National Herbalist Guild 2020 Notes

National Herbalist Guild 2020 Notes
Hi Folks,

Thanks for checking back with us! Jayne and I attended this year's National Herbalist Guild online. We went to over 20 hours of live conferences on various subjects. This is going to be a longer than usual newsletter!

I wanted to share a few of the main points from a few of the classes, so feel free to skip to the part of the newsletter that interests you most (click these links to jump to that section).

Stories From Earth Mother
Jewish Folk Medicine in Clinical Cases
Covid Herbalist In Action

Jewish Folk Medicine In Clinical Cases was one of the classes I (Marc) was most looking forward to. This is my heritage, so I was curious and excited to hear how the subject would be covered. The talk was given by clinical herbalist Morgaine Witriol from Native Roots School of Ancestral Folk Medicine located in New Mexico. The first part was a very succinct history lesson of how Jewish people moved from the holy land (Israel/Palestine) to Europe after the destruction of the second temple, and then later dispersed all over the world. 

Which brings us to an interesting story about the plague called “Black Death” which struck Europe in 1347. Over in Portugal this was also during the time of the Inquisition. During the plague people started noticing that the orthodox Sephardic (meaning Jews from Spain/Portugal) Jewish women were not getting sick. Why? First, they kept very clean homes. The broom. They had cats, which kept rodents away which spread the virus. They kept to themselves and they wore long dark clothing and robes like most othodox Jewish people do to this day. People started pointing fingers at the Jewish women making accusations of witchcraft. They said that the Jewish women were actually causing others to get sick.

Sound familiar? Salem, Massachusetts? If you think about it, all of it makes perfect sense: long black clothes, cats, broomstick, and you could take it a step further and talk about the articulated hook nose as a kind of stereotype included in the witch archetype that we all know. The wicked witch of the west Margaret Hamilton was actually a Sephardic Jewish Orthodox Herbalist!  I love the thought of it anyway. I am a big fan. I called my sister to tell her. She lives in Jerusalem with her family, and she wanted to know where Morgaine had heard the story. I emailed her and apparently the story had been passed down from an anthropologist teacher in college back in 2004. 

Speaking of the Inquisition, here’s another incredible story. There were many Spanish Jews who moved to New Mexico after the Inquisition. Many of those Jews had lost their identity as Jews because of persecution and fear etc, but they retained some of the customs in New Mexico here’s is an absolutely amazing fact: If you are from New Mexico and your name ends with an “ES” you have Jewish ancestors! So have you ever seen the name Vasques? Peres? Torres? They all have Jewish roots apparently. 

As for the main takeaway of clinical studies, Morgaine went to great detail on several topics. If you're as fascinated with this subject as me, I am more than happy to email you the slides. Just let me know!

Margi Flint- Stories From An Earth Mama

Margi Flint is one of those rare amazing herbalists that really incorporate stories in her teaching. And as a “non-clinical herbalist plant person” (that’s what I am calling myself) the stories are precious to me and this was such a wonderful talk I hope I can share a few takeaways. 

First of which is a wonderful and long-standing tradition of clearing your space by burning sage to purify the air. If you have a place where you work or perhaps a workshop or studio. You can burn a bit of sage and change the entire energy of your sacred space. Alternatively burning a bit of cedar bark also smells wonderful. I tried this in my music studio this morning, a perfect way to clear the space..

Delighted to know that Margi’s favorite herb is yarrow. I love this plant too. I can see it from my office in the yard. It has so many uses common cold, seasonal hay fever, toothache, burns, fever, and much more. 

Margi also mentioned some herbal combinations that I found very interesting. The first is lavender + st johns wort + manarda is a great soak solution for burns. The second herb combination was also very interesting St John’s Wort + Solomon Seal + Ashwaganda. This is for any kind of nerve damage. Her last herb pairs St Johns Wort + Echinacea + Arnica as a spray for bruising and swelling. Can you tell that Margi loves St Johns Wort? So do I. I think it is an incredible plant, considered a noxious weed here in the Pacific Northwest. There’s an unlimited amount of it in the Snoqualmie Pass area. 

I loved her last message too which was to remind us to be good humans, be inclusive, be helpful, now more than ever. Mother Earth is not happy with us. And is telling us we are grounded! Which leads me to my last topic on what else but Covid. 

The round table discussion on Covid was fascinating. I think it safe to say that both medical doctors/science and herbalists have learned a great deal since March. Here is my biggest takeaway about Covid. This is really important. There’s excellent data that shows that low Vitamin D levels contribute to poorer outcomes and worse symptoms. Have a look at this slide: 


Only 13% of Americans have recommended levels of Vitamin D! Good news is that you can order vitamin D easily, and this is a cheap and easy way to build immunity for better health especially with the cold and flu season just around the corner.

Here are some of the herbs the panel was talking about related to Covid: thyme, boneset, yarrow, violet leaf, echinacea, (Hey we make that one!) usnea, elderberry, lemon balm extract. Of course you want to make sure that you check with a doctor or herbalist on effective ways to use these herbs, but I thought it was worth sharing. 

Stay healthy everyone! 

Marc Fendel, Sister Sage (&  owner Jayne Simmons)