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Accessible Plant Medicine For The Body, Mind, & Soul, with Adrianne Hunt

Date Published: January 16, 2023

Writer & Editor: Caroline Griffin

Guest writer: Adrianne Hunt


Adrianne Hunt is the founder of House of Hens and Grit: a thoughtfully curated herbal homestead in Southern Oregon's Illinois Valley focused on accessible seed-to-tincture plant medicine. All of House of Hens and Grits' products are thoughtfully planted, picked, and hand-siphoned in small batches. Every medicinal remedy is made from wild plants that have been nurtured and tended to by the presence, love, and careful attention of Adrianne, her husband, and their four children.

Speaking with Adrienne was an insightful exploration into plant medicine, the inherent connections we all share with nature, and the personal journey that serendipitously led Adrienne to start The House of Hens and Grit, the sun-drenched farmland turned wild remedy sanctuary.

The knowledge and personal recollections Adrianne shares of her journey are a salient reminder of what it means to truly connect with the heart and soul of our bodies and minds alongside Mother Nature.

In this interview, we learn about the interconnected cycles between plants and humans, what it means to interact with the world around us on an energetic and spiritual level, and how this connection infuses unique healing properties into every drop of plant essence that Adrienne and her family bottle and share on their intentionally cultivated and soulfully cared for homestead: House of Hens and Grit.


 

“I was no longer turned off and tuned out of my body. I was no longer living life in my head. I was living with the rhythms of the earth, the inhale and the exhale, the changing seasons; there was dirt under my fingernails and joy in my heart."

- Adrianne Hunt -


 

HC: In your own words, how would you describe House of Hens and Grit?


Adrianne: The house of hens and grit materialized quite serendipitously to encompass all of the things I’ve been doing on my farm for many years.

I was creating a line of Botanical offerings, testing recipes, and brainstorming on what I could call it. There are a lot of botanical businesses out there today, and I wanted mine to be different. I didn’t want sacred ways apothecary or any botanical-based name. I wanted it to be different.

Our household includes me and my husband, our son, and our three daughters. The boys do a lot around the house. They are consistent in doing the hard lifting. They are the grit of this home. My daughters and I are the hens. You can find us in the garden and in the kitchen, baking bread and picking flowers and fragrant leaves for tea. There are four of us, and we rely so heavily on our guys (just like hens need the grit to be healthy). I need these wonderful, sturdy guys to keep everything going. We are a team, all of us. The team of the House of Hens and Grit.


HC: Do you remember the first time you learned about the medicinal healing properties of plants and herbs? What was that like, and how did it influence the journey that led to House of Hens and Grit?


Adrianne: The first time I learned about plant medicines was during a weekend class at the Colorado school of healing arts. I was 19 and I was starstruck. The plants were so mysterious and interesting to me that I signed up for another class and then another. I started using herbs in my kitchen, putting them in my drinks and on my body.

I bought books about herbs and started learning everything I could. Susun Weeds’ book The Childbearing Year was the first herbal remedy book I owned back in 2012. That same year I went to Guatemala and apprenticed with a traditional midwife in a rural Myon town called Tecpan. Donna Odilia was my teacher there. I followed her all over the mountainside and into the homes of many women. The treatment she offered was in Temazcal. The Temazcal is a Myon sauna. It’s a small hut they build with concrete and stone. They use fire to heat it and large vats of water to wash themselves and create the humidity needed for the healing.

Donna Odilia would bring large bags of plants and fill the water basins inside with them. She would use the steam from the plants to treat women for different ailments like infertility, prolapsed uterus, painful menstruation…the list goes on. I was floored by this practice. I knew that illness could be brought to the surface and moved to the peripheral with heat, and this brought a new level of understanding to me.

As the days and weeks went on, I would follow Donna Odilia into the forest where she would wildcraft these plants, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots. She would dry them and take them to the women and use them in Temazcal.

