While every day is “herb day” at the American Botanical Council (ABC), on May 2, 2015, the nonprofit opened its historic homestead in Austin, Texas, to hundreds of visitors in celebration of the official 10th annual HerbDay. The visitors ranged from professional herbalists and herbalism students to plant enthusiasts, laypeople interested in learning more about health options, children who enjoy cartwheels on a weedy lawn, and everyone else in between.
The day was filled with a variety of educational activities, including highly informative herb walks through more than 20 of ABC’s lush, themed herbal gardens. Local herbalists Carlos Hernandez of BioStar Botanicals and Nicole Telkes of the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine led guests on a journey of discovery of the potential uses, benefits, and methods of preparation of many of the herbs found in ABC’s medicinal gardens. For some, it was the first chance to see herbs they’ve heard about for years — echinacea, ginkgo, even ephedra — in their natural state in a garden.
“HerbDay is an international celebration of herbs and herbal products, packed with events aimed at educating and sharing ideas about the many ways herbs bring joy and well-being into our daily lives,” explained Gayle Engels, ABC’s special projects director. “We celebrate herbs’ use in food, beverages, medicine, beauty products, and crafts, along with the art of growing and gardening with herbs. HerbDay is a grassroots movement, and its events belong to everyone who chooses to participate.”
Renowned herbalist, author, teacher, and nutritionist Brigitte Mars traveled to ABC from Boulder, Colorado, to give a lecture on “Natural Remedies for Mental and Emotional Health.” Mars’ insights ranged from ways to incorporate herbs into everyday health practices to ways to remove harmful or toxic elements from one’s life with the goal of improving mental and emotional health. ABC’s founder and executive director, Mark Blumenthal, broke out his constantly updated cache of health-oriented cartoons for an afternoon talk, effectively demonstrating the humor in how we approach health, drugs, diet, and lifestyle in the United States and around the world. Blumenthal’s cartoon lecture not only educated but amused the audience gathered in ABC’s annex building.
ABC’s plant sale was, as always, a big hit with HerbDay attendees. Many of the plants were raised in ABC’s greenhouse over the winter, or were offshoots of plants found in ABC’s gardens. Attendees were also able to purchase books from Mars, Telkes, ABC, and others. For the kids and all those young at heart, the HerbDay celebration included a maypole dance, healthy snacks (generously provided by Peoples Rx Pharmacy, a local chain of compounding and natural pharmacies), and a “start your own plant and take it home” station.
The entire day was filled with music. Alternating between playing flute and guitar, local musician Deborah Ramaker entertained young and old as they lounged on the lawn, caught up with friends around the picnic tables, or just stopped with a glass of herbal tea to appreciate her musical stylings. We’re sad to report that Ramaker passed away suddenly, soon after the event. ABC is grateful for and honored by the magical time she spent with us in celebration of herbs and their beneficial impact.
Overall, ABC’s 10th annual HerbDay was a big success. “We are deeply grateful for the strongly positive turnout we’ve received from the Austin community,” said Blumenthal.While ABC is one of the main orchestrators of HerbDay, activities in celebration of HerbDay take place around the United States. According to the HerbDay Facebook page, Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon hosted an event at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum; The Dancing Herbalist had a full day of herbal activities, followed by camping for those interested, in Artemas, Pennsylvania; and the city of Brattleboro, Vermont, held its first HerbDay celebration with workshops, plant walks, and herbal crafts.