GMC Classes: Diagnostics + Therapeutics

Since the very inception of Plant Healer events, we have always placed a strong emphasis on the most practical building blocks of herbalism. Many of these elements are especially useful for the home, community, or clinical herbalist and can be widely applied 

Diagnostics and therapeutics make up a vital part of an herbalist’s skill set, and it’s especially exciting to see the ongoing expansion of diagnostic techniques in the Western herbal traditions and communities as experience grows and wisdom deepens and is shared. From addiction to tongue diagnostics to the microbiome, these classes offer an opportunity to increase your understanding of how to better treat those in your care. Particularly important is the amount of nuance included in many of these classes, including those regarding vaccinations, cholesterol, and addiction. 

I have worked as a clinician off and on during the 15 years I’ve been an “official” herbalist, but I’ve found diagnostics and therapeutics just as important when I’m practicing more informally, or even just trying to suss out the cause behind my daughter’s chronic iritis or addressing the symptoms of Wolf’s 50 year stint with HCV. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of being able to recognize patterns and symptom sets, and diagnostics are absolutely vital for that purpose. 

You can check out the entirety of the schedule right here on the Good Medicine Confluence site, along with more about all of our amazing teachers and details about the event!

Chronic!: Treating Reoccurring Illness With Herbal Medicine:

(1.5 hrs)


The goal of this class is to help practicing herbalists and advanced herbal students gain practical skills working with people with chronic health care issues, We will cover a number of medicinal plants, therapeutic categories and ways of putting together formulas for individuals. This includes using various preparations such as teas, tinctures and external applications as well considerations such as dosage and patient compliance.

Essential Herbs For Toddlers & Their Families 

(1.5 hrs.)

Juliette Abigail Carr

What herbs are the most helpful for this unique, transformative time? Let’s go deep into specific herbs for an era of deep physical and emotional development, as well as incredible spirituality and newfound connection with the broader world, an age that often needs our support. We will also focus on herbs to support the larger constellation of the toddler family. Specific formulas and creative ways of getting medicine into squirmy kids (and grouchy partners!) will also be discussed. 

Oh Shit!: Pattern Assessment & Treatment of Bowel Imbalances

(1.5 hrs)

Betsy Costilo-Miller

Digestive imbalances are one of the most common complaints that draws people to working with herbs and food.  Living with chronic constipation, diarrhea, pain or discomfort impacts not only digestive function, but quality of life as well.  This class will focus on assessing the why behind the symptoms- is a person constipated because of disrupted nerve signaling to the bowel, or are they constitutionally dry and therefore unable to maintain normal tissue function? We will explore methods of assessment, from tongue diagnosis to stool patterns, and discuss an extensive materia medica that is focused on meeting the needs of unique tissue patterns in the bowel. 

Face, Tongue, & Body Diagnostics

(1.5 hrs)

Emily French

Our bodies are constantly telling us about where they could use some strengthening, some detoxing, some warmth, or cool, moisture, nutrition, rest .. you name it. Brought to the awareness of modern western herbalists by William LeSassier and others, and fleshed out (excuse the pun) by Chris Marano, Margi Flint, Matthew Wood, and other contemporary herbalists, face and body diagnostics have once again become an indispensable part of the practice of many health care practitioners.  Eye troubles? Snappy joints? Let's take a look at your liver. Learn about where each of the organ systems opens to the face/head and tongue, how to read a person's thyroid health in their neck, how the shine in our hair and the ridges in our fingernails, or lack thereof, are indicative of kidney and adrenal function, how our tone of voice reflects the health of our organs, even what butt pimples are trying to tell us about our lungs. Each and every part of our external body is relaying messages about what's happening on the inside.

If you have a little handheld mirror here in Durango with you, please bring it along. It’s great to be able to see these things right in the moment. I’ll bring some too, but the more the merrier!

