Appalachia and Herbalism: Old friends ….that are terrible at keeping in touch!

 

Bob’s Note: It’s that time of the month again when we feature one of the Market’s many vendors on Let’s Get Fresh. In their own words. This month I want to introduce you to one of our newest vendors, Hannah Maguire of Wild Sage Herbals in Morgantown. Hannah has been a great addition to our already large group of successful female entrepreneurs at the Market. Stop by her tent and ask her to tell you her snake story. It’s a doozy!

Appalachia is rich in so many ways. Rich in history, rich in culture, rich in community, rich in foliage, rich in adventure, and of course, rich in a culinary sense. So when exactly was it that most people started losing their connection to this beloved land? Was it the introduction of electronic distractions? Was it the allure of convenience food? Was it our hurried schedules that made it seem silly to spend precious time slowly constructing a healthy meal or making our own medicine when we could just simply buy those things?

I am always tickled by a particular reaction I get when people look at and read about my products at the market: “I don’t know what that word is!” Well, that’s funny because I bet your Grandparents did! I bet your Grandpa knew which plants he could easily grow to feed his family and which to avoid while working outside. I bet Grandma knew that if one of her children got a fever that she could pick something growing in the yard to quickly bring that fever down.

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Chickweed, one of the many herbs with medicinal properties.

For me, plant knowledge was not something that was passed down to me throughout my own childhood. I watched my parents nervously rush me to the doctor or hospital anytime I was sick because they didn’t know what else to do. I discovered Herbalism out of a respect for self-sufficiency and practicality. Why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at a doctor’s office for something silly that just took a little research and education to fix on my own? I fell in love with the idea that all this green that you see driving down the road isn’t just generic “green”. It’s a vast array of amazing plants that all have purposes, intentions, and even subtle ways of communicating their many uses that it seems silly to me now to remain ignorant of it all.

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Mixing up a batch of my Rose and Calendula Mineral Salt Soak
When I was in Herbalism school in New England, I remember the day I was introduced to the “Appalachian Method” of Herbalism. I remember it fondly because it was the most fun of all the methods I had learned thus far at that point in my schooling. It basically meant doing away with all the math, measurements, ratios and specifics of chemistry and was simply just chopping up a plant, covering it with a menstruum (any liquid serving as a vehicle for extracting the constituents from an herb, depending on the kind of medicine being made) and basically just winging it! It involved trial and error at first, and then eventually knowing that plant so well that the outcome was rather known and predictable.

I wish more people would simply head out their backdoor, take walks, discover, try, learn, do, and use! LEARN what those plants are put there for. People don’t understand just how intelligent the plant world is. This network of “green” is entirely purposeful. If you walk around a vacant lot, maybe after a building was torn down and the ground took back over the land, or an old house was taken over by nature after the owners moved away, you will see plants. They all arrive to do a specific job. Not just a random array of plants that nourish the soil; but to regenerate and build nutrients, too. Plants serve to care for land neglected, to repair and return it back to working order so it can be used again.

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Hannah setup at the Market with her boyfriend Kevin Shon who volunteers with the Market’s POP Club.

If you keep seeing a plant around you and you wonder what it is, look it up! Find out about it and learn its uses. You might just find that it’s used for the exact ailment you’ve been experiencing, or that you have a use for it at home. It may have found you on purpose. Let the earth communicate with you. For your own health, and the health of our culture. To keep it rich and to keep our symbiotic relationship thriving. If you’re a fan of the phrase “everything happens for a reason” then nowhere is this ever more applicable than to the secrets and intentions lying within all that green!

Hannah Maguire is a practicing clinical herbalist with an office in downtown Morgantown. She provides consultations and classes and is the owner of Wild Sage Herbals. She has been studying Herbalism since 2011 and can be found every Sunday at the Bridgeport Farmer’s Market. You can reach her at hannahmaguire.com.

 

 

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