Today, I have an extra-special treat for you here on Raising Little Shoots: an interview with Alice Bettany, the very inspiring herbalist behind the Sacred Seeds Herbal Project. Without further ado, on to the interview!
~ Hello Alice, I am delighted to have you here on Raising Little Shoots! Please could you tell us a little about yourself.
Hello, Thank you kindly for sharing my work, I am most grateful. I am a Sussex based lass, 35yrs old, married to a wonderful man hoping for our family to grow one day soon. Nothing makes me happier than being in my herb garden and tending to my plant friends. Having dirt under my nails and the sweet scent of floral aromas around me. I have been inspired by the plant world through my mentor over the last 8 years which lead me towards a 3yr full time diploma in herbal medicine. I qualified as a Herbalist approx 2 years ago and with my love of foraging and wild crafting I finally feel like I have found my calling in life. I feel like my strengths come into play with all kinds of community building activities, event organising and helping others to connect with the plant world. I am inspired by diversity; in plants and people. I am inspired by kindness, openness and the willingness to show vulnerability.
~ When did you first begin to find your passion for herbs?
I started foraging for food about 10yrs ago and this was how I met my plant mentor Anna Richardson, who continues to inspire me about all the many ways plants can be used. For medicine and food, clothes, baskets, cordage, shelter and as dyes. It was working with Anna that I started to visualise my future as the community herbalist and felt inspired to follow through to start that journey. It feels like a lifetime of learning is still ahead of me as the plant kingdom is so huge, but a journey that brings me such nourishment and connection I yearn for more everyday.
~ Could you tell us more about your work with Sacred Seeds Herbal project?
I feel called to help others learn more about the plants on their doorstep, so a big part of my work is running workshops for adults and children. I co-run a herbal home-ed program too. On our workshops we will cover basic botany and plant ID, we’ll walk and wildcraft herbs then often spent the afternoon around the campfire making various food or medicines from what we’ve harvested. I grow alot of the herbs myself and have a few herb gardens I tend. I want to raise awareness about ‘at risk’ herbs and sustainability issues within the practice of herbal medicine. I hope I can be a bridge for more people to feel empowered to use plants as medicine from the plants in their locality. I also make seasonal herbal boxes which is born out of my desires and ambitions stated here.
~ What is does typical day look like for you? (If there is such a thing!)
Depending on the seasons my work varies. In summertime it is the busiest as the majority of the plants will be in bloom and ready for harvesting. Processing the herbs to be dried or made into tinctures and tonics is time consuming. I will be unloading and filling up the dehydrator, straining and bottling oils or tinctures or tending the garden. I may see a few patients for consultations and then spend some time in my dispensary making up personalised prescriptions for them. I do also find myself doing a fair amount of admin and organising of events and community activities. If I have some spare time, my hands will be full of herbs that are processing-in-motion. I also spend a fair amount of time researching and creatively compiling the written information for the herb boxes.
Winter time finds me cuddled up with a herbal chai planning events for the following year and catching up with writing and blogs that have been waiting to come into fruition. There are many strings to a herbalist’s bow and I can tell you that it is very time consuming following this passion, or infact even all consuming. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.
~ Do you have any favourite herbs?
Possibly one of the hardest questions to pose to a herbalist! Most dispensary’s will have at least 100 herbs in them, all for different symptoms depending on the constitution of that person.
For me it is fairly seasonal too, I tend to have love affairs with different herbs as the seasons change. Right now I am in-love with and appreciating lime blossom, yarrow, lavender and roses. All of which I use in my private practice quite alot. Herbs such as elder (flowers and berries), vervain, wood betony (my namesake), turmeric, ashwaganda and astragalus as well as medicinal mushrooms are probably up there with my favourite and most used herbs for myself and my patients.
~ What advice can you share with families who wish to foster a love and respect for the natural world?
The feeling of connection and belonging I experience through my love, appreciation and understanding of the plant kingdom helps keep me grounded, reduces anxiety and loneliness and fully enriches my life like nothing else before. Do not feel overwhelmed or hasty to meet too many plants all at once. If you were to get to know just one or two plants each season, that’s 8 per year and in a very organic way you will find yourself having lots of plant alleys in no time at all. I suggest to get to know those plants fairly well, follow them through the seasons in their different growing stages and maybe even save some seeds and try to grow them yourself in your own garden. Look up a few different recipes for each plant and experiment with using it as food or medicine after doing your research. It’s important to get yourself a few different good wild flower ID books to cross-reference. When a deeper relationship has been formed with certain plants, it opens our eyes to natures medicine chest around us and enables us to be more self sufficient in our families health needs.
~ Please tell us more about your quarterly Herb Boxes, and where we can find you online.
I produce quarterly, hand-made, small-batch, herb boxes. They compile of between 3-6 ready-made seasonal herbal products with all of the instructions on how to make those products yourself again at home as well as plant profiles to hep you have a deeper understanding of a few select plants contained in that box.
You can buy a one-off box or sign up for an annual subscription with options of upfront payment saving 10% or monthly payment plans to help spread the cost out.
Find out more on my website.