Seeding A Beautiful Future

Grow your herbal knowledge from the ground (and seed) up!

ONLINE HERBALISM COURSE

Taught by Steven Martyn, MA (Traditional Plant Use)
Growing – Culinary – Medicine

This online herbalism course is an offering to seed a beautiful future for your land, for your family and community, and for you.

Runs March 7 – June 20

Introductory Fee Available until  March 1 (50% of the regular fee! First tier only | mailing tinctures and seeds are a fixed cost

4 MONTHS OF HERBAL LORE: 20 HERBS IN 16 WEEKS;  to birth you back into the culture of the Earth.

Come with me on a 16 week herbal journey, where you will come to know 20 magical beings that likely already live in your neighbourhood. Likely, because most of them came with the settlers and spread out as a healing balm in the cutting wake of colonization. Some of these herbs were brought accidentally by our domestic animals, others like a living blessing were brought from the old world by our wise ancestors, those who still knew the old herbal ways before the age of science and allopathic medicine. These plants are our legacy and in connecting with them we become connected to the land where we live and to our ancestral cultures.

Amazingly, these plants not only continue to heal this beautiful land in the wake of our ongoing destruction, but they are the very ones we need to heal us (those with a settler’s industrialized diet). These ‘wild’ plants can feed us with a deeper mineral rich nutrition than anything you can buy in the grocery store or market. And through their complex medicinal alchemy they can keep us healthy and give us strong immunity by toning, balancing and cleansing our organs, glands and blood. They can also aid or completely heal innumerable acute and chronic ailments.

I’m focusing on these common ‘colonial’ herbs in this course in part to undermine the colonial/industrial idea that we need rare exotic herbs to stay healthy or heal. Nothing could be further from the truth. These ‘common’ herbs are a custom made gift. Not one that we have to earn or look for, but one that our ancestors paid for and that’s been waiting at our doorstep our whole lives. Waiting for us to discover it and unwrap it.

Not only will I teach you to ‘unwrap’ each plant’s medicine but in learning this very useful art you become part of a living legacy of herbalism that co-evolved who we are. A legacy that stretches back at least 16 thousand years to the Mesolithic era, and likely much much longer. Our older relatives who were here on the Earth long before us like Bears, Deer and Wolves, used and taught the first humans about many plants.

Who am I to be teaching Traditional Herbalism?

The real basis of any claim I have to teach herbalism isn’t through accreditation, it comes from my direct experience and relationship to these plants, many of which I’ve known for forty years. Their power as healers and transformers has saved and improved my own life, and countless others who I have healed directly or passed the plant knowledge onto.

I come from a line of doctors, pharmacists, seers and master gardeners. From my grandfather’s tutelage I knew all the trees in my region by the time I was 8. When I was 19, as soon as I could, I “dropped out” completely disillusioned with the city and society and lived like a hermit in the woods for four years. During that time the plants began to find me. I imagine most people learn about medicinal plants by looking in a book and then going out and finding the plant or just buying it. But at that age I wasn’t even interested in medicine, I was just trying to survive and eat anything I could. So I interacted with all the plants, looking, smelling and tasting them. That’s how the most of the medicine plants found me. Others come to me in the dreamtime.

In that moment of deep connection with the ‘star essence’ or spirit of the plant, my ancestors and the old ones of this land claimed me back. Now I have an obligation to the plants to take care of them, and to those unseen old ones to pass the knowledge on. This is the difference between a “medicine carrier” and a “clinical herbalist”, that only knows how to ‘use’ the plants for healing.

Everything I’ve done in my life has followed the trajectory that was set for me, and that bloomed from the seeds that were planted in that time.

Of relevance; I co-created the first “green” landscaping company in Toronto “Livingstone and Greenbloom” that specialized in converting lawns into gardens; received an M.A. from Trent University on traditional plant use in the Southern Algonquin Bioregion; learnt the art of homesteading; Co-created the first “bioregional” tea company in North America “Algonquin Tea Company”; taught about “wild plant identification and use” at Algonquin College and in workshops internationally for more than a decade; In 2014 co-created the Sacred Gardener School; 2017 wrote and published “The Madawaska Forest Garden”, “Sacred Gardening” in 2018, and in 2022 “The Roundhouse.”

