Every month we have the opportunity to touch base with a graduate of one of our certification programs and share their journey to herbalism and planet stewardship with you in our Alumni Series.
This month we have the pleasure to hear from Carissa Hayes. Her story starts with finding refuge from her bi-coastal life in her grandmother. She found her way naturally to the path of herbs and herbal medicine, weaving in a deep connection with farmed and foraged foods.
Here’s Carissa’s story:
Carissa’s Herbal Journey
Carissa is a mix of two rather different places: New York and California. Growing up with divorced parents, she spend her school year with her mother and grandparents in sunny Palm Spring, CA and her summers in New York with her father and family in a sweet mountain town up the Hudson called Washingtonville.
The two worlds functioned completely opposite, governed by unspoken social rules, untaught dialects and polar opposite social expectations. The stark difference in environments led her to hone her skills of observation, listening and intuition.
Through her early years of life, Carissa found refuge from the world of divorced parents in her relationship with her Italian grandmother, Palma, and spent many days with her cooking food and learning the wisdom and strength of a nourishing Italian woman. The relationship with her elder was one of greatest importance, a fundamental component to weaving her into the woman she is today.
In the grief of her grandmother’s passing, Carissa’s love for her expressed through a deep passion for food and all things related to food. Her love and grief for her grandmother sparked an interest in growing her own food and thus she completed a Farm Apprenticeship Program learning how to successfully maintain a small-scale farm from seed to farmers market. With her hands in the soil- Carissa met the pioneers of plant kingdom- our edible weeds like nettle, chickweed and hedge nettle. She began to experiment on her own, making herbal teas and homemade salves for friends and family.
It was around this time that she found out she had Chronic Lymes- a disease often overlooked or without many treatment options in Western Medicine.
Over time through her own health journey, Carissa realized the weakness in the current medical model to truly address the root cause of chronic issues. Seeking out new methods of healing that focused on prevention and reversing chronic issues, she found Western Herbalism.
The Journey to Berkeley Herbal Center
Herbalism was like a long lost friend, oddly familiar as she explored the ancestral wisdom. With a desire to deepen her herbal knowledge in a cohort of like minded individuals, she found the Berkeley Herbal Center and decided the school was the one for her due to the focus on Clinical Herbalism. She attended the Apprenticeship Program and then continued on with the Clinical Herbalism Program.
As time wove on, Carissa learned the strength and power in healing her own body through herbs, diet and lifestyle.
Carissa’s Focus as an Herbalist
Today Carissa tends to the Sierra Foothills in Northern California where she lives and grows on a 32 acre land with a flowing creek, pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs and a few other humans. Through her years of working with the plants, Carissa has honed her private practice to focus on Female Reproductive Imbalances and continues to walk the healing path of a Traditional Midwife- tending women bodies from womb to tomb (although she is not a certified midwife currently).
She is also a doula who focuses her energy on the sacred and often under supported postpartum period. A multifaceted individual, she also grows organically a variety of herbs and transforms them into medicinal offerings for an Herbal Community Supported Apothecary (CSA) with a collective of makers called Quercus Collective. You can find her posting photos of her plant allies @quercuscollective, teaching at the Berkeley Herbal Center or barefoot amongst the oaks sitting with the fairies.
Carissa Hayes and the Quercus Collective Herbal CSA
The 2022 Quercus Collective full share subscription includes 3 large boxes of seasonal medicine, made from homegrown and wildcrafted plants, and prepared for Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice.
Each box contains 4 medicines to help you adapt to the seasons – such as lung syrup during wildfire season, elderberry syrup during flu season, bitter blends in the spring and cooling teas in the summer – as well as a small zine describing the medicines, different bodily systems, and ancestral traditions around the solstice and equinox holidays. The herbs we use are harvested in small batches from the wild and gathered from our garden, grown using organic and regenerative farming methods.