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Yet another plant blog?

What makes you google “how to start a blog” and start one when there are already hundreds of blogs out there?

Well, in few words, it is because you think you got something to give to this word and that would be a shame at least not trying to do something about it. The most difficult thing is actually starting, by figuring out what are the options (and if there are any for free..) and then start typing on your laptop what it is in your heart and in your mind.

And in my heart and mind there are definitely herbs and herbal preparations.

Wild herbs field in Napa Valley

The beginning of the journey

Someone says that you cannot become an herbalist, you are simply born this way and I could not agree more.

I always knew that this was my path, since I was a little girl. Though, I was not lucky enough to grow up in a house with a garden, or with parents that minimally were into plants. Actually, quite the opposite.

My mom was busy working and raising four girls and by being the big sister of those, chances of having 1 to 1 spare time with her to talk about for example nature were pretty narrow. But I remember that when I was about 5 years old I started spending quite some time in the small yard my step grandparents had at the time. I was inventing stories and recipes with the plants that were available in the yard.

My step grandfather, who was not happy at all to see me ruining his beautiful plants, eventually started realizing that was more than an hobby for me: it was my passion. He started then allowing me to play with his plants, teaching me how to recognize them and care for them. I have been spending uncountable hours out in that yard preparing “potions” and “gourmet dishes” for my mom during those times we were going visiting my step grandparents. With time, they arranged a special spot for me and kept old ricotta plastic bowls or similar so that I could use them as containers for my very special preparations.

To them goes a big thanks. They always have been cheering for me and I will always love them for that.

To be fare both my grandfathers have been a source of inspiration during my long learning journey with herbs. My mom’s father has been like a real father to me.

He has been unfortunately very sick for all his life but I remember that when I was a little girl, he was bringing me and my closest younger sister to the “orticello”, a very small lot of ground right outside the city where we were living, to check on his veggies and to reconnect with nature.

He was a man with a very big heart and with a lot of talents. To him goes my deeper gratitude for the person I have become.

My granparents’ yard last January

Education

Italian elementary and high schools do not have many financial resources but I believe they do a pretty decent job with what they have anyway. When I moved up here, in the northern country of Denmark I felt at least that I had a much more holistic knowledge and education than many of my fellow PhD students.

What I envy instead of the Danish school system, is that most of the time they have the resources to investigate interests and talents of their pupils, and for encouraging them in that direction. It is pretty cool and it keeps motivation and curiosity up and running in young generations.

When I was a little girl I was very good at math and science, and this is why I went to a scientific high school. I chose to go to the “scientific lyceum” in a special class that focused more on natural science.

My science teacher was a biologist but she should have been a politician instead for the amount of political propaganda that she was doing during class. We knew that when she was in that particular mood, it would have been enough a well-placed comment to create the spark necessary to start the political speech and skip the real lesson.

However, despite that, she managed to give us the insights we needed in order to decide which direction to take at University. My choice was without any doubts Herbal Studies.

When you are at the last year of high school, you participate by default in those so-called Orientation days where Universities wear their most glamourous outfit and try to recruit as many students as they can.

University system in Italy is almost entirely based on student’s fees and that is why they desperately need to have as many students as possible.

It was at one of those exhibitions that I managed to talk to some students from the herbal studies. They discouraged me to take that three years education because all their jobs were taken by the students graduated in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology, a five years education in something between Pharmacy and Chemistry.

Well, I surely did not want to be second to anybody when it gets to education, and that is why I took the Pharmaceutical path.

I certainly didn’t regret my choice even though I clearly remember sneaking into herbal studies classrooms whenever I could to learn about herbal medicine. What I regret is my master thesis choice. For convenience and for necessity I choose to do my master thesis in Sugar Chemistry. I remember regretting that already while doing it but the die had been cast in my head and that choice led me to an event exhalation that finally brought me here in Denmark.

At the time I thought I had no better choice and maybe that is what we unconsciously called Destiny.

Denmark

Job hunting is definitely an hot topic in Italy. Especially if you are young and do not have family businesses. I graduated with the maximum of grades and honors from the committee. But that does not help finding a job, especially if you want to live out of your salary.

I have always been quite independent and at 24 years old, almost 25, still living with my mom was making me claustrophobic. So, when I was told by old supervisor that a professor in Denmark was looking for my type of profile for a PhD, I saw the answer to all my future questions.

I certainly did not believed that this journey, which should have lasted only three years, would have become a permanent life change.

Poster presentation during my PhD at Technical University of Denmark

During the first year of my PhD I remember already joining some start-up incubators to start an herbal business.

Right away I started noticing some kind of reluctance from the people around me.

Why they were calling thousands of years of folk wisdom, quackery? And why they did not know about the scientific literature supporting uses of herbs? What was wrong with them? There was something rotten in Denmark.

I have to admit that this first bad reaction caught me completely unprepared. I never experienced before so much reluctance around herbalism. Maybe because I come from a country where herbalism and allopathic medicine work side by side, but people here did not want to know anything about it. And the more I was digging into it, by talking to them, the larger this knowledge’s hollow would show.

And then, when times were so dark that finding even a single person to share my interest had become so impossible, California saved me.

God blesses California

In the last year of my PhD I had the incredible opportunity to spend four months in California.

I was working on a mung beans project in Emeryville but honestly I was spending all my free time breathing, eating, absorbing California.

Herbalism was daily bread for everybody there. I remember threwing my self right away into a unending wheel of workshops, classes, herbal walks.

I was talking to everybody about herbs, attending regularly the local school for Herbal Studies. And that was when I met Donato.

He was a student at the school and he opened my horizons within herbalism. He had been living in San Francisco for 25 years and he knew all the markets, the herbal shops, the secrets of that amazing city (including Castro where he was spending most of his time). He has been my very first herbal GURU.

Donato, my friend Jessica and I in Castro

Over there I have been studied like never before, in a hungry and restless way. I felt time was never enough to absorb all I wanted to remember about that place. I also went for a road trip to San Diego and Mexico, and then soon after to Arizona and the east part of California, studying the plants of the natural parks that I had the pleasure to visit.

I never have been so lucid like when I was there and I knew the spark, the passion I experienced there, had to come with me back to Denmark, reminding me that if “Mohammed do not go the mountain, the mountain goes to Mohammed”. That means that if herbalism is not a thing in Denmark, I will make it a thing, because I believe that people need to have this knowledge that not only can help them but also reconnect them with Mother Earth.

The purpose of the blog

Since I got back from California I never stopped studying. I arranged many workshops around Copenhagen about herbalism, I started a facebook page to share info with followers and an Instagram page to share my preparations and thoughts.

But this is not enough; I want to talk to people; I want to communicate my knowledge and make people familiar with herbs so that they do not think about them as quackery but as friends that are here to help us. But most of all, I want to meet mind-like people to help me build a community so that knowledge can be shared even faster.

Together we can.

I encourage to write me in case you are interested to know more about the project “Traditional Herbalism Denmark”.

As Susan Weed would say: “Green blessing” to you all ?

Beatrice