Walks with Verity Herbs and Wellness
Discovering the plants and natural medicines all around us
If you've ever been on a walk and noticed all the plants and berries that grow wild around us and wondered about eating them or using them as medicine, you are not alone. Foraging, growing food, and using plants as medicine have become popular topics as more Americans seek relief from rising food costs, long to discover more ways to become closer to the Earth, and treat their health issues naturally and holistically.
"There are so many sidewalk plants and herbs that we step over every day and we don't even see them but they are such potent medicinals and such good food for us, too. That's what a lot of people don't realize," said Kristy Baird, owner of Verity Herbs and Wellness. After meeting Baird, who provides holistic wellness coaching, customized herbal blends, plant walks, and workshops, you may never look at the sidewalk — or plants — the same way again.
Baird conducts guided plant walks at Asbury Woods, The Erie Bluffs State Park, and privately. She says she has always loved plants, nature, and camping in the woods, but it was during her pregnancy when she said her interest was really sparked. "I wanted to look toward natural products when I was pregnant. I was reading everything I could and ended up growing plants and herbs while opening an Etsy store making herbal products for the past six to seven years. I started working at Chicory Hill Herbs and learned a lot there. I was researching herbs for customers and decided to really get into it by mentoring with other herbalists, taking online courses, and then later, I opened a clinical practice."
Baird says many of her clients want to try more natural solutions. She commonly treats digestive and nervous system issues, anxiety, and depression, but also sees clients for overall wellness.
She encourages people to develop relationships with plants. "Being around plants has such a calming effect on our nervous systems," Baird suggests. "I always tell people: no matter what issues we are working on, to also just go out in nature and be around plants. It's a lot different to take a tincture or drink a tea than to actually be around the plants and experience them."
When Baird conducts her plant walks she especially enjoys talking to gardeners, "They are pulling out ground ivy because it just grows all over their gardens but it's a wonderful decongestant," she explains. "I see a lot of purslane which grows in the sidewalk cracks and people used to grow that in their gardens. It was such a highly prized plant they would grow it with their broccoli and now it's in the sidewalks. Burdock root is expensive in the Asian marketplace and we can find it on the roadside. The root can get four feet long and is really helpful for the liver and digestive system," she said.
Although many plants are so commonly found, being cautious is important, especially when starting out, Baird suggests. "If you are interested in foraging it's really important to have someone show you and have a really good app or two on your phone. Check multiple sources and multiple pictures to be sure of the accuracy and also get some field guides," said Baird. Peterson Field Guides have been a staple to many naturalists for more than 65 years, and are a great option for someone starting out. "You don't have to be an expert in botany to identify most of these plants, a lot of the common ones you see everywhere. Just takes getting comfortable with the shape of the leaves and the flowers. It's almost like a stranger that you see out and about but once you know them you'll recognize them in any setting."
Foundations of Herb Crafting is a series of workshops that Baird has been giving recently on topics such as foraging, wildcrafting ethics, drying herbs and blending tea, tinctures, vinegars, salves, and flower essences. She says that plants are vital to our wellbeing and stresses the importance of also learning the ethics and history behind these crafts, "A lot of plant knowledge was handed down through generations and now it's coming back around," said Baird. She cautions new foragers to "always leave one third of whatever you are propagating behind."
"Whether you are growing a garden or going to a park you know is safe and isn't being sprayed, it's free food medicine for the taking. Humans, for thousands of years, have used plants as medicine and we have a very deep understanding of these plants written into our DNA. Once people start looking into herbs it's funny how easily it clicks and then they become a plant person because it's in there inside of us already. It just needs to be brought out and we need to shift our awareness."
Kristy Baird, Clinical Herbalist, can be found at verityherbsandwellness.com or at (814) 580-9222. Verity Herbs and Wellness sees clients at Presque Isle Mind-Body, 2500 Palermo Dr.
Amy VanScoter can often be found in nature or teaching yoga and meditation at School House Yoga. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.