Sep 222016

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


The 2017 Good Medicine Confluence

June 14-18 • Durango, SW Colorado

Over 80 classes by Over 40 teachers!

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


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

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Invite

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

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


$100 Discount on Tickets

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

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

Vend or Sponsor

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

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Sponsor Info & Application

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Vendor Application


2017 Teachers & Classes

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

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

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Teacher Application


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


Paul Bergner:

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

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

Sam Coffman:

The Art of the Free Clinic 1.5 hrs

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

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

Betsy Costilo-Miller:

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

The Language of Lymph1.5 hrs

Sean Donahue:

Tryptamines: Human & Wild 3hrs

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

Thomas Easley:

The Hepatic System: Herbs & The Liver 1.5 hrs

Comparing Herbal Dosage Strategies, Past & Present 3 hrs

Lisa Ganora:

Cannabis Extraction – 1800s Pharmacist Style 3 hrs

Charles “Doc” Garcia:

The Secrets of Herbal Shotgun Syrup 3hrs

Amy Glasser

To Be Announced

Shana Lipner Grover:

Smokable Herbs 1.5 hrs

Topics in Wildcrafting (with Dara Saville) 1.5 hrs

Jesse Wolf Hardin:

ReWilding 1.5 hrs

The Calling: Purpose, Mission, & Role 1.5 hrs

Kiva Rose Hardin:

BrambleSong: A Bardic Approach to Herbcraft 1.5 hrs

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

Kathleen Harrison:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Marija Helt

Plants of the Southern Rockies Plant Identification Walk 3 hrs

Favorite Substitutes for Osha 1.5 hrs

Medicinal Shroomery in the Southern Rockies 1.5 hrs

Stephany Hoffelt:

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

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

Nam Joti Kaur:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Guido Masé:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Katherine “Kat” MacKinnon:

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

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

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

Jim McDonald:

Sanguine Temperament: Inspired Action 3hrs

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

Gut Healing Teas 1.5 hrs

Joshua Paquette:

Colorado Materia Medica 3hrs

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

Missy Rohs:

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

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

Ramona Rubin:

Cannabis Topical Treatments 1.5 hrs

Dara Saville:

Drought & The Future of Medicinal Plants 3 hrs

Pedicularis: Community Coordinator & Facilitator of Change 1.5 hrs

River Restoration & Medicinal Plants 1.5 hrs

Topics in Wildcrafting (with Shana Lipner Grover) 1.5 hrs

Emily Stock

Star-Gazing Herbalists! 1 hr

Jen Stovall:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Jonathan Treasure:

Weed Wacking: Misinformation & Misconceptions About Medicinal Cannabis 1.5 hrs

FUQ: Medicinal Cannabis (Frequently Unasked Questions) 1.5 hrs 

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

Angie True:

Waking Up From Psychiatric Drugs 1.5 hrs

Thyroid: At the Juncture Between Self and World 1.5 hrs

Roxana Villa:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Ginger Webb:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

Alanna Whitney:

Transgender Therapeutics1.5 hrs

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

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

Briana Wiles:

Bodyworker Herbs, Oils, & Toils 1.5 hrs

Yarrow Willard:

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs

To Be Announced 1.5 hrs



Help Spread The Word – & the Movement – Please!

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

2017 Good Medicine Confluence 8×11 Poster for Printing

2017 Good Medicine Confluence 8×11 Poster for Online

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Small Graphic for Online

2017 Good Medicine Confluence Horiz. Graphic for Online


Thank you so much! You make it happen!

(Share and RePost Please)

Aug 212016

2016 TWHC Final Scholarships poster 72dpi

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

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

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

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

1. Work Trade

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

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

2. Make Payments

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

3. Barter

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

4. Scholarships

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

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

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

(Share this freely and widely)

Jul 202016

2016 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

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

for Plant Healer’s 7th Annual Gathering:

The 2016 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

–High Atop Sky-Island, New Mexico–

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

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

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

A list of Scheduled Class Topics follows for your convenience:

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

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

(Thank you for sharing this)

Jun 272016

Aysgarth Close Up Waterfall

Clean Water For Health:


by Sam Coffman

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


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

Flint Water Protestors

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

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

Sam Coffman Water Purifying Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand Filter poste

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

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

Slow_sand_filter diagram 1

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

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

Slow-Sand-Filter diagram

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juglans nigra Eastern Black Walnut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


(Share freely so others can benefit)

