Lisa Ganora fell in love with medicinal plants and natural healing. Her scientifically-integrated and holistic approach to natural health led her to open an herbal education and retreat center of her own. Founded in 2016, Eldeberry’s Farm is a botanical sanctuary nestled in Paonia, Colorado.
YOGA + Life® asked Ganora about her journey to becoming an herbalist and how she shares the practice with guests at Elderberry’s.
Tell us more about your journey to becoming an herbalist and studying plant medicine.
I grew up riding horses through the woods in the Ozarks and listening to family tales about digging Sassafras root and making home remedies on Dad’s farm during the Great Depression. On Mom’s side, our Lenape ancestry inspired curiosity about Earth-centered ways of making foods and medicines from wild plants. But I was raised conventionally as far as healing was concerned: off to the doctor for antibiotics!
But those early embers were kept aglow by my deep love of Nature. In the 80s I moved to Provincetown to make art and music, but became seriously addicted to (of all things!) Belgian baking chocolate. Nothing I tried helped, until a friend introduced me to Dandelion root infusion. By drinking a cup of that bold-tasting remedy every time the craving possessed me, I was finally able to move beyond the chocolate/sugar intoxication that was making me tired and depressed. The potency of that simple remedy amazed me, and I had to learn more.
I connected with the Wise Woman Center in New York and learned that plants and people really can communicate in multiple ways; that herbal medicine is “traditional” medicine, and that health depends on the integration of physical, emotional, mental, environmental and spiritual healing! I realized there that my calling was to be an herbalist, and I’ve been working and playing in that world ever since. About 20 years ago, I began to integrate traditional herbalism with the sciences (physiology, botany, chemistry, etc.) and specialized in herbal constituents and phytochemistry. I wrote a textbook for herbalists (Herbal Constituents: Foundations of Phytochemistry) and began teaching in schools and online, which I still do today. So, I’m a bridger — I like bringing different worlds together.
How has herbalism personally impacted your health and wellness?
I fully believe in the reasonable integration of traditional (herbal) and modern medicine when necessary. Herbs and medications work differently, and both have applications where they shine. For me, the use of medicinal, nutrient-dense foods along with nourishing and tonic herbs has been the foundation for building my personal health and vitality. I would say that about 90% of the remedies I take are botanical and I also use vitamins, minerals and occasionally essential oils. Herbs and supplements have been key to helping me recover from various life challenges including West Nile and heavy mold exposure/sensitivity from volunteering at Hurricane Katrina.
As an educator for other herbalists, what is your favorite concept to teach and share with others?
One thing I make a point of when I’m teaching is to help people realize that herbs are not substitutes for medications. Often, we tend to think what herb is good for (fill in the condition/disease), because we’re used to the pharmaceutical paradigm where drugs are targeted that way. I call that “allopathic herbalism.” You can do some good with that approach, but where herbs (and medicinal foods) really shine is in helping to clear what the old-timers called “obstacles to cure” and in supplying tools (nutrients and constituents) to help nourish, support and empower the inherent wisdom of the body to heal itself. This is what I call Vitalist herbalism, and it’s quite similar to Ayurveda and Chinese medicine in that we use foods, herbs and formulas to re-establish balance and Chi flow within the context of an individual’s constitution.
What was your inspiration behind opening Elderberry’s Herbal Education and Retreat Center?
At Elderberry’s Herbal Education and Retreat Center (which began as the Rocky Mountain associate of the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism) we offer a variety of classes, workshops, apprenticeships and retreats designed to help people reconnect with the deep healing powers of nature and the plants. Elderberry’s is a place to slow down and remember that the Earth gives us life: through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods and herbs that nourish and heal us. We practice gratitude and right relationship with nature.
May 27 – May 31, 2021
Take your medicine-making to the next level with traditional botanical sciences!
June 17 – 21, 2021
A unique opportunity to revive the sustainable ways of our ancestors and to develop practical skills for a deeper relationship with the sustenance and healing that nature provides.
August 27 – 29, 2021
This weekend will be an exploration into the world of bees. In their flight we find the wisdom hidden within beauty. In their hum we find the heart of creation.
September 2 – 6, 2021
Join us at Elderberry’s in the beautiful Colorado mountains for five days of deep connection with the Green Teachers, learning how to craft traditional healing foods and herbs, journeying with Plant Spirits in a sacred grove, celebrating and renewing our Wild Hearts and Spirits!
September 9 – 13, 2021
Chinese medicine sees the Shen (spirit/heart/mind/soul) as an integral part of health – one of the three “treasures” which are essential human qualities.
October 7 – 11, 2021
The Nature Cure Retreat is rooted in the simple yet profound healing powers of reconnecting the human body, mind, heart and spirit with nature.
“Throughout it all, we seek to remember that we are nature, that as we heal ourselves we must also heal the Earth: the life energy that moves through us moves through all living beings. In the most basic and profound sense, we are one.”
– Lisa Ganora, founder of Elderberry’s Farm
Photos courtesy of Elderberry’s Farm.
Paid partnership with YOGA + Life.