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The Path to Herbalism

| 7/20/2010 2:56:22 PM

E.McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and an apprenticing herbalist at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, where she botanizes and wildcrafts medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.

The art of healing our bodies with herbs is a new fascination in my life. Growing up in the hot and sticky urban jungles of Florida, my childhood was more southern sweet tea than wholesome nettle infusion. I spent countless summer days exploring twisted oak forests and gathering ferns for my hair, but I never sipped sweet chamomile to fall asleep at night or took echinacea to keep a cold at bay. Other than smearing gooey aloe tentacles on sunburns, using plants for medicine was merely magic and fairytale.

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Top: My childhood backyard in Tampa, Florida; Bottom: My mom's aloe, happy in the sun.
Photos by Erin McIntosh

The call to herbalism came for me several years ago, although I didn’t know it at the time. During college, I grew passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and adopted an organic whole foods diet. The neighborhood teahouse, which served amazing vegetarian goodies and exotic teas from around the world, was my home away from home. Sipping floral oolong, sweet powdered matcha, and delicate silver needle tea became an important and much beloved morning ritual for me. Watching slender tea leaves unfurl gracefully in the rising sun’s reflection, as they released an enchanting perfume, was both grounding and stimulating. My body and mind felt nourished with every cup of amber goodness I poured. Drinking tea each day provided peaceful sanctuary.

When I journeyed west to Oregon in 2008, I brought along only the necessities: a box of vegetarian cookbooks, my favorite collection of Camellia sinensis, and a deeply treasured cast iron tea set from my folks. I celebrated the night I arrived in Eugene with a pot of Darjeeling. It felt powerful and momentous. Instantly, I became enraptured by the city, vibrant with plant people and herbalists, beautiful gardens and wildflowers abloom, and a community uniquely steeped in natural healing traditions. Wherever I wondered throughout town, I became consumed with inspiration and curiosity.

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A cup of Darjeeling nestled in lush Oregon moss.
Photo by Erin McIntosh

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