Jun 132016

diversity faces herbalism

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

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

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


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

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

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

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

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

Diversity sign

Tradition & Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

Plant Healer Diversity Poster-72dpi

NeuroDiversity & Autism

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

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

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

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

celebrate neurodiversity

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

diversity kids no background

Cognitive Diversity & a Weirder Norm

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

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

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

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

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

diversity hands in air

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

(RePost and Share)



Jun 072016

Now For Sale – Our Summer Book Release: 


Feral Herbalists, Free Clinics, & Guerrilla Gardening

Drawn from the pages of Plant Healer Magazine 

Edited by Jesse Wolf Hardin & Kiva Rose Hardin

Foreword by Paul Bergner

48 Chapters by 31 Impassioned Herbalists:

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

428 Pages – $29 B&W Softbound

Order your copy from the Bookstore Page at:

Radical Herbalism Book.tif

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

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



Radical Herbalism.tif

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

The complete contents follow.



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

(Please Share & RePost)

May 242016

Wendy Butter Petty by Wolf framed 72dpi copy


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


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

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

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

hiking gathering in colorado forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

–JWH, PHM CoEditor


Foraging Matters – Wendy Butter Petty – Plant Healer Magazine



By Wendy Butter Petty


Dear Young Butter,

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

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

-Respect for the plants

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

-Got to know each plant slowly

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

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

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


Gathered Wild Foods berries & shrooms


-Not letting things go to waste if picked

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

-Respect for delicate and native plants

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


-Foraging needn’t look a certain way

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

-Learn the trees first

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

Types of tree buds

-Learn botanical names

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

-Know which plants are on the invasive species list

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

Wild asparagus

-Take a class

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

-Label pictures, even if you are only guessing

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

-Have a well-labeled and easily accessible pantry

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

-Keep records from year to year

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

-Foraging and Herbalism

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


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

Most sincerely,
The Mature (cultured) Butter

Wendy Butter Petty, Plant Healer


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

(Please share and re-post, thank you!)

May 162016

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

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

The Herbal Journey Begins With a Single Leaf

by Ramona Rubin

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

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


Plant Walk at Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

Plant Walk at Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference


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

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

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

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


anemopsis - yerba mansa


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

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

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

————-Tilia americana - American Basswood


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

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

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


peeking through leaf-72dpi


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

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

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


Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference 2015 –

Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference 2015 –


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


Ramona Rubin - Plant Healer


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

Topics in Cannabis & Neuropsychology

(1.5 hrs)

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

Exploring The Water Garden: Stories of Aquatic & Riparian Plants

(1.5 hrs)

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


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


(Share & Repost Plz)

May 102016


Now Available for FREE Download:

Herbal Education Guide & Herbal Schools Directory

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

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

Plant Healer Herb Schools Directory

Download Now:

Free 2016-2020 Education Guide & Herb Schools Directory 

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

(Please Share!)

Mar 292016

Please Help Us Spread The Word 

About the 2016


The Herbal Resurgence


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

Growing a Resurgence

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

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

2016 TWHC Postcard -72dpi

New TWHC Postcards

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


2016 TWHC poster

New 11×17 Posters (300 dpi for Printing)

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

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

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

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

2016 11×17 Color Poster File


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

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

2016 TWHC Announcement-72dpi

2016 TWHC poster 2 -8x11-72dpi

2016 TWHC Masquerade Ball Poster-72dpi

2016 TWHC Spooning The Cool poster-72dpi


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

(Share and RePost)

Mar 112016


Plant Healer’s Herbaria Monthly Supplement

…54 color pages of herbal info and inspiration including an excerpt on Aralia/Spikenard by Jared Rosenbaum, a reprint of Paul Bergner’s great Plant Healer Magazine article on Herban Legends, Elka’s yummy Fennel Frond recipes, and an excerpt from Maria Noel Groves new herbal basics book, introducing the subject of Reducing Histimine and Mucus.

This complimentary Spring issue releases Monday, Mar 14.  To be sure of getting your free link for every Herbaria Monthly, simply fill in your name and email addy on the left side of the screen, at:



Deadline for Registration: March 22nd, 2016

Plant Healer Magazine columnists Juliet Blankespoor and Asia Suler are creating one of the truly most comprehensive, useful, and graphically beautiful courses for herbalists ever.  Their full Herbal Immersion Course will be available for sale in April… but until then, they are offering a free, no-obligation, introductory mini-course that we recommend everyone avail themselves of.

