The Herbal Educator

The Herbal Educator

Christy spent a lovely morning in Malibu and Topanga with the magical and mystical herbal teacher Marysia Miernowska. They picked newly harvested herbs, sipped a freshly brewed calendula herbal vinegar, and visited her apothecary. There they spoke about the medicinal benefits of plants and common weeds that have traditionally been passed down generation after generation throughout every culture around the world since history has been documented.

August 18, 2019

Marysia Miernowska was born in Poland, though she calls herself a "citizen of the world." She is a multicultural and multilingual herbalist, biodynamic gardener, teacher, entrepreneur, author, and mother. She moved back and forth from Poland to the States as a child and in her early teens, but has continued to spend each and every summer in Poland since she was born. Marysia has traveled and lived around the world learning various traditional insights from France to Peru. She’s spent time on both sides of the United States’ coast, studying in Vermont and Northern California to bring together a unique perspective on ancient plant medicine and connecting to the natural rhythms of the Earth.

I realized that the need for reciprocity and loving relationship between land and her people went both ways — that the people here were also in desperate need of the Earth.

Did you grow up in a holistic home, born into an herbal lineage?

I was born into a very traditional, yet very liberal and revolutionary Polish family of intellectuals and activists. One of my earliest memories as a child in Poland is of my great grandmother teaching me how to pick up Nettles without getting stung — she used to beat her knees with bouquets of the wild weed for her arthritis. I have dreamlike memories of collecting the intoxicating Jasmine-like scented flowers of the Linden tree in the summer to make sun tea with my mother, and my other grandmother who was a revolutionary, nurse and master in growing and preserving food. She told me to talk to plants in the garden to help them grow. In Poland, herbalism is still alive and well and is very common. You can go to any pharmacy when you are sick and choose from plant-based medicine or pharmaceuticals; in this way the plants are very much a part of life. Nonetheless, I also grew up in an immigrant household in the US, and the common available medicine here include tylenol and antibiotics. While traditional food medicine was kept alive by my mother, the herbs began to fade out of my consciousness until I became sick while living abroad in a remote village in Oaxaca, I was given too many antibiotics, and had to rebuild my health from the ground up, and thus found my way back to my roots, the Earth, and the healing herbs.

Marysia & Christy in The Basil Dress

So were “Nettles” your first plant ally?

Yes, Nettles brought me back to life in so many ways, and so many times. The physical healing I’ve received from this plant in healing my digestive system, anemia, and so much more is phenomenal. When I was so depleted after being so sick, my first cup of Nettles felt like I was drinking from the teat of the Earth mother, quenching a thirst of deep nourishment that I did not even know was possible. Emotionally, this plant has loved me, held me, grounded me and also given me spiritual protection as well teaching me better boundaries, how to receive deep nourishment from the Earth, how to mother, and how to listen to the green world of plant spirits. In my experience, when we begin to drink in the wild through all of our senses, the wild, timeless and vital parts of ourselves are fed, and we reawaken to a deep remembering of all of the ways in which we are woven into this great web of life and mystery.

What are other personal favorites?

I love them all so much! Here are the ones I tend to turn to most often besides Nettle: Butterfly Blue Pea, Schizandra, Reishi, Chaga, Moringa, Cleavers, Elder, Yerba Santa, Cacao, Kava... I could go on.

Marysia in The Delilah Dress & Christy in The Basil Dress

“Many of the universal useful medicinal herbs
are already part of our kitchen, though often we don’t realize
how medicinal they are!”

When did you realize the magical abundance and healing powers of plants?

I feel like their magickal spirits have been present in my earliest memories. I always longed to be outside in nature, and as a young girl my spirit thrived running through wild fields, playing in the forests, gardening, and spending each summer camping with my family for months. However, I began to consciously and intentionally work with the spirits of the plants as a young woman living in the woods of Vermont. There weren’t very many people to speak to, and I found myself spending many of my days alone in the woods, in communion and conversation with the Pine trees, the nourishing weeds, the wild water and Earth.

Is this when you heard about the “Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education” in Vermont?

It was a series of magickal breadcrumbs that some people call coincidences that led me there and I began my apprenticeship with Sage Maurer, and took the deep dive into the world of folk herbalism, plant spirit medicine & traditional healing.

How did you become appointed to open the only other chapter of this Healing School in Los Angeles?

Through the great generosity and faith of my beloved sister witch and teacher Sage. I ended up living in Los Angeles, at first designing and tending to sacred medicinal gardens in Malibu using permaculture and biodynamic practices I learned. I fell in love with the land of the west and the wild places here, and I saw that the Earth was struggling… I felt like the drought and the raging wildfires were cries for help. As I began teaching workshops, I noticed an element of “ungroundedness” and a general lack of deep Earth nourishment in the people and the modern culture of Los Angeles.

As I began to share the plants and the ways of the Wise Woman Tradition of Healing, I saw people reawakened to their connection to Nature, Spirit and themselves, many physical, spiritual and emotional ailments fell away, and a wild thriving — like the weeds—blossomed forth in their being. After a few years of learning from these lands and teaching workshops, Sage gave me her blessing to open a branch of the school in California.

