About the Herbalist

 

Before I dive into what I am, I would first like to make a statement to what I am not…

I, Sky Richarde, am not a doctor, and as such, I am not going to diagnose, treat, or cure any conditions. I am here to assist in the healing process and I will not hesitate to refer to other practitioners and doctors if and when it seems appropriate.

Just because I am in the natural health care field, does not mean that I am against modern medicine in any way. On the contrary, I believe in complimentary medicine, and strive to work with doctors to do what is best for each individual. Many herbs can work alongside modern medicine, and can even make certain treatments more effective. I would like to help bridge the divide between herbal medicine and modern medicine, being trained in herb/drug interaction has helped make this possible among other things. 

Along these same lines I have had many people assume that I am against vaccinations. This is not true. Humans are a vast and varied creature, and there are certain rare cases in which vaccination is not advised (such as genetically compromised immune systems), and there are certain vaccinations that I have seen to be less than effective (such as the flu vaccine), but these are the rare cases, and I am constantly working to be up to date and well informed on what modern medicine and the scientific community is working on. I’m a strong advocate against “alternative facts”, so please ask before you assume. 

The short story…

I’ve always been a fan of the Mark Twain quote “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Sometimes it’s harder to make things short and sweet than it is to make them long and thorough, but here we go!

I am an herbalist, artist, crafter, cook, adventurer, wild water swimmer, circus person, explorer, writer, singer, and vivid dreamer… among other things.

It is hard to separate these passions, so I often don’t bother.

Herbalism for me has been a path of following passions and joys and it has lead me on a journey of better understanding my own body and parts of the world. As an herbalist my greatest desire is to help people better understand themselves and their body, to connect to things that remind them of what being truly human is all about.

I love introducing people to new flavors, experiences, and a world in which science and magic live side by side. Where one can feel deeply and think critically, walk through the forest and listen to the plants with your heart, and explore them with your mind.

I enjoy the history and mythical uses of plants, just as much as I enjoy the practical and medicinal uses of them. You’ll notice that a lot of my products tend to lean towards the more magical realm of things, this is in part because of my curiosity and joy of these subjects, and also because this realm is a little more flexible than the medicinal one. My medicinal products are highly individualized, and my training -along with the laws governing herbalists- have taught me to only create medicine for one person at a time, and only after learning who that person really is and what their body really needs.

I have a special interest in sleeping and dreaming, because I feel that this is a realm in which the two worlds of science and magic overlap the most. Where one can see the interplay of brainwaves and hormones along with the plants that can assist these systems, while at the same time observing the archetypal, metaphorical, sometimes literal, and sometimes prophetic world of dreaming, and how herbs can influence this. I favor herbal medicine that picks up where modern medicine leaves off or cannot really help much… and the world of nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors and other troubles of the sleeping mind/body is a perfect example.

The Long story…

 

For those who are interested in my early years and how I’ve come to be where I am now…

Throughout my life I’ve had the incredible privilege of growing up in several diverse and beautiful environments which shaped my priorities in life. The first five years of my life were spent on Kaua’i and the Big Island of Hawaii, where I received my first taste of sugar from a real sugar cane, climbed lychee trees with my dad, sucked on white ginger blossoms (Awapuhi Ke`oke`o), and gorged myself on hand picked guava fruit. I took for granted the feast of the colonized jungle, and developed my taste for wild foods.

By the age of 5, my family (mother, father, older brother, and cat) packed up our lives to move into the backwoods of Marquette Michigan, where we lived in a hay-bale yurt my dad built for us to live in by a river, while he worked on a bigger house for us to call home. There was the river for me to swim in, and 18 acres of deciduous forest for me to roam and hunt for things like wild raspberries, thimble berries, strawberries, false solomon’s seal, apples, fiddleheads, mushrooms, maple sap, and more! Being homeschooled with my brother, we learned a lot from those forests… tending to gardens and wounded animals, chopping wood, carrying water, and building a life from the ground up among other things. We were rare, in that we were truly and blissfully free, and for that I thank my parents.

