Herbal Blog Contributors

Introducing our Brilliant Bunch of Blog Contributors

(Say that three times fast!)

Chestnut School founder Juliet Blankespoor started Blog Castanea as a way to share her herbal articles and botanical photography with others, specifically those interested in filling their virtual vials with herbal goodness. Juliet has been the main writer and photographer for the blog since 2011, but along the way many fabulous herbalists have contributed their stories and talents. Read on for a who’s who of Blog Castanea.

Core Contributors

Juliet Blankespoor (she/her)

Juliet is a card-carrying plant geek who channels her plant obsessions through her writing, photography, and herb gardening, along with a houseplant predilection that is surely but slowly overtaking her home. After earning a degree in botany almost three decades ago, she set off as a professional matchmaker of humans and plants. Juliet’s been sharing her passion for plants for over twenty-five years and founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007. She is the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. After many years of teaching intensive, all-outdoor herbal programs, Juliet’s finally accepted that she’s a raging introvert and her teachings are best suited to the virtual sphere, including this blog and her online courses. Her first book – The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies will be published in April 2022. Read more about her torrid affair with plants here.

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Meghan Gemma (she/her)

Meghan one of the Chestnut School’s primary instructors through her written lessons, and is the principal pollinator of the school’s social media community—sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of herbalists, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers.

She has been in a steady relationship with the Chestnut School since 2010—as an intern and manager at the Chestnut Herb Nursery; as a plant-smitten student “back in the day” when the school’s programs were taught in the field; and later as a part the school’s woman-powered professional team. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.

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Guest Contributors and Featured Herbalists

We’re always looking for fresh herbal voices, especially from BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks! If you’re interested in writing for Blog Castanea, please send your ideas, CV, and writing sample to support@chestnutherbs.com

Ayo Ngozi Drayton

Ayo Ngozi Drayton (she/her)

Ayo Ngozi Drayton is a community herbalist, historian, and artist committed to documenting traditional herbal practices of the African diaspora and making evidence-based herbal education accessible to all. Ayo holds a master’s degree from Cornell University in Africana studies and the Maryland University of Integrative Health in Clinical Herbal Medicine. Ayo is an instructor at Wild Ginger Herbal Center in Maryland and Costa Rica, has designed and contributed to numerous courses at the Herbal Academy, and teaches at conferences and herbal schools in the US and abroad. In her clinical practice, Ayo works with clients of all ages using an approach that integrates scientific knowledge and traditional wisdom to maintain wellness and support common imbalances. She’s also the founder and CEO of an herbal education startup, The Creative Root. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook. Ayo lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts with her family.

Brandon Ruiz (he/him)

Brandon Ruiz is a community herbalist and urban farmer living in Charlotte, NC. He owns Atabey Choreto Medicinals and directs the CLT Herbal Accessibility Project and spends his time working in urban gardens, making medicine and working with his community. Brandon works mainly with plants of the tropics, specifically from the Caribbean and in Borikén (Puerto Rico), his ancestral homeland.

Donations to the Charlotte Herbal Accessibility Project can be made via the website. Stay updated with the Project through their Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Heather "Brydie" Harris (they/them)

Heather “Brydie” Harris is an independent garden enthusiast, animal lover, and academic. Brydie’s research interests are based in the Black queer experience through the framework of womanist and queer theory and theology via transcontinental social justice imaginaries and Afrofuturistic thought. Brydie is a Black, multiracial, non-binary femme, nurturer, and scholar-activist. They align themselves with the latest iteration of the Black freedom movement: Black Lives Matter, as well as indigenous communities around the globe. They like science fiction, cats, plants, and lodging spiritual warfare against fascism. Brydie is a PhD Candidate in Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville and holds a MA in Social Justice and Ethics and a BA in Women and Gender Studies.

Devon Kelley-Mott (she/her)

Devon Kelley-Mott sprouted in the lush hills of Western Massachusetts and was called to the herb world at an early age. She transplanted to the mountains of Western North Carolina in 2011 to study the vast biodiversity the Southern Appalachian region has to offer. During this time she has worked on numerous herb farms, organized and hosted herbal events, and created an herbal product line called Apothefaerie.

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Doug Wolkon (he/him)

Along with his wife Genna, Doug Wolkon runs Kaua’i Farmacy, a bio-diverse herbal farm, home to over 60 medicinal herbal plants. The Farmacy offers teas and other herbal products and also hosts tours of their medicinal herb gardens. The gardens are diversely planted in complimentary groupings of multiple species and are meticulously hand-harvested. If you are interested in eco-traveling through the Hawaiian islands, or for those who may have interest in starting a Farm to Apothecary Ecotourism business model themselves, we’d highly suggest visiting Kauai Farmacy and their lovely garden oasis. Visit their website to buy products or book a tour!

Kathi Keville (she/her)

Kathi Keville, an internationally known herbalist, aromatherapist, and gardener has conducted medicinal herbs and aromatherapy seminars in North America and Europe for over 40 years. Her Green Medicine Herb School year-round program offers medicine-making, wild herb walks, herb garden tours, aromatherapy seminars, and an herbal apprenticeship. She is the author of 15 herb, aromatherapy, and gardening books and has been published in seven languages. Her latest book is The Fragrance Garden (2015). She is Director of the American Herb Association of the AHA Quarterly Newsletter, a publication directed at professional herbalists. Kathi co-managed a commercial, organic herb farm for 15 years and now grows 450 medicinal species at her Oak Valley Herb Farm in Northern California’s Sierra foothills. Her web business, Oak Valley Herb Farm, offers her books and herbal and aromatherapy products. Kathi is also product consultant to the aromatherapy and herb industries. Kathi hosts the Garden Forum on KVMR radio, and appears as co-host on Veria TV. She belongs to United Plant Savers, was a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild, and received honors from the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, and the American Aromatherapy Association.

