Jul 242013
Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

In the more lightly burned areas of the forests just above us in the White Mountains of Arizona, the Fireweed is blooming in colorful profusion between the blackened spikes of destroyed trees. This beautiful member of the Onagraceae family is also one of my favorite herbs, being especially talented at reducing inflammation, astringing lax tissue, and encouraging healing, especially in the gut. This makes it a rather ideal addition to gut healing infusions, especially if a food intolerance or other trigger has been recently removed.

Rhiannon gathering Wild Raspberries, Rubus idaeus var. strigosus

Rhiannon gathering Wild Raspberries, Rubus idaeus var. strigosus

Rhiannon declared this bit of mountainside a piece of her personal heaven, and danced through the mist and ferns for a while before settling into harvesting just ripening Raspberries. She particularly enjoys the not quite red fruits, relishing their tartness, and often dissecting them into little jewel shaped fragments before eating them up.


A patch of Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

A patch of Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium

There’s something haunting about the the spectral mists that can shift and swirl through the mountains during monsoon season in the Southwest. I could stand in the midst of the young Aspens and stare into the distance for hours, listening to small animals move amongst the underbrush and ravens obscured in the mist call from just beyond the veil.



Fungi of many sorts were just beginning to fruit from dead wood, and I look forward to returning soon in search of my favorite edible and medicinal mushrooms.

Black River - Ligusticum porteri flowers9s

Oshá, Ligusticum porteri, was blooming at the edge of the Aspen stands, their fern like leaves drooping under the weight of a recent rain. Since I still have plenty of Oshá from previous harvests, and none of the patches I found were very large, I left them to continue to grow and spread on the mountainside.



Several times we spotted deer in the forest, usually nibbling  specifically on burned Ponderosa twigs… perhaps they enjoy the smoky flavor?!

Elderflowers blooming in a meadow

Elderflowers blooming in a meadow

At the edge of a large meadow, hedges of Elders grew, and a few had already (for this elevation) burst into bloom, their creamy umbels tossing back and forth in every small breeze. As much as I love working with herbs for healing purposes, I am often reminded on these forays of how the deeper medicine is actually in spending time with the plants, in restoring connection between myself and the land, and in simply being aware of the beauty, complexity, and power of place. No tincture can replace that, and no harvest can achieve it without attention, presence, and a fierce love for the wild ways of the plants.




Jul 012013

Attend The Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous Finale!

Register now to attend the final ever Herbal Resurgence conference, Sept. 19-22.  

This is your last chance to be a part of what has been a celebratory, seditious, life changing event.  There will never be another one like it!  

Why The Change?

Wolf and I are share the belief that we and our message need to continue evolving, adapting to changing circumstances, filling in what is needed in the herbal community rather than repeating what has been or is being done.  We’ve been successful in our aims for Resurgence, in sparking changes in existing gatherings and organizations, and seeding other groups and events.  We see the influence of the Resurgence in longstanding events and groups starting to use similar language and change their approach or content, as well as in the many letters of thanks we’ve received from people who were inspired by the Resurgence to start their own regional or focused events. 2014 is time for our events to morph yet again.

Let’s Make The Most of The 2013 Herbal Resurgence Finale

We’d love your help getting the word out about the finale to as many folks as possible  Please make an announcement to your mailing list or on your blog. You can write a simple personal recommendation, or just copy and use following paragraph below, thank you so much for your help!:

“Join me at the last ever TWHC/Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, Sept 19-22nd, 2013.  Organizers Kiva Rose and Jesse Wolf of Plant Healer Magazine have put on this event for 4 years now, and are ready to try something different in ’14.  If you wanted the chance to see the Grand Canyon and other Arizona attractions, you still have time to schedule your work and flights.  This will be your only chance to be a part of this seminal event, featuring 30 different teachers, teaching 50 unique classes.  Go to the Herbal Resurgence website for the complete list of teachers, classes and plant walks.  Register now, or sign up for the free newsletter featuring herbalist interviews, articles and news on this and next year’s Plant Healer events: www.HerbalResurgence.org

The graphic below (or write us for a copy) can be used to post on your website or in your blog or newsletter.


Herbal Resurgence Final-Web Graphic-72dpi

Owe Us, Offer Barter, Find a Way To Come!