To sign-up, click on the following Plant Healer link before the 22nd:


Handcrafted Herbalism Free Course

Click Here for your Free Course:


(Share and RePost..thanks)

Mar 072016


Dearly Needed Are The Committed Few… Herbalists

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

An Excerpt from the Spring 2016 issue of Plant Healer Magazine, now available for download by subscription from:

pond lilly flower 72dpi

The very last message you’d think an herbal magazine would want to put out there, is that an herbal practice isn’t ideal for all.  But if the leafen slipper fits, wear it!


Many years ago, I was partners in an art gallery on the historic Taos plaza, in northern New Mexico.  While this ancient settlement had long been known as an art and writer’s colony, home to such eclectic impassioned misfits as D.H. Lawrence, by the mid 1970s its prime real estate had been taken over from the Hispanic locals and gentrified by the marketers of generic paintings and tourist teeshirts.  Visitors from Texas and California could find the exact same souvenirs in shop after shop, while the upscale galleries mostly featured variations of the same R.C. Gorman style five-minute portraits of stylized Indian maidens with their iconic clay pots.  Depending on one’s income, a vacationer could choose either high-brow or low-brow wall decoration without hardly a single diversion into the otherworld of mind opening, heart wrenching, soul stirring arts.  

Mountain Unique Gallery 72dpi

Our “Mountain Unique Gallery” was thus an anomaly, vividly contrasting with the surrounding commerciality, sameness and normality, employing a cadre of visionary hippie craftsmen and several intense native artists from Taos Pueblo.  Inside, a glass pyramid display case held strange handmade silver talismans, Mayan styled eagle pendants with chatoyant opal eyes, red catlinite medicine pipes, hand forged knives with ancient mammoth ivory handles scrimshawed with a delicate lacing of colored blossoms and fanciful green leaves.  Walls were covered with Mexican retablos showcasing Dia de Los Muertos skeletal dancers and the holy Virgen de Guadalupe, with paintings by myself and a posse of relentless culture shifters – surreal landscapes and even surrealer mindscapes, mandalic medicine wheels and inspirited wildlife, glowing Peyote buttons and wandering medicine women.  Sage incense and strange music spilled out the door and onto the sidewalk surrounding the plaza, swirling amongst those passing there, and acting as a sort of filter – gently dissuading the most staid, tentative or typical browsers while enticing those on a search for the authentic, the magical, the unusual.  And to settle the matter for the curious but uncommitted, a custom made stained-glass window set into the gallery’s turquoise blue door spelling out these telltale words: “Not For Everyone.”

Upon reading this missive in colored glass, nearly all would pause with the door knob in hand, then press their face closer to the window to see what destinations of the imagination this portal might provide.  Of these, a majority would then turn away, sometimes picking up their pace, hurrying on to the next shop as though pursued by some barely forgotten dream.  And some – not “everyone– sensing their flawed yet wondrous selves to be something other than ordinary, would be drawn into the experience, into a personal inner journey that each scent, sound, and image in turn encouraged.  No one was barred or excluded, but the honest, expressive authenticity and palpable spirit of the space and its artists resulted in the thousands of monthly Taos visitors self-selecting who among them would move on… and who would enter and be opened, behold and participate.

I tell you this story, because it is much the same with herbalism, natural healing, and the plant-loving folks who study and practice its craft – whether or not we realize, and whether or not we yet value the natural processes and dynamics of distinction and selection.  There be no need for stained glass exclamation or the holding of signs, for it to be evident that plant medicine is also “not for everyone.”  Nor do we need to intentionally assume the work of filters ourselves, excluding those we think undeserving and certifying those we accept, because it is the constitutions and characters of people and the character of herbal practice that together provide the sifting and the assignments.  

You might wish, like I have, that every living person was interested in learning something about plant medicine, so as to be less dependent on the expensive and often unhealthful modern medical system.  And you might like to think that everyone with a strong interest would also have the innate characteristics and make the life choices necessary to effectively practice this healing art.  It is a function of both evolutionary specialization and human diversity, that individuals be born with different constitutions, tendencies and responses, that we grow up with varying degrees of different abilities, with specific weaknesses and strengths, and with a wide range of natural inclinations and developed interests.  Assuming we follow our hearts and callings, pay attention to our deficits and utilize our blessings, we might each find an individualized role that best contributes to our mission, our health and wholeness.  And of course, there will always be those who choose to turn away from any wafting new scents and unfamiliar music, rushing past any doorways to derivation and distinction in order to stay in line with the norms, conform to the expected, and maintain one’s comforting place in the crowd.

