Herbstalk Marketplace on June 1 & 2!
I think there is an intrinsic connection we all share to plants and nature. My first draw to plants was sparked by time spent in the natural world. Anytime I was able to escape the noise of my early existence I experienced a sense of ‘home’ that was like no other. I remember as a child I was obsessed with dandelion flowers and making things from leaves, petals and sticks. As I matured and entered college, I chose a small college that was surrounded by the beauty of the blue ridge mountains. No matter what was going on in my life, when I was hiking on a trail, feeling my feet on the ground and climbing over massive moss covered rocks, everything else drifted away and I felt like my most pure self. This continued to evolve as I sought out alternative plant based remedies to nourish my body and my door was blown wide open when I attended Herbstalk in 2013. I visited with many herbalists that day, and we took a plant walk that opened my eyes to a whole different version of my experience with nature. It was like someone turned on a light, and from there I was hooked.
What challenges did you face when you first started?
In the early days of formulation and making medicine I had difficulty figuring out how to assure the stability of oils and preparations. For myself and others it was sad to see oils and plant medicines turn rancid. As a resourceful person, I knew that I needed to throw my net wide to find answers. I found that scouring endless stacks of books, experimentation and personal experience proved the most helpful. Because sustainability and respect for these plants we work with is important to me, transparency with creating herbal oils and distillation techniques to assure quality is one of my values. I believe that sharing these methods at market booths and workshops over the years helps assure that our medicines don’t go to waste.
If you could go back in time to meet yourself when you were just starting on the herbal path, what would you say?
I think I would say to myself “Everyone’s connection with plants is personal and unique’. It makes my heart sad to hear others share shame or guilt because they don’t know all the answers, aren’t doing everything themselves, or the ‘right’ way. I remember feeling doubt and insecurity in the early days. I think this experience is common with any practice. We all have to start somewhere, and I think that it is important to allow the process to be messy and remember this is a practice -- so we will all continue to evolve and grow in our relationship with plants.
What is the main focus of your work within the realm of herbalism?
The main focus of my work is helping others access tunnels of light in the dark through beautiful self care rituals. The foundation of my work is inspired by my previous trauma informed practice in social work. I wove those experiences and practices with the magic of the plants to create beauty that goes beyond skin deep in each bottle. It makes my heart soar when that love and intention shines through and people feel these beauty rituals on a deeper level.
My second passion with what I do is to grow so that I can be an integral part of helping shift a paradigm in a rapidly growing green beauty industry that is heavily saturated with the use of essential oils. While the shift towards more natural and plant based remedies is moving us to a cleaner place in our environment, similar to everything else in western society, we want it all and we want it fast. Our approach since the beginning is to help inspire that less is more. Knowing first hand how much the plants have to offer themselves to be distilled into a tiny amount of essential oil it has always begged the question for me, “For the love of plants, how are we going to sustain this and is it necessary”? This is also why I am challenging and teaching alternatives to current trends by using less essential oil if we do work with them.
I love teaching people how very simple easy preparations can go a long way. I see my herbal business as a platform. I am putting in the hard work so that the message rings loud and clear outside of just our herbal community. At the market I started at, it was always inspiring to watch people's faces the first time they connected to the actual Helichrysum flowers I had in my jars versus the essential oil they connected with initially. Through this process I realized that there is a huge disconnect between the plants and this major ‘essential oil’ moment. I love teaching others how to make more sustainable beauty products, and also help others access these beautiful rituals by just using a few simple items.
My go-to books are consistently Body into Balance by Maria Noel Groves, and The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook. I have also found vintage books covering farming practices, sustainability and herbalism to be extremely appealing. I feel these “vintage’ books are teaching us how to circle back to simple and sustainable.
I have had the privilege of learning about plants and herbalism from many people who I call my teachers. First and foremost the plants are my teachers. For people in my life who have been teachers, one would definitely be Kate Clearlight who runs Plantfolk Apothecary, she is a true pioneer of the green beauty movement in my opinion. She has been an inspiration to me for a very long time and I had a total ‘fan girl’ moment when I attended her workshops at the International Herb Symposium in 2017. I would also not be where I am today if it weren’t for my teachers at the Herbal Academy and Sage Maurer from the Gaia School of Healing in Vermont. My husband Tom Groves has taught me a great deal as well and it has been interesting to be on this journey together with plants from totally different perspectives. As the saying goes, “always a student”, the ‘students’ who attend classes I teach are also my teachers. We all bring a unique perspective to this practice, and we can learn from each other.
Where do you see the future of herbalism going in the next few years?
I think we are going to see herbalism continue to spiral out into the collective culture. We are watching Cannabis being decriminalized and people are shifting more and more to plants; stepping away from pharmaceuticals. With decriminalization and also the growth of herbalism it is shining a light on communities who have been marginalized for years - whether it be incarceration for practicing herbal medicine or being downright exploited. I think it is our responsibility to assure that everyone has equal access and to have the difficult conversations so that we can heal the harm that has been done. Therefore, I see herbalism being more than just physical medicine, I think that there is a social justice movement that will continue to grow within the practice that will be really potent medicine for all of us.
Do you have a favorite plant or two at the moment?
Oh goodness yes, Dandelion -- not only internally; they are also a sight for sore eyes. The flowers are everywhere right now and they are like little yellow puff pillows I just want to lay on all day in the sun. Working with dandelion is like drops of sunshine for my body and spirit.
What advice would you give to budding herbalists?
Find your roots. Exploring herbalism through our early experiences with plants and digging into the roots of our ancestors is powerful.
Roses to protect the heart and skin, big beautiful Burdock to nourish my body and wear as clothing, Mint as reminder that there is abundance everywhere and to cool it down, Hibiscus to hydrate and Jasmine to dream.
Are there any non-herbal hobbies or interests that you love doing?
I love to run and move my body, especially outside. I would describe myself as ‘simple bouje’. I am a total foodie, scouring vintage books and trinkets, and finding ways to bring luxe experiences into simple spaces-especially outdoors. Bring on cheese plates and candlelight surrounding a campfire, beauty rituals outside, herbal beverages pouring from crystal decanters, and vintage vinyl spinning on the record player.
What made you want to be a part of Herbstalk?
I was so inspired by the community that was built and how accessible “all things plants” was in one beautiful weekend. The first herbstalk we vended fostered relationships that now feel like home every time we come back. Steph, Henry and team have really built something special.