We are definitely dependent on ticket sales this year to make a new 2014 event possible.  But that said, we don’t want anyone to miss this final Resurgence Rendezvous in September only because of a shortage in funds.  We will accept pledges of time payments over the next year, and we’ll even consider trades.  Write us for a list of what kinds of things we’d be interested in bartering for:  herbalresurgence(at)gmail(dot)com

We Thank You So Much!

Words cannot adequately express how very much we value and appreciate you HerbFolk, not just for what you do with and for us, but for all you do for the world.

Subscribe on the Resurgence website to the free events newsletter, with details about the 2013 Resurgence finale as well as the 2014 HerbFolk Gathering.  Together, we’re building a movement, and bridging with non-herbalists to better impact the world.  Medicine of The People!

Kiva and Wolf






Jun 232013


It may be hot indeed down in the middle mountains and deserts of the Southwest, but head up a few thousand feet and the subalpine forests are cool and lush with the verdancy of the Summer Solstice. This past week Wolf and I took a much needed break to explore the cienegas of the Little Colorado river in the White Mountains just above our canyon home.


The Little Colorado River

The Little Colorado River

Wading through the cool currents of the river, we stopped to examine almost every little flower and leaf underside. Surrounded by Alder thickets and rambling briar patches, the sunlight fell on us in dappled patches through the trees. The scent of Wild Roses made the air sweet and heady, giving an even more enchanted feeling to an already fairy tale like walk.



The river banks were fertile and green, wildflowers and broad leafed trees on one side, and ferns, conifers, and fungi on the other. I admit to a lifelong fascination with ferns, from unfurling fiddlehead to rusty spores, everything about them draws me in and has me trying to get closer to the ground so I can see them better.



There are so many more details, so many incredible colors and textures in the close up. I can’t help but be mesmerized by the beauty that’s all around me. The delicate lavender and deep crimson of this frond had me all agape with amazement.


Twinberry, Lonicera involucrata

Twinberry, Lonicera involucrata

All around us, insects hummed , traveling from flower to flower, sometimes looking a bit drunk on the sweet nectar of so many blossoms open all at once. I ran from bush to tree to herb, exclaiming under my breath and trying to key things out in my field guide while looking at six flowers at once!


Monkshood, Aconitum columbianum

Monkshood, Aconitum columbianum

I was particularly excited to see dozens upon dozens of this plant in flower. Monkshood is one of my absolute favorite wildflowers. Both medicinal and poisonous, it’s also incredibly gorgeous with it’s deep blue to purple flowers and finely waxed leaves. I don’t see it terribly often in many of the mountain meadows I visit, and I was ecstatic to find so many here. I think I took nearly a hundred photographs of just this one species!


Wild Onion, Allium geyeri, inflorescence

Wild Onion, Allium geyeri, inflorescence

In fat patches on the riverbank I found an incredible wealth of one of our local Wild Onion species, which, besides being absolutely delicious, is also drop dead gorgeous. Like the ferns, getting closeup allows us to see the detail and nuance of the inflorescence just getting ready to open into many small flowers. I would very much like a gown made of this color and texture, perfect for a Faery ball on a Summer’s night!


Campsite in the White Mountains of Arizona

Campsite in the White Mountains of Arizona

At the end of the day, Wolf and I made camp on a canyon rim that wound far above the Little Colorado River. From there, we watched the sun sink into the Western sky, and light the Ponderosas and Douglas Firs up in a radiant golden light. Redroot flowers glowed ghostly white in the shadows and the shiver of Aspen leaves brought the evening in with their elven song.


©Jesse Wolf Hardin

©Jesse Wolf Hardin

We returned to the canyon next morning full of inspirations and ideas after a long conversation on the drive home. Wolf set to work creating this gorgeous logo for my new little shop of botanical creations, The Bramble & The Rose, where I’m selling my bioregional incense and botanical perfumes.

Wolf and I also discussed some very important upcoming news that we’ll soon be sharing about the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous!

