness of all things.  Feeling empowered to take responsibility for the health of ourselves and those we care about can result in feeling empowered to speak our truths, grow some of our own food, stand up to injustice, and live our dreams in the face of all obstacles.

Wolf Hardin with Pa

I came to this shared place and work from a different angle.  I felt drawn to a calling or mission from the time I was a very young child.  I was observant of contradictions and injustices, attracted to truth and beauty, given to questioning the assumptions of so called “authorities,” and developed insights into the workings of both nature and society.  Even though I spent much of my childhood in the suburbs, I played hooky with fence lizards, kept counsel with vacant-lot weeds, and studies people from the anonymity of curbside treetops.  As a young teen I put my body on the line at protests against the Vietnam War, volunteered to help the native elders of Big Mountain and the activists of Yellow Thunder Camp, used my odd and wild artwork to raise awareness of nature and spirit, and began to publish writings about the sensibilities, values and issues that I care about.  In my 20s, my outlaw art gallery in Taos, New Mexico was pledged to infiltrate, affect and remedy the prevailing white-bread culture.  Then I sold everything I owned including the engine out of our school bus home for the down payment on a river canyon sanctuary, awesomely inspirited but beleaguered land that needed my protection and nourishment as much as I needed its inspiration and refuge. I started learning about the animals and plants that should be here, becoming familiar with my first medicinal herbs thanks to a manual written by the inimitable Michael Moore, and initiating a process of riparian and botanical species restoration.
For over a dozen years I was a core organizer for the radical wilderness activist group Earth First!, melding music and entertainment with civil disobedience and media campaigns.  In the 1980s I gave hundreds of public speeches and musical performances at rallies we called “The Deep Ecology Medicine Shows” and I worked to bring together conservationists and herbalists including by bringing Michael Moore to an Earth First! Rendezvous in the Southwest.  I launched workshops and courses on spiritual ecology, that addressed the healing of our psyches along with the wounded natural world.  I began to suffer symptoms from Hepatitis C in the 90s, nearly destroying my body with interferon before restoring much of my health with herbs.  It had by then become clear that everything I have ever done has been in one way or another been in the name of healing: addressing the wounds of unnecessary wars and the injustices to indigenous peoples; the dissolution of natural ecocentric cultures and destruction of the Redwood and Fir forests; the extirpation of New Mexico Wolves and California White Sage; the unwholeness and stress of good people unsure of their rights, worth and abilities.

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

Whatever else I feel, I am dedicated and determined, grateful and appreciated… and fully excited about the possibilities of each purposeful healing day.


Wolf Drum-72dpi

Melanie: In your book The Herbalists Path, you describe herbalists as being “marginalized by their interests and practices” and “a minority among all the health approaches and professions.” This comes across as an astute but surprising observation since plant medicine is an important and valued component of countless cultural traditions. Can you elaborate on why this is the case?

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Regional systems of plant medicine were not only traditional but essential for most if not all human soc

ieties from the very beginning.  Our furry primate ancestors already self medicated, selecting and eating plants that they’d discovered helped to remedy their indigestion, infection, infestations, and other dangerous or uncomfortable conditions.  When our kind migrated from the jungles of Africa into those iconic caves of Eurasia, they most certainly made it a mission to distinguish medicinal herbs from among the thousands of species they encountered, spreading them to dry just as folk herbalists might do today.  Autopsies of some bodies found in ancient burial grounds revealed the presence of plant matter in their bellies, noses, and/or spread upon their chest… plant matter that when analyzed turned out to be from species with proven medicinal application.  Over the course of thousands of years, human fashions and customs changed relentlessly.  People migrated from their old haunts, built cities where there were forests and farms, and exchanged their bows and arrows for firearms, and yet throughout it all plant remedies remained the most common and often the only viable treatments for what ails.  The women of every household took responsibility for the basic health care needs of their families.  The most adept women and men were sought out by others in need, becoming the de facto if usually unofficial community health care provider, assuming the mantle of healer by any name – Herbera, Medicine Man or Woman, Herbwyfe, Hedgewitch, Curandero, Wortcunner, Root Doctor.  Professional doctors were rightly feared and distrusted, thanks to dangerous practices like bleeding the patient, and their early toxic pharmaceuticals containing Mercury and other poisons, making even the least effective folk herbalists seem like a better proposition in comparison.  Herbalism until this point could truly be considered “mainstream.”

By the 18th and 19th centuries, however, all this had begun to change.  Doctors began organizing first as a profession, and then collectively as professional organizations that sought to not only qualify practitioners but ensure a monopoly for their vetted members.  At the same time, big drug manufacturing companies were planning to run the competition – the small “mom and pop” m

akers of herbal remedies – out of business.  The doctor and pharmaceutical organizations openly funded public relations campaigns against what they called “patent medicines,” and lobbied for prohibitive legislation under the guise of guarding “public safety.” The worst of the many popular plant-based decoctions were far less dangerous than the plethora of “modern” drugs that followed, of course, and yet by the early 20th century they were able to push through the legislation they desired, and in less than fifty years convinced the majority of the American public that community practitioners could no longer be trusted with their basic health care needs, that drugs are the best and only reasonable treatment for many problems while plants are either inconsequential or harmful.

Nicholas Culpeper

Throughout, herbalism has continued to be developed and furthered, first by the likes of King, Beach, Culbreth, Scudder and Thomson, and again starting in the 1960s with folks like Jethro Kloos, John Christopher, David Hoffman, Michael Tierra, Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed revitalizing interest in plant medicine for the masses.  Interest in herbal “supplements” has continued to increase in the last fifty years, and yet the vast majority of the population continue to associate the use of herbs with either ignorant country hicks or what they consider “New Age nonsense.”  There is a subset of licensed nurses struggling to recommend herbal alternatives without violating their professional codes and corporate regulations, but there are only a relative very few nurses and doctors who give herbal therapy a thought.  This is the reality today, and we face further estrangement, regulation and possibly even official prohibition in the future.

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

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

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

Jim McDonald, Paul Bergner, Jesse Wolf Hardin

Jim McDonald, Paul Bergner, Jesse Wolf Hardin

Melanie: I really appreciated your interview with Paul Bergner in your book 21st Century Herbalists: Root Doctors, Radicals, and Rock Stars, where he describes the term herbalist as being somewhat contrived in the sense that there is no historical reference to an actual herbalist, whereas titles such as healers, midwives, and shamans, are more historically relevant. Paul Bergner describes herbalism as being a community rather than a profession, and in The Plant Healer’s Path, you describe an herbalist as a role that one chooses or feels called towards. It seems that herbalism is the nexus point where plant healers of all backgrounds intersect, regardless of their career trajectory, profession, or level of interest. Would it be fair, then, to say that the term herbalist is more aptly an adjective than a noun?

