Saturday, April 26, dawned cool and beautiful, a perfect day for the American Botanical Council’s first ever Medicinal Herb Fest. The event is part of ABC’s commitment to educate the public about medicinal plants, and was made possible, in part, by support from the H.E. Butt Grocery Company (H-E-B) and Whole Foods Market. Over 400 people visited ABC’s home, the Case Mill Homestead in Austin, Texas, during the course of the day and enjoyed classes, demonstrations, house and garden tours, music, food, drink, and exhibits.
Visitors were treated to tours of ABC’s 15 medicinal plant theme gardens led by Austin herbalists Carlos Hernandez, Ginger Webb, and Ellen Zimmermann. ABC’s demonstration gardens were developed as an aspect of its educational mission and provided these knowledgeable herbalists with a spectacular teaching tool. ABC staff gave tours of the rainwater collection system and the 1850s farmhouse that serves as ABC’s administration building.
Classes in ABC’s Education Annex included Stress and the Immune System: the Adaptogenic Herbs, taught by Carlos Hernandez; Making Body Salt Scrubs for Kids and Adults, led by Kara Kroeger; Herbs at the Crossroads: Questions of Quality, Safety, and Efficacy, with ABC’s Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal; and Bioregional Herbalism: the Ethical Use of Native Medicinals, taught by Niki Telkes.
On ABC’s front porch, Aaron Reisfeld, owner of Sabia Botanicals, demonstrated the distillation of essential oils, and herbalist Donna Squyres demonstrated medicine-making techniques, specifically teas, tinctures, and salves. Both used plants from ABC’s gardens for raw materials in their programs. Meanwhile, in ABC’s kitchen, Rosie Cominski, from Wheatsville Co-op, gave a raw foods preparation demonstration.
More than 25 exhibitors were arrayed over the grounds, each representing a wealth of knowledge on medicinal plants or related topics. Visitors purchased culinary and medicinal plant products, live plants, and allied materials. Free samples and educational materials were available at many of the booths. Attendees treated themselves to a massage or sat at one of the picnic tables to listen to music performed by local Austin musicians Darci Deaville, Karen Mal, and the Slim Richey Dream Band. Special activities for children included balloon creatures, face painting, and transplanting an herb to a paper pot to take home with them.
ABC used the event to introduce the public to its new herbal reference and continuing education book, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, its membership program, and the extensive amount of educational materials available through its Herbal Education Catalog. A number of books, including the latest and the previously published The Complete German Commission E Monographs and Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs were raffled off, and ABC’s "Almost Free Books" table was a big hit.
By all accounts the Medicinal Herb Fest was a success and requests to "do it again next year" were gratifying.
ABC is thankful for the support of Blue Sky Natural Beverage Co., Julie Davis and Gateway Marketing, Glazier Distributors, Golden Temple Products, H-E-B, Sun Harvest Market, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats Market, and Yogi Tea.
ABC is also very grateful to staff and volunteers who gave their time and energy to make this such an enjoyable, entertaining, and educational event.