~Also, a quick reminder for all our Plant Healer writers, the deadline is July 1st for the Autumn issue, so be sure to send in your submissions soon!~



Jun 162013

Sacred Datura, Datura wrightii, wilting in the morning light

Come high Summer in the Southwest, the wildfires rage and nearly everything dries to dust. There’s a great stillness as the land seems to hold its breath in anticipation of the rainy season that usually arrive sometime in the second week of July. There’s a palpable tension as we all wait to see how much fire damage will accumulate around us and what will survive until those first blessed drops of rain kiss the parched earth. 

Even here in the mountains, the grass has all turned gold and the river trickles across the rocks in small rivulets. Wildlife clings close to any water sources and the afternoons are quiet as the sun beats against volcanic cliffs. The vibrant and diverse communities of life often only become apparent after the sun begins its dip into the West, and evening often brings the hum of insects, the skittering of small animal feet, and the hushed wings of myriad nightbirds.

As dark falls, the sphinx moths hover over fuchsia tinted four o’clock flowers and drunkenly totter around just opened datura blossoms. This is the moment in time when life flourishes as we approach the Summer Solstice. Shadows lengthen, and the cool air calls us all out to play.  Midsummer has been a favored celebration for most of my life, and I anticipate each year like an eager child. In the beginning, it had something to do with how close it is to my birthday, and allowed me to extend the festivities just a bit longer. Even now, living in the hot Southwest, I find myself wanting to slow and stretch time, to enjoy these white hot days and intoxicating evenings for as long as possible. But of course, the wheel keeps on turning, so I try to drink up as much of the sensations as I can each season.

Oregano de la Sierra, Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia, in bloom in the arroyo

Oregano de la Sierra, Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia, in bloom in the arroyo

This coming weekend we’ll be creating any number of berry based treats, and nearly every sweet thing will be flavored with the delicate but complex flavor of rose, which is consider to be one of the perfect herbs and flowers for the Solstice! Grape leaf, Paintbrush, and Wild Tarragon crowns will be made for all and we’ll spend time near the river harvesting Nettles and watching the Monarda flowers open into purple fireworks on the longest day of the year.

Despite my pronounced love of the present moment, I’m still counting down the days until the Herbal Resurgence! I’m so excited to see so many of my friends again, to be able to learn from teachers I might not otherwise ever meet, and watch the happy pack of herb loving children run through the wildflowers. The way the Resurgence community comes together so quickly at each event always amazes me, and I’m profoundly grateful for the magic that’s created every single year!

And I hope to see many of you there! Until then, a blessed Midsummer to you all… enjoy the dusk and dawn of these long days, and the beauty that infuses them all.


PS – For those of you considering attending the Resurgence this September, let me know what you’d like to see me teach. I’m still making up my mind, and would love to have your input!

Canyon Grape, Vitis arizonica, in flower outside the cabin door

Canyon Grape, Vitis arizonica, in flower outside the cabin door


May 292013



Summer Issue Sneak Peek


Dammit!  Dammit! The just-finished Summer 2013 Plant Healer is over 320 pages in length…. a new record, even though we said we’d do our best to keep it smaller – presenting over 120,000 words of herbal wisdom and inspiration, a single magazine issue the size of all but the largest books!  We tried, we tried, believe me – but what’s an editor to do when so many excellent articles have been submitted?  Get ready for another epic journey across the vast and diverse landscapes of folk herbalism, through a forest of useful tips, recipes, herbal history, wildcrafting, art and lore… a veritable garden of delight.  Kiva and I have spent 3 months putting it together, and it’s important to note: we did it for you.


Early on in this issue we take a moment to mourn our losses and celebrate special lives, beginning with an honoring of herbalist Cascade Anderson Geller who passed away in May.  Paul Bergner, Rosalee de la Foret and Rosemary Gladstar share their thoughts and feelings about Cascade, and the Appalachian herbalist Phyllis Light follows with some deep insights inspired by the recent death of her beloved Mama.



Juliet’s New Column: Flora Julietta

The much loved herbalist teacher Juliet Blankespoor has committed to write a regular quarterly column for us on all-things-herbal.  Her first column focuses on estrogen and herbs, and like all her writings, is illustrated by her own astounding photographs.  Juliet joins our other respected Plant Healer columnists including Paul Bergner, Matt Wood, Susun Weed, Jim McDonald, 7Song, Sabrina Lutes, and the creatrix of Herbal Roots Zine for kids, Kristine Brown.  Thank you for your excellent contribution, Julietta, even as you deal with difficult family challenges, manage your gardens and run a busy school.

