Podcast 050: West Virginia Herbal Medics

This week we’re out in Coal River Valley, West Virginia, helping out at a free herbal clinic for folks in this area who’ve been affected by mountaintop removal mining. We interviewed three members of the local Herbal Medics team – Maureen, Hannah, and Lauren share their connections to the area, connecting with locals (and reconnecting them to their traditions) through plant medicine, and their experiences in the free clincs we’ve been running here together for the past three years.

We also have new intro music, provided by our dear friend (and Herbal Medics WV team member), Jen-Osha!

Herbs discussed include calendula, plantain, wild lettuce, & cayenne; plus formulas including joint liniment and sprain & strain salve.

Mentioned in this podcast:


If you like our podcast, you might like learning from us in a more intentional way – like with our Family Herbalist program! It’s a great way to start incorporating herbs into your daily life, to keep you and your loved ones healthy and resilient all year round!


Episode Transcript

Ryn: 00:27 Hi, I’m Ryn. And I’m not at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Mass. Today I’m in Naoma, West Virginia with some really cool people who I want to introduce you to in just a minute. First, I just want to get our shout outs to: Anna, who is making pine needle tea, one of my favorites; a lovely person whose name we don’t know on the Podbean App who is also anaphylatically allergic to cannabis, so Katja is feeling solidarity with you; Marissa, who gave us some questions about burdock and we’re going to get back to you I hope; Wild Bergamot, (who I think is also known as Monarda) who wrote us a review on iTunes and is apparently totally addicted to the podcast (don’t worry, that’s treatable); Grace Anne, who shared her story with us after listening to episode number 38–thank you very much; also Sherry, who’s looking for ghost pipe. This is a good time to just remind you, in case you’re new to the podcast, that ghost pipe is an at-risk plant, it’s important to harvest very carefully and conservatively, and that you only need one or three drops of tincture per dose because a tiny bit goes a long way. Finally, a shout out to ABohn7, who has questions about starting an herbal business. Well, we have answers for you. First of all, we have a nine month business mentorship program that you might love. It kicks off every year in mid January and you can find out about it on our website at CommonwealthHerbs.com/business. Plus, we’re doing a free live webinar about starting an herbal business on November 20th for the AHG. You can get all the details on their website, AmericanHerbalistsGuild.com. So, hi there! Let’s introduce you. Here we have Maureen, Hannah, and Lauren from Herbal Medics West Virginia, and it’s nice to see you guys again. This is year three? Maybe y’all could tell me just a little bit about yourselves, your connection to Naoma-Whitesville, this part of the state and Coal River Valley, and a little bit about what you get up to when you’re not herbal medic-ing and running free clinics for folks.

Maureen: 02:51 This is Maureen. My connection to this area is that I moved here, not actually Naoma but just a few miles down the road in Rock Creek, almost 10 years ago now. I lived here for a couple of years working with a community organization and also working on some anti-mountaintop removal campaigns. Since then (because I don’t do that anymore), I moved to the northern part of West Virginia, where I’ve been studying herbalism; a lot of my studies have been through Herbal Medics Academy. I’m an apprentice midwife these days, so I spend a lot of time trying to figure out where babies are located in people’s tummies, giving nutritional and herbal counseling, and things like that.

Ryn: 03:50 You had a couple that were maybe going to come out this weekend, but it seems like they’re holding off so far.

Maureen: 03:55 Yeah, so I’m on call. Sorry if I have to run.

Hannah: 03:59 Hi. I’m Hannah. I got involved with Coal River folks through Jen and Maureen. Probably about four years or so now I started working with Aurora Lights. We did a lot of the water relief during the Elk River chemical spill back in 2014. We were delivering water down here because these folks were at the end of the line for the water relief, so they weren’t getting any, and we decided to bring water from Morgantown down here and that’s how I started to meet folks down here. Jen and Maureen had been involved with the mountaintop removal for a while, so it’s really nice to get back in the community and do these herbal clinics because this is what our focus is on now through our relief efforts or our giving back. I’m up in Morgantown and I’ve been studying herbalism for about four years now through Sam Coffman with Herbal Medics and through Ryn and Katja with their online classes, which are absolutely amazing and I love them. It’s really great to be back here for a third year. I’m excited that we got to come back.

