Herbalist, author, and wild creature, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the HerbFolk Gathering, held each September in the mountain Southwest, is co-editor of Plant Healer Magazine, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.
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Who/What is a Plant Healer? Why this term instead of a term like Herbalist?
A Plant Healer is anyone who works with the plants for the purpose of healing. We chose this term in part because of its simplicity and because of the way it keeps the focus on the plants themselves. I am an herbalist because I love the plants, and feel called to matchmake between plants and people, hopefully facilitating new and deeper relationships among humans and herbs that brings healing for us, as well as inspiring us to take better care of the earth in the process.
One of the many contributions you have made to the plant loving community is a return to the notion of “folk herbalism”. How is folk herbalism different from what might be considered more “mainstream herbalism”, what are folk herbalists bringing to the table that has been missing in the community?
Basically, folk herbalism is technically defined as herbalism being practiced by non-professionals or lay people, often utilizing regional or handed down knowledge and perspectives. However, given the wide range of practitioners that currently identify as folk herbalists, I think it makes sense to broaden the definition to include professionals and non-professionals alike who practice an herbalism not currently accepted as valid by the Western biomedical industry and our culture in general.
Folk herbalism has always been here, and has long been represented by an incredible spectrum of practitioners. I personally use the terminology because I value both inclusivity and diversity within the healing community. I especially like the fact that folk herbalism embraces such a wide range of ideas and practices without insisting upon a false or forced homogeny.
You run a clinical practice, care for a beautiful wilderness area in Southern New Mexico, teach, write, publish some of the finest books and magazines on the plant path, and organize festive conferences and weekends of education for plant healers, you are also a mom and devoted partner…how do you do it all and what are your personal favorite herbal allies?
Thank you, Bri! I’ve found that it’s my nature to cycle through focusing on what most interests me at the time, and I find that working on so many projects allows me to move from seeing folks to creating art to writing to land restoration to teaching to solitary and family time in a way that allows me to feel both fulfilled and to keep many projects going at once. Also, my wonderful partner, Jesse Wolf Hardin, does an enormous amount and keeps everything on track and on schedule!
Many of my absolute favorite plants are from the genus Salvia, I adore all that I’ve met thus far! I’m very blessed to have two native species growing right here in the canyon where I live and many more nearby. Working with the less well known Sawtooth Sage, Salvia subincisa, was a profound experience in my early herbal studies. While I don’t know of anyone else working with this plant, it is a profound relaxant nervine that is specifically indicated when tremors are present with anxiety. It’s also a wonderful ally for those who have such sensitive nervous systems that even Lemon Balm can seem too stimulating. Back when I was first studying and practicing herbalism, I was also recovering from many years of insomnia, addiction, and abuse and dealing with a very fried and overstimulated nervous system. The Sawtooth Sage helped to heal my nervous system and allowed me to sleep and relax in ways I hadn’t experienced in decades. I especially like it combined with our local Skullcap for tension, anxiety, and insomnia.
In 2013 you launched the Bramble and Rose–a wonderful shop where folks can order perfumes, elixirs, balms, and oils, tell us about the Bramble and Rose and what inspired it?
Originally, The Bramble & The Rose was created as an outlet for my passion for creating botanical perfumes and body products, and my desire to share the medicine of aromatics with a wider audience. As time has passed, I’ve slowly been expanding it into a more complete woodland apothecary that includes elixirs, bio-regional incense, bitters blends, and certain single herbs abundant in my area. I’d been asked for many years to make more of my herbal preparations for sale, so I’m happy to fulfill this desire from the community while sharing many of my favorite plant allies!
Part of the profits from The Bramble & The Rose go to paying for the materials used to create the herbal formulas I provide to local clients in my tiny mountain village at little or no charge.
If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?
To keep your work at its foundation, and to focus on not straying from the source that ignited your passion to begin with. To work as healers of any kind we need to avoid being drained by what we do, and a bit part of that is being able to receive vital nourishment from the earth and work at a roots level. I know that, for me, it’s very easy to get caught up in what needs to be done, and to neglect the simple, sensual delights that first drew me to herbalism. By remembering to play with the plants, experiment with new remedies, and spending wordless time on wild land, I am sustained and replenished in a circle of healing I am honored to be included in.
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