My curiosity about using plants for wellness began in the library as a preteen, following my own interests. I’ve never stopped reading on the subject. The Internet brought tons more information; my favorite pastime became Jim Duke’s Ethnobotanical Database. My interest was so keen, I almost went to Naturopathic Medical School after college, but eventually decided to move back home to be with my (now) husband instead.
Today my husband, John, and I own and operate an Organic Market/Health Food Store/Specialty Beer & Wine Shop in our small hometown in eastern NC. We are also about to celebrate our 15th year at our first business, Muddy’s, a neighborhood coffeehouse and roastery. We are the caretakers of a Revolutionary War era house in the country with a huge heirloom garden, a small orchard and lots of resident plants and animals. Our hobbies include sailing, camping, biking, seed-saving, cooking, traveling, photography and old houses.
Yet, through it all, my interest in herbs, plants and wellness remained. I discovered East West Herbal School online and signed up for classes back in 2004. But the craziness of running two businesses, having a child and life in general happened. I never touched those books.
Almost 10 years after I started, the coursework that sat on my shelves began calling me again. On a whim one day, I emailed and asked if I could pick up where I left off and begin the course again. Jill and the Tierras cheerfully allowed me to start over in 2013 and it’s been amazing! Learning TCM diagnostics seemed so far outside of everything I’d ever read, but its knowledge goes deep and wide across thousands of years. Using plants that have evolved with us over millennia, in formula, to bring the body back into balance; this is what I was meant to do. My deepest thanks to the Tierras and the school for sharing the knowledge and allowing me a chance complete my study and pursue this dream. By teaching modern healers how to heal, they are creating a better world for all of us.
I’ve moved from East to West over the course of my life. I was born in Boston. My parents were involved in the home birth movement, and natural food co-ops. We followed my father’s career first to Chicago, then to Santa Fe.
I began studying theatre in Santa Fe, and majored in acting at UNM. After college, I supported my acting career working in bars and nightclubs. I got burnt out with that lifestyle, and resolved to work with fresh air and sunlight. It is said that the actor’s body is the instrument - a painter has paints, a drummer has drums - which needs to be well-maintained.
I got a job in a plant nursery, setting me on the path of herbal medicine. Through subsequent work at an apothecary store, then a tincture manufacturer, I learned basic medicine-making and a foundation in Western, Native American, and Ayurvedic traditions.
I moved to San Francisco, pursuing acting opportunities, and continued with herbal work. Exposed to a large Asian community, I began to learn about Traditional Chinese Medicine. I apprenticed with Christopher Hobbs for my first Herbalist Certification.
I registered with East West in 2008. Having dual careers in acting and herbal medicine, my progress is slow but steady. I attended Foundation seminar in 2011.
This past fall, a new opportunity brought me to Ashland, OR, to run the dispensary for Donnie Yance’s Mederi Centre. My goal for the dispensary is to help it grow to meet the needs of the clients, and comply with FDA cGMP regulations. Meanwhile, I’m completing my lessons for Advanced seminar! Next: AHG Professional Membership.
Aside from herbalism and theatre, I love to travel. I’ve been to four continents (I’ve performed in three). Whenever I visit a foreign country, I like to find a natural pharmacy, and see a play.
I have some thoughts about the intersection of my dual careers. There was a time when performance and healing work were intertwined, when the herbal remedy required an accompanying ritual. In classical Greece, citizens went to see dramas and comedies, in order to experience catharsis. In modern society, art and medicine are separated. I believe the work we do as herbalists helps to bridge that gap.
Finding myself in the place I am now, I feel so much gratitude to witness my life filling with herbs- building my apothecary, building my understanding, having a homestead to invite medicine plants to grow and for me to grow with them. I feel too, a familiar feeling - of being in x marks the spot - that feeling of arrival. I have been here before. When I found rainbow and the tribes in the woodland gatherings, my spirit awakened and I was home. Five years later, again I was in the crosshairs when I took my vows to become Muslim and devote my life to spiritual purification. I could feel my very pulse echo in my ears as all else fell away.
Now I am older, my midpoint, my 40, the age I wanted to have my shit together and know my work. I've rooted my first chakra- I recognize my tribe. My second, nourished by my sweet husband. My third is my sense of self. In my youth I was a queen and then in my religious fervor I made myself a slave. Now I am neither. I have my core. I know who I am. My fourth, my heart, and that is where herbs come in. Nothing is new, the plants have been my acquaintances throughout the years but only now has the door opened for me to seek their friendship. I am so grateful to the East West school, to Michael Tierra for being relentless in curiosity and seeking understanding of the different systems of knowledge to bring us the best of them. I started at East West a year ago and am beginning to scratch the surface in understanding the main concepts and putting this knowledge to work by sharing herbs with friends and family. Opening my heart to these teachings, I go deeper- learning about our intricate relationship to plants, understanding the human organism and how our constitutions vary and the impact our various 'bodies' have on each other- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. There is such richness here and I am so grateful to be on this path. I love my fellow students and teachers here in this school. I am in awe of the ways life unfolds and look forward to the work ahead.