Lauren: 05:28 I’m Lauren and I am somewhat of a latecomer to the whole gig here. I started coming down to volunteer at the clinics down here and I’ve just been really very pleased to see the number of people that we’ve been able to help and just giving back to a community that really may not have as many resources. It’s amazing to be able to come down here and provide some assistance for people in the area that really need it. It’s a really great thing to do if you’re going to do any kind of work, making it be positive and to bring some good things into a community is really great.

Ryn: 06:03 When you’re not here, you’re doing animal rescue, yeah?

Lauren: 06:05 Yes. I run a nonprofit, Appalachian Peace Paws Rescue; we’re based out of Morgantown. I’m starting to do a little bit of work using herbs on animals. Not a whole lot, but I’m really getting into it and looking forward to talking to them more about ways that I can incorporate that and kind of blend my interests with studying herbalism to also helping out my animals as well.

Ryn: 06:30 We had a good chat earlier about that, but definitely some more on that should be coming. Mo and Hannah, you both mentioned the mountaintop removal situation and I wonder if you could give a brief talk about that to some folks on the podcast and maybe talk about where we’re staying right now.

Maureen: 06:51 Sure, I’ll give it a go at being concise here. Disclaimer: what I’m about to say may be presenting some controversial opinions here, so we’ll start with that. Mountaintop removal is a coal mining practice that is a type of surface mining, where the extraction of coal is focused on these smaller seams that are closer to the top of the mountain. In order to get them, companies often remove most or all of the material above that, and by “material” I mean soil, rocks, trees, animals and whatever else is above. As you might imagine, it’s really destructive not just to that one site (because once it’s removed it has to go somewhere else), but also to the places it needs to fill in. Then the entire process of mining coal, processing it, and all of that can lead to this whole cascade of toxins being released into the environment, which can be damaging to all of its inhabitants–animals, plants, humans, whoever’s here.

Ryn: 08:19 This gets into the reasons, some of the reasons anyway, why so many people here are so sick and need a lot of help.

Maureen: 08:30 And you did ask about where we are right now, so I’ll mention that. We are staying in the Judy Bonds Center. When I lived here, there were a whole bunch of different groups that were focused on environmental activism and there’s been some consolidation since then. We’re in this building that has housed at least one or more of those organizations, and it is a memorial to Judy Bonds. She was a Goldman Award recipient, and a really amazing woman that I had the privilege of knowing and working with, who certainly was the heart and soul of Coal River Mountain Watch, which is one of the community activist organizations that I interned with for awhile. An amazing powerhouse of a woman who sadly passed away from lung cancer, as so many people do who live in this area.

Ryn: 09:37 So there’s the direct environmental and toxic exposure that people have here, but one thing that made a big impact on me was the awareness that with that shift to the mountaintop removal mining, a lot of people lost their jobs; something like nine out of 10 people I understood.

Hannah: 10:05 Well, you just don’t need as many folks to run a mountaintop removal site as you do an underground coal mine, so there’s not as many job opportunities once you start to shift to that.

Ryn: 10:15 When I was here last year, we spoke with Junior a little bit and he was talking about how when he was young in this area, it was a lively town and there was a grocery store, a movie theater, and people around, and nowadays it’s not quite looking like that. That sort of economic and job opportunity loss has had a big impact on what people have access to. You know, it’s a food desert here right now and a medical care desert. So, these are some of the reasons why we wanted to get down here and have free clinics and this is our third year doing that. We just had a day to day–we had a free clinic day–and had some folks come by. It was nice to see some returners coming back.

Maureen: 11:11 Yeah, we’re super excited to see people coming back. Some (at least one person) for the third year.

Ryn: 11:21 Maybe we could talk just a minute about that and about some of the kinds of issues that we saw or things that we found that were helpful for folks in the area.

Maureen: 11:30 I’ll start and Hannah, maybe you should take it halfway somewhere, sound good? As I mentioned, in this area we see a lot of environmental toxins affecting people. We also see that culminating with a lack of access to healthcare and, for some folks, a lack of access to good nutrition. That’s actually kind of a funny mixed bag here because we have a number of people who still have the skills to farm, wildcraft, preserve their food, hunt, and things like that. Those are the people we talk to in clinic where we say, “Wow, you’re really doing pretty good. We’re glad you came in today, but you’re doing great–what’s your secret?” And they say, “Well I hunt, can, and I grow my own stuff”. Then there’re the folks who either don’t have those skills, don’t have time to do that, and they’re kind of stuck getting their groceries at Dollar General, RiteAid, or wherever is cheapest, fastest, or on the way to work. Thinking of all those factors together, we see a lot of gut problems, a lot of chronic pain, chronic sleep issues, especially because we do have a lot of folks who work the night shift here.

Ryn: 13:02 I feel like everybody that I’ve spoken to who’s come into clinic has been sleeping four hours maybe.

Hannah: 13:09 That seems like the norm here since we’ve started three years ago. Everybody has sleep issues. Touching on the gut issue, that’s what really got me the first time we came. I had a chance to sit down and talk with Dr Kyla Helm for a good while about gut health and in general getting raw foods into your diet to help with all of these different things. A lot of the symptoms that we were seeing with people were because of underlying gut issues, because there isn’t a lot of access to raw foods unless they garden or unless they want to drive 45 minutes to an hour one way to the grocery store that has raw food instead of just going to the convenient place that is accessible to them locally. We were excited to see that there is a small grocery store in Whitesville now. It has some fruits and veggies available, so hopefully that’s something that can be addressed and this community can get back. One thing that I really love (this isn’t an issue that we’ve been seeing, but a positive thing) is talking to people about digging roots, the plants that they saw their grandma using, their grandpa used to go dig this, or “Have you ever heard of yellowroot? Come on and sit down with us–look at all these other plants.”

Maureen: 14:52 Somebody asked me today if I’d ever chewed on a raw yellowroot in the woods. Yeah, I’ve done that.

Hannah: 15:00 It’s a nice way to connect with people. Before when we came down here, it was because of mountaintop removal activism and it’s more of a controversial issue and a heated subject. This is pretty neutral ground and we can have a pretty chill conversation with folks and just talk about plants, which we love to talk about.

Ryn: 15:23 And connect to some traditions and family stories.

Lauren: 15:26 I think it’s a big one. Since so many people’s relatives do that or did that, we’re able to talk to them and they’re really open, happy, and excited to take part in it and to try it because it’s something that’s kind of familiar to them, even if they don’t do it themselves now.

Maureen: 15:45 So, do you guys want to talk about some plants? [laughter, excitement] When we’re working with clients down here, we like to try to focus on herbs that might be accessible to them because we are in the heart of one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. It’s amazing. Constantly under threat and fighting for its life, but it’s here and it’s amazing, and a lot of the knowledge of how to find these plants is still here. When we’re doing consultations, what we’ve actually found is really fun is this interactive apothecary setup where we bring folks over to where we’re mixing up teas, we show them what we’ve got, we have them touch it, smell it, and mix it, we talk about where it grows–if it doesn’t grow here, is it easy to grow here, do they garden, etc–and try to make that really accessible. We talk about calendula a lot, especially with that gut health issue. It’s such a nice gentle herb for the digestive system that I’m pretty often saying, “How do you feel about calendula? Do you grow a garden? It grows really well right next to your tomatoes”. It’s also a really pretty herb and when we bring out the bag, we say to smell this, touch this, taste and see what you think, and people really pretty positively react to that.

Hannah: 17:24 I love talking to folks about the plants that grow in their yard naturally. “You ever heard of dandelion greens?” “Oh yeah, I’ve heard that’s pretty good for you.” “Go out there and pick some, eat them.” Dandelion, burdock, cleavers.

Lauren: 17:46 I’m big into plantain. I love introducing that one to people, because it grows everywhere and they say, “That thing? That’s a weed!”

Ryn: 17:57 Damn right it is. [laughter] That means a resilient herb that you’re not going to run out of.

Maureen: 18:04 Not so much this year yet (we still have another clinic day) but definitely last year, we ended up talking about wild lettuce a lot. Incidentally it was really wet, it was summertime, and I remember right next to the building here we had this nine foot tall lactuca plant hanging out, watching the clinic happen. [laughter] The funny thing is, I don’t know where all of you guys live out there in podcast land, maybe the only time you see this plant is out of the crack of a sidewalk, but here where we get a lot of rain, wild lettuce grows like a skyscraper and it is super strong, really amazingly resilient, and it just towers above everything else. It’s a really triumphant plant here. It was really nice to have some conversations with folks who had some chronic pain issues or sleep issues and say, “You know that weed in your yard? Let’s talk about how you can make a tincture”. A friend of ours who lives here actually went home, made a tincture, and brought it back in to show us what he was doing.