Lyme Disease: The Great Teacher

(1.5 hrs)

Emily French

The Lyme saturation in which we find ourselves is a powerful teacher about post-antibiotic medicine, the sophisticated movement of plant medicines through ecosystems and the human body, the incredible ability of bacteria to adapt, survive, and continually strive toward balance, and about turning to the plants for healing when few other options remain and watching them literally bring life back. The Lyme complex of infections, the ticks, the forests and fields, do not have to be our enemies – in fact, they are our teachers. And once we understand what's happening in our bodies when faced with these infections, we don't have to feel afraid – we know what to do; we can move toward healing.

This in-depth workshop will cover herbal approaches to the following facets of Lyme Disease: deterrence, infection, acute care, and chronic support. Learn about the most potent plant medicines for Lyme borreliosis and common co-infections, as well as lifestyle and dietary guidelines to strengthen immune health and improve quality of life, whether the goal is avoiding or healing from a long-term Lyme infection. With the right approach and a little bit of luck, people come out the other side feeling healthier, more truly themselves, and more connected to the green world than they did before they got sick. There are great teachings in this…

Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad, & The Bullshit

(1.5 hrs)

Marija Helt

We hear a lot about cholesterol, especially with negative connotations. From the news media, from healthcare providers and for some of us, from the scientific literature.  A careful reading of the latter will show that much of what we hear about cholesterol is outright BS or otherwise oversimplified.  Does a high level of cholesterol cause cardiovascular disease? Not necessarily. Can a high level of oxidized cholesterol cause cardiovascular disease?  Absolutely.  But the key word here is “oxidized”.  More on this in the class.  

Cholesterol is, in fact, a critical molecule for health.  It is part of our cell membranes, it is the scaffold from which our corticosteroid hormones are made and it plays a role in immunity.  Did you know that elderly folks with what would be considered high LDL live longer than similar aged folks on statin drugs? Or that older folks with higher levels of cholesterol have a longer predicted lifespan and a lower risk for neurological issues? And that statin usage in general has not resulted in a reduction in the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease? 

HDL (high density lipoprotein), what we often hear called “good cholesterol”, is a carrier composed of proteins and lipids that transports cholesterol to the liver for breakdown or recycling.  LDL, what we often hear called “bad cholesterol”, is a fairly similar carrier that transports cholesterol out into circulation so it can get where it needs to go to do its important jobs. The mantra has been that high levels of HDL in circulation indicate a reduced risk for heart disease, while high levels of LDL are indicative of increased risk.  You will see it stated as irrefutable dogma.  A critical look at how research is done and interpreted, who does the research and, in some cases, how data is ignored, shows that not only is this idea of good versus bad idea is (in the least) over-simplistic or (at worst) may be largely inaccurate.  We’ll look into the scoop on HDL, LDL, statins and even get into an important CVD risk factor that’s less often tested for, vLDL (very low density lipoprotein).  Oh, and some herbs!  : ) 

The Importance of Bonding & The Human Microbiome: Germs Aren't So Bad

(1.5 hrs)

Sharon Hockenbury

What if I told you that there are 2-3 pounds of microorganisms living in your gut and they are your friends?  This intricate and delicate system, call the Human Microbiome is the catalyst for gut health and the foundation of the immune, nutritional assimilation, behavioral and neuro health and it starts with the birth process.   Come and learn how we can establish a healthy Microbiome system and continue to support it through a lifetime.

Winter is Coming: Warm Remedies For Cold Constitutions

(2 hrs)

Juliet Howard

Do you shiver and ache deep in your bones at the coming of winter? Are you seemingly always cold and bundling yourself in a cocoon of socks, layers, and blankets? You may have a cold constitution that is forcing you to have barriers to your experience of abundance in the cold seasons. 

Herbalism is not a one-size-fits-all science. Unlike allopathic medicine, herbalism looks at the whole person, the whole plant, and how the two can create synergistic healing. Each person is markedly different and requires methods of healing that differ accordingly. In my studies in constitutional herbalism, I have learned that although you cannot change your core constitution, there can be a change in the ways you nourish it. Learning to warm yourself from the inside can drastically change your life and perspective. There is beautiful ritual in every season we encounter. Those who run cold often loathe the winter months, and I hope that by providing folks with remedies and rituals for the colder months that they can look forward to winter, rather than dread it. 