What makes this school of herbology different from others?

At The Gaia School, we root ourselves in the Wise Woman Tradition of Healing and we practice Plant Spirit Medicine. The Apprenticeship we offer is a course in western herbalism, folk healing and is also a spiritual journey. The first three months of The Sacred Plant Medicine Apprenticeship are dedicated to deeply nourishing our inner wild with the restorative herbs, rooting in our tradition as folk healers and Earth tenders, learning how to make herbal medicine and how to connect to the plants through plant meditation — where we learn about each plant’s medicinal properties and spiritual uses directly from the plant spirit through meditation as well as from lecture and home readings. We spend the remaining seven months journeying with the plants into each of the seven chakras and the system of the body associated with each chakra. We dive deep into portals of transformation, magick, healing, self awareness, spirituality and Earth activism. At the end, each student births a final project. It is truly a remarkable, transformative, deeply healing and empowering experience that is both very personal, yet also seems to plant people back into the greater web of Life, unifying them with the body of the Earth, where we all become aware we are unique sparks of one organism.

Is this the current location of the Gaia School?

Yes, here in Malibu at Plumcot Farm, this is where we grow organic medicinal herbs, making fresh medicine for the apothecary and creating farm to table dinners and other educational opportunities around regenerative farming. We have farm boxes, dinners and Plumcot is doing incredible work to showcase and offer some of the highest quality food that is grown to care for the Earth as well as us humans!

What are the most universally useful “go to” herbs everyone should have in their kitchen and why?

Many of the universal useful medicinal herbs are already part of our kitchen, though often we don’t realize how medicinal they are! Thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary for instance are aromatic herbs used to flavor foods, but a reason they are also so common in cuisine is they aid digestion — especially of fats, proteins and heavier foods, such as meat.

If you are feeling full, gassy or uncomfortable after a meal, make a tea with any of these dried or fresh herbs and you’ll instantly feel relief. These herbs are also all antimicrobial, so if you feel a cold coming on you can make a tea with honey as a preventative remedy or to help move phlegm if you have nasal or lung congestion. They also make a great steam for a facial, to open and clean pores and to tone skin.

Ginger, Turmeric and Garlic are other common herbs that have powerful medicinal properties and many uses. All of them help us get rid of the cold, flu or other infections. They stimulate digestion, increase circulation and when used daily, strengthen the heart and improve blood pressure. Ginger tea is also amazing for menstrual cramps as well as other pain or inflammation. My favorite way of making a strong ginger tea is throwing a thumb size piece into a blender, with a mug’s worth of boiling water, blending and straining into a mug with honey and fresh lemon. I also often make turmeric elixirs, especially in the colder months when I want to warm up and support my digestion. I add a teaspoon of turmeric powder, a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash or black pepper into a mug’s worth of hot hemp milk, blend, and swirl in honey. It is so delicious!

My other must have herbs that are less common in the kitchen, but are a staple for us green witches are the nourishing herbs like: Nettles, Oatstraw, Burdock Root, Chickweed or Raspberry Leaf to name a few. I drink one of them daily, as do my students and clients for optimal health. They contain all of the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that our body needs for the day and making an overnight infusion of one of these herbs gives you a beautiful regenerative tonic with more bioavailable nutrients than taking a multivitamin. They also harmonize all systems of the body and boost our health, energy and vitality tremendously, while calming and supporting the nervous system. It’s really amazing to see how much better we can be as humans when we are fully nourished!

It’s also about expanding our understanding of “self” to include that which is beyond our body and ego identified experience.

Are all of these herbs, plants, fungi, and flowers available at your apothecary in Topanga Canyon?

Yes, and much more at the Wild Love Apothecary. It’s beautifully blossoming and growing in a sweet way, serving our community with herbal education and beautiful hand-crafted medicine. I am touched by the stories of folks who have been able to transition exclusively to herbal medicine, some of whom are finally anxiety free, sleeping, and feeling more energy all thanks to the safe herbs, teas and tinctures we make at Wild Love Apothecary.

You’ve just finished writing your first book, can you tell us about it?

Yes! I am so excited about the book, it has been an incredible journey birthing it into being, and has also felt really vulnerable at times, as I share some of my most sacred rituals, recipes and intimate teachings from the plants. The whole process of channeling and birthing it has been incredibly magickal, with key moments of its creation aligning with the solstices and equinoxes. The art is also beautiful and transmits magick visually. I’m really proud of it! It is called “The Witch’s Herbal Apothecary: Rituals and Recipes for a year of birth Magick and Sacred Medicine Making.”

The book takes the reader on a journey through four portals of magick and transformation that open to us with the four seasons of the year, with the different phases of the moon, times of day, and archetypes in our lives. Within each portal are practices, recipes, gardening guidance and direction on how to weave yourself into that portal. The intention is to help us enter the regenerative rhythms of nature and get out of the linear, constantly pushing, unsustainable pace of modern culture. When we live in harmony with the seasons and rhythms of nature, we experience greater joy in our creativity, moments of restorative relaxation, and greater health.

