Once upon a time, I loved to eat fresh salsa. I lived in California, so it was plentiful. Then a bad thing happened: I got pregnant, and in the way things often go during pregnancy, I could no longer eat many of the foods I loved. Anything with cilantro in it made me violently ill. …
The problem with turmeric is that I have a hard time pronouncing it. I'm one of those people whose vocabulary expanded through reading voraciously. There are many words that I know how to use and spell correctly, but their correct pronounciation continues to elude me. It doesn't matter how many times someone has corrected me …
My son was worried that my new interest in herbalism would expose us to all sorts of deadly dangers. I scoffed at him. But then I discovered Bitter Sweet growing in our side yard.
The first tincture I ever made was Calendula, but it turned out this was not the plant I thought it was.
Everyone said to start by exploring what already grows in my yard. I wanted to learn about the vibrant New England Aster. It was much more difficult than I anticipated. Could the methods of the historian help?
In Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, environmental biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer offers a beautiful meditation on the interconnection of human experience and the natural world. I found there were important messages here for me about my role as the descendant of settler colonialists, as a 21st century Pagan, and as a student of herbalism.
I often teach the history of herbal contraceptives in my courses, but I had never heard that common garden sage was on the list of potential pregnancy dangers. Sage is another reminder of the long history of induced abortion in women's health care.
When Martha Ballard's niece was ill in 1794, she made her a syrup that contained plantain. Two hundred and twenty-three years later, I learned that this useful herb was growing wild in my backyard.