Not Everyones Cup of Tea 72dpi

It’s okay that so many are pulled towards other interests and fields than herbalism, given the problems we could end up with if there’ weren’t a majority able and pleased to fill important conventional roles in established society, health techs to mechanics.  And it’s okay that some take an interest in herbalism and then drift away, because people’s health outcomes are not something we’d necessarily want in the hands of the uncommitted or unfocused, the dispassionate or unable, the less caring or less aware, the inexperienced or poorly informed.  It’s most helpful when an herbalist is completely into what they are doing, in love with each aspect and component of the work as well as with healing’s worthy aims and botanical means, determined to continuously improve, and clearly feeling joy or satisfaction in the manifesting of their practice.

Herbs are for everyone, equally, I think we can agree, with no one undeserving of their gentle aid.  But herbalism – an herbal practice where one makes medicine or advises clients, a lifelong cleaving to its truths and to its dissemination – is truly not for everyone.  It’s not for everyone because it:

  • Heralds from and reminds us of the natural world that civilization largely seeks to distance itself from and elevate itself above.
  • Will probably continue to appear old-fashioned or New Age, as strange, suspicious, and fringe to the modernist, uninitiated person.
  • Will probably never be fully accepted by corporate drug interests or sanctioned and adopted by the medical establishment – and would certainly be altered, manipulated, depersonalized, denatured and harmed if it were.
  • Often fails to bring about the immediate symptomatic relief that most have come to expect from prescriptions of modern drugs.
  • Is most effective and helpful in combination with often undesired changes in the diet, activities and lifestyle that helped bring about the condition in the first place.
  • Is less effective and possibly even counterproductive if we’re either unable or unwilling to utilize critical thinking in our assessments of accepted “facts,” new research, and our personal experiences.
  • Cannot guarantee a substantial or secure income in most cases.
  • May not provide the personal recognition we need, or the status we desire.
  • Requires not just cursory attention but unending studies, which not everyone can be expected to give the time and effort to.
  • Is not a job so much as a service, purpose, mission, or calling.
  • Puts pressure on the practitioner, since results always matter.
  • Is greatly benefitted by exceptional sensitivity and perceptivity, and by uncommon intuition.
  • Constantly shows us what is ill, and challenges us to contribute remedy and balance.
  • Relentlessly pulls at our hearts, and stirs our compassion.
  • Is propelled by passionate insistence and total investment, something apparently only maintainable by the more obsessed and devoted of leaf turners, pulse takers and potion makers.

Go Your Own Way 72dpi

Being not for everyone, means that there may always be only a relative minority of people drawn to being herbalists, able to learn and discern, so enraptured with the powers of the plants or moved by the suffering of the ill that there is no other choice they can be happy making.  Does this describe anyone you know?  Because not everyone is herb-savvy, you already do or may soon fill a very important role in your chosen community.  Whatever individual knowledge, experience, vision, discovery, aesthetic and style that you bring to the endeavor, contributes to and helps define your special contribution.  Others are fortunately cut out to be tailors and web designers, and find the greatest satisfaction and purpose there – but you are likely most yourself when you are working with plants, assisting the healing of not just bodies but psyches, spirits, societies, and the wounded earth from which plant medicines arise.  You are likely most fulfilled in your being and doing – most wholly the gift you can be to yourself and the world – when you are invested fully in learning new herbal information, using that knowledge to help someone whose sick, tenderly tending herbs in your garden or in pots on your sill, wildcrafting in woody city lots or gladly wild places, or making tinctures and salves with an irrepressible smile on your face.

To this realization, we have the option of adding decades of determined learning and committed practice.  Not everybody is going to do that, but this is all the more reason why the world needs those who do: the self empowered, plant infused, admirably unusual few.

Herbalism is not for everyone… but it may well be for you.


(Please Share & RePost this article Freely)


This article and many others available in the new Spring 2016 issue of Plant Healer Magazine:

PHM Sneak Peek Spring 2016-72dpi

Feb 212016

Sneak Peek: Plant Healer Spring Issue 



Releasing March 7th:

Nearly 300 pages of new information and trademark inspiration for herbalists.

