Heal, Locally

by Colleen Leonardi 
Photos courtesy of Dawn and Carson Combs of Mockingbird Meadows 

A “100-mile healthcare” approach to medicine with Dawn Combs of Mockingbird Meadows 

What would it look like if families around the country looked to their backyard garden for first-aid care before they ran to the drug store? And what would it look like if local farmers grew herbs alongside their vegetables for people to use as medicine?

Local author and homestead herbalist, Dawn Combs, of Mockingbird Meadows in Marysville, Ohio is asking these very questions. After Dawn’s husband, Carson, requested she write down her herbal remedies for the family so he could access them quickly and easily when Dawn was away or ill, Dawn wanted to offer a book to people so they could use her same remedies at home. Enter Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare. Releasing this week, it offers over 200 pages of easy herbal solutions for everything from pneumonia to high blood pressure.

I spoke with Dawn about her book and what she wants readers to know about her vision for a “Heal Local movement” across the country. Read on as she shares her powerful ideas and offers a DIY recipe from her book for first-time users looking to dive into herbal home healthcare.

Salads can be so much more than lettuce.  Learn how to wildcraft in your own yard to make your next one colorful and more healthful.

Why now for this “Heal Local” concept? What makes this the right time for people to learn about using local foods and plants as medicine?

I think the local food movement has progressed to a point where local is no longer trendy and new—it’s become more mainstream and accepted. That makes it a lot easier because the local food movement isn’t fighting that first battle into the public consciousness.

It’s a really logical time for me to say—the food is the ground. When I teach using the plants for health I always teach about the food first. I believe it’s foundational. You can use parsley all day long, but unless you change your diet overall and the way you’re living your life, it’s only going to have a minimal impact. So the food has to come first. The next step into living a completely vibrant, healthy life is to now incorporate the health side of it, like “Oh, I have a headache,” or “I cut myself,”—the simple things we deal with day in and day out we don’t source locally. And I think that’s crazy.

What is homegrown first-aid?

From the first-aid standpoint, I would recommend people grow plants that they’re already familiar with. Having something growing in your garden that you know about gives you a relationship with that plant. It’s not that big of a stretch, then, to applying it to a bleed. It’s there, it’s growing, it’s pretty, it’s next to your peppers—great, I cut myself while I was pruning and I can cut a piece of the plant and put it on. It’s not a leap. It’s not this “Now, I’m going to think about medicine.”

We don’t need to make that compartmentalization with the herbs. What are you already growing? What can be used? Let’s learn about the plants that we’re already using in our gardens, in our food, and deepen our relationship with them rather than trying to create new relationships with them.

Commonly overlooked herbs such as Red Clover (Trifolium praetense) are great in tea blends or on a salad to add vibrant color and sweetness.

Right, it’s about what you already love and what you’re already growing that can be used as medicine.

Yes, that’s why I’m introducing a small apothecary model. It’s not about knowing 5,000 plants and knowing about the latest ones coming out of the rainforest. Only knowing a few plants really well and putting them in your food, taking them into your body—I mean if you start using sage, brown butter sage. I spent a whole month on sage. I ate it and I made this brown butter that went over my sunny side eggs. It was phenomenal. I was deepening my relationship with foods. I wasn’t trying to hold it away from me and say, “Sage, is good for hot flashes.” I was taking it into my body to learn more about it.

I think when we bring food into our body it’s an intimate knowing. We’re asking that food to make up our cells. We’re asking the grass-fed beef to make up our next skin cells. When we bring the herb into our food we’re asking it to come into our bodies to make up our bodies. That’s what we’re missing when we have this tome of 10,000 herbs and people think you have to know all these herbs to heal your body. No, you could know sage and elder and that could be enough.

Mockingbird Meadows Herbal Health Farm provides courses and apprenticeships to learn in-depth about healing herbs.

How would you guide someone who wants to find the herbs they love and start using them for healing for the first time? Where should they start?

I would start looking for recipes. I would play. That’s a guiding word for me—play. You’re not going to play with goldenseal. It doesn’t taste good. I’m not going to be mixing it up with my balsamic reduction carrots. That’s a much stronger medicine that we need only at certain times.

Play with the tonics. I’m juicing parsley and apples in the morning for adrenal and thyroid support. Playing with recipes in the kitchen helps you find who you love and who you don’t love. You date them. You find out about them. You taste them. Because I’ve dated sage I can taste when I have a sage tea that’s off because I’ve spent time with it. You begin to be able to identify the herb because you’ve spent time with the plant.

Go outside. Go to a garden center. Sit with the plants. What colors speak to you? What textures speak to you? If we answer those impulses rather than ignoring them, we’re better off.

How do you want to empower people with your book Heal Local?

I want people to be able to know their bodies. I want people to begin to feel that they are allowed to know their bodies. There is nothing wrong with sitting quietly and assessing the situation at home. I think it’s inappropriate to say, “Herbal medicine is the only way to go and, therefore, we can’t use Western medicine,” because there are dangerous situations and we need to keep that in mind, always. But in simple situations we don’t sit down and think quietly. We need to take our power back within the family. It’s scary. It’s a lot of responsibility. But I think it’s where it belongs. And I think we get to know our bodies much better. I want families to be able to take this in and know their bodies enough to live their best, vibrant life and use Western medicine appropriately.

Techniques for using herbs can be as simple as letting the sun work its magic like for this simple rose glycerite.

Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare is out in bookstores and available with online booksellers. Learn more about Dawn and her mission at mockingbirdmeadows.com.

A DIY Recipe from Dawn

These candies are very versatile and can be a vehicle for almost any herbal combination you might want to use for family wellness. In this case, the herbs in the recipe are common additions to natural memory and brain enhancement formulas. Why swallow a pill when you can taste a delicious treat and get more nutrition to boot?! Powdered herbs are convenient and easy to obtain through such online retailers as Mountain Rose Herbs. If you already have your herbs at home, though, just grab a coffee grinder and powder them yourself! Dawn Combs

Memory Candy
Makes approximately 10
(Inspired by Rosemary Gladstar’s “Jump for Joy Balls”) 

¾ cup tahini
¼ cup nut butter
½ cup raw honey
1 ounce Gotu Kola (Centenella asiatica)
1 ounce Ginkgo (Gingkgo biloba)
½ ounce Sage (Salvia officinalis)
½ ounce Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
½ tablespoon cinnamon
½ a handful of dried cranberries
½ cup chopped chocolate or carob chips
Pinch of coconut (optional)
Chopped nuts for rolling (optional)
Cocoa to thicken and for rolling 

1. Mix 1 cup of mixed nut butters of your choice together with ½ cup of raw honey until thick.

2. Choose a single herb powder or a combination of herb powders to equal about 3 ounces.

3. Stir the powders into the nut butter until the mixture is a dough-like consistency.

4. Add in a handful of dried fruit, coconut, and/or chopped nuts as desired.

5. Scoop walnut sized balls of candy out and roll them round in your hands.

6. Coat in cocoa powder, roll in coconut, dip in chocolate, or just leave naked.

7. Store in the refrigerator.

8. Eat one to three a day as needed or desired.