Apr 222013

21st Century Herbalists Book

Special Wholesale Offer

Herbalist Interviews Books Shipping Soon


We just got word from our printers that softcover versions of our new interviews book “21st Century Herbalists” are finished and on their way to us, with the Limited Edition hardcovers following shortly thereafter.  We’re excited to soon be able to start shipping copies out to all of you who preordered!

Please Consider Selling Copies Yourself

Do you have an Herbal Store, Clinic, or Mail Order Catalog where you could help me distribute 21st Century Herbalists?  Do you table at conferences or health fairs?

Or do you have a minute to recommend this book to the manager of your local herb store or whole foods store, please?

For the first time ever, we are offering one of our book titles at a wholesale price, a 40% discount on orders of 10 or more.

You can help in getting these wonderful in-depth conversations out beyond our circle of community.  You can make 40 cents on the dollar, while affirming and informing existing practitioners, and inspiring more new folks to get more involved in the field of herbalism.

21st Century Herbalists www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Doug Elliott – 21st Century Herbalists – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Rosemary Gladstar & Mom – 21st Century Herbalists – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Simply drop me an email, letting me know 1. How many copies you’d like (10 minimum); 2. Your name or business name and physical shipping address.  I’ll respond by sending you an invoice that includes the actual shipping charges to wherever you are are, and get you your books and quickly as possible: <Kiva@PlantHealerMagazine.com>

You can also order a single Limited Edition Hardcover for $39 by going to:www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Thank you so much for helping, we’re very grateful!

–Kiva Rose


(Repost and Share please)

Apr 152013

A Daily Devotion:  Passion, Purpose, & Practice for the Herbalist

by Kiva Rose Hardin

“You too can be carved anew by the details of your devotion”
-Mary Oliver

“It takes long practice, yes. You have to work. Did you think you could snap your fingers, and have it as a gift? What is worth having is worth working for.”
-Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials

Ni Sasih by Dullah

I have frequent discussions with my students in which they’re struggling to understand how they can fit into what they see as the role of an herbalist. Some may base it more on a clinician model, while others have been more influenced by a village wise woman archetype. Either, and anything in between, can work wonderfully if that’s the role that best suits the individual and their context. The trouble comes when someone realizes they don’t fit into any known role, even those they look up to the most. For some, this understanding can be enough for them to simply walk away from herbalism thinking that they don’t belong, and for others it can preface a long struggle of trying to force themselves into a mold they just don’t fit.

Not everyone is cut out to be an herbalist, and some of us realize on our journey that a different aspect of the green world works better for us. However, if we adore practicing herbalism, but struggle with feeling like we don’t fit the models of herbalists we see around us, then we need to find a new model that is unique to suited to us.

I’ve certainly experienced this myself, and have spent long hours in despair over my aversion working in an office like a proper clinician, or conversely, my inability to entirely abandon a scientific perspective when treating people. I have many role models in the herbal community, but I’ve still struggled to find where I fit, and what exactly I have to offer. I see expert clinicians with backgrounds in nutrition and biochemistry and can’t see any way to catch up to their knowledge, or the effortless grace of the wise woman who doesn’t seem to need to work at all in order to cultivate intimacy and trust with those she works with. These kinds of comparisons are not only useless, but often harmful to ourselves and those we’re comparing ourselves to as we foster an attitude of useless competition and potential resentment and envy of someone else’s gifts and skills.

A common fear is that everything we offer is already being done by someone else, and likely being done better. This kind of thinking can cause mental paralysis, shutting down our ability to write about plants, make medicines, or even practice. I don’t know many herbalists who haven’t dealt with this at some point, and it can be difficult to remember how much we each have to offer to each other, the folks we work with, and the community as a whole.

It helps me a great deal to remind myself that herbalism is not just a science or a trade, it’s also an art. And like art, we each have something unique to offer that can’t be replicated by others. When ten different herbalists write monographs about Rose there will certainly be notable overlaps, especially when it comes to general therapeutic applications, but I know from experience that there will also be an incredible number of differences and individual subtleties. These differences combine to create a greater body of knowledge, and a deeper legacy of wisdom and beauty for herbalists to come!

The Medicine & The Muse: Follow Your Interests

Remember that our interests will develop over time, adapt to our lives, and sometimes outright change. While it can certainly be a bad idea to radically alter our lives for every impulsive venture, too many of us are more likely to get stuck in stagnant practices that no longer serve our selves and our work.

In the last few years I found myself increasingly frustrated with strictly clinical work. To be honest, when I first started experiencing feelings of dread every time I even thought about seeing a client, I thought I might be done with herbalism altogether. After many tears and months rife with self-doubt, I’ve come to realize that it’s not possible or even good for me to try to stick myself in a single category of herbalism. I find myself much happier if I follow the meandering flow of my interests, and integrate them as I go along instead of trying to freeze myself into just being a clinician. These days you’re as likely to find me perfecting a new botanical perfume, grinding fragrant resins for incense, photographing a newly opened flower, or brewing up a medicinal mushroom based soup as studying neurophysiology or treating a client.

One of the things I have long loved about herbalism is its innately multifaceted nature that can incorporate everything from botany to cooking, sensory pleasures to clinical therapeutics, counseling to gardening. All of this, and much more, are important parts of the larger pictures of herbalism. Some of us serve in specific niche roles, such as growing and propagating at-risk medicinal plants, while others work as broad generalists to integrate many fields of study into one life of art and practice.

The important thing is not to get stuck in one spot and feel limited by what we’ve chosen, but instead, to constantly follow what we love and feel passionately interested in. Every day we have the choice to expand or contract, dig in or move on. In this ever evolving and growing field, we too are forever falling back into the dark to re-germinate before spiraling upward to the sun.

Envisioning: Periodically Reassessing Goals & Dreams

In the midst of harvesting, medicine making, seeing clients, teaching, writing, studying, and the multitude other tasks that accompany this work, it’s easy to become so overwhelmed with attempting to stay caught up that we don’t notice we may have lost our love for the daily devotions of herbalism. In my own practice, I’ve found it extremely helpful to take periodic looks at what I’m doing, how I’m doing, and how I feel about it.  Running on auto-pilot is bound to happen at times, but when we notice that we no longer have our heart in what we’re doing, it’s time to reassess.

Ideally, we have a planned time for the assessment each year, most likely in the Winter when work is often a bit slower, and it feels most natural to dive inwards. Life doesn’t always follow our version of what should happen though, so we may sometimes need to take an unplanned time out. If we’ve previously written down our goals, needs, and dreams, then it’s fairly simple – although not always easy – to compare our current ideas and ideals with the past and see what aligns, what needs to change, and plot a course in that direction. If we’ve never taken the time to really think this through, it may be a much bigger project to honestly examine our desires and abilities.

For many of us, this whole process is made much easier by stepping away from our normal routine, environment and work while we reassess. Retreating to the woods for a weekend or heading to a location in nature that especially connects us to our purpose and passion can be perfect, but even simply taking a day away from normal surroundings can be enough to give us a much better idea of where we are and where we want to be. Sometimes, we just need that break and breathing room to realize we absolutely love all that we’re doing, and simply need a little more downtime and self nourishment. Other times, we’ll find that it’s time to make a significant shift that may entail entirely restructuring our lives to find fulfillment and satisfaction.

Devotee of the Green World: The Plant Healer’s Work

It’s taken nearly a decade of relentless obsession, intermittent exhaustion, constant studying, hands on experience, and daily wonderment at the magic of plant medicine – for me to finally realize that the key to being fulfilled in my work lies in my daily rededication to it. It’s as simple as that, the understanding that all the work I do is an act of devotion to the land, the plants, and the people. It’s not a race, it’s not compensation for guilt, it’s not even about being a good person.

It’s this simple act of fragrant flowers petals falling into waiting water, of holding someone’s hand while they breathe through their pain, of kissing the leaves of the Alder tree in gratitude for this medicine. This practice, this devotion, this prayer.

Mar 252013

Reflections by Kiva Rose

Inspired by the Book “21st Century Herbalists”

I took the opportunity to reread all the amazing conversations in our new book, “21st Century Herbalists,” and it makes me feel stronger than ever about what these practitioners’ teaching, lives and stories offer to us all.

Luminarias are paper lanterns common to my beloved Southwest, a simple candle set in sand inside a brown paper bag, usually set in rows on the rooftops or lining a road or walkway. It’s been a huge gift to my partner Wolf and I, to be able to shine a light on the many pathways of herbalism… and on many of the diverse talents in this field, people who have given so much to the world through their healing, wildcrafting and teaching.

Ryan Drum, Herbalist with Broadleaf Kelp www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

We seek to help give voice to a sampling of those amazing folks who are either younger or under-recognized… as well those wizened elders and what we laughingly call the “rock stars,” drawing knowledge and personal stories out of them that may have never before been shared. We’ve done this by featuring them in Plant Healer Magazine, by hosting them to teach at Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, and most recently through the first in what will be a series of books containing extensive, personal, and uncommonly revealing interviews: “21st Century Herbalists.” This and future volumes will feature fascinating conversations between Wolf and twenty-one of the most compelling practitioners of our times. For herbalists like David Hoffman, it‘s been a chance to “stir the pot.” For some including Matt Wood, it’s the opportunity to address and define his legacy for the first time. For the reader, it’s a chance to share in their trusting intimacies, herbal tales and tips alongside the inspiring example of their lives.

Doug Elliott, herbalist – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

David Hoffmann, Visionary Herbalist 1970 www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Not only can these herbalists pass on knowledge to us, but they also serve as valuable role models in a time and culture that can be difficult indeed as we continuously find and define our own herbal path. As Wolf aptly points out in the introduction to 21st Century Herbalists:

“Make no mistake. A role model isn’t somebody that we’re expected to imitate. It is, rather, a person whose role – their assignment, purpose, mission and means – inspires us to seek our own unique role and service in our lives… and our optimum personal place in the diverse and evolving field of plant medicine.”

I see the herbalists that I’ve learned from and look up to as luminaries themselves, as numinous lights that can point the way through an impasse, a challenge, or questions I can’t yet answer. Sometimes we all have to find our way through the dark on our own, but in times as dark as ours can be, we need the light of each others’ help and inspiration. The plants themselves – as well as the earth as a whole – can provide enormous amounts of guidance, but nothing replaces the human touch, hand to hand, as we learn the healing arts. This doesn’t have to come in the form of formal schooling or a specific mentor, it can just as easily be the herbal cooperative we work with, a local study group, or the nearest gardening-obsessed neighbor.

David Hoffmann 2010 www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Reading through the finished book again, I’m fascinated to see how many similar messages and ideas came through from these geographically disparate herbalists, some of whom have never met any of the others. It’s heartening to observe how much we agree with each other on the fundamentals of healing and working with plants, despite many differences on the surface. One of the primary messages that seems to come through time and time again from these experienced herbalists is how vital it is for each of us to engage our work and passion fully and personally. As Rosemary Gladstar so eloquently put it in her interview:

“While I think it’s great that there are schools, curriculums, teachers and apprentice programs, online courses, and every other type of educational opportunity one could wish for, herbalism really is a ‘self-study’. It’s really about people engaging and interacting with the plants themselves. The best teacher is one, in my mind, who can help open the key to one’s own well of knowledge, stimulate interest, and then says, “here, go drink, inhale it in!”


Some of the best herbalists I know of are ‘self-trained’. Look at most of these brilliant young herbalists out there in the world today. They are wildcrafters in the true sense; wild spirited, collecting seeds from here and there, gathering this and that, and weaving it together into a delicious colorful fabric of their own making, their own distilled green wisdom gathered from the four corners. It’s eclectic and free spirited, edgy like these times…” -Rosemary Gladstar





Phyllis Hogan & girls 1972 www.PlantHealerMagazine.com






Another sentiment oft repeated by the folks interviewed – regardless of their background in science, traditional herbalism, or both – is the strong belief that herbalism, science, and conventional healthcare can work together in a productive manner that allows for more healing than any one of these elements can in isolation. There are few better qualified to speak on this subject than traditional Appalachian herbalist, Phyllis Light, who has also worked in conventional healthcare, and has served a wide range of clients since her late teens:

“I love folk medicine and I love science and don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. A good folk herbalist is a keen scientist using observational skills to gather information about an hypothesis and using reasoning skills to work through the hypothesis. If you are an herbalist in practice, you probably do this quite often whether you realize it or not.” -Phyllis Light





Mary Boone & Phyllis Hogan 1983 www.PlantHealerMagazine.com






A question that was asked over and over again of the interviewees was about their own definition of healing, and why they do what they do, as Wolf looked to dig deeper into the heart of this work we all love so much. Some people were able to reply without hesitation, while others had to think long and hard before responding. Personally, I find myself constantly amending my answers in my own head, as my ongoing experiences shift and alter the exact way in which I define my work and how I do it. What doesn’t change is the underlying motivation for why I do this, why I continue to write and teach and treat with the assistance of the plants and the land I live with.