New Folkloric & Historic Departments

Plants have their own treasured folklore and mythologies, tales that tell us as much about ourselves as about the herbs themselves.  We present to you yet another regular or periodic department, starting with the first in a series of essays by Corinne Boyer and including excellent photos by her husband, focused this time around the magical history and lore of the Elder tree.

A second new department is called “Steampunk Herbalism” and is designed to cover where our “Frontier Herbalism” leaves off: the historic herbal and healing trends, curiosities and fascinations of the Americas circa 1900-1930.  We begin with the story of Lydia Pinkham, once a household name and the most recognized woman’t face in the United States.  Her back–room herbal tonic business grew into an empire, while she used her spare time to fight for racial and gender equality, and to campaign for more natural lifestyles.



A Gifting Basket of New Articles

Join us in welcoming our first-time authors, including Erin Piorier who brings us an article on tongue assessment, Wendy Housel presenting on bridging nursing and herbalism, and Arizonan and 2013 Herbal Resurgence teacher John Slattery writing about the fascinating Mexican traditional herbalist Doña Olga Ruiz.



You’ll also find here everything from detailed plant profiles and recipes to gardening suggestions, maple syrupin’, and Loba’s wild grape leaf meal suggestions.  The brilliant and wonderful Virginia Adi is back with another massively researched historical pieces, this time on the archaeopharmacy of the controversial Opium Poppy.  Christa Sinadinos blesses us with another piece, this time on Herbal Honey preparations, Melanie Pulla continues her series on the practical means for creating a fulfilling herbal business, Sophia Rose writes about False Solomon’s Seal, Cat Lane shares the trials and joys of being an herbalist for animals, Katja Swift continues her clinical skills series while her mischievous daughter Amber talks about how to make herbal lotions.  Christopher Bernard from France and Catherine Skipper both sent pieces on herbal cultivation, and our Resurgence teacher and favorite new feller Sam Coffman brings us articles on both open wound treatment and the edible and medicinal Southwest “gem” Algerita.  If you wonder what my partner Kiva Rose means by “Introversion & Otherness” for herbalists, you’ll need to be sure and read her latest column, as usual the issue’s concluding words.

Crucial is Roger Wicke’s classic tome “The Right to Practice,” greatly expanded and updated by Roger here especially for you Plant Healer readers.  Everyone practicing or intending to practice herbalism in the current regulatory climate would greatly benefit by this information, including the necessary strategies for avoiding prosecution for “practicing medicine without a license.” Ignoring the threat won’t make it go away, make sure you take the steps needed to protect yourself and your business of helping others.

Juliet Interviewed

Juliet Blankespoor is also the subject of this issue’s Plant Healer Interview.  Read about her life and lessons, and benefit from her advice and tips.  The complete conversation can be found in the first volume of the book 21st Century Herbalists, now shipping.

New Herbal Conferences Guide

Included this issue is a special 23 page long Conferences Guide penned by myself, Rosemary Gladstar and a large number of other conference organizers, describing a number of annual events for herbalists that you may want to consider attending this year.  Part of the mission of both Plant Healer and the Rendezvous is to inspire, seed, assist and support the strengthening of the herbal community far and wide, and this includes helping instigate and publicize conferences besides our own.  As the Guide explains, it would great if we could all go to several different venues each year, but with limited time and funds it’s a good idea to decide what our educational and social needs are, and which venues serve these needs best.  The guide is also being released separately as a free Ebook, in your Plant Healer bonuses and in general release.

If perchance you aren’t a subscriber yet, you can sign up now at:  www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

At the bottom of this post is a sneak peek at the Summer Issue’s table of contents.  We release the issue this issue on June 3rd, always the first Monday of the month.  Enjoy, and thrive!

Love, Wolf (and Kiva!)

