Herbs, specifically folk herbalism, are of the people—this is knowledge kept alive and thriving amongst our communities. Even today, 80 percent of the world still uses herbs as part of their medicine. Folk equals people, and folk are growing herb gardens, looking back to their grandmothers and towards kitchen spice racks, for health solutions. Yet, at a global level, herbal medicine is being systematically dismantled in favor of commercial, mechanized, pharmaceutical medicines. Even in herbal medicine we have to be careful to this mechanized approach. We could just as unconsciously pop an herbal extract pill and not really connect with the medicine of that beautiful plant. Surely, at times the actual process of mixing the tea, smelling, tasting, slowly sipping and experiencing it is part of the healing process.
The healing process of natural medicine, that we all know in our cellular history, comes from a lineage of plant people. Every single one of us comes from a line of farmers, of bush doctors, of curanderas-herbalists, fishermen and hunters. The richness, the language and community, as well as the culture that goes along with this around the world, is the medicine in us. The comfort of a mama’s sancocho (chicken soup) or a cup of warm chai tea is food-medicine for the soul.
In alignment with the resurgence in local food, the re-localization of our herbal medicine is an effort that must be shared by all peoples, from all backgrounds and ages. Our food, but also our medicine, carry what we believe are much of the solutions to the issues we now face. Social movements from La Via Campesina to SlowFood are getting traction around fair food, seed saving and agroecology. Historically, our farms and gardens were home to both our food and our herbs side-by-side, and harvesting seeds for food also meant harvesting seeds for herbs. Herbal medicine is who we are, culturally appropriate and locally available where linguistic and cultural diversity only enrich its value and level of adoption by all.
As the infrastructure and education around local and organic agriculture continues to expand, local food movement has to put equal energy into localized medicine. Learn more about herbal wellness on International HerbDay, May 3, at Herbs for All: the first bilingual Herbal Encuentro in Washington, held at Emergence Community Arts Collective and brought to you by Centro Ashé and EcoHermanas, a global community of women that share, weave and reconnect life to Mother Earth. Free workshops include topics such as dying with herbs, kitchen medicine, herbal art-making and others. A guided neighborhood herbal walking tour, cooking and capoeira demonstrations for kids and adults, the community seed exchange and a potluck will happen as part of the outdoor herbal village market. Childcare is also available by RSVP, so parents can fully engage. The event is close to local public transportation, and is free, though donations of five to ten dollars are suggested. Registration online is strongly encouraged at (CentroAshe.org/HerbsForAll).
Molly Meehan, of Centro Ashé Herbs and Education, is inspired by thriving community based food and herbal medicine. In Washington, D.C., and Costa Rica, Centro Ashé works together in engaged community exploring and protecting these traditions. Angela Adrar is a founding member of Ecohermanas collective and works on issues of food sovereignty and environmental and restorative justice. She is a consultant on strategic planning and communications.