I was drawn to the mystery of this healing ritual. Donna Odilia has no formal education. Everything she knows about plans and birth and women’s health was spoken to her in her dream. A tiny Myon elder would come to her in her dreams taught her all of the healing modalities she knows and practices to this day. I had been in college and universities, high school and private school, and was taught from books. The mystery of her education led me forward.

My husband came to visit me in Guatemala. He speaks Spanish perfectly and we created records of the plants Donna Odilia used, their names, where to find them, and how to use them to help women heal. When I returned home from this trip I attended the Northern California women’s herbal symposium. I brought some of the plants with me and was able to learn their English names and traditional uses. I guess you could say I was hooked.


HC: What was your first garden like and what were some things it taught you?


Adrianne: The first garden I remember being involved with was from my childhood. We would visit my grandmother in South Texas, and her garden was huge. I remember spending many hours with her plants, snacking on chives and chewing on mint leaves straight from the ground. I would walk through her dozens of bromeliads and watch the water pooling in the center. I’ll never forget the layout of her backyard and the hours I spent there as a child.

As an adult, my first garden was two 4 x 8-foot boxes where we grew tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, and a few other kitchen herbs. It wasn’t much, but almost every night, we were able to harvest enough tomatoes and jalapeños for a fresh batch of pico de gallo and jalapeño poppers. I didn't know it then, but I was working for the man who later became my husband. I lived on-site, and his skill for gardening was something I was really interested in learning more about myself.

He grew many medicinal plants in his Garden. During the early years when I lived with him, we cleared a lot of land to prep for and plant large-scale irrigated gardens. We were in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California, where a lot of Mullein and Saint John's wort grows wild. As we cleared land for future garden plots, I never wanted to clear the Mullein, and I would leave these monster Mullein stalks growing tall and wild, and he would say, "We have to cut them down!". I convinced him that they were doing something. They are special plants, and I had an eye for them, so we kept them.

A few years later, I learned that Mullein was a medicinal plant helpful for lungs and respiratory complaints. I knew there was a reason I wanted them. I felt validated, and my spiritual connection to the plants grew stronger.


I remember working in a garden on top of decomposing granite. It was a stone garden in the heat of summer in the high Sierra Nevada mountains. As I would water the plants we were cultivating, St. John’s Wort would draw my eye to its presence. The yellow flowers were growing well in the excessive heat of late summer. I did not water them. They just grew wild, and every now and then, I would take my hose to them, not knowing their name or their medicinal value, and I would water them deeply. I felt connected to their yellow flowers - the only thing blooming in the high summer heat, but I wouldn’t learn their name or medicinal value for another two years.


St. John’s Wort heals burns and viral outbreaks, tones the serotonin uptake system in the brain, and remedies depression, bringing a sunny disposition. How perfect. I couldn’t believe it. Why weren’t more people not talking about these miraculous healing plants?


HC: What kinds of healing modalities have informed your use of Herbal Medicine, and in what ways can they complement each other?


Adrianne: My formal education is in Occupational Therapy. At the Colorado School of Healing Arts, I studied massage therapy, sports massage, reflexology, cranial-sacral therapy, lymphatic drainage, and herbalism.

I attended the school from ages 19 to 23, and it reinforced that the world was spiritual, that spirit flows through every person, plant, and animal. The education I received taught me how to harness spirit, how to channel it, move it, and make it grow or shrink.

While learning about these modalities, I also received them, and through this experience, I healed many parts of myself, including my inner child. I let go of the framework and limiting beliefs from my suburban upbringing. I was enlightened by the healing frequencies of our world.


HC: On your website, you mentioned that learning about Herbal Medicine, Lymphatic Drainage, Cranial-Sacral Therapy (and more) on the collegiate level was “the doorway to your life’s work”. What did finding your life’s work feel like, how did it affect the way you lived your life, and did you know right away that you wanted to one day create plant essences that would offer a more gentle, natural way of healing?


