Becoming an Herbalist

I did not come to herbalism; herbalism came to me.

This is a quote most often associated with me in herbal circles. Probably because I have said it publically for over 20 years and opened my first book with this quote. Here is the truth though, I think when people have heard me say it, they have felt the same emotional tug that has kept me in the game for so long. Becoming an herbalist wasn’t in a lot of ways a choice, it was my path. Herbalism is a path I have walked my whole life.

Becoming an Herbalist
Becoming an Herbalist

The natural world has always fascinated me. When I was a child, my family moved often. I spent my childhood playing in diverse landscapes in Alabama, Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oregon and every place we visited in between. Every time we settled in a
new area, I would be struck by the stark differences in the plants and trees. Running through fields, rolling in the grass and weeds, making the usual childhood crowns and bracelets from plants, and disappearing into herbs and flowers taller than I was were powerful introductions to the natural world that constantly surrounded me.

Throughout my childhood, I was regularly exposed to the healing power of plants and herbs. Friends in Alabama explained that collard greens are high in iron, so they ate them often because their child was anemic. Our neighbors in New Hampshire owned an herbal-therapy
company. This wonderful family offered me accurate guidance and answered all of what I am sure were my annoying and endless questions about herbs. I remember badgering my friend’s mom about why she grew certain herbs and used certain essential oils. I also remember going to their essential oils warehouse for the first time and feeling like I had reached olfactory heaven. Smelling all of the herbs and essential oils was a fantastic experience that I’ve never forgotten.

My Path in Front of Me.

All of these experiences impressed me. But a personal experience with chronic migraines convinced me of the effectiveness of herbs. As a child, I had such severe migraines that I’d have nosebleeds. The pain felt like a hammer smacking into my head, and the bleeding was, of course, frightening. Yet, no doctor seemed to be able to help me. At the tender age of eight, I remember using cool compresses, taking baths, and swallowing three, four, or even five aspirins at a time in a vain attempt to quell the pain. Then I had what I call my “herbal encounter.” Becoming an herbalist became the next step.

One day, my head pounding from a migraine, I ran to the stream near our house and dunked my head in the cold water to cool off. I then walked in the woods along the creek, even though I was feeling very sick. Without knowing why I absentmindedly began chewing on a leaf of mountain laurel that I’d picked along the stream, and, to my surprise, I began to feel better. I learned later, as an adult, that mountain laurel was an old headache remedy that can
be highly toxic if not used properly. But as a child, I naively believed that plants, being “natural,” could not hurt me. Mountain laurel became part of my materia medica, and I learned how to stop the headaches and nosebleeds. Knowing how herbs worked
helped me understand why I had migraines and how I could change the outcome.

Learning how to take control even at such a young age helped to shape my destiny and career path. Many people have an “herbal” moment that changes everything for them. Becoming an herbalist became from this moment something I would always carry in my heart.

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