I am not sure where my love of plants came from, but there is a familial connection. My mother was an avid gardener and I grew up in a home with hundreds of plants. My uncle is an amateur botanist. I have always had a deep love for the natural world.
I grew up in a small college town in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. Born to Chilean parents, I gravitated toward making international friends. I lived in Germany and South Korea in the early to mid-1990s. In Germany, I lived with three PhD-bound ground chemistry students. We composted everything, ate lots of cabbage soup, and drank tea obsessively. I quickly became accustomed to a more natural, unprocessed diet that had a low-impact on the environment. Living in South Korea, I discovered Chinese herbs in the herbal pharmacies. I would buy huge stalks of fresh ginseng at the street market, boil them down, and drink this all day long, until my roommate begged me to stop!
My first real dive into herbs was in College Park, Maryland. I was immediately hooked after taking classes from Claudia Joy Wingo at Smiles Herb Shop. Afterward, I completed a Masters in Public Health and moved to Atlanta, Georgia to work in health research and evaluation. Soon after, I remarkably ended up in Susan Kramer’s office. Of course, she whipped me back into shape after recommending herbs that supported my liver, hormone balancing, and leading me to discover that I had a gluten-intolerance.
I have lived in San Francisco for six years and I discovered The East West School in 2010. Yep, I am coming up on my fifth year with EW! I have watched several fellow students graduate before me with successful herbal practices such as Nicole MacDonald. I am definitely on a slower track, but I remain committed and inspired, especially to be able to learn from such world-renowned herbalists as Michael and Lesley Tierra. I continue to try and balance a very busy public health and policy career with pursuing my other loves – spoiling rescue animals, political activism, dancing, and, studying herbal medicine.
I grew up in the wide-open spaces of rural Indiana, where my favorite early memories include gathering morel mushrooms with my family and exploring oak and hickory woodlands in timeless summer days. My deep-rooted affinity for the natural world has blossomed over time into a love of plants – plants as teachers, allies and healers.
A winding path carried me to way-upstate New York, where the Grasse River tumbles north out of the Adirondacks and stretches out and meanders its way to the St. Lawrence. My equally winding path to herbalism started over a decade ago, when I embarked on a fervent exploration of the natural world. Many a live-long day have I spent wandering through woods and wading through wetlands, field guides in hand, keying out wildflowers and stalking turtles and calling after owls. In recent years my focus has turned increasingly to plants and their many uses – foraging for edibles, gathering plants for craft (basketry, my specialty being birch bark baskets), and herbal medicine.
I am thankful for my many teachers over the years, including Tim Drake and Jed Jordan at Primitive Pursuits, the Kamana Naturalist Training program, 7Song at Northeast School of Botanical Medicine, Arthur Haines, Leslie Williams and Leslie Alexander…and most of all the plants and animals themselves.
I embarked on the East West program just over three years ago, and am so thankful to have gotten to explore the complex, dynamic, and beautiful world of Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM and its Taoist roots—the way it reflects the natural world and teaches us to harmonize with it—resonate deeply with me. I am grateful for the Tierras, and Miles Coleman and Susan Kramer, for all of their teaching and guidance and inspiration.
When not working with herbs I can be found botanizing and hiking in the Adirondacks, weaving baskets, and also weaving poems and stories on paper. My website is plantmedicineweaver.com.
As I finish up the E/W program, I am expanding my offerings as a community herbalist, building my apothecary of herbs, and teaching locally about plants and place-based living.
There are moments to me that it seems strange I ended up on the path of herbalism. I was in the construction/building industry and I was loving it. My husband and I owned a construction business and did well for ourselves. Although I was familiar with energy medicine, it wasn't until my son was born that I took an interest in natural healing/remedies/medicine. As a family we 'ate well' and were generally healthy, but a combination of difficulty nursing and my son having severe acid reflux lead me down the path of holistic medicine. My healthy eating obsession morphed into living a more holistic lifestyle. I became obsessed with 'all natural' because I didn't want to 'poison' my baby with anything. I started making our cleaning products, skin care products, and herbal syrups because anything I bought at the store had something unacceptable to me. I then met a Shaman of the Inca Tradition, who become my mentor and teacher. After going around the medicine wheel with my teacher, herbalism showed up in my life for the third time and I followed it. My life has changed in many ways since then. It has been both frightening and exhilarating at the same time.
