By JESSICA WILT, The Journal
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Sacred Roots’ Hillary Banachowski laughed as she looked upon the field filled with medicinal herbs at her home in Shepherdstown, joking that stinging nettles were her “gateway” herb.
Using herbal remedies for roughly two decades, Bananchowski is ready to share her knowledge and love for herbal remedies on a deeper level, as she seeks organizations to partner with for classes to grow, harvest and learn about the healing properties of herbs. She is seeking local organizations such as women’s shelters, soup kitchens, recovery centers and places that assist individuals who are struggling.
“At 53 years old, I don’t take aspirin. I don’t take cough medicine. I don’t take anything,” Banachowski said. “I’m 53 and have been using herbal remedies for 20 years — only plants.
“Stinging nettles, which of course grow everywhere, were like my first plant that introduced me to herbs many years ago. I had terrible allergies. I had inhalers. I took shots. I had surgery. I was miserable. One day, someone was like, ‘Have you tried stinging nettles?’ ‘Oh my God, I feel like a human being again.’”
For the classes, Banachowski will either go to the location and help build raised beds, or, if possible, students could come to her garden. From here, the group will talk about regenerative agriculture, plant either seeds or small plants, tend and harvest them together and teach about herbal remedies and how to use them.
“So, by the time my time is done, they have a thriving wellness garden that can help them if they’re tired or congested, or they can’t sleep or whatever,” Banachowski said.
Banachowski’s preferred way to use herbal remedies is through tinctures — when finely chopped dried or fresh herbs infused in 100-proof vodka or brandy over a period of time — but she explained there’s many ways to find the benefits of the remedies, from teas to soups to eat raw.
She spoke of dandelions, which can be found virtually anywhere, and their benefits for gut health, and lemon balm and its uses for depression and antiviral benefits.
“There’s no conversation in mainstream media about boosting your natural immunity,” Banachowski said. “People who have lived in Appalachia for thousands of years, they’ve known how to keep their immune systems strong with pokeberries and all kinds of stuff.
“Part of the process of when I teach people, wherever it is, is about empowering you. My goal is to empower you to be like, ‘I know these five plants that grow in my apartment complex, in a crack in the sidewalk, and I can use these in a safe and healthy way and not be afraid and keep my immune system strong.’”
She added that not only do the herbs themselves offer health benefits but so, too, does the process of tending to the plants and connection with the Earth, all of which can have a positive effect for someone looking to overcome struggles.
Helping others overcome struggles is no new business to Banachowski, who spent her earlier years in the social work field, where she loved connecting with people from all walks off life. It was then she realized the importance of helping others feel human and feel important once again.
“The one thing people said to me, ‘Hillary, you are the first person in the social work world who has respected me and treated me like a human being,’” she said.
Learning about herbal remedies also gives access to health benefits for those who may not have access to more traditional methods of care.
“I want to combine my love for the plants, herbal remedies and make it accessible for people,” Banachowski said. “If you don’t have health care, and you don’t have money, herbs should be your No. 1 go-to. They’re usually free, and they’re everywhere. My intention is to find a few partners in the community.”
Banachowski assured green space isn’t needed to partner with her, offering her own space, or to help build raised beds. She said she is seeking grant funding and would love to work with partners to share the cost.
Anyone interested in partnering with Banachowski can reach her via the Sacred Roots website at www.sacredrootswv.com.
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