Herbalist uses native plants for health

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Adrian White, herbalist, freelance writer, and co-owner/operator of Jupiter Ridge Farms, promotes medicinal herbs and nutritious food as a foundation for increased health and wellness. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Adrian White, herbalist, and co-owner/operator of Jupiter Ridge Farms, was traveling around the country and through South America to many different organic farms when her interest in herbalism started to take root. "My interest was always on growing plant foods – fruits and especially vegetables — although I did learn livestock and poultry raising," said White. "But plant-based food production always interested me more because of how much healthier and more sustainable it is for the human body and the planet. This moved over into an interest in the health aspect of these foods, especially plant-based ones. But naturally, it led to herbal healing, and how this boosts health, including the health benefits of culinary herbs and wild ones too," she commented.

Healing opportunity

An unfortunate accident ignited her desire to investigate medicinal herbs. She said, "One of my first encounters with herbalism was when I was spending time in an extremely rural area up in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. I accidentally burned my foot, and because I wasn't resistant to the local pathogens the infection got pretty bad." She went on to say, "There was no easily accessible or affordable clinic nearby for me, but thankfully the locals knew herbal remedies that kept the infection at bay and it healed. Being healed by herbs at that time had an impact on me and it stuck with me to eventually want to learn that type of healing." 

A chance encounter furthered piqued White's interest.  "By crazy happenstance, around that time, I also ended up helping an Ecuadorian shaman and their apprentice with a Temezcal sweat ceremony – similar to a sweat lodge or sauna — and that had a big impact on me wanting to explore some type of healing too!" she exclaimed. 

Herbalist training

White began training with an herbalist. She told The Press, "I trained for about 1-2 years with an herbalist/Goddard graduate, ethnobotanist, in Iowa City as an apprentice, and I also took distance classes with a widely beloved California herbalist and curandero. I have done a lot of self-educating and research over the years in addition to my training. A lot of herbalists continue to do that even after they've taken classes, because the amount of knowledge and research about herbal healing is practically endless." She pointed out, "It's kind of like becoming a chef or doctor. There's no end to the different recipes and techniques you can learn and master. Doctors are being updated by new research and breakthroughs all the time. It's the same with herbalists." 

White began freelance writing in 2012, and has researched, written, and consulted on herbalism for over 100 clients since then. "Because I mostly write about herbalism and plant-based diets/healing online, I'm constantly researching and learning new things about herbs and what they can do. Even after 10 years I continue to learn about herbs I've never heard of! The education never ends, both in terms of learning about folk herbalism and current research," she noted. 

Adding herbs to Jupiter Ridge Farms

White is adding a line of medicinal herbs and products to Jupiter Ridge Farm's business model, called Deer Nation Herbs. She explained, "From the beginning I have wanted to include herbal remedies available for purchase and now I'm finally doing it this year. I am doing small batch stuff, so I think that will meet the demand in the area and in my community, and I strongly feel that as long as herbal products are made with passion, intention, and focus in small batches, the more effective they are. It will also be exciting to see if that demand increases at all." 

Prior good health increases the effectiveness of herbal remedies. "We have spent the last four years establishing the plant crop/gourmet mushroom side of the business, because, as almost a prelude or a foundation to herbalism, a lot of herbal remedies don't work for health unless you're also taking basic care of your body — and vegetables are the best things for that!" she remarked.

White considers the vegetable/mushroom production side of the business as an "intro" to medicinal herbs. She commented, "In a way, vegetables are medicinal herbs. In fact, vegetables like beets, celery, and rhubarb were originally used as medicine before they were commonly accepted as foods. Mushrooms are very healthy and considered medicinal, especially shiitake and lion's mane, both of which we grow. I plan on making extracts and perhaps even dried blends of these for purchase at some point."

Local sources

White is excited to use local herbs that grow naturally in the area. She listed, "Some of my favorites are echinacea, sumac, goldenrod, lion's mane mushroom, plantain/ribleaf, elderberry, mountain mint, yarrow, wild bergamot, mullein, motherwort, wild cherry, and many, many more. I hope to have products made from herbs that were once native to Iowa too, like black cohosh or goldenseal, but are now endangered. Some of these I plan on growing myself here on the land to reintroduce them back to their native habitat." 

White's medicinal herbs will be available online. "I am planning to have some products available, in limited quantities, online for purchase. We already have an online shop with our farm that delivers produce boxes. I plan to have an "Herb Box" package available for delivery too along with that, or products can be purchased as an add-on, filled with seasonal herbal products and

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