Telling people I just returned from 6 weeks of studying endangered medicinal herbs in the woods has gotten a few raised eyebrows from my fellow New Yorkers and some not so slick winks from people who think I’m referencing the illegal kind of herb. But I’m talking about Goldenseal, Echinacea, Bloodroot, Ginseng and many more endangered medicinal plants that United Plant Savers work to save at their Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary in southwest Ohio. Over 500 species of plants, 120 species of trees and 200 species of fungi have been identified at the Sanctuary. Half of the United Plant Savers list of native medicinal plants that are “at risk” for endangerment are
thriving on Sanctuary land, some of which was previously strip-mined or barren pasture. This land can act as an example for reclamation projects and testament to protecting ecological diversity.
Even before arriving at the sanctuary I realized that there is more to learn in studying herbal medicine than prescriptions of “you have a cold, take Echinacea.” Sometimes we want herbal medicine to act like its more familiar allopathic counter point but people and plants are more complex than that. These herbal remedies have a long tradition and are more than little brown bottles sitting on health food store shelves. At the Sanctuary I was able to take time to study and build relationships to these plants in their natural environment and learn from them while helping with trail work, saving seeds, planting seeds, and digging and replanting roots to help maintain and grow these endangered plant populations. Medicine making, plant identification, fox walking, mushroom picking, wiki-up building, reading the forest, willow basketry, maintaining a prairie, just covers a fragment of what I learned.
The “Talking Forest” Medicine Trail that traverses only a small part of the Sanctuary’s 380 acres is labeled with trees and medicinal plants so even the urbanite visitors can become knowledgeable about various plants species. So if you ever find yourself in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains take some time to stop and learn more about native medicinal plants at the Sanctuary.
Learn more about the United Plant Savers on their website (http://www.unitedplantsavers.org/) and more about my experience here. (http://seedstemflower.tumblr.com/) email me to talk herbs : firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Denise DeSpirito