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Yes, the plants are a point of intersection, and so too is the overwhelming intention to contribute to the needed healing.  Beyond this common ground are myriad individual expressions, methods and means, providing the specialization and diversification that helps make the field and community balanced and healthy.  One can be an herbalist clinician, herbalist teacher, herbalist cultivator, herbalist shaman, herbalist activist, an herbalist parent or herbalist artist to name a but a few, and in this sense “herbalist” functions as an adjective, an adjunct skill and view that bolsters and deepens all other activities from mothering to restoring watersheds, from remaking our society to growing and exploring spiritually.

You could just as easily say that the word “herbalist” is a verb, however, since it only describes what we are if it is what we do.  A practicing herbalist needs to know many things in order to be effective, but knowing about herbs doesn’t make one an herbalist.  Grateful clients seldom say about an herbalist that “she knows so much,” but rather, that “she really knows what she is doing.”

“Herbalist” nonetheless serves us well as a noun when worn as a job description, a title emblematic of one’s acceptance, ownership, embodiment and fulfillment of a recognizable purpose, mission and role.         Once a person gets past their self doubt and self consciousness and says out loud for the first time “I am an herbalist,” they and openly committing to doing their best to help meet a need that the population has for readily available, accessible, affordable holistic treatment and natural plant medicines.

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

Jesse Wolf Hardin by Marloe

Jesse Wolf Hardin by Marloe

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

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

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

Medicine is more than tinctures and teas, it includes such things as empathy and concern, tending and touch, ritual or prayer, visualization and positive attitude.  There is the medicine of nature and place, which my upcoming book The Healing Terrain will explore.  There can be medicine in art and music, medicine in beauty.  In reconciliation or resolution.  In giving, and receiving.  Medicine in love, medicine in a hug.  There is even medicine in disruption, whenever habit and structure have proven unhealthy.  It is for us to find our personal medicine: our individual mix of born gifts, special abilities and learned skills, our original innate power to affect other people and the world in meaningful, helpful and healthful ways.  And then to identify, mobilize and utilize the many medicines around us and available to us  – including but not limited to medicinal herbs – for the essential purpose of healing.


A young Jesse Wolf Hardin drawn by his friend Oberon Zell Ravenheart

A young Jesse Wolf Hardin drawn by his friend Oberon Zell Ravenheart

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

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

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

For our purposes here, “clinical” means directly working with people, personal interaction with the intent of helping them regain their health.  This can certainly happen outside of a clinical setting, such as in client’s homes, or even on the sidewalk with “street herbalists” like Chuck Garcia handing out shotgun remedies to the homeless, and herbal medics volunteering at the sites of natural and human-made disasters.  Making herbal tinctures in one’s kitchen can be done strictly by following a recipe, but the best formulas are created in response to observations and experiences, whether our own responses to herbs or the responses of the people we are trying to help.  My partner plant-hearted Kiva Rose is primarily a creatrix, culture shifter, teacher and writer, with no time to take on new clients… but the power or “medicine” of her work comes in part from her solid up-to-date knowledge, and her clinical observations of and personal experiences helping people.

Melanie: Michael Moore has famously said that “a good herbalist is a generalist, and I train generalists.” While I appreciate and respect this sentiment, I’m also very motivated by the idea of herbalists following what inspires them, and creating a niche for themselves doing what they absolutely love to do. There’s certainly a reasonable amount of general knowledge that is required in order to understand herbal vernacular and communicate effectively with plants, people, and herbalists. However, I love the idea of “purpose-based herbalism” where people pursue an herbal vocation that responds to their innate strengths and life’s purpose. This feels so much more fulfilling than trying to conform to the common rhetoric of what an herbalist should be. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.


Michael Moore, Herbalist -  by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Michael Moore, Herbalist – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Michael was right in that a broadly effective community herbalist needs to be versed in treating all the bodily systems from compromised organs to damaged psyches, with experience in adapting protocols to each of the constitutional types, age groups and so on.  And there is probably the widest spread need for generalist community herbalists supporting the people of every neighborhood including the most remote, impoverished or developed.  That said, it is just as important that there be plant healers called to studying and recounting the history, storytellers passing on the folklore of plants and healing, plant artists describing and creatively evoking the shape and spirit of medicinal herbs, medicine makers focused on bitters or skin care or treatment of certain diseases.  And not even the most deliberate generalist needs to follow a template for how to be or do.  There are no two herbalists alike, anymore than there are two snowflakes or fingerprints the same, and we are most effective as well as most fulfilled when we maximize our personal interests and delve deep into the specifics of what we are most passionate about.  This is the way of to excel, in this matter of healing where excellence truly matters.  And it is the way to fulfillment, in an age and society where few ever know what it’s like to feel fulfilled.

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

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

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

Jesse Wolf Hardin with Daughter Rhiannon

Jesse Wolf Hardin with Daughter Rhiannon

Melanie: I see herb schools teaching students as being analogous to fertile plants producing lots of seeds. However, if these seeds aren’t properly watered and nurtured, then they will never be capable of sprouting and maturing themselves. One of the reasons I love your book is that it provides nourishment to those parched seeds. Do you think herb schools have an ethical responsibility to teach this kind of information in order to ensure that their students are properly equipped for the current climate towards herbalism and challenges they’ll face along their paths?

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Teachers have a responsibility to equip students in as many crucial ways as possible, and an honest description of the field and clear delineation of choices would be a necessary part of that.

I feel strongly that every student of plant medicine or healing should be aware of the educational and role options, as well as of the nuanced variables and useful criteria for each person to make their own best choices.  This hasn’t been widely presented in a cohesive way, and that is the reason I gave so much time to the creation of The Plant Healer’s Path.

Melanie: Do you feel like there’s a conflict of interest for herb schools to teach the information that you present in your book? Most herb students have paid quite a bit of amount money to attend herb school, yet teaching this kind of information essentially exposes the numerous pitfalls, challenges, and conundrums facing herbalists. Do you think there is pressure for herb schools to withhold this information and maintain the illusion that being an herbalist is an easy career choice with a clear revenue stream?

