Black herbalism is a combination of traditions that came over with us from Africa merged with Black American and Indigenous traditions. Herbalism has been practiced for centuries and is still a big part of the Black community. Think about the herbal orgins of Vick’s and Ginger Ale, it's in our DNA.
This Melanated Women’s Month we wanted to highlight 4 Black women herbalists (one of whom may even surprise you). Black women and Black people are magic and our herbalists and healers are truly a testament to that. We cannot let their efforts be in vain.
Harriet Tubman is known as an abolitionist and “conductor” but she was also a nurse, cook and forager. It’s been said that Tubman put babies to sleep using a carefully crafted laudanum tincture that she would put on their bread while traveling the Underground Railroad. Kind of like how y’all use melatonin to get those kinds to sleep…I see you! In all seriousness, this was a necessary practice on the road to freedom. But y’all should consider lavender and lemon balm instead. Okay back to sister Tubman…
To provide nourishment for the rescued individuals and families, Tubman foraged for plants in the forest that she knew would pose no threats when consumed. Since enslaved Black people usually fled during winter months this further limited harvesting options. But Tubman was still able to feed and heal folks for over three decades.
Michele E. Lee is best known for her book, Working The Roots: Over 400 years of Traditional African-American Healing, where she conducted first-hand interviews, conversations and apprenticeships in the rural South and West Coast. Lee’s independent work as a healer makes this book a staple guide to have on deck for herbalists of all levels.
Preserving our history is vital. We don’t have to lose ALL the recipes now. If you’ve been given any herbal remedies or have crafted any of your own, write them down and share them! Your family and others who come across it will greatly appreciate it. This is how we build community.
At an early age, Maude E. Scott frequently assisted her father in collecting and preparing herbs. She believes that herbal medicine was a response to traditional western medicine for underserved communities since they had limited access. Scott’s book, Leaves of Green: A Handbook of Herbal Home Remedies, is a written collection of early herbal remedies. It is an amazing book to have in your herbal collection, if you can get your hands on it.
Scott shares her knowledge of herbalism through lectures and seminars she hosts in Florida as well as worldwide. The art of storytelling is one that Scott utilizes to build community. Not only is she preserving these ‘recipes’ but she is also preserving our lives.
The Witch Wave podcast wrote this amazing bio about Herbalist Rose-
Master Herbalist Karen M. Rose has dedicated her life’s work to empowering individuals to reconnect to their own ancestral traditions. Over the past 20 years, she has created several outlets to offer her teachings and healing modalities to women, people of color, Black, and LGBTQX communities including the opening of her three Brooklyn shops, Sacred Vibes Apothecary, Sacred Botanica, and Sacred Spice. Karen also has a new book coming out in February called The Art & Practice of Spiritual Herbalism: Transform, Heal, and Remember with the Power of Plants and Ancestral Medicine.
Karen has trained over 400 herbalists through her Spiritual Herbalism Apprenticeship program and she is also the founder of the Sacred Vibes’ Annual NYC Spiritual Herbalism Conference, the Global Virtual Apprenticeship Program, and much more. In addition to offering herbal consultations, she also incorporates astrology and divination into spiritual guidance sessions.