1.What is your name?
2.What is your occupation?
I have a blended career of several occupations . . . all woven together by herbs. I’m a licensed holistic esthetician; certified aromatherapist; an herbalist with training in both Western and Ayurvedic approaches; Maine certified reflexologist; and author of over 10 books on the topics of natural skin and body care, topically-applied herbal medicine, raw food nutrition, chemical-free insect repellents, and a soon-to-be-published book about how to make herbal love potions.
3.Do you have a “green” memory growing up?
Oh, yes indeed! Of all the healing modalities that I’m involved with, I consider myself, first and foremost, an herbalist – specializing in topically-applied herbal remedies. I never planned on becoming an herbalist, a lover of the plant kingdom, a creator of healing formulas, but I think it was – and is – my destiny. I inherited my “I can grow anything” green thumb and green blood from my grandmother, Phenie Sims Ashe, and my initiation into herbalism came under the tutelage of my grandfather, Earl C. Ashe – a simple country farmer who raised a few head of cattle on his 20-acre homestead in north Georgia. When visiting their farm as a young girl, I liked to walk and explore the gardens, fields, woods, and streams with my grandfather. On one particular, and very memorable walk, we were hiking through rolling cattle pastures and woods – his rough farmer hand holding my soft little girl hand – and I can remember him telling me, “Where we grew up, we didn’t go to doctors unless it was a dire emergency. We didn’t have the money. Our mother made medicine from the local herbs and she dosed us with that, whether we liked it or not. The stuff you had to swallow often didn’t taste good. The medicines that got rubbed into your skin, like the herbal salves, thickened with local beeswax, lard, or lanolin, and the brownish-green colored liniments made with homemade grape wine or corn whiskey, were used to prevent infections, relieve stuffiness, help you sleep, or make your muscles feel better after a long day at work. Those things worked real nice and most times smelled pretty good, too.” Needless to say, I was intrigued . . . and then some! Thus began my “training.” From then on, sensing my interest, my grandfather turned our walks into “botany and chemistry classes” – so to speak. He taught me the names of the trees and the green plants, the uses and medicinal properties of tree bark, acorns, pine sap, roots, leaves, flowers, and even the gray-blue clay in the stream banks. I can remember my fourth-grade science teacher being amazed at how much I knew! I learned that these free-for-the-taking “medicines of the earth” could aid the body’s natural processes to heal illnesses within and without. I fell in love with the idea that nature could provide just about anything you needed to naturally care for your health and beauty. I was hooked. I was simply in awe of my grandfather’s knowledge and absorbed it like a sponge. Unbeknownst to me, I was a budding herbalist.
4.What’s your favorite meal?
I’m a rather eclectic eater and like to make entire meals out of what would normally be a snack or appetizer. One of my favorite meals is actually a recipe that appears in one of my best-selling books, “Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body.” It’s called, “Vital Vegan Pesto” and I make it with basil, walnuts and/or raw hemp seeds (they’re a great substitute for expensive pine nuts), olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Nary a smidgen of parmesan. It’s soooooo smooth and creamy and I’ve been known to eat the entire 2-cup, super-rich recipe in one sitting with a box of crispy rice crackers. Another favorite, especially in summer, is to visit the local, roadside “fried fish stand” on Friday nights for an “all you can eat fried haddock with homemade French fries” dinner. Can you tell that I have a “salt/fat” tooth and not a sweet tooth??
5.Who/What inspires you to be more “green” in your life?
I live in a rather rural area of mid-coast Maine – right on the mouth of Penobscot Bay. It’s stunningly beautiful, peaceful, and offers frequent glimpses of wildlife . . . such as a bobcat jaunting through my backyard; a black bear and her cub crossing the road in front of my house; an ermine cloaked in his snow white winter coat hunting for prey among the nearby boulders; or recently a mother fox teaching her two young kits how to catch chipmunks along the stone wall that outlines my garden. I’m blessed to hear the loons with their lonely cry as they swim in the salt-water inlet behind my house; hear the fog horn as the “pea soup” fog rolls in; and smell the clean ocean air was it wafts through the trees. When I travel on my frequent book tours, I visit many congested cities, rife with noisy, dirty traffic, polluted air, cramped housing, and minimal – if any – green spaces. Suburban sprawl tends to extend like old, arthritic, misshapen fingers on the outskirts. Not pretty. I couldn’t live, nor thrive, in those areas. It reminds me to be thankful for the blessings in my life and ever-vigilant as an environmentalist and proponent for the conservation of wildlife habitat.
6.Where on the “green scale” do you fall?
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greenest, I’m an 8+. When deciding how green to be – in whatever you do, whatever the farmer does, whatever products you use, whatever the food processor does, whatever the oil companies do, whatever foods you eat, etc. – there are always variables to take into consideration depending on the particular situation / circumstances. I always lean as green as possible.
7.What are the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your job?
I’m self-employed and work approximately 60 to 80 hours per week, depending on whether I’m writing a new manuscript or not and whether I’m doing a lot of travel and social media/radio interviews/podcasts for book promotion. A heavy work schedule is definitely challenging! I’d say that the most rewarding parts of being an herbalist and writer is that I get lots of positive feedback from readers telling me that my suggestions and recipes have helped them look better, feel better, function better, and/or have a better outlook on life. That makes all the hard work worth it. I also have a part-time herbal reflexology practice in my home and that is totally rewarding – all the time. Honestly, I wish I had more time to take on more clients. I always say that, “when your feet feel good, so do you!”
8.Where’s your “greenspot”: food, bodycare/beauty, oceans, home or neighborhood, explain . . .
I’ve been an herbal product formulator for about 3 decades – and I’d have to say that making and using aromatherapeutic, herb-based personal care/health care products for myself is a “green passion”. I also purchase products from other environmentally green companies or herbalists that I know. I’m a natural, personal care product junkie . . . lol!
9.Where do you turn for your news?
I gather “news info” from many sources . . . our local WERU radio station, The Ellsworth American newspaper, The Nightly News w/ Lester Holt, Fox News, and Mother Earth News magazine for environmental / farming news.
10.What is one environmental change you vow to make in the next year?
This question involves a very personal environmental change . . . I have been ever-so-slowly transitioning away from chemical hair color to allowing my natural gray-ish tones to appear. I’m so tired of getting my monthly “chemical dip” to “wash away my grays”. Besides being expensive, it’s toxic to both myself and the environment.
11.How did you begin to get involved in Ayurvedic herbalism?
Between the years of 2007 and 2010, I, and 12 other Maine women, participated in a 3-year Community Herbalist Program with herbalist Candis Cantin, director of the School of Integrative Herbology, located in Placerville, CA. She came to Maine to teach the program.
12.What do you believe are the benefits that organic herbs and whole foods have for our skin?
What you partake of – food wise – becomes an integral part of your being. It is the fuel that sustains and builds your body . . . inside and out. If your food source is sub-par, then all parts suffer . . . skin, attitude, health, energy, etc. It may take a couple of decades (or it might not) for your skin and/or health to reveal the nutritional inadequacies of poor diet, lacking in sufficient nutrition and chock-full of refined ingredients and chemicals, but, believe me, it will eventually appear and you’ll see and feel the effects. Consistent intake of organic herbs and unrefined foods provides the necessary elements to look radiant – while aging slower, feel fabulous, and have energy to spare.
13.Being a skincare herbalist, do you think transitioning to a raw diet can help those that struggle with acne?
That’s a rather involved question that could take pages to answer, but I’ll try to provide a short version. Acne does not always have a simple cure. Stress can play a huge role, so that must be addressed/managed in addition to dietary intake. I’ve found that most times acne stems from a sensitivity to one or all of the 8 most common irritating/inflammatory foods in the American diet . . . sugar, wheat, dairy, chocolate, corn, soy, eggs, and peanuts. We eat far too many of these foods and too often. Transitioning to a raw diet usually eliminates most of these foods, thus this allows the level of systemic inflammation to lower, hormones (specifically testosterone) to balance, and skin to clear. A diet that is 75% raw can be ideal for many folks with acne, but eating a diet heavy in raw foods, particularly if you live in a cold climate, like I do in Maine, can be challenging and really mess with your digestion in the winter. Raw foods are considered energetically cooling and can dampen your digestive fire. For control of your acne, I suggest a good skin care regimen, avoidance of those 8 foods previously mentioned (or have a blood test done to test for food sensitivities – not allergies – to see which ones are truly bothering you), and a diet that consists of approximately 50%+ of raw, organic food.
14.Do you lead a raw lifestyle now? If so, what changes did you notice after the transition in your diet?
Currently, I eat about 50% raw and feel great. I tried to eat 100% raw for a few years, but like I said before, living in a cold climate and eating a diet high in raw foods, is difficult on my digestion, and my joints also get stiff. Finding quality produce in late fall, winter, and spring in Maine is near impossible. Eating too many/much raw nuts, raw nut butters, raw nut milk, frozen fruit smoothies, raw marinated seafood, and sprouted grains seems to clog my system, making it sluggish. When it’s cold, I need warmth and make plenty of organic soups and baked veggies, winter squashes, and fish. In winter, I make sure to eat plenty of dried seaweeds and chlorella algae to ensure adequate mineral intake. If I lived and gardened in a much warmer climate, I’m sure I’d include a higher percentage of raw foods in my daily diet.
15.If there was one industry/product that you could make more eco-friendly, what would it be?
Hair color! Dousing your head with toxic chemicals in the name of vanity is dangerous . . . I hate doing it and vow to stop, but I have tried every “natural” color formulation that I can get my hands on and they don’t work for my dry, naturally kinky-curly hair. I did try “Green Hare Hair Mud” greenhare.com, and it did cover all the grays, left my hair nice and soft, but I kept turning carrot-red. Not a shade that looks good on me. Like I said earlier, I am slowly integrating more grays into my style.
16.Where in the world would you most like to be right now?
Maine is way too cold for far too many months of the year, so swimming in clear, warm water would be quite soothing for a week or two – to thaw my bones. Perhaps on a gulf-coast Florida beach or in one of those crystal clear “cave pools” in central Florida. I’ve never visited one of those, but they look delectable in magazine photos and I’d love “play mermaid” for a day!
17.What is the best book you have read recently?
Oh goodness, all I ever seem to read is educational books about herbs, raw food recipes, aromatherapy, reflexology techniques, and organic gardening. I have a mind for knowledge, I guess, and it’s never quenched! I am currently reading three books right now: “Wizard’s First Rule” by Terry Goodkind; Llewellyn’s 2016 Moon Sign Book; and “The New Reflexology” by Inge Dougans.
18.What makes you cringe?
Mistreatment of animals; child abuse; spousal abuse; and senseless disdain for our natural resources.
19.What do you want your legacy to be?
That I was a kind, caring woman with a healing touch who continued to keep the ancient message alive . . . that plants are amazing, gentle, yet potent healers of our bodies, minds, and spirits. And that the plants and their environment (our environment) needs to be protected for future generations.