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Leslie Bennett (she/her)

Leslie Bennett is the founder and owner of Pine House Edible Gardens, an Oakland-based landscape design firm that creates beautiful, edible gardens. She is the co-author of The Beautiful Edible Garden (Ten Speed Press, Feb 2013) and former founder and co-owner of Star Apple Edible Gardens landscape design firm. In her work, she brings together ecologically sound landscape design principles and small-scale urban agriculture, working with both ornamental and edible plants to create integrated landscapes. Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, Sunset Magazine, C Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Gardenista.com.

Marc Williams (he/him)

Marc Williams is an ethnobiologist. He has studied the people, plant, mushroom and microbe interconnection intensively while learning to employ botanicals and other life forms for food, medicine, and beauty in a regenerative manner. His training includes a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies concentrating in Sustainable Agriculture with a minor in Business from Warren Wilson College and a Master’s degree in Appalachian Studies concentrating in Sustainable Development with a minor in Geography and Planning from Appalachian State University. He has spent over two decades working at a multitude of restaurants and various farms and has traveled throughout 30 countries in Central/North/South America and Europe as well as all 50 states of the USA. Marc has visited over 200 botanical gardens and research institutions during this process while taking tens of thousands of pictures of representative plants and other entities. He has taught hundreds of classes to thousands of students about the marvelous world of people and their interface with other organisms while working with over 100 organizations and particularly as a Board of Directors member of the United Plant Savers and online at the website Botany Everyday. Marc’s greatest hope is that this effort may help improve our current challenging global ecological situation.

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Mary Plantwalker (she/her)

Mary Plantwalker (Mary Morgaine Squire) is a devotee of the plants and healing path. Steeping herself in the plant world for almost 30 years, she has also woven in yoga, meditation and prayer as acts of daily life. She is a mother, writer, avid gardener, ceremonialist and plant ambassador. In the 1990s, she earned her BA in Journalism and Sustainable Living from Fairhaven College, and has since traveled the world meeting and learning from as many plants and indigenous healers as possible. As an active earth steward, Mary is called to protect and care for Herb Mountain Farm, the incredible land she stewards in western North Carolina, while encouraging others to create sanctuary wherever they are on the planet. Mary is gifted in facilitating ceremony and enticing mindfulness into the everyday, and is passionate about welcoming people into the walk of embracing plants as allies while living in harmony with all beings. You can follow Mary’s plant escapades on Instagram.

Ricky Bratz (she/her)

Ricky Bratz is a plant nerd, queer dog mom, survivor, and earth person. She feels energized and resourced by her relationship with plants and flowers. Her practice, Cazimi Healing is based in North Carolina where she offers virtual and in-person consults, workshops, and an online apothecary. Ricky’s approach to working with clients is a combination of intuition, science, and training in Western Clinical Herbalism. Her work is further informed by folk traditions from her Sicilian/SWANA/Eastern European ancestral heritage, Southern Appalachian folk medicine, and Greco-Arabic Unani. She also brings her training as a Transformational Presence Coach and Energy Healer to client sessions.

Ricky is a 2009 graduate of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine with Juliet Blankespoor, a 2010 graduate of One World Healing Arts Institute with Mimi Hernandez and holds a BA from Goddard College in Health Arts & Sciences. Ricky is committed to offering accessible healthcare for all, especially queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, people of color, and low-income folks. Follow her on Instagram @cazimihealing_nc to stay connected!

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Sarah Nuñez (she/her/Ella)

Sarah Nuñez is the Director of Equity, Social Justice, and Community Engagement with the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. Her focus with the school is to increase efforts, internally and externally, that co-create policies, cultures, and programs of equity and social justice for the school, staff, students, and communities served. She loves building power in the South, playing with her puppy, Willow, and making herbal tea blends and treats for Aflorar Herb Collective.

Steven Foster (he/his)

Best-selling author, photographer, consultant, and herbalist, Steven Foster has 40 years of comprehensive experience in the herbal field. He started his career at the Sabbathday Lake, Maine, Shaker’s Herb Department—America’s oldest herb business dating to 1799.

As an international consultant in medicinal and aromatic plant technical and marketing issues, Foster has served on projects in Argentina, Armenia, Belize, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, England, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of Georgia, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam and elsewhere.

Steven has 18 books published. He is senior author of three Peterson Field Guides, including the all new THIRD EDITION of the new Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Eastern and Central North America (with James A. Duke, released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2014), A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs with Christopher Hobbs, (2002), and A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants of North America (with Roger Caras, 1995 and many other books. Other titles include Tyler’s Honest Herbal 4th edtion (with Varro Tyler) and the 1999 Independent Publisher’s Association’s Best Title in Health and Medicine—101 Medicinal Herbs. Foster is senior author of National Geographic’s A Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine (with Rebecca Johnson), a 2007 New York Public Library “Best of Reference.” He has also authored over 800 articles for numerous trade, popular and scientific periodicals. An acclaimed photographer with thousands of images in his stock photos files, Foster’s photographs appear in hundreds of publications. He is Associate Editor of HerbalGram, and Chairman of the Board Trustees of the American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas. Steven makes his home in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Photo Credit: Donna Foster

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