“We are dandelions busting concrete with delicate, yet infinitely strong roots. Every wild food, plant medicine & healing choice that takes us closer to wholeness is a revolutionary act and a step towards radical wellness on a planetary level.”
I am a traditional herbalist and medicine woman, and my practice is focused on a vitalist approach to local plants, sustainability, whole person/whole plant understandings and earthy, practical ways of teaching people to work with the plants themselves rather than being dependent on experts.
My focus is firmly on accessible, grassroots herbalism that educates the individual and serves the community, both the human component as well as the larger earthen community. I strongly believe in restoring health at all levels and approach healing from the understanding that the body is a diverse and intelligent ecology, integrally connected to the planet as a whole. I frequently works in an integrative style, including herbal medicine, nutrition, counseling and other holistic therapies in my practice.
My medicine is made of soups, weeds and slow sipped teas. I prefer the empowerment of intentional preparation to the convenience of pills. I like getting my hands dirty, and gather most of my medicines myself. There is much healing to be found in the simple act of slowing down and smelling the flowers, feeling the soil beneath your feet and being deeply present as you harvest roots and barks, leaves and flowers from our plant allies.
With a overriding passion for the preservation and restoration of wild land, native plants and biodiversity, I am actively involved in the healing and growth of the Animá Lifeways & Herbal School’s 80 acre botanical sanctuary and wildlife refuge. Through my work in the reintroduction of indigenous plant species, propagation of existing species and an ongoing biological survey of the land, I continue to fall ever deeper in love with the unique beauty of the Gila bioregion of New Mexico. The riparian canyon I live and work in is surrounded on all sides by the Gila National Forest and is seven river crossings from the nearest road. Our rustic homestead is built beside thousand year old Mogollon ruins, and the ancient song of this special place is clear to all who listen.
My perspective in healing and herbal medicine been influenced by the Appalachian ways I grew up around as well as the Hispanic/Indigenous traditions I’m now immersed in here in the Southwest. I especially love the wisdom of the grandmothers and root doctors, medicine women and curanderos – traditional wisdom passed on to each generation, full of the knowledge and stories of past, present and place.
In addition to my teaching work and clinical practice, I also co-organize the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, an international event held each September near Santa Fe. TWHC is focused on providing a celebratory venue for bringing together the many and varied herbal traditions of the Western World while providing experience-based knowledge to students and practitioners.
I teach online mentorships and courses as well as on-site classes and workshops in herbal medicine, ethnobotany, botany, foraging, edible wild plants, traditional lifeways and primal nutrition through the Animá Lifeways & Herbal School, in addition to serving in the capacity of co-director. I also do guest teaching on similar subjects at regional and national events and conferences.
This is where I share medicinal plant musings, recipes, thoughts on rewilding, wild foods ideas, ethnobotanical information, forays into field botany, case studies and the river ramblings I’m prone to. Welcome to the Canyon, and enjoy!
Since I was a child I have loved all things wild.… I was always stumped by the widespread appeal of florist shop flowers and domestic vegetables. Why have these pale shadows, when we could be feasting eyes and mouths on sweetbriar and mulberry, dandelion and violet? Always creeping to the edge of the lawn, I was most fascinated with the lush plantain and fairy touched yarrow that lived there, the smells deeper and stranger than the greenest grass or carefully cultivated tulips. I begged my mom to give up mowing and let us grow sage and clover for a lawn instead, and refused to pull weeds from the garden.
Now I live in one of the wildest places left in North America, a large chunk of New Mexico called the Gila, where bald eagles and great blue herons are frequently seen just outside my cabin window, and lion tracks are found in the woods barely beyond the clearing. The plants here are fierce, almost ferocious in their display of wildness, spikes of banana yucca, barbed Parry’s agave and the prickly canes of cholla cactus line the paths here. Our fruit is the spine laden flesh of prickly pears and small sour berries of wild sumach. And my greatest pleasure is still all about getting down on my hands and knees to see it all close up, the microcosm of irrepressible life.
This land is my lover, and I love her well. The river winding through this narrow canyon beats against the bank with my pulse and the flowers glitter with my tears. Likewise, my skin is volcanic rock and snapdragon vine, my fingers rose thorns and vine tendrils.
I work and play with the plants here, for healing and vision and solace and sanity. I’m an herbalist and medicine woman, I’m a poet and dancer… I’m a girl in a fairytale, I’m as tangled and wild as the roses.
This blog is all about the wild plants, but it’s also about rewilding and deep ecology, the Animá Tradition of Herbalism and its place in the larger picture of Traditional Western Herbalism, and bio-regionalism and place-based wisdom… it’s about healing and bliss and life.
All pics (c) 2010 Jesse Wolf Hardin