Herbalism’s Sacred Dimension
Interview with Plant Healer Teacher:
in conversation with
Jesse Wolf Hardin
Dr. Tiffany Freeman blends her teachings and traditional values as a person of Cree First Nations descent with her studies and practice of Traditional Chinese and Western herbal medicine, to help us connect to our source of wellbeing. She is a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, registered Acupuncturist and Clinical Herbalist, educator, clinical practitioner, mother of two, and an avid admirer of nature.. She is the Co-founder of the Lodgepole School of Wholistic Studies in Calgary Alberta Canada, teaching a variety of courses in TCM, Western & Eastern Herbology, assessment techniques and Traditional Native teachings. A graduate from the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in 2004 with a diploma in Clinical Herbology, there she was grateful to have studied under Dr. Terry Willard Ph.D and Todd Caldecott Dip. Cl.H. After Graduation she became an instructor at the Wild Rose College from 2004 to 2011. In 2009 she obtained her Doctors of TCM diploma from the Calgary College of TCM & Acupuncture and her Alberta Acupuncture Licensure. Tiffany has spent over 15 years mentoring in the ways of Traditional Native Healing and ceremony with her Cree Elder and other traditional medicine teachers in Canada, is passionate about traditional medicines and knowledge sharing. She will be teaching two classes at this year’s Plant Healer annual event, the Good Medicine Confluence, and hopefully will soon be writing for Plant Healer Magazine. You can read more about her clinical practice at: tiffanyfreeman.ca and her school at: lodgepoleschool.com
The following is a short excerpt from a much longer and very inspiring interview to be published in the February issue of Herbaria Monthly, Plant Healer Magazine’s FREE supplement for all. To be sure of receiving a copy, go to the left side of the Plant Healer website splash page and fill in your name and email address where shown: www.PlantHealer.org
Jesse Wolf Hardin: Greetings, Tiffany! Thank you for talking to us and sharing a bit of your story. It’s great to have you as a new member of and contributor to the inspirited Plant Healer community.
Tiffany Freeman: Thank you very much! I am so very honored to be a part of this gathering of herbalists and medicine people. I admire the good works & the passion that you and Kiva spread to the world, and I am so very excited to be a part of it!
Tiffany: The work that I do is as a conduit between the medicines that I provide and the healing capacity of the individual. That I help the person connect and tap into their innate healing abilities through the use of traditional medicines, whether my own indigenous medicines, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western herbology or the other tools I use. The distinguishing feature of my work is the use of Indigenous Medicine teachings as a part of my healing, the use of power animals, non-ego/ spirit medicine, spiritualism and journeying. I feel that my calling is a dual role of both healing facilitator and teacher. Aside from my clinical work I teach classes, workshops and hold circles.
Wolf: Do you consider that you have benefitted from particular inspiriteurs and teachers?
Tiffany: Oh yes, so many! I am still very inspired by and grateful to my original teachers of Herbalism, Terry Willard & Todd Caldecott, I have much deep respect for what they do and share with the world. My Cree Elder of course whom has been a huge part of my life and many of my big life events including the birth of my two children; My Chinese Medicine teacher of Master Tung’s lineage, Susan Johnson, and my dear friend & teacher of Orth-Bionomy, Baeleay Callister.
I am really inspired by the US Herbalists! What they share with people, their activism and depth of knowledge of the plant world. I am super excited about my generation of herbalists and how they are keeping that knowledge alive, my friend Yarrow Willard, Sean Donahue & Jim McDonald whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at another herb gathering that we were presenting at, Thomas Easley for keeping the Eclectic school alive & Kiva Rose for her folk roots, and that’s just to name a few. I also have a big fan crush on Rosemary Gladstar and would just love to meet her one-day and sing to the plants with her!
Wolf: What do you consider most important for a medicine person or herbalist to learn?
Tiffany: Letting go our your own human voice that dominates thought and listening to nature, spend time connecting to the plants and nature with honor and respect, learn to make your own medicines and importantly learn plant energetics and assessment techniques, and to realize that there are no one plant fits all situations, think holistically.
Wolf: What part do lifestyle, social and environmental imbalances play in overall health?
Tiffany: I believe that these things are very important to consider together, we are holistic beings, our environment whether internally or externally, socially, environmentally (the climates, seasons, pollution etc.) all play a part of our well being. We are the microcosm of the macrocosm on so many levels. Our emotions can be the cause or root of our disharmony. We embrace good health when we are in love with life and living in health. We reflect that back to our environment, our health is engendered by the health of our surroundings and we in turn engender the health of our surroundings with ours. Traditional peoples have always understood that life is a circle and movement through that circle includes not only ourselves but all our relatives in the natural world. The teachings of the medicine wheel impress the importance of living in harmony with the seasons and with the natural cycles of the life, when we live in harmony with and give honor to that circle all life flourishes. It is important to me that we address the physical concerns of our bodies as well as our environment without losing sight of the intrinsically spiritual nature of our existence.
Wolf: What ticks you off the most about what goes on with people and herbalism, and what’s to be done with it?
Tiffany: Ownership, that ticks me off. In my tradition plants were created before the people started their earth walks, they were created for the people, animals and all our relations to live. I am a strong believer in good quality education for folks that want to treat others, sell or distribute plants medicines but I also believe strongly in the ability of the folk, traditional or community herbalist. Most people only think of the “native” folks of the world when we think of traditional herbalists, but herbal medicine was an integral part of all our worlds’ cultures no matter their race or religion. The rights to use herbs as medicine is our right as human beings on this planet and our duty extends to care for those plants medicines, not over harvesting, wiping out plant species and providing a clean environment for them to grow; to use that right wisely with respect & gratitude.
Wolf: How do you deal with competing desires to make living from your craft and knowledge, and to share and spread it, or make it available to those who can least afford herbal counsel?
Tiffany: It is something I think of quite often. Teaching classes gives me that outlet to share knowledge as well as my clinical practice to put that knowledge in use, but those things are not always in people’s realm of affordability. To off set that cost I have clinical fees that are not set in stone, I will trade or use a sliding scale for patients that are unable to afford that fee. It’s a challenge balancing the needs of paying my own bills, rent at the end of the month and raising two kids with that of helping those who need help the most and cannot afford that care. A bonus in Canada is that many peoples extended health insurance through their work covers Acupuncture and therefore being a TCM doctor I can bill my sessions as such.
In the past I have worked in the not for profit area with the Canadian Indigenous Women’s Resource Institute assisting with workshops on Indigenous teachings & medicine. Through Lodgepole School of Wholistic Study (the school that co-direct) I have created a way to empower folks to take care of their own health with a series of talks called “Folk Herbal Revival: Bringing Plant Power to the People”. It’s a way to get people out, excited, learning about plant medicines and teaching them safety and ethics around using plants and for a very small fee to cover the cost of the room rental.
Wolf: What are some of your favorite powerful herbs to work with, and why?
Tiffany: Wow hard question! I have so many favorites. I guess right now I can say I am blown away by Corriolus (Turkey Tails).
I have had many opportunities to use this mushroom with cancer patients with great results. Its ability to protect the body and immune system during chemotherapy is incredible. My mom suffered terrible side effects from chemotherapy. Each time she finished a round of chemo she would end up in the hospital for 2 weeks with Neutropenia and major infections and now she struggles chronic infections acquired during those hospital stays. I had done my best to suggest that she remained on the Corriolus throughout the treatments but the dieticians at the cancer clinic told her she must not take it. Instead she was given a drug that cost $3000 for one injection that was supposed to protect her from neutropenia. All it did was cause extreme bone pain while trying to force the bone marrow to produce neutrophils and within 3 days was in the hospital again for 2 weeks. She has since returned to taking the Corriolus and her doctors are amazed with how her blood work bounced back so quickly. After a quick research during this ordeal I found a medical study done on Corriolus and its effect on preventing neutropenia, actually showing how Corriolus beat out the drug that I mention in helping the body produce neutrophils! But even then the doctors were not convinced… but I am! Since then it one of my powerful allies and I am not afraid to recommend it and love the results I see.
Comfrey is also on my favorite list these days. So many have spread the fear of its usage, but I have much respect for this powerfulness. When the doctor says that, a broken foot, is going to need surgery and when you return 4 weeks later after using Comfrey (in a “Bone, Flesh & Cartilage” formulas by Dr. Christopher) fomentations and a completely healed foot I am convinced how well it works. And I’ve seen this same scenario time and time again. Right now in our family we are experimenting with Comfrey and its effectiveness on the teeth & alveolar bone.
Wolf: Are there any well known plants that you use in unexpected ways?
Tiffany: I use a well known, to the Cree at least, fungus called Wasaskwetiw, Diamond Willow fungus, as a medicine that is inhaled while sitting with a blanket over ones head, like a dry steam, to treat migraine headaches with great results.
I am also getting turned on to using hydrosols from a local herbalist/ alchemist friend in Calgary. Currently I am using Comfrey hydrosol as a mouth rinse to tighten up gums and loose teeth, and hopefully regrow jaw bone! And also experimenting with it on diastasis recti and loose abdominal tissue post surgery.
Wolf: When helping a client or friend, what constitutional systems, diagnostic models or means do you use to evaluate their condition and needs?
Tiffany: Mostly I use Traditional Chinese Medicine and Classical Chinese Medicine as my diagnostic model through the inquiry, inspection, pulse & tongue assessment. I also use Iridology, Auricular assessment, Ortho-Bionomy and journeying.
Wolf: Why is herbalism important?
Tiffany: In my culture plants (herbs) where created for people and all our relatives on this earth. They were here before all our relatives came: the birds, four legged, two legged and the winged ones. Creator put them upon the earth to hold life together, help sustain life, to be of service, provide food, shelter, medicine, and to be our teachers. Herbalism keeps the tradition of plant medicines alive.
Wolf: What do you hope most for herbalism and the herbal community?
Tiffany: That we keep passing the herbal knowledge down, we keep sharing it and in that keeping it alive; that we continue caring for our planet and the medicine that lives within it, as well as for our brothers & sisters. As herbalists I feel that we are space holders on this earth, holding a space for healing and connection.
Wolf: Ecologies are systems of reciprocity and mutual benefits. The plants provide so much, what can we give them or do for them in exchange?
Tiffany: In my culture and many others too, reciprocity is given by honoring and respecting them by the way we harvest, prepare and work with them, we give them offerings when picking them and it is all done in a sacred way. It shows that we are grateful for all that they provide for us. In exchange they are in service to us and provide us with the healing that we need.
Wolf: That is the kind of approach, and excitement, that helps distinguish the empowered folk herbal community… a coming together of rebels, contraries and oddkins.
Tiffany: Herbalists, medicine healers and earth loving, health living activists can be a strange breed! Many of us have strong opinions combined with lots of passion; we share a wild love for plants and co-creating. We cuss, we sing, get dirty, say the wrong thing at the right time lol, eat weird things, are not afraid to put plants in our mouths, and will jump at any opportunity to make, whether a remedy or to participate in healing. We generally don’t fit within the conservative North America or flow with the status quo. Plant healer publications appeal to that crowd. It empowers folk wisdom and at the same time appeals to our nerdy nature that needs accuracy and solid foundations of botanical sciences, with a healthy balance of earth based teachings. It provides a venue for the herbalist to get out of their comfort zone, to explore new possibilities and ideas.
Wolf: It is great to host new and compelling voices at our annual gatherings, which is partly why there are twice as many teachers and classes this year. And it is’s great we were able to make space to host your teaching for the first time. What do you find most exciting about the classes you will be teaching at the Good Medicine Confluence in June?
Tiffany: It is very exciting for me to share traditional medicines with others, in a good way and through right of honor, for that I am grateful. Each circle teaching is so different; no two are ever alike no matter the topic. As that circle is opened a unique energy is created and is developed from of all who are a part of it. We share with one another on many levels even without speaking, we learn not only from the one delivering the teaching but also from one another. It’s a bond. The universe responds to that sacredness, connect and tap into it.
Wolf: Have you ever been to the Four Corners region of the Southwest where New Mexico, Arizona Utah and Colorado – mountains and deserts – meet, or do you have a feel for this area where you’ll be teaching?
Tiffany: I have never and I am very excited to. For years I have been having a vision while journeying about the four corners area and I am quite happy to meet it!
Wolf: What message would you most like to leave our Herbaria readers with?
Tiffany: The plant people are our teachers, our relatives; there is a need for great respect and love for them. When they are used in a sacred way, with Honor, Respect & Gratitude they are unconditionally in service to us as medicine & healers. The next time you go out to harvest, gather or pick ask permission, have a listen to what the plants may be saying, what kind of feelings do they invoke inside you? Spend some time in meditation with that, sing with them, and always bring an offering. In this way the forest and all its relatives will open up to you.
Wolf: Beautiful, thank you. And for sharing yourself here, as well as with our attendees this June.
Tiffany: Thank you very much for the opportunity to share with the Plant Healer community. I am really looking forward to the Good Medicine Confluence!
Miigwetch hiy hiy – all our relations.
We are grateful to have Tiffany teaching two ceremonious classes at the Good Medicine Confluence, June 14-18, in Durango, Colorado:
Traditional Teachings on Sacred Tobacco
Traditional teaching on sacred tobacco is an adaptation of a workshop that was passed down to me from my Cree Elder, it is based on the Grandmother’s Sacred Teachings on Tobacco. In this experiential learning circle we discuss the importance and the history of Tobacco use in Indigenous cultures. How we as herbalists, healers and students of earth can learn to work with Tobacco for communication, respect and honoring. This will not be a course on all the bad stuff that can be attributed to smoking cigarettes nor is it a talk that promotes smoking. Here we are discussing natural tobacco and its roots. Participants will also learn how to make bundles or traditional prayer ties to offer to the plant, fungi kingdoms etc during harvesting etc. The four directions is also an important part of the talk and the colors and associated meanings will be addressed.
Working With Spirit: An Indigenous Medicine Sharing
Whether it is working with people, plants, the fungal kingdoms, or other realms, it is the utmost important to check your self at the door! To let go of our human voice that dominates, to step outside of that which binds us to our physical bodies, to our brains and to “let go and let creator.” Whether an herbalist or healer, a plant medicine grower, farmer, clinician or novice these Indigenous medicine teachings are integral to our own health & healing, to all our relations on the planet and to those whom we serve plant, animal or fungi. When we work with spirit we are in the heart space and are serving as a co-creator; In this place we create space for those to heal, to help them navigate into their innate ability to heal oneself. Through this we are giving respect and are witnessing rather than judging and therefore we fully open ourselves to the medicine kingdom and its communication. It is through this communication and through a respect for nature that we act as a conduit, connecting the medicine with those whom need it. Join a medicine circle where we will explore these topics and participate in a sharing of traditional indigenous teachings with Earth Medicine Woman, Tiffany Freeman.
For more information or to register to attend, please click on:
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