The Weaving of an Herbalist

(This is the newspaper version shortened story, of how I became an "herbalist.") 

I was born into a world of plant medicine. The first month of a Taiwanese baby’s life is traditionally spent indoors. The father’s mother comes to take care of the new family, bathing the baby in herbs, and cooking nourishing broths filled with warming, tonifying, and healing herbs. These herbs infuse the home with a delicious aroma, and root into the baby’s body, heart, and life. I was thus nourished by herbs since birth, and surrounded by plants from a family that adored green living friends with multi-colored flowers.

Herbalism, or plant medicine, is deeply woven into the lives of Taiwanese people through their cooking, growing, and wild-crafting of plants. My parents came from a traditional Taiwanese culture, whereas I grew up in free-thinking southern California. Regardless of cultural differences, as plant-eating, plant-wearing, and plant-loving humans, herbalism is an ancient lineage from which we all descended.

My mom taught me how to harvest, eat, and appreciate the wild fruits that fell deliciously from neighboring trees, that nobody but us came to pick. I spent my favorite childhood days wild-crafting fallen fruit, hiking big mountains, exploring National Parks, climbing trees, playing games, and creating stories.

We refer to affinity or serendipity in Chinese as “yuan fen,” which represents the invisible red thread that ties people’s lives together, similar to the magical thread that the Fates weave, in Greek mythology. The simplest way to describe how I became an herbalist is to say that yuan fen immersed me in plant medicine, through my life and travels.

A respected elder once called me an herbalist, after I gave him an aromatic blend of beloved wild-crafted herbs. It was my first time hearing the term “herbalist,” and I didn’t know what that meant. But, something in my heart jumped in recognition. I realized that that’s who I was, and who I wanted to be. After college, I traveled around the USA and southeastern Asia for almost eight years, exploring diverse traditional healing modalities, and Earth-based skills and spiritual traditions. While in Taiwan, I went through a traumatic surgery to remediate the long-term effects of a near-death climbing accident. That experience taught me that healing is a multi-factorial process, and life-long dance. With no clear answers, life is what you make of it. I decided to focus my life on my deepest passion: herbalism.

I returned to the USA to study Western clinical herbal medicine, botany, and critical thinking with 7song, at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in Ithaca, NY. There are no degrees or certifications for herbalists; there is only life experience. Two years, two schools, and many adventures later, I met a Patagonian at an herbal conference near Tucson, which brought me here. I’m now involved with various organizations in Patagonia, including Borderlands Restoration, Revitalist Botanicals, the Global Arts Gallery, and Patagonia Creative Arts Association. I’m also teaching yoga, practicing Thai massage, and seeing clients for herbal consultations.

An herbalist is simply someone who effectively employs plants to help facilitate natural healing processes. I, as a clinical herbalist, work with diverse plants and people to aid healing, on all levels. During an intake, I ask many questions that include diet, lifestyle, emotions, and more. I then make suggestions that address root issues, surface symptoms, and, if appropriate, supportive plants and other therapies. Herbal medicine is especially helpful as a preventative, or lifestyle medicine. It may also be helpful for acute situations, depending on the individual concerned.

You’ll see a monthly herbal medicine article in this paper: philosophies, plants, stories, and more that will hopefully inspire you to deepen your relationship with your own health, and the natural world that surrounds you. I look forward to meeting you at Borderlands, and around town. I’m grateful for these plants threading us together, like the threads of yuan fen weaving, weaving.