A few years ago while prowling through my local farmer’s market, on the hunt for the freshest head of cabbage I could find, a woman with long frizzy Janis Jopline-esque hair yelled out to me from across the street. She was sitting down, neatly perched behind a white pop up table that was filled to the brim with colorful, psychedelic taper candles that stood upright next to bars of soap, which were nested in wool and bags of what I’m pretty sure was ground up Mugwort. Above her, hanging from a worn canopy tent, was a large brightly colored Mandala banner with the words, ‘Healing Herbs’ embroidered in moss green.
Now, up until this point I actually didn’t know people like this existed. I mean, of course I knew that there were hippies and colorfully dressed new age- spiritual dwellers who walked around talking about their seven Chakras and nine inner energy fields. But being from a small rural town, I sort of assumed that these people all fled to a forest somewhere in Northern California where they shared helpings of tree bark and danced around holding hands while chanting to Mother Gaia. I certainly didn’t expect one of them to break loose from the bunch and start trying to sell me shit at a farmers market…
I walked over to her stand and politely asked how she was doing. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, she informed me that I was walking with a bit of a limp, which is why she called me over. She quickly reached over her shoulder and pulled out a 4 oz bag of what looked like twigs. Suddenly and without any warning I was thrust into a full blown lecture about the bone healing properties of Ashwagandha. A volley of full blown woo woo and mystical gobbledygook was raining down upon me and my only defense was to smile and nod.
“Ashwagandha is a sacred herb and has been used by the people of India for thousands of years to strengthen bones and increase spiritual well being”.
“The most esteemed Hindu sages would administer Ashwagandha to the kings”
“Rishi himself, may blessed peace be upon him, incorporated Ashwagandha into his teachings of what is now Chakra!”
At the time, I just couldn’t take it. I did everything in my power to politely disengage from the conversation, just short of throwing the I Ching myself. After a few more volleys of metaphysical Jesus herb talk, I informed her that I was late for a meeting and evacuated the area, praying that she wouldn’t hunt me down on a broomstick.
Looking back on it, my sense of skepticism (and closed mindedness) was fairly startling. If I so much as heard the slightest amount of herbalist murmurings, I’d grab my SSRIs and make haste to the nearest prescription pharmacist, to be assured that the scary people would go away soon and take their plants with them.