 

WHO THIS COURSE IS FOR
  • This course is for any human, from 8 years old up, who wants to know more about and feel more connected to their local plants and ecology.
  • This course is for people who want to stay healthy and heal by using local herbs that they grow and forage.
  • This course is for people who want a sense of their ancestral perspective and an understanding of traditional herbalism.
  • This course is for People who want sovereignty from our industrial systems of food and medicine.
  • This course is for those who want to feel empowered by stepping into the world of practical herbalism right away, using herbs that surround us, as opposed to waiting until you have your herbalist degree, after years of theoretical training.
WHO THIS COURSE IS NOT FOR
  • If you are a well rounded herbalist and you have years of experience working with your local herbs as food and medicine this course not made for you. (Although I would fit the above description and I know the depth of my knowledge will only grow deeper from going through this course with you).
  • If you are very academic and scientifically minded and looking for a clinical herbalist course, and not interested in ‘the spiritual’ or traditional aspects of herbalism, this course is not for you. (Although I’m sure you’d still gain a great deal of practical information if you could endure my non-academic approach)
  • If you are perfectly happy with how you get your food and medicine and the condition of the planet this course is not for you. (Although you likely need my highly critical perspective on modernity more than anyone)
  • This is not a course to become a “certified” herbalist, nor is it complete in its scope of useful plants.
Elecampane in Flower
GRAND CLAIMS AND WARNINGS
  • This course will not only steep you in the knowledge and experience of the 20 plants we’re going to grow and work with, as well as re-awaken an instinctive “shamanic” way to work with any plants or healing agents for the rest of your life. And this ability will enable you to grow your herbal knowledge on your own to other levels, naturally expanding your knowledge to suit your needs and your ecology.
  • This course will change the way you think about the land, food and healing
  • It will help you move forward toward health, helping you work with both your body and the ecology that surrounds you.
  • This course will offer a deep sense of security around food and medicine in a troubled time.

  • It will help you feed, and be fed from the land, which will help you form a deeper connection to your ancestors and ecology.
  • This course will make you response-able to the Earth
WHAT’S INCLUDED:

The knowledge that will be passed on to you through video, writing and live zoom meetings the last Sunday afternoon of every month (to accommodate people from all over) will be first hand from Steven’s 40 years of experience foraging, growing and using herbs.
These will include teachings about collecting seed; seeding; sprouting; growing; tending; harvesting; processing and storing; and how to prepare and use these 16 plants for food and medicine. The plant list is below.

4 choices – 4 tiers

First Tier: $160 CAN (Regular $320)
Every week starting March 1, you will receive pre-recorded videos and articles on the plants. On the last Sunday afternoon of every month you’ll have the chance to meet live with Steven to discuss the information shared and have him address any questions you might have.

Second Tier: $240 CAN (Regular $420) (FULL)
You receive everything in the first tier, but also have sent to you 19 packages of seeds, for the species we’re working with, collected from plants nurtured here on the land. We start at the small end of the learning, with the seed. We’ll give you the seed to sprout, and encourage you to grow the plant out, learning what it is and the many ways it can be utilized as you watch it grow. Only 20 spots available in the second tier.

Third Tier: $340 CAN (Regular $680) 8 spaces left !
You receive everything in the first tier, plus 3 30ml tinctures or dried herbs per month (ones we are working with that month in the course, 12 tinctures in total).
Only 10 spots available.

Fourth Tier: $420 CAN (Regular $840) 1 space left !

You receive everything in the first tier:
(Every week starting March 1, you will receive pre-recorded videos and articles on the plants. On the last Sunday afternoon of every month you’ll have the chance to meet live with Steven to discuss the information shared and have him address any questions you might have.)
And Second tier:
(19 packages of seeds, for the species we’re working with, collected from plants nurtured here on the land. We start at the small end of the learning, with the seed. We’ll give you the seed to sprout, and encourage you to grow the plant out, learning what it is and the many ways it can be utilized as you watch it grow.)
You will also receive 3 30ml tinctures or dried herbs per month (12 in total of the herbs we’re working with).  Only 10 spots available.

Saint John’s Wort

For each herb we’ll start with the soil, light and moisture conditions.
Then:

  • learn how to seed and tend the growing plants;
  • how and when to harvest
  • How to process, prepare and store or use including dosage and caution

The Plants and Seeds

  • Dandelion (seed not included; I imagine most of you know this one and could find the seed readily)
  • Green Amaranth
  • Lambs Quarters
  • Evening Primrose
  • Burdock
  • Yellow Dock or ‘curly dock’
  • Plantain
  • Nettle
  • Giant Blue Hyssop or Anise Hyssop
  • Catnip
  • Marshmallow
  • Joe Pye
  • Milkweed
  • Motherwort
  • Elecampane
  • Yarrow
  • Goldenrod (the native Canadensis)
  • Mullein
  • Saint John’s wort
  •  Roman Chamomile