I hope that you will leave this class prepared, and dare I say, excited to take on winter. You will have the tools necessary and some printed reference materials to help keep you warm through the colder months using food, herbal medicine, and ritual. Winter is such a powerful time of reflection, restoration, and creativity, and this critical time should never be dampened by dread of the cold. My goal for this class is for you to feel inspired to throw medicine-making parties in the fall and winter to prepare and celebrate this beautiful time of year. 

This is a hands-on class where we will be making warming medicines

Using Plants to Support an Individual Approach  to Childhood Vaccines

(2 hrs or 2.5 hrs)

Jaunita Nelson

If there’s a topic sure to create polarized views it’s whether or not to immunize our children.  Whether you are an anti-vaxer or a pro-vaxer or somewhere in between, this class is designed to do two things: provide facts about the vaccines and give practitioners options for herbal treatments. When we as practitioners help folks make choices that are individualized for them and help take the charge out of their choices by giving them tools designed to support them we empower them.  When we can provide non-judgmental support and compassionate care we can enhance their relationship with plants as well as help them improve their family’s health.

Addressing Sexually Transmitted Infections  From an Herbalist’s Perspective

(2 hrs)

Jaunita Nelson

Sexually transmitted infections have skyrocketed in the last few years in some cases increasing 75% over previous years.  Gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, all are on the rise.  Public health clinics across the country are being closed for lack of funding and support.  This is the environment that many folks find themselves in today.  As herbalists we have a unique opportunity to step up and support folks who are struggling with these infections from a different perspective helping them as whole, unique individuals.  This class will talk about the medical model of care and provide options for treating and supporting the whole person using herbs.

Menopause in Preschool:  Helping Older Moms & Grandma’s Raising Kids Through The Change

(1.5 hrs)

Jennie Isbell Shinn
There are increasing numbers of women giving birth in their 40s, and grandparents raising grandchildren. These are not brand new realities, but they are renewing trends and growing in frequency. Herbal support for menopause, including wholistic, and counter-cultural mental- and emotional shifts away from external mirrors and judgments toward inner clarity and power are just one piece of the menopause pie. When the requirements of parenting, from young children to teenagers overlaps with menopause and croning, what’s a mama-Crone to do? In this workshop, we will take a look at the numbers to see how common these circumstances are and in what communities it is most prevalent. We’ll also look at a handful of common physical menopausal symptoms and possible solutions (like disordered sleep, mood swings, new hair here there and not where it used to be, body temperature changes, fatigue), but our real focus will be on care of heart- and mind- for women and families navigating many life stages at once. What are the most nourishing things for body, mind and spirit at this time? What needs to be grieved and how to manage that flow? Are there new rituals for these women? For their partners? 

Radical Self-Care for the Generative Systems

(1.5 hrs)

Emily Stock

This class will explore a myriad of external therapies to bring circulation and healing to the generative system, more commonly referred to as the reproductive system. Our generative systems, regardless of gender, are just that: the creative power center of our beings. Taking care of ourselves in this way allows a window of opportunity not only to find better cycles, less pain, less stagnation, and an easier way of being, but also to make time for ourselves in a way that opens and lifts the spirit and grounds our sense of place through the root and second chakras. 
While you may have heard reference to pelvic steaming, moxibustion, castor oil packs, and pelvic floor work, this class will demonstrate ways to do each of these things in an applicable way, along with proper indications and herbs to take alongside pelvic treatment. These practices are deeply healing when done with proper care, attention, and consistency.

Many of the things often described as “women’s care” can also be applied to people who don’t have vaginas, and we will be focusing on the pelvic bowl as an entity that deserves healing for all genders. 

Elements Part I

Elemental Interactions: Understanding Chinese 5 Elements
(1.5 hrs)

Emily Stock

In this class we will comprehensively review the Chinese 5 Element system, with special attention to how the elements and their corresponding organ systems interact with each other. 

Wood ~ Fire ~ Earth ~ Metal ~ Water.

