The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine is located in the botanically rich Appalachian Mountains, just outside of Asheville, NC
Just as locally grown food is key to long-term sustainability, locally grown medicine is equally as important. That’s why our programs focus on growing your own herbs and all the ways you can enrich your life with edible and medicinal weeds. Preparing herbal medicine is deeply satisfying and empowering, and an essential aspect of all traditional cultures across the globe. Our connection to plants as medicine nourishes this ancient spirit and wakes us up to the profound natural cycles of life. We’re honored to share that connection with you, and we hope it brings you as much joy as it brings us!
Juliet Blankespoor - Founder
Juliet Blankespoor founded 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 (not quite tiny, but pretty darned small, for an American) 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, whose earliest project during her collegiate years involved a get-rich-quick-scheme involving papaya trees. After graduating from her University studies 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.
Our Mountain Home
Juliet moved to the southern Appalachians after studying with several herbalists –7Song, Michael Moore, and James Snow—and sowing her wild oats (herbal style—which involved camping in pristinely beautiful spots to gather herbs, seaweed and mushrooms). After settling in the mountains and planting her herb garden, she opened the Chestnut School. Around the same time, Juliet founded the Chestnut Herbal Nursery, which she owned and operated and planted and propagated for seven years.
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, which is slated to release in 2018. Juliet is delighted to continue to teach and connect with herb lovers through the ethers. See her full bio here.
We’re dedicated to promoting all kinds of diversity in the field of herbal medicine. To that end, we’ve partnered with several non-profit organizations that work with underserved populations in sustainable agriculture. We’re donating scholarships to both workers and volunteers in the respective organizations, along with the folks they serve.
Our scholarship application period will reopen on February 15, 2018. To receive an email when the application period opens, please sign up for our newsletter list. To find out more, please see our Partnerships page.
We support public botanical gardens and plant conservation through annual donations or memberships at the North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville Botanical Gardens, United Plant Savers and the American Chestnut Foundation. Additionally, the Chestnut School is a member of the American Botanical Council, the American Herbalist Guild, and the Herb Society of America.
Here is a testimonials from one of our students – click here for more:
“The Immersion offers so much more than you think you’re going to get. Not only will you learn about these amazing plants and how to grow them, you will also learn about the human body and how herbs affect each system–and not in a general way. These courses teach you how to understand plants in various preparations and how each type of preparation will extract different properties of the plants. You will no longer be doing a web search on remedies for various ailments, because in the Herbal Immersion Program, you are given such tailored and focused instruction that not only includes information, but wisdom on how to apply all of this knowledge. They teach you both the science and the art of herbalism. A student can go as deep as they want with all these tools provided. I cannot express enough gratitude for this course.”
~Marianela Leekley, Online Herbal Immersion student
The Chestnut School is woman owned and primarily women-powered. We are a dynamic team of passionate souls, relishing a life infused with all the bright flavors of the plant world.
Scroll down to learn about the school’s core characters. Please see our Instructor page to meet our stellar teachers and contributors.
Sara Kinney grew up in suburban Long Island, where her ties to nature centered around one very friendly dogwood tree. A lover of poems and stories, she was twenty when her feet finally rooted to the ground and her eyes opened to the natural world. Since then, she’s been constantly mesmerized by clouds, water, and wildlife, but her greatest passion is her connection to plants.
Sara began her herbal education at the Chestnut School in 2009. She loved her time there so much that she came back to work behind the scenes as Program Administrator. Besides her passion for plants, Sara is enamored with all things wool, and when she’s not traipsing through the woods, she can often be found needle-felting little garden fairies and gnomes. Her dream is to create a lively homestead that will nourish her family and the land that supports them. Sara is the mother of two small boys who endlessly teach her about backhoes, ballet, and beauty.
Kathryn is a native North Carolinian who got hooked on all things gardening, homesteading, herbalism, and permaculture after moving to Asheville. Her initial introduction to herbs was through the lens of Ayurveda while participating in a yoga training, and she later studied Chinese herbalism while working at an acupuncture clinic. She is now deeply enamored with traditional herbalism and the incredible abundance of native and wild medicinals found in the Appalachian Mountains. A lover of all that grows, she is also a part-time birth doula. Kathryn is creating her eight acre homestead with her partner outside of Asheville, where she intends to cultivate and wildcraft every type of herb under the sun.
Meghan’s wings are aflutter these days as the prime pollinator of the Chestnut School’s social media community – sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of friends, gardeners, healers and plant lovers.
