Western Clinical Herbalist, Director at Ohlone Herbal Center, Yogi, Forest Communicator, Musician
Tao Te Ching Indians in Overalls by Jamie D'Angelo The Spider's House by Paul Bowles The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts The Essene Gospel of Peace Tetralogy Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus
Closest Plant Relation:
Mugwort, all the way, Mugwort. I prefer the California variety, Artemisia douglasiana.
Quote to live by:
“Stay together, learn the flowers, go light.” -Gary Snyder
It is Important to be in communication/community/communion with plants because:
Being in close relationship to the land we inhabit has been an essential component of culture from the beginning of time. Human beings have always communicated with plants. We seem to have forgotten that we are in fact animals and it is instinctual to explore and consume the plants growing on the land on which we live. Through practice we can access our innate capacity to actually know what medicine to take for what ailment, be it physical, emotional or spiritual.
In Maori language there is a saying "that which feeds you in the night like mother's milk". They understand that this 'milk' of life that sustains us comes from the land. Listening, communicating, and using local plant medicine to create vital health is essential in reconnecting to this milk or essence of spirit. We can feed our deep calling to reconnect with nature… and also, it's REALLY fun!
Tell us about the name Heavy Nettle?
Heavy Nettle dropped out of the sky and into a Brooklyn apartment I shared with my dear sister Megan Offner (who went on to found New York Heartwoods.) It was Winter and we realized a community of mice had moved into the stove. We quickly scoured the kitchen for signs of their co-habitation. We had a turquoise antique medicine pantry where all of our herbal medicine was stored, which was our highest priority to investigate. Imagining nests made out of horsetail and mouse pillows crafted of milky oats, we dug in. We were surprised to find that the only herb that was attractive to our mouse friends was the Nettle. They had avoided ALL other plants, and chewed through industrial plastic to get to our one pound bag of dried Stinging Nettle. As we were sifting through the remnants of what was left, the words flew out of Megan's mouth while laughing; Heavy Nettle. Knowing that many indigenous cultures study animals to learn what roots, plants, and berries to eat seasonally, we quickly took on the name as a talisman of modern living.
You used to play in the band Effi Briest and design for Marc by Marc Jacobs. Can you speak to the process of deepening beyond the worlds of fashion and music? What was that transition like, and what kinds of experiences helped clarify your path?
Beautiful precise design and a thriving music world are some of the more distinct aspects of creative life in New York City. Being a fourth generation Southern Californian, the comparison of a sunny SoCal ancestral life to New York was stark. I found the east coast to be incredibly rich, sincere, creatively vital, and energizing, but after seven years of exploring the urban world I found myself far out of sync with the values and intentions of my music and fashion community. I disliked the ego of the music world, including my own! It became incomprehensible that rare Earth was being unsustainably harvested to make a best selling polo. Sneaking away to lunch time yoga most days in soho and taking vacation time to melt into the natural world, soon became the most satisfying parts of my life. Experimentations with energy work and meditation, and finding a good teacher and guide, opened me to more profound levels of clarity and steadiness in my life, which became increasingly joyful! As a practitioner I quickly learned that my language in liminal spaces of healing energy was the language of plants. When doing energy work, I would see flowers and plants popping out of peoples bodies, which I happily accepted as an invitation to dig into the world of plant medicine. When I decided to leave New York, I left my job and two days later walked into the Big Sur forest and dug my hands into the dirt in Esalen's farm and garden, where I remained for the next year.
With my first forays into herbalism, it concerned me that many of my most revered teachers had such brown teeth. I wondered if surrendering the body to the crone goddess archetype was a necessary initiation on the path of becoming a wise woman. I find your inquiry into holistic tooth care to be refreshing and timely. Honestly, it is quite a relief to find that there may be some kind of middle way between whitening toothpaste / drill and fill dentistry, and the path of the toothless woodswoman. We read your article on Oil Pulling and have been using your Heavy Nettle Oil pull every day..Can you tell us what oil pulling has done for you, and talk about the importance of a healthy oral ecosystem?
Great question! Studying traditional nurtition and the work of Weston A. Price for the the last six years I, learned that a significant part of our oral health is actually transferred from mother to baby in utero. Basically as the health of our food and soil decreases so does the genetic lineage we pass on to our children, majorly contributing to the demineralization of our teeth. In addition, swallowed saliva that is full of anaerobic waste creates an unhealthy population of bacteria in the gut. Traditionally, oil pulling is done in the morning before brushing or swallowing. I'm so attracted to an approach that nourishes while detoxifies, a rare combination in our culture! Obvious results in my oil pulling practice have been the flavor of heavy metals releasing, teeth whitening, and a cleaner tongue. Fundamentally our modern dentistry is tooth embalming, while there's ancient knowledge that shows us how to detoxify and even remineralize out teeth. I'm interested in those places where ancient knowledge can be easily integrated into daily practice.
The archetype of the crone is suppose to be scary. She is the one that is full of wisdom, who will whack you over the head in order to awaken you with knowledge. Fear is a healthy reaction. She inspires the cautious and humble approach that is her due after a life of living at the edge of the woods. Personally I've made a decision to offer a more client empowered approach to healing, so I'm avoiding the brown teeth and whacking... for the time being! I hope to integrate my aesthetic orientation with my understanding of the importance of honoring the natural world. The stereotype of the herbalist with leaf litter wrapped in tangled body hair is limiting and out of alignment with the reality that communion with nature is essential for all living beings. These tools are for everyone. This commitment to integrate the practice of herbalism into modern culture is in full respect of the ancestors and all who have come before us. It is important that the wisdom of those women who went to the outskirts of society to harness the power of the Earth be preserved to help future generations thrive here.
Despite your vast body of practical plant knowledge, we are very intrigued by the intuitive aspect of what you do. Specifically, we love the way you incorporate your personal path of yogic study and inquiry into your scholarly perspective on plants and wellbeing. You seem to integrate these worlds that tend to be spoken of as differing in underlying philosophy quite seamlessly into a balanced modern life. Does this ability to synthesize energy/ information come naturally to you, or are there practices you can recommend that can assist todays hybrid, multidimensional human in weaving something cohesive together out of all the different worlds that life in 2015 asks us to inhabit?
For the last several years I had the honor to be partnered with Mark Whitwell. Through his study of yoga and direct transmission of wisdom from Krinshmacharya, Muktananda, Adi Da Samraj, and U.G. Krishnamurti, I've been exposed to really amazing knowledge from some of the great wisdom traditions of humanity. I practice yoga in this tradition and the practice allows me to settle into my body, relax the fluctuations of mind that create suffering and viscerally feel myself as a part of the natural world. From this space I can walk into nature and understand I am nature meeting nature, there is nothing separating us. Yoga is the merging of opposites in our own body, feminine and masculine. In the embrace of opposites we know the source of opposites. It's a bit hard to describe the feeling, but essentially by embracing the opposites in my own body I can gain access to the source of opposites, which at moments feels like pure consciousness. Check out www.heartofyoga.com for more on the practice, or click here to watch a video of me demoing the practice.
On Saturday, February 28th, we will be hosting a San Diego plant spirit communication workshop "The Yoga of Plants" along with private sessions with Kelsey Barrett.