Since the mid-90’s when we started, we have helped launch the careers of hundreds of herbalists. Every month we get to share the herbal journey of a Berkeley Herbal Center Alumni for our Alumni Series – but this month is a little different.
Our Spotlight this month is focused on Pam Fischer. She is a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild, a master herbalist, educated – and the founder of our beautiful Berkeley Herbal Center!
For more than 30 years, Pam has been a certified herbalist and teacher. She created the Berkeley Herbal Center and has spent decades leading the charge to free our communities from the broken system of healthcare by inspiring generations of herbalists.
Today, we say thank you and share her journey.
The Herbal Journey of Pam Fischer
My journey to the herbal world was not a straight path. There were no models of careers growing up of anyone involved in the field of plants. It never occurred to me as a possibility. Through listening deeply to my heart, I was blessed to have the courage to create a path to live into, rather than model something others had created.
I often think of Joseph Campbell’s saying, ““If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path.” The truth is the path of the soul is a crazy zig-wag, with lots of bushwhacking, steep mountain passes and deep streams to cross. It may seem difficult, but nothing of worth is easy.
I was a child who felt the weight of the world at an early age. In school I was put into that category of a slow learner. At home I was dealing with multiple family issues that affected my self-esteem. I always felt there was something wrong with me. I found relief from the weight of this internal dialog in nature, where there was no judgment.
By high school my entire summers were spent out in the woods and almost every weekend camping and hiking in the Bay Area. Not until late in adulthood did I discover that I had dyslexia and that my gifts were not encouraged or recognized by mainstream academia. These early obstacles however became great teachers to me. I credit my success to befriending them.
The BHC Founder’s Journey to Herbal Medicine
When I asked myself, (back at 18) what I wanted to do for a living, I thought,”I want to tell people about trees”.
In college I pursued Forestry as a career path. Being an urban kid, my exposure to Forestry was a campground ranger leading nature walks. It was a shock to learn that Forestry is about cutting trees down! That was my first path change.
I enjoyed college and pursued multiple subjects of sociology, outdoor recreation, psychology, women studies, environmental studies, and art. Each one of these fields is rich in knowledge, which I pull on as both a practitioner and teacher. I finally graduated in Eco-psychology with a minor in wilderness recreation.
I worked in the fields of counseling abused children for many years. In the early 80’s I took a herb walk with Rosemary Gladstar, who stirred a spark in me. To feed the spark I signed up for a long term course in herbalism, and have not looked back. That was nearly 35 years ago.
The Berkeley Herbal Center’s Beginnings
Berkeley Herbal Center was actually developed from the request of my clients and first students.
My first class continued to request more programs to feed their fires. By the time their hunger was satiated, I had created a 3 year program for clinical herbalism!
The basic framework of this education has remained the same for all of these years, with inclusion of additional information I or my staff have gained as we have grown in our practices.
As the program developed, I chose the material that inspired the student to do their best. Pulling on both my wilderness training, and the healing I experienced as a child; students are brought to the woods to connect into that acceptance voice. The Wild helps us to reconnect to our first beginning as a whole people. The best herbalists pull on this voice for themselves and all people they serve.
Reflection and Pam Fischer’s Work Now
A few years ago I reflected on my work and realized that I had created that which my 18 year old wanted. I tell people about trees and the other wonderful plant beings that helped me find relief.
My present day work is focused on mentoring our advanced students and staff on their paths by recognizing their unique skills and traits. My focus has shifted from teaching about trees to offering other herbalists the opportunity to develop their life’s mission in serving our humanity with kindness, love and joy.
More than Inspiring Herbalists
Pam Fischer has been an inspiration to herbalists for decades. She always says that the Berkeley Herbal Center exists to help light the fire in people and to help them become certified herbalists so that they can share their knowledge around the world.
We know that it is so much more than that. Pam inspires people to chase their dreams. She helps them look their pasts straight in the eyes and remind their traumas that they don’t command their futures. Herbalism is so much more than prescribing plants, and Pam helps remind people of the importance of spiritual healing along with the physical.
She infused this inspiration into the center, and has built a beautiful herbal legacy in the belly of the urban Bay. For this, we are grateful.
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