Southern and Appalachian Folk Medicine with Phyllis D. Light

Phyllis Light, in an interview by Jesse Wolf Hardin, discusses her background and practice in Southern and Appalachian Folk Medicine.

  • Southern and Appalachian Folk Medicine teacher Phyllis D. Light, with fellow-herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, at Plant Healer's HerbFolk Gathering.
    Photo by Jesse Hardin Wolf
  • “21st Century Herbalists” by Jesse Wolf Hardin is a tome of tales to awaken and inspire, all from renowned and regional herbalists.
    Cover courtesy Jesse Wolf Hardin

No matter the path chosen, 21st Century Herbalists (Self-Published, 2012), by Jesse Wolf Hardin, has something to offer for any natural healer. Within its pages are many and varied tales from renowned herbalists, up-and-comers, root doctors and grannywives. Glean wisdom and encouragement to follow your personal path from all aspects of herbal medicine. The following interview with Phyllis D. Light offers everything from her childhood to the call to practice and share Southern and Appalachian Folk Medicine, along with some specifics about this particular branch of herbal medicine.

Purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: 21st Century Herbalists.

Phyllis Light is a 4th generation Herbalist and Healer who has studied and worked with herbs, foods and other healing techniques for over 30 years. Her studies in Traditional Southern and Appalachian Folk Medicine began in the deep woods of North Alabama. Phyllis writes a regular column for Plant Healer Magazine, teaches at HerbFolk Gathering as well as other herbal conferences, and at her Alabama home-base. To the degree there are surviving threads to the past still rooted in the mountains of the Southeast, she is surely one of the wisest, most loving and generous.

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Thank you, Phyllis, for taking time for this Plant Healer interview. We’re honored to have this opportunity to talk more with and about you, and to hear your heart and mind on topics you might not otherwise have cause to address. Let’s start at the beginning if you please — what do you remember as your first deep connection with the natural world? When did you begin acknowledging nature as a teacher?

Phyllis Light: My first deep connection with plants came when I was about five or so. I was too young to help pick Cotton so my mother let me run around the field and play hide and seek with the kids of the other field hands. There was a strip of grassy meadow land between the Cotton field and the woods filled with Sedge grass, Goldenrod, Asters and Passionflower and it was here that I hid. If you lay flat in a field of Sedge grass no one can see you and there isn’t any apparent ripple in the flow of the grass to give you away. I hid very well and no one found me and the next thing I knew, the other kids had left and I was alone. At first, I was a little scared, it was such a big Cotton field and there were no adults in sight. It was a vast land of Cotton rows and emptiness. I could hear the wind through the trees, the buzz of insects but nothing else. It was eerily quiet.

I didn’t know what to do, I felt very alone, very small and just a little afraid. So I just lay in the Sedge grass and stared at the leaves on the trees, all moving together in the wind. I watched the clouds moving across the sky. I listened to the sound of the grasshoppers jumping among the grass stalks. I don't know how long I lay there, not moving, just being. I wasn't scared any longer, or upset. Just quiet and a little subdued. I had become part of the land, the Cotton rows, the meadow and the woods. We were the same.



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