The foundation of Chinese medicine is both poetic and practical. We will be using classic metaphors of nature to deepen our understanding of patterns within the body. While some perspectives offer a ‘personality test’ view on the 5 Element theory, we will be instead focusing on how each elemental interaction happens within any given person and identifying the ways to see each of the 5 elements at work in one body. A particular clinical challenge is being able to see which pattern rises above the rest, and how to identify where to begin with treatment. We will use clinical examples and natural metaphors. 

This class will also focus on the ways in which the elements interact within the body, revealing both generative and control cycles between organ systems, emotions, and tissue states. This is where the 5 Element system comes to life in our bodies and in our clinical practices. Once an element is identified as being out of balance, how do we influence it? How can we anticipate what that might mean down the road for other organ systems? And how can we trace back to the beginning of an imbalance to see where it all started? Come to explore this ancient perspective on balance.

Elements Part II

Elemental Spirits: Understanding The Spirit Aspect of The Chinese 5 Elements

(1.5 hrs)

Emily Stock

An important part of the Chinese 5 Element system is the spirit aspect of each element and organ system. 

Hun ~ Shen ~ Yi ~ Po ~ Zhi

While it was once integrally incorporated into the Chinese 5 Element system of thought, the spirit perspective has been left out of modern practices and has been largely left to the Taoists to continue the lineage. Clinically, the spirit aspect of the 5 Element system can lend much to both our understanding and efficacy of treatment. This is where we become whole, where the thread between what is surfacing and what lies beneath becomes clear.

We will discuss each spirit element in detail, creating a map for emotions and spiritual work. This will include how they can relate to one another, and how it all fits within the modern more physical approach to Chinese medicine. 

When separated into 5 aspects, which are then related to their corresponding organ systems, the nebulous idea of spirit starts to take form. Understanding how aspects of ourselves nourish and regulate other aspects, we can then start to embody our own spiritual evolution. 

When Plants Are Abused

(1.5 hrs)

Angie True

Struggles with addiction, food sensitivities/allergies, mental/emotional health, environmentally-induced chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disease and other common modern maladies are the primary reasons for seeing healing facilitators of any type, and all of these go back in one way or another to dysfunctional relationships with plants and nature. We probably share or have shared those symptoms ourselves, and talk about them all the time: in our practices, in the classes we take, the things we read and write, to our families and friends. 

So how come making simple changes -- dietary, lifestyle, herbal – can be so hard? Why do intellectual explanations only go so far, with ourselves, with clients, with our nearest and dearest? Could it be because we’re still looking at chronic conditions through the same reductionist lens that allopathic medicine uses?

Join us to create multidimensional maps of meaning to explore personal, ancestral, cultural, global and cosmic relationships with plants and planet. Learn how to connect with your own and your people’s relationships with food and medicine plants, re-contextualizing the shame and self-blame for chronic conditions that our culture has taught us. 

Hands-On Workshop:  Focus On The Feet: Tending & Pampering

(1.5 hrs)

Lisa Valantine

Our feet are meant to walk the earth, touch the earth intimately, and yet as often as not, our feet are neglected and incased in shoes and sandals and do not receive the healing benefit of earth's electrical charge or the awareness and reverence that they deserve.  Through loving rituals of cleansing and purification we will engage with the intricate history surrounding the ceremony of washing the feet as a means to demonstrate humbleness and to invoke a sacred act that honors the divine in ourselves and others.  We will learn ways we can support the care of the feet on a daily basis - from earthing and exercise, acupressure and massage, wraps and masks, soothing balms and healing foot baths.  There will be a wealth of information and demonstration, as we all practice on ourselves.  Much of the information in this class will be helpful for those engaged in elder care.

Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Vitex & Other Herbs For Women’s Challenging Times

(1.5 hrs)

Ellen Zimmermann

Meet and learn from Vitex-agnus-castus, my plant ally.  She is an an exceptional herb used to balance the sex hormones of the body including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.  During several passages of life, a women’s body needs support to ease the difficulties of these changes.  Vitex, as well as other herbs we will discuss, can assist during these challenging times.  We will also explore the mind- body-spirit connection during these passages and learn how herbs, foods, relationships and lifestyle, can be optimized so you can be the best you can be at each life stage.