Notes on The Portland Plant Medicine Gathering

Hi Folks,

This is Marc Fendel (Jayne’s partner.)

Just wanted to say a quick thanks to all of you who received emails from us during the holiday. We thought we’d try something new with daily deals. Now we have a better idea of what you prefer, so I think we’ll focus on that next time. We really appreciate your patience and attention to the emails and we appreciate the orders! Speaking of which, keep this date in mind: December 22, before 5pm pst (3pm eastern time) is the last day you can order from us for the order to get to its destination before Christmas.  And- now on to the good stuff!

I took over Jayne’s newsletter this month because I just wanted to give you my thoughts and impressions about the Portland Plant Medicine Gathering at National University Naturopathic Medicine in Portland this November. If I had to describe the event in one word it would be: Transformative. First of all I should tell you I personally have never been to an event like this. This is usually Jayne’s territory. I agreed to go this year, because I not only wanted to support Jayne, but there were a few speakers I didn’t want to miss. Namely Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes from the podcast The Herbal Highway that we have been listening to for years (I highly recommend btw). Truth be told, there were a lot wonderful lectures on a myriad of topics related to plant medicine and a few stand out in my mind. Jayne and our employee Jennifer will both be writing up their accounts of the classes they attended in another post. So I wanted to share a bit about two of the instructors that blew my mind.

The first was Paul Bergner who started his talk with: “If I don’t inspire you when you leave this class, then I didn’t do my job.” I love when teachers start with lines like this! Years ago ice climber Will Gadd started his talk with: “I am going to tell you how you can quit your job, (even with a mortgage and debt) and still follow all your dreams of adventuring.” Two years later I hiked from Mexico to Canada so I’d say those words were highly influential. Back to Paul though. He gave a beautiful talk on herb pairs. That is the combination of two or more herbs that work together mostly in tincture form, but also as tea. There were so many wonderful combinations, and everyone in the room was taking notes and completely engaged. It seemed that most people in the room with either a practicing herbalist, or a student. Paul passed around different tinctures to try. Black Cohosh/Blue Cohosh and several more...Here’s just a few of the interesting combinations. Echinacea paired with either of the following: Osha, Red Root, or Boneset. Others include: Dandelion and Mahonia=perfect pair. Another interesting one is Liquorice +Turmeric. Or Chamomile + Boneset. My favorite that I’d like to try is Calendula and Plantain. There were so many wonderful combinations, and truly I have never really thought about combining herbs like this, but as Paul pointed out, this technique has been used for centuries, then codified by early herbalist TJ Lyles in his book PHYSIO-MEDICAL THERAPEUTICS, MATERIA MEDICA AND PHARMACY 1932. The book has been out of print for 80 years. Paul told a story of finding this very rare book. One of his holy grails of books. Then tells the class it’s ok not to take notes. “I put the whole book on my website in PDF along with all the herb pair charts.” The class was so excited they actually applauded! I could go on and on about how inspiring this class was, but seriously if you ever get a chance to see Paul Bergner speak, you’ll walk out of that class feeling like you can heal the world.

Next was Milla Prince who’s a writer, folk herbalist, hedgewitch, film maker, who lives on a small island in the San Juans off the coast of Washington State. She started her talk with: “Books are my teachers. Gary Snyder is my teacher.” I am thinking: “Did she really just say that?” Gary Snyder is one of my favorite poets. I have enjoyed his writing and philosophy for years. I just didn’t expect to hear that name, but in terms of environmental activism, I clearly see the connection. Anyway, Milla had lots of interesting philosophical ideas. Like here are some ideas to think about: How long does it take to clean, clothe, feed, and nurture your body everyday? Another topic: Earth Grief or Ambient Grief. This is the constant exposure to inflammatory news, racism, internet, advertising, violence in any form, the idea that we are destroying the planet etc...So the question would be how do you cope with Earth Grief and the age of loneliness? Another idea is that: It is our birthright to be outside. Everything else is a human made construct. Think about it. Being outside is our own reality. We designed every box we put ourselves in. Home-box, car-box with wheels, building box, airplane tube box etc.. We go from boxes to boxes. Our birthright is not to be in boxes. Milla also talked lots about trees and herbs, and especially herbs of her Finnish ancestry. Speaking of which. Apparently in Finland the cemeteries all have huge trees in them. So it is very common to be buried right next to a tree. Milla is talking about making plant medicine from the tree by her grandmother, and that kind of blew my mind. Thinking about medicine from a tree that somehow contained the spirit or dust of a loved one. There’s something to think about!  Here’s a short list of some of some of the plants/trees she mentioned: Western Red Cedar, Mugwort, Yarrow, Nettles, Angelica, and Hawthorn. California Poppy, Rose, Hibiscus, just to name a few.

I really enjoyed hearing both of Milla’s talks. She highly recommended a book called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book is about indigenous wisdom and plant medicine balanced with scientific knowledge and ethnobotany. In fact, Milla also kind of raves about this book on her website too. And now that I am half way through the book myself, I can see why. It is fascinating! So pick up a copy for yourself.

I hope you all are having a great holiday season. I am sure some of you have noticed that we have been improving our website with new photos of the products and the crew. You can expect some big improvements in 2018. So thanks for hanging in there with us!

Happy holidays! Marc (& Jayne)