Summer Contents:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Emulation, Competition & Distinction
Paul Bergner, Rosemary Gladstar & Rosalee de la Foret: Cascade Anderson Geller
Phyllis Light: Healing The Heart – Grief is No Fun
Frida Kahlo: Art Poster: The Green Energy of Healing
Juliet Blankespoor: Flora Julietta: The Ecology Of Estrogen In The Female Body
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Needs & Goals: What It Means To Be An Herbalist
Zephyr: Art Poster: Creative Release
Sam Coffman: Algerita (Berberis trifoliolata): S.W. Food & Medicine
Virginia Adi: The Archeopharmacy Of The Poppy: Let’s Talk About Opium!
Sophia Rose: False Solomon’s Seal – Maianthemum Racemosum
7Song: Lamiaceae: The Marvelous Mint Family
Susun Weed: Wise Woman Ways: Oily Edible Seeds
Arthur Rackham: Art Poster: Elda Mor
Corinne Boyer: For The Love of Plant Lore: The Elder Tree
Jim McDonald: Foundational Actions: Relaxants
Matthew Wood: Lymph-Immune System – Part IV
John Slattery: Traditions In Focus: Doña Olga Ruiz – La Yerbera Pajarera
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Lydia Pinkham: Grandmother of Herbal Marketing 1819-1883
Erin Piorier: Introduction To Tongue Assessment For The Western Herbalist
Katja Swift: Clinical Skills: Illustrated in Case Studies – Part II
Sam Coffman: The Herbal Medic: Herbal Management of Open Wounds
Herbal Conference Guide
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Selecting & Making Plans To Attend Events for Herbalists
Rosemary Gladstar & More: The Herbal Conference Experience
Sabrina Lutes: A Mother’s Healing Basket: Beyond The First Year
Kristine Brown: Kids As Herbalists: The Herbs of Summer
Amber Swift: Make Your Own Lotion!
Samuel Thayer: Sugar Woods: The Maple Syrup Experience
Wendy “Butter” Petty: Foods For The Field
Christophe Bernard: Growing Medicinal Plants – Part II: Know Your Land & Soil
Catherine Skipper: Healing Plants With Plants: Part 1 – Natural Plant Cultivation
Loba: Using Wild Grape Leaves
Christa Sinadinos: Herbal Honey Preparations
Melanie Pulla: Purpose Based Herbalism: Uncovering The Brand of You
Wendy Hounsel: Bridge-Walking: Herbalism, Nursing, & The Need To Work Together
Cat Lane: Challenges & Rewards of The Animal Herbalist
Roger Wicke: The Right To Practice Herbology: Legal History & Basis
Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Art Poster: Summer Spell
Kiva Rose Hardin: Luminarias: Reflections On “21st Century Herbalists”
Plant Healer Interview: Juliet Blankespoor
Jesse Wolf Hardin: The Medicine Bear: Novel of Adventure & Plant Medicine–Part VII
Kiva Rose Hardin: Witch at The Edge of The Woods: Introversion & Otherness in The Herbalist


(Please RePost & Forward…. thank you!)

May 192013

21st Century Herbalists Book Now Shipping

The first shipments of our new book 21st Century Herbalists have mailed out, with more following soon, and everyone should have theirs soon.  As some of you have already gotten to see, Wolf put a lot of work into the questions and the respondents shared both their wisdom and their personal stories.  Please do let me know how you like them and what your favorite parts are (as well as whether or not we can quote you): Write Wolf and I at: HerbalResurgence@gmail.com

Limited Edition Selling Out

There are less than 100 copies left of the Limited Edition hardcover versions, and soon only the regular paperbacks will be available.  Order in the next few weeks to have a chance of getting one of the few cloth bound copies before they sell completely out:  www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

40% Wholesale Discount

If you have an herb related business, retail website or catalog, I encourage you to stock and resell some, to help spread the herbal inspiration.  I can give a full 40 percent discount on orders of 10 or more, plus actual shipping.  Write me at: HerbalResurgence@gmail.com

Free Review Copies

I will send this book free to the first few folks who let me know they will write and publish a review of our collection of herbalist interviews in a popular magazine, newsletter, or blog with a large readership.  Reviews should be from 1200 to 2500 words in length, describing some of the content as well as the stories and information you found most useful or insightful.  Email us to tell us 1. Where your review will be published, 2. The size of the readership, 3.  Why you look forward to writing about this book, and 4. Your snail-mail address.  We’ll give you a full digital copy to read and review, and once the review has been published you can request a paper copy as well.  Write: HerbalResurgence@gmail.com

Thank you!