Susun Weed in the day www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Susun Weed & Justine www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

One of the replies I found especially interesting on the role of healers in our culture came from renowned herbalist, David Hoffman:

“I see the role of healers (in the broadest sense) as mitigating the suffering that is inherent in the changes our world is traversing and the culture’s response. The system cannot (or will not) be meaningfully changed. The need is to create viable alternatives to the brutalism of the fascist form of capitalism that is stomping its jackboots on all of life. I have no idea what comes after “the storm”, but we herbalists have much to contribute in the minimizing of the trauma of the transition we are in.” -David Hoffman

At times, the sheer volume of devastation, pain, sadness, and despair we healers face on a daily basis can be overwhelming to the point of paralysis. And yet, the very plants we work with can prove to be an incredible source of strength and inspiration. I’ve long looked to pavement cracking Dandelions as role models for revolution and to the persistent clinging of Ivy as a reminder of just how far tenacity can take us. Another source of joy, motivation, and even comfort comes from the very work we do, and the role we play in our communities, families and even our own health.

Ours is the work of not only giving ease to the hardships and ills of daily life but also of gifting each other with an essential reconnection between ourselves and our body, human and human, human and plants, human and planet. Clinician and educator, Bevin Clare, spoke so eloquently to this topic in her interview that I found myself in tears several times while reading it, and I couldn’t agree more:

“I believe that people are called to do this work we do. It may take people a lifetime to listen to the calling, or they may have something else to do to prepare them, but I believe that we find each other and we find this work because it is the calling we each have… It’s a bit self-important to say that the earth and the creatures on the earth need us right now but I think herbalists may be part of the solution if there is one.” -Bevin Clare

We are both the medicine makers and the medicine, and we have so much to offer each other and our communities. I hope that we’re able to slow down and deeper listen to each other, to take in the important stories, the inspiring struggles, the great joys, and the growing wisdom passed down from one generation to the next. The common message of the “21st Century Herbalists” book, I’ve come to realize, is that it’s time for us to each in our own ways help guide herbalism through the encroaching dark, bringing healing to a hurting world with the power and grace of the giving land itself, walking forward as lights.


Order soon to be sure to receive one of the special Limited Edition hardcover versions of 21st Century Herbalists, $39 each, at: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

*NOTE: If you have an herbal store or products catalog, I’d love it if you’d consider purchasing a batch of the softcover version at a 40% discount, for resale there. Please give Wolf and I a write at: HerbalResurgence@gmail.com

(Thank you so much for your support and involvement in the good work… and for sharing and RePosting this blog)

Mar 182013

The following is a 2,600 words-long excerpt of a great Plant Healer interview Wolf conducted with herbalist/gardener/teacher Juliet Blankespoor. You can look forward to a 5,800 word version in the next (Summer) issue of Plant Healer Magazine. The entire, full length 8,000 word conversation can only be found in our new book of interviews, “21st Century Herbalists,” what I consider to be the premier book of interviews with 21 of the most compelling practitioners alive today. I’ll be posting a full review here soon, and you can now pre-order a special hardcover limited edition from the site: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com –Kiva Rose

From “21st Century Herbalists” Book – Available at: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com


21st Century Herbalists Interview Excerpt:

In Conversation with Jesse Wolf Hardin

Intro: There is a greater than normal percentage of huge-hearted people in the plant medicine and wild foods community, of which there is no finer example than Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine‘s Juliet Blankespoor, a plant obsessed, mushroom hunting, herb growing, samba dancing teacher, totally adored by her grateful students. Her understanding of botany, anatomy, physiology and herbal actions is great, balanced by her relaxed teaching manner and the bliss and passion she exudes. A lifelong ecoactivist, her herbalism is deeply rooted in bioregionalism and deep ecology, celebrating both plant diversity, and diversity among our tribe. We’re happy to announce that she will be writing a regular column in every future issue of Plant Healer Magazine (www.PlantHealerMagazine.com), plus we’ll be bringing her back to Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous in September, this time teaching a class on bioflavonoids and a sensory-enlivening field botany hike. You can register now at: www.HerbalResurgence.org.

Jesse Wolf Hardin: When I think of you, Julietta, the first thing I think of is love. I don’t mean our affection for you, but rather, your exuberant affection for the earth and the plants that spring from it and anchor to it, your evident love of life and learning, teaching and healing. Where does such love come from, what sustains it, and what does it give you in return?

Juliet Blankespoor: I have been blessed in countless ways, with the good fortune of health and home, and a loving community of family and friends. Not a day has gone by in my life where I wanted for food, clothing or shelter. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my hardships and struggles, but those experiences have truly strengthened my gratitude for all that is good in my life and in the world. I am also a highly sensitive and empathetic person and am often greatly affected by the suffering of our times. This pain, however, only motivates me to work more towards the healing of our culture and the Earth in a spirit of brightness. There are many aspects of my mind and heart still enshrouded with fear, which, for me, typically manifests as anger. And yet I am continually strengthened in my efforts to build love and kindness in my own character, I believe peace for all beings and the Earth starts in our own minds and hearts.

The love of plants has been my saving grace. My passion for herbs blossomed at a very low point in my life, when I was consumed with self-doubt and addictive behaviors. Making friends with plants filled a great void in my life, assuaging a deep loneliness and longing. I am forever grateful to have a calling and passion that sustains and motivates me every day. Like many a plant person, I often find it easier to relate to photosynthetic organisms than humans. My kinship with plants fills me with connection and belonging. I hope that I can share some of that beauty with my students and the world at large.

Wolf: What best distinguishes or defines your way of practicing and teaching herbalism?
Juliet: Helping people establish healthier patterns and meet their personal health goals is the bulk of my practice as an herbalist. I teach this approach to my students, as beginning herbalists often have the tendency to quickly recommend herbs without addressing the underlying factors that create imbalance. I like to have fun with my clients, joking when appropriate, and also letting them know that I am not perfect, and am not looking for perfection in their habits, diet and compliance. I aim to be a present listener and go into the consultation without preconceived ideas around their lives, disorders, or treatment. Sometimes I am the first person who has ever fully heard them talk about their body, and that in itself is a precious and healing gift. It is common for clients to feel open in this safe space, and thus reveal intense emotions around their relationships, life, or history. I have learned to schedule two hours for clients in case the need to move through heavy issues arises. I limit the number of people I see because of the intimacy of my practice, and also because I teach full time. Much of my practice is helping students with their intakes, as we review over 60 case stories each year.

I like to work with plants I have a direct relationship with and feel this strengthens my medicine. In fact, it is a big part of the medicine. I look to tradition, scientific inquiry, and my personal experience and intuition in helping to form connections between clients and healing plants. Understanding the human body and disease process is a big part of my work as well. With my students, I try to impart a general sense of curiosity and love for the green world and the human body; I feel this to be a solid foundation for any herbalist.

Wolf: What are the most important subjects different kinds of herbalists can focus on? And the most important skills?

Juliet: I think this depends on one’s aim. What kind of herbalist does one aspire to be? To know a handful of herbs intimately, is of more benefit than knowing a hundred plants superficially. Personally, I believe it’s important to find an energetic or constitutional system of medicine that you resonate with and apply yourself to learning it within the framework of your local herbs. A good understanding of disease process, nutrition, human anatomy and physiology is also indispensable.

Wolf: What are some less specifically herbal related abilities and skills that you consider important for an herbalist to develop and utilize?

Juliet: To be fully present while listening to people’s health stories. Maintaining compassion without taking on others’ illness or suffering. Clear boundaries and intentions. Recognizing one’s limitations and honoring one’s word. Knowing general danger signs and when someone must seek conventional medical care. Understanding that our clients have an innate knowledge of their healing needs.

It is important to know that herbal medicine may just be one part of a person’s healing path, and thus honor other modalities, including conventional medical care and pharmaceuticals. We must be careful to not harm our clients through the furthering of our personal herbal agendas.

Wolf: What do you tell folks who say they would love to grow a proportion of their plant medicines, but they don’t live on rural acreage? What about community gardens with shares, container gardening, indoor gardening?

Juliet: If space is limited, consider growing perennial plants with aerial parts as the medicinal portion- these plants will typically yield the most medicine for the allotted space. Mints, Bee Balm, Anise Hyssop, Holy Basil, Mullein, Gotu Kola, Southern Ginseng, Spilanthes, and Yarrow are good choices for small gardens. Community gardens are another great option; if you specialize in growing medicinal and culinary herbs, consider trading with your vegetable-growing garden neighbors. I will caution against growing medicinal or edible plants close to the foundation of older homes as the soil often contains lead and residue from pesticide spraying; the plants will bio-accumulate these toxins.

Wolf: I am concerned about any herbalist who feels no exchange of information or mutual recognition when engaging a plant. At the other extreme, I worry about the dangerous miscommunications that can result from projecting our own thoughts, hopes and fantasies onto plants whose needs, priorities and very “language” are their own, not ours. I know of the case of a man who almost died from ingesting a highly toxic species after he believed it had told him it was okay. And I am frankly disturbed whenever someone presumes a plant is telling them it is happy to sacrifice its life in order to ease their ailments. What do you think?

Juliet: I cannot know what it is to be a plant, and am only able to conceptualize their reality within the framework of my own human experience. As with all life forms, plants invest a huge amount of energy into their survival and reproduction, but perhaps they are more in tune with the web of life and the energy that moves through cycles of death and birth. I will always favor harvesting part of a plant so it can live and regenerate if at all possible, but part of being a human is taking life, and I have made peace with that. I do ask permission from plants before harvesting them and sometimes I feel a willingness from the herbs and sometimes I get a definite feeling of no. At times I wonder if I am projecting my own feelings and thoughts into the situation, but still I ask, as it gives me greater humility and appreciation for my medicine.

Wolf: What herbalist attitudes, assumptions or popular misconceptions do you see as problematic?

Juliet: I find that many practitioners of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine believe that western herbalists have no framework of energetics, and thus are limited in their abilities. I also see how easily herbalists and the public are swayed into believing that exotic herbs are superior to the abundant plants from our own bioregion. I am especially concerned about food dogmatism, as it doesn’t address genetic, constitutional, and spiritual diversity of dietary needs.

Wolf: Science and botany are sometimes looked at with derision by herbalists, just as scientists are often suspicious or even hateful of earth centered spirituality (“Woo-Woo”), anything bordering on “magic,” and even herbalism itself. But a sense of the miraculous would seem essential to scientific inquiry, and scientific method, research and understanding vital to even the most “heart centered” or “intuitive” herbal practice. Please address the relationship of science and spirit, science and folk herbalism?

Juliet: Wow, that is such a big question with an infinite number of possible responses, even from myself. I am naturally curious, and a Virgo to boot, so botany is right up my alley in the way that everything is more ordered within the context of taxonomy (everything in its proper place, just like I enjoy my home). Science springs from an innate human curiosity of the world, and also encompasses the human tendency to explain. I don’t see it at odds with spirituality. In fact, it is the detailed intricacies of biology that gets me the most excited in life. I think one possible limitation lies in believing that the unexplainable and nonreplicable aren’t real. Believing only in scientifically proven phenomenon of the world originates, I believe, from repulsion to the blind belief inherent in many forms of religion. So many people have been hurt by organized religion and have thus clung to scientific validation as the only form of reality in our world. Science is only as good as the humans engaging with it, and we all know humans have some room for improvement!




Wolf: One of the classes you are teaching at Herbal Resurgence in 2013 is on field botany, something Kiva and I consider very important. Please tell our readers why and how botany and plant identification are important in the practice of herbalism… and how truly fun and marvelous both can be.