Ryn: 19:23 He did, he gave us some. We took that home. I save that for special cases because it’s a quality tincture. It’s a good one, made in whiskey. [laughter] One of the things that we have needed to deal with here in free clinic, today and in the last couple of years, is that many folks who come also have a relationship with conventional medicine and in many cases has been an ongoing thing. They’ve had a complex, multilayered, chronic illness develop over many years and that means lots of medications. Do you guys want to share any thoughts on dealing with that kind of issue in a free clinic setting?

Hannah: 20:11 Sure. I definitely sat in on a few folks today that were on medication and had to take medication for the symptoms from their other medication. They were irritated because they realized that the medication was just treating symptoms, it wasn’t treating any underlying cause, and they were hoping that they could come in and talk to us and we could give them some direction on what is actually the underlying thing that needs to be addressed instead of treating the symptoms with all these medications. There’s a trickle down effect of “Well, now I have 10 medications that I have to take because of all these symptoms, when I could have just treated the issue”. It’s nice to be able to sit down with folks and see the overall health of their body and talk to them about their diet, sleep, and lifestyle and see what we can do to help them with plants to not take the place of medications, but hopefully be less reliant on those medications.

Maureen: 21:26 It’s a unique challenge and something that I don’t face in my home community doing consultations. It really makes you think about the whole way you’re doing this consultation in a totally different light. I remember last year, maybe even you [Ryn] were sitting in on this with me, and I talked to this man and asked “Are you on any medications?” And he said, “Yeah, here’s my list”, which was awesome. If you’re on a bunch of medications, maybe you should have list in your wallet just in case something happens to you. It was a really good idea. But I looked at it and just thought I do not know what any of these are. We are not pharmacists. As Ryn and Katja say, we are not doctors, but we are especially not pharmacists and we don’t know what these are. That doesn’t mean we can’t work with this person. That just means we look and say, “It’s really great that you’ve got this healthcare provider that you’re working with. Can you tell me a little bit more about what these medications are doing for you? What does your doctor intend them to do for you?”, and really digging into that. Asking if that’s the conventional use for this medicine, if that’s an off label use, if this is how this is normally used, and providing as much honesty and transparency as you can and having no misgivings, like letting them know we’re not totally sure if all of these herbs do or don’t interact with medication, there isn’t a study for this particular herb or that one.

Ryn: 23:08 You’re never going to see a study that says, “If you’re taking X, Y, Z, Q, R, L pharmaceuticals and you put these ten herbs in a formula and give that in the context of this diet and this lifestyle…” You’re never going to find that information, so you have to say, “This is what we understand about what the herb does and how, this is what we understand about what the drugs you’ve got do and how, and put that together and be cautious. You know, be careful, but at some point you have to try some things.

Maureen: 23:40 Like Hannah said, then having a really heavy focus on trying to do your interview really well and really thoroughly and try to help these folks think about their health problems in ways that help them really deeply understand it. Then make very smart lifestyle, dietary, and those kinds of recommendations outside of herbs and medication that might help them–if it’s their goal to try and get off medication at some point, that’s great, and if it’s not–just have a better quality of life.

Hannah: 24:17 I think it’s also nice to have an outsider’s perspective. You tell them your lifestyle and your daily routine and they can give you recommendations that you don’t necessarily think of for yourself. “Maybe I do need to establish a better sleep routine of getting ready for bed earlier and putting away the devices, making a nice little pot of tea, calming down, and maybe that actually will help me get to sleep a little quicker.” Just having somebody take the time to sit there, talk to you, and actually care about some things that could help you (aside from plants), making these recommendations like eating more vegetables.

