** A note to POC community. This post is aimed at providing resources for white herbalists and plant humans to do better. It may be exhausting to read. It also provides many links to POC herbalists, schools and teachers.**
The world is on fire. Plague has ravaged the land. We are well into the Dog Days of Summer. And wow, P.S. these fires have been burning for a LONG time. Many white people are waking up to the fact that, surprise, there is still racism, and yes, it is a real thing. Many are learning that to be silent is to be complacent in the harm perpetrated upon Black people. It’s left many wondering how to help? What to do? Good news is, you don’t have to figure it out by yourself! POC have long been doing that labor, and it’s time for us to pay up. They have been telling us what they need, what we need to do better and how we need to show up. How can I help? What can I do? Those are very good questions. I wrote this post in an effort to compile some of what we can do as plant people, herbalists and Witches .
Many people are saying, look to your strengths to find ways to help and to work within your sphere of influence to utilize your unique privileges to amplify Black voices, listen to asks around reparations and meet those asks, and do the necessary personal work to hopefully continue, or at the very least begin, the epic task of dismantling the racism that dwells within us. I’ve been asking myself as an Appalachian folk herbalist, forager and Traditional Witch, where is my energy needed here, where is it not, and what is being asked for that would be most helpful?
I’d like to share all the amazing resources that others have done around these things and what we can do as plant people to ensure we are not continuing the same, extractive, colonizer, capitalistic, racist practices and address the gatekeeping and privilege that bar many POC from interacting with the medicine that was stolen from them. I know what I know because of those who came before. I live on stolen land, built by stolen people.
First we must know our history. As herbalists we MUST know how we have access to the knowledge we do and WHY. It is hard and uncomfortable to delve into it, but that pain is little compared to the lived experience of the people whose stories we learn of. I believe it is our duty to understand and to really sink into that reality if we are to make medicine with plants on this land.
Medicine County Herbs has an article on the history of medicine in America, and it is a great place to start. **Trigger warning** This article discusses the violent and racist history of American Medical Practices. If we are bioregional plant people, it is also of the essence to understand the history of the unique space you occupy. Who lived here first? Where are they now? What access do they have to their ancestral lands?
I continue to be shocked by how many assumptions I make about all types of things. Myself, others, what they need or want. Often it’s not for me to wonder. I just need to listen. (If you’ve ever met me irl you know I am an ENFP and struggle sometimes to be a good listener). That doesn’t mean I get a free pass! It’s important to slow down, and start deeply listening. I ask myself, why does this particular point a person brings up challenge me so much? Why does a point NOT challenge me? By reading and listening about how colonialism and the mindset it has created treats POC herbalists and healers we can feel into those uncomfortable places and do the hard but necessary work to ensure we are not continuing to enact those practices. Also we can see that white people don’t have to set the table, we just need to frikkin let POC have their own and support them in doing that their own way.
Check out ways to heal your own ancestral wounds. In my work, I focus heavily on sharing folk magic and witchcraft traditions from Irish, German and English histories, because those are the three largest ancestral connections I have. Learning about the folk medical and magical practices of my own ancestors has helped me hold space for and resist culturally appropriating marginalized peoples medicine to fill a void I feel within myself. Via Hedera, one of my favorite fellow animist witches, makes a great point in her podcast interview on New World Witchery that honoring or mentioning the magic and medicine of others is not the same as claiming it and appropriating it.
This also means that when I teach about Appalachian Folk Medicine and Magic history, I do the research and put in the time to see whose medicine we are talking about. Cayenne peppers? From Africa. Using rice to keep away evil spirits? Folklore from enslaved black people. All the times I speak about native plants and how we use them, I try and find out which First Nations in our bioregion used/are using these plants and how we came to have them in the pharmacopoeia today. This is not the right way to do things. I don’t know what that is, and I want to try and find the ways to get closer to what that looks like. Say where things come from. It’s important to fight against the whitewashing of history. Support living people who are the ancestors of these traditions you benefit from.
This is a true joy! If we go way back, all our ancestors did cool stuff with plants at some point! Uplift other’s journeys to practicing and reclaiming their own ancestral traditions as an ally rooted in the arms of your own often diverse ancestors if you can and have access to that information. This work really helped me identify ways to further decolonize my own ways of thinking and even validating herbal information and research!
How can we Help?
Help by donating. This is, if you are able to financially, important and helpful, and honestly it’s really the least we can do. Here are some great places to place your dollars. Remember these are just a few of the many options, so also do you own research! Reparations is an important and vital part of striving for an equitable world. Read more about why this practice is vital here. There are ways already in place to begin this work, check out what Soul Fire Farm has set up. This is not charity, it is necessary.
This list is totally not complete, I’m happy to add any more resources or links if you feel like sending them to me!
Rootwork Herbals Provide $$ for POC to attend this beautiful POC run school in upstate NY.
The Charlotte Herbal Accessibility Project Provide support to get medicine to those who need it most in Charlotte NC run by a wonderful human named Brandon Ruiz.
Community Health Herbal Network “Community Health Herbal Network is a network of communities in the South that offer free herbal care, education, and wellness services that are geared towards the preservation and re-cultivation of the widespread and sustainable uses of herbs. Our resources are dedicated to our elders, our ancestors, our communities, and all those harmed by land and resource colonization, environmental racism, war, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, sexism, addiction, the prison industrial complex, and the medical industrial complex.”
Hawthorn Collective here in my own town, Asheville NC. Donate medicines or first aid supplies.
Reparations with La Yerba Mala
Herbs Schools Run by POC and POC Herbalists:
Rootwork Herbals, NY
*A great resource list: POC Herbalists to Support and Follow list from Queering Herbalism plus many more links to important Queer and Trans resources
Hood Herbalism, CA
Omaroti, Puerto Rico
Ancestral Apothecary, CA
Seed and Thistle Apothecary, You can support their BIPOC scholarship fund here
La Mala Yerba
NCB Schoolof Herbalism, GA
Herb Schools that offer POC Scholarships:
Old Ways Herbals ,VT
Common Wealth Herbs, MA
Wild Faith Herbal Wellness
Mutual Aid Herbalism
Anti-Oppressive Learning for us All
Herbalista’s Links List is Amazingly Helpful!
This is a lifetime of work. Please keep on keeping on. Care for yourself so we can care for each other. Everyone needs access to their medicine.
To support me in my research and work, please consider donating. Every dollar helps!