Jesse Wolf Hardin: I imagine a few highly commercialized herbal schools get more students when their advertising implies graduates can expect to fill paid positions.  The schools I most respect, however, know they are appealing to men and women determined to further their understanding of plant medicine even with parents sometimes being unsupportive, even though neither job nor income are ensured.  They are feeding people’s passions and sense of purpose as well as equipping them with usable information that can inform their self-care and family-care, connect to the natural world and connect them nature, strengthen their confidence and belief in themselves, trigger what you could call a spiritual awakening or connection, and spur them to go for their goal and live and enjoy their life’s dreams.

I can only hope that schools will make use of The Plant Healer’s Path to help inspire and bolster their students on what is truly an uncertain but wondrous path of learning, being and doing… the very definition, by the way, of an adventure.


Plant Healer's Path by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Melanie: Simon Sinek wrote a great book where he makes a very compelling case that any business, vocation, or movement is only as powerful and successful as its ability to understand and communicate the “why” in what they’re doing. I really appreciate The Plant Healer’s Path for precisely this reason – it calls the reader to explore and evaluate the deeper reasons of why they are using medicinal herbs, and to formulate their own answers to the numerous non-tangible “why” questions in the field of plant medicine.  How important is it for herbalists to address these difficult and nuanced questions?

Jesse Wolf Hardin: I’ve worked hard to develop not just books but our Plant Healer Magazine and the annual  HerbFolk gatherings, to serve those who question and seek, to inspire critical thinking, self belief and fervent action… knowing how essential it is that we all explore and address the many questions of our field and our time, and that we then act on our discoveries, conclusions and choices.

There are so many people, groups and agencies trying to tell us what to do, that the most urgent questions for us become “if?” and “why?”  It is these questions that help us select and recognize and cleave to our genuine personal path of being and healing.  Once moving purposefully on our path, we can daily make decisions as to the “when” and the “how.”

And when it comes to important questions for you empowered plant healers on your own paths – listening with your hearts, listening to the land, resisting the naysayers, and daring to heed the call to meaning and mission – we must also loudly ask: “Why the hell not?”


Jesse Wolf Hardin is the author of 11 books and over 700 published articles, living on a botanical and wildlife sanctuary seven river crossings from the nearest pavement.  You can read more by and about Hardin by subscribing to the Anima Blog (, purchase and read many of his books about nature, healing, earthen spirit and sense of place on the Bookstore & Gallery page of the Plant Healer website (, and learn more about the sanctuary and Anima teachings at the Anima Site (  Also subscribe for free to the Plant Healer Newsletter at the top of the Plant Healer intro page (  You can read Melanie Pulla’s other posts on her excellent HerbGeek blog (  To comment on this interview, post your remarks below, and/or write us at: PlantHealer (at)

(Please take the time to RePost and Share this interview…. thank you!)

Kiva Rose with Jesse Wolf Hardin

Kiva Rose with Jesse Wolf Hardin by dear Juliet Blankespoor

Dec 052013


2013 Plant Healer Annual

Announcing The
2013 Plant Healer Annual – Vol. #3

The 3rd edition of the Plant Healer Annual is now available to ship – two 8×11” perfect-bound b&w books totaling 1,035 pages, filled with nearly every article from the 2012/2013 issues of the “Magazine Different.” Thousands of photographs and full-page fine art illustrate pieces by leading edge herbalist teachers and authors, each contributing their most in-depth, personal and inspiring work on absolutely every aspect of herbal practice, wildcrafting and plant culture… for herbal practitioners and students of every level.  Departments include plant profiles, field botany, tools and tips of the trade, energetics, therapeutics, cultivation, healthy food and delicious recipes, interviews with herbalists, humorous posters, plant artists, plant gathering and wildcrafting, herbal traditions and medicine in the Old West, herbalist fashion, articles for and by kids, and fiction for herbalists.

If you are already a Plant Healer Magazine subscriber-member, log in to your personal member page now to order.  Others of you can purchase a subscription and all 3 books as part of a discounted package, by going to the magazine website:

“Plant Healer is the first publication I’ve seen in my 38-year career that captures the wild diversity of herbalism in North America while still reflecting excellence and high-level practice… points of view from many regions, traditions, and schools of North American thought… for the practicing herbalist from entry level to advanced, inclusively.”    -Paul Bergner

Volume III Includes Writings by:

David Hoffman • Paul Bergner • Phyllis Light • Matthew Wood • Susun Weed • Robin Rose Bennett • Christa Sinadinos • 7Song •  Jim McDonald • Aviva Romm • Juliet Blankespoor • Kiva Rose Hardin • Sam Thayer • Renee Davis • Charles “Doc” Garcia • Roger Wicke • Kristine Brown • Katja Swift • Loba • Sean Donahue • Rebecca Altman • Virginia Adi • Wendy Petty • Melanie Pulla • Traci Picard • Christian Bernard • Guido Masé • Sabrina Lutes • Sophia Rose • Corinne Boyer • Sam Coffman • Jesse Wolf Hardin …and many, many more!


Art of Plant Healer Book with Every Set of Annuals

Every set of black and white Plant Healer Annual books also comes with a full color companion book The Art of Plant Healer, 60 pages of the most striking illustrations to appear in the magazine’s last 4 issues.  Printing is high quality, and pages can be carefully removed for framing and hanging.  Copies of the Art of Plant Healer can also be purchased separately even by non-subscribers, by going the Bookstore & Gallery Page at:

Art of Plant Healer

For Plant Healer Subscribers Only

The Plant Healer Annual books are available for sale only to subscribers, to reward those who support the digital Plant Healer quarterly to also own a physical, hard-copy version.  As a subscriber, you can either order your Annuals now by logging in to your personal Plant Healer Member Page, or wait until the next time you renew your subscription and get the combined year’s subscription, Annual and Art of Plant Healer at the discounted “Plant Enthusiast” rate.

Kiva Rose Hardin
Purchase a New Subscription & Annual Combination

Those of you signing up for Plant Healer Magazine for the first time, can save money by purchasing the latest Plant Healer Annual and Art of Plant Healer books along with your new subscription:
the “Plant Enthusiast” package.

(Thank you for sharing and re-posting this announcement)

Peasant girl

Dec 022013

Plant Healer Winter Issue Releases Today
Dec. 2nd

The Winter issue of Plant Healer Magazine is now available in multiple file sizes for you to download, or you can view it in its entirety online.  If you are a Member already, sign in to your personal Member Page now.  If not, you can subscribe now to receive yours, by going to the Magazine page:

As always, we welcome your submissions of articles, art, photos and advertising for consideration, with the next deadline being Jan. 1st.  Email us for Submission Guidelines or Advertising Info:  PlantHealer (at)

Our Winter Issue Content

This 270 pages-long Winter issue features another awesome collection of articles by both some of the best known, and newest voices, in the herbal community today.

Paul Bergner thankfully brings us another very potent and personal piece on his medicine wheel of understanding, so important to an effective healing practice.  We’re blessed to run another exclusive excerpt from Matthew Wood’s much anticipated new book in progress, and Susun Weed writes about the world of beans in her own inimitable way.  We decided to run a classic piece by the Wiccan eco-activist Starhawk redefining what “direct action” and “the work” can mean.  Phyllis Light, Jim McDonald and 7Song continue to be some of our’s and this magazine’s most insightful and dependable writer allies, with our buddy 7Song showcasing some of the plants of our Mormon lake conference site, Jim penning one of if not the finest articles on bitters ever written.  Likewise, Katja Swift has written for us the best piece we’ve seen about the autistic spectrum and ADD.  Phyllis Light once again used the unfolding story of her life to inspire us in the fullest, most balanced living of our own.

Juliet Blankespoor continues her lovely column with a helpful framework and tips for teaching about herbs, Erin Piorier covers Wild Cherry for us, and the knowledge-filled Sam Coffman contributes both a plant monograph and a piece on herbs and snakebites.  For this quarter’s interview, we chose the conversation I had with Wildman Brill for the 21st Century Herbalists book, a man famous for being arrested for teaching wildcrafting in N.Y.‘s Central Park!  Catherine Skipper gives us another great installment on feeding the soils we grow with.  A thank you goes out to the creative Corinne Boyer for covering not only extracting herbs in animal fats but also the mythic lore of the Apple tree, and to Chuck “Doc” Garcia for his powerful streetwise tale of yarrow, service and sorrow.  Amy Jean Smith-Alvey blessed us with a well written piece for our kid’s department, wherein her 2.5 year old son, Noah, excitedly demonstrates the processing of Calendula… already he’s an inspiration!  We offer a full spread of artwork by our fae friend Katlyn Breene, who also contributes this issue’s beautiful cover art.

Sean Donahue is back which many will be glad of, providing an excellent and very personal article on Devil’s Club.  The Root Woman Brie Saussy, columnist Sabrina Lutes, Wendy “Butter” Petty, Rebecca Altman, Merihelen Nuñez and Aleah Sato each in their own ways address the issue of personal identities, roles, and relationships, coming to terms with their voice and place in herbalism as well as one’s essential inhabitation of place, home, land and purpose.
If these don’t make you think, put a tear in your eye, and joy and hope in your hearts…
we don’t know what will!


The Plant Healer Annual Books are Ready to Order

The Plant Healer Annual books are also available beginning today, over 1,000 b&w perfect-bound pages plus their companion Art of Plant Healer book.  Though available to Member Subscribers only,  you can purchase these books along with your subscription at a considerable discount.

Sold to non-subscribers as well as members is the new 2013 Herbal Resurgence Class Notes & Essays Ebook, 250 pages of detailed herbal information and inspiration.

Note that Wolf or I will sign copies of our Plant Healer’s Path book and 21st Century Herbalists book of interviews to anyone you’d like to give a copy to, just include a note when you order so we know who they should be signed to.


The Free Plant Healer Newsletters – Signup Glitch Fixed

Some of you had trouble signing up for the free Plant Healer Newsletters, but the glitch has been fixed everywhere that the signup box exists, including the front page of the website.  If you’d like to receive over 20 pages of articles and info for herbalists, up to 10 times per year, just fill in your name and email address.


We wish you a Holiday Season of deep healing, deep meaning and joy.

–Wolf & Kiva

Nov 182013

Plant Healer Books for Herbalists

Giving Plant Healer Books For Herbalists

This Holiday Season


Choose from a dozen different books, specially written for herbalists, natural healers, plant ad nature lovers of all kinds and ages.  From an empowering kid’s book to herbal how-to and a historic novel, we hope you will find something meaningful to give to your friends and family.

Have Your Gift Books Signed

The authors will happily sign any gift books for you.  Just be sure to include a note with your payment telling us the name of the person to sign it to.

Order From the Bookstore & Gallery Page at:

A few of our more recent titles follow:

Plant Healer's Path by Jesse Wolf Hardin

The Plant Healer’s Path:
A Grassroots Guide For The HerbFolk Tribe

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
with Kiva Rose
plus David Hoffman, Paul Bergner, Phyllis Light, Rebecca Altman & Roger Wicke

 Featuring topics vital to an effective, empowered herbal practice, including many never addressed before, with suggestions for taking control of and enjoying our lives, and tips that can benefit herbalists and non-herbalists alike.  You’ll open the book up to an overview of herbalism’s history and celebration of its lineage and tribe, with your last look as you close the cover being an unflinching vision of the near and distant future of this vital field.  It is a past that we can learn from and feel rooted in… and a future we are each called to help make.

“That which was suppressed is back. The wise women and crazy men, in all their multicultural diversity, are finding their voices. Even if the monolith of the dominant culture is ignorant of this, finally we are listening to each other.  The Herbalist’s Path is the clearest description yet of this truly grassroots manifestation of herbalism – of humanity’s re-connection with healing nature and the wild.”
–David Hoffman (Author of Medical Herbalism)

“To be an herbalist is a lot more than just knowing some herbs and what they are ‘good for.’ It is a path of passion, enchantment and commitment and sometimes disillusionment. Whether just beginning or already walking the path, this book provides a panoramic road map of the terrain – both internal and external – for any person called to healing with plants… with thought-provoking essays on the issues most important to our work.”
–Paul Bergner (Herbalist & Teacher)

The Plant Healer’s Path is a veritable cultivator’s guide for growing our practice and our community, our awareness and purpose, satisfaction and bliss.
304 pages, 8.5×11” B&W, with over 100 photos & art illustrations
–Limited Edition Cloth Covered Hardback: $39–  Ebook: $25–

Order From the Bookstore & Gallery Page at:


21st Century Herbalists book - order from:

