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.
Juliet Blankespoor started the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007, after deciding to become a professional plant-human matchmaker. She lives with her partner Tom outside of Asheville, NC, in a wee handbuilt home where they nurture a medicinal herb garden and a delightfully hilarious daughter. Juliet has been sharing her passion for plants for over twenty-five years through teaching herbal medicine and botany. Despite a seemingly single-minded obsession for medicinal plants, she’s branched out in the last few years, exploring new territory and interests—namely photographing, videoing, and writing about: medicinal plants.
Juliet is an unabashed botanical entrepreneur –her earliest project during her collegiate years included a get-rich-quick-scheme involving papaya trees. After graduating from University of Florida with a degree in botany, Juliet founded and formulated a tincture line, Green Faith Herbals. She spent her twenties growing and wildcrafting medicine for her tincture business.
During this time, Juliet continued her studies by attending extensive herbal programs at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine, the California School of Herbal Studies and the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. Her teachers are 7Song, James Snow and Michael Moore.
After many years of teaching intensive, all-outdoor herbal programs, Juliet has decided she is a raging introvert and her teachings are best suited to the virtual sphere. She is currently writing her first book – Cultivating Medicinal Herbs; A Guidebook to Growing Healing Plants in the Home Garden. Juliet has spent the last few years videoing herbs, and their admirers and cultivators, for the Herbal Immersion Program. She is delighted to continue to teach and connect with herb lovers through the ethers. Please visit Blog Castanea to enjoy her herbal articles and botanical photography.
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.
Guest Contributors and Featured Herbalists
We’re always looking for fresh herbal voices! If you’re interested in writing for Blog Castanea, please send your ideas, CV, and writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ayo Ngozi Drayton
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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) 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!
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