Adrianne: After graduating from the Colorado School of Healing Arts and learning these modalities you mentioned, I took a job on a farm in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California and rarely went down to the city. Here I returned to the childhood essence of my spirit. I lived the whole summer barefoot. I remember seeing watery mud moving through my toes. I received the electrons offered by the earth. I returned to that childlike state, encompassing all of the sensations the elements of the earth offered me. I was no longer turned off and tuned out of my body. I was no longer living life in my head, I was living with the rhythms of the earth, the inhale and the exhale, the changing seasons; there was dirt under my fingernails and joy in my heart. I knew then, back in 2010 it must’ve been, that I would never return to city life.



HC: What is the process of harvesting and creating plant extracts like? Are there specific ways plants need to be handled and prepared to ensure potency and freshness?


Adrianne: Each plant variety is as different as humans from different cultures. Even more complex. I started Wildcrafting the plants that grew around me in the forest in the mountains, then I started gathering seeds and planting them. The wild plants and the cultivated Medicinal plants are as different as humans from different continents.

I learned to greet the wild medicinals every year, and as I became more prepared for their arrival, our relationship deepened. They would infuse their song into my heart and my head, and I would find myself singing as I harvested their flowers.

When it came time to harvest roots, I would always ask my husband for help. More than willing, we would gather some tools and head deep into the forest or high into the mountains to dig up the deep roots. He would willingly shovel and sweat to pull these roots from the earth and fill my woven baskets. I’d take them home and clean them, chop them up, and bottle them.

To give you a more technical answer, plant extracts are made by taking the most medicinally potent portion of the plants, flowers, leaves, and roots and putting hundred-proof alcohol on top of them. We seal them in a glass jar and let them sit in a cold dark space for at least six weeks, but sometimes years. When we are ready, we strain the plant material and bottle the liquid left behind.



HC: It’s clear you have a strong relationship with the plants you grow and harvest, starting from the very beginning of planting the seeds by hand to bottling and sharing their essence. Can you describe what that relationship is like and how it influences the plant’s health? For example, what are some of the unseen energies or interactions you share with the plant as it grows, and in what ways can this influence how the essences interact with our bodies?


Adrianne: The plants think of me when I leave. They celebrate my arrival when I return. It’s familial, it’s ancestral.

I’m not the first one in my lineage to greet them. When a plant knows it is growing for me, it works harder to offer a higher Medicinal value. When I am growing a plant, I give it my all as well to offer the plant its ideal growing environment.

I don’t let them go thirsty or hungry. I tend to their needs, and they tend to my needs. I communicate with them in my dreams. We celebrate each other, and this relationship flows into every bottle I’ll fill, label, package, and send out. The plant Extracts I sell are an extension of my relationship to them. They offer value to the people who buy my plant Extract. Using the Plant Extracts gives my customers a part of this symbiotic, healing relationship.


Nurture the plant and allow the plant to nurture you. The relationship is symbiotic.

HC: Some prescription medications have harmful side effects. How do plant essences and other natural remedies work with the body to reinforce natural healing without causing harmful side effects?


Adrianne: Each plant is a complex being, and many of them do have side effects and Pharmaceutical drug interactions.


HC: How would someone who wants to move away from Western pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter medications start this process? How would they determine when to use Herbal Medicine as a complementary supplement and when to use it as a replacement for non-herbal medications?


Adrianne: Very carefully. This is a specific and complex question, and the answer includes offering medical advice, which I, of course, cannot do. If a person wants to increase vitality and well-being in a general sense, then I would encourage starting with adaptogens.

An Adaptogen is aplant that is used to help the body adapt to our life circumstances by exerting a normalizing effect upon body functions. They are non-toxic at normal doses and are used to strengthen the immune system and increase overall vitality by tempering that which is hyperfunctioning and supporting that which is hypofunctioning. Whether the issue we are experiencing is something like high blood pressure or low blood pressure, adding adaptogens to our daily routine can have a normalizing effect on the body's systems.


Some adaptogens that can help the body function optimally are ashwagandha, astragalus, stinging nettle, ginseng, Gotu kola, Rishi, and Holy Basil. Incorporating these plants into our daily life is a lovely complementary practice that can increase overall energy and vitality.


HC: What are some interesting facts about the healing properties and lives of plants that we can apply in life, our interactions with plants, and our application of their essences?


Adrianne: Drink tea. Add plant extracts to your water and rub herbal oils onto your skin. Allow your body to be a community center for plant life. Nurture the plant and allow the plant to nurture you. The relationship is symbiotic.


HC: Was accessibility an important part of your plan when you started House of Hens and Grit?


Adrianne: The whole point of my business is to bring access to people. Most people in today’s society are disconnected from nature. They’re disconnected from where their food comes from, and they’re undernourished.

We raise chickens on our farm and grow medicinal plants. The chicken is an incredible source of nourishment to my family and me. We get about 15 eggs every day and harvest the meat from our birds to make nourishing bone broth and chicken noodle soup.

Do you remember when we were young, and our parents would give us chicken noodle soup when we were sick? Mine came from a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. But not long ago, our great-grandmothers were living closer to the source. In our fast food, highly processed and industrialized society, I would like to offer a chance to regress. To regress to a state of living where we trust the earth to hold us, support us, and nourish us.


I grow mini plant extracts, but I also offer education to empower people to grow their own, to find their wild plants growing near them, and to develop their own relationship with the plants. I understand not everyone can do this, and so I offer these things in pretty packages delivered to your doorstep, but I also offer education so that the people who are drawn to my business and using my work to empower themselves.


This is folk herbalism. This is returning to the farm and our ancestral diets. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

HC: What is one highly-discussed topic in your field that you are grateful for, and one topic you would like to bring to the forefront of the conversation?


Adrianne: I am grateful that so many people address the issue of ethical harvesting. We must take care of the plants for them to take care of us. We can’t go ripping up all the wild plants for profit. Plants do not respond to that energy. There must be an equal exchange.


HC: What aspect of your work excites you the most or brings you the most fulfillment?


Adrienne: Working every day on my farm, in my home, with my children by my side, and knowing that we can grow together in this work is what excites me most. The idea of having something to pass on to them with value and worth excites me. I am specifically trying to avoid the 9-to-5 lifestyle. I don’t want to raise my kids with the lifestyle where we are living for the weekends. Based on the model I’m setting up, Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, Sunday - they’re all the same. No matter the day, it is another opportunity to celebrate life. Whether we are tending our land, our animals, our plants, or each other, we are constantly looking for the need and finding ways to fulfill the need of that human, plant, or animal.

I am teaching my children to live intentionally, pay attention to the details, work hard, and observe the sun and the moon and the plants in all their stages. I am teaching them how to bake bread, milk, and grains, and how to heal themselves. I am teaching them how to grow their own food and medicine. The idea of being raised like that is really exciting to me. I don’t want to wake up bummed out that today is Monday and the start of “the grind” and a long week doing meaningless chores or corporate tasks. We are awakened each day with the celebratory joy of learning and growing alongside each other and the land that holds us.


HC: For those interested in learning more about this topic, what resources would you suggest they explore? Books, podcasts, websites, organizations, blogs, YouTube channels


Adrianne: I have had many teachers in my life. Some of the most influential herbalists for me are Matthew wood, Stephen Herrod Buhner, Maria Treben, and Alan green. On my website and on my Instagram, I’ll offer micro-series for education, like understanding adaptogens, growing plants in pots and boxes, urban farming, and easy medicine-making workshops.

Living in southern Oregon, there are so many other people who are offering these types of education that I admire, like Don Tipping from Siskiyou seeds and Anja Robinson at Mana Medicinals.






- Connect With House of Hens and Grit -





 



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