HS: How did you first get interested in plants or herbalism? What inspired you to learn about herbalism?
BN: When I was in high school I ran crosscountry for a period. At one point I developed shin splints and I remember asking a friend of my parent’s, a local acupressurist, what he recommended. He sent me to a neighbor’s house to pick comfrey and make a poultice. This was my first experience harvesting plants to make medicine. Throughout my childhood I had been fascinated by plants and loved being outside - it made perfect sense to me that plants could heal - so when my shin splints got better, I was smitten. The next time I saw Dave, the accupressurist, I asked for a recommendation of an herbal book. I practiced folk medicine into college where my various concoctions and remedies were often met with a combination of intrigue and doubt. I rather randomly took a class in ethnobotany, where I loved hearing the professor’s stories of plants and people and travel - I knew I needed to learn more. From there, I went on to take an apprenticeship and study more formally.
BN: In my personal relationship with plants I focus on respect and intimacy. I want to be as open and available as possible to learn from the plants, their environment and their effects on the body. I believe that lifestyle, relationship, choices and practices all shape our state of health. When I make space in my life to be in relationship with nature, it slows me down, connects me to something larger than myself and makes me available to live a life of health.
In my work through Thyme Herbal, I strive to share this perspective, my deep respect and admiration for plant medicine and for the healing process. In my classes and in consultations I focus on the use of herbs for physiological wellness and mental/emotional support. We all possess the power to heal and plant medicine offers one powerful tool for opening doors into the many possible ways of healing. I am committed to sharing these tools in a way that is accessible to a diverse audience and also empowering. The three-year apprenticeship program at Thyme Herbal is designed to support those interested in learning about herbs for home use as well as for those wishing to become a practicing herbalist.
HS: Where do you see the future of herbalism going?
BN: I would love to see an increase in people using herbal medicine at home for preventative wellness and the treatment of common ailments. It is my dream that herbalism become more a part of our collective cultural consciousness – continuing to build a greater awareness of plant medicine, ecological literacy and complementary healing.
As the herbal movement continues to grow, I hope that individual empowerment remains a cornerstone. Herbalism is people’s medicine and the empowerment associated with knowledge and making your own medicine is part of the magic. I hope that herbalism can continue to grow as a grassroots system, and that increasing awareness and accessibility will support local business economies and entrepreneurs, systems of community healthcare and support, and a healthy bioregional wild crafting and agricultural habitat. We will all need to work together to commit to such a system, to make sure that herbalism does not fall into the traps of conventional agricultural and big business.
HS: Do you have any advice that would you give to budding/newbie herbalists?
BN: Follow your heart and have fun! There are a lot of aspects of herbalism – be open to the many ways you can learn and the many ways that herbs can become a part of your life. I also think that having patience is vital. It takes time to really soak in information about plants and to become comfortable using them. You will feel comfortable with aspects right away and over time that comfort will grow and grow - it is a beautiful process and one that happens naturally when you love the herbs and love using them. My students sometimes get anxious when they see how much there is to know – trust you will get there! Learning about herbalism can teach us a lot about ourselves as well, and patience and compassion are both helpful on the self-discovery journey.
BN: This varies greatly depending on what I am looking for inspiration about. When I want to read about plants, I enjoy Matthew Wood’s herbals, particularly The Earthwise Herbals (Volume I & II). Ayurveda always inspires me, so sometimes I’ll go for a book about that. Right now I am reading a book about astrology called the Inner Sky, it gives a beautiful and holistic perspective on astrology as a healing arts system. I also love Stephen Buhner’s work.
HS: You've been a part of Herbstalk for several years now in different capacities, as both an educator and a vendor in the herbal marketplace. What made you want to be a part of Herbstalk?
BN: I was immediately struck by and attracted to the community dynamic of Herbstalk. The accessibility of location and cost to start with, but also the design; one can stop by just to visit the market place or go to classes, for an hour, for the day, for two days. It provides an excellent platform to share resources, information and build the community.
HS: One last question... Do you have a favorite plant or two at the moment?
BN: Peppermint…and lavender.