For close to thirty years now folks have been coming to me, Steven,  to learn basic herbalism. For about twenty years I took on apprentice/helpers for The Algonquin Tea Company. Many others learn from me in college or have come to workshops, and more still have enrolled in the Sacred Gardener School. In all these scenarios I get to show these folks the plants directly; how to use them in a hands-on, person-to-person way; in the field, making preparations, diagnosis and prescribing. But only so many folks can come here to learn that way. Many others don’t have the time, money or aren’t able to travel here. So the big question is how to teach my direct method online when you don’t have the plants present? This question stopped me for many years because I guess I believe you can’t. But then ‘the seed’ thought came to me and I realized there was a way where folks could grow or identify in the wild these plants as they were learning online about them.

I’ve learnt herbalism four ways:
From the plants themselves; from my body when I interact with and take the plant in; from others in real time sharing what they know; from written material.
This course will facilitate all four of these ways of learning.

Many of the people who’ve come to the farm to learn are well read about herbalism and even have degrees qualifying them to treat people. Sometimes this surprises me because in reality they wouldn’t know the herb if they were stepping on it. Reading and memorizing facts about herbs is a very abstract way to learn something so ‘Earthy’. But there is a historic reason for this. The sad fact is ‘herbalism’ is desperately trying to gain legitimacy in an allopathic world because practicing traditional “shamanic” herbalism, over many historic periods, has literally got us burnt at the stake. So now even the methodology of herbal schools is modelled after allopathic schooling. First, you’re taught about the body, then the biochemistry of herbs and lastly herbal protocols. The herbs as fellow living beings and their connection to us, to the earth or the heavens never comes into it.

This academic approach seem backward to me because I am part of a much older tradition. What I know and teach comes from interacting with the plants themselves, and with people who know the plants in real time. The plants are my friends, my allies, so I don’t need to memorize facts about them. If I need to know something or am wondering if they are the ‘right’ plant I ask them. If things are in accord between us they tell me what I need to know. And just like with a friend, I can introduce them to you and hold them up, but you have to form your own relationship with them to really know them.

I encourage people to first grow the plants or find them and get to know them intimately, rather than learning about them like they’re a ‘drug’ in the allopathic model of healing. And here’s why. When you learn from the plant directly then you can claim the knowledge as your own.  Learning from books doesn’t connect us up in the same way as direct experience. Memorizing information may give us the illusion of knowing, but when it comes to actually finding, preparing and using the plants for ourselves or those around us we are at a loss. We can’t apply the ‘book knowledge’ with any confidence because it wasn’t ours in the first place, it’s not embodied.

So, in this course I’m trying to turn the up-side down way of abstract learning, right-side back-up. I’m going to teach you herbalism from the inside out, and from the seed up. This way, the herb as a healer in its own right is recognized and used accordingly. Not as a solution to an abstract equation, where such and such a symptom or ailment is treated by a chemical contained in this or that plant. But rather, as a knowledge living in my body that a particular herb embodies a spirit of heat or cool, sweetness or bitterness…, and that if taken the right way and at the right time will help our bodies heal or improve any condition. (In my understanding ‘drugs’ or herbs seldom heal directly, they are generally intermediaries that help the body heal itself.)

My hope for this course is through growing the plants, and getting to know them in their ‘wild’ state; through ingesting them; and through my stories about the herbs any abstractions about the plants healing abilities (that you can’t experience directly) will be grounded in the reality of the plant’s spirit and your personal relationship with them.

I will model this integrated traditional approach because most of what I share is from personal experience with the plants. Plants speak to me in many ways. One traditional modality of coming to understand plants is through what is called “the doctrine of signatures”. This is not meant to be a static knowledge or a scientific equivalency as it is portrayed by ethnobotany, but rather is a living dialogue. In this way of understanding plants, we see the plants spirit expressed in how they grow and in their form, colour and smell. It is a universal language, and once you know it you can learn directly from plants, even those you have never seen or heard of before.

In much the same way, we can come to know the body, as herbalist of old did, (and how TCM practitioners still do). Not biologically but energetically, from which it is understood the biology and pathology follows. Not looking at the body as object and treating it like a machine, but rather like a living garden. We are designed for this knowing. We don’t need expensive chemical analysis to taste or smell that a plant is spicy and warming or damp and cooling, astringent, bitter, sweet, sour or a hundred other subtle flavours. And as scientific analysis shows, these smells do indicate certain chemicals. Because we co-evolved with the plants the way these chemicals affect our body will be indicated by how our nose or taste buds react. Which is to say we have the innate ability to intuitively know ‘the chemistry’ without knowing the chemicals involved.

