An Interview with Amber Magnolia Hill

Herbal Energetics is a 5 month intensive with internationally known teacher and author of The Earth Wise Herbal, A complete guide to Old World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood. Students taking the course will expand their knowledge of herbs by understanding how to balance the energetics of herbs and tissue states. We sat down with AmberMagnolia Hill to discuss why she is going to attend the Herbal Energetics Intensive.


Q: A bit about you…

A: I was born on February 8th, 1981 in South Lake Tahoe and was raised there, along with my sister, by two loving parents who worked table games at Harrah's Casino. When I left home I attended UC Davis and left with a degree in Religious Studies. I drove away from my final final there and straight to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, where I put in an application to work in the Wellness Department. Though I had been raised in a sweet and (at the time) non-commercialized small mountain town that looked nothing like middle America, my family's ideas of health and food were very mainstream. I ate lots of processed food, took dozens of rounds of antibiotics, and struggled with depression and anxiety during my teens and early 20's. I knew there was a better way to live, and I thought this job would help introduce me to a healthier lifestyle. I got the job, and in a short time (during which I dedicated myself to learning all that I could) it changed my life just as I'd hoped. Within a year I got pregnant, quit, and in January 2007 moved to Grass Valley with my baby.


Q: Why are you interested in herbalism?

A: When I started working at the Co-op in 2005 I knew only that I wanted to learn how to live more holistically; by the time I left that job my interest had been narrowed down to a focus on herbalism. Having my daughter put a hold on my self-driven studies for a while, but when she was seven months old I began a program with herbalist Kami McBride called Cultivating the Herbal Medicine Woman Within. One Sunday a month for 13 months I woke up before dawn, drove two hours to Kami's house in Vacaville, nursed my babe before and after class and during lunch, and soaked in every bit of wisdom I could.

That same spring I started a simultaneous apprenticeship program here in Grass Valley with local herbalist Kathi Keville. Kathi's program was one weekend a month for five months, and luckily the weekends never overlapped. I had no money and borrowed it all (and did partial work trade for both classes), but felt so compelled to be present for both of these programs that I knew I had to trust my heart and plunge in.

And I'm so glad I did! Since then I've continued to take classes here and there, have read countless books and blog posts related to herbal healing, and attended many herbal conferences and gatherings. I love studying herbalism because there is an endless number of things to learn, so many areas one could specialize in, and it seems that something new is always catching my interest and holding my fascination.


Q: What inspired you to take Matthew Wood's class?

A:I have been aware of Matthew Wood's work and his honored place in American herbalism for a long time now, and couldn't believe it when I saw that HAALo had arranged for him to come here and teach! I had dreamed of being able to study with such an esteemed herbalist for many years, but having a young child means that I am unable to travel for long periods of time to fulfill such a dream.

The day I found out he would be teaching here, I drove to HAALo and bought The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines. I realized that, though I was very aware of Wood's influence in the herbal world, I had never read or encountered his teachings myself. I wanted that firsthand impression to help me decide whether or not I would once again scramble to gather funds, hope for a partial trade opportunity, secure childcare, and commit myself to taking this class.

Sitting down to read the book that night, it took almost no time for me to decide that I absolutely needed to make this happen. Wood's wide-reaching understanding of traditional healing, herbal energetics, and plant-based medicine is an attribute won through decades of personal experience, and I just couldn't miss the opportunity to learn from this revered elder.


Q: What are you hoping to gain from this class?

A: I'm really excited about learning more about diagnostic techniques, assessing tissue states, and formulating a treatment plan based on those. I have focused more on the "softer" side of herbalism for many years- nourishment, self care, easy daily practices for nurturing health. But a recent staph infection got me re-interested in clinical herbalism and the study of using plants to treat acute, serious problems. I feel this class is being offered at just the right time for me- just as I am feeling ready to take my herbal studies to another level.


Q: What's next for you in the world of herbalism?

A: It's an interesting question, because so much has changed since I first decided to sign up for this class. My beautiful, beloved mama was killed in a car accident the day after Thanksgiving, six weeks away from retiring from Harrah's. She and her husband were going to move here to be near me and my daughter, and we had a whole life planned together- she'd help with childcare while I grew my herb business (I have a line of wildcrafted body oils called Mythic Medicinals, have written an ebook on Herbal Body Oiling, and teach classes and do phone consultations on herbal self care), and my mom's husband and my boyfriend would be in charge of cultivating medicinal plants in our garden (after my staph infection I started learning a lot about highly antibacterial and antiviral herbs- and the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance- and we were talking about starting a tincture line made with the strongest antimicrobial plants we could grow ourselves).

In the depths of my overwhelming grief I definitely contemplated pulling out of the class. But one of the last gifts my mom gave me was a promise of $300 to help me pay for this course, and I knew she'd want me to continue with my plan. She was so proud of me for following my heart and loved to see that all the time and money and energy I'd put into my herbal studies over the years had really paid off. And I want to continue with my plan too.

I don't know what my future holds now. I am, as the ancient Scandinavians would say of someone in deep grief, "living in the ashes" right now. I am resting in the blackness within, knowing this kind of profound loss is rearranging me at the cellular level and that my life has shifted in ways I can't yet begin to understand. There is an alchemy at work, and someday I will look back and see how this set me on my life's path. I was already interested in ancestral connections and in supporting the dying and bereaved (I've taught classes on ancestry- with a focus on matrilineal ancestry- and I cofounded the local group Full Circle Living & Dying Collective), and this experience with my mom's passing has only deepened both of those callings.

But I will always come back to the plants. I see my future work being some combination of all three areas of study and service- ancestry, death, and plants- and I know the Matthew Wood course will help to clarify where I am going next and how I can weave it all together to bring more healing, heart, and humanity to more people.

To learn more about Amber check out her website, Aquarian Dawn

If you are interested in joining Amber on this 5 month course we encourage you to check out the full class description Herbal Energetics. To learn more about Matthew Wood we also suggest reserving your spot at our free event, An Evening with Matthew Wood. We hope to see you there!




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  1. The last section of this interview, where Amber speaks to her future plans, was so incredibly moving. I have always admired Amber for her candor, and the specific experience of the death of her mother has been so very important for me. It’s helped me to spend more time with my parents, loved ones, elders, and this absolutely includes our greatest elders: the plants.

    Wish that I could join you all in this course, but schedule conflicts restrict that this time around.

    Thank you Amber and HAALo for this interview. Love you much Amber!

  2. Kat McClintock says:

    Amber is the reason I am taking Matthew Wood’s class next month! I met Amber at Kitkitdizzi for a tarot class and was chatting with her about feeling conflicted as this class overlapped with a medicine making class on the Sonoma Coast that I was planning to take. I couldn’t decide which way to go and Amber looked at me and said…”The medicine making class will always be there but Matthew Wood coming to our little town and teaching may never happen again.” I decided that night to go for it and I can’t tell you how excited I am to take this class with Matthew Wood as well as learn alongside one of the most inspirational people I have met in a long time Amber Magnolia Hill. Great interview Haalo and I appreciate you being a part of the community and for having such wonderful services. Kat