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.
My direct experience with herbs as medicine only began a few years ago. Even so, I believe that they were always there running a parallel path with me and, like little brain synapses, connections were being built over time.
I grew up in the center of the Western medical model in the 1950s. My doctor dad and nurse mom were part of that new generation that embraced the miraculous “magic bullet” perspective signified by the antibiotic. Every sniffle in our household resulted in my three siblings and I being lined butts up on the couch for a shot of penicillin. I didn’t fare as well as the others and tended to be chronically tired and ill with one thing and another. Because no medical reason could be established, I was eventually dismissed as being weak and a bit of a hypochondriac (even though I had significant and measurable symptoms).
Even so, it was a good childhood in a small rural town where I developed an abiding love of nature. I always spent time outside communing with my frog friends and voraciously reading in my private “room” under our huge lilac. This microcosm set the ground for my passion for social justice. College was exchanged for membership in what was considered to be a radical group (SDS – Students for a Democratic Society) and I lived in a commune dedicated to social justice. Later I hitchhiked around Europe for a couple years. Along the way I was introduced to healthier food choices and alternative health modalities – still not in the forefront but securely tucked in my back pocket.
After marriage and children I went back to school and was able to fully indulge my interests in social justice. My academic work was centered on history, Cultural Theory and Whole Systems Theory and I found that most often I was drawn to issues around food, water and health – and more connections were made. Through all of this, I gardened. I considered my garden my sanctuary and I was always most happy on my knees weeding.
I’ve felt a connection with plants for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my first move to the Southwest that I began to integrate them into daily life. There I discovered how the native cultures traditionally used plants, and how they are still using them today. It fascinated me, and inspired me to complete my Consulting Herbalist certification at Clayton College of Natural Health with Phyllis Light. It also spurred my graduate research into the medicinal plants of the San Francisco Peaks, comparing how the 13 tribes in the region utilize these plants. While I loved academia and research, my real passion was making medicine and helping others to resolve health conditions. After using Michael and Lesley’s books for years as resources, I was thrilled to finally enroll in this program.
East West has helped me develop my clinical and diagnostic skills tremendously as I work with clients through my holistic practice, Banyan Moon Botanicals. There I strive to heal the whole person by utilizing herbs, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations. As a registered yoga teacher, I will often incorporate yoga therapeutics into my treatment plans. I’m also an adjunct professor for Kaplan University’s Department of Health and Wellness, and a freelance writer for natural health magazines and regional herbal publications.
I love sharing this knowledge with others, and can often be found leading various medicinal plant walks, kids in tow. My goal is to keep learning and to keep sharing. There’s always another layer to peel back!
I love sharing the wonders of wild edible and medicinal plants, and I am fortunate to make a living doing that. I'm the author of the book, "Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness," which Publishers Weekly kindly called "the funniest herbal adventure you'll ever read." I also write the herbal blog First Ways, and offer plant spirit classes and private plant walks where I live in Portland, OR. And I absolutely love doing energy healing with plants in my Plant Spirit Reiki practice. I am passionate about herbs and I love introducing people to them. Often it's a very special and empowering experience for people, because our culture has really become disconnected from nature, and people are eager to reclaim that sacred, primal connection that is still within all of us. The plants are such amazing beings.
Before I started studying with East West, I had a lot of experience with plant identification and had been wildcrafting herbs in the city and surrounding wilderness areas and making tinctures and salves, and I got to see them cure myself and friends overnight in a number of acute instances -- for example strep throat, urinary tract infections, and other occasions that call for herbal antibiotics -- which was amazingly inspiring to me. Because I was documenting this on my blog, people would sometimes write to me and ask about treating chronic conditions or complex diseases, and I didn't really have much to offer them because I did not have an understanding of how to use herbs holistically. This course has been extremely useful to me in helping me develop an understanding of how herbs work for chronic conditions and how they can balance each individual's body energetically to enhance health and prevent illness.
I'm very much looking forward to the upcoming herbal seminar this April. I'm excited to deepen my knowledge and meet the inspiring teachers who created this wonderful course.