Rock Stars, Radicals and Root Doctors

A book of Interviews by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Intimate conversation with 21 of the most intriguing herbalists and foragers of our times:

Rosemary Gladstar • David Hoffman • Susun Weed • Matthew Wood • Phyllis Light
Juliet Blankespoor • Todd Caldecott • Kiva Rose Hardin • Jim McDonald • Bevin Clare
Margi Flint • Ben Zappin • Phyllis Hogan • 7Song • Doug Elliott • Kevin Spelman
Sam Coffman • Charles “Doc” Garcia • Ryan Drum • Kristine Brown • Wildman Steve Brill

Read the stories of famed “rock star” herbalists, radical outliers, and regionally known or up-and-coming herbal teachers, grannywives and root doctors… and be inspired on your own personal path of healing and practice. Even you have been a clinician for decades,
but you can draw from these pages new insights, ideas and information that may benefit your work.  Found Therein Are:

•Herbalist’s lives & livelihoods, secrets, tools & tips
•Previously unshared stories about these herbalists’ childhoods, education, experiences, perspectives, loves, peeves, and hopes… candid, vulnerable & unscripted!
•Underutilized herbs, and little known uses for commonly known plants
•Constitutional models, energetics, diagnostic methods, case study examples, treatment protocols
•Herbal healing traditions, Making a living at herbalism, Tips on how to effectively teach
•Talking with plants, shamanic plants, & the wounded healer
•The cultivation of herbs, foraging & wildcrafting, plant conservation, invasives, & sense of place
•Approaches to registration, certification, regulation and licensing… plus herbal activism
•Diverse visions of the future of herbalism, and how to best get there
•Inspiring and encouraging personal advice to herbalists and others.

Limited Edition Hardback, 376 pages, 500 b&w photos & illustrations – $39

Order From the Bookstore & Gallery Page at:


Medicine Bear by Jesse Wolf Hardin -

Medicine Bear by Jesse Wolf Hardin –


The Medicine Bear

An Historical Novel of Healing, Adventure & Love in the Enchanted Southwest

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Follow the wild-woman herbalist and Omen, the impassioned writer and adventurer Eland and archetypal Medicine Bear through a time of great cultural as well as personal transition, down plant-filled paths of discovery and healing and to the juncture of our own return to wholeness and health, rooted home and true love, meaningful mission and – ultimately – satisfaction and contentment.

“The Medicine Bear is an unabashedly magical, sensual, and yes, romantic tale of love and loss, of longing and renewal. It is a paean to wildness within and the southwestern wilderness that Eland and Omen are married to, along with each other, and whose exquisite beauty we are drawn into through the soulful eyes and language of Eland. The plants, the mountains, and the medicine bear sing to us, calling us each to full aliveness. While the old west is fading and the grizzlies are dying, love inspires, even beyond death itself.  Plants and trees are intertwined with the lives of the main characters in the Medicine Bear. Actually, they are main characters. Green healers such as Moonwort, sage, rose, evening primrose, and the alder tree are lushly brought to life by the animated vision and words of Eland, and by his loving observations of Omen, the herbalist healer at her work. They and the plants are free creatures, expressing themselves, and interconnecting as an integral part of the landscape in which they live and thrive (and in the humans’ case, learning to express their new found sense of wholeness). There is so much plant lore and wisdom shared in the book, along with hints at how to gather and work with herbs, that the Medicine Bear is a pleasure for herbalists to read, and offers an inspiring education for those who long to become more intimate with healing plants.”
–Robin Rose Bennett 

“Jesse Wolf has a depth and breadth of insight, and a true writer’s touch for bringing it to life. I hope other people will read this novel and understand the world that he sustains… and hears, in the Medicine Bear’s rumble.  A book of herbal teaching, healing, loss, love, and love of the land… a remarkable treasure of words… a jewel of a story!”
–Virginia Adi (Herbalist, RN, SingerSongwriter)

“If you have ever loved, healed or been healed, bemoaned a changing society, and felt the animal spirit within you, this tale is for you.”
                               –Charles Garcia (Curandero)

Softbound, 365 pages – $18

Order From the Bookstore & Gallery Page at:


I'm A Medicine Woman Too!

I’m a Medicine Woman, Too!
A full color book for budding young healers and daydream believers – Ages 5 to Infinity

Text & Art by
Jesse Wolf Hardin

    I’m a Medicine Woman, Too! is full of wisdom, beauty and encouragement not only for the young, but for all ages. The author’s exquisite illustrations quickly draw the reader in and cleverly teach about healing plants. A high recommend for empowering all medicine women!”
 -Lesley Tierra, L. Ac., author Healing with the Herbs of Life & A Kid’s Herb Book

I’m a Medicine Woman, Too! is a wonderful book to connect children with herbal traditions.  The story role-models an ethic of healing and caring for other people and honoring our elders.  The delightful illustrations touch the reader at an emotional level, compelling us to become healers too.”
 -Thomas J. Elpel, author of Botany in a Day and Shanleya’s Quest

“I felt the voice of the Earth Mother herself speak from the pages of I’’m A Medicine Woman, Too! The sense of presence and higher awareness will benefit younger and those with accumulated years as well.”
-Margi Flint, AHG HM, author of The Practicing Herbalist

Includes the “Name The Herb Game” medicinal plant identification game.

40 pages, 35 Full Color Illustrations – $15

Order From the Bookstore & Gallery Page at:


2013 Plant Healer Annual Book

The 2013 Plant Healer Annual

The 3rd edition of the Plant Healer Annual is now available, two 8×11” perfect-bound volumes totaling 1,000 pages, filled with nearly every article from the 2013 issues of the “Magazine Different.” Hundreds of photographs and full-page fine art illustrate pieces by leading edge herbalist teachers and authors, each contributing their most in-depth, personal and inspiring work on absolutely every aspect of herbal practice, wildcrafting and plant culture… for herbal practitioners and students of every level.  Departments include plant profiles, field botany, tools and tips of the trade, energetics, therapeutics, cultivation, healthy food and delicious recipes, interviews with herbalists, humorous posters, plant artists, plant gathering and wildcrafting, herbal traditions and medicine in the Old West, herbalist fashion, articles for and by kids, and fiction.

