Ann Armbrecht, Anthropologist, Film Producer and Herbalism Advocate
Name: Ann Armbrecht
Place of Residence: Vermont
Background and Personal History: Ann is a writer, anthropologist (PhD, Harvard 1995) and mother living in central Vermont. She was born and raised in West Virginia and, after college, went like so many before her to the Himalayas searching elsewhere for what she failed to find at home, believing that indigenous people must hold some wisdom which we had lost about how to live on the earth.
What she found, of course, was more complicated than what she had imagined from afar (she has written about it in her ethnographic memoir, Thin Places: A Pilgrimage Home, Gold Nautilus Award for books that will change the world), but what she experienced in the upper Arun Valley, Nepal, led her to Sage Mountain to study herbal medicine with Rosemary Gladstar. At the heart of herbal medicine as taught by Rosemary, Ann found something similar to what she encountered in Hedangna: a sense of the sacredness of the earth, a quality of respect and restraint in interactions with the environment, a focus on relationship rather than ownership, and an understanding of the spiritual and cultural dimensions of healing. To Ann, studying traditional herbal medicine was a way to practice those qualities in her own cultural tradition, a way of finding that far off, enchanted place at home.
And yet, as she learned more about herbalism, especially about the business side of things, Ann came to see that this tradition, like every other, is fraught with contradictions and complexities. And so with filmmaker Terrence Youk, she co-produced the award-winning documentary Numen: the Nature of Plants to celebrate the values of wholeness at the heart of herbal medicine, so consumers can see that there is more to plant medicine than little brown bottles on a shelf.
Current Projects: Ann’s outreach for Numen led to her current project, The Sustainable Herbs Project, an online interactive website/documentary following plants through the supply chain. She still believes that herbalism holds the seeds to a different relationship with the earth, one that respects limits and sees the world as more than a playground for human destruction. But this promise only has meaning if plants are treated with respect all the way through the supply chain, if the values of herbal medicine extend into the business of herbal medicine.
And so her goal is to launch a more educated and responsible consumer movement supporting high quality herbal remedies and sustainable and ethical sourcing. Ann is gathering stories from collectors, processors, traders and finished product producers, with men and women involved in all aspects of the industry. She’s also researching challenges and best practices in the industry and collecting resources for practitioners and consumers to help provide and find high quality, sustainably sourced remedies.
She and her collaborators want this interactive, multimedia website to be available for free and so they launched a Kickstarter Campaign to cover their costs up front. Proceeds will go to the design and development of the website/interactive documentary and to birthing an organization to carry on this work.
Please make a contribution! Ann has a fantastic collection of books, herb classes and more as rewards. The campaign ends February 25, 2015, so make your donation now!
Other Fun Facts: Things Ann loves most: her kids, the woods, dancing, gardening, especially medicinal plants because they are so weedy and abundant in her garden and take so little of her attention.