Kiva Rose

May 042013

The Folk Herbal Tribe

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

www.AnimaCenter.org   www.HerbalResurgence.org

Whether we realize it or not, we are – as clinicians, gardeners, foragers, medicinal plant conservationists, botanists, plant illustrators, students as well as teachers of plant medicine – all constituent members of an herbal community. This is true even if we mainly do our work or pursue our passion alone, happen to feel like outsiders, avoid herbal events, or treat only family and friends. We are qualified by virtue of our interests, focus, calling or commitment… and if we identify with the group, we belong. No vetting or voting required. It is our community, because of what we share in common.

The word “community” itself comes from the Latin communis, meaning “common”. It is thus, that the warp and weft binding the strands of any village or culture together are made of those things its residents and participants share – such as either place or purpose, interests or needs, traditions or goals, and almost always a shared body of ideas that profoundly affect both the ways we members live, and the quality of our lives. The more definitive those shared elements are, the more cohesive and usually smaller a grouping becomes, including identification with families, geographical regions, subcultures, associations, trades… and tribes.

Kid members of the Herbal Resurgence tribe

Reclaiming The Term


tribe |trīb| noun
1 a social division consisting of people linked by social, economic, religious or other ties, with a common culture and dialect.
2. informal family

Thriving within the larger herbal community is a readily recognizable subculture that is nothing less than tribal: a self-defined and self-determined Folk Herbal Tribe! What else to call this clearly informal but ultimately intimate family of plant healers and tradition keepers? Our social links are irrefutable, drawn to one another in an alliance of purpose and priorities, sensibilities and celebration. We support each other financially or by promoting each other’s work, contributing to a shared folk herbalist economy that increases the odds of us being able to survive doing what we love. There exists what could be called a spiritual commonality amongst us, regardless of whether we are Christian, Pagan, Animist, or Atheist – recognition of some kind of “chi,” “anima” or “vital force” that largely determines one’s health and healing capacities, and a sense of something powerful and mysterious that enlivens, fuels and inspires our relationship to the herbs and to each other. We have our own, plant-informed and slightly irreverent, dialect that folks outside the tribe no doubt scratch their heads over. And we identify with a particular culture made up of the healing systems, principles, modalities, music, literature and art of folk herbalism past and present.

Some of you might object, thinking that “tribe” refers exclusively to Native American groups, and that it could be cultural appropriation to use the term. In fact, the word comes from the Latin tribus, referring to the original three divisions of the peoples of Rome, and was only much later applied to Native American societies by the invading colonial powers. These so-called “Indians” have actually long preferred to refer to themselves as nations. Or, it may be that you’ve been influenced by the way “tribalism” has been equated with “factionalism” in the vernacular of the government and the news media, blaming tribal interests for divisive conflicts in places like Central Africa where tribal loyalties have proven stronger than any hoped-for national identity. And it’s true that traditional tribes in some parts of the world enforce a rigid moral standard and dress code, seek to keep women subservient or underrepresented, and act as a damper on individual creativity and choice. Yet at the same time, tribes are banks of cultural diversity, endangered languages and dialects, earth-centered and ecologically motivated values and behaviors. And in the case of the Folk Herbal tribe, it provides a home for kindred souls, some of whom may have felt out of place, unrecognized or unfulfilled elsewhere, active co-creators of an encouraging alliance of healing priorities, culture and mission.

Komi Girls

From the late 1800s until roughly the 1950s, the conventional anthropological assumption was that tribes were homogenous groupings of people practicing the same rituals, speaking the same language, residing in the same homeland, with a prescribed belief system and following the same leader, and it was said to be highly parochial with a narrow outlook and limited scope. Upon closer study, however, researchers found that there are many examples of traditional and historic tribes whose members practice different rituals, speak different languages, look to different leadership, and incorporate a broad range of perspectives and beliefs. In addition, in recent times, tribal members may reside geographically far apart from one another, and apart from any ancestral lands their kind ever claimed. In actuality, tribes are often characterized by fluid boundaries and heterogeneity, are seldom parochial, and generally dynamic.