“Plant Healer is the first publication I’ve seen in my 38-year career that captures the wild diversity of herbalism in North America while still reflecting excellence and high-level practice… points of view from many regions, traditions, and schools of North American thought… for the practicing herbalist from entry level to advanced, inclusively.”   –Paul Bergner

Volume III Includes Writings by:

David Hoffman • Paul Bergner • Phyllis Light • Matthew Wood • Susun Weed • Robin Rose Bennett  Christa Sinadinos • 7Song •  Jim McDonald • Aviva Romm • Juliet Blankespoor • Kiva Rose Hardin
Sam Thayer • Renee Davis • Charles “Doc” Garcia • Roger Wicke • Kristine Brown • Katja Swift • Loba  Sean Donahue • Virginia Adi • Wendy “Butter” Petty • Melanie Pulla • Traci Picard • Christian Bernard
Guido Masé • Sabrina Lutes • Sam Coffman • Jesse Wolf Hardinand many, many more!

Every set of black and white Plant Healer Annual books come with a full color companion book The Art of Plant Healer, containing over 50 of the most striking illustrations to appear in the last 4 issues.  Printing is high quality, and pages can be carefully removed for framing and hanging.  Copies of the Art of Plant Healer Volumes I and II can also be purchased separately by non-subscribers as well on the Plant Healer website.

New Plant Healer Subscription and Annual Combination

The Plant Healer Annuals are available for sale only to subscribers, to allow those who are enjoying the digital Plant Healer quarterly to also own a physical, hard-copy version.  As a subscriber, you can either order your Annuals now by logging in to your personal Plant Healer Member Page, or wait until the next time you renew your subscription and get the combined year’s subscription, Annual and Art of Plant Healer at the discounted “Plant Enthusiast” rate.

If you are new to Plant Healer Magazine, note that after Dec. 1st you can purchase the discounted “Plant Enthusiast” package with a set of Plant Healer Annuals (the 2012 Annuals prior to Dec. 1st, or the 2013 Annuals beginning Dec. 1st), as well as a full color Art of Plant Healer book along with your new membership subscription.  Only $99 for all, with over $200 worth of free bonus downloads.  Go to the Magazine page at:


(Thank you for RePosting & Sharing!)

Nov 112013

 Watkin's Remedies Wagon 72dpi

Herbs, Empowerment & Entertainment for The Common Folk

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

An Advance Excerpt From The Upcoming Winter Issue of Plant Healer Magazine
To read the entire 5,000 word article, subscribe at:

“I was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show, mother used to dance for the money they’d throw.  Father would do whatever he could, preach a little gospel, sell a couple bottles of Doctor Goode’s.”  
–Cher (Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves)

Imagine if you will, an incidence of herbal edification and hungered-for entertainment that would repeat itself again and again all across rural America.  The site might be a town square, a popular dusty crossroads, the speaker’s platform at a “newfangled” air show park or simply a local farmer’s unplowed field.  Except for any differences in vegetation and topography, it could just as well be located anywhere from northern Georgia to western Pennsylvania, the gold fields of California or the farmlands of the Great Plains, always far from the big cities and in places where people lived close to the land.  Corn shuckers and melon growers, home-canners and cowboys.  It has a timeless feel, and could be anytime from the end of the Civil War until the 1930s.  While cities swelled and were electrified, popular fashions evolved and government centralized, the site we picture will have changed relatively little in 50 years, with seed company advertisements fading from the sides of barns, barefoot boys chewing on long grass stems while kicking cans down the railroad tracks stretching beyond our sight.  Livestock mill about close by, as stacks of hay summon generations of young lovers to spoon and play.  The people you see are a hardy breed quick to speak up about the importance of self reliance and self sufficiency, whether they speak with mountainous Colorado inflections or a feet-on-the-table Alabama drawl.  Most of them repair their own clothes until they’ll no longer hold together, and their labors often produce enough food for their entire families to eat.  Many of them know about the medicinal plants that grow wildly in the area, and all tend to see self-healthcare as not just a necessity but as an individual responsibility and a natural-given right.

Medicine Wagon model 72dpi

While posters, handbills and word-of-mouth announcements would sometimes precede a traveling show, it was not always so.  Many times there would be no indication of anything out of the ordinary until the clop-clop-clopping of horses pulling an unfamiliar wagon, rolling leisurely in their direction with a growing cloud of skipping children and curious adults billowing behind.  Whether because of the lettering on its sides, its brightly painted colors or the colorful characters having ahold of the reins, it would be clear to all that there was something unusual about the wagon and something special about to transpire.  All things strange promise wonder and surprise to their beholders, but depending on its size and compliment this oddity on wheels promised more: Live music, for anxious ears!  Live Indians fresh off their trail of tears!  A magic show, perhaps, or gypsy-dressed tarot reader set to reveal which crops will fail and which romances last.  Even a long winded preacher of hell and damnation inside along with displays of medical charts if there be room, a revealing skeleton for anatomical instruction, and racks of full bottles to be shown to them soon.

Medicine Show cast 72dpi

The horses are pulled to a stop at a prearranged spot or anywhere that looks likely to get a good draw, released from their harnesses and tied by ropes and halters to a nearby tree.  Stepping smartly down from the driver’s seat – or rising with a flourish from within the oakwood coach –will be a man dressed at least a tad more flamboyantly than the overalls-clad fellows lined up to meet him with their mouths open and their hands in their pants.  Doffing a snappy Stetson or silken top hat, he clears the road grunge from his throat, then loudly introduces himself and his mission to what quickly grows to be a small throng.

Baker's Medicine Wagon 72dpi

“Well,” he might begin, “a fine afternoon to all you gentleman of good will and ladies of fine tastes!  It is I, the man known as the people’s physician, maestro of popular music and entertainment, your alchemist of well being and conveyor of necessary remedies for a well balanced and fruitful life… asking you each but a single question:  What, dear friends, is the price of health?  For a mere fifty pennies gathering dust in your bureau drawer, two measly quarters or five thin dimes, you too can avail yourselves of nature’s own medicines, for what overpriced doctor could ever know more or do more for us than Mother Nature herself?  As God has given to us all manner of plants to feed our bellies and heal our wounds and infirmities, I have been given the secrets of their use by his agents living closest to his creation.  But wait!  I am not here simply to treat your maladies but to ease your burdens and help raise your spirits.  Before I have dispensed a single bottle of my herbal preparations, I shall have first dispensed a humble display of well practiced magic and the pleasures of song.”

