I started at Heart of Herbs Herbal School a year ago enrolling in the Certified Herbalist course, passionate about plants and healing but uncertain how I would put to use the skills I was learning. I had been a soapmaker since 2008, using herbs in my soaps and salves. We grew and used herbs in teas for headaches and tinctures. I will probably add a few new products, but there must be more. How could I use my new herbal knowledge, passion for plants and healing and my longing to help those around me??
I began researching and compiling information for my Materia Medica and was amazed at the wealth growing in my backyard! Prior to enrolling, I knew there were some beneficial 'weeds' growing in my yard (plantain and dandelion for example). But, wow! Clover, chickweed, raspberry leaves, cherry bark, pine, plantain, dandelion, nettles, goldenrod and elderberry! (and probably more I haven't found yet) All growing on our 2 acres. This doesn't even include the cultivated and encouraged lemon balm, peppermint, lavender, mullein, calendula, feverfew, St John's Wort, yarrow, comfrey, echinacea and thyme. I'm teaching our children when to harvest leaves, flowers, roots, bark, to do it with respect and how to properly dry them so the harvest isn't wasted. My friends were very interested in what I was doing, fascinated that health and healing could be found right outside their door, rather than at the store or pharmacy. So, they encouraged me to share some of what I was learning. I started a blog on my business website and featured 'Wildcraft Wednesday' profiling backyard herbs and how to use them. The first way I could share my passion help others.
After than, opportunities began popping up everywhere! The friend with an 8 month old daughter with a croup-y cough. The doctor says he can't do anything until she's bad enough to be hospitalized. So I filled a bag with herbs and wrote up directions and dosages based on the baby's weight (after double checking every herbal I own!). Her daughter sleeps through the night, breathing easily for the first time in days. She calls me a miracle worker, but we know that's not true. I was able to apply the knowledge I was learning at HOH. I am thankful. My best friend's son (who happens to be best friends with my own son) has a nasty rash they thought was poison ivy. He's a shy boy and embarrassed to go to the doctor and show him his hand. They'd rather treat it at home. I pray about the recipe and pray over my now-dwindling stash of herbs I gathered last summer. (I always pray when I'm making something specifically for an individual to best match the herbs and the person.) Chickweed, plantain, chamomile, comfrey, the last of my calendula. Healing salve. His mom applies the salve one night and the rash is gone in the morning. Plants are amazing. And my friend, the waitress and mother of 4 with the disabled husband is able to avoid a doctor's office co-pay.
I never diagnose anything. I am not a physician. I don't have the training. I do offer suggestions that are steeped in centuries of healing tradition, thoroughly researched and applied with caution and respect. At this time I rarely accept payment. On occasion, I'll accept a trade or barter.
Something I did not expect to do with my herbalist training is treat animals. Men, women, children – sure. Colds, rashes, allergies, sprains and pulled muscles – of course. But, surely not animals? I don't know why this came as a surprise to me. We have 6 laying hens, 11 pullets (young hens), and 25 meat birds. 1 large, hairy, and lovable dog. 8(!) hives of bees. All on our 2 acres of suburban homestead. Family, friends, and customers know we make an effort to do 'natural' – the way we eat, the way we feed our animals, and the way we treat our illnesses. When the local raw milk/pastured beef farmer asked me if I had an herbal remedy for pseudo -cowpox, I was stumped. I did not own the necessary herbal reference for that. I asked around, but herbal vet information is hard to come by. Huh. I mentally added the Farm and Stable herbal to my to-be-purchased list. A week later, our 11 year old daughter brought me one of our laying hens. She has an infected toe. Is it bumblefoot (a typical chicken ailment)? * sigh * More livestock health issues. My husband and I work together as a team to soak, clean, cut. Removing infection. I'm tense and in tears. When it comes time to make a poultice and wrap and bandage the foot I'm finally confident. I can do this. Something antibacterial. Something to draw out infection. Nothing to heal the tissue yet. I don't know that we removed all the infection. So comfrey is out. Raw honey from our bees is a good start, along with activated charcoal. This is when I know, without a doubt, that I'm an herbalist. I am not a surgeon. Or a doctor. Or a vet. Or a pharmacist. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. And an herbalist. Using plants and wisdom to treat those in our care to the best of our ability. Whether they reside in my home, my community, or my farmyard. Is it possible that one year ago I did not know how I would put this skill into practice? Now, rarely a day goes by without the opportunity to use it and I have HOH to thank.