Winter was wondrous here in the Gila (hee-la) wilderness where this magazine is produced,   again creating a mosaic of original unpublished writings from our diverse family of contributors.  Following are the Spring Issue table of contents, along with a description of the features and changes that you subscribers can expect. 

If you are not already subscribed, you can sign up now at:

PLANT HEALER MAGAZINE art by Melissa Du Bois

Our Spring 2016 cover, “Sisters of the Healing Plants,” is a stylized portrait of my copublisher Kiva Rose with her sister Hannah, posed on the medicinal river Alders that bless this river canyon… art that was created for us by another sister of Kiva’s: Melissa “Missy” Du Bois.  I’ve commissioned a series of botanical/healing drawings from her, and not because she is my Kiva’s family of course – but because I am greatly impressed with her compositions, colors, and especially her evocative, fluid lines that bring alive not just the herbs she shapes but even the fabric of the dresses and cloaks she portrays. Melissa welcomes a limited number of paid commissions each year, and you can reach her through us with any commissions or comments:

Our devoted Plant Healer contributors are almost all working on new projects for you.  Phyllis Light is developing her course in Appalachian herbalism, Paul Bergner continues to expand his offerings and plans a new book based on his PHM column on Herban Legends, Matt Wood has another book coming out, Thomas Easley has started a new school on his new rural property, and Juliet Blankespoor’s big herbal immersion online course should be available for signups sometime in April.

PHM Sneak Peek Spring 2016-72dpi

Thank goodness for the critical thinking and heartful teachings of our Herbal Rebel, Mr. Bergner – Pablo as I like to call him – doing as much as anyone to examine the wishful thinking and common falsehoods that can endanger our clients as well as sour practice and our field.

Phyllis Light provides a similar service this time, getting us to look at the dangerous tendency for us to diss conventional medical testing and discount non-herbal approaches.  And Guido Masé takes us further into matters of the FDA and herbal regulation, something that this very insightful herbalist teacher has had a lot of experience with lately.

Juliet provides us with a column on Purple Dead Nettle, and another on sprouting with heated beds – exclusive excerpts from her upcoming course and book.

Our partner Elka continues her food column with a look at ways to prepare legendary Leeks, and Sabrina Lutes uses the Herbalist Mother department to explore the possibilities for crucial but oft neglected herbalist self nourishment and self care. 

In her column Animal Medicine, Cat Lane exhibits her extensive knowledge and great love for both plants and animals, this time explaining the common health issues associated with animal rescues, and making recommendations for their herbal treatment.

Dear friend Jim McDonald writes about Nervines this time, the sense and sensibility of his foundational Herbcraft column being truly part of the foundation and strength of this magazine. 

Asia Suler continues to impress us with her developing communication and photography skills, artfully blending together ingredients of solid practicable herb info, personal experience, and a palpable sense of the spirit of plants and this ancient sacred work of helping and healing.  She continues her Seasonal Herbal column here, evoking the feel of Spring and its plant and other medicines.

Plant profiles are found this time in the rechristened department, Materia Medica, with a lovely article on Yellow Pond Lilly by first-time contributor Judy Lieblein, someone we hope to feature more from in the future… plus great excerpts from the new Materia Medica book, including one on Artemisia by the wise woman Robin Rose Bennett, and another on the medicinal benefits of Aralia by the very astute California mother, teacher and practitioner Christa Sinadinos.

Susun Weed’s fun and practical new piece on vinegar is one of our favorites of hers so far, and surely satisfies your many requests for more of her “how-to.”

Our department Seeing People features another article by Boston based plant healer Katja Swift on the topics of ADD and Autism, and two excellent never-before-published pieces by Sam Coffman, one on treating the eyes with herbs, the second on treating slow-to-heal wounds. 

Speaking of Sam, his piece on political correctness and cultural appropriation in the last issue of Plant Healer proved inordinately controversial, resulting in quite a bit of hubbub on social media.  It also resulted in a more nuanced exchange between author Coffman and herbal activist Dave Meesters, featured here in the Gathering Basket department, as well as my own paean to constructive disagreement and healthy debate which follows their debate. 

While some forms and means of disagreement can be good for our folk herbal movement, the same cannot be said of plagiarism and failure to credit, intentional and unintentional. While we believe all herbal information should be spread and shared, it is all too common to see information and even specific personal recipes repeated and reprinted without approbation or acknowledgment.  Herbalists work hard and often have very little income, so giving them credit is one of the best forms of compensation as well as being the honorable thing to do.  In addition, there are all too many cases of people copying each others’ business and event models, promotion, and even product names without credit or remorse.  Our thanks go out to longtime Plant Healer contributor Rebecca Altman for her well considered and well spoken article casting a light on this problem we can together find ways to address.

