Posted May 24, 2017 by Cooper Point Journal in Community
 
 

Olympia Free Herbal Clinic

A Peek Inside the Local Clinic Making Herbal Medicine More Accessible



By Tari Gunstone

Plants have a long history of being used medicinally and therapeutically to improve mood, well being, and ailments that affect mental health. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the Cooper Point Journal is focusing on a resource for free herbal consultation and medicine right in downtown Olympia. The Olympia Community Herbal Clinic has been in operation since 2008 working to provide free herbal health and education to its local community through consultations, workshops, and education. They operate by either walk-in or appointments and offer sliding scale donation options with the promise that no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Plants have a long history of being used medicinally and therapeutically to improve mood, well being, and ailments that affect mental health. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the Cooper Point Journal is focusing on a resource for free herbal consultation and medicine right in downtown Olympia. The Olympia Community Herbal Clinic has been in operation since 2008 working to provide free herbal health and education to its local community through consultations, workshops, and education. They operate by either walk-in or appointments and offer sliding scale donation options with the promise that no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Completely volunteer-run (they pay an accountant), the clinic is currently run by four practitioners and a few receptionists. The materials that make up their surprisingly large apothecary are contributed by community supporters and herbal organization donors like Mountain Rose Herbs and the American Herbalists Guild. The practitioners tend herb gardens at their personal properties to help contribute plants to the apothecary that are difficult to source commercially and provide fresh material for making medicine.

All of the practitioners guarantee judgment free and confidential consultations with their patients. While herbalists don’t prescribe or diagnose like a physician, they can offer suggestions for a plan to support personal health goals while providing helpful aides from the apothecary. A new patient consultation is 85 minutes with a suggested $5-90 donation and follow-up appointments are scheduled at 25 minutes for $5-70. While some walk-in patients can walk out with medicine in hand for more immediate conditions like a cold, patients with more chronic or complex conditions should expect to wait for their practitioner to formulate a plan and even make medicine specifically for them.

Practitioner Rose Opal brings their personal practice of exploring their ancestral roots of Germanic and Western European witchcraft into their consultations with patients. Understanding ancestral relationships to plants helps Opal, “reconnect with my sense of belonging in the natural world.” In their practice they encourage their patients to experience the interconnected web of the world around them by fostering relationships with plant allies through harvesting and spending time with the plants themselves. “Using plants as medicine helps people see the world as alive and magical, rather than this dead, oppressive thing, says Opal.” In addition to medicine, Opal practices relationship with plants in a myriad of different ways. They incorporate wild plants into their diet and create exciting seasonal food experiences. Nature offers an abundance of craft and art supplies that Opal uses to create things like baskets, cordage, wreaths, and sculptures. They also recently taught a workshop on using plants for sexual health and making homemade plant-based lubes. “People and plants evolved together, there’s so many ways we support each other,” Opal tells me, “They remind me that I don’t have to buy everything I need and teach me ways I can honor them as a resource.”

Both Opal and fellow practitioner Mary Sackley expressed that they were drawn to move to Olympia to be part of the herbal free clinic. Its recognition in the herbal community is widespread because there are so few places offering free access to herbal medicine. With the rising cost of healthcare and the current changes underway that threaten affordability and access to healthcare for those with preexisting conditions that include mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and mental disorders, this resource is radical in its commitment to being free and accessible to all individuals regardless of income or health history.

The clinic operates under a philosophy of community activism that seeks to push against capitalism, patriarchy, and racism while providing support for marginalized communities including youth, houseless people, drug users, minorities, transgender and genderqueer folks. Two of their practitioners, Mary Sackley and Salix Scoresby, went to Standing Rock to join the herbal medic team working in the midwifery yurt. Last winter they offered weekly consultations and hot tea at the warming center downtown. They established a lot of connections with the houseless community in Olympia to expand their patient demographics beyond Evergreen students. This summer, most of the practitioners will be going up to Campbell River in B.C. to be part of the herbal medicine healer space for the annual Tribal Canoe Journey. The event has always had a western medical tent, but this year the practitioners are working with members of the Cowlitz tribe to educate and empower indigenous leaders to replace herbalist white settlers and establish an indigenous-run plant medicine healing space. They have encouraged Olympia’s community of protesting activists by sharing the use of herbs for dealing with trauma from police violence.

The clinic also makes up the Dandelion Seed Collective, “a collectively run grassroots community organization dedicated to empowering our community to make sustainable and informed choices in regards to individual health.” The collective hosts the annual Dandelion Seed Conference at the Evergreen Longhouse each Autumn that brings together plant medicine teachers and activists across the country. In line with the clinic’s priorities, the Dandelion Seed Conference sets itself apart from other herbal gatherings through its reputation for emphasizing accessible and community-driven herbalism that focuses on social justice and socially responsible practices. It aims to highlight bringing in presenters that come from more marginalized communities or provide services to people in marginalized communities. Their priority in planning for this year’s conference is to provide space for queer, trans, and POC presenters. In fact, they are currently calling out for presenters to submit their application for leading workshops by June 1st. They are also interested in volunteers that would like to help with organizing for the conference taking place this October 13th-15th.

Other ways that interested individuals can support the clinic is by donating money or supplies to the apothecary. They are in need of salves and tinctures from people that have experience making medicine. Fresh and dried herbs from anyone’s garden or foraging trips are always welcome. They accept tincture bottles that are cleaned with labels removed. If you take a tincture and decide it’s not right for you, feel free to donate it used. Common supplements like magnesium, vitamin D, and Iron are always in high demand.

Keep updated on the clinic’s facebook page (www.facebook.com/OlympiaCommunityHerbalClinic) to learn about other possibilities for involvement that the clinic commonly offers like garden harvesting parties or medicine making workshops. For students interested in connecting with healing plants, Evergreen has two plant medicine gardens on campus; the Ethnobotanical Native Plants Garden at the Longhouse, and the European Medicinal Herb garden at the Organic Farm.

The Olympia Community Herbal Clinic is located in the Security Building kitty-corner to Café Vita at 203 4th Ave E, Suite 401 (4th floor, wheelchair accessible). Walk-in hours are 5-8 pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They ask that patients please arrive as early as possible during walk-in hours to be seen and that new clients arrive before 6pm. Cash and card are accepted for donations. Contact them with questions or to make an appointment at (202) 854-9350 or olycommunityherbclinic@gmail.com.