According to anthropologist Elman Service, human societies can be classified based on the degree of relative inequality (stratification, control, restriction and repression). By this reckoning, Hunter/Gatherer bands are usually the least oppressive and most egalitarian, with Service listing Tribes a close second due to “limited instances of individual prestige and social rank.” More unequal are supposedly “advanced” societies, where members are expected to follow and obey chosen chieftains. And the worst offender of all is our much vaunted civilization – from the rule of royalty over peasants, to the modern state with its increasingly effective and oppressive systems of surveillance and regulation.

The Folk Herbal Tribe esteems individuals for their accomplishments, knowledge, compassion and honor, but does not and will not ever obey the dictates of a single person – elected or not – nor do its constituents uniformly base their actions and work on the pronouncements of organizations or agencies. Children are respected, and women herbalists are readily considered at least as wise and effective as men. The impoverished are considered equal to those having ample financial resources. Members of this tribe do not follow officials or chieftains… they follow positive examples instead.

There are no bylaws, nor rules beyond mutual respect, and incidences of perceived disrespect are dealt with by those involved rather than by anyone supposedly in authority. Constructive divergence and disagreement is encouraged. There are no requirements to meet in order to belong, other than personally ensuring one’s own authenticity, focus and sincerity. One need only share some of the tribe’s plant-inspired interests, values, passions, and priorities, identify with this blessedly disparate group, and participate or contribute in whatever individual ways that one desires.

Sami Tribal Life

Inclusivity & Diversity

It is for the above reasons that this tribe attracts, houses, and helps to weave into its fabric those with decades of experience as well as folks just now learning the craft, and conservative rural traditionalists as well as tradition-shattering radicals and urban free-clinic volunteers. For all its adamant informalism, the tribe is a welcome home not just to kitchen herbalists, grannywives, and wild eyed herbal visionaries, but also to formally trained clinicians, to the lettered, registered and perhaps someday certified, to business minded herbal entrepreneurs and the most sober-headed practitioners. Many of the attendees of the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous have been professionals, established academics and scientists, even if – admittedly – they are the most mission driven or Gaia inspired, down to earth or enchanted, obsessed or impassioned, unconventional or free thinking of their ilk.

The Folk Herbal Tribe is open to all. We should note that it does not, however, purport to include everyone involved in herbalism. While no one is excluded, people self-select. Some herbalists identify with a different expression of the craft, may be leery of freeform movements or uncomfortable with extreme diversity, and for whatever reasons choose to see themselves as outside of the tribe. For them, Folk Medicine of any kind may be associated with superstition or a lack of education, rather than valuing it as “medicine of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

It is healthy that membership be entirely voluntary and develop totally naturally, calling those of like heart and focus, responding to common threats, sharing basic hopes and dreams. A tribe can be an opportunity to recover the most meaningful aspects of human relationship and purpose. And for the Folk Herbal Tribe, it is a purpose grounded in healing, sustained and furthered by herbal folks… people consciously grounded, interactive, and closely connected even if we often live far apart.

Brazil Tribe

Connection, Range & Recognition

Unlike many historic tribes, ours does not tend towards a particular fashion when it comes to either our clothing or thinking, and members can be dressed in anything from fairy skirts to lab coats, Green Man tunics, army surplus pants, goth tees, dress shirts or farmer’s coveralls. Without a uniform style, it could be hard to tell who belongs and who doesn’t, but not so! For all our differences, we know each other at the deepest levels as being part of something bigger than us all, pledged to a shared covenant, direction, quest. We can see it in each others eyes, in the ways we interact, and in what we each do. Something inside lights up, communicating “hey, that person over there is one of us!” We may feel related to all of humanity, and I personally sense at the deepest levels my connection to the whole of this awesome living earth… but that said, we likely feel a special tingle when we meet those who are most inspired by what we are most inspired by, devoted to that which we, also, are devoted to. Because of how you hold a flower, examine a leaf, or smile as you sniff an herbal lotion – I am readily able to recognize you, seeing myself in you, and you in myself.

We need that gift of recognition, given that herbalists and plant people are now scattered thinly throughout the populations of the world. Because we are spread wide, we may reside miles away from the nearest other herbalist, or many states away from our dearest of allies.

