Secrets From the Green Farmacy Garden

A group of lucky Wellness staff and managers were treated to a day with two distinguished talents in herbal medicine. Christopher Hobbs, prolific author, wise clinical herbalist, world traveler, and collector of over 5000 medicine and plant books, took us on a tour of the Green Farmacy Garden near Baltimore.

Dr Hobbs & Dr Duke lead us into the garden

Dr Hobbs & Dr Duke lead us into the garden

Helen and Dr Hobbs get us started

Helen and Dr Hobbs get us started

Dr Duke and Dr Hobbs tell stories

Dr Duke and Dr Hobbs tell stories

Dr Hobbs jumps in with ginseng as the MOMs groups listens

Dr Hobbs jumps in with ginseng as the MOMs groups listens

The Green Farmacy Garden is a teaching garden full of living medicines and folk remedies which was conceived and sprouted by Dr. James A. Duke, the world renowned ethnobotanist, retired ecologist and former economic botanist for the USDA, and author of many books, but most especially whose book Green Pharmacy is a foundational inspiration and resource to anyone interested in medicinal plants.

Dr. Duke introduced his crew of trusty farmhands, who no doubt double for the upcoming generation of herbalist geniuses and organic farm entrepreneurs, including the head herbalist and gardener, Helen. [I have to confess I was so excited that I forgot almost everyone’s name immediately, so hopefully I don’t make any mistakes here.] Dr. Duke also introduced his wife, Peggy Duke, an artist-of-all-trades that creates, draws, paints and photographs amazing images of the botany around her.

The yard

The yard

Dr Hobbs and black cohosh (cimicifuga racemosa)

Dr Hobbs and black cohosh (cimicifuga racemosa)

Listening intently

Listening intently

Dr Hobbs talks kudzu (pueraria lobata)

Dr Hobbs talks about kudzu (pueraria lobata)

Walking and pointing to collections of plants spread across a hillside, Dr Hobbs described the family and genus, regaled stories of first encounters and hard-learned dosage tips, and relayed interesting findings from clinical studies and data about the nature of these healing plants. Dr Duke interjected tidbits and footnotes of his own.

I have to interrupt myself to explain that the Wellness staff at MOMs is an eclectic and diverse crowd. In a purely affectionate manner I would refer to us as a bit geeky when it comes to natural medicine, and this tour group was especially minded to plants and herbal medicines. In effect, this trip was a bit like having Beyonce and Ke$ha giving a tour to the students at Robert Frost Middle School. We were giddy. We took photos and videos, and we tweeted, and we tried to remember every word. (I’ll let you decide which doctor was Beyonce and which was Ke$ha.)

Wild Yam (dioscorea villosa)

Wild Yam (dioscorea villosa)

Echinacea (echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea (echinacea purpurea)

Poppy buds (papaver rhoeas)

Poppy buds (papaver rhoeas)

Bee balm (monarda didyma)

Bee balm (monarda didyma)

The group trickled along, Dr Hobbs and Dr Duke orating all the while. Helen shuffled in between the plants, pointing out the subjects of the stories, picking bugs from the undersides of leaves, pulling sticks away from the stalks, and the farmhands followed along, sitting on the rocks and listening.

We stopped at the gazebo for a bag lunch and a lecture on several herbal supplements Dr Hobbs formulated for Rainbow Light Nutritional Supplements, including one of his vitamin favorites: Certified Organic Men’s and Women’s Multivitamins. We asked for autographs in our books. We meandered back up the terraced hill; someone spotted a big brown snake sunning herself on a rock near the water feature and lily pond. We delighted at the blooms, and guessed the names of various sprouts and buds.

Turmeric (curcuma longa)

Turmeric (curcuma longa)

Milkweed (asclepias syriaca) in bloom

Milkweed (asclepias syriaca) in bloom

Smelling milkweed blooms

Smelling milkweed blooms

Wormwood (artemisia absinthia) and Andrographis (andrographis paniculata)

Wormwood (artemisia absinthia) and Andrographis (andrographis paniculata)

At the end of the tour Dr Duke and Dr Hobbs told us stories of life-changing experiences in far-away villages, rain forests, and mountains. Shamans and tribal guides, roots and potions, gave way to stories of spiritual cleansing and emotional healing: a theme that is not foreign to any of us in the holistic health world.

The bonus of the afternoon was a final lecture on the side of the road where we waited for our bus to take us back to MOMs: Dr Hobbs pointed out “weeds” and a tree near the driveway, named them, and related instructions for cooking, nutritional quality, and other tips. Weeds we overlook and mow down in our yards every week, can be used in a dinner salad or stir fry! Ground Ivy, Greater Plantain, Black Walnut, and Chicory: we were amazed at the versatility and value of those ill-famed weeds.

Lecture in the gazebo

Lecture in the gazebo

Goldenseal (hydrastis candensis)

Goldenseal (hydrastis candensis)

Lily pond

Lily pond

Dr Duke and Dr Hobbs tell stories

Dr Duke and Dr Hobbs tell stories

The MOMs group

The MOMs group

Helen, Dr Hobbs and Dr Duke wrap up the tour

Helen, Dr Hobbs and Dr Duke wrap up the tour

Waiting for the bus, Dr Hobbs grabs some weeds

Waiting for the bus, Dr Hobbs grabs some weeds

Dr Hobbs explains how to use plantago major for wounds

Dr Hobbs explains how to use plantago major for wounds

Many thanks to Judy Brown and Rainbow Light for organizing our outing, which was enjoyed by all. Thank you to Dr Hobbs for traveling all this way and sharing so many interesting and fun facts with us (check out his new book with Leslie Gardner called Grow It, Heal It: Natural and Effective Herbal Remedies from Your Garden or Windowsill), and much gratitude to Dr and Mrs Duke, and Helen and their trusty crew, who not only birthed and nurtured the Green Farmacy Garden but added even more enrichment to our visit.

Coleus forskohlii (plectranthus barbatus)

Coleus forskohlii (plectranthus barbatus)

Fo ti (fallopia multiflora)

Fo ti (fallopia multiflora)

Giant butterbur (petasites japonicus)

Giant butterbur (petasites japonicus)

Olive (olea europaea)

Olive (olea europaea)

red root (ceanothus americanus)

red root (ceanothus americanus)

Poppy bloom

Poppy bloom

Plants for sale

Plants for sale

A photo of young Dr Duke

A photo of young Dr Duke

Alyssa works in multiple MOMs locations.

About alyssabdh

Natural Health
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One Response to Secrets From the Green Farmacy Garden

  1. Pingback: Eat Your Weed | MOM's Organic Market

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