Welcome to the September, 2020 addition of the BHC Alumni Series! Every month, we connect with an alumni of the Berkeley Herbal Center certification program.
This month we had the chance to touch base with Marianna Kowalczyk! She started out as a city kid, found her way into engineering, and then fell in love with the science and magic of herbalism through her own healing journey. Now she’s healing clients and growing her practice in the Bay Area (but you can totally see her as an herbalist online too!)
Here’s Marianna’s first hand story:
City life, Engineering, and Quick Health Fixes
I’m a western herbalist, scientist, reiki practitioner, medicine maker, pianist, and cat mom. I’ve lived here in the Bay Area for the past 8 years and grew up in Brooklyn, NY through college.
I grew up a city kid, rollerblading around Brooklyn and Manhattan, dancing and the nightlife, quite disconnected from the natural world actually. Growing up there shaped me in ways I appreciate, there is a raw, no BS attitude to New Yorkers that holds a special place in my heart and translates into how I interact and work with people. As a highly sensitive person, the constant bustling of that area did not jive, which brought me out here.
I followed a pretty straight and narrow path of education and majored in Environmental Engineering in college and graduate school. I conducted a lot of research all through the 5 years studying environmental engineering and completed a graduate degree at UC Berkeley, I found that really love research, math, and chemistry! Then, I continued my career in Environmental Engineering quite successfully for 8 years, focusing on remediation of contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater.
From this work I gained a thorough understanding of the toxicity in our food, air, soil, and water, and have plenty of suggestions of how to best navigate this and support our body’s detoxification processes.
I was and am very passionate about making a positive impact to the environment and this career did not get to the heart of that. At the same time and not separate from this, I was struggling with a disconnection from myself and my purpose coupled with anxiety, depression, trauma, and digestive troubles.
I sought help from doctors, psychologists, and other allopathic practitioners for many years that only seemed interested in putting a bandaid on the situation, I didn’t touch on the depth or progress I was seeking going this route and often found myself declining medications and quick fixes.
Finding a Greater Purpose Through Healing
I knew there was a greater purpose and resolution to what I was experiencing. All of this lead me to where I am now, able to be with others through challenging experiences knowing there is a way through and tools all around us (like our beloved plant allies).
I came to Berkeley Herbal Center to see one of their clinical herbal students about 5 years ago (Aldyn! love her!). After many years of seeking support and guidance, this 1st year clinician asked me questions no one has ever asked me, it blew my mind and made me angry at the same time – like, it makes so much sense, why has no one else asked me in depth about my eating habits, relationships, clean water and air, activity level, sun exposure, what media I am exposing myself to, etc? Working with her was really life changing. I remember how much my digestion improved after taking the tincture she designed for me.
It is hard and sometimes impossible to get through alone, and I’m so grateful for all those that have supported me in my own healing processes.
The Transition to Becoming an Herbalist
I fell in love with this work and became single focused on studying herbs and the human body. I enrolled in night classes at BHC (what was then Ohlone Herbal Center) while I worked engineering during the day.
For the first year of herbal schooling I took night classes, and for the second year I decided to go all in, quit my very comfortable but unfulfilling job, and joined the full time apprenticeship, graduating in 2017.
My story is one of being so touched and changed by working with an herbalist, I saw how much potential this work had at creating a positive impact in peoples lives, I had to move forward with it and pass it on.
I loved going to school Berkeley Herbal Center, starting each class with meditation, being taught by the plants themselves and learning to use my sensitivity as a gift. Also learning about the physical body, its organ systems, and the pathology of diseases. It is a super rad place to educate yourself in all things herbalism!
Our final project, although challenging, was really fun and helpful as well, it pushed me to create an herbal skincare line and to create the branding and all for it – I still use this and sell a divine blended rose water under the name Cycles Apothecary. It prepared me well for moving forward.
Other trainings I’ve completed include pulse and tongue diagnosis at Berkeley Herbal Center with William Morris; elemental wisdom, TCM 5-element theory, and energy medicine with Madeleina Bolduc; an intensive year long “shamanic” breathwork practitioner training with Sariah Sizemore, where there were extensive practicums and self-care requirements and where we learned counseling and space holding skills. And then reiki training through to master level with Ravinder Sappal, So much love and gratitude to all these teachers!
What Marianna is up to Now!
For the past 2 years, I have worked at an integrative pharmacy in San Francisco as the lead practitioner, offering wellness consultations, educating customers and staff on natural health solutions. I get to take lots of trainings and hear from clients regularly about what is actually working for them. I feel resourced and discerning in choosing the best quality supplements and herbs and helping others make those decisions.
In my work with clients, I unite the totally practical and scientific with the magical, and rely on my sensitivity to be able to focus on nuances that are often overlooked, always with permission.
What I offer as an Herbalist
I offer a deep dive program which is 2 months for those ready to fully commit, ready for an upgrade which includes all that plus nutritional support and a 10 day cleanse.
I have most experience with digestive issues including SIBO, anxiety, depression, acne, colds/flus, boundary work, inner child healing, and I welcome anyone that is interested in working with me to get on a free call to feel each other out.
I’m committed to showing up fully in this work and stand for the sovereignity, wellness, and sanity of all people.
As a white person, I’ve been educating myself around racism and how to dismantle it, and am bringing this into my daily life (while fumbling at times), my conversations, my meditations, my time and money, my work, because this is a big part of the healing right now, too.
Here is what it looks like to work with me
We meet on video once per week where we talk through what you are looking for and what healing you are calling in.
I do a thorough intake of your organ systems, find where there are any imbalances and I design and provide you with a custom herbal formula to work with every day – this could include a tincture blend, tea blend, essential oils, and/or energetic medicines such as flower essences, along with supplement recommendations if needed.
We talk about nutrition, daily practices, and I send distance Reiki. I act as an ally in getting to where you need to go.
How to Follow Marianna
You can follow me on instagram at @bunia219 where I post stories of various wellness related things (and my cat), or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org , I welcome you to reach out!
You could also check out my website www.cyclesapothecary.com