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Ozark Folk Herbalism Cultural Q&A

I'm starting out the journey to writing a book on Ozark Folk Herbalism and it's connections to modern day medicine and herbalism.

Today I was interviewed in a group setting by LaDonna Rocha of

Heritage Herb Garden with historic Ozark cabin at the Ozark Folk Center in Moutainview, Arkansas

Here are some of my answers to questions she asked us!

A video will be forthcoming, that I will also share later on.

Answers from Tania Rounds on the Ozark Folk Herbalism Tradition

1. Culturally speaking, how is natural health, but herbalism in particular, viewed?

I feel like it’s coming back into popularity as people realize that slapping a band-aid on many health issues isn’t actually working with the ways your body heals itself. We need natural remedies to help us heal root causes, and it’s much more effective in the long run to use these. Herbalism is a main area of interest for people who are interested in adding more holistic choices in their life.

2. How does the general public view your culture’s take on health? What are some of the stereotypes?

Historically, granny women, yarb doctors and power doctors were very revered and important to the community because often a medically trained doctor was not available to be seen by country folk. I feel like Ozark Folk Herbalism isn’t really taken seriously because some of it touches on superstitions, such as witch hazel is used for protection and hung on the outside of barns to protect the animals inside. I feel like both the cultural and medicinal traditions are important to preserve and that we need to look at why people viewed certain herbs as protective or having other correspondences, and really look at root reasons. A lot of it comes down to older cultural views, like medical astrology. Medical astrology deals with looking at the astrological properties of certain herbs.

3. What are some of the strengths that your culture brings to herbalism?

I feel like since people have some awareness of herbalism in the Ozarks due to the traditions, it’s easier access to use herbs here. I feel like this tradition promotes foraging and using what’s around you instead of spending a lot of money on obtaining herbs.

4. How do your cultural roots influence how you practice now?

I use a lot of medical astrology and astrological correspondences in my work. For instance, if I’m making a body lotion, I make the product in the hour of Venus on Friday, since those days are both ruled by Venus, and Venus is the goddess of beauty and therefore skin health. I also use local herbs that I grew myself or foraged on my property in the Ozarks, which is what Ozark folk herbalists mainly did because they didn’t always have access to herbs from other areas. I grow and plant my herbs by the moon sign and phase as well, which is traditional. I use “saining” with cedar to cleanse my home, which is a traditional Scottish smoke cleansing method. I also create tinctures, salves, balms, and other traditional healing products that people from the Ozarks have always used. Another tradition that I remember, at the end of February we would always harvest sassafras roots to make tea, as it’s traditionally considered a blood cleanser and gets the lymph moving after a long winter spent indoors eating primarily preserved meats, which is what would have been eaten historically in the Ozarks during the winter.

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