Latest Event Updates
Each year the SouthEast Women’s Herbal Conference sets up camp at Lake Eden outside of Black Mountain, NC. Over 1000+ women and children attend this 3 day event in the early fall. Our First Aid Center is tasked with providing earth-based care for this temporary village. All of our services and remedies are offered free. For many, a visit to our clinic facilitates their first healing experience with herbal medicine, illuminating the vital link between true health and nature. We had over 100 visits to the center and also made a few “cabin calls.”
Our clinic is hostessed by graduates from the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism (ASHH) located in West Asheville, NC. I have had the honor both serving and coordinating this clinic for the past several years and share with you some pictures from this year’s clinic. I have also been working on a mini-manual filled with information on how we staff, stock, and provide this type of clinic for those who may be inspired to do the same in their neck of the woods. It is available as a PDF on the Herbalista website. www.Herbalista.org
To see more from this clinic, check out the album in our Photo Gallery
September sure put some miles on the Bus! Since its inception, we’ve visioned the Bus as not only a service provider, but a mobile classroom where we could teach by example, inspiring others with the feasibility of offering a no-cost, earth-based, community clinic.
Last month I finally had the chance to do just that. For their final student clinic of the year, the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine hosted The Herb Bus. After giving the students a preliminary training (using the Herb Bus Service Manual as our guide) about how to run a free, mobile, herbal clinic, we set up the bus at a community in Asheville to allow the students a chance to work in this type of health care model. We had a great time serving the folks at The Landing.
During a post-clinic feedback session, I was asked, “Do you need a VW Bus to do this type of clinic?” And while I am clearly partial to this little Bus, the Herbalista Free Clinic would function out of the back of my Honda hatchback if need be. Good healthcare (just like good health) requires both flexibility and creativity to serve the needs of the community with the resources available.
To see more from this clinic, check out the album in our Photo Gallery.
Just a couple of days later, I loaded the Bus for a trip to Arizona. My final destination– the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous. This conference did not disappoint, from its beautiful location in the Coconino National Forest to its eclectic and deeply knowledgable class offerings. I visited with old friends and teachers and made new connections. Sitting under that bi, western sky I was reminded of the strength it requires to survive such impacting conditions. Those plants have developed potent defenses from which we benefit when we receive the gift of herbal medicine. If you would like to see some of the plants, lands, and people I spent time with on my travels, you can click here.
On my way back through Flagstaff, I was invited to Ponderosa High School to share a little bit about herbal medicine and the adventures of the Herb Bus with their gardening/permaculture class. Ponderosa High is an accommodations school that enrolls and mentors students who have faced difficult challenges in their lives. I was inspired by the students’ ability to transform desert concrete into an oasis of creativity and sustainability, and enjoyed sharing with them some of the herbal uses for the plants growing around their school. In honor of the Elder tree near where the Bus was parked, we passed around a touch of Elder Berry glycerite for them to try. For more photos of the program at Ponderosa High, please click here. It was a lovely morning and I am grateful to my friend, Jonathon Taylor, for inviting me to meet with his class.
After a few more months of running clinics, we’ve made some updates and additions to our service manual. In order to share what we’ve learned and help you to better serve your own communities, the manual is available online. We’ve also created a tab on the Herb Bus website that will always link to the most current edition.
Fire up your engines… your communities need you!
Viva La Herb Bus!
One thing’s for sure– herbalists go through a lot of bottles. For a profession where environmental impact rates high on the list of our concerns, the last thing we want to do is add to a bunch of bottles, caps, and droppers to the mountainous landfills. I clean and reuse bottles and wanted to share with you the methods I have found safe and efficient.
When a bottle is returned to me, I pour out any leftover tincture, oil, etc and place the bottles into a hot, soapy bath, leaving them to soak for a time to allow the labels and any residue to loosen. The labels will practically fall off, and for the more stubborn parts, simply use the label bits that did come free and rub that over the remaining adhered label. That will work it free.
I have a number of different bottle brushes with which I scrub the inside of each bottle. As for the droppers, I dissemble them, separating the pipettes, the squeeze bulbs, and the plastic rings from one another. I use phenolic cone lined caps and these cones are popped free with the use of a pointed set of tweezers. These bits and pieces are all then immersed in a soapy, hot bath for a soak. I use my favorite tool, a mascara wand (purchased from a beauty supply store) to clean the inside of the pipettes, squeeze bulbs, and other hard to reach places. After this prewash I pack everything into a bin for the next step.
In order to feel like the bottles and tops have received a complete wash and sterilization for reuse, I like to use a dishwasher and program it for the heavy duty wash with the high heat setting. Since I am not gifted with a dishwasher at my own house, the next step involves schlepping all the bottles and various accoutrement to my parent’s house (is there ever a time we stop needing assistance from our folks) to run them through their machine. I use a simple eco-friendly detergent with the above mentioned settings.
After they have been run through, I schlep them back home for the final stages of this “ever-so-time-consuming-but-totally-worth-it” cleaning protocol. The bottles are lined up against my west facing window bank to allow for any last bits of moisture to escape and the tops are laid out on a clean towel. The blue bottle in the picture above is filled with 95% alcohol, which is the same alcohol I use for making my tinctures. I spritz them all over and wipe them down with a thin cotton towel. To reach the inside of the squeeze bulbs I again use that trusty mascara wand. Finally, all is reassembled to be used once more to dole out sweet, sweet herbal medicine
For any bottle or top that doesn’t pass muster (using organoleptic evaluation– sight and smell) they are put back into the bin for another cleaning. You will find that over time, the squeeze bulbs loose their integrity (notice in the photograph that some are starting to look a bit grey) and they will eventually get pulled. This is a bit frustrating, because the pipettes and ring are still completely fine. I have searched and have yet to find a distributer of just the bulbs. So I’ve taken to keeping the extra pipettes in a cup for tastings of herbal concoctions I’m making, which feels like a fine way to spend their retirement!
This June and July, the Herb Bus drove cross country to spend time with the plants and serve the people. We assisted in free clinics at both the Firefly and Rainbow Gatherings and also spent time in the field, botanizing and wildcrafting for medicines. The next voyage is planned for September.
Click the link below to see more photos from our trip. Viva la Herb Bus!
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I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who has already contributed so much to getting the Herb Bus rolling. This herbalista feels grateful to belong to such a generous community. There have been some inquiries about how one might make herbal donations to stock our apothecary. This is something we are grateful for, but also need to be quite specific about. The simple fact is that the Herb Bus is quite small. We fit an entire clinic into that little bus and so are particular about what items we stock. We have now created an “Apothecary Wish List” and plan to keep it regularly updated with both herbs we are low on and herbs that we seem to dispense at a high rate.
The wish list is posted as both a main tab on this blog and a pdf version on the HERBALISTA website. We care deeply about our clients, so please– read the list carefully and follow all labeling instruction. And thank you for caring about this sweet little bus on a mission! Viva la Herb Bus!