It is the nature of a tribe that its members be drawn to live in relatively close proximity, interacting with each others’ children, cooperating on mutually fulfilling projects, helping one another, sharing our daily lives with others of our kind. It is sad, on one hand, that the Folk Herbal Tribe do not share a region, inhabit adjoining lands, work together on community herbal gardens and the job of habitat and species restoration, coordinate on the building of earthy healing-hearted schools for our children and grandchildren to join in attending. On the other hand, it seems true to nature’s needs and program, that the planet’s folk healers and land-lovers be spread thin across a wide range, so that hopefully no region or neighborhood is without an herbalist, and no public land unloved or unprotected anywhere.

Historic Native American tribes would often split up, with smaller bands ranging far and wide for much of each year. The reason for this, was that the land could not sustain too large a group for long in a single place, while bands that had dispersed can bring back a variety of needed resources from the different landscapes they spread out to. Big-time parties would be held at prescribed times, marking the return of these bands, the reuniting of friends and relatives, the opportunity to trade goods and services and develop alliances, and to meet and court a desirable sweetie. In a similar way, the bonds between the families and bands, pacts and posses of the Folk Herbal Tribe are restored by periodic gatherings such as the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, a sharing of information and downright celebration.

The Tribal Commitment

We are each part of the larger herbal community, automatically, by default, by our very nature, and whether we like to think of ourselves that way or not. Membership in the Folk Herbal Tribe, however, is not automatic, and certainly doesn’t kick in by default. When and where it begins is at the point that we identify with it – whether we do so in solitude, or at an event in the company of those we “recognize.” It deepens with the relationships we form within it, the friendships, alliances, business arrangements, and romances. And it is manifest in the ways we interact, contribute, and participate.

Tribe is not simply a spontaneous conglomeration, or even just a natural conduit and hub. It is a purposeful product of its co-creators, of the whole of its informal membership. While it dissipates with disinterest, it increases equal to our interest and involvement, intensifies with our excitement, and is sustained by our commitments to it. It can give so well to us, only because we give back to it.

We may hear commitments referred to in a negative light, or cast as restrictions as in “I can’t do what I really want in life, due to commitments to my job/husband/wife/kids.” More helpfully, a commitment is a moment to moment choice in which – every second – one decides to re-promise themselves to a person, place, purpose and so forth. It is not a feel-good New Year’s resolution meant to be forgotten the next day, it is a pledge of support and sustenance that we do everything possible to fulfill… though only for so long as it feels right.

Tribal Kurdish

Our commitments matter, because the well-being of what we commit to matters. Our most essential commitments are:

1. To ourselves… our authenticity, our real needs, our continuing education and growth, our purpose and fulfillment. Only when we are nourished, our bullshit processed, our dreams honored, can we hope to be very effective at deeply helping anyone else.
2. To the land and its entire community of life forms… to the plants that provide our medicines and our food. In an interview I conducted with visionary herbalist David Hoffman, he pointed out that “we become the problem” instead of the antidote, cure or relief, unless we make a strong commitment to what I’d described as “furthering the agenda of helping people and the planet.”
3. To the tribe… through our willingness to learn and happiness to teach. Through our medicines in their many forms, sometimes including the sharing of difficult to hear realities or insights. Through our support of each others’ efforts and work, the encouragement of their personal expression and individual role and contribution. And through our demonstrative loyalty.

What does it mean to be loyal to who and what matters most to us? At what point does something that we do, become a betrayal of what we are most connected and committed to?

Larken Bunce, Kiva Hardin, & Stephany Hoffelt at the Herbal Resurgence tribal rendezvous

Kiva and I have pledged our lasting loyalty to the plants, to our family and the wild Anima Sanctuary, to our Plant Healer writers and readers, our Herbal Resurgence teachers, sponsors and especially participants, to the integrity and aims of our mission, and to every folk herbalist and plant lover who is in turn loyal to their plant tribe. Loyalty sustains and extends what love seeds. If not to blood, then to a vision and purpose. If not to nation, than to tribe. If not to institutions, then to healing roots, meadow and heather… and to this work we so gladly and passionately do together.


(Freely RePost & Share with Link)

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”:


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Stories of The Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous
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The Art of Plant Healer: Ernst Haeckel
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Jesse Wolf Hardin: Finding Your Path in Herbalism
Matthew Wood: The Lymph/Immune System
Juliet Blankespoor: Growing Medicinal Herbs in Containers
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