Natalie Vickery is a Traditional Herbalist from Northern Florida. She in an author and clinical practitioner and has recently founded the North Florida Holistic Network which serves to connect local business and provide community education on wellness and holistic practices. We got to spend time with Natalie this year at the Florida Herb Conference where she showed up in full Poppy Swap spirit and shared a truly special time with us. Visit her at The Family Herbalist on Poppy Swap to learn more about her herbal E- book, CD and handmade salve.
What was your first inspiration to become an herbalist?
Somehow, I just think I was born to be an herbalist. I don’t know that I always knew that, but all the signs where pointing me in this direction. As a kid, I spent every waking minute in the outdoors. Whether or not I realized it at the time, I was learning about plants. Over the years, as I have come to identify various plants. I remember them from my childhood and they are familiar, like old friends who have followed me throughout my life.
I like to credit naturalist Euell Gibbons for my inspiration, because of a cereal commercial that he had on TV when I was a kid. Gibbons tagline was: “many parts of a pine tree are edible.” I thought the cereal was made from pine trees and thought it was just so cool that you could eat them; from that day on I kept begging my parents for some “Grape Nuts Cereal”.
In reality, I guess I would have to say that the turning point for me and what brought me to this path as an herbalist were my own health issues. I was so driven to “achieve” that I pushed myself mentally, physically and emotionally until it all caught up with me. I had lost sight of what was really important and I needed to make some changes.
I read somewhere that you have to learn a lesson from your illness before you can truly begin to heal; I feel that I have learned many lessons. The first lesson I learned was that I needed to slow down and listen to my body. And so I did, I quit my job and started painting a mural on my bathroom wall which had a cartoon like monkey swinging from a tree, a pasture full of plants and a raccoon mama and baby. I found this very therapeutic while my husband probably thought I had lost my mind. The next lesson I learned was that I needed to respect and honor myself. I did this by nourishing my body with healthy food, getting plenty of sleep and by getting back to nature. And finally, I needed to find a way to express my compassion; that is what spurred me on in my herbal career. All of these lessons were part of the journey to herbalism and my quest for health and happiness.
How have you learned about herbal medicine?
As someone who needs a bit of structure in my life, I initially pursued my herbal education through formal training, taking courses with defined parameters, deadlines and exams. Unfortunately, I found that route to be very unfulfilling and extremely limiting. However, as I began to gain more experience I realized that the best way to learn was to immerse myself in nature. I feel that it is important to know and use the plants that grow around you. I continue to explore my area, identify the plants and use them in my everyday life. I have also learned so much from the experiences and knowledge of other herbalists and I am truly thankful to them all.
How do you engage, work, or relate with herbs today.
Much of what I have learned about herbs has been through experimentation. I grow them, I use them and I love to teach others about them. Throughout the years I have found it extremely difficult to connect with other herbalists in my area. For some reason Florida has not yet had the opportunity to establish a large and cohesive network of herbalists or other like minded people. We were fortunate to have herbalist Emily Ruff, host the first ever Florida Herbal Conference this year, which brought enthusiastic herbalists together from all over Florida. While at the conference I was able to connect with two wonderful women from my area and together we formed the, “North Florida Holistic Network”. As a Non-profit organization our goal is to help educate and promote businesses and individuals who support and encourage holistic, sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. Through hosting events, classes and workshops we hope to inspire and educate others about the benefits of living more in tune with nature and helping to preserve her bounties. In addition to the network I am in the process of establishing an herbal education center here in North Central Florida where I will be offering various levels of herbal training. In addition to my classes, I hope to entice other herbalists to come in as guest speakers and share their herbal wisdom.
Tell us the inspiration behind your herbal products on Poppy Swap?
My most recent addition to Poppy Swap is my E-book, “Mother’s Little Herbal Helper and Home Remedies”. My inspiration for this book was the fact that I get so many calls from people wondering what they can use at home for acute conditions. There are a lot of people out there who just can’t afford to pop down to the local health food store and purchase hundreds of dollars worth of herbal medicine to keep on hand in case something does arise. I think herbs are the peoples medicine and that if more people understood how safe and effective they are, they would be more inclined to use them. Initially, I wanted to help educate others on the importance of preventing illness. In discussing prevention I have included sections on nutrition, observation as a healing tool, and the body’s ability to heal. There are sections on preparing herbal applications, using herbs from your kitchen, growing herbs, putting together an herbal first aid kit, over 50 home remedies and much more. It is my hope that others can use this information in their everyday lives to help their families improve their health and become more in tune with herbs and their benefits.
What herb or herbs have rocked your world?
For an herbalist this is a very challenging question; they all rock in one way or another. I guess I would have to say that the herbs that have, “rocked my world”, are the ones I discover in my own back yard. To this day I am just utterly amazed at the bounty of herbs that grow all around me. Each and every one of them has touched me and holds a special place in my heart. It does seem like when I am interested in locating a new plant in the wild and I dwell on it quite often, it eventually reveals itself to me…that rocks.
What is one secret about you that will inspire our readers?
There is a quote by author Sarah Josepha Hale that says, “And ever those, who would enjoyment gain must find it in the purpose they pursue”. At one time I flew UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters for the U.S. Army. As the only woman in an Attack Helicopter Battalion I found it extremely challenging and exhilarating, but not always rewarding or with purpose. In life I think we all need to feel as though we have a “purpose”, a reason to get up every morning. Flying was my passion, but without the “purpose” I didn’t really feel as though my life was fulfilled. I could not imagine quitting or giving up all that I had worked for, and hell, why should I, it gave my mom and dad total bragging rights, and not to mention fed my own ego. However, an unexpected event occurred which threw me for a loop; I developed a persistent case of double vision (also known as Diplopia), which lasted for well over a month. Needless to say this brought my flying career to an abrupt halt. When something like this happens we start asking ourselves, “Why”…”Why me, Why now”. Sometimes the answers don’t come right away, but when they do you surely know that there is a reason for everything. Within a few years of resigning my commission and turning in my wings I was married to a wonderful man and having my first child at the age of 38. I spoke earlier of lessons we must learn and this is what I learned; If I had continued to push myself and focus on my career I might have completely missed the opportunity to find my purpose; I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a healer and I am an herbalist and my life has purpose.
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?
As you begin your herbal journey don’t become discouraged if things don’t always go as you had planned. It can be frustrating when the herbs don’t seem to be working. Our first consideration should be to, “do no harm”, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. I find that as we learn about herbs we reach plateaus. The more you learn the less you will feel like you know. I don’t think anyone ever “Masters” herbs; there is always something new to learn. People are drawn to herbs and healing for various reasons. If you don’t feel passionate about what you are doing then it is probably a good indication that you need to do something else. If you love growing plants, grow them. If you love cooking, then incorporate the herbs into your cooking. If you love educating others, then share your knowledge. And, if you feel compelled to become a mad scientist, then start experimenting with herbs. There are so many different ways of working with herbs and no rules that say it has to be one way or another. Just have fun.
For more wisdom from Natalie, Click Here!