The wonders and blunders of the fall are upon us, and while cool breezes and autumn leaves settle in, the fast pace amps up. If this time brings you anxiety, perhaps consider looking to Spokane’s herbal community to carry you through.

Over the weekend, the Four Seasons Herbal Guild put on Spokane’s 5th annual Herbal Festival at West Central Mission Church near Kendall Yards. The festival organizers dedicated the weekend to promoting the culture of herbalism and encouraging visitors to consider this ancient form of medicinal therapy.

Attendees were invited to engage with herbalism, whether through vendors, lectures or conversation with herbalists. Essential oils, body soaps, bee houses, tea blends, medicinal plants and seeds and more were on displays surrounding the church building. Workshops covered topics such as healing garden herbs, Rocky Mountain herbs and weeds and incorporating herbs into your everyday life.

The first Herbal Festival began five years ago when Michael Pilarski, a lifelong student of plants and earth repair, recognized Spokane as a prospective city to continue the movement.

“Everywhere can use more herbal medicine. I am a spokesperson for the herbal community, and I like to bring people together so that education can happen and so the movement can grow,” Pilarski said. “It’s got a long history, and here we are reviving it after some years of neglect.”

To learn more on herbalism, Pilarski suggested students check out the new Spokane Herbal Guild or Green Path Herbal School in Liberty Lake. For beginners, he also recommended listening to the podcast “Herb Rally” by Mason Hutchison or reading "Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth" by Sharol Tilgner.

Jessica Spurr, an herbalist-in-training and an original organizer of the Spokane Herbal Faire, shared her values in herbalism. “When I go out and harvest things and bring them home and turn them to medicine, that feels really empowering,” she said. “I love the doctor, I’m not anti-western medicine at all, but it feels good to make your own cough syrup or cure your own headache without going to the store.”

The festival proceeds go toward Spokane’s Herbalists Without Borders (HWB), an international nonprofit organization similar to Doctors Without Borders, that serves the needy and those impacted by natural disasters or world events that impede access to health and wellness care.

“Chapters can form anywhere in the world, so we applied to be a chapter in Spokane to serve the greater inland Northwest,” said Mary Schmidt, the chapter president of HWB.

Almost six months ago, the organization set up a free clinic with the Women’s Club, and this fall it plans to open one at West Central Mission Church. On Wednesday nights the group feeds the homeless and has a free clinic for dispensing nutrients, herbs and consultations for people who are underserved or do not have doctors.

Even though students may have missed the herbal festival, there are other ways to get involved and stay connected with Spokane’s herbalist community.

“We could do so much more than we are doing now if we had more hand power, especially in gardening areas,” Schmidt said. 

“To anybody that is interested in horticulture or agriculture or in community and serving, this is really a great opportunity because we are directly involved with not only the herbal community but with the homeless,” said Diana Michaels, the workshop and volunteer coordinator.

The guild also holds educational events every month that anyone is welcome to attend for $5.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunities, finding the perfect herbs to fight the cold season or even an all-natural soap bar to smell like autumn, consider contacting the Four Seasons Guild or HWB for guidance.

“Herbs serve the whole body. There are things that plants and herbs will help and support that even western medicines don’t,” said Schmidt. “These plants do so much.”

Brooklyn Popp is a staff writer.

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