Travelling Medicine Show #3 poster 72dpi

If he has assistants or performers to help, they will have soon set up the visual attractions – from anatomy charts and pressed plants to human skulls and exotic butterfly collections, shrunken heads purportedly from New Guinea and even floral mosaics made up of the teeth extracted from a succession of willing audiences.  Sometimes called “the museum,” these exhibitions did indeed constitute traveling museums for the rural working class and the poor in an age when visitors to most urban collections were largely limited to the rich and privileged.  Such displays were sources of education and delight, as much as magnets attracting people to the products and shows.

“You,” says the Medicine Man, “can purchase a bottle for what ails ya later, I really hope you can see… but the pleasures of the night, my friends, are free!”

Medicine Show sellers 5 poster 72dpi

The success of the Medicine Show “pitchman” hinged in part on the quality of his spiel, known as “the pitch” or “the give.”  As the “grinder” Fred “Doc” Bloodgood put it, “I have always made it my practice never to use one word where four will do.”  Then again, not all were said to have a way with words.  Some were “boozer” doctors who muddled their sentences whenever “in the cups,” a few like Indian John muttered rapid biblical verse scarcely intelligible yet somehow sufficiently impressive, while others chose to let their medicines or their banjos do the talking.  The message in every case was a very Jacksonian one: doctors could barely be afforded and seldom trusted; the most natural medicines are the best; the means to ease suffering and illness should be equally available to all; and we need to empower ourselves to make our own medical choices, to take responsibility for ours and our family’s health needs, and to resist the dictates of both big business and big government.  No wonder they were so publicly vilified in magazines and newspapers, and the powers-that-be launched such a forceful and lengthy campaign to destroy them.

Medicine Wagon 2 -72dpi

There have been many books published over the years purporting to tell the story of early folk medicine and the traveling Medicine Shows, but with very few exceptions their approach is to either demonize them as dangerous money-grubbing scams, or to make fun of them as quaint elements of historic Americana.  In the former case, there are those who consider all folk medicine not only inferior but treacherous, sounding as if anyone would have to be crazy to consider self medicating with plants, and as if licensed doctors and official experts were the infallible arbiters of what’s good for us.  In the latter, snide commentators herald the sensible benefits of modern medicine while showcasing herbalists and other natural healers as curious throwbacks, foolish children, superstitious primitives, naive practitioners of thankfully extincted healing arts.

Attacks on quackery were also attacks on herbalism, funded by medical and pharmaceutical companies.

Attacks on quackery were also attacks on herbalism, funded by medical and pharmaceutical companies.

Even many otherwise savvy herbalists today fall into the trap of accepting the propaganda that our government was interested only in the health and protection of the paying public when they went after the Medicine Men, when in reality it marked only the first of a long succession of legislative attacks against home remedies of all kinds and herbalism in particular.  These attacks were generated as a result of an organized campaign by the fast growing pharmaceutical industry and medical licensing agencies to ensure their monopolies on medicines and services, and thereby their ever more enormous profit margins.  It was they who purchased the many thousands of dollars worth of ads branding all herbal concoctions as fraudulent and harmful “patent medicines,” painting small manufacturers as the “grim reaper” in posters meant to scare housewives away from their neighborhood apothecaries, familiar poultices and teas and into pharmacies where they can purchase supposedly safe and miraculous drugs.

The propaganda campaign against "patent medicines" was focused on all makers of herbal preparations, not just "snake oil" scam artists.

The propaganda campaign against “patent medicines” was focused on all makers of herbal preparations, not just “snake oil” scam artists.

Let us look for moment at the reality and substance of their claims.  It was and still is said that the main ingredient of herbal and vegetable nostrums was alcohol, and that their popularity depended on the drunken effects and the quantity of sales to drinkers in legally “dry” counties of the United States.  In truth, these nostrums averaged only from 5 to 15 percent alcohol, only in a few cases more than was needed to extract and preserve a medicinal tincture.  Someone would have to be very thirsty for a buzz to drink the up to 10 bottles that would be required to experience a high, and the cost would be considerably more than simply buying a flask of bootlegged moonshine.  Both opium and cocaine could be found in potions meant for pain, or scarily in recipes sold to “quiet the crying of babies, make them immune to the symptoms of colic, and guarantee a full nights sleep,” but heroin was also the primary active agent in the original Bayer pain pills and cocaine the source of the “added energy” promised in Coca-Cola soda drink ads from the time of its inception.

Stanley's liniment contained zero snakes, but it did have helpful camphor and cayenne.

Stanley’s liniment contained zero snakes, but it did have helpful camphor and cayenne.

So-called “authorities” pointed out that some nostrums contained “mostly water, with few identifiable ingredients of any known medical value,” while others insisted these botanical “receipts” contained chemicals injurious to health or a threat to life.  This would indeed have been true in some percentage of bottled nostrums, but none were more useless or dangerous than some of the modern drugs now being forced down the throats of the average patient.  Few natural plant materials, in any quantity, have the reputation for causing death of debility to the degree that a vast number of modern drugs now do, and yet the average citizen continues to slander both Medicine Shows and herbalism in all its forms, at the same time as holding up institutional doctoring as the only reasonable model for health care.  There is good reason for criticisms of the exaggerated or baseless claims of many homemade preparations, most notably when it’s advertised that a single concoction could cure everything from hot flashes to impotency and “curvature of the spine”… but is this any more misleading than a modern drug company promising a chemical that can (and I quote) “rid you of unsightly pimples, putting an end to the shame and isolation, improving the chances of success in love and employment.”

Remedies & Extracts wagon 72dpi

Some pitchmen sold watered down products, used “shills” in the audience to give false testimonials and encourage sales, or even ducked out of the area in the middle of the night in order to avoid complaints, refunds, or the strong arm of local law enforcement that could follow an exposition.  Their aim may have sometimes been no more than the income – the “velvet” that the shows produced – but far more often the mission and goals of the traveling medicine man was as much to make people feel better as it was to make money.  Sellers often manufactured their own medicines, using folk recipes they researched on their own, or recipes commonly found in the popular manuals of their time such as 1882’s The Complete Herbalist, and the King’s American Dispensatory published in 1898.  The traveling show was often the only medical education or assistance that a community’s residents ever received, and mobile doctors and “circuit dentists” could not only a source of relief but a veritable lifesaver.

