Wildcrafting by Rachel Ross

A workshop on wild crafting
a story about the Shaker’s
inspired utility of nature and
Medicinal Herbalism, with a bit
of contemporary herbal wisdom
1. Early Shaker History : What were their
2. Native and wild crafted vs. Introduced and
cultivated: Does “wild” mean “native”?
3. How to Wild Craft: What, where, when and
Age of Herbals
1450- Considered the dawn of
the “age of herbals”.
1597- Gerard wrote “The
General History of Plants”.
1649- Nicolas Culpeper
translated “The London
Dispensary and Physical
Directory” from Latin into
1673- “University Medicine” in
England became more
scientific as physicians turned
to apothecaries to powder and
prepare their herbs.
Colonial America
• 1700’s- Europeans
considered Indians as
“ignorant savages” except
when it came to health and
• 1770’s- American Ginseng
sells for $5/lb ($150$2,700/lb). Ginseng
completely wiped out east
of Appalachia.
• 1774- First Shaker
community established in
New York near Albany.
A Colonist’s Garden
• Balm, Basil, Caraway, Chamomile, Comfrey,
Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Hyssop, Lavender, Licorice,
Marjoram, Mints, Mustards, Parsley,
Rosemary, Rue, Savory, Saffron, Shallots, Sage,
Tarragon and Thyme.
• Almost none of the above plants were native.
American Medical Herbalism
• 1787- first American Herbal
published by David Schopf.
• 1828 – “Medical Flora” published
by Constantine Ralinesque.
• 1830’s- Establishment of the first
Eclectic Medical Institute in
Cincinnati, Ohio.
• 1831 – First Shaker Herb Catalogue
• 1851- Ralinesque writes; the
shakers have “the best medicinal
gardens in the US. They cultivate a
great variety and sell them cheap,
fresh and genuine.
• 1880-1900- Peak of Medical
Herbalists with 8,000 practitioners.
Scientific Herbalists vs. Medical
• 1910 - Flexner report (a survey to
evaluate medical schools in the Us)
condemns Homeopathic and
Eclectic Medicine Schools.
• 1931 – “A Modern Herbal”
published by Mrs. M. Grieve.
Considered the first comprehensive
encyclopedia of herbs to appear
since the days of Culpeper.
• 1939 – Last of the Eclectic Medical
Schools closes. Herbal medicines
were replaced by pre-made
pharmaceuticals. Eclectic medicine
and Scientific Herbalism almost
died… but not quite.
Native vs. Introduced
Wild crafting vs. cultivation
The first Shaker Herb Catalogue
(1831) listed 142 herbs, roots, barks
and seeds.
The catalogue grew to contain over
300 herbs (1830 to 1894) by
diversifying their resources. Plants
were wild crafted, cultivated or
imported and then resold.
Lesser known herbs were
discontinued. Herbs most demanded
by the medical profession were
At the peak of the herbal business,
herbal production relied more on
introduced and cultivated plants.
Many of the native plants which were
wild crafted and sold by the Shakers
are now considered “at risk” by the
United Plant Savers.
American Ginseng, Arnica, Bloodroot,
Goldenseal, Golden Thread, May
Apple, Maiden Hair Fern, Pink Root,
Pipsissewa, Spikenard, Slippery Elm,
Partridgeberry, BethRoot, False
Unicorn Root, Wild Yam, Turkey Corn
and Wild Indigo.
How to Wild Craft
• Get to know one plant
at a time
• Know what, where,
when, and how
• Don’t harvest a plant if
there are less than 10 in
the area
• Harvest with gratitude
• Beale, Galen and Mary Rose Boswell 1991. The
Earth Shall Blossom. The Countrymen Press, Vt.
• Castleman, Michael 2001. The New Healing
Herbs. Bantam Books. NY.
• Erichsen-Brown, Charlotte 1989. Medicinal And
Other Uses of North American Plants- A Historical
survey with Special References to the Eastern
Indian Tribes. Dover Publ., Inc. NY.
• Miller, Any Bess 1998. Shaker Medicinal Herbs.
Storey Books, Vt.

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