by Kelly Koepke
Certified clinical herbalist Beverly McFarland has been exploring the Sandia Mountains for 35 years. For her, protecting the mountain by picking up after picnickers turned into an abiding interest in the plant life around her. She now passes on her extensive knowledge of the natural medicines that grow on our doorsteps to students of all ages.
“Everything I teach is about balance,” McFarland says. “Herbal medicine is about restoring balance to our lives in an imbalanced culture. We must find the courage to slow down when so much is expected of us.”
For the last 15 years, since she studied with the late herbal master Michael Moore at his Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, McFarland has taught others to identify therapeutic plants and their uses from the sea of undifferentiated green. “Most people have the medicine they need at their own doorsteps. The plants that we personally need seem to grow better than anything else in our own gardens,” she adds.
McFarland moved away from clinical practice because she wanted to be outdoors with the plants. She cultivates her own garden, and has set up her office so that she can see and hear the natural world as she writes a memoir of the experiences and stories that she has accumulated over the years.
Students report that her classes are filled with a sense of play. “They are like little kids whose mothers forgot to call them in, they are so out late,” she laughs. “We see beautiful moonrises and hear bird song in the evenings.”
McFarland’s good friend and fellow student at Moore’s school was Diana Roach, owner of Village Apothecary. Also a certified clinical herbalist, Roach’s love and respect for the gentle efficacy of herbal medicine turned toward helping others with specific ailments by creating tinctures, extracts, and mixtures of herbs. The two refer many people to each other, depending on their needs.
“Herbal medicine is gentle but effective. It doesn’t interfere with the body’s natural processes,” says Roach, who makes in her laboratory many of the herbal products she sells. “It takes longer to work because it returns a state of health to a body, not simply suppresses symptoms.”
She likens a course of herbal medicine to eating. “People complain that they took the herbs but they didn’t work. I point out that they ate breakfast today and yet now they are hungry again at lunchtime. Herbs work the same way – slowly and over time – so you have to keep taking them.”
Roach is quick to point out that she doesn’t diagnose conditions, merely listens to what individuals have to say to get to the bottom of their imbalance. From there, she recommends lifestyle, exercise, and dietary changes, and sometimes suggests certain herbs, vitamins, or other products.
“Our personal service, continuity of service, and long-term knowledge of the herbal field sets us apart,” says Roach. Village Apothecary’s manager, Melody Gonzales, is also a trained herbalist with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and their uses.
Common plants and herbs with therapeutic uses found in the East Mountains area include dandelion, globe mallow, betony, lousewort, valerian, motherwort, lemon balm, lavender, evening primrose, wild roses, berries of all sorts, and mountain mahogany.
McFarland’s classes in identification can help one notice what helpful plants are around you. Or one can purchase booklets or computer software programs from Village Apothecary that give uses and dosages for many more plants and herbs than are commonly found in the area.
Either way, it’s surprising and wonderful how many amazing and helpful herbs and plants are literally on our doorsteps.
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