This is Roxanne from Exploring the Cauldron and I must first say that I am honored to be given this opportunity. You are among one of favorite and most respected Herbalists, Healers, and Wise Women! I have many questions for you, I hope you do not mind!
Roxanne: From one Green Witch to another, what does the term Green Witch mean to you?
Susun: A witch is a woman whose religion is her life and whose life is her art. The art of the green witch is the wise use of the green.
Roxanne: You are a very respected woman when it comes to Herbalism. How long have you worked with herbs and what called you to this path? I read in the New Dimensions Radio interview that was on your site that you got pregnant while on birth control pills which helped to push you into your herbal journey. Were you interested in herbs at all before that? Had you been raised using herbs or other alternative modalities?Can you briefly tell us how you got from being a pregnant woman in the 60's searching out alternative birthing methods and herbal support to a world renowned teacher and herbal authority? This must have been quite some journey?
Susun: I began my adventures in herbal medicine and wild foods in 1965 when I was pregnant with my daughter Justine. I refused to take pharmaceutical medicines for my minor problems and my guardian angels sent me herbal dreams. My parents were not involved in alternative medicine. They were interested in good food though. Everyone in my family, especially on my mother's side either feeds people or heals them. I have chosen to do both.
Roxanne: Also, is there one teacher and/or experience that stands out for you...that made that pivotal difference in your training and how you proceeded along your path?
Susun: I have had many exceptional teachers on my path. The two that have influenced me the most are Elisabeth Kubler Ross and Jean Houston. Both taught me to be true and tough. The singing and story-telling that my teaching is known for are gifts from these incredible women, who impressed on me the importance of song and story.
Roxanne: I also read that you were a math major at UCLA studying artificial intelligence, but that you realized through experience that there was a lot more to natural intelligence. Do you think that the recent interest in quantum physics, especially since the word-wide acclaim to the movie "What The Bleep Do you Know?", is an indicator that planetary consciousness is finally realizing that the intelligence of nature is much more profound than anything that could be created?Do you think this will effect a shift into a more natural way of being and understanding of the green world?
Susun: I left my math major at UCLA and my investigations into artificial intelligence to pursue extra-ordinary intelligence with the aid of LSD-25. At the time, it was still legal: Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) were studying it. I am still deeply involved in hard science, though not professionally. I read Science News weekly and Scientific American monthly and other journals of interest as time permits. I must admit that I think What the Bleep is awful. No, I haven't seen it. But I have read reviews of it in scientific journals. They all agree that Bleep contains few facts and those are distorted and totally our of context. If, as you suggest, it represents the collective consciousness, then we are in a lot of trouble.
Roxanne: You talk a lot about green allies? Would you be willing to share one of yours with us and tell us about this relationship?
Susun: A green ally is a personal friend. It takes about seven lifetimes to really learn herbal medicine, so I suggest that you start with one plant. Breathe with that plant. Let it into you. Listen to it. Draw it. Work with it. I have a correspondence devoted to this for those interested in carrying it out and doing all twenty-six projects that I suggest. (Green Ally; visit me at www.susunweed.com for more info)
Roxanne: I've read that you prefer simplers to combinations or blends of herbs? When would you use a blend and what are some of your favorite ones?
Susun: I can basically say that I never use combinations. I do add a pinch of peppermint to my red clover infusion because it cuts the tannic taste. And I love a bit of Monarda didyma in my comfrey infusion to counter the astringency. But I would hardly consider those combinations; they are more in the order of flavorings. When you use combinations you never know what really works. You don't get an opportunity to learn about individual plants. How many friends would you have if you only ever saw them at parties?
Roxanne: If you could give one piece of advice to our young girls and women of today, what would that be?
Susun: My one piece of advice to young women today is to eat a wide diet of mostly cooked food including occasional but regular use of (organic) meat, eggs, and dairy products. The crushing health problems associated with long-term vegan, vegetarian, and raw food diets is a horrible waste of women. A twenty-two year-old apprentice went from normal bone mass to that of an 80 year-old woman after eating raw vegetarian food for six months. The best way to love animals and help them is to eat them. Check out Temple Grandin's work.
Roxanne: What is your favorite herb? What one herb could you NOT live without?
Susun: My favorite herb is goat's milk. It is, after all, the essence of the many herbs, shrubs, and trees that my goats eat. Because it contains fat, the minerals are amazingly well absorbed. Everyone finds their health improves, especially those with allergies and asthma, when they consume good quality dairy products on a daily basis. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between dairy in the diet and asthma/allergies in children. (And children who take multiple-vitamin supplements are at a greatly increased risk of allergies/asthma, too.)
Roxanne: I know you are against licensing Herbalists. Can you explain why? Do you think that the Federal Government will step in and try to regulate those of us who practice Herbalism and are Healers? If yes, what do you think will happen to the people who have spent the majority of their lives working as an Herbalist/Healer and are not licensed?
Susun: Licenses protect the system, not the consumer. We will loose herbal medicine as people's medicine if we ever fall for the belief that licenses are useful or necessary. So long as I walk this earth, I am devoted to preventing such a disaster. If you want to hear horror stories of what happens when "alternative" practitioners get licenses, talk to American midwives.
