In 2018, I had the ultimate pleasure of attending an event so wholesome and close to nature that I felt like a new little seedling emerging from the soft earth, reaching for new light and purpose. It took me back to the days where natural medicine was merely a curiosity in which I was spiritually driven to discover. I was viscerally reminded of the many glorious things and events that instigated my journey as an herbalist. The AGH Symposium brought out all the things in me that I love about myself and helped me remember my identity as a true herbalist intertwined with nature’s healing powers. Being in touch with my herbalist side as well as the herbal community is essential for the well being of myself, the companies I formulate for, and the customers we serve.
The Symposium was held at Unicoi State Park and Lodge in Helen, Georgia. Helen is the most adorable little German-themed town full of classic, colorful German shops and dining. It happened to be Octoberfest, and many individuals were dressed in full traditional German attire from Lederhosen to feathers in their Alpine fedoras. Just above Helen, the old Lodge is nestled in the woods near Unicoi lake. There was kayaking, hiking, and beautiful scenery everywhere I looked. I thoroughly enjoyed my quiet time hiking alone, searching for medicinal plants. Time outdoors was actively encouraged and enhanced the entire experience, making it easy to stay focused and absorb valuable information when it was time for the classroom. The theme of the Symposium was “Bioregional Herbalism.” It focused on herbalism around the world with a strong emphasis on using herbs in your region to support plant sustainability while reducing harmful effects on the environment.
Classrooms were full of unique, alternative, dedicated, sincere naturalists and herbalists of all varieties. This type of crowd is usually easy to connect with and willing to accept others regardless of any apparent differences. I was thrilled to see that I had moved up a generation and that a new, younger generation wearing layered wool socks, laced boots, and flannel shirts were filling up the rooms, carrying on the traditions of natural medicine. Many of them were groupies of a Herbalist I had never heard of, Thomas Easly. I quickly came to recognize why he is so popular. I was fascinated by his knowledge, formulation and application methods, and his witty mind. I tried to soak up as many of his lectures as possible. I particularly enjoyed his address on integrative approaches to the structural system and pain management. I learned so much. I would highly recommend to anyone looking for an herbal education that they consider reading The Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Thomas Easly and Steven Horne or looking into Thomas Easly’s courses at The Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine.
There were many other courses worth mentioning as well, such as one titled “Southern Folk Medicine” taught by Phyllis Light, a well-known pioneer in the industry. She told fascinating stories of her deep family roots in Traditional Southern and Appalachian Folk Medicine, the most widely recognized regional folk medicine in the US. Ann Armbrecht, director of the sustainable herbs project, raised awareness during her classes about herbal sustainability, the supply chain, and bioregional herbalism as a solution. My favorite course was presented by Kieth Robertson and Danny O’Rawe. They drew in quite the crowd with their charming accents and comical personalities. Until this course, I had not yet been exposed to Celtic herbalism and related energetic and medicinal approaches. The history behind the ancient Celtic tribes and Druids was captivating. But it was the way they broke down a very complex diagnostic system used in Celtic medicine known as the Five Elements that was the most enlightening. I left with a new passion and eagerness to know more. The course ended with a chorus of a traditional Europen folk song, “Be still and know that day and night, be still and know that dark and light are one holy circle. Be still and know that sun and rain, be still and know that joy and pain are one holy circle.” Upon completing my courses, I received a certificate in “Bioregional Materia Medica in Clinical Practice.”
Visit www.americanherbalistsguild.com for more information about the annual Symposium, the Herbalist Guild, product recommendations, educational opportunities, industry news, or to locate a registered herbalist near you.