Plant Medicine Gathering celebrates DIY herbalism

Nicole Pepper, urban forager, herbalist & founder of Portland Plant Medicine Gathering

Do-it-yourself herbal: self-administering a natural remedy is no different from any other home cure, an herbalist says

By Rebecca Lerner
Special to The Oregonian
Oct. 30, 2010

Erico Schleicher holds a brown glass bottle to his nose and inhales, contemplating the scent of the liquid plant extract inside. The licensed acupuncturist and co-founder of Portland’s Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine sits on a bench at Laurelhurst Park as an autumn breeze whips red oak leaves at his feet.

With proper knowledge, “everyone can work with herbs,” Schleicher says. He will be teaching a class called Experiential Herbalism at the Portland Plant Medicine Gathering next month, about using taste, smell and other sensory tools for healing. For instance, the flavor of a bitter extract on the tongue will trigger digestive secretions, he said.

“People think there’s something very controversial about the concept of taking herbs rather than using (conventional Western) medicine,” Schleicher said. “But Americans take care of themselves all the time without going to the doctor. When you feel sick, you say, ‘I’m going to try to take care of it myself with sleep and soup and over-the-counter medicine.’ And at the point at which you can’t take care of it yourself, you go to the doctor. During the point at which you can take care of yourself, herbs can be used.”

The gathering, scheduled for Nov. 21 and 22, features 18 local teachers in a two-day series of workshops covering Ayurveda, herbs for the heart and lungs, remedies for stress, women’s health, plant-spirit medicine, wild edibles for wilderness survival, and more. It is designed for all levels. Instructors include acupuncturists, midwives, registered nurses, faculty from Portland State University, and herbalists from the city’s plant medicine schools.

“It’s really important to me that what people know about plant medicine is shared,” said Northeast Portland herbalist Nicole Pepper, who organized the event. “There is a lot of demand. People are craving that connection to Earth and knowledge of the plants.”

Pepper, who makes a living selling her Singing Nettle brand herbal truffles at the Alberta and People’s co-ops, said she envisions local healers using handmade plant extracts to help their friends and neighbors. She said she started the gathering as a way to encourage enthusiasts of DIY-style alternative health care to network and build a community.

The gathering comes after two popular plant medicine schools sprouted in Portland recently: Matthew Wood’s School of Traditional Western Herbalism this year and Scott Kloos’ School of Forest Medicine in 2009. The new institutions join the Elderberry School and the Arctos School of Herbal and Botanical Studies, both founded in 2006 by former students of late guru Michael Moore, to make Portland a thriving hub of folk herbalism. The city also is home to the National College of Natural Medicine and the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, which license practitioners.

“There is an enthusiasm about herbalism in Portland that we haven’t seen in years,” said Missy Rohs, co-director of Arctos. “A lot of the interest is coming from people going back to their gardens (and ties into) the current trend toward learning how to sustain yourself through your own backyard.”

The current crop of schools arose after Cascade Anderson Geller took a sabbatical in 2006; she had been a major herbal educator here since 1979, running a two-year school for folk practitioners hosted by what’s now called Common Ground Wellness Center. She also taught at NCNM and East West College in Portland. Now Geller consults on patient cases for medical doctors and nurses, though she said she intends to offer courses again soon.

“If it weren’t for plant therapies, humans wouldn’t be here. It’s the most ancient way people work with illnesses,” Geller said.
Click here to read it on the Oregonian web site.

6 thoughts on “Plant Medicine Gathering celebrates DIY herbalism

  1. I’m Chinese and most of the people who is a generation older than me truly believe on Chinese herbs. But somehow, I don’t really trust on herbs as they don’t really provide any proper research report. It’s because at my place, Chinese herbs are recommended through the experience of that person. Frankly, one of my dad’s died of stomach cancer because of improper consumption of Chinese Herbs.

  2. I’m somehow in the middle of western medicine and herbals. There are time when I hear people talk about how they get cure for their problem with traditional medicines or herbals. If done right I say herbal is the way to go.

  3. Thank you so much for the kind feedback. I’m so glad to inspire you! This is the kind of encouragement that keeps me going. :)

  4. Thanks again for doing what you do and sharing information like this. I have recently enrolled in a herbal studies that begins this coming June ’11 and runs through Oct ’12. I can hardly wait and your site provides me inspiration and joy as I am getting deeper and deeper into my foraging and plant medicine lifestyle–THANKS!

    jed :) :)

  5. Just wanted to thank you for this great article; this is the thing that keeps me encouraged through my day. I have been searching around for these posts under recommendation from a colleague and was pleased after I found it after searching for a while. Obviously, being a blogger myself, I’m glad to see others taking initiative and contributing to the community. Just wanted to show my gratitude for your work as it’s very encouraging, and many writers don’t get the recognition they deserve. I know I’ll come back to read more and will refer some of my friends here.

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