For our interview this time, we talk at length with herbalists, activists and TWHC teachers Janet Kent and Jen Stovall. Their stories and ideas encourage us to notice what needs healing, in our communities and in our psyches as well as in our bodies, and through their example they inspire us to each be all that we can be, acting on all we know, on behalf of all we love.  Don’t miss it.

Spring Changes to Plant Healer

Spring is a time of change and growth.  In the garden that is Plant Healer, one valued column has come to an end, and three new ones have taken root.

First, we bid a fond farewell to one of our most longstanding series, our friend 7Song’s “Botany Illuminated,” as his busy schedule forces its retirement. For the past five years he has made plant identification understandable by us all, an important skill for all herbalists whether we wildcraft or order all our plants online. We hope you’ll join us in thanking 7Song personally for his Plant Healer column and photographs over the years, and join in encouraging him to create new material for any of our Plant Healer departments once he’s able to take time for writing again.

Field botany, plant identification, herbal actions, plant ecology and more will now be covered by the remarkable California herbalist Shana Lipner Grover.  Her studies and experience equip her for this important role, and we hope you will enjoy the first of many installments of Shana’s new quarterly column “Botanica.”

Our second new column is “Of Wilderness & Gardens,” by New Mexico herbalist, geographer and ecologist Dara Saville, highlighting the complex relationships between people, plants, and the land.  Dara will deftly explore the dualities inherent to herbal thinking: logic and intuition, mind and heart, analytic facts and inexplicable truths – and in the process, she will help bring us closer to ourselves, the plants we depend on, and the healing land we’re extensions of.

Our third new quarterly column is a commitment of Sean Donahue, a genuinely visionary herbalist, and translator for and advocate of natural healing, neural and cultural diversity, the healing plants themselves, and all the oddkins, misfits, and rebels of the greater Plant Healer tribe.  Each issue his Intersections & Crossroads column will dance among the patterns formed by the overlapping of “people and wilderness, science and folk traditions, ecology and our health, healing and revolution.” Our early faith in Sean’s special gifts has proven well founded.

Finally, Plant Healer continues its evolution with a change in name for our “Plant Allies” department, its quarterly collection of in-depth herb profiles now to be called the less artsy but more explicit term “Materia Medica.”


March Deadline for Listing Schools in the Upcoming


A Plant Healer Service

Write us for an application soon if you operate an herbal school or online courses, or if you know about any schools who might want to be included. 

The 2016-2020 edition releases this coming May, with an extended deadline and applications accepted until the end of March. For full details or to apply, download the:

Herbal Schools Directory Invite (2016-2020)


Discounted Tickets On Sale For


Sept 15-18th – Atop New Mexico’s Sky Island

Plant Healer has helped inspire and support many herbal events over the years, each with its own particular flavor and style, and none that replicate the intense and curious mix of teachers, topics and attendees that is the peculiar Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. Treat yourself to the information you need to be the best herbalist you can, along with an enchanted location and much deserved celebration. Full info and discount tickets now available by clicking on the Events page at: 


March Deadline for Articles


for The Upcoming Radical Herbalism Book

Last call for submissions for the upcoming Plant Healer book

“Radical Herbalism.”  Topics can be wide ranging, including herbal justice by whatever definition, free clinics, tips for street medics, arguments against certification and registration, suggestions for herbal activism, health care access, gender and class issues in herbalism, race and herbalism, bioregional herbalism, surreptitious guerrilla gardening, herbalist empowerment etc. Write for details, current contents, and deadline:


Share What You Know:


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

We happily consider original, previously unpublished articles for this magazine, 

and submissions of articles (previously published or not) for 

Plant Healer’s free Herbaria Monthly ezine and its thousands of readers.  Please download the:

Submission Guidelines

The deadline for the Summer Issue of Plant Healer Magazine is April 1st.  

There is no deadline for submitting to Herbaria Monthly.


New 2016 Specs & Pricing


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

download this pdf with its required Insertion Form:

2016 Advertising Guidelines PDF


And finally, please do write us at any time with your thoughts and comments… at:

(Thank you for sharing and re-posting this sneak peek)