Rosemary Gladstar Interview by High School Student for her 2008 student project

1) Why were you initially interested in Herbalism?
Rosemary Gladstar

I grew up with an Armenian grandmother who was an herbalist. So from the time I was a young child, I was interested in the wild plants that grew around me and their medicinal and edible use. The plants seem to grab my interest and I’ve been interested ever since!

2) How did you become educated? What would you suggest I do to best prepare myself for a career in the alternative medicine field?

I am self educated. That means, I’ve learned like most other herbalists for the past few hundred years. Information was passed down through grandparent to grandchild. I learned a lot from my grandmother. Then read everything I could possibly get my hands on about herbalism. When I was a child growing up there weren’t many books on herbalism, but the one’s that were available were good and were most often written by practitioners; i.e. people who loved and used herbs for healing. I opened an herb store in the small community I grew up in when I was 22 years young (back in 1972). And I learned so much in that store from all the people who came in with health issues and problems. Then in 1984 I started a small herb school, The California School of Herbal Studies That’s when I really began learning from other teachers. It was fabulous! I invited teachers who I knew were great herbalists and from who I wanted to learn from! So I was not only educating my community but myself as well.

3) Would you agree that alternative and complementary medicine is up and coming?

I do. It’s certainly being accepted by more and more people. But one always needs to remember that until a few years ago (100 at most) herbal medicine was the primarily system of healing used in this country, and in many situations the only medicine as it was the only thing available. Still today in most parts of the world, herbalism is still the primary system of healing used; the World Health Organization reports that 80% of the world population still uses herbal medicine.

4) Do you think there should be a balance/ connection between mainstream and alternative medicines?

Of course. No one system of healing will work for everyone or for every situation. We need many systems of healing, sometimes all working together to bring well being and harmony back to an individual ~ and back to the planet.

5) Do you grow your own herbs? Do you think gardening one’s own herbs is beneficial?

Yes, we have large gardens here at Sage Mountain. But my favorite ‘gardens’ are the wild gardens that begin outside the garden gates. I find no greater teacher than the wilderness and the wilds of nature. And, yes, you learn the most about plants from working directly with the plants whether it be in the garden, the woods or meadows. The more one works directly with the plants, the more the plants have the opportunity to commune with us.

On a practical level, its nice to grow your own herbs because you can be assured of the quality, know you’re getting the right herb and have a direct relationship with the plants you’re using for healing. Thankfully today, there are many herb gardeners and farms so one can buy high quality herbs at the farmers markets and local herb and natural food stores.

6) Do you have any favorite herbs that you use very commonly? Can you suggest any that I should focus on studying?

My all time favorite herb is Nettle. I also love comfrey, yarrow, dandelion, burdock, and on and on and on. I generally suggest starting with 10 herbs. Learn those well. Then expand from there. I’ll attach my family herbal handout that recommends a starter list of 10-15 herbs

7) Are there any particular herbs you like for energy and de-stressing?

My favorite herbs for energy are guarana (high power!!! High in caffeine so don’t use often), ginseng, fo –ti, nettle, and green drinks.

For distressing; chamomile, milky tops of oats, hawthorne, Melissa.

8) Do you prepare our own medicinals?

Yes. I use to always prepare my own medicine and now that I have so many students and friends who make good quality medicine, I sometimes buy from others.

9) What would you say if someone was to question the legitimacy of herbalism?

Try a cup of Cascara Sagrada and tell me that herbs don’t work or are ineffectual. (Cascara is a strong laxative!). Or how about even a few grains of cayenne! Herbs are very effective and work very well. Which is why they’ve been used for literally thousands of years. If they didn’t work, they would have been discarded along with everything else that has been discarded that has proven useless or ineffectual.

10) Have you learned about the biological background for herbs? Can you give a brief explanation of the scientific reasoning for using herbs.

Yes, I like studying about herbs and have studied some of the chemistry of plants. Basically, scientist and chemists approach herbs as biological components, or chemical constuients that have specific actions on the body. While this is true to a certain degree, one must remember that plans are far more than individual parts. If you take out a certain chemical from a plant it may explain what that particular chemical does in the body but it will never explain how the total plant works in the body. Plants are far more than biological chemicals or even the sum total of those chemicals. They are living beings, capable of reproducing, survival, and mutation as necessary to survival. They also have tremendous healing capacity as witnessed by the healing art that has evolved around them in every culture in the world.

So you can learn some interesting about plants by studying the parts, but you will never fully understand the plant until you approach it as a whole living entity.
11) Could you suggest any good books, websites or other resources for reliable information regarding herbalism and its legitimacy?

Reference books: There is a plethora of good herb books available. There are also herb books filled with misinformation. Be sure to purchase books for medicinal purposes that are written by herbal practitioners, i.e. people who ‘practice’ and use herbs on a daily basis and have done so for many years. That way you know they are writing about what they know, not second hand knowledge. Listed here are a few of my favorites. This is by no way a complete listing! I could easily include another twenty or so ‘favorites’….