Interview with Herbalist and Author Rosemary Gladstar

By Hannah Kincaid Author and herbalist Rosemary Gladstar has been described as the “Godmother of modern American herbalism.” Rosemary’s life story is fascinating, and her accomplishments are an encouraging example of the type of life one can lead if you listen to your heart and pursue your passions. Continue reading to see how Rosemary has turned a lifelong passion for herbs into a fulfilling career, or, click on the video below to watch an interview with Rosemary Gladstar, during which she discusses her current projects and future goals with MOTHER EARTH NEWS editor, Hannah Kincaid.

A Budding Herbalist

Rosemary grew up on a dairy farm in Sonoma County, California. One of five children, she was surrounded bya close family and immersed in life outdoors. Rosemary’s grandmother, who survived the Armenian genocide, was an inspiration to Rosemary and introduced her to gardening as a form of solace, in addition to sustenance.   Rosemary first learned about plants from her grandmother, and the tiny Armenian woman showed her “this weed for the compost, this weed for the kitchen.”  Rosemary went on to study herbs with a number of mentors and teachers, and she started the small herb shop Rosemary’s Garden (which is still operating in Sebastopol, California). After years of blending teas and working with herbs at her shop, Rosemary’s bootstrap business evolved into Traditional Medicinals tea company. You may recognize the Traditional Medicinals label on such popular organic tea blends as “Gypsy Cold Care” and “EveryDay Detox,” which are still available in health food stores across the nation.  In 1978 Rosemary founded the well-regarded California School of Herbal Studies and in the 1990s Rosemary moved to the mountains of Vermont where she founded Sage Mountain Retreat Center and Botanical Sanctuary, a gorgeous 500-acre learning center and wilderness retreat. In the mid 90s, Rosemary, along with a team of her peers and friends, founded the International Herb Symposium and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference, both of which provide valuable learning opportunities for beginning and advanced herbalists. The International Herb Symposium is one of the largest herb conferences held in the United States, and it’s the only worldwide herbal conference with an explicit international focus.

Founding of United Plant Savers

As the use of plant medicine in the United States increased during the 80s and 90s, so did the consumption of many native medicinal plants. Concerned herbalists believed that an organization was needed to monitor the health and abundance of medicinal plants native to the United States and Canada, so Rosemary became the Founding President of the non-profit United Plant Savers. According to the United Plant Savers (UpS) website, their mission involves research, education and conservation of native medicinal plants and their habitats. In July of 2014, United Plant Savers announced the launch of their new ‘At-Risk’ Assessment Tool, which has allowed them to create an up-to-date list of threatened medicinal plants. The tool rates plant species based off their abundance and range, demand and more. To learn more about the new ‘At Risk’ tool, download the article Ranking Tool Created for Medicinal Plants at Risk of Being Overharvested in the Wild from the Journal of Ethnobiology. As a result of the ‘At-Risk’ Assessment Tool and years of dedication from the United Plant Savers and the University of Kansas staff, a list of “At-Risk” and “To-Watch” native medicinal plants is available at the United Plant Savers website. A few native plants included on the “At-Risk” list are American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), black cohosh(Actaea racemosa L.), Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) and Osha (Ligusticum porter, L. spp.). In addition to providing a list of “At-Risk” and “To-Watch” plants, United Plant Savers encourages their members and supporters to transform their backyards and gardens into native plant sanctuaries. These home sanctuaries provide much-needed growing space for native plants and a safe space for the owner to connect with the land near their home.  As a result, hundreds of botanical sanctuaries have popped up across the nation, including the 300-acre Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary in Rutland, Ohio. For resources about how to transform your yard or garden into a botanical sanctuary, go to the United Plant Savers’ Botanical Sanctuary Network webpage.

Videos, Books and More

Ogden publications has been pleased to welcome Rosemary Gladstar to a number of MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS across the country. At our FAIRS, Rosemary presents workshops on a variety of topics, including Herbs for Anxiety and Depression. At our FAIR in Topeka, Kan., Rosemary sat down with our natural health editor, Hannah Kincaid, for a 30-minute interview about the future of herbalism, the goal of United Plant Savers and more. Click on the embedded video above to watch the interview, or visit the Mother Earth News YouTube page.

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