Jessica Morgan is a community herbalist and environmental horticulture and crop science graduate and a certified CA master gardener and junior master gardener teacher. Before creating her own line of herbal products, Morgan Botanicals, Jessica worked as a botanical research biologist for CSU Stanislaus as part of an effort to protect endangered CA native plant species of California. She now lives in the beautifully green and water filled Loveland, CO area with “her crazy adventurous twig and rock collecting worker bee husband and our four children, three of whom were born at home accompanied by their midwife.”
She offers medicine making workshops, children’s classes, plant walks, garden and crop advice as well as private consultations and custom blends and can be found on here on Poppy Swap!
What was your first inspiration to become an herbalist?
I grew up clinging to the arm of my Momma and her picnic baskets and canteens of soup and spent many weekends under the pines in the Sierra Nevada forests and gazing across the Mojave desert, in tents and canoes, wading rivers, tip tops of mountains, in caves, fishing, gardening, all of it. She paved my love for life and the outdoors probably without even knowing it. I’ve always had a close relationship with the plants, like building little fairy houses or big ol bonfires, and whistling with grass blades or pelting someone with acorns and rolling down grassy hills or napping under old oaks…. the peace, the fresh air, the quiet, the play, the smells and the simplicity of it all is perfectly healing and over the years I’ve grown more and more in love. Whether it be wild or cultivated, this is where I go to play or to heal mentally during trying times. I’m continuing to learn that health as a whole is a blend of emotional health, balance, spirituality and knowing that the body has the ability to heal itself if we allow it to. I’m a lover of life and I’m all about happiness, and I’m happiest when I’m mingling with the plants.
I remember being in my high school Ag class. I was weeding through my little strip of veggie garden and my teacher came strolling behind me saying “This isn’t a weed, this is food! This is Lamb’s Quarters!” And he was popping the trail of plucked plants into his mouth and smiling and munching all happily and his eyes were all twinkly. It was then that something magical happened between me and the plant world. This was the piece that was missing. I realized that there was so much more to the plants, that they had something to teach me. That was seventeen years ago. And today I find myself teaching kids these same things. Funny how life unfolds. Shortly there after, one of my mentors started teaching me about herbal medicines, magnet theratherapy and fermentation. I started foraging, and cultivating herbs, picking up ‘new to me herbs’ from the local herb shop and practicing on myself, my friends and my family. I brewed up herbals for the sneezy and coughing, and the hungover, concocted my own herbal cigarettes, and smeared cayenne on bloody scraped knees and knuckles, found yarrow for fishhook puncture wounds, and continued learning everything I could about herbs and medicine making and plant identification. It was so fun. I’ve slowly and steadily practiced and incorporated herbs into my everyday life.
When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter fourteen years ago, I started brewing up my own herbal pregnancy tea and drank it through three more babies. I made my own herbal sitz bath and nursing teas, and baby butt salves and cough syrups and so on. I still blend these to this day and they were the seed and founding products of Morgan Botanicals.
How are herbs in your life today?
Oh boy, herbs are my life! I talk to them and dance with them and tease and flick them…..blow them sweet kisses. Hahaa…. really I do. You’re most likely to find me roaming the wilderness oohing and awing and botinizing, foraging and wildcrafting, twig collecting, tree climbing, plant pressing, plant tickling, brewing and photographing. I teach in my food and medicine garden and craft herbals in my shop. I just recently relocated to Colorado and I’m falling in love with a whole new bioregion of amazing new herbs and even spotting old herbal allies. I use herbs in cooking and cleaning, they’re in pots here and there around the house and, of course, my herb shop is filled top to bottom.
I work closely with a few midwives and offer my herbal support to the La Leche League and nursing mothers. I offer junior master gardener classes to the kids, where my primary focus is teaching about foraging, plant and ‘weed’ identification. I teach them how to grow their own food and medicine garden, as well as health and nutrition and the basics of cooking and medicine making. I volunteer for the Loveland Community Garden Project where I help grow food for the hungry and share about the ‘wild weeds’ that want to be a part of the garden too. I also work closely with Aromatherapist, Christine Sparks, where we offer a few different classes in herb basics and medicine making.
How do you learn about herbs?
I am a lifelong student and lover of Nature, and continue to learn and be inspired by Her as well as my teachers and colleagues, from my family, and even the children I work with. I have been learning and practicing herbalism for seventeen years (self taught and mentored) but have completed a three year course of herbal study under Michael Tierra at the East West School of Herbology. I’ve spent the last ten years really pursuing my dreams, goals and formal education. I’m currently a community herbalist and environmental horticulture and crop science graduate; a certified CA master gardener and junior master gardener teacher. I’ve taken aromatherapy classes, online herby related classes, canning and food classes and get in on any and all webinars I can.
I have a deep love for herbalism and I spend alot of time learning about the history of Native American medicine, TCM, Ayurveda, Vitalism and Botany as well as some Nutrition and Aromatherapy. I have recently started some classes at the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism and I’m also currently learning from Kiva Rose’s Herb Energetics webinar course.
I enjoy spending time with my husband roaming the wilderness and stream banks and hunting for the perfect little hidden spots. Together we bike trails and climb rocks searching for plants or often just enjoying the beauty that the land holds. I tend to learn best from hands on teaching so I spend time doing plant walks, or teaching kids or (anyone else who wants to hang out by my side and do a bit of wandering or experimenting)….I really love exploring new plants and different tastes. You can keep up with alot of my learning on facebook, twitter, and my blog which is often compiled with spur of the moment herbalness and tidbits.
What kind of products do you make?
My herbal work seems to be constantly evolving and growing and molding into a life of its very own; though I like to think of myself a Teaist. I love creating and blending and drinking teas and soups. When I was little my Abuela always had a pot of soup and a pot of cinnamon tea on the stove and naturally, so do I. But I make alot of other stuff just for myself or my family and friends as well as my business. Most everything I make has something from my garden or something that I harvested from the land. I make salves and balms, baths and herbally soaks, incense, elixirs, cordials, tinctures, oxymels, oh! and oils……beautiful medicinal oils! Herbal food stuffs are a favorite too, such as herbal jams and syrups, puddings, and boozy stuff like beer. Lots of beer! I currently have Spruce beer doing its thing. I have a Herbal CSA that runs from June through October which helps support the work I do, the growing and processing of herbs into herbal medicines as well as my JMG training program. Oh and you can find me and my herbals at the Farmers’ Markets. So I am having tons of herbal fun!
Where do you like to harvest? What’s your process?
I like to work with what’s abundant and I rely on my intuition. Being that I spent a few years working with endangered plants I strive to be conscious of my surroundings and the plant populations and only gather from those which are truly abundant and strong. This is very important to me. I think it’s important to pay close attention when you’re wild-harvesting. I will definitely grow it if I have the room and or/a suitably loving home for it, but I enjoy wildcrafting and foraging as well and tend to work with the local weeds, bountiful plants and domestic herbs and trees. They tell me too anyway!
I keep a completely pesticide free, companion planted, child welcomed, wild and weedy little garden, no straight line or rows, and I even love the snails and the aphids and the gophers and squirrels….I just plant a little extra for them. Oh and let me say, that me and my snails, we have made a deal: I spread the word that they’re just slow, cute little slimy loving gastropods, and they don’t eat anything important in my garden. We happily coexist!
What’s you favorite herb to work with? What has it taught you?
Eeeek! I think you meant to say “What are your 10 favorite herbs to work with? Right? Ha! Well, I sat and pondered this question for way to long. I love cayenne and comfrey and bee balm. And I couldn’t live without cinnamon, yarrow, nettles, sea plants, calendula, astragalus or dandelions. Shoot, how about the rose family, the mint family and the sunflower family or the Alliums?!!
Maybe I will just admit that it could be the Hug Jar. I’ll say that just might be my favorite herb jar to work with.
Love, Hugs and Blessings! Jessica