I didn’t know who would sign up. But, I knew I would show up no matter what. Before I left Mississippi to move to Tennessee this April (2017), I wanted to leave a heaping package of ‘thank you’ behind.
So, I crafted a 3-day herb course for Spring 2017.
We met one Sunday each month for three months. They not only learned about plant medicine, they also learned about relationships:
“I really had some ‘aha’ moments, especially when you were talking about the philosophy and spirituality in permaculture. Another profound ‘aha’ was when you were talking about the importance of smell and taste in the consumption of an herb. It got me to thinking about all of the sensory experiences we bypass in life and how we are doing our bodies and souls a disservice in this way. I have always honored the living things around me but now look at plants in a deeper, more spiritual way. That was an unexpected surprise from the class. Thank you!” ~ Nancy, Jackson MS
Granted, this was my first comprehensive course that I have taught all by my lonesome. Normally, I’ve collaborated and taught with others. However, I really enjoyed the challenge to teach this way as well as the freedom to craft the course how I saw fit.
I held the course at Louisville, MS’s Legion State Park, a charming park with a 1930s hand-hewn Conservation Corps lodge. I was raised in Louisville, so this park and the lodge were a part of my childhood. It felt really good to be there teaching so many years later.
We had folks that came in from Alabama, Louisiana, and all directions of Mississippi. In total, there were 30 people and a range of backgrounds from farmer to counselor to college student.
The course curriculum consisted of:
- herbalist’s view of the body
- botany & ecology
- plant energetics
- constitution types
- traditional food ways
- building your materia medica
- basics of permaculture
- and end-of-the-course group project presentations
I’ll have to say that the group presentations were *my* favorite part of the program! It was a joy to sit back and experience how all of the participants digested the information and made it their own.
Basically, we split everyone up into 9 groups and they each chose a particular plant to do a plant profile or monograph on. They were also to make a preparation with the plant/herb and share it with the entire herb class (scroll over each image for more info).
They did such a great job.
Throughout the course, I received emails about breakthroughs participants were having in their daily lives. One student sipped cleavers decoction with her husband only to watch the edema swelling in his ankle go down the most she had ever seen. Another student found herbs to explore with a recent thyroid diagnosis she had been given. And, yet another student chewed on an herb and felt that that particular herb helped her menses come back after being absent for three months.
As well, I’ve been getting some great feedback about the course content and people’s confidence level increasing. That is a dream come true for a teacher! If students become more confident in their own ability to explore and experiment with plant medicine…my job is done!
“Thanks to your plant walks, my kitchen table is full of jars of tinctures and oils and vinegars in the making — cleavers, daisy fleabane, geranium, plantain, mimosa bark, chickweed, yellow dock. Gas oven’s pilot light is dehydrating huge trays of primrose…. and I even had success treating my cat’s bloody urine condition with parsley infusion last week. Never would have tried that before, would have raced off to vet. Freezer is filling up with ice-cubes of spring greens pestos….” ~ Susan, Alabama
I did get emotional on the last day as I described the role of family and community herbalists. I couldn’t help the feeling of urgency in terms of cultivating models of nourishment and wellness in the places that we live.
We need to feed ourselves and each other well.
Nourishment needs to find center stage in our lives again.
We need to protect the soil, water, and air.
We have a lot to remember when it comes to plant medicine and traditional food ways.
There is so much of creation that just needs to be praised and paid attention to.
Without effort in these directions, our culture will have no foundation to stand upon. We must create a positive legacy for future generations. And, it starts with us…
In some way, I hope this course contributed to putting more wind in the sails of positive change agents. I know that there are new friendships and new connections that were made in this course. And, that’s a good thing…
We can’t do this alone. We need each other. And, so be it… Let the network of nourishment continue to grow ❤
Goodness! I really wish that more people would get more involved with horticulture like this. People are getting more and more remote from it all the time, while their useless synthetic landscapes get more and more lavish and consumptive.
While I agree with you about the sad landscaping practices out there (non-native species, chemical lawn warfare, and monocultures of grass!)…this intensive was actually about plant medicine. However, many people did learn about native plants that they wanted to start from seed or transplant from the wild…closer to their homes… It was a great group!
That is what I meant. I work with plants that are just landscape material. However, I learned from my grandparents and great grandparents who grew primarily plants that were useful. They had pretty plants in the fronts of their homes, but did not was much other space on what they thought of as ‘luxury’ plants. Everything else was for fruit, vegetable, and in some cases medicine. In this area, most medicinal plants were exotic. My great grandparents from Oklahoma knew more about using the plants that grew where they lived, and what plants were good for. Few people can recognize such utility in the wild. I still do it too, even though I do not know much about Oklahoma horticulture. We have so many useful plants here too.
That’s great to hear about your grandparents and great grands. Those generations were much closer to seeds, plants, and foods and medicines from the earth. Fortunately, there is a growing community of foragers and herbalists emerging that have a strong land ethic. It is a source of inspiration for me when there is so much destruction happening in this world.
I love the promotion of a more natural way of eating and healing our bodies. Hope all is well with you. Sending love to you.
Thank you dear Elizabeth…yes, all is well! Navigating a lot with this new little bundle in our lives…but steadily figuring out our new rhythm at home ❤
Have a lovely winter season and stay warm!
That was the most wonderful story! Your joy is overflowing to others and that is as it should be always.
I live in Ottawa which has half a million people. You might think it would be hard to work with herbs but it keeps getting better. We have 3 rivers and a canal which meet here so there is many thousands of acres of parkland. It is incredible what we find right outside our door.
My cerebral study at present focuses on Rose. It was once a most common plant in North America and now the wild roses are so hard to find.
Many don’t think of it as an herb but it is miraculous. I know this.
Please work this herb and let me know your successes so that we may promote this saving, healing salve for all.
Blessing upon your garden.
Hi there Moriyah,
Great to hear from you… And, wonderful to know that you are out there working with plants and protecting them.
I actually do work with rose and many plants in the rose family… I wrote an article awhile ago on this topic…let me know what you think and feel free to add any thoughts in the comments section on your experiences with rose!