Maureen: 25:07 Or just saying, “It sounds like when we’ve talked about exercise, it’s something you don’t think you can do, but let’s think about it in a different way. Do you have a patch of wild flowers 40 steps from your house? Most people around here do. Why don’t you walk there and smell the flowers and walk back twice a day. That counts as exercise! Do you vacuum your house? Do you have kids that you chase all day? That counts as exercise.” [laughter]

Lauren: 25:39 A lot of people don’t realize that the small things they do or don’t do in their daily life really can have a strong impact on their health and the way things are going. If you need a medication for something, we don’t want you to stop taking it; we certainly don’t want to take the place of your doctor. But there are things that you can do–especially if you’ve been living with an ‘all or nothing’ kind of approach to exercise and eating healthy–you can make small changes in any area of your life that make a difference. A lot of people don’t really think of it that way, so having someone say, “Chasing your kids around more could help make things better for you.” [laughter] And they say, “I didn’t really think of it that way, but yes, I think I can.” Then that little thing can make a really big difference.

Ryn: 26:28 There’s a study that I really liked and Science Direct, or some site like that, had a little summary of it. Their headline was like “Taking the Stairs and Raking the Yard is Just as Good as Going to the Gym”. And now let’s think about climbing a tree, crawling on all fours, and getting some other kinds of movement in your life, like play.

Lauren: 26:53 Not all people have time to go to the gym. There’s all sorts of things you can do to move your body well that can be a really great workout for you.

Ryn: 27:01 One of our team members here has a 14-year-old son and he shanghaied me a couple of times today to go climb all over the playgrounds, jump on things, and play little parkour games here and there. I was thankful, I need a prompt for this and I like to move around. You just have to take that opportunity when it presents itself. But that came up a bunch of times, the idea that the herbs can do a lot on their own, but there’re also places where they can help people to establish good habits. Like with the sleep herbs, where we give them instructions that say how you’re going to take it: you’re going figure out when you want to go to bed {which is a great first step), and then an hour before that time, you start with the pulse dosing. So, you take a small amount of your sleep tincture, you wait a half hour, you take another, wait another half hour, now it’s actually bedtime, so you take your last dose and you go to bed. That does make the herbs themselves work better, but it also reminds people that they’re trying to go to bed soon, and then they’re more likely to turn the lights down or get away from the TV, the phone, or whatever else. I think there was another example kind of like that?

Maureen: 28:16 I think we were talking about panic attacks

Ryn: 28:19 With the breathing, yeah.

Maureen: 28:20 I was actually counseling a student herbalist who was trying to figure out something for a friend of hers at home who has pretty frequent panic attacks. We’d spent all this time talking about the herbs, which herbs, and what was appropriate, and at the end of it I said (because this person isn’t here with us; I can’t really ask them all these energetic questions and things like that. We’re not totally going to know until they try it) what’s more important is that you give them a routine that’s going to help regardless of whether the herbs do. Say with a panic attack, we’ve got this blend of nervines that might help and hopefully will, we’re going to give instructions like, “when you feel the first warning signs of this panic attack and you get used to knowing what those first signs are, you take half a dropperful, and then you take 10 breaths, you start from one and you count up to 10, then you take another half dropperful, take five breaths, and then another half dropperful,” and just have this whole routine. Write it on the back of the bottle if you have to, so it’s in her pocket all the time. Something that is regular and reliable, that in itself without the herbs should really help to calm her body and mind during a panic attack.

Ryn: 30:04 I love strategies like that. They’re so good, they get all of the pieces coming together and that makes me really happy. Any other thoughts y’all want to share?

Maureen: 30:22 We talked about how we have these unique challenges here and if you live in West Virginia, it won’t surprise you to hear that we have a very significant substance abuse problem in this state. I’m going to invite you guys to chime in with me also, I’m talking kind of a lot.

Ryn: 30:45 It’s hardly West Virginia, right? It’s all over and it’s in any community anywhere at this point. You know, it’s maybe not as visible in some places, but it is around. It’s the thing I’ve seen a lot of herbalists trying to grapple with in the last bunch of years.

Lauren: 31:02 I think it’s a really big problem because there’s still a stigma where you shouldn’t do it. It’s bad, it’s negative, it’s wrong, you’re a bad person. People really need to wake up and realize that this kind of a problem can affect anyone of any lifestyle anywhere, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a criminal person that’s doing this, it could be anyone that you know, it could be a member of your family and you might not even realize it. So, one really important step would be to take that stigma away and focus on what can we do about this problem, because as we look at the numbers, it’s obviously a really big deal, and the more we learn about it, the more we realize how widespread it is. Trying to come up with a problem that isn’t just ‘bad’; you really have to find some other way to look at it before you can even begin to tackle it. There’s so much that needs to be done that I feel like any step we could take to move in a positive direction would be a really good one.

