you + plants
People and plants are meant to be together, in the most literal way. We humans have evolved to function with the help of plants, whether it be breathing, healing, or even clothing and housing ourselves. Healing with plants, often called herbalism, is not only the domain of professionals, but something that all of us can do well and often! Throughout human history, every culture and ethnic group has worked with plants for the sake of their healing and well being. You belong WITH the plants, and we all belong TO the plants.
Healing is not only a matter of fixing what’s broken, it’s about growing what’s well, and nourishing the beauty of body and soul. It’s the pursuit of pleasure as much as it is the easing of pain. While you should certainly see a practicing herbalist (herbalists are not licensed in the United States) or other health professional for any health issue you have concerns about, it is also totally possible to nourish and care for yourself with gentle remedies. Caring for yourself means educating yourself!
With a bit of focus and training, any of us are capable of learning the basics of home herbalism, and beyond. Not only that, the learning of plant healing is an adventure all its own. The scent of rosewater, the act of grinding roots, the taste of brewed spices, the touch of linden blossoms being plucked from the tree. This our heritage, and its deep memory still dances in our very cells.
Give yourself over to the ancient song of the flowers that are always calling us home.
Wandering the high elevation forests
of New Mexico
Once Upon A time…
“It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
I came to plants and stories by the same route, as a child, in a fevered quest for magic in a frightening, cacophonous world. Not everyone comes at it from that angle, but it worked out well for me. From the plants that I studied with endless curiosity even before I had words, I learned to tell stories. From the stories I read later, I learned that plants have been spinning stories from their roots for as long as humans have had words, and very likely much longer. The tales of Berchta in her forest, guarding the ancient healing knowledge of the plants and Baba Jaga in her mortar intrigued me, and I looked for every detail of the herbs and magics laid down in that old lore. I was fascinated, and although I was certainly interested in the healing aspects, I was most drawn in by the interaction between woman and plant, person and place. By the way a wood knew the person walking in it, and the way the Good Folk recognized the intent of someone seeking sanctuary in wild lands. Even as a child, I gathered Strawberry leaves for my tea, grew Thyme in my tiny garden and then tinctured it in vinegar. I learned about the styptic properties of Yarrow from an elderly neighbor in the barrio where I lived and was astounded yet again by the power of the green things growing all around me.
It took me until my early 20’s to find my way to this enchanted canyon in the mountains of New Mexico, and just as long to formally (in as much as I ever do anything formally) begin my herbal studies. Over the years, I have studied with the late great Michael Moore of SWSBM, Jim McDonald of herbcraft.org, Charles Garcia of The California School of Hispanic Herbalism, have mentored with 7Song, and been influenced by such varied sources as Guido Masé, Maria Treben, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, and the healing traditions of my ancestors.
Learning about plants while living in the roadless wilderness of the Gila only enhanced the magic of a process that is inherently filled to brimming with the mysteries of the green world. This place and my nearly 15 years here have irrevocably changed me, and taught me as much about healing as any of my human teachers. I’ve now been practicing herbalism for over 13 years, and it has been everything that my early childhood fantasies of a witch at the edge of the woods promised, from the gnarled roots that can heal the nastiest hacking winter cough to the sweetly scented flowers that can send you intensely vivid dreams to the silver bark that can clear up dangerous systemic infections. Back then, I imagined it must be some kind of elven enchantment for an herbal compress to be able to speed the healing of broken bones, and now that I know exactly how it works, it’s still magic. In fact, it’s even more magic.
In The Land of Enchantment
I live in the Saliz Mountains southwestern New Mexico in a tiny cabin with my beloved husband and partner, Jesse Wolf Hardin, and our two children, Inga Winter and Ælfyn Thorn. From our wee den we send out solar-powered, satellite-spun missives into the world, organize a conference, and publish any number of books, an herbal quarterly, and a free magazine. We live on an 80 acre botanical and wildlife sanctuary, entirely surrounded by national forest. Our river canyon is 6,000 feet in the air in the midst of a dark sky sanctuary, and home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna.
My obsession with plants extends to creating botanical perfumes, herbal mixology, and all manner of rustic cookery. Living in the forested wilds with my one true love, a pantry full of potions, and a passel of clawsome cat-like creatures is just what I’ve always wanted, and so I’m here to share my love of the plants and wild places with all of you!
Plant Healer Quarterly — A quarterly journal of folk herbalism of in-depth education featuring a diverse array of contributors and topics.
Plant Healer’s Herbaria Magazine — Plant Healer’s free monthly supplement.
The Good Medicine Confluence — A yearly celebration of herbalism, traditional skills, and folklore that takes place each May in Durango, CO. Like Plant Healer, it is accessible to complete beginners, applicable to the experienced practitioner, and useful to even long term clinicians while also being great fun for those who simply want to learn how to brew