get a hobby

Herbalism Started As a Hobby But Became Much More

Photo-Illustration: Stevie Remsberg; Photos: Getty Images

The new year is the perfect time to finally take up ceramics, learn Mandarin, start a book club, start rock-climbing, or plant a garden. In 2018, the Cut has practical advice on trying something new. Make bowls, not just resolutions.

I got into herbalism a few years ago, largely as a response to a bodily rebellion, skyrocketing anxiety, and sleep troubles. It may have started as a hobby — it certainly brought me pleasure to study plants to learn how to use their parts to support my health — but it feels different than the times I took up weaving or watercoloring. It quickly became ingrained in my daily rituals, really, and marked a complete shift for how I live my life. For how I view the value of this life. I spent a few years studying plant-identification books, going on local herb walks, reading about herbal medical traditions in a variety of cultures. I looked at sites like Wellness Mama, and bought zines like Queering Herbalism. I checked out posts and workshops at the Alchemist Kitchen, and Googled what I didn’t know. Each investigation felt like a recognition, so I knew I was on the right path. Eventually, I’d like to train under an herbalist; that’s my next goal. But seeing what I could glean online and from libraries was a good place for me to start. I remember once going on a Tinder date with someone who wouldn’t stop clowning on my green juices and rooty tea blends. Fair. It can sound ridiculous. But I never talked to her again. It’s that deep for me. Being well isn’t trendy, or something that looks cute on Instagram. For me, herbalism is about changing my relationship to my body. She talks, and I had to start listening differently.

It requires quietude, tuning in, being present within my own skin. I do mental body scans most mornings when I wake up, which is just the simple practice of bringing awareness to different parts of the body and observing how they feel, where tension lives and other sensations. How do I feel? What do I feel? And then I go from there. Lingering fatigue might mean I need to drink lemon balm tea before bed, or increase my magnesium intake. My chronically aching back might require a comfrey balm or a salt soak, depending on the level of discomfort. A racing mind might need exercise, or a tincture. A hobby is a way to kill time, a leisure activity. This is more of a coping mechanism. A move toward self-reliance. A way of knowing myself better, and learning to care for myself and others. I’m not truly healthy if the people around me aren’t healthy.

What started out as a curiosity is becoming a full-fledged obsession. So many people have asked me to lead workshops, and to teach them about my practices that I’m planning to release a (small) line of herbal bath teas and sacred smoke blends in early 2018.  I’ve never tried selling anything before, and I have no idea how it’ll go. But I’m really excited to try, and to share some of the knowledge I’ve accrued over the last years.

Herbalism Started As a Hobby But Became Much More