Q&A with Abby Artemisia, author of “The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders”

By Shelley Pierce | April 28, 2019
by Shelley Pierce
April 28, 2019
Abby Artemisia

Abby Artemisia is a botanist, herbalist, and professional forager living in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and with a degree in Botany from Miami University, Abby has since traveled the country learning about plants and herbal remedies. She teaches dozens of workshops every year on a wide range of botanical and herbal topics. She has previously run an herbal tea business, worked on organic farms, and spent years playing in the woods. Her mission is to offer nature and herbal education, creating healing through connection with the natural world and each other. In her latest book, “The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders“, she offers readers a helpful compendium of herbal information and recipes for building health and tending to minor ailments out on the homestead. Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies from Quarto Publishing Group!

The world of herbs can be overwhelming for those just getting started.  What approach do you recommend a newbie takes as they begin to immerse themselves?

It definitely can be overwhelming! What I always tell my students is to start slow. Get to know one plant really well first. Pick one that grows right outside your back door, in your garden, or in the woods down the street. Observe it through all the seasons, research it from multiple different sources, taste it, make tea and drink it multiple days in a row. Take time out to sit and notice how you feel. You can create a Materia medica (there’s a form for one in the book) that is like your own personal herbal reference compiled from other resources, and include how it effects you, and other information like it’s habitat, actions, contraindications, dosage, etc. Once you feel super comfortable with that plant, move onto the next one, taking your time to really get to know each one. It’s much more helpful to know ten herbs well than 100 herbs barely at all.

How does your book assist the reader on their herbal journey?

My book provides an easy introduction into the world of herbs for the beginner, or a good supplement for the more advanced student. It introduces them to cultivated and wild herbs they may not know and leads them further along the path of herbs they may already know. One of my favorite things about the book is that it includes botany education. This is the area of knowledge I feel is most lacking in the herbal world today. If you’re a gardener, knowing botany can be extremely helpful. If you’re a forager, knowing botany can be lifesaving. Along with the plant identification information this provides, the book also gives easy to use recipes for formulas every herbalist should know, like teas, tinctures (alcohol extracts), and salves, including tips and tricks for making the formulas their most delicious, nutritious, functional, and long lasting.

Why is it important for us to learn about herbs?

Herbal education is a way of empowering ourselves with our own healthcare and that of our family, friends, and community. In a world where pharmaceuticals and healthcare become more and more expensive and inaccessible, and ailments become resistant to drugs like antibiotics, it’s comforting to know that there are remedies surrounding us for free or for the price of a seed packet. This takes us back to traditions that everyone used to know and practice and adds modern knowledge to it, making it a truly holistic form of healthcare.

Weeds seem to be the bane of a gardener’s existence.  But this doesn’t have to be the case according to your book.  What are some “weeds” that actually have intrinsic value?

There are so many! One of my favorites is dandelion. They are often cursed here in the USA, but they are actually cultivated in Asia because of their intrinsic value. Not only do they break up compacted soil and provide one of the first foods for bees of the year, but also edible and medicinal. I love to fritter the flowers. The leaves and roots are wonderful in tea or tincture, as a bitters blend for digestion. They have been shown to be a great liver tonic!

Another one that not many people know about is called ground ivy. It has a lot of names, like alehoof or creeping Charlie. It’s in the mint family, but doesn’t have a minty taste. It’s another great stimulating bitter. It’s also my favorite herbal decongestant in tea or an herbal steam and I have several students who’ve had good luck with taking the tincture for tinnitus.

How did you become interested in herbs?

The simplest answer is that I was allowed to play outside as a kid. That created wonder in me about the natural world. Then, I worked on organic farms, teaching me about growing the plants, and in health food stores, teaching me about their medicinal benefits, lived with a Native American family, where I learned more about the medicine of the herbs and their spiritual effects, and got a degree in Botany, giving me a good foundation of knowledge about plant identification and how they are related to each other.

What is one of your favorite herbal remedies and why?

My Basic Herbal Salve is one of my very favorite remedies, partly because it is so basic. It’s one of the most important and constant remedies in my first aid kit. It’s so versatile in its application, from scrapes, to bruises, bee stings and bug bites, to sprains and burns. It’s a remedy that I think everyone should know how to make and is easy enough for anyone to make. And as the name says, it is basic, so you can add other herbs to it for different effects, like pain relief, tendon and ligament repair, or even turn it into a lip balm (also in the book).

As your book illustrates, herbs can be utilized in a variety of ways.  What are some applications that people would be surprised to know?

Some people never think about giving herbs to their pets and farm animals. However, many animals respond very well to herbs. Things like herbal flea washes (there’s a recipe in the book) can be very effective while at the same time, very gentle.

Also, I was excited to include the chapter Eating Herbal through the Seasons. I eat herbs just about every day, especially during the warmer seasons. The easiest way to take our herbs is to eat them, and they can be delicious!

Enter to win one of two copies of The Herbal Handbook!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight (EST) on Sunday, May 5, 2019 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

Why do you want to embark on an herbal journey?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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