• Whitney Joy Dunlap

My View From the Weeds: Honoring the Past & Creating a New Future through Community Action

This post was originally published in HWBCO's monthly column, My View from the Weeds, for the Columbus Free Press, October 2019 Issue

At the end of September, hundreds of herbalists, plant conservationists and green-minded folk gathered together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of United Plant Savers (UpS). The nonprofit organization has been pivotal in efforts to protect North American medicinal plants throughout the Ohio region and beyond. Within the beautifully biodiverse Appalachian foothills sits Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary (UpS headquarters). It is an oasis and refuge for those interested in learning about medicinal plant conservation and how to protect the legacy of earth’s ancestors. The sanctuary is a hidden gem, and one that often gets overlooked by Ohio residents. The event connected people from across the continent, with a singular common goal: banding together to advocate for plants and the role humans play as stewards of the world ecosystem. Founded in 1994, the organization was forged from the painful realization that many medicinal and native species were becoming endangered or going extinct. The key players saw a problem and decided to take action. They were not just herbalists, but horticulturalists and farmers who were intimately observing the decline of native botanicals. One of the main goals of UpS is to educate and raise awareness on at-risk and endangered plant species. In 2019, as herbalism makes its comeback across the country, the potential for overharvesting native medicinals increases. Harvesting can often be done in a disruptive and harmful way, with no consideration for the ecosystem or surrounding flora. Before pillaging the earth, it is wise to inform oneself on ethical wildcrafting and how to harvest plants with conservation in mind. Using the “At-Risk” Assessment Tool or studying the “To-Watch” list is essential for anyone using herbal medicine. To access educational resources or support their mission visit At the celebration, a stunning new Center for Medicinal Plant Conservation was dedicated to Jim and Peggy Duke, trailblazers in the field of herbalism. Throughout the ceremony there was a strong sense of pride and reverence for the historical influencers who paved the way for the rise of North American herbalism. Walking around the center was like taking a stroll through history, all elements of the past, present and future combined within the walls. One of the founders, Rosemary Gladstar (the godmother of American Herbalism) gave hopeful encouragement to the audience saying, “we created an organization with just a few people and a thought.” Another founding herbalist, Paul Strauss, shared his vision of igniting the “green spark” within communities, to live more sustainably in connection with the earth. Hearing their testimonies, it was easy to imagine what is possible when impassioned people come together to find solutions for the future. Connecting with community is one of the most powerful tools that any individual has, right at their fingertips. Advocacy work done alone can feel exhausting. The sense of hope and inspiration gained from community connection is indescribable. Just as plants need healthy root systems to grow, so do human beings. Individuals need to reach out and find healthy ecosystems where they can thrive, grow and flourish. Within those living ecosystems are family members, friends, comrades in advocacy and plant allies. The Central Ohio chapter of Herbalists Without Borders (HWBCO) is proud to be a supporter and advocate for United Plant Savers. Several HWBCO chapter members are also members of UpS and were attendees of the 25th anniversary celebration. The herbal community in Ohio is growing fast and building bridges wherever possible to promote healthcare and food justice. The HWBCO chapter is currently seeking volunteers, with an interest in holistic health and community activism. The next chapter meeting will feature networking opportunities for new members and access to the People’s Apothecary, in which herbal products will be available for all. Donations are welcomed, as each person sees fit. However, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The chapter currently organizes monthly People’s Clinic events with Food Not Bombs and Mothers in Arms, where herbalism can act as a bridge for underserved and low-income populations. To learn more about upcoming event offerings visit Want to get plugged in and volunteer? Want to help spread the word? Want to propose work for the chapter?  Come to the next meeting and create those connection points, learn more about how to get involved and take home some herbal products. Planting seeds for the future is possible with community action. Herbalists Without Borders - Chapter Meeting and Free Apothecary Oct 27, 5:00–6:30 PM 757 Garden Rd, Columbus, OH 43214 Please RSVP here: -------------- Whitney Joy Dunlap is a budding herbalist, plant enthusiast, green activist and freelance artist, living in Columbus, Ohio. Her latest passion is plant identification and exploring edible and medicinal weeds. View her botanical blog on these topics at Follow her on Instagram @planetarygypsy or email her at

Appears in Issue:  October 2019 issue

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