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The English settlers brought to the world a long and respected tradition of medical herbalism, as well as bringing with them seeds for growing many of their favorite plant species from the “old world” to the new.  That tradition was bolstered and amended by an infusion of herbal wisdom by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with “Indian potions” proving far more helpful and far less destructive than the more “civilized” medical practices of the 18th Century.  Those colonists who were financially well off could (unfortunately, as it were) afford the most “scientific” of treatments such as purging and blistering, first U.S. President George Washington might have survived to old age if not killed by the professional doctors who insisted on treating his condition by bleeding him, and the must esteemed modernist Dr. Benjamin Rush promoted dreadful doses of poisonous Calomel in most all of the “improved” medicinal preparations well-to-do folks paid so much silver for.  Fortunately for the “common man” – the average working couple – they were mostly impoverished enough to still look to the fields, mountains and gardens for botanical relief for what ails them, and otherwise to barter for the help of local herb-wise midwives.  Out in “the country,” when on occasions a local sheriff arrested the members of a traveling Medicine Show or forced them to move on, it seldom had anything to do with the quality or contents of the medicine being sold, but far more often was a response to what they considered to be the “lewd and immoral” nature of the show’s dance routines!

Mark's Celebrated Medicines wagon 3" 72dpi

Homemade herbal preparations sometimes became known as “recipes” or “receipts” to those who used them, but were lambasted as “patent medicines” by the professionals and competing manufacturers who sought their restriction.  In actuality, there were no patent medicines in the new country.  Patent medicines were the patented and licensed products of Great Britain, resented by Americans for their high cost and debatable qualities, but what would become a campaign against herbalism would be characterized as a defense of the people against “the patent medicine threat.”

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By the time of the first World War, all but a few of the traveling Medicine Shows had ceased traveling the circuits.  A few continued for another decade, substituting automobiles and trailers for the iconic horses and medicine wagons.  Their end came not through legislation and abolition so much as from being co-opted, subsumed and replaced by other mediums for sales and entertainment.  The sales component was undermined not just by a shift in the public’s opinion of “primitive herbs” versus “modern cures,” but also by the rise of giant corporate producers and an increase in the prevalence of mail-order businesses.  The very valuable role that Medicine Shows played in bringing entertainment, education and culture to the people of rural American was assumed first by the new medium of radio being fast adopted even in the most out of the way settlements, and then in the late 1940s by the introduction of television.  One no longer had to walk any further than into their own living rooms to hear and eventually see musicians playing their favorite songs, Native Americans dressed up in tribal costume, lectures of interest, comedians and magicians peddling their jokes and tricks.

Medicine Shows continued into the automobile age, until they were killed off by the drug companies, the A.M.A., and the popularity of TV.

Medicine Shows continued into the automobile age, until they were killed off by the drug companies, the A.M.A., and the popularity of TV.

There are a huge amount of websites, journals and other publications by catty licensed physicians still dedicated to “exposing quacks.”  Under their definitions of quackery, we find a list of “errant and misleading” practices that includes not just remarkable treatments like ionic cleansing, colloidal silver and glucosomine supplements – but also such tried and respected fields as herbalism, acupuncture, aromatherapy,  holistic dentistry, osteopathy, chiropractic and complimentary medicine.

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“Why use chemical drugs when nature in her wisdom and beneficence has provided in her great vegetable laboratories, relief for most of the more common and simple ills of mankind?”
–Joseph Meyer (1930s)

In most cases Medicine Men were working to earn a living, yet their primary wish and purpose was to contribute to the quality of people’s lives, ease the burdens of their ills and restore them to function and fitness.  Few traveling marketers can be dismissed as profiteers, and many were first and foremost devoted to their role as genuine and caring healers.

Throughout its century of optimal prominence, the traveling Medicine Show was the number one threat to the monopoly of licensed health care and pharmaceutical drugs, with the Medicine Man the main counterirritant to the institutionalized prestige and superior status and position of the medical doctor.  In the same way, herbs and herbalism today comprise an essential counterbalance to the corporate whitewashing of their often dangerous products, and are attacked precisely because of the challenge them might post to drug sales and profits.  The corporate strategy at the time of this writing is to defame or belittle the efficacy of whole plant medicines while marketing products made from isolated or synthesized chemicals and chemical recombinations employing herbal and nature-associated marketing language.  Recent legislation such as the GMP (the Orwellian coined “Good Manufacturing Practices”) continues the attack on herbal preparations made by the owners of small herbal businesses while favoring national and multinational corporate interests.

The traveling Medicine Show, like the practice of herbalism itself and other forms of natural healing, have served as positive and creative forms of resistance against a life-crushing, de-naturing paradigm.  They are, by any definition, truly “alternative.”  The struggles to keep Medicine Shows and herbalism itself alive have fundamentally been contests over control of our own existence and health, impacting the most intimate relationship of all: that crucial relationship between ourselves and our bodies.

These days, if we do a search for contemporary “Medicine Shows” on the internet we will turn up several pitchmen marketing historic Medicine Show acts as entertainment for conferences, festivals and schools.  In most cases these showmen’s approach is to reinforce the unfortunate and inaccurate stereotype of the medicine seller as a charming but dishonest bunko artist, fleecing audiences of country rubes with his clever tricks and lies.  More accurately, it is the corporations and their dutiful elected officials who are doing the worst fleecing of the public, while the icon of the Medicine Show represents democratic resistance to dominant cultural dictates, to deleterious synthetic drugs and an institutionalized health care system.  It stands in truth as a herald of options and call to choice.

The worst of the Medicine Show products were generally less dangerous than the well accepted drugs being massively prescribed to people in these times.  These events for the common folk empowered them to take control of their own health and well being, the opposite of what current advertising seeks to do.  We were told by the Medicine Show pitchmen that we had a choice as to how we live our lives, and that we could have an effect on how long and well we survive.

“No man lives forever,” the Medicine Man might say, “and in due time age shall have its mortal say.  But until that moment it is up to us to make the choices that can extend our stay on this bountiful earth and increase our healthy enjoyment of it.”  We may or or may not purchase the proffered bottles of “Dr. Goode’s,” but we take home a feeling of individual empowerment, a bit of curious information and heart-lightening song – a tonic for the spirit that sinks in deep, and lasts long.


The above article is excerpted from a much longer article appearing in Plant Healer Magazine, Winter 2013… and in 2015 it will serve as the first chapter in Hardin’s book “The Traveling Medicine Show”.  For updates and more articles by Wolf and Kiva, subscribe to the free Plant Healer Newsletter at:

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A modern medicine wagon, displaying its maker's humor.

A modern medicine wagon, displaying its maker’s humor.