You are considered a “Green Witch” — what is that?

And how does that differ from the stigmatized typical “witch?”


I define a green witch as “A wise one who embodies the earth as a sacred, living being, and aligns with the cycles of nature to create healing, magick, and transformation.” I also love what Suzan Stone Sierralupe says: “To be a Witch means that you worship the Earth as a mother, and to be a Green Witch means that you heal the children of the Earth by bringing them back in communication with Her.”

Marysia in The Rosemary Dress

It seems like this entire approach, learning about plants, becoming aware of the natural rhythms of the earth is about self empowerment, would you agree?

It is! And also so much more. It’s also about expanding our understanding of “self” to include that which is beyond our body and ego identified experience. And yes, a result of that is deep healing and self empowerment. The often overlooked key is not to go into this work for the pure purpose of self empowerment, otherwise we fall short of all of the magick that is available. We are often too concerned with the self and our own needs or desires, without taking into consideration that all we consume, create, say, and do has an influence on that which is seen and unseen around us. It may feel like a lot of pressure but when we understand this, we actually begin to make kinder choices for ourselves, our loved ones, communities and planet and we ourselves are happier. Learning about plants and natural rhythms shows us how we are all connected. And then drinking a beautiful healing tea is not just about consumption, it becomes an intimate exchange where our soul can actually feel and receive non-human love. It may be a leap for some to imagine this, but everyday I am blessed to see how people are healed when they open to receiving love from the Earth.

Even though you know so much about the natural world, you still very much live in the modern world, in a big city, a single mother, an entrepreneur, and teacher...how do stay in balance? what is your personal self-care routine?

Haha! That is a great question that I often ask myself! The truth is, I am constantly in inquiry of how to cultivate greater balance probably just like anybody else, juggling the demands of parenting, running two businesses, nourishing personal relationships, and the rich vast terrain of connecting to my practices, which must be done in an unrushed way of pure presence and devotion.

I currently use the moon phases, the times of the day, my menstrual cycle, the wisdom of the seasons, and Astrology to plan my time and energy, so that I do not burn out, and can continue creating and thriving. I finally realized I had to create a daily planner because nothing existed that incorporated all of these elements in an easy way that could guide people into planning their time to create more health and joy...it will be out January 2020 along with my book. In terms of some of my practices, moving my body outside deeply replenishes my heart and spirit, helps me process my emotions and thoughts, releases any stress I might be carrying, and invigorates me so that I can be more energized and joyful when tending to my responsibilities. My meditation practice is also incredibly nourishing and balancing to me, eating healthy, spending quality time with people I love, and having quiet alone time (this I need more of!). Last but not least, turning wifi off in my home from evening till morning is my new practice - I have noticed how much better I feel when I have large chunks of time away from devices and have started using an old school alarm clock and keeping my bedroom a cell phone free zone.

How do you honor Mother Earth?

Long ago, I made vows to live in devotion to Mother Earth. So I try to live my life in a way in which I am a living prayer and my life is a love song to Her. I plant gardens, I leave offerings in wild places, I seek to feed the spirits of the Earth, and with great gratitude I receive medicine that I grow, from gardens I tend to, and make natural medicine, seeking to make it accessible to people of all incomes and backgrounds. I honor Her by raising a daughter that asks permission before she picks a plant, and who loves the Earth as her mother, and who is wild and free and will blossom into something beautiful I cannot even imagine. I honor Her with my work, which seeks to bring people closer to Her, building bridges of reciprocal loving relationship between people and Gaia. Through teaching others how to honor Her too, I am blessed to witness great transformations in people and am in constant awe of the gifts that people have within them- when unlocked, each person is a gift to the earth.

Follow Marysia Miernowska @marysia_miernowska@wildloveapothicary

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Recipe

Herbal Vinegars

Process

To make an herbal vinegar from your garden, simply harvest some of your favorite herbs, fill a jar with them, and top them off with organic raw apple cider vinegar (use a glass lid with a rubber ring or use wax paper to separate the tin lid as vinegar can corrode metal).

Method

1 - I recommend 1 cup of herbs to 2 cups of vinegar.
2 - Shake the contents daily and check in a week to taste.
3 - Store in a cool, dark place.
4 - You can ferment up to a month for a very strong flavor.
5 - When the Herbal Vinegar is to your liking, decant and strain into a clean glass.

Customizing & Health benefits

Apple cider vinegar is wonderful at extracting the minerals from plants, so adding some mineral rich herbs to your vinegar will create a very nutritious, safe and delicious food medicine.

Aromatic Herbs like lemon balm, mint, tulsi, and pine needles make delicious vinegar that you can use for salads, or diluted in water as the digestive system tonic. Pictured here is calendula vinegar, which is delicious and carries the antiviral properties of the yellow blossom.

For a fun summer drink, mix 2 tablespoons of your herbal vinegar, a tsp of honey and sparkling water and ice. Enjoy!

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