Roxanne: You offer many wonderful teaching opportunities for people, from the Green Goddess Apprenticeship, Shamanic Apprenticeship, and the Simple Herbal Apprenticeship, plus the workshops and Correspondence courses, Green Witch, Green Allies, Spirit & Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition and now the ABC of Herbalism! It would be amazing to work with you one on one and work on Laughing Rock Farm. However for people who cannot afford to leave their families, jobs, etc., what do you feel is the advantage of the correspondence courses? The experiences have to be so different from one another.
Susun: I offer many ways to study the Wise Woman tradition so that each woman can choose what suits her best.
Roxanne: I'm sure a lot of women come to your for teaching. However, there's a big difference in taking a correspondence course and doing an apprenticeship.Is there a particular characteristic that you look for in determining how well someone might handle being an apprentice? Speaking of your courses, I noticed that you offer a scholarship; however they are only for Woman of Color or Native Americans. What made you make this decision?
Susun: The most difficult way to study with me is to do a live-in apprenticeship. The minimum is two weeks, but a commitment of six or thirteen weeks is recommended. This is intense personal shadow work and will change your life, as well as ground you in herbal medicine. Native American women and women of color who wish to apprentice with me may apply for a work-learn scholarship. This recognizes the several centuries of prejudice and economic injustice that has prevailed against these cultures in America.
Live-out apprenticeships are less intense. They are set up so you can come to the Wise Woman Center to study as it suits you. There is little or no personal work on self, although it is possible that a little shadow self may appear.
Correspondence course students do report personal change. One women suggested that I post a warning that my courses can cause you to write poetry, sing, and walk naked in the woods. I currently offer four courses, each focusing on different aspects of herbalism. Green Witch helps you find your power in relationship to plants and the planet. Spirit and Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition covers the three traditions of healing and the seven medicines; it is ideal for those who want to help others. Green Ally teaches herbal medicine and the language of plants through intense work with one plant over the course of a year. My newest course is ABC of Herbalism, a broad survey of herbalism, including the use of fifty-two herbs and the treatment of more than twenty different problems. Beginning work on a green ally is included in this double-length course.
Roxanne: Although you do not believe in licensing, when a person completes a course and/or an apprenticeship with you, do they receive a certificate of completion?
Personally, I have completed an Apprenticeship with a Native American Wise Woman and have been studying Herbalism and Herbs for several years now. I consider myself an Herbalist and a Healer. When do you think it is fair for a person to give themselves the title Herbalist/Healer?
Susun: All apprentices and correspondence course students receive a beautiful certificate to commemorate their work. The best way to know if the herbalist you are interested in is "good" is to know who she studied with, and I want my students to be proud of the hard work they do.
Roxanne: What advise would you give to someone who is interested in following the Wise Woman, Shamanic, Herbal, and/or the Green Witch ways, but cannot afford to take your courses? Have you thought about writing a book on being a Green Witch or Green Witchcraft?
Susun: Of course, the easiest way to learn from me is to read my books: Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Healing Wise, Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way, and New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, Alternative Approaches for Women 30-90. Yes, I am working on several new books, including a companion to Healing Wise called Healing Well. And a book devoted to, well, the tentative title is Down There, the Wise Woman Way.
Roxanne: Recently a study was done on Echinacea. This study discredited the benefits of Echinacea. What are your thoughts on this?
Susun: I am not familiar with the specifics of the Echinacea study that you refer to, but, in general, scientific study of herbs is more confusing than helpful. Herbs in capsules are not only ineffective, they are often dangerous. Almost all studies use herbs in capsules. The dose of Echinacea is critically important; to be effective it must be very large (one drop per two pounds of body weight) and it must be taken frequently. Almost all studies use far too little herb, taken too few time, to have the desired effect. In my experience, Echinacea purpurea is not nearly as effective as Echinacea augustifolia. Almost all studies use Echinacea purpurea rather that augustifolia. The root of Echinacea is the most powerful part and I use it exclusively. Almost all studies use the aerial parts alone or in combination with the roots. When I use Echinacea I use it alone. Many studies combine it with other, immune-harming herbs such as goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).Echinacea is an anti-bacterial and is useless against viral infections such as colds and the flu.
Tincture of Echinacea augustifolia is one of the most powerful anti-bacterials I have ever used. It is far more powerful than many antibiotics and can counter even antibiotic-resistant infections. But it must be the tincture of the root, and it must be used lavishly, frequently, and consistently.
Roxanne: Finally, and I'm sure this question has come up many times - laugh - is Weed your given name or a chosen one? It's very appropriate for someone with your life's calling!
Would you like to share any additional information with Exploring the Cauldron's readers?
Susun: There is so much more to share with you. But my gardens and goats are calling me outside.
Roxanne: Again, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and giving me this wonderful opportunity! You truly are an amazing woman and I am honored to speak with you!
Namaste and Green Blessings to you!
Roxanne Brawley Poole
Exploring the Cauldron