In March of 2020, Bonnie Yerger invited me to begin teaching Herbolgy to her students at the East-West School of Massage Therapy in Wyomissing, PA. Bonnie had taken several of my classes and was interested in my 'whole plant' approach to formulating herbal products. She thinks that the contemporary field of massage therapy places too great an emphasis on the use of highly processed essential oils and not enough emphasis on understanding the broad spectrum of simple botanical extracts and plant uses. The Herbology portion of the curriculum at East-West includes
- Weed Walks which familiarize students with identification skills for common edible and medicinally useful weeds and garden plants
- Information sessions with research into various herbal traditions and individual plants and how to find safe and reliable sources of information
- Hands on sessions in making herbal extracts from plants gathered in the field and from commercial sources. Extracts include oils, vinegars and alcohol tinctures.
I have been deeply involved with plants for most of my life. I find endless connections between plants pottery, and fermentation - the core of which is understanding and working with the alchemy of earth materials in the presence of water and fire. I began gathering wild plants and turning them into potions as a child. My first product was called Huckleberry Finn Water (Wildberry Lifesavers soaked in warm water). In 1978, a course at Penn State in Orienteering and Survival initiated a life long interest in foraging and the use of wild plants as medicine. Living in a tipi amidst Balsam Poplar trees in Kodiak, Alaska in 1981, I made my first botanical healing oil from the resinous buds of the trees. In 1993 I traveled to my ancestral home of Stropkov, Slovakia, looking for gravestones. I found those but also found an entire living family and discovered that I came from a long line of medicinal herbalists. These trips (which continue to this day) and the vibrant family of living descendants who are artists, teachers, and herbalists, inspired me to open Karen’s Botanicals in 2004, and to begin formally marketing the organic creams, lotions, toners, oils and medicinal herbal products that I had been making ever since. I dedicated the business to my great- great- aunt Zsuzsanna Palcso and her family. I continue to be inspired by the serendipity of this connection, and by the passions that bind the generations together. Read more about The Slovak Roots of Karen's Botanicals.
By 2011, the business had grown so much that I couldn’t manage it anymore in my home based setting. I knew if I took the next step of growth by moving to a commercial facility that I would become a business manager instead of a plant person. So, I sold Karen’s Botanicals to Pamella Mitchell who owns and operates the business in Georgia today. Pam is an amazing person who loves the plants, the products, and the process as much as I did. She makes some of the very best plant-based natural skin and body care products on the market. Check out Karen's Botanicals. Today, I make products for friends and family and teach others how to do so through a wide variety of classes.
My philosophy is to use simple, unrefined plant ingredients with whom we share an ancient relationship. Like great bread and fine wine these products are intended to bring sustenance and pleasure to life. Products begin with whole, mostly organic plant materials that contain a wide spectrum of nourishing compounds. Recipes are informed by traditional and contemporary herbal wisdom and formulated with deep appreciation for the healing potential of the natural world.
Today, classes in Edible Weed Walks and Making Botanical Lotions and Potions
Currently, I am offering a variety of classes in Botanical Lotions and Potions which include herbal facial creams and serums, body lotions, aromatherapy sprays, healing herbal salves and balms, therapeutic infused oils, and more. I also host Family Weed Walks at your place, mine, or at a local park. Weed Walks are fun and informative. The first part is wandering around and finding and identifying common herbs and plants. The second part is learning how to use them for culinary, medicinal and bodycare purposes. There are scheduled classes ready for registration and there is a menu of classes for custom private, individual, and group instruction. You can select what you'd like to make and we can do it at your place or mine. Please see the classes page for details.
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