Meghan’s relationship with the Chestnut School has been abloom since 2009! She grew some of her first herbal roots as an apprentice in Juliet’s medicinal herb nursery and later became a much-enamored student at the school. The plants spoke to her most clearly of women’s health and she attended the Matrona School of Quantum Midwifery in 2012, after which she herself became pregnant! Her daily joy is in her herb gardens, harvesting forays, new mama-hood, writing, and eating rainbowed handfuls of flowers. If you ever want to make her day come April, violets are her uncontested favorite!
Christine grew up in suburban Chicago playing in the seemingly expansive woods behind her childhood home. She fell deeper in love with the magic of the natural world as a teenager while participating in wilderness backpacking trips. This love of nature led her to sustainable agriculture work on organic farms in Alaska, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, and Washington. Christine studied at the Chestnut School in 2013 and is thrilled to be back as a part of the Chestnut team to support our students in their herbal learning. Christine currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her partner and their wild rescue pup, Luna. They dream of creating an abundant homestead with animals and all kinds of edible and medicinal plants in the near future.
Ashley hails from a small town on the Oregon Coast. In between the time she was a lanky lass with bruised knees, flushed cheeks, and what seemed to be an endless supply of picked dandelions falling from her pockets, to working in front of screens and living in cities all over the world, she lost touch with nature. It wasn’t until her mid-20s that this city mouse reconnected with her love of the outdoors by way of farming. Through working on small, organic vegetable farms in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania for five years, Ashley found her way back. Her gravitation to the herb patches on these various farms blossomed into her taking a folk herbalism course in Maryland. There, she also worked in the medicinal herb gardens and apothecary, gaining a tactile understanding of how to cultivate and produce plant medicine. Through her role at Chestnut, Ashley’s digital skills merge with her love for herbal medicine and natural healing while coalescing around community.
Michelle Van Sandt
Adventurous, curious, and fearless free-spirit, Michelle (Meesh) Van Sandt is the primary video editor and consultant for our Herbal Immersion program. Meesh received her degree in Motion Pictures and Television from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She spent a decade working in the film and TV biz in Los Angeles before moving to Asheville in pursuit of a life more in connection with the dirt, plants, and wilderness. Meesh is livin’ and lovin’ the tiny life on a farm in her 245 sq. ft. house on wheels that she designed and had built.
Amber Brown migrated from her childhood home in the far north of Alaska in search of warmer pastures. She landed in the rich mountainous fold of North Carolina where she currently farms, forages and plays with her sweetie and their two spritely young boys. Inspired by the woodland squirrels, fairies, and gnomes, Amber’s family gathers and tucks away an impressive cache of wild nuts annually. They feast on their nuts all year round and likewise share them with their herd of forest-fed hogs at Glorious Forest Farm. She is a magical concoctress of wild food delicacies and has been told she makes “the best food ever.” Amber brings all manner of nut confections and wild foods to her local farmers markets. She puts her culinary expertise to the test at the Chestnut School, by helping to test herbal and wild foods recipes. She also helps with recipe development and keeps the garden and apothecary in tip top form. In addition to her wild food shenanigans, she’s also adept at gathering local plants and minerals and makes small-batch, seasonal tinctures, potions and brews. Visit www.gloriousforestfarm.com to learn more about Amber and her wild magic.
Chloe Lieberman believes that human nature flourishes and thrives in direct contact and collaboration with the big Nature of the world around us. She spends most days scurrying around her home and farm in western North Carolina, which she shares with her beloved partner. They raise heirloom staple crops such as field-corn, squash, potatoes, beans and sweet potatoes, along with all manner of vegetables, fruits and medicinal and culinary herbs. They also wrangle a herd of goats, a lovely cow, several ducks, and two lazy cats who do occasionally eat mice. Chloe loves cooking and eating and continuously concocts delicious and healing dishes from her gardens and the wild lands surrounding them. Chloe’s talents are much appreciated at the school, where she helps maintain the garden and apothecary, and tests recipes for Juliet’s book.
McCayne Miller is the school’s financial and business alchemist. She is a native North Carolinian with more than 15 years experience in financial services, debt and asset management, sales and market share growth, strategic planning, facilitation, and business model development. From managing prolific organic farms, driving trucks full of biodiesel, and working with one of the best policy teams in the country around renewable energy, her passion for business, food, and energy runs deep.