Hannah: 32:13 It’s a really hard topic and it’s a really sad thing, but the past few times we’ve been coming down here, we’ve seen a whole lot of chronic pain. Chronic pain is a very big thing in this area in West Virginia. We have very hard-working folks that work all the time. Health insurance is not a big thing around here and healthcare is a scarce thing, too. So, to deal with the pain, you have to go different routes and sometimes it leads you on a different path than what you would like. But that’s one thing that I’m happy that we can help with at clinics is that chronic pain issue, to maybe give some type of alternative to folks.

Ryn: 33:10 We’ve had some decent successes with that. The approach that I tend to take, and I’d love to hear how you guys think about it, is usually a combination thing. It’s get something topical to rub into the places that hurt the most, often a linament. My standard linament is going to be with some solomon’s seal, maybe some St John’s wort oil, maybe some willow bark, I like to get a little touch of cayenne and lobelia in there. A few other things might show up, but something topical. Either that, or the “sprain and strain” salve we’ve been using so much.

Maureen: 33:49 We just made a fresh batch today. [laughter]

Ryn: 33:53 Yeah, it’s a bunch of heating herbs. How’d you make it today?

Maureen: 33:56 Okay, let me think. [laughter] I had to make some substitutions today. Let’s see, I’ve definitely got cayenne in there. In case you’re wondering how you can make a salve at home, I used a little crock-pot today that magically has the right temperature on ‘warm’. I had to experiment with all the crock-pots I had with thermometers, so I have this little one that travels with me and is just for salves. A good recommendation: if you’re making salve, just stick to one set of pots and utensils. So, I started definitely with cayenne, I had some yarrow, St John’s wort oil, willow.

Lauren: 34:44 Lobelia?

Maureen: 34:45 We were out of lobelia. [laughter] I would have liked to. I put comfrey, and I know I put juniper and ginger essential oils at the end. And arnica, it definitely had arnica in there. Maybe one or two other things, but that’s kind of the gist of it.

Ryn: 35:10 So, the topical side and then something internally as well. Sometimes that’s with herbs to directly get at the pain, something like Jamaican dogwood, sometimes we might put some ghost pipe in there.

Maureen: 35:22 Sometimes we find that it’s not actually the pain itself that’s the issue, but it’s that the pain keeps them from sleeping or the pain keeps them from X, Y, or Z. They might not really want something to directly address that pain, but they want something to be able to function during certain times of the day, week, or whatever.

Ryn: 35:43 If it’s pain that’s interfering with sleep, then my go-to there is wild lettuce.

Maureen: 35:48 I really like passionflower too, those mix pretty nicely.

Ryn: 35:55 Sometimes it’s also just that we need to get the blood moving in the body again, we need to get it out to the periphery. Things like prickly ash, sometimes damiana, cayenne once again ( a pretty keystone herb), things like that to get it moving. After that, it’s just looking at the person and their patterns. If there’s a lot of stagnation, maybe we drink some fluids, if they’re really dry, maybe we get some more moisture into the body.

Maureen: 36:26 This approach doesn’t change whether or not somebody is on a prescription painkiller or a non-prescription painkiller. If they’re getting opioids off the street, we do not change our approach for them. We still go through this full clinical and try to get at the heart of their chief complaint, what’s really keeping them from functioning, and what’s the best way that we can work with them to help them heal. If we’re looking at somebody that is taking something for their pain that’s not a prescription and they’ve got this abusive problem with it, often we’re looking at how we can help them get more micronutrients, too. But instead of just saying, “Here’s this great tea with oat straw and nettle”, or whatever, we do have to ask the questions, “Do you have somewhere to prepare this? Is this a thing that you can do, sit down and make a tea, every day?” Because the only clean safe space that they might have to prepare food might not be somewhere that they’re welcome anymore, and that presents a challenge, too. So, maybe teas are out, maybe alcoholic tinctures are out if you do have a substance abuse problem, we make a glycerite, maybe we can walk them through making their own molasses-based supplement with a bunch of nutrients in it, maybe a honey infusion. Something that works for them because, despite whatever drug problems they might have, despite whatever they’ve done because of that, they’re still humans that deserve our care.

