What is it about the Ozarks that protected traditional herbalism well into the 20th century while it was being swept aside by modern medicine everywhere else? Why did Native American tribes travel from afar to gather the herbs of what they called “the Elder Mountains”? And, how might these factors influence today’s revival of herbalism?
These were the key questions I brought to the recent Women Be Wise gathering held at Fire Om Earth outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas in my talk on the Grannywoman, Root Doctor Revival.
The answer begins with the geological history of the Ozark Plateau. Originally an inland sea, gradual uplift led to the oldest mountain range in the United States, the Appalachians…of which the Ozarks were the southernmost branch until the effects of glaciation separated them. The previous great Ice Age plays a key role in our story.
As ice encroached, plants relocated from all directions – North, East, South and West towards the Ozark Plateau which remained free from ice and temperate in climate. There, in a protected area, plants continued with their uninterrupted evolution…. resulting in the the most ancient and most evolved species to be found in North America.
Thanks to science (which is also evolving), we now know that plants, like animals, carry information through their DNA from generation to generation. Plants “remember” the wisdom of their ancestors and continuously modify their chemistry to produce thousands of substances capable of influencing their environment, including target species. You see, plants are both the creators and managers of ecosystems. Their volatile oils, for example, are able to alter the DNA of target species, including humans.
The radical view proposed by evolutionary biology is that plants created animals. And that as plant chemicals evolved, so did the animals who consumed them, directly or indirectly. One recent theory is that the evolution of fruit acids had a direct bearing on the development of the human brain. To recap this crucial point, plants created entire ecosystems from scratch. They needed creatures capable of movement to manage the garden…to pollinate and spread the seed…to speed decay of the dead….all of which eventually results in their masterpiece, the human gardener. We are the children of plants.
For the actual science I’d suggest taking our course on Plant Intelligence and Communication. In part two I’ll continue on with the story of traditional herbalism in the Ozarks and how the Ozarks protected herbalists during the Ice Age of Natural Medicine.
While staying at Fire Om Earth, a beautiful retreat ‘and artist’s studio owned by Lorna and Craig Trigg Hirsch, a dance troupe arrived one afternoon so I took a video of them. It does capture the spirit of rural Arkansas women and is suggestive of the free nature that allows these mountains to continue creating herbalists and healers.