Herbal Activism at the International Herb Symposium

I don’t know how can I choose what to highlight about the 13th International Herb Symposium. Between all the talented teachers that traveled from around the world to share their love of herbalism with us, the epic dance party, the $20,000 raised by the IHS for the United Plant Savers (UPS), and the chance to gather with friends I don’t see very often, this years symposium is pretty much beyond words.

Since I have to say something, I’ll start by telling you that the International Herb Symposium is a fundraiser for the nonprofit, United Plant Savers. Every two years the symposium is held to educate people about the importance of conservation when it comes to medicinal plants. The take away message from UPS this year is that the enthusiasm for herbs is outgrowing the availability of many of our plant allies. We have to start growing our own medicinal herbs and supporting local organic farmers if we want to be a part of keeping our medicine available to all. There are just not enough resources to keep up with our exponential population growth.

Many speakers, from different lineages, talked about the 6th Extinction that we are in now. It’s real folks and we have to actively be a part of the solution instead of continuing to add to the problem. Heavy news, but given with hope that we can alter the course we are on by consuming less and giving back more. I cry as I recall the words of Linda Black Elk from the Lakota tribe, about how we have profited off the medicine of the Native people of this continent, while they were denied their cultural legacies until the Religious Freedom Act of 1978. We white people have been able to practice herbalism, unobstructed and without reproach, smudging, drumming and chanting without the fear of retaliation from our government for communing with spirit and plants the way we chose to. Privilege comes in ways we aren’t even aware of. It is our responsibility to be on the front lines with Native American tribes, as they protest the innumerable pipelines and mines that infiltrate their sovereign lands. And that will ultimately affect us all. Thank you Linda Black Elk for illuminating the truth about how our freedom has come at the very high cost of yours.

I am inspired and in awe of Jacquelin (Jinpa) Guiteau, Julia Graves, and Michelle LaDue (a fellow acupuncturist!) for their mobile clinics in Haiti. They have treated over 40,000 women, men, and children with homeopathy, essential oils, herbs, and acupuncture for everything from shock to cholera. The essential oils and homeopathy are the most effective because of how many bottles they can carry, and how far the medicine goes. A single drop of essential oil in a community water barrel has stopped the spread of cholera in some areas. Every female in Haiti has some form of vaginal infection from a very young age, and a combination of a 1% dilution of tea tree and lavender is providing relief for the females they have been able to treat. Imagine the feeling of vaginal relief for the first time in your entire life. The power of plants is miraculous! Thank you thank you, Jacquelin, Julia and Michelle. Big heart hugs to you all!

The keynote speaker was Robin Wall Kimmerer, scientist, decorated professor and enrolled member of the Potawatomi Nation. She eloquently spoke of the importance of giving back to our Earth, instead of constantly taking. Robin spoke of developing a new language when speaking about our plant relations. When we refer to other forms of life as “it” then it is too easy to devalue them as we do with all of our “natural resources.” “It” doesn’t have a soul, “he” or “she” does. She suggests a new pronoun for our plants, “ki,” which comes from the ending of a Potwatomi word (I can’t find it in my notes!) and would personalize life, instead of treating “it” as if it’s life is not as important as ours. The plural would be “kin,” which is what plants are to us. They are our ancestors, our relatives, our kin.

I will share more experiences from the International Herb Symposium, since I didn’t even tell you about the ultra-talented Amikaeyla Gaston or the update on the Fire Cider Three. Those will have to come later. For now I leave you with these thoughts:

“What if you were a teacher but had no voice to speak your knowledge? What if you had no language at all and yet there was something you needed to say? Wouldn’t you dance it? Wouldn’t you act it out? Wouldn’t your every movement tell the story? In time you would be so eloquent that just to gaze upon you would reveal it all. And so it is with these silent green lives.”  – Robin Wall Kimmerer

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows