We had the chance to learn about Kristi during our adventures to Eugene, OR last winter. She toasted the herbalists of our community with her amazing holiday spirit by organizing an herbalist gift exchange. Her contributions to the event included some of her top shelf elixirs that left a lingering buzz. With the publishing of her new book: Brew Your Medicine, we decided it was time to find out what she is all about!
What was your first inspiration to become an herbalist? How have you learned about herbal medicine?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to strengthen my relationship with plants. In college, I earned a degree in Molecular Biology and Anthropology, because I wanted that kind of background and because that was the closest thing my college offered. It was later that I began studying herbal medicine. I even took a few Chinese language courses, because I have always been interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I then spent several months studying and working at a local herbal apothecary. Now I am halfway through my professional studies at the East West School of Planetary Herbalism. I am really loving it.
How are herbs in your life today?
Just about every aspect of my life involves plants. I teach anyone who will listen about herbs and energetics. I have helped many friends and family members with complaints. And when they find relief with a ‘simple’ herbal formula, many doors are opened.
One of my philosophies of healing is to interweave these herbs into as many aspects of your life as possible. I rarely just hand someone a tea or tincture blend and leave it at that. I love coming up with creative ideas about cooking, baking, fermenting, and yes, beermaking!
Tell us the inspiration behind your herbal beers?
I have found that one of the biggest challenges we face as herbalists is patient compliance. Sometimes, this is even just as simple as helping someone remember to take their formula. I figure, if I can make something irresistibly delicious for someone, this won’t be a problem! Hence: Herbal Beer! Some folks really love beer, and are already accustomed to having a glass everyday. I’ve been making wines and beers for nearly a decade now. So, this was a natural progression for me.
I learned to make meads and herbal wines several years ago while living at a little homestead called Moonshadow in Tennessee. There, I got to rub elbows with the big shots in the fermenting world, like Sandor Katz. It was a great environment where everyone was experimenting with fermentation in so many ways. I took lots of workshops. I have also read a couple of books about herbal beer, such as the one by Stephen Harrod Buhner. But I was interested in making medicinal-strength beer, not just herbally infused or lightly flavored meads. I wanted to make genuine beer, sweetened with only grains rather than sugar.
What herb or herbs have rocked your world?
This is kind of like asking me to choose my favorite child. I have always felt a special kinship to nettles. I also rarely create any herbal formula that doesn’t involve licorice and/or ginger. It just so happens that these herbs are also my favorite herbs for brewing!
What book is on your night stand right now?
Okay, I’m gonna answer this completely honestly and look like a complete nerd! Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Thomas Avery Garran, Gathering the Desert by Gary Nabhan, Uncorking the Past by Patrick E. Mcgovern, Pharmako/poeia by Dale Pendell, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia, and Chinese Herbal Materia Medica by Dan Bensky. (I study a lot in bed.)
To anyone new to herbs whether aspiring to work with herbs personally or become an herbalist, what is one thing you’d like to share with them?
The biggest thing I can think of is to maintain a good level of humility. And if you come across a teacher or healer who isn’t able to recognize when to say “I don’t know”, then that might be a good sign that you should walk away. There is great power in healing, but it belongs to the plants!