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.

Juliet Blankespoor

Meghan Gemma (she/her)

Meghan is one of the Chestnut School’s primary instructors through her written lessons, sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of Appalachia to an ever-wider field of herbalists, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers. You’ll find her plant love and clever wit throughout the blog and lesson pages of all the programs. Meghan first apprenticed with Juliet at the Chestnut Herb Nursery in 2010 and then went on to become a Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine student and lifelong learner of herbalism. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.

Meghan Gemma

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 an Urban Farmer and Community Herbalist living in Charlotte, NC. He has established various gardens around the city, and runs Yucayeke Farms, a community farming and herbalism project focused on providing culturally-relevant foods and herbs to the surrounding community. His work prioritizes BIPOC, and focuses on providing easy and affordable access to medicines and educational information. His roots are in Puerto Rico, and he works with medicines from the Caribbean and Appalachia.

Brandon Ruiz
Heather "Brydie" Harris

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.

Doug in the passionflower patch.

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!

Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz (she/her)

Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz is a native Arizonan, living in one of the most edible and medicinal landscapes in the world. Following her family’s lineage, Felicia began training as a curandera (medicine woman) in her early twenties, working in cafes and coffee shops to make ends meet. Eventually Felicia would find success as an award-winning restaurateur, and later join over twenty-five years of Indigenous healing practices with food as medicine.

Recognized for her work with Indigenous foodways and decolonizing wellness, Felicia is passionate about sharing food + lifestyle as medicine across many platforms. Her book Earth Medicines: Ancestral Wisdom, Healing Recipes, and Wellness Rituals from a Curandera, has received praise from industry leaders including Padma Lakshmi, Dana Cowin, and Julia Turshen. Felicia’s work has been featured in Spirituality & Health, Forbes, Bon Appétit, and several other media outlets including The Original Americans episode on Padma Lakshmi’s Taste The Nation (Hulu). Felicia presents frequently around the country on traditional healing practices, culinary medicine, holistic wellness, and Native American food sovereignty for nonprofits, universities, and museums–including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz

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.

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.

Leslie Bennett
Marc Williams, instructor at Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.

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.

Mary Plantwalker (she/her)

Mary Morgaine Squire, aka Mary Plantwalker, is a devoted mistress of Earth Mother and an outspoken Voice for the plant world. Through Story, Ceremony, Creating Sanctuary and her petite nursery called Mary’s Flora, Mary weaves together accessible ways to deepen your own connection to our generous plant allies. She and her partner, Hart, passionately steward a botanical sanctuary in the mountains of North Carolina called Herb Mountain Farm. Follow her escapades delving into our relationship with nature on Instagram or visit her website for more offerings.

Mary Plantwalker smiling, wrapped in vines.
Ricky Bratz

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!

Sarah Nuñez (she/her/Ella)

Sarah Nuñez was born in Bogota, Colombia, and raised in North Carolina. Sarah is a cultural organizer and healer, weaving storytelling, art, hierbas, and movement building throughout her work. She is one of the founders of Aflorar Herb Collective which provides herbal community care and support to organizers, activists, and nurturers across the county. Currently, a resident of Asheville, NC, she organizes around immigrant rights, racial and economic justice, and education access and success for students of the global majority. As a Ph.D. candidate in Education, her research and teaching methods use testimonials and oral histories to uncover healing practices, wisdom, and knowledge of Latinx students in the South. You can learn more about Sarah here: Aflorar Herb Collective and Sarah Nunez Consulting.

Sarah Nuñez
Steven Foster

Steven Foster (he/his)

Best-selling author, photographer, consultant, and herbalist, Steven Foster  had 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 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.
 and elsewhere.

Steven published 18 books in his lifetime. He was senior author of three Peterson Field Guides, including the THIRD EDITION of the new Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Eastern and Central North America (with James A. Duke, 2014) and the Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs with Christopher Hobbs, (2002). He also wrote classics like Herbal Renaissance: Growing, Using, and Understanding Herbs in the Modern World (1993) and the 1999 Independent Publisher’s Association’s Best Title in Health and Medicine—101 Medicinal Herbs.

Foster was 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 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 was Associate Editor of HerbalGram, and Chairman of the Board Trustees of the American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas. Steven made his home in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Sadly, he passed away in 2022. Photo Credit: Donna Foster

See what’s new on Blog Castanea

Take Me to the Blog!