7Song has been enamored with herbalism since the early 80’s. He sees herbal medicine as an excellent blending of two favorite activities: studying nature and helping community.
From the community end, 7Song is director and teaches at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in Ithaca, NY – an endeavor he began in 1992. He also practices as a Western Clinical Herbalist at the Ithaca Free Clinic, which is one of a few integrated free clinics with an herbalist on staff. This has been an excellent avenue to help make herbal medicine more affordable, accessible, and to help those who know little of it.
On the naturalist side, he studies to learn the names of all living things he encounters from plants and insects to reptiles. 7Song also likes to take photos of these encounters, accurately label them, and share them on his website and on Facebook.
We are so excited to have 7Song share his wealth of experience as a clinical herbalist, botanist, and teacher with us at Rootstalk. Enjoy our interview!
1. What classes will you be teaching at Rootstalk this year?
Herbalists and Herbalism at Free Clinics
This is an informal talk for herbalists interested in bringing herbal medicine to free clinics. It will focus on my work at the Ithaca Free Clinic over the past 5 years and will include practical suggestions such as how to procure medicines, working with patients, working with staff, making patients’ medicines, useful equipment, and the like. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers.
Plants Around Us – A Walk through the 4-H Center
We will look at botanical detail, clinical uses, interesting tidbits, and other aspects of the plants we encounter around the facilities, taking a closer look at plants and natural phenomena.
2. What is one of the most powerful moments you have experienced in the wild or through your work?
Two times come to mind. The first is when I am wildcrafting a plant, and have spent time seeking it out, making sure there is enough to harvest, finding a comfortable place to set up camp and prepare medicines, and then…gathering the plant in some beautiful far-off place just feeling my surroundings and glad to be a part of a tradition where this aspect is still present.
Also, when someone with a long-term chronic condition gets clear relief from herbal medicine. I know I shouldn’t admit it, but each time a person has a dramatic positive change in their health, I am surprised and once again, glad to be of service as an herbalist.
3. What is your primary environmental concern?
That is a tough one to answer as asked and it will be clear that I am not of the optimistic persuasion. I think my primary environmental concern is about many people’s lack of respect for each other and the environment. Until this happens, it seems we will degrade, degrade, degrade until a catastrophe hits. And later, we will begin our damage anew.
4. What can people do to help combat this in their community?
There is a lot we can do to help in our communities. While many people take the fight to the point of impact (i.e., West Virginia to help stop mountain top removal), or to raise community awareness through classes, I try to do it by teaching about herbal medicine. While this may just be the mutterings of a cynical activist, I feel that making a direct connection can be helpful, such as; ‘I picked this Actaea from a beautiful spot in West Virginia,’ hoping that it registers a connection between people and plants. But I don’t patronize about this, my patients are here for treatment not environmental awareness seminars.
But also while teaching classes, whether it is about wildcrafting or heath care, there are plenty of opportunities to help people see how important keeping proper ecological balance is. However, all this is limited in that many people who choose herbal medicine as a study or way to health, often have a good notion of this. Sigh.
5. Are there any projects that you are working on and would like to share?
Making herbal medicine affordable and assessable are both important to me. I have been working as a Western Clinical Herbalist at the Ithaca Free Clinic here in Ithaca, New York for the past 6 years. The first year was organizing the clinic and the past 5 years treating patients. It has been a valuable learning experience for me as an herbalist and for the many patients I have seen. Getting a less media-saturated view of herbal medicine, as well as taking plant-based medicines for their various health conditions is empowering. It’s an idea I hope to teach others about, to let herbalists see how we can help in this way.
I also help at Natural Doctor’s International (NDI) in Nicaragua, run by Tabatha Parker ND, a person I am honored to know and work with.
Mostly, I hope other herbalists consider who their community is, and how they can best help.
6. What do you hope to experience at Rootstalk this first year?
Networking is a primary reason I travel and meet people, trade ideas, and learn different ways of looking at things. And also to have some fun and late night discussions.
7. What is your favorite plant and why?
This is a question I have been being asked for about 30 years and I still don’t have an answer other than the one in front of me.
For more information about 7Song's amazing work, visit: