P. O. Box 93 Erin TN 37061
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The Plant Lady
Published in Journal of Practical Nursing Winter 2003
I cannot remember when the plant kingdom did not fascinate me. Something about being in their presence brings back childhood memories of splitting dandelion stems and putting them in glasses of water to watch them curl, waving the seedpods in the air to watch them fly away, and eating the “little sour bananas” from the common wood sorrel plant. My sisters and I made small princesses from hollyhock flowers in red, pink and white. Even today the smell of Mugwort reminds me of a freshly mowed hayfield on the Illinois prairie.
Later in life I began to learn to identify wild flowers and soon saw that many of them were listed in the herb books that I read. I soon learned that Tennessee was home to over 300 medicinal plants and decided to learn more about that. As I spent more time in the southern woods I soon found out that poison ivy was the most common plant I came across in my wanderings. If I wanted to continue my explorations that little problem needed to be dealt with. Just like an answer to a wish, out local electrical cooperative featured an article about a man named Stanley Flynt who made his living wild crafting herbs, with a picture of Jewelweed and a caption saying it was an old folk remedy for poison ivy. It took me a year to find the plant, but once I recognized it I noticed that it was very prolific in most of Tennessee, so much so that it is considered an invasive plant. And yes, the juice put a stop to my chronic poison ivy outbreak, as well as those of skeptical family and friends, much to their amazement as well as my own.
In 1997 I started my web site, Alternative Nature Online Herbal, after a post of mine about St. John’s Wort generated hundreds of email questions. The web site grew with the help of friends who submitted articles. I met Deb Jackson over the net, and her contributions to the herbal descriptions have been tremendous. I feel very lucky to have met such wonderful people over the Internet.
I did not think of selling a product this at the time the site originated, as I was busy with raising the children and working. That would come later when a friend asked to publish an article I had written for my web site about Jewelweed, which was followed by people asking me to sell something made from it. Over the last five years I have sold Jewelweed products from my web site to 1000’s of satisfied customers.
A good web site needs pictures, and the cost of getting those was more than what was feasible for a mostly informative, non-commercial site. I never dreamed of being a photographer but last fall had a thumbnail picture of Jewelweed published in National Geographic Adventure Magazine. I have given public lectures on medicinal plants, marketing web sites and even brokering herbs. My love of Nature has been returned in the opportunities I never knew existed.
You will rarely hear me mention the word “weeds”; I feel that wild plants are a better description for these beings. A weed is only a plant that is useless, as if there is such a thing. Many of our common medicinal plants are otherwise known as weeds. Dandelion, Chickweed and Ground Ivy are common lawn plants that most of us would rather be rid of, but they are all used in traditional herbal medicine. Even poison ivy yields berries that birds find tasty! But a wild plant is one that grows where its seed landed and makes the best of it. No matter what, they usually tough it out and somehow make another generation. When you cut them they’ll bush out both above and below the ground, coming back twice as strong. I think we can learn a lot from our wild plant friends. I know I have. But I still turn my nose up at poke salet!
Karen Bergeron lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee and is editor of Alternative Nature Online Herbal at http://altnature.com , an extensive site with herbal descriptions, hundreds of herb photographs, as well as articles and links related to herbs and alternative medicine. She also makes and sells Amazing Jewelweed Remedies, which are used for poison ivy, oak and skin conditions. Karen has a huge collection of herb photographs she takes for educational and commercial use.