I had a tendency to throw myself at things with 100% tenacity and passion, and a hunger for the truth. I was adamant about doing things my way. I declared myself a Buddhist at one point and later decided I was an existentialist. I was 100% straight edge, including no coffee. I got passionate during class discussions. I competed in rock climbing and went to Nationals three years in a row. I traveled with my school–to Japan, Cambodia and Spain. During my senior year I studied four foreign languages at the same time. I didn’t text message. I sewed some of my own clothing. I shopped at thrift stores. Writing that now, I can see the roots of where I am now.
2. Did you know what direction you wanted to go in?
When I was in high school, I wanted to be a UN interpreter or a diplomat. I started college double majoring in Arabic and Spanish. However, I got shaken ‘awake’ by various people that entered my life at the time, and ended up as an herbalist/ writer/ positivist/ whole foods, plant-based diet advocate/ health-inspirator/ ESL teacher. I encourage people to be present and 100% dedicated to their dream, and to be flexible when the dream changes.
3. What do you think of the whole student loan debt trouble for getting into higher education?
I’m all about financial freedom, and loans imprison people. I refuse to EVER get a credit card for this reason. It seems like loans are a major reason for people “selling out” for a job that they earn money at, but they don’t necessarily like. I’m currently making more money off of the month-long CELTA (like TESOL) certification that I got in the summer after my freshman year of college than I’ve made with my college degree.
4. How did you get involved in herbalism and a general holistic lifestyle?
I had a health-obsessed boyfriend in college who somehow convinced me. At the time, I was suffering from chronic fatigue, anxiety and exercise induced asthma, mysterious infections, the freshman 15, and I was constantly getting sick.
First, I gave up all dairy with the promise that I’d be able to breathe better (dairy consumption causes mucous production). When it undeniably worked within 10 days, I was floored. Soon after, I treated an antibiotic resistant infection with herbs in 5 days after TWO rounds of antibiotics. By then I was in. I read every book I could get my hands on. In my first two months of eating a whole food diet, I felt like a superhero. My three hour naps stopped. My entire life changed course.
Since then, I have read piles of books and articles, heard countless stories, written my blog, done extensive self-experimentation, taught workshops, taken classes, and. It wasn’t without relapses and rough patches, but overall it changed my life, and now I’ve even helped change other people’s lives. Of course, it becomes obvious really quick that you can only make so much progress with diet and herbs before you have to deal with the emotional trauma that’s actually at the root of things. That’s the kind of stuff I like to address in my blog.
5. What advice do you give high schoolers today?
1. Learn how to say what’s true for you without projecting or accusing. Look up non-violent communication, compassionate communication and conscious language. Be assertive about your needs, and communicate your feelings. This is the ultimate superpower. Those who can communicate clearly are always the most successful.
2. Entertain new ideas and ways of doing things, and always ask yourself: “Is this serving me?” Smoking pot and drinking alcohol are the top two habits that I encourage you to examine, as they serve in some cases, but in many cases become an escape mechanism.
3. Work through your mommy and daddy issues. Our childhood trauma is one of the biggest things that can hold us back in life. Ask yourself “What negative behaviors/ traits did I inherit from my parents? How can I break that cycle?”
4. Don’t end up at a desk job unless you really enjoy what you’re doing. Do something you can be grateful for.
5. Don’t worry about the money. Learn to live modestly, and you will be incredibly free. It’s a total illusion that we need to work and earn as much as we do. Buy in bulk, eat dinner at home with friends, avoid taking out loans to buy things, throw away your credit card, shop at second hand stores, spend your time with other people who are living modestly, quit drinking coffee and alcohol (huge daily expense for many), get the cheapest cell phone on the market, throw away your T.V. and cancel your cable, share your internet with the neighbors, live with other people, ride your bike, make all the gifts you give, go to garage sales, find a community buying program (knowthyfood.com in Portland area), make a garden, see free shows, live on a busline, work near where you live, barter with people, fix things, practice preventative health to avoid expensive doctor visits… There are so many ways to survive off of not much. Figure out what really serves you and dream big. Don’t give in to the material life, because it ties you down with the need to make lots of money. That’s a total illusion.
6. Floss your teeth. Just do it, and stop making excuses.
6. Do you have any resources to share for self-directed learners on subjects you like?
– The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner was the most mind-blowing book I’ve ever read. If I had to give it a “subject,” it would be plant medicine and environmental issues.
– The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton if you’re a science nerd.
– Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
– 14-day Herbal Cleansing by Laurel Vukovic has fantastic herbal recipes and detoxification tips.
– Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Bernard talks about the addictive qualities of food and how to make an effective transition to a whole foods diet.
– The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
– The Renegade Health Show (renegadehealth.com) is a great internet series.
– My blog (superherbalist.blogspot.com)
– Find a local herbalist who may teach classes, offer apprenticeships OR find your local herb school.
Natalie Hammerquist is a blogger, activist, and all around DIY passionate learner. Follow her blog here and become a superhero too!