Juliet: The more we can recognize patterns in plants, the more intimate and connected we are to the green world. If we learn the terms connected to these patterns, we can communicate with others. Some of the terms are obtuse, but let’s forgive our ancestors and get on with it. Think of it as learning a secret code that only plant geeks can communicate with. If we want to forage for wild herbs or food, then correct identification is necessary. Plus, looking at flowers through a hand lens is so juicy, who wouldn’t want to do it until their eyes got too sore?

Wolf: Sweet!

Describe your feelings about the certification or registration of herbalists, intended to qualify and legitimize plant practitioners? What are the problems around exclusion and elitism, and what might the solutions be?

Juliet: I understand the needs of the public in determining the qualifications and competency of a practitioner, however I am not in favor of licensing or certifying herbalists. I think licensing has the potential to benefit a few practitioners and exclude many more due to politics, differing practices, or an inability to conform to standards or protocols. Licensing can create the possibility of setting up limitations, as seen in our midwifery communities. Nurse midwives have many protocols they must follow or they will lose their license. There is little flexibility to tailor their practices to each unique birth. Losing one’s ability to practice is a strong incentive to toe the line— in our community it means the nurse midwives have much higher rates of interventions and cesarean births as compared to the non-licensed midwives.

I am however open to the dialogue, and really just want herbalists to have the freedom to practice in their own way. Herbalists can seek professional membership in the American Herbalist Guild, and perhaps that is enough of a “certifying” system. I am grateful to be able to practice though, even without seeking such a status myself.

Wolf: The clinical model (public and private clinics) has been an effective service model, but there are others… and there will need to be alternatives if herbal regulation or prohibition become intolerable, or if there’s the predicted economic or other system collapse. What are the alternatives now, and what possibilities do you envision?

Juliet: Many herbalists have worked outside the monetary system, instead choosing to barter their services and medicines for other goods and services needed. I believe reciprocity is important in most healing work, but it certainly doesn’t need to involve money. In exchange for my teaching, herbal services, plants and medicine I have received fresh vegetables, meat, eggs, milk, massage, carpentry, cleaning, gardening, cooking, medicine making, clothes repair, office work, pottery, canned goods, mead, childcare, clothes, crystals and plants and medicine I did not already have. Bartering is so incredibly fun and basic, and can meet a lot of our needs! Traditionally, most healing has taken place at home – at either the patient’s or the practitioner’s house. Many herbalists, such as myself, still see people in this model. If the world ever changes to the point where most people do not have access to mass produced pharmaceutical or herbal medicines, the need for people who know the local herbs and wild foods will be great.

Wolf: Given the troubling and challenging times we are entering, do you believe there’s an imperative to expand the role of herbalism beyond a simple healing practice – to a counterculture that could serve as a counterbalance and tribal/grassroots alternative to the status quo, help enliven a new earth-based mythos, empower resistance to injustice, contribute to at least localized ecological health, and impart some boogie and joy?

Juliet: Bring it on!

Wolf: It’s been a pleasure to talk with you like this, an honor to host you as a teacher, and a blessing to have your support and alliance. Thank you so much, Julietta!

Juliet: What an honor for me, I am deeply appreciative of all you and Kiva Rose create for the herbal community, and the spirit, art, and wisdom you bring to the table.


(Please RePost & Share)

Mar 052013

Now Available To PreOrder, Retail or Wholesale

Jesse Wolf Hardin in intimate conversation with 21 of the most intriguing herbalists and foragers of our times:

21st CENTURY HERBALISTS: Rock Stars, Radicals and Root Doctors

386 pages, 8.5×11” with over 500 b&w photos and illustrations

Limited Edition – Special Fern Colored Linen Hardcover Version – $39

For both subscribers & non-subscribers… Pre-Orders will begin shipping out to you in just a few weeks

Order Now from Plant Healer Magazine – “The Magazine Different”: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Wholesale: If you have an herbal business, food coop or online store, we can also offer a 40% Discount on orders of 10 or more copies. Write us with how many copies you’d like to carry, along with your address, and we’ll invoice you for the total:  HerbalResurgence@gmail.com

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

Rosemary Gladstar & her mother Jasmine- from 21st Century Herbalists

Juliet Blankespoor teaching – 21st Century Herbalists – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Featuring: •Herbalist’s 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

We hope you love it, and find it a useful resource for years to come.

Thank you in advance, for RePosting and Sharing this announcement.

-Kiva Rose & Wolf Hardin

21st Century Herbalists book, back cover – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Feb 192013

Plant Healer Magazine cover – Spring 2013

Plant Healer Spring Issue


–Releases March 4th–


The Spring issue of Plant Healer Magazine releases on Monday the 4th of March, another diverse collection of herbal information and inspiration, wildcrafting fervor and plant obsession that we’re thoroughly excited about!  We have to be excited, in order to spend so many hundreds of hours on every detail of its content and appearance, but a look at this issue’s content will readily show you why.  Once again, we offer you a Sneak Peek at the upcoming articles, over 250 pages of never before published material written by many of the most informed, candid and compelling foragers and herbalists.

Spring Content

We’re featuring another deeply powerful column from our dear Phyllis Light, composed while dealing with her precious mother’s declining health, and one from Robin Rose Bennett’s upcoming book that she sent in the midst of grieving the sudden loss of her ever-so-loving partner.  Their devotion to getting herbal information and inspiration out to you under these circumstances if extremely impressive, and made more powerful by the devotion they demonstrate to their families.

We also are honored to include a first time submission from Guido Mase of VCIH, combining science with folklore in an enlivened explanation of the processes of immunomodulation.  Hopefully you’ll get to read more of his work here in the future.  Thank you, Guido, from Kiva and I, and from all our grateful readers.

Contributors to Plant Healer have asked us to tell them what theme we are going for with a particular issue, so they can tailor their article submissions accordingly.  In fact, we don’t assign themes, preferring our authors write about what has them most excited at any given time.  It is only after I have started doing the magazine layout that a particular theme may organically appear.  This time, that theme would have to be “Attitude,” with strong opinions and spunky irreverence characterizing pieces by Sam Coffman, the irrepressible Rebecca Altman and Traci Picard.  Instead of Paul Bergner’s usual column, he’s contributed a contemporary history of the herbal medicine struggle in Nicaragua where he, 7Song and other herbalists staff clinics each year.  The historical biography of frontier folk herbalist George Halleck Center, reveals to us a Medicine Seller willing to risk income and even freedom to speak out on health topics, women’s rights, Native American issues, and the threat to herbalism that big pharmaceutical companies and government agencies posed even way back then.
Finally, those of you who may have missed our friend Christa Sinadinos’ Aphrodisiacs class at Herbal Resurgence last September, may be thrilled to see her awesome article here on the herbs of love’s passion!  She joins with our other amazing contributors, both famed and unknown, in bringing to you the following:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: The Folk Herbal Tribe
Art Poster: Tribe’s Alive!
Paul Bergner: Nicaragua: An Herbal Revolution Unveiled
Art Poster: When You’re Small, Fix What You Can
Phyllis Light: The “Herbist” Tommie Bass
Art Poster: A Tradition of Healing
Kiva Rose Hardin: Ocotillo
Charles “Doc” Garcia: Stinging Nettles: Pain, Memory & Healing
Art Poster: Risking The Sting
Art Poster: The Undammed Surge of Life & Love
Christa Sinadinos: Herbal Aphrodisiacs
Plant Healer Humor Poster: I Love My Botany Teacher
7Song: The Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Jim McDonald: Foundational Actions: Demulcents
Susun Weed: Edible Cultivated Seeds
Art Poster: Plant Lover
Herbalism in Frontier America – George Halleck Center
Art Poster: This Beautiful World
Guido Masé: Botanical Immunomodulation
Art Poster: Artemisia vulgaris
Herbal Education Options
Herbal Schools Directory: Choosing The Best School For You
Resources for Herbalists
Sabrina Lutes: Mother’s Healing Basket: 1st Year
Kristine Brown: A Kid’s Day At The Spa
Rhiannon Hardin: Lovely Chamomile
Mélanie Pulla: Building Roots: Herbs, Income & The Art of Receiving
Traci Picard: Hell Yes! – Plant Allies are Everywhere
Rebecca Altman: The Old Ways (Are Here Now!)
Sam Coffman: Prickly Pear Cactus: Deepening Relationship with Medicinal Plants
Art Poster: A Prickly Sheath Conceals the Sweetest Core
Loba: A Bioregional Spring Feast
Wendy “Butter” Petty: Culinary Uses for Tinctures & Elixirs
Art Poster: Krumcake Girl
Sam Coffman: Herbalism & Licensing: Strategies for Response
Plant Healer Humor Poster: Bureaucrats Will Find & Regulate You
Plant Healer Humor Poster: No Worries, We’re Grandfathered
Matthew Wood: Cardiovascular System (continued)
Plant Healer Interview: Ben Zappin
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Divergent Streams: Mainstream & Alternative
Plant Healer Humor Poster: Conformity – Questionably Healthy at Any Age
Art Poster: Gaia by Oberon Ravenheart Zell
David Hoffman: Deep Ecology & Deep Herbalism
Art Poster: Gaia by Lauren Raine
Art Poster: The 8 Principles of Deep Ecology by Arne Naess, Sessions & Devall
Art Poster: Gaia Mountain by Cortcio
The Medicine Bear Novel for Herbalists (Part VI)
Art Poster: Why Bears Are Medicine
Kiva Hardin’s Medicine Woman column
Art Poster: Plant Healer Bitters (1890s advert)


Herbal School Directory

The idea for a sample issue actually came from our Marketing Manager, Jamey Jackson, who felt moved to get free material to the many schools listing their on-site and online courses in the Plant Healer Herbal Schools Directory.  Our extensive list is offered as a service to those students of plant medicine who have decided to sign up for on-site or home-study courses, to help in selecting the school and teacher best suited to them.



We heard this month from the directors of three new regional herbal conferences, each giving Herbal Resurgence a degree of credit for inspiring them to try their hand at it.  Bioregional conferences are special in their local focus, emphasizing the traditions and teachers of specific regions of the country, whereas Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous is an international event for the folk herbal community.
We were also recently touched to read that the motivated herbalists Carla Vargas-Frank and Olivia Pepper are operating a mobile, gypsy trailer Apothecary, fueled by their time at the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous (when it was still known as the Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference).  Inspiring folks to pursue their dreams, is at the very heart of the Resurgence/Plant Healer mission.  Click to read the entire article: Medicine Wagon.


Free Sample Issue

If we didn’t have enough work creating this issue, new books for you and the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, we also got an urge to put together a new sample Plant Healer Magazine that anybody can download.  It is over 140 pages long – the size of a medium sized book! – containing not just snippets like before, but rather, full length articles drawn from the last couple of issues.  Included are recent pieces by Matt Wood, Susun Weed, and Kiva Rose.  As a subscriber, you won’t find any new material here, but we would love it if you would help announce, share, and distribute this gift to folks who have never read the Magazine Different.  Click here for the Free Sample Download.


21st Century Herbalist – Book of PH Interviews Releasing in Early March

Finally, we thought you’d like to know that copies are on their way from the printer of 21st Century Herbalists, the first collection of in-depth interviews with what we light-heartedly call some of the most intriguing and inspiring “Rockstars, Radicals & Root Doctors” of our time, from David Hoffman to Rosemary Gladstar. Featured are lengthy, personal and candid conversations with 21 herbalists and wildcrafters, some of which have appeared here in abbreviated form but can now be read in their entirety, and a number of other interviews that are a long ways from finding a space in the magazine.  385 pages long, with over 500 photographs and other illustrations.  Tips, tools, and insights attend the telling of their life stories, serving as examples for us, inspiring each of us to live our dreams of plants and healing even in the face of any challenges or costs.  You’ll be able to order soon, from the Plant Healer Website.


Deadline For Plant Healer Submissions

The next deadline for submissions of your original writings will be April 1st, for the Summer issue.  We encourage you to send articles on topics that you know the most about, have the most experience with, and that excite you the most… even if you have never been published before.  No matter how famous any of the Plant Healer writers are, it will always be the people’s magazine, the venue for your collective voice.  Download the Contributor Guidelines from the Plant Healer website.


To subscribe, Submit, Advertise, or Read the Sample Issue, go to:


Thank You!

A big thank you and warm blessings to you – our readers, our friends, our allies, our tribe.

(freely re-post and share)

Feb 042013

Alternative Healing & The Mainstream

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Excerpted from Wolf’s upcoming book “Plant Healers and Wisdom Keepers”, and will also appear an  in the Summer 2013 Issue of “the Magazine Different”:


Intro:  One of the most difficult things facing anyone, is the tension between the pressure to fit in and the desire to be our unique selves.  It doesn’t help that the credibility of our chosen field of herbalism is often discounted or discredited, even by our parents and peers, making herbalists question their worth and seek some kind of accreditation that might earn acceptance.  And yet, we find that there is both some pleasure and advantages to be found in not having been accepted as “mainstream” in the past 500 years.

“Better to be who and how we are, than to try to fit in!” –Rosemary Gladstar

A grieving herbalist friend of ours posted on a private group about how family members were threatening to disown them both over their attendance of an herbal conference.  Other people posted about similar situations of being ostracized, pressured or manipulated by parents, siblings, and friends for practicing herbalism “instead of getting a real job.”

In the latter cases, the insinuation is that being an herbalist is neither “real” nor respectable work, even if the herbalist is in fact making a decent income for their selves and their loved ones, with some of us treated as if we are irresponsible hippies or aimless daydreamers by the very people who most loudly assert their love for us.  In the former situation, it would seem that the woman’s family equate herbalism with something far more threatening than simple NewAge indulgence or unregulated plant constituents, with a darker, more nefarious, subversive, or even unholy purpose implied.

It’s alarming when we recognize the degree to which herbalists continue to be looked down upon, trivialized, dismissed, defamed, vilified, and directly or indirectly pressured to move on to a more practical vocation.  It’s also mighty odd, given that scientists consider over two-thirds of the world’s known plant species to have some medicinal use, that more than 7,000 of the medical compounds found in the modern Pharmacopoeia derive from plants, and that even the most generic grocery stores sell a plethora of commercially profitable herbal preparations these days.  Yet, for all its commercial successes, the actual practice of studying and recommending medicinal plants for the treatment of illnesses and imbalances remains largely unacceptable, beyond the norm, outside the fold.

This is arguably a problem we need to recognize and be ready to deal with if and when it comes up.  At the same time, as far as problems go, “going our own way” can feel mighty darn good!



Acceptance & Belonging

The desire to belong is strong, whether to a family, clan, club, church, professional association, ethnicity, culture, or nation.  This is true not only for herbalists but for most of humanity, and also for a majority of our fellow animal species.  Membership in a group provides pleasing company and increased physical security, help with hunting or extra sets of eyes to watch out for approaching danger.  More significantly in the case of we humans, is the opportunity to identify with others sharing a common purpose, with similar interests, opinions, desires, priorities, and codes of behavior.  Membership can translate into emotional security, offering comforting friendships, alliances, and pacts. We may enjoy our efforts more, and accomplish more in alliance.  Plus, to be accepted by those we identify with or look up to, is to have met their criteria and qualifications, bolstering our sense of worthiness and competence, while providing both a place and a way to belong.



Just being a plant lover, herbalist, or folk healer makes us a member of not only a community, but a lineage of purpose.  This may not always feel like enough, however, and we may have a natural psychological hungering to feel an accepted part of the larger culture, the mainstream, the norm.   We may even feel guilty about not identifying more with it, earning more of its praise and rewards, or being happier when we are in the midst of it.

There’s no question about it.  There are obvious indisputable advantages to our embracing professionalism, legitimacy, organization, or guild registration, or otherwise earning credibility with the authorities and at least some portion of the mainstream consumer public.  Official and public acceptance remains rare, fickle, conditional, and uncertain, however, and only ever comes at a high cost in terms of the years given to formal education and many thousands of dollars in tuition fees, as well as in our efforts to prove ourselves.  And at no point is it likely that a “certified herbalist” will be viewed by either the professional community, or the average consumer as equal to an industry scientist or licensed medical specialist.

What we find, are:

•Some unregistered herbalists feeling inferior to, or else excluded by the approved members of professional herbal associations.
•Community herbalists imagining that they are insignificant, just because they mainly treat their families, neighbors, and friends.
•Caregivers working nights to pay for nursing school, in hopes of more certain employment aiding the ill.
•Nurses feeling inadequate or under-recognized and underpaid, in comparison to medical doctors working in the same facilities.

And even if we earn a half dozen letters of credit and affiliation at the end of our names, get a well -paying position doing herbal research or a teaching job at the university, we will still be seen by many outside of our community as fringe, as pseudoscience, as a counter-current or side channel.

Once we come to terms with this fact, we have the choice of either:

1. Consciously and willfully rejecting the process of accreditation, legitimization and public relations, sacrificing any benefits…
(or else)
2. Willingly focusing our energies and resources on winning as much acceptance as possible regardless of the extent of inequity or disregard, and without fooling ourselves that herbalism is or will soon be truly “mainstream” again.



Stream Morphology

“…mainstream culture – there was no fitting into it back then, there’s no fitting into it now.”

–Bob Dylan

From the very beginnings of what it means to be human, the shape of herbalism and the shape of the mainstream of human society and culture were the same, and where people migrated or ideas evolved, the principles of natural healing and cabinet of plant medicine knowledge would go too.  When a culture swerved towards one direction or the other, its medicines swerved and undulated in unison, for it was not only the preferred way of healing, it was often the only effective means.



This began to drastically change in the early Middle Ages, especially as “familiarity with healing herbs” became an indicium, an official indication of witchcraft according to the Catholic Inquisition of the so-called “civilized nations.”  In Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and England especially, terrible tortures were used to extract confessions for a horrific number of accused witches, many of whom were accused for no more reason than a profane oath, a tendency towards disobedience, or “the gathering of fruits and plants for medicine.”  Many were apparently turned in by jealous or weary spouses anxious to be free of them, and many more were easily implicated by their role as midwives, herbalists and healers.



Most herbal practice at the time included a bit of conjuring, invoking, entreating or praying, making it easier to understand how the Inquisitors following Father Bernard Gui’s 1315 manual Practica oficii Inquistiones, were able to convict so many people on evidence of “collecting herbs on bended knee while facing the East and praying the Lord’s Prayer.” (Inquisitor Gui also cited “discovering hidden facts or manifesting secret things” as reason for conviction, something I would be found particularly in violation of).  In Peter Binsfield’s 1622 manual Commentarius en Titulum Codices lib. IX de Maleficis Mathematicis Et Cetera, his indicium included something as simple and seemingly innocuous as “seeing a woman gathering flowers from various trees and putting them into a pot.”  This, in spite of the fact that herbs had long been used ritually by the church itself, and that a rival inquisitorial tract, Girolamo Menghi’s 1626 Fustis Daemonum, suggests that “A good preventative of demon possession” is to combine not only gold and other ingredients, but also Frankincense and Myrrh.

By the 1700s, the mainstream of society was veering even farther from the course and cause of herbs, becoming ever more estranged from the natural world.  Professional organizations in Europe, and then in America, began to insist that only their vetted members were competent enough to be paid a wage for their consultations and house calls, and by the 1920s and 30s were able to frighten lawmakers and voters into passing laws against unlicensed practice.  While England made it possible for practitioners to earn accreditation and a license, in other countries including the United States it became possible to continue practicing only if one denied that they were diagnosing or treating illness.  While herbal product sales increased dramatically in the 1970s and 80s, herbalism itself became indelibly linked to – and tainted by – an association with commonly dismissed New Age thinking and practice.  Plant Medicine has largely remained a semi-legal, semi-outlaw, alternative field ever since… and we probably need to get used to it: a different healing stream, committed to following its own evolving direction, aptly finding its own channel of ingress and expression, proudly assuming its own characteristic shape.



The Mainstream

I have to tell you… normal is highly overrated.
–Charles “Doc” Garcia

mainstream |ˈmānˌstrēm| noun
1. ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional
2. the dominant trend in opinion, fashion or the arts

Let’s be clear: Increasing public acceptance of and support for herbalism is a worthy and perhaps even necessary goal for us, irrespective of its degree of attainability.  I say this, because the more people whose trust we can win over, the more we can help… and the more support that herbalism will have, as increasing numbers of regulations are decided or voted on.  No matter how polar their politics or what ethnicity they might be, the majority of U.S. and European citizens think of themselves as being in the “mainstream.” For this reason alone, if we want herbal healing to be embraced by the larger society, it is to them we must appeal, to them we must hope to educate and stretch, entice and inspire.

That said, before we go too far in our attempts to be accepted by and integrated into the mainstream, it could be helpful for us to first take a good look at its character and direction.  Whether we are talking mainstream medicine, fashion or entertainment, you’ll note that it tends to be marked by:

•A general absence of critical thinking.
•Acting out of fear, such as a fear of unconventionality, the fear of medical self-care, a fear of trusting the aid or advice of anyone unofficial.
•Default acceptance of the opinions, research, beliefs, prejudices and proclamations of people and institutions in power, popular celebrities and official “experts.”
•Dependence on and subservience to the edicts and strictures of officials, agencies and authority figures.
•Endemic superficiality, responsive to sound bites rather than making deep investigations.
•Allegiance to conformity, or even uniformity, as exemplified by fads, adherence to fashion trends, uniforms, dogmatism, regulated behavior and self-restraint.
•Greater individual worry about appearing “weird” or different, than concern about doing the best thing.
•Mistrust of and resistance to the unfamiliar, unusual, untypical, uncommon, unconventional, unorthodox, out of the ordinary, irregular, abnormal, aberrant, “strange,” exceptional or unique, eclectic or eccentric, adaptive or creative.
•Disregard for options and alternatives, more resistant to considering new ideas, methods, means, products, practices, and possibilities.

Those outside of the mainstream are more likely to:

•Act out of vision or instinct, hunch or hope.
•Listen to the pronouncements of authority figures, agencies and official “experts” with a critical ear.
•Personally experiment, and independently evaluate.
•Investigate deeper, and weigh supposed facts against personal intuition and observation.
•Challenge entrenched beliefs, systems, prejudices, and protocols.
•Sometimes question their own habits and assumptions.
•Place more importance on authentically being themselves, than on conforming in order to fit in.
•Value and appreciate the unfamiliar, unusual, untypical, uncommon, unconventional, unorthodox, out of the ordinary, irregular, abnormal, aberrant, “strange,” exceptional or unique, eclectic or eccentric, adaptive or creative.
•Be more afraid of being a meaningless, conformist “cog in the wheels,” than of being thought of as different or weird.
•Be open to options and alternatives, considering new ideas, methods, means, products, practices and possibilities.



My dictionary definition of “mainstream” includes “conventional,” which that same edition describes as actions “based on or in accordance with what is most generally done or believed.”  For this simple reason, we cannot be truly and completely conventional if we are an herbalist who acts on or in accordance with our own observations and beliefs, convictions and aims.

We may think we could be happier fitting fully into the mainstream, or that it’s the most practical and safest choice, but if so, it would be best to first decide if it embodies the values and characteristics, the goals and means for getting there, that we personally aspire to.

And if it is students, clients or customers that we seek, we would do well to be realistic about the propensities of the mainstream, how many we can serve and how deeply we can engage and benefit them… and grateful for the creative, sensitive, receptive alternative.




alternative |ôlˈtərnətiv| adjective
1. one or more things available as additional possibilities
2. of or relating to behavior that is considered unconventional and is often seen as a challenge to traditional norms

Nearly everything alternative is painted in the mainstream as being either extreme, subversive, heretical, unseemly, fatuous, or foolish.  Alternative schools are often dismissed as undisciplined daycare for the children of liberals, and alternative novels criticized as being for the effete.  Members of the mainstream often seem to enjoy being disgusted and mortified by what they call “alternative lifestyles,” from communal living to gay marriage.  And anything other than conventional medicine is considered quackery, whether via deliberate fraud or self-delusion.

A number of mainstream scientists speak as if alternative medicine (including herbalism) meant “ineffective or unproven” or “without any scientific basis or verifiable results.” Alternative practices “do have scientific value,” quipped one of the commentators on Randi.org, but only “to psychologists studying delusional behavior!”  A standing joke among MDs, is that “alternative medicine” means an “alternative to medicine.”  This includes plant medicine in the eyes of the great majority of them, considered of little more use than colloidal silver and magnet therapy.  One online rant goes as follows: “Herbal Medicine?  Give me a break!  If herbs pass the test, they’re just medicine.  And if they don’t, they’re just soup and potpourri.”  This prevailing attitude on doctor’s forums and in many scientific circles helps explain why up to a third of all herbalists go to such incredible lengths to establish academic, professional and scientific credentials.  They don’t spend so much money on formal education and memberships just to get a better job in the field, or to be better informed and positioned for influencing the academic community… they’re hoping at the least, to avoid being completely ignored, disregarded, denigrated, and dissed.

The writer Richard Dawkins calls alternative medicine – herbalism included – “a set of practices which cannot be tested, refuse to be tested, or consistently fail tests”… and without mentioning that most research is conducted by an industry with a vested interest in profitable synthetics, is usually done on isolated compounds rather than whole plants, and fails to take into account individual constitutional factors.  Thank you, Dick!  His is one example of how the mainstream discredits any but conventional, institutional practice… by totally missing the point!

As I have learned from Kiva, herbal effects are indeed testable – in some convincing way or another – if:

•Using whole plants, not constituents.
•Paying close attention to dosage, when to use dry or fresh plant material, and means of preparation
•Looking for more than an isolated action or effect.
•Taking into account the constitutions and health histories of those in the study.
•Measuring health as more than the alleviation of symptoms.



Herbalism and other nature, folk, tradition, and experience-based healing practices are not merely complimentary adjuncts to “modern medicine.”  They’re vital alternatives to the conventional, blind-sided, narrow minded, profit motivated, corporate financed, pharmaceutical drug pushing, in many cases life endangering medical paradigm.

Nor is alternative medicine an insubstantial alternative to “real medicine,” it is an alternative way of perceiving the body, illness, treatment, and the very notion of what it means to be healthy.

“It is often thought that medicine is the curative process. It is no such thing… nature alone cures. And what [true] nursing has to do… is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.” –Florence Nightingale (from Notes on Nursing)

You might think of alternative medicine the way you think of alternative energy.  Wind and solar power are alternatives to mountain-leveling coal mines and air polluting power plants.  Or the way you think of healthy whole foods from the woods or garden, an alternative to the mainstream American diet of processed carbs, sugar and salt, hormone laden meat, genetically modified vegetables, canned food, and snacks.  Or like what is undoubtedly the best music these days, not the formulaic (certified, licensed) mainstream music being pushed, but the often unsigned (uncertified), independent musicians creating new Alt-Country/Americana, Alternative Rock, World Fusion, Alt-Latino and more.  Think about how much the mainstream media sucks, and how necessary are any alternative sources of much needed news.

In a similar way, we are the alternative – to a fearful, highly distracted and controlled humankind, increasingly divorced from its nature and from the natural world, out of touch with its native intuition, instincts, emotions and their triggers, dreams and service, purpose and calling.  And herbalism is an alternative – to institutional/industrial health care, to viewing the body as a mechanism or chemical factory, to treating symptoms instead of causes and imbalances, to the restricting of health care access and total dependence on technology and drugs.

Some of you may be attached to identifying with or being thought of by others as mainstream, but let’s get serious!  How mainstream is it today, to practice plant medicine apart from its twisted pharmaceutical successors, to make one’s own preparations, to think of health as wholeness instead of an absence of symptoms, to provide advice to nearly anyone who asks, to put ethics and quality ahead of income, or to be concerned about the health of plant populations as well as of the people served?

I frankly don’t know hardly any mainstream-type people in the field of herbalism. Nobody has done more to broaden the appeal of herbalism than the herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, for example.  Yet on closer examination, we see that she, like I, has a soft spot – and acts as a magnet for – radicals and activists, wild women, frisky fellow and self-proclaimed freaks, outlandish outliers and edge-dwellers.

“These people are my tribe. I’m one of them! I identify with them because I’m a bit freakish and outlandish myself! I just have a sweeter cover, perhaps, than many of my fellow radicals, is all!” –Rosemary Gladstar



If your reputation is based on clinically informed medical herbalism, you’re clearly still not mainstream if you teach aromatherapy, promote critical thinking, or sing “I’m An Herbal Rebel” at events full of other alternative-type folks.  You may be an officer of the American Herbalist Guild making inroads in the scientific or legislative community, but you are unavoidably alternative if you’re also an activist, eco-tourist, or conservationist, teach energetics, or had an herbal epiphany at a Grateful Dead concert.  Academic degrees are impressive, as are any years of study you may have put into your botany or chemistry, but these things are not enough to earn you full mainstream membership, if you are known to administer to the homeless, volunteer in Nicaragua, fight to protect endangered Sandalwood trees, foster free clinics, run a first aid station at a Rainbow Gathering, sleep in the back of your herbal business to save money, prefer nature documentaries over action-movie superheroes, or discuss in public what plants seem to be communicating to you.

Sorry, but at most – if you are quiet and guarded about much of who you are and what you believe, and are careful with your appearance and language – you may be partially accepted by a mainstream that you can only partially relate to.



Confluence & Divergence

“Just because I have success, doesn’t mean I’m part of the mainstream.”
–Matt Drudge

So what might be a healthy relationship, a healthful confluence with the predominantly unhealthy mainstream?  How can we interact with it that serves both our well- being and our purpose, draw from it what we need or desire, trade with and help its members, influence and help heal its culture?  Consider the following model/parallel.

In many parts of the world, for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years, the majority of the population lived outside of the few urban areas, gathering or producing food, living in rural villages with cultures that helped keep them aligned with the spirit and needs of the land.  Cities, with their closely packed buildings, constant commotion and mind numbing noise, were seen as rather unpleasant places one traveled to in order to trade their rural produce or crafts for things that couldn’t be obtained elsewhere, meet and hopefully mate with someone from a different town or tribe, and party hearty!  With any luck, one would wake up suffering no worse than a hangover, recover their wagon and newly scored goods, and then get the hell out of Dodge as quickly as their feet, horse, or jalopy would carry them.

Imagine now, if you will, mainstream society as an old-school urban center, with the herbalist as the ecocentric outlier, a feed-stream periodically entering the mainstream in order to exert a positive effect, teach or be taught, exchange products or services for what’s needed or enjoyed, dance with the most attractive elements until late at night… but always returning to the alternative of our true community, to the source and heart of herbal wisdom, identity and mission.

If we are to give our lives to this work, we perhaps need to become more comfortable with, and find more satisfaction in being different… and to be more fulfilled and satisfied, serving not the masses so much or so deeply as the exceptions – those exceptional folks courageously looking beyond current convention for the most natural, healthful alternatives.

I was once asked if I had ever treated “mono.”  Even if I were a clinical herbalist, I likely still would have had to say “Yes… monotony, monopolies, monotheism, monoculture, and monosyllabic cliches.”  And a good treatment for that is a protocol of divergence, diversity, multiculturalism, and intelligent investigation and communication.


Go Against The Flow – by Jesse Wolf Hardin – Share Freely – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com


Let us return our watercourse analogy again, in closing.

While the mainstream features the greatest volume, it is also in some ways the narrowest and straightest channel, herding, compacting, densifying and considerably accelerating everyone caught up in its flow.  As anyone who has ever been caught up the central current of a fast river knows, it can be exceedingly hard to paddle out of its hold and into a preferred path.  Even within the river itself, there are deep currents that do not run nearly so fast, and to either side can often be found shallower waters slowed by their more intimate contact with shoreline terrain, affording one time to consider both where one is? heading and what we are passing by.  There are even eddies, areas where the water catches and swirls, sometimes sending floating objects temporarily back in the direction of the headwaters, the source.  Each of these is an available alternative to mainstream:  The depths, where meaning is paramount but few reside.  The gladly uneven, explorative, meandering edges.  And the pivotal moments of eddy spin, when we’re helped to find our way back in the direction of the dream and connection, to where our herbal journey began.

Indeed, what we have been calling “alternative” is never a single option, but a multiplicity of directions, possibilities, methods, means, and personal styles.



Rather than seeking a single unified body of herbalism, let us celebrate the many divergent streams.  And rather than obsessing about herbalism’s acceptance into the mainstream, let us celebrate our divergence.  Let us be happy with the healing effects we are able to have on any members of the dominant culture… and thrilled with those atypical and alternative thinking folks who will continue to comprise our main clients and favorite suppliers, our students and teachers, our allies and tribe.


Excerpted from Wolf Hardin’s upcoming book “Plant Healers and Wisdom Keepers”, and it will also appear an  in the Summer 2013 Issue of “the Magazine Different”:


And help yourself to the Free 154 Page Long Plant Healer Sample Download:

Plant Healer Sample Issue


(Feel free to re-post or quote this – with a link please)

Jan 302013

A Free Sample Issue of Plant Healer Magazine
PDF Download Gift
140 Pages, 20 Complete Articles, Over 250 Illustrations

“Plant Healer is amazing… the most beautiful magazine I’ve ever seen, bar none!” -Phyllis Light

Plant Healer Magazine Free Sample – www.PlantHealerMagazine.com


We’re giving away a free 140 pages long Plant Healer Magazine Sample – the size of a small book!  Those of you who subscribe, will have already read the 20 articles that appear in their entirety here, but now the rest of you can get also get a feel for the “Magazine Different”… while taking advantage of this gift of valuable information for anyone interested in herbalism, wildcrafting or foraging articles:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: For The Love of Plant Lovers
Choosing An Herbal School
Herbal School Directory
Paul Bergner: Critical Thinking For The Herbalist
Phyllis Light: Tree of Life
Rebecca Altman: In Defense of The Quick-Fix
Stories of The Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous
Herbalism On The Frontier: J. I. Lighthall
The Art of Plant Healer: Ernst Haeckel
Herbalpreneurship & Making a Business Plan
Kristin Brown: Make Your Own Herbal First-Aid Kit
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Finding Your Path in Herbalism
Matthew Wood: The Lymph/Immune System
Juliet Blankespoor: Growing Medicinal Herbs in Containers
Sam Thayer: Wild Rice
Loba: Harvesting & Drying Wild Plants
Susun Weed: Edible Seeds
Robin Rose Bennett: Everything is Medicine
Kiva Rose: Exploring Traditional Models of the Healer’s Practice

Please help yourself to this PDF download, and share it with others.  Unlike the Plant Healer subscriber download codes, this link in unmonitored and free for all.

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“This 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 thought.. for the practicing herbalist from entry level to advanced, inclusively.” -Paul Bergner

Plant Healer Described

If you didn’t already know, Plant Healer is the largest, most comprehensive publication ever created for the herbalist and forager communities, a quarterly PDF over 250 pages per issue long, a yearly total of over 1,000 full color pages covering the practice, history, culture and art of folk herbalism as well as wild foods foraging.  Plant Healer combines cutting edge science with heartful intuitive practice, practical skills that enable and personal stories that inspire. Enjoy a diverse range of articles on everything from botany and cultivation to wildcrafting and traditional foods recipes, from diagnostics and treatments to coverage of regulations and the history of herbalism, from herbs for expecting mothers and tools for starting an herbal business, to plant art and herbalist fiction.  Contributors include:

Paul Bergner, Matthew Wood, Kiva Rose, Phyllis Light, Jim McDonald, 7Song, Sam Thayer, Loba,
David Hoffman, Susun Weed, Christa Sinadinos, Juliet Blankespoor, Sam Coffman, Robin Rose Bennett, Sean Donahue, Rebecca Altman, Rosemary Gladstar, Christophe Bernard, Henriette Kress, Kristine Brown, Virginia Adi, Wendy Petty, Mélanie Pulla, Traci Picard, Darcey Blue French, Renee Davis, Susan Leopold, Sabrina Lutes, Catherine Skipper, Sarah Baldwin, Sophia Rose, Katheryn Langelier, Charles “Doc” Garcia, Kiva and Wolf… and many, many more.

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(Please be so kind as to RePost and Share this announcement… thank you!)

Jan 292013

7Song and I at the very first Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, photo by the very lovely Linda Saboe

In my clinical practice I have seen everything from widespread issues such as anxiety, insomnia, and menstrual regularities to deep seated chronic conditions like lupus, cancer, and viral hepatitis to more acute and first aid type situations that include punctures, head wounds, and blunt trauma. I’m interested in all the ways in which the body can work and heal, but I admit an overriding fascination with first aid.

One thing I like about first aid is that it calls on me to adapt quickly to the situation, and get good, clear results. Certainly I like those kinds of results in any case, but in first aid it’s incredibly important that treatment be effective and quick. Hesitation or lack of skill can mean increased harm to someone, especially if they’re looking to you for care in an emergency situation. I enjoy this challenge, and also find I my learning increases very rapidly in cases where I am able to see results (or lack thereof) right there and then. Longer term healing results in first aid situations are also very helpful, but when someone is bleeding, running the risk of a serious infection, or has lost their mobility through an acute joint injury, we also need to see more immediate results.

First aid is also probably where I’ve seen many herbalists struggle. We’re rarely trained to act in the quick, efficient, and precise manner necessary not only for treatment, but perhaps more importantly, for triage and figuring out whether you should be tending the person yourself, getting them immediately into conventional medical care, or something in between. Knowing what herb (or not) to use is only one small piece of the equation, with keeping a cool head, good assessment skills, and other basic emergency medical training often being even more important.

Almost every year at the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, Wolf and I have worked hard to make sure there’s at least one first aid or medic type class, because we believe these skills are crucial to those providing care to their family and communities. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to travel to attend a conference, medic training, or similar event. I also encourage folks to attend CPR classes, and even EMT training. Ideally, we then get to study with another herbalist who has hands-on experience in first aid and is willing to let us observe, hopefully while explaining the craft to us. It’s unfortunate then, that right now, these kind of opportunities can be difficult for many of us to come by.

With all that said then, you’ll understand why I was so incredibly excited when I first heard that John Gallagher of Learningherbs.com was collaborating with my dear friend and herbal mentor, 7Song, to create an online multimedia course focused specifically on first aid! 7Song has had extensive experience in first aid, both in the U.S., and internationally, including situations of mass water contamination, food poisoning, severe wounds and infections, and much more. Using a well integrated blend of conventional medical skills and herbal knowledge, he has a huge amount to offer anyone interested in furthering their understanding of acute care and first aid. He’s even spent decades doing medic work at the Rainbow Gatherings, gatherings of around ten thousand people in remote areas with scant medical care. There, he’s treated countless folks for free, his work often entirely funded by his own wallet and donations. He even brings students from his Northeast School of Botanical Medicine to train further generations in these important skills. Lucky students!

To top it off, John is being his usual generous self, and giving away significant amounts of material, starting right now, with a free video of 7Song at Rainbow! 7Song has never allowed his work there to be filmed before, so this is a great treat to those of us who haven’t been able to attend and work with 7Song. No matter what your experience level, I suggest you check this out. Even if you’ve been practicing herbalism for decades, you will likely learn a great deal from 7Song!

Even better, there will be more videos from 7Song teaching practical first aid later this week.

Click on this link or the picture below to check out the video with 7Song



Jan 232013

Sam Coffman & The Herbal Resurgence
–Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous – Near The Grand Canyon – Sept 19th-22nd–

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Sam Coffman leading a Plant Walk

We’re really stretching the bounds of herbalism and herbal conferences at the 2013 Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, hosting over 50 of the most adventurous class topics again this September.  From Anne Merrill’s “Ecology of The Body” to “Animist Herbalism” by Sarah Lawless, teachers will be taking the craft ever deeper into the heart of what the folk tradition is all about.


Now, thanks to a last minute rescheduling, we’re pleased to announce the addition of a teacher who can provide a radically strong emphasis on herbal empowerment and preparedness:

Sam Coffman!

Sam is the founder and instructor of the Human Path courses near San Antonio, Texas, a curricula that it rare or even unique in its combining of herbal instruction, physical fitness, self defense, nature awareness and path finding, foraging, mental acuity and much more.  He is a rare fellow, an ex-Special Forces medic who is committed to our humanity’s role in and responsibility to the living planet whole, and someone who combines strong opinions with deep kindness, irreverent humor and outright fun.  Rather than suggesting we hide our heads in the sand and just hope for the best, he suggests we instead equip and train to be “the best possible human in the worst possible circumstances.”  Check out his classes, blogs and more at: www.TheHumanPath.com

Sam the Plant Healer Writer

Sam will be writing regularly for Plant Healer Magazine, not only on issues of importance but also practical skills such as “ditch herbalism,” herbal first aid, foraging and more.  Read his awesome first contribution on the topic of Licensing in the upcoming Spring issue, available for download on March 4th.  Subscribe at: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Sam Interviewed in our new book 21st Century Herbalists

My just completed interview with Sam is one of the most extensive, inspiring and challenging of the 21 conversations appearing in the new Plant Healer book: 21st Century Herbalists.  This 386 page, heavily illustrated book will be sold through the Plant Healer website to NonSubscribers as well as Subscribers, and will hopefully be ready for sale March 1st.  Look for it.

Sam’s Classes at Herbal Resurgence 2013

Last but not least, Sam will be teaching a minimum of 2 cutting edge classes at Herbal Resurgence this Fall.  These include one on post-disaster herbal treatments from a man who truly knows his “stuff”… and the first class on the terrible GMP regulations that have been driving small herbal medicine makers out of business.  Other conferences have been featuring workshops on “how to comply,” making Kiva and I all the gladder to have Sam reminding us there are alternatives to ignorance, obedience, surrender or resignation!

1. Remote & Post-Disaster Herbal Medicine: From Regional Disasters to The Zombie Apocalypse
with Sam Coffman

Natural disasters, social breakdowns and political upheaval are all a natural part of human history, but can be seen to be increasing in frequency and severity.  In addition to this, many of the same issues that can be found in a post-disaster setting can also be encountered in a remote setting where resources are limited, and the skills to survive and flourish in these scenarios can make us better and more enlivened practitioners in our everyday lives.

Sam will focus on how herbalists and herbal medics actually can have an advantage over allopathic care in a post-disaster or remote setting as the primary health care responders, addressing:

•What are a few of the most important health-care concerns in this kind of environment that don’t require herbs, medicine or supplies?
•What are the primary considerations in setting up a remote clinic where there are little to no resources?
•How do you physically structure a clinic to maximize efficiency and security concerns while giving patients the best care possible when time is limited?
•What is the importance of triage in an herbal clinic?
•What herbal preparation methods work best for a remote or post-disaster setting?
•If I could only choose 10 herbs, what would they be for a post-disaster or remote setting?
•What types of herbal pharmacy methodologies are most efficient in a remote or post-disaster clinic?
…and much more.

2. GMPs: The Dietary Supplements Good Manufacturing Practices Law and Its Impact on Herbalists
with Sam Coffman

During the summer of 2007 the FDA established a regulation entitled the “Current Good Manufacturing Practice” (CGMP) In Manufacturing, Packaging, Labeling, Or Holding Operations For Dietary Supplements. The Dietary Supplement (DS) CGMP rule requires persons who manufacture, package, label, or hold a dietary supplement to establish and follow current good manufacturing practice to ensure the quality of the dietary supplement and to ensure that the dietary supplement is packaged and labeled as specified in the master manufacturing record.  Navigating your way through this set of regulations as an herbalist is extremely time-consuming and tedious. Sam will break down the DS GMP specifically as it applies to the independent or small-business (less than 20 full-time employees), and clarify as succinctly as possible what the DS GMP means and what options exist to work with or around this set of regulations.  We will cover:
•The history of the current GMP and how (and why) it got to what it is today.
•The DS GMP explained as simply as possible in 10 minutes or less – as it applies to medicinal herb products.
•Is the World Health Organization’s GMP different than the US GMP?
•Who is subject to DS GMP regulation by the FDA?
•What’s the worst-case scenario, legally, and how would it play itself out step-by-step?
•What actually drives the FDA’s need for compliance on DS GMP and how can that be to your advantage?
•How do your 9th amendment rights stand up vs. DS GMP?
•When to use and when not to use an attorney
•For Intrastate commerce only: The legality of Federal mandates to regulate a product that does not cross state borders.
•What is prima facie evidence and why do you need to understand very clearly how this applies to you as a clinical herbalist – whether in relation to GMP or anything else related to your practice?
•What is the easiest and least expensive roadmap through the DS GMP mess for the small business herbalist who complies 100% to these regulations?
•What are all of the options based on who you are and how you are providing your herbal products to the public?

Sam is a full-time teacher and herbalist in Central Texas.  While protecting himself legally as a practicing, clinical herbalist (and individual supplier of herbal formulas & preparations), he stepped “through the looking glass” in regards to the American legal system and clearly understanding what our actual constitutional rights are as United States citizens.  He has worked with attorneys on these subjects, but more importantly with private citizens who have spent years researching constitutional law and legal precedents.

If you are looking for a through explanation of the regulations and your rights, options and possible responses, than this is the class for you.  And many of the lessons that apply to the GMP situation will apply to any other regulating or restricting of herbs or herbalists that we have to face in the future.

To Purchase Early Discount Tickets, Go To the Registration Page at:

Sam and The Resurgence Tribe

Kitchen herbalists, clinicians, teachers, anarchists and patriots, homesteaders and urban visionaries, herb growing mothers and children who love plants… and now Sam Coffman, another welcome addition to the diverse fabric of this folk herbalism tribe, contributing in his own signature way to this alliance of purpose we call the Herbal Resurgence.  Medicine of The People, and so much more.

Thank you Sam.  And big thanks to you ALL, for being a part of this.

(please repost and share – thank you!)

Jan 212013

Some may feel trapped indoors during the cold moons, but I enjoy both the warm respite by the wood stove and the chilly adventures out into the Junipers and Pines to gather lichen, evergreens, and take pictures of the ice glistening against the moss, lichen, shelf fungi, and a thousand different textures of bark and needle. Cold as it has been in these mountains for the last several weeks, sometimes dipping down to -20 F, I’ve still been wildcrafting when the fancy takes me. Corkbark Fir from the higher mountains packed solid with snow, Desert Cypress from the middle elevations, and sticky chunks of gold and amber tinted Pine resin blown from trees by recent heavy winds.

The Corkbark Fir will be macerated in a good whiskey, before being blended with strong Mexican coffee, homemade Vanilla extract, goat milk caramel, cacao, and heavy cream for something that could be called Irish Cream, but probably shouldn’t considering its being made here on the border between the United States and Mexico by a mixed blood medicine woman of Appalachian origins. Whatever it is, it’s damn good, a belly warming liqueur with a creamy taste on the tongue and the heady aromatics of Abies arizonica permeating each and every drop.

The resin of our native Piñon Pine, Pinus edulis, on the trunk of the tree.

The Desert Cypress will be cooked down with tree and bee resin, flower infused honey, beeswax, and aromatic leaves to become part of a new batch of Juniper and Cypress incense. Whatever is left from that will be infused in oil for warming and aromatic salves and creams. If you’re reading this and curious about making incense from your own local aromatic plants, you’ll want to read my Plant Devotions in Smoke post from a while back for a basic outline of how to create bioregional incense.

I’ve been grateful to have a good store of Devil’s Club and Ocotillo on hand this year, as it’s been my personal immune blend and I’ve found its warming, lymphatic tendencies to be perfect for this strange season of rapidly fluctuating temperatures accompanied by some of the worst strains of cold and flu that have been seen in a good long while. A fierce protective formula of two well thorned plants. The Ocotillo was gathered when I visited the nearby Sonoran Desert a few months back, and the Devil’s Club was a gift from a generous friend in Alaska.

Now, just because I use these two plants doesn’t mean they’re exactly right for you. What herbs will be the most useful in warding off seasonal bugs for you will instead depend on where you live, what grows there, your constitution and health, along with a number of other factors. If you’ve been wondering how to best prevent or treat seasonal cold and flu this Winter, you might want to take a look at my previous post called the Elder Mother’s Pantry, which covers a wide ranging seasonal materia medica with an emphasis on energetics so that you can choose what might best work for you or your family.

Cream of Evergreen Liqueur

Here follows a basic account of how I make my liqueur, but you can easily change it up to use a blend of evergreens or whatever Abies species is local to you, or if you don’t like Whiskey or Scotch you can choose a different alcohol. Most any good tasting liquor can work here, just make sure it’s at least 40% alcohol. Whatever alcohol you choose, pick something fairly high quality. If you choose basement whiskey here you’re going to taste it in the finished product, and if you choose a fine sipping whiskey, you’re going to appreciate it later as it blends and mingles with the spices and evergreens.

As I’ve noted below, remember to chill your whiskey before combining it with the cream or curdling may happen, which definitely lessens the loveliness of the finished product.


  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk (make it yourself or find a good brand without corn syrup)
  • 2-4 Tbs Cacao (I like full fat whole roasted Cacao ground down, but a high quality cocoa powder can also work)
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract, preferably homemade
  • 1/3 Cup very strong coffee or 1 shot espresso
  • 1 tsp Canela/Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Cups Corkbark Fir (Abies arizonica, but you can use other Abies species) tincture or elixir made with leaves, and some small twigs. Be sure the tincture is chilled or the milk/cream can curdle!


  1. Combine condensed milk, cacao, vanilla, coffee, and spices in saucepan over low to medium heat.
  2. Stir frequently and allow to just barely simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, ideally chill in fridge or cool pantry for about an hour.
  4. In a quart mason jar, combine chilled whiskey/tincture, heavy cream, and condensed milk mixture.
  5. Shake well for up to 10 seconds.
  6. Taste, and adjust flavor to your liking by adding more cream or whiskey, and any further spices you desire.
  7. Store in fridge or cool pantry.
  8. Should last a couple months in a fridge, probably less than that in a pantry but I have yet to find out because we use it up so fast.

A Few Ideas for Serving and Consuming

  • Sipping slowly while eating Roasted Acorn & Fir Shortbread
  • Spiking a strong New Orlean style cup of coffee
  • Flavoring homemade ice cream
  • Adding to cheesecake filling for an extra kick
  • Or, sip with Pine Nut Biscotti, there’s even a recipe for it right here from my student and excellent cook of fairy treats, Rebecca Altman, http://www.cauldronsandcrockpots.com/2013/01/pinyon-pine-nut-biscotti/

Another pleasure of Winter for me is a revisiting of my favorite music, most of which is rife with dissonant banjos and wailing or whispered vocals. I confess a great love of gothic americana and traditional storytelling, from the English ballads brought over to Appalachia to Mexico’s weeping corridos. Here in southwestern New Mexico there’s a peculiar overlap and integration between Country & Western, Norteño, Tejano, Ranchera, Hiphop, and mountain music. As a root woman enamored of all the cultures that have formed me, I find myself listening to a combination of all of the above, always leaning toward the rawer, more authentic music. Whether from the streets of East L.A., the mountains of North Carolina, or the borderlands between the US and Mexico, the tunes I favor all have the feel and flavor of the land and culture they sprang from, as deeply rooted as the medicines I gather.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a favorite song of mine that fuses Appalachian music and Hiphop into one incredibly infectious song with a nod back to the deep South I was born from, and as the song says, never forgetting where I come from…

Dec 092012

Whether To Be a Professional or Not

Choosing Our Path – Part II


Professionalism At Its Best, A Defense of Amateurism, Adepts, & Standards We Can Share In Common

by Jesse Wolf Hardin 

Reclaiming Amateurism 

am•a•teur: noun: 1. a person who engages in a pursuit (esp. a sport) on an unpaid basis; 2. a person considered contemptibly inept at a particular activity. adjective: inept or unskillful.

Hey dictionary, thanks for nothin’!  I personally happen to like thinking of myself as an overqualified amateur, from whom nothing can be expected but anything is possible… though I concede the word is considered nothing but a put down by most people these days.  “Amateurish” is used to mean “unskilled”, though I have never heard the efforts of amateur Olympic athletes – many of who can outperform their professional counterparts – derided as amateurish.  Even the dictionary definitions suck, since 1. many nonprofessionals are well paid for their efforts, even in the field of herbalism, and 2. there are many skillful amateurs or nonprofessionals, and plenty of examples of inept professionals in every field I know of.

While I often choose the ambiguous sounding term “non-professional” to avoid misunderstanding or lengthy explanation, I am also happy here to reclaim the label of Amateur, and confidently run alongside or ahead of the pros in my own satisfyingly nonconforming style.

Amateurs arise and be counted!  It’s high time to put an end to anti-amateur legislation and amateur bashing,  time for Amateur Pride hoodies.  An Amateur/Professional Alliance.  A major coming out!


a•dept: noun: 1. a person who is highly proficient and accomplished at something.  (period)

While I am fine with the word “amateur,” by my redefinition it still covers the entire range of nonprofessionals from the very least competent to the most able.  A better term for nonprofessionals who are focused and devoted, wise, experienced and consistently excel at what they do, is “Adept.”

As with the adjective, the noun originates from the 17th century Latin “adeptus”: to achieve.  Adepts are achievers, and that achievement is attributable to their knowledge and abilities as much as to their natures and drive.

Just as there are adepts in spiritual traditions who have given decades to the study and practice, so are there martial arts adepts who are the best in their field, and herbalist adepts who have with or without formal training become not only capable, but exceptional when it comes to the uses of plant medicine.  Calling someone a “Master” herbalist or master anything else seems absurd, since nobody ever completely masters (controls, knows everything about) any darn thing!  Calling someone (or ourselves) an adept, however, says only that they are profoundly wise and extraordinarily proficient and effective, while allowing that there is always room for further learning and improving.

There can be, of course, no set criteria for when someone is to be considered an adept.  If anything, it is determined by their continuous performance, accomplishment and results, and is spread beyond immediate witnesses and beneficiaries via story and reputation.  An adept may very well be a professional, but not all adepts are professionals by any stretch.

Potential Advantages of Being a Non-Professional, Amateur, Adept

Nonprofessionals are often better as shape-shifters that can transform rather than conform, self-approve rather than wait and apply for approval, and choose to practice herbal medicine regardless of any regulations or laws that may ever be passed against it.  Advantages include:

•Knowledge is attained from wider sources (an infinite reading assignment list, openness to the approaches of other traditions and cultures) and through alternative and often more intimate means (personal experience, family tradition, apprenticeship with a healer).

•Nonprofessionals make evaluations based on someone’s inherent nature, wisdom and day to day acts, rather than on their position or accreditation.

•One can act on a need, desire or calling immediately (open up an herbal practice, buying land and growing herbs, spending weekends wildcrafting, resist unjust regulations) and without waiting first for any degree, certificate, invite from an agency, or other formal process that would slow you down or derail you.

•The nonprofessional acts out of her or his own personal code of ethics, rather than needing to agree completely with and act according to an organization’s or agency’s ethical guidelines.

•Freedom (given, imagined, or seized and insisted on).

•Personal empowerment.  No permission is sought, and none required, to do what feels best.

•Succeeding or failing at one’s aims is the only qualifying exam.

•Status is determined by performance (evidenced skill, ethics, results) rather than conferred by title.

•There are infinite natural hierarchical levels for one to fit into, organic, overlapping, shifting and transforming, based on wisdom displayed, skills utilized, and the perceptions and needs of those around us.

•Nonprofessionalism comes with fewer pressures to conform, along with more opportunities to distinguish oneself.

•Informality, beloved informality, making it easier to relate to, communicate with and influence the other nonprofessionals of the world, everyday folks who have grown to distrust the pronouncements of so called “experts”, the intentions of corporate managers and regulations of agencies and authorities.  A nonprofessional, community/folk herbalist speaks the language of the people being served, and is as good at being heard by plain folk as the pros are at getting the ears of business, school and government administrators.

•If regulation or prohibition of herbalism increases, being a professional may no longer provide any immunity, and a nonprofessional, nonclinical model may be the only choice left for continued practice.

Potential Drawbacks to Being a Non-Professional, Amateur, Adept

There is usually only one set of tests that someone has to pass before being ever after considered a professional, but the nonprofessional and outlier is daily tested.

•Less credibility with professionals and bureaucrats means less direct influence on groups, business and agencies.

Unlike being thought of as a professional, being called an adept is no advantage when it comes to access to the institutions and powers-that-be, and in fact causes a lot of red lights to go off in the minds of bureaucrats and administrators.


•Because nonprofessionals have less credibility and access, they have to work even harder to change the system from the outside.

•Without management oversight and professional pressures, it can be dangerously easy to start putting less effort into projects, or to get unfocused, distracted or diffuse.

•The pay for nonprofessional work can be pretty shitty.

•Hypocrisy & The Religion of NonProfessionalism: Noncomformist, anarchic, alternative and low income folks can be hypocritical in unfairly writing-off the professionals in their field.  And it is more of a challenge or more heroic to be nonprofessional or poorly paid, thank it is to deal with university b.s., put on a dress skirt or suit and try to make a difference in the often hectic and unpleasant environs of a county clinic, a public school, a too brightly lit research lab or State Senate building.  Our allies are all those who share our earth-hearted values and healing intent, no matter what the title, label, costume, or means for making a difference.

Non-Professional Herbalism At Its Best

There are ways to make up for any inherent drawbacks in nonprofessional herbalism.  Inability to access institutions can result in you finding creative new ways of affecting your community and culture.  While a high paying professional career can be difficult and painful to move on from, failure to be hired by a company can prod you to start your own herb related or other business that you have always wanted to.  Not worrying about professional status, can make changing school majors or job focus easier, and not being bound to the accepted norms of professional dress and demeanor means you can more openly voice your real opinions, and more wildly, loudly and colorfully express your true self.

You can set your standards and goals for studying and practicing as high as the most rigorous professional group, or even higher if that is your need or desire… but the inspiration, direction and drive is daily up to you.

Being an effective nonprofessional or adept may require that we:

•Seek continuous education throughout our lives, from unconventional sources, with the intention of being ever more effective at healing or whatever we believe matters most.

•Ensure that we are tested and improved through hands-on effort, experience and experiment.

•Give equal attention and value to both means and results.

•Use our reasoning minds as well as our hearts to evaluate and make choices.

•Study science and consider evolving research, and weigh it against our intuition and experience… even if we have found reason to distrust corporate controlled science or detest its bias against natural healing.

•Stop resenting the existence of money and feeling guilty about making any.

•Develop a personal code of honor/ethics, and live by it.

•If we don’t accept direction and discipline from “superiors,” then it is all the more important we be self-directed, and disciplined in the pursuit of our aims.

•Working without imposed form or protocol, means we must ourselves create form for purpose, and avoid the dreadful, nebulous, amorphous “it’s all good” mush.

•Take great care as to what we commit to, and then keep our commitments (“in a professional manner”!)

•Categorize priorities and schedule hours.

•Insist on either not-so-highly paid work that feeds our souls and serves our purpose, or else better paid work that bankrolls our real work, our off hours medicine making or book writing.

•Function in a professional environment sometimes, whether we like it or not.


Herbal Professionalism At Its Best

Many of the potential negatives associated with professionalism can be eliminated, lessened, remediated or compensated for if professionals and their organizations are diligent and make the effort.

Mountain Rose Herbs is an example of a company that functions in a highly professional manner, with qualified and often accredited staff.  They are a commercial seller of bulk herbs and more, and yet the plants they work with do not feel commercialized so much as valued… and shared.  Their need to make profits does not prevent them from making conservation and environmental issues, cultural sensitivity, fair trade policies and education their priority when decision making.

I’ll include a list here of guidelines and things to watch for the professional herbalist, with none more important than putting core values at the heart and forefront of all one does.  As Bevin Clare so well explains:

“In herbalism, firmly evaluating and establishing your embodied values is the first step to becoming a professional. What is a core value for you which cannot shift, and what is part of your image which can adapt and change?  These values for herbalists are typically larger than the self, they involve the health of the planet, the plants, the wider herb community, access to plants, etc as well as many other more personal and individually oriented values.  You may find that parts of who you are can adapt to help those around you to feel more comfortable without compromising your core values.  Without these strong and acknowledged values you may find yourself compromising for the sake of professionalism, which is a slippery slope.”

Always, we need to not only look with our minds but our hearts, and not only at the personal, immediate and local, but at the bigger picture, at ramification and reach, potential consequences and future possibilities.

“These values can help you determine your stance and view on a number of challenges which appear as we navigate the professional world,” Bevin continues.  “They can help you make decisions for the whole, asking questions about how things have an effect beyond your own professional status and how they help your immediate community, larger herb community, the planet and plants as a whole.  Walking the world as a professional with a global and big picture view can cultivate deeper healing in many ways.”

Being a professional and an herbalist at the same time would seem to require that you:

•Understand why you got into herbalism or healing in the first place, and hold on to that original inspiration, motivation, and joy.

•Be willing to dress in a suit and tie or wear your hair up if that’s what makes it possible to get increased access to those systems doing the most to help or hurt this world, or otherwise contributes to your being more effective in your work… without, of course, pretending you are something you’re not, repressing your true self or setting aside your values.  As Bevin Clare puts it, “Simple changes in my appearance opened doors to me and allowed that professional connection with a wider audience, and more plant medicine in more lives.”

•Work to change the businesses, associations and agencies that we work with, so they better serve your empowerment and aims, rather than submitting to overt or subtle pressures from employers, government and groups to compromise or conform.

•Recognize and emphasize the non-monetary value of your services and products, the deeper non-economic reasons for what you do, even as you work to make a living from your products or services.  Take regular note of the ways you give to the world, income producing or not.

•Remember that your degrees, accreditation, salaries and awards do not make you better than any other herbalist, only in some ways better equipped… and take care not give the impression that non-professionals are inferior or inconsequential.

•Make not just profit (or even effectiveness!) your only criteria in decision making, but also authenticity, honesty, deeper significance, justice, education, environmental and social impacts, and beauty.

•Fully exploit your position and advantages for the good of your larger aims of education, helping and healing.  If you have a degree, put it to use.  If you work for the government, you may be one of the few chances it has of implementing healthful and liberating policies.  If you are professor, continuously develop the curricula beyond the known templates, challenge yourself and the administration as well as your students.  Even if you are being paid lots by a supplier of supplements, make ethics and honesty of claims a priority along with product quality.  If you discover dishonesty in advertisement or ethical violations, take it up with your employer and go public with the info if need be.  If your position involves directing and management, take risks to do the right things, seek information and input and then bravely initiate changes, launch programs or products, and otherwise further what is your most essential and meaningful mission.

•Be willing to earn less, or even be fired from your job, if it threatens to compromise your ethics or lessens instead of increases your ability and likelihood of fulfilling your most valued goals.

Standards for Both Professionals & Non

Whether we seek to be professional or not, there are many characteristics and values that all can strive to embody and proliferate.  Only a few examples follow:

•Form, Function & Result

While professions and their members can become rigid and un-adaptive,  nonprofessionals can be transitional and amorphous to a fault.  Function and results are sometimes downplayed as less important than art and expression by the non, while pros may error in stressing functionality but not meaning or beauty.  And while results should never be the only criteria or measure, they certainly do matter.

•Reason & Feeling

Crucial is a balancing of left and right brain, intellect and heart, reason and feeling.  Lean too far in either direction and we err, failing ourselves and those we might wish to help.


Essential for all, is basic respect.  Respect for each other, free of the smug superiority and righteous disdain that professionals and non can sometimes display for one another.  Respect for everyone’s personal connection to plants and calling to help heal, for students as well as teachers, volunteers as well as paid workers, for the enthused young as well as the learned elder.  Respect for new ideas and approaches as well as for established schools of thoughts and traditions of herbalism.


Since childhood, I have abhorred how phony and fatuous politeness can be, shallow conversations characterized by a rote and impersonal civility rather than the expression or real feelings and honest opinions.  Even the most discomforting of remarks can seem preferable to the practiced superficiality and disingenuousness of the polite corporate spokesman engaged in public relations whitewashing, or the polite sounding politicians working to regulate or even eliminate the practice of herbalism by the people of this country.

On the other hand, there’s much to be said for the art of courteous discourse.  Exchanges in person or in emails can address issues without projecting our personal issues, and minus unhelpful drama.

•Punctuality & Follow Through

There are few qualities of professionalism more useful than following through on commitments in a timely and punctual way, qualities that are sadly all too rare amongst us proud non-professionals.

•Accountability & Responsibility

Professionals are accountable to their peers, organizations and employers, but accountability is no less important for all of us needing an honest public measure of our accomplishments and mistakes, effects and results.  When not mandated by rule or protocol, it becomes necessary that we volunteer our work for inspection, and take responsibility for both what we do and fail to do.  Professionals or not, we need to learn to accept, assume and deepen responsibility for our choices, actions, and failures to act… defined in the Anima tradition as the practiced “ability to respond.”


People sometimes use professionalism as a synonym for proficiency, though all can and likely should strive to be as proficient as possible at whatever we do, for the sake of excellency and effect regardless of the level or lack of expectations.


In The End

Knowing whether or not we want to go the professional route can make a big difference in the realization of our most meaningful purpose and ideal role.  And yet, devoted professionals and nonconforming non-professionals alike may be attributing too much import and baggage to what is but a derivative term.

If we look up the roots of the word “profession,” we see that it derives from the Latin “profiteri,” meaning only to “declare publicly,” from the notion of being “an occupation that one professes to be skilled at.”  (Indeed, the expression “the oldest profession” didn’t arise because historic prostitutes formed professional associations that qualified and certified its members, but rather, because the not always unhappy practitioners professed to be sex workers… often loudly, in public spaces, and sometimes in the form of a most lovely song.)

If we profess to be a plant healer, then, we are in the original sense already a professional herbalist… if always and forever a student with more left to learn.

And no matter how many degrees or certificates we might earn, no matter how many accomplishments or awards or how professional our actions or demeanor, most of us will always sense ourselves as something more than simply professionals.  Plants, the natural world and what they teach and give, are seldom experienced as just a profession by any of us.  They are our interest and infatuation, our passion and obsession, our calling and service, our pleasure and delight.

I’d go so far as to say most professional herbalists would be more chill about being referred to as amateurs, if they’d take a look at the roots of this word as well: Amateur, from the late 18th Century Italian amatore, from the Latin amator, from amare… yes, “to love”, it means the most extreme expression of our caring!  Being paid or not isn’t really what distinguishes amateurs or adepts, it’s that they love what they do so much they’d do it regardless of income or lack of income, and whether or not they get permission, approval or acclaim.

Hell, it’s actually true of most of the herbalists I have ever known, and all that are precious to me, from papered botanists, research scientists and herbalist guild leaders to undocumented curanderos, kitchen medicine makers, and anarchic plant providers working the streets: What they do – what we do – is rightly done out of love.


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Dec 042012


Howie Brounstein and Rebecca Altman at the 2012 Herbal Resurgence

Registration Opens

Tickets are now open for the 2013 Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous (formerly the Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference), taking place in the lush forests of Northern Arizona, Sept. 19th-22nd.

51 unique cutting-edge Classes, taught by 29 of the most compelling teachers in the field of herbalism today.

Join with your favorite presenters, as they push beyond their normal conference fare.  A celebration of folk herbalism and the wilder herbalist tribe.

For a list of the classes, go to:


Limited Time Special – Expires Dec. 15th

Get the lowest price of the entire year on 2013 tickets, only $255 if purchased on or before December 15th.

To get this special price, go to the Registration page

New Video Short on YouTube

Videographer Carey Campbell filmed the 2012 event as well as interviews with many of our teachers.  We’ve been given all the footage to make use of in promotion or a future documentary.  Until then, he has put together a short video snapshot of our unusual gathering and posted it on YouTube for anyone to see.  Please share this link with anyone you think might be interested:

Herbal Resurgence Video

Dec 032012

As any of you who have been following this blog for any length of time know, my partner Wolf is an incredible artist, and has created countless illustrations to accompany my writing and work. He was the one who drew my first logo, back when I was still doing medicine making under the name Bear Medicine Herbals, with the sweet grizzly bear, Oshá in flower, and the blue moon in the background. The deeply felt and exquisitely expressed magic of his art perfectly matches what I want to convey through my writing and healing work.


It was to him, then, that I turned to when I realized that all of the recent transitions in my life and work required a new pictorial representation. I very much wanted it to represent both a return to my original medicine woman roots, as well as showing the work of the healing journey I’ve been on for the last decade. I needed it to show my ongoing intimacy with herbs and their medicine on many levels at once, from the nutrient rich healing of the Mallows to the mycorrhizal mystery of fungi. In my vision of the picture, I saw the stark cliffs of the canyon met by the soft curves of our San Francisco River, and somehow incorporated into the medicine woman herself, clearly showing the intersecting of land and human, and inseparability of the woman from the place she finds her medicine. And as my own nature and work is both lunar and fiery, I wanted to find a way to work those elements in as well. I couldn’t imagine a logo that didn’t somehow incorporate my charming but elusive ally the Ringtail Cat. Or one that shied away from showing the reality of a temporal, but intense life alongside the euphoria of fully engaging the beauty that surrounds us at every turn. Every time I tried to describe it to Wolf I felt that my words fell short of communicating everything that needed to find its way into this signpost of transition, and representation of the gifts I have to give this world.

Thankfully, Wolf doesn’t always need words to understand a vision, and he managed to weave together not only all of this, but so much that I couldn’t even find the syllables to ask for. I was stunned by the black and white version, and couldn’t look away while he was adding color to it. I was both elated that he’d understood what I was trying to say, and humbled by the obvious beauty and power it, that I sometimes have difficulty seeing in myself. From the Oregon Grape Root twined into her hair to the way he perfectly capture the posture in which I often sit while teaching or talking to the bones and feathers dangling from her hair and ears, the logo represents the me that I’ve been working to slowly uncover from layers of scars and armor. All of this combined and condensed into a powerful image that draws the eyes into its play of color of form. And throughout, the ancient archetype of the medicine woman sings in the focused gaze, purposeful hands, plant allies, and the moon that holds her sleeved cloak together.

This logo wasn’t meant just to decorate bottles of syrup and tincture, though it will surely do that beautifully. It was also meant to help me step across a border I’ve been hesitating at, stalling while I tried to gather enough breath, strength, and will to walk to the edge, and keep going. My book, The Medicine Woman’s Herbal, has long been waiting for me to complete the few final chapters required to publish it. It’s been nearly done for over a year, and I’ve been so caught up in my other work, as well as my personal transitions, that I’ve barely looked at it. And of course, insidious whispers of self doubt over whether it was truly good enough to be shown to the world eat away at my resolve and focus, and have sometimes left me wondering whether it was even worth finishing. I’ve poured myself into its writing, including many years of clinical experience, thousands of hours of research, personal insights, my vision of plant medicine, and most of all, my bone deep connection to the healing and transformative power of the plants. And in the end, it is because of that connection and power that the book will be finished, because speaking with the voice of the land and plants is more important than my personal insecurity and fear of vulnerability.

In addition to the book, I have a new course in progress, to be titled13 Moons to the Medicine Woman: A Journey in Herbcraft, Earth Ceremony, & Folkways, that brings my teaching back its earthen origins. Through this 13 month course, I hope to provide students not only with the knowledge necessary for informed self-care, but also a grounded way of facilitating connection to the land, wildness, plants, body, community, and self. Many folks have written asking about my original Medicine Woman mentorship, which is no longer open to new students, and with this course I hope to provide a portal into the same intense self exploration combined with the gifts and skills of the medicine woman in a form accessible to more students. I’ll be announcing more information about enrollment and the course in the not too distant future.

Writing this blogpost feels like a breath released after too many months of struggling to hold it all in, and it’s a relief to come back home to what I’ve always been, and have continually been growing into. I’ve written in more detail about the process and events that have led me back to the book and this new course, and resulted in this logo, in the Winter issue of Plant Healer, released this first Monday of December. You’ll also see the change in my column name there, now entitled The Medicine Woman: Herbcraft & Folkways For the New Mythic Times, as way of bringing all this work full circle.

With deep gratitude to all of you who have taken the time to read and respond to The Medicine Woman’s Roots over the last many years, and for all the love and generosity the herbal community has heaped on me. There is no other group of people I’d rather work for and with.

For the Plants,