What herb turned you on to herbalism?

Several of HAALo’s herbalists share those key moments when they connected with the plant world in a special way. Do you remember when herbs, herbalism and alternative healing entered into your consciousness?

Juju UrcisJuju Urcis


My father always made me chamomile tea before bed to help me sleep or calm me down.


Catie-Pazandak-HAALoCatie Pazandak

Oregon Grape and several conifers

When working as a garden educator with youth in Portland, Oregon, we made a tea everyday with the kids in the winter for immunity. I always had a connection with Oregon grape through all my hiking in Oregon.


Brooke SullivanBrooke Sullivan


Dandelion was my plant ally in Midwifery school… and my first time recognizing plants as herbal allies instead of just friends in the woods, play things to climb, or tea my mama made me. Herbalism is a realm of study, lifestyle to live and appreciate!

Stephanie-McCannStephanie McCann


Echinacea was the first herb I learned about. Little did I know I was using it totally wrong! A particularly nasty cold had me searching for remedies, so I reached for my familiar Echinacea tincture. And I reached for it again and again, but I only got sicker. That experience motivated me to learn more about herbs and my journey began.

Ashlee Sakaishi GriffithsAshlee Sakaishi-Wilkin

Peppermint and Spearmint

When I was a child, my friends and I would play by the creek at the bottom of my mom’s animal hospital property. We would make “teas” with the creek water and the wild mints along the creek — we didn’t always drink it as it was downstream from a gas station, but it introduced me to the magic of aromatic plants.

Jon OlesonJon Oleson


The type of herbalism that I’m most passionate about is energetic herbalism, i.e. the subtle communication between plant and animal to bring about a physiological, emotional, or psychological change. The first plant to beckon me onto this path was Datura, aka Moonflower. I found her in bloom spilling out onto the sidewalk and became immediately entranced by her beauty — the delicate, white, saucer-shaped trumpeter flowers; the intoxicating floral scent; the dark green toothed leaves; and the spiny, protective seed pods.

She very nicely represents the potential of this method because any part of the plant is toxic if ingested. Therefore she must be approached patiently, and a relationship developed before she begins to reveal the depth of the lessons she has to offer.

In the years since our first meeting, Datura has taught me much — about death and rebirth, about the beauty of being pollinated in darkness under the light of the moon (symbolizing the subconscious emotional body), and that plants have powerful and potent intelligent spirits that demand respect and understanding.

And our relationship continues to deepen, which is also the joy of this path. It’s a co-evolution that strengthens the personal and collective relationship between humans and plants.

Kaya-HunnybeeKay’a Hunnybee


Once I caught a tiny glimpse that plants in the forest had the power to heal us, I was hooked into them as magical allies that I wanted to know about as much as I could as soon as possible.

The first plant I consciously started learning from and with was Mugwort. I read about its capacity to support prophetic dreams and that we could smoke it, sit with it, put it under our pillow, drink its tea, etc. And so, having no real experience with plant medicines, I did all of those things, every single day, and often. I even hung it all over my room at the sustainability education center I was living at. I smoked it probably five times a day, sat with it for hours each day, drank the tea, kept a leaf next to my bed and another under my pillow, and I asked over and over again, to learn my new name (I felt I was ready for a new name, which is a much longer story) through one of these dreams that it/she was purported to give.

Without meaning to, Mugwort totally helped me quit my tobacco habit, as I was so intent on this dream-inducing practice that I was smoking less and less tobacco until I didn't even crave it anywhere. That was the first gift Mugwort gave me.

I also believe it was part of my transformation that made space for my new name to come in. Like I was letting go of past layers of myself and Mugwort was sort of my guide. In the space of about three months, I started sleeping a lot less, and I felt a general experience of everything in life being liminal, between worlds. Like I didn't need to sleep as much because the relaxed experience of life I was happening was in some ways similar to my dreaming life. It was a truly potent time.

Sometime in November of that year, as the rains were really coming in to the Pacific Northwest, I awoke one early morning around 3 or 4 am after only a few hours asleep and fully rested with a song (really just a chant) in my head. It was such a beautiful song that I softly sung it over and over again as I collected firewood and started the warming woodstove. It would be hours before anyone else in our community straw-bale house would get up, and so I decided to be creative and got a piece of paper out. I wrote down the song I was singing and it came out exactly in this form as I sang it and saw it in my dream: "Kay'aleya."

Now that I had captured the written form of the song, I really looked at it and it became clear in a flash of "aha!" that this was THE NAME I HAD BEEN ASKING FOR!! For months, I had been waiting, and here came my name. Finally, with the support and help of Mugwort holding the threshold of possibility open for me to access this name, it came. And so I thank the spirit of Mugwort for her second gift, and one of the most powerful gifts any human or being has ever given me in this lifetime, my name.

I have learned now that Mugwort (in the Artemisia genus with different local species names but grows all over North America) has been considered a magical and initiatic herb. I consider Mugwort to be a grandmother plant spirit ally. She holds that elder wise woman energy very strongly. After beginning my relationship with her, now almost exactly one whole decade ago, I have not stopped growing my relationships with plants and the powerful medicines they can offer us... though often we need to cultivate patience and presence in order to receive them.

Jahwei Chen-GrafJahwei Chen-Graf


I was travelling in India and was bitten by a dog in a little alley in Rajasthan. Calendula tincture on the wound amazed me with its ability to heal.


Shea SmithShea Smith


I was amazed how quickly it healed and pulled broken skin back together. Miraculous.




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