I started in the East West program in October 2012 after I took a few random classes in western herbs. I knew I had aligned with my path when I read The Way of Herbs. This course has stretched me in surprising ways. I'm loving every minute of it. It's my intention to open a herbal practice, become certified with AHG, obtain a nutritional health certification, and blend shamanism into my practice.
Around the time I started the East West program I started an all natural, organic skincare line, Danu Skincare. It is my mission to help women age gracefully, naturally because we deserve more than a bottle of chemicals.
When I'm not studying, or working on my business which I really enjoy, I like to spend time at home with my family, have good conversations with friends, cook and starting knitting projects that I'll likely not finish. My life is filled doing the things I love. The East West program is such a gift to me. I'm grateful I am on this path.
My great and late father, Paul, was a plant freak in his own right and gave to me my love of the natural and spiritual worlds. My mother tells me that I was conceived at Wind Cave National park in the Black Hills while the family was on a tent camping vacation. As it turns out I am the product of a rainy night, a wet sleeping bag, and the quickening of a Black Hills thunderstorm.
My family lived on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota for about nine years where my father worked as a social worker. He was a naturalist, gardener, spiritualist and great hunter. He provided our family with almost all of the food we ate, from organic vegetables to wild game. We made everything from scratch because we had to, so I learned a great deal about how the natural world of nourishment and biology works by hanging around the kitchen. When I was 6 and my brother 7, my father walked us down the street holding our hands and lectured us on Yin/Yang theory. I will never forget my first lesson on the law of cause and effect.
I grew into a member of the counterculture and spent my teens and early 20s exploring the world of natural foods and communal living. My father’s philosophy and my early life experiences opened me to my own responsibility to be of service, to accept and feel compassion for individuals in any culture, religion, race, sexuality, or economic strata and to understand that there are many planes of reality. I began to explore and expand my understanding of spiritual and metaphysical matters when I was about 14, and trust me, I looked for God everywhere so that I could feel comfortable in my own skin.
For the last 40 years, I have been experiencing life on the material plane in many capacities, as a musician, artist, comedian, student, restaurateur, business and accounting consultant, computer technician, gardener, financial fiduciary, stock broker/investment advisor, and entrepreneur. Everything that I have done in life has prepared me for what will come next, as long as I can intermittently return to awareness.
I have had darshan with some of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers and the most important lessons that I have learned are: I don’t need a guru, that we are all teachers, forgiveness of self and others is essential and that the path to enlightenment is an inside job. We are already that which we seek.
In early 2009, I opened Liferoot Acupuncture & Healing Arts, LLC, with my business partner who is an acupuncturist. I contributed a grounding force, business acumen, warm reception and beautiful surroundings. I initially enrolled in the East West Course early that year, which has been a circuitous journey for me. After I attended my first seminar in 2012, I knew that I had found my people and I am very grateful that Michael and Lesley express themselves so genuinely. I am beginning practice as a clinical herbalist at the clinic and am planning to attend acupuncture school in the fall. I wish to expand my herbal practice and broadening my work with those who suffer in this age of enlightenment.
As a kid, I loved to play in the woods adjoining my suburban neighborhood. It was the home of a grandmother oak tree, in which my best friend and I built a two-story tree house. We would fantasize about living tribally in a tree house village, living off the land while the rest of the world drowned in a tidal wave of their own industrial stupidity. That experience awakened in me a deep desire to live freely, with nature, in community. In high school we would return to that tree house and perform plant spirit medicine rituals, giving thanks for the tree and praying for the Earth's healing.
While traveling the country and continuing my love for plant medicine, I was led back to my home state of Illinois to kindle a soul connection with a very special lady. With all the magic and healing that ensued, I began to embrace the beautiful hills of the Shawnee forest as my homeland. For the last three years I have lived with my partner, Earthdancer, and her son Ari, on a secluded six-acre solar-powered homestead surrounded by national forest. We grow food, raise ducks and chickens, and practice our ancestral heritage of co-creating with and protecting nature. Our intention is to assist in healing this amazing planet, while focusing on regional resiliency, sustainability and environmental justice. My philosophy and plan of action resides in a synthesis of traditional medicine, permaculture, activism, and primitive skills.
My life work involves co-creating a new model, through building Earth-based communities and local food systems that improve soil fertility and purify water, and by relearning and teaching the ancient wisdom of living in rhythm with nature, that which our ancestors successfully practiced for hundreds of thousands of years. That work also involves creatively dismantling the current paradigm, and supporting those on the front line of environmental justice, with food and healing.
I currently run a small herbal practice, where I am always willing to give free consultations for our activist warriors and farming healers. We operate Dancing Spirit Herbs and Crystals, our family business, which is mostly Internet-based and are currently procuring large acreage for a permaculture and traditional medicine farm, village, and retreat center. I'm an intermediate student, attendee of the 2014 seminar, and plan to finish the East West Herb Course in 2016.