Lauren: 38:18 That’s something I really loved about the clinic was that when we had people that said, “I can’t go here”, or “I can’t necessarily go see my doctor because I don’t want them to know this is what I’m doing”, we were still able to treat them like a person and give something that would really be truly beneficial to them. Even if they had been unable to or afraid to seek help elsewhere.

Ryn: 38:42 That’s good work. Well, maybe we should talk a little about our plan for tomorrow, because that’s going to be a bit different from what we’ve done in previous years.

Maureen: 38:54 It’s going be fun.

Hannah: 38:56 We’re going to drive up the mountain. [laughter]

Ryn: 39:00 What’s going on up there? They’ve been up there this weekend, right?

Hannah: 39:03 Yeah. RAMPS is hosting their fall summit up on Kayford mountain, a place that is near and dear to all of our hearts. It’s nice to go back up to Kayford, I don’t get there very often, but it’s a very great place to see mountaintop removal mining up close and really get a look at the scale of the mountaintop removal operations. Because you can see pictures and video of it, but until you actually stand there and you’re looking out into the wasteland and then you see a telephone pole out there that looks like a little tiny toothpick, you see this is enormous. It is a big deal. Mo, would you like to talk about Kayford?

Maureen: 40:04 Sure, I can talk about it a little bit. Another late friend of ours, Larry Gibson, used to live up on top of Kayford mountain. When they started surface mining up there, he began this organization called Keeper of the Mountains in order to educate folks about what was going on. He would travel and bring big tour groups in and walk them right up to the edge of the minesight. Anyway, another total spitfire personality that we’re really sad to have lost in the last couple years. His family is continuing the work through Keeper of the Mountains and they’re working with our friends at RAMPS. They’re having this fall summit in order to educate folks about what’s going on over here and see if they can organize something with them; some kind of protest or something sometimes follows. We have a whole bunch of wonderful folks that are freezing their butts off on top of the mountain this weekend–because they’re camping on a mountain top in October in West Virginia, which sometimes is a really pleasant experience and sometimes you get frostbite. [laughter]

Ryn: 41:34 We’re looking at forties daytime tomorrow.

Maureen: 41:38 I think it’s been really solidly in the thirties at night.

Lauren: 41:41 There’s a freeze watch, isn’t there?

Maureen: 41:43 Yeah. [laughter] We’re toasty in this building right now, but we’re going to get up nice and early and drive all of our herbs up a pretty crazy road, it’s going to be a good adventure. Ryn is giving me a funny look right now, I wish you guys could see it. [laughter] We’re going to set up a clinic in an old army tent, where we may or may not have heat, we’ll sort of have electricity maybe in the pavilion, probably not in the tent–we’ll have to play all of that sort of thing by ear. So, we’ll be running this clinic without a lot of our creature comforts and without those ways to help folks. We’re going to be dealing with a lot of very cold activists…

Ryn: 42:36 Who maybe haven’t been prioritizing self care for a little while. [laughter]

Maureen: 42:40 Totally, it’s pretty common thing. Hopefully we can help them with whatever they’d like us to.

Ryn: 42:51 I’m feeling excited about this, because supporting the people who are on the ground, putting themselves on the line, or putting themselves in front, that’s always a really nice feeling. It’s a nice way to kind of magnify your efforts, get a little multiplier going on in there; that should be fun. Presumably we should sleep tonight, so we’ll probably wrap it up there. Is there any particular way that you’d like for folks to get in touch with you all, to support the work that you guys are doing in your own communities and down here?

Maureen: 43:29 You could send us a Facebook message. I hate to say it, but it’s kind of the easiest way to get in touch with our organization. So, you can look for West Virginia Herbal Medics on Facebook and probably one of us in the room here will be responding if you send us a message. We pretty reliably send out announcements about stuff we’re doing on there and ways to get involved.

Hannah: 43:55 I personally prefer mail by carrier pigeon, but Facebook works. [laughter]

Lauren: 44:25 But in all seriousness, please do reach out to us if there’s anything that we can help with.

Ryn: 44:33 Alright, well thanks very much. It was great to talk to you, and for you all out there in podcast land, thanks for listening and we’ll be back next week. See you then.

Everyone: 44:48 Bye!


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