We can intuitively know what plants we need, and what plants can do, without knowing their latin names. We can know in more direct ways even beyond their appearance, smell and taste, and the doctrine of signatures. This ability can be acculturated and attuned through teachings and practice but in its essence this intuitive ability is what healing is about and not rationally understanding physiology and biochemistry.

Over about forty years I’ve gotten to know these extremely useful plants very well. Yes, in one sense they are common herbs and so are ‘old hat’ to herbalists they’re mostly passed over for more exotic or well studied herbs (that lots of people can make money from because they come from halfway around the world and not your backyard). Yet these herbs represent much of what the core herbalist’s canon was for thousands of years, for peoples of the northern hemisphere. These old ones, while hidden and mostly forgotten, are Kings and Sages in their own right. They can be used alone and together to achieve miracles of healing. Much as they do for the ground they do for us, working with degraded, overworked systems of the body. Though I have been using many of these plants for four decades and teaching about them for about three, I still continue to learn from the plants, and the experience of my clients and students.

These plants we once depended on have been left behind in the wake of progress. Not many people now, even herbalists, know about or consider these common plants for their miraculous healing and nutritional qualities. While they have been largely forgotten, hundreds of years after their arrival these plants are still quietly doing their work healing and enriching the land, that we tear up for roads, fields and yards. These plants (the ones I’m giving you and that we’ll be working with) are not “toxic”, ‘invasive’ or aggressive, they work well right alongside native plants from North America. These plants that miraculously arrived in the wake of our destruction to balance and heal the land are the very ones our bodies need.

For the people who have knowledge of these plants a new “indigenous” relationship is formed with the land. And through this relationship we are graced with a sense of sovereignty. Maybe the grace comes because we no longer feel dependent on a system we don’t believe in, or because we have little fear around our food and medical industries corruption and collapse. In fact, if you know these ‘weeds’ you know they thrive in the wake of destruction, abuse and abandonment.

Many of the sixteen plants we’ll work with are very common and we all know them like Dandelion, Plantain and Burdock. These few are part of a host of healing plants that came to turtle island two – three hundred years ago on the coattails of colonization. Some of these came from our (European) ancestors seeds and were brought here intentionally from other continents. Others came unintentionally in the gut, fur or bedding of the animals we brought, or bilge of a boat.

Some of the other plants we’ll work with are also very common but are from Turtle island here so they have never been well known to settlers, like Evening Primrose and Joe Pye. Others still that we will work with are more suited to an agricultural terrain and have followed colonization west, from the distant east, for thousands of years such as Lambs Quarters and Green Amaranth. These little beauties volunteer in our gardens but are unceremoniously yanked without thought. And yet they are more nutritious and healing than anything in the garden! The year I figured that out I vowed to never pull a “weed” from my garden again without knowing who it was, and why they were there, and what they might have to offer in the way of food or medicine, dye or fibre. And then over time I learnt how to garden with all these friends so they thrived alongside the vegetables and fruit. This way of growing is known as Wildculturing.

It’s important you should know the plant before collecting and spreading their seed. So you know what the plant needs and so you understand the risk to the environment.
Here are some general things you should know about these herbs before we start.

  • These plants help create a rich diverse growing ecology, which in turn supports more life and more diversity above and below ground level.
  • These plants support many butterfly and moth populations as well as being incredible wild bird feeders. Supporting a huge range of birds in a way that is sustainable and not dependent on our participation to refill feeders. Many of these plants hold the seed safe above ground for much if not all of the winter, very slowly releasing the seed toward the next spring, to be on the ground before the spring thaw and rains.
  • Wild seed is much better for the birds because it’s what they evolved with for tens of thousands of years. Industrial bird seed, like grains and sunflowers are the most subject to a range of toxic chemicals including fertilizers, round-up, as well as fungicides and vermicides. Also because the wild seeds are smaller than the grains in the commercial seed other wildlife like squirrels and chipmunks leave them alone.
  • These herbs are part of the Earth’s healing mechanism, and not suitable to most ‘climax’ ecologies that preceded colonization.
  • All of these plants are easy to grow, to seed, and for the most part they sustain their own perennial or self-seeding growth with no fertilizes or further cultivation.
  • For the most part these plants are known as “generalists” and will grow almost anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. (Unless stated)
  • For the most part these plants are not invasive. The ones that can be are all native to North Eastern America. (Unless otherwise stated)
    Included in the information about each plant with be written information and videos showing you how to plant them and tend them so they will thrive. And how to harvest and process the plants and seed.
TO Register: