Sustainability, Green Living, and Green Medicine

As an herbalism school dedicated to providing the highest quality education and training based on traditional wisdom and ecological awareness, sustainability is at the heart of who we are and what we do. Whether harvesting herbs ethically, offering services to our community, or delving into the minute scientific details of how species interact with one another, our approach to herbalism is founded in the reverence that we are crucial yet equal players in this diverse, co-evolving planet that we inhabit.Twitter Image NY

Thus, we decided to partner with the NYC Green Festival, which is the largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event in the United States. Their mission is to bring together the world’s most trusted companies, innovative speakers, national and local innovative businesses, conscious consumers and pioneering thinkers, in one place to promote the best in sustainability and green living.

One of those innovative speakers will be our very own Richard Mandelbuam, RH, who will be presenting on “Herbal Medicine as Green Medicine” on Saturday, April 16 at 5:30pm in the Lifestyle Pavilion. Just how essential is sustainability to practicing herbalism ethically? How, as herbalists and people choosing to use herbs, are we responsible for understanding and engaging with herbs in a mutually beneficial relationship? How can herbal medicine truly be green medicine? Read below for Richard’s introductory thoughts on these complex questions, and then come hear him speak in more depth at the Green Festival!


Cestrum diurnum, in the nightshade family

“Over the last decade or two the United States has seen a remarkable resurgence in interest in herbal medicines – overall a wonderful and positive trend as herbs can often alleviate and address health conditions in a gentler way and with fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals. But this new popularity has not always been accompanied by a deep holistic rethinking of how we perceive health and wellness in the first place. Certainly herbs can heal even when shoved into the conventional medical paradigm like round pegs into square holes, but the real power and magic of herbal medicine is to change our minds. When we use a plant for medicine we are returning to a relationship that has existed not for centuries or even millennia, but for literally millions of years of co-evolution. Just as a pollinating moth with its long proboscis is designed perfectly to exist in symbiosis with the white, night-blooming tubular flowers of many plants of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, and vice-versa, we humans would not have become what we are had we not been evolving and co-evolving with the plant world to arrive at the wondrous symbiosis we have today. While we derive food and medicine from the plants (along with fiber for clothing, building materials for our homes etc.), we have the natural capacity to protect and tend the plants in turn.

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ArborVitae students creating community with a tree in Prospect Park

On a deeper level, the very air we breathe and the carbohydrates our bodies depend on for survival are all a product of wonderful photosynthesis, in which carbon dioxide and water are converted with the energy derived from photons form the sun, into sugar. Simply put, what we breathe in, the plants breathe out. What we breathe out, the plants breathe in. This natural symbiosis has been overshadowed by a market-driven, consumerist culture that has trained us to think of ourselves as individuals, but even science is now confirming that life on Earth is a vast web of interwoven, mutualistic and symbiotic species that are not easily teased apart from each other. Ancient wisdom such as from Buddhist sutras or the Bhagavad Gita teach us that the Self is an illusion. Recent research on both animals and plants is now challenging us to replace the Self with Community as the basic unit of Life. This has profound impact on how we view not only our health and well-being, but ultimately our relationships with all life and the Earth itself.

So, “herbs for fibromyalgia”? “Herbs for migraines”? “Herbs for improving sleep”? All the above and much more! But the deep power of herbs is their role as teachers, to help us regain what we have lost, to regain what is naturally ours.”


See you on Saturday!  Save 20% off tickets for the Green Festival using coupon code AV16!




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