The yurt was small and cozy, and the forest was massive and embracing, I wanted nothing more than to spend my days in the river and among the trees, and my nights in the loft coming up with stories and worlds fueled by my dreams.

When I turned 10 we left Michigan to follow the economy to Lake Tahoe Nevada. My parents kept the house they had built in Michigan in hopes of one day retiring there, and we traveled back there at least once a year for 2 months every fall.  Tahoe was a desert oasis… wild foods were harder to find, but if you looked closely enough you’d find the sugar-plumb bushes growing along the lake, munch on the most delicious rose petals and rose hips I’ve ever tasted (with flesh the flavor of fresh raspberry), learn that the manzanita flowers were full of sweet nectar, and mountain springs were surrounded by tasty water greens. 

This was my life from 5-25. To be perfectly honest… at the time I hated every move with every fiber of my being, and it took till I was 18 to suddenly open my eyes and realize how amazing it all was! Hopping between Hawaii (where much of my father’s family still lived), the U.P of Michigan, and Lake Tahoe, as my father worked on different building projects in the states and my mother ran a successful massage business. To this day I still know where to find the sweetest guava on Kaua’i, the best ways to brew a good maple syrup, where fields of wild blueberries stretch for miles, and where on a hot sunny day in the mountains of Nevada, you can lay down in a patch of watercress and drink fresh water emerging from a clean source.

Along side all of this there was always the continuous thread of natural medicine. I took it for granted that my mom used calendula and aloe for burns, or chamomile for upset stomaches, or oils to ward away bugs. Please don’t misunderstand… I love and respect modern medicine as well (my brother’s life has been saved by it more than once), but I believe there is a time and place for both, and both herbs and modern medicine can work together to be a stronger medicine overall. For this knowledge I thank my mother.    

At 17 I started to pursue my education in herbal medicine, after a chance comment by my oldest friend. She casually mentioned I should be an herbalist after I had gone on for a good 20 minutes about the folklore and medicine of apples, this after we found some in the swamp we were exploring. It was like she had told me I was allowed to be a magical creature and somehow turn that into a career. Herbalist… you could do that?! If you ever ask her, she’ll deny being such a catalyst in my life, but that’s only because she refuses to accept what a positive influence and inspiration she has always been.

So, as any good homeschooler would, I started to look for ways to pursue my education. At the time there were a few herbal colleges scattered throughout the U.S, most of which were correspondence, and ranged in price from $3,600 to become a “Master Herbalist”, to $10,000 for barely a certification. Almost none of these offered clinical training, biomedical sciences, or real hands-on training. 

Getting my toes wet, I went with a small correspondence course offered by Rosemary Gladstar The Science and Art of Herbal Medicine. It was beautiful, magical, scientific, and exactly what I was looking for. It made me hungry for more, and that’s when I started looking elsewhere for more thorough training.

I traveled to the U.K where herbal medicine is a bit more regulated, and courses are offered in bigger universities which seemed more legitimate to me somehow. I visited Middlesex University in London, The Irish School of Herbal Medicine in Portlaoise Ireland, Findhorn Flower Essences at the Findhorn ecovillage in Scotland, an Unani herbalist in Inverness who offered apprenticeships, and the Eden Project in Cornwall which offered extensive internships in several related fields. The exploration was amazing, but nothing felt quite right, plus there was a lot of talk from people in the areas about many of the herbal schools closing down, and it seemed a new one each year disappeared. Not to mention the price tag of living and education in the U.K… which was beyond my means (the trip alone had put me into debt!) 

After returning to Lake Tahoe at the age of 24 I finally found Pacific Rim College in Victoria BC. They welcomed me and my mother for a visit with open arms, every student I encountered had nothing but wonderful things to say about the place and encouragement for enrolling, and by day 1 I was hooked. I packed my bags, left the states, and after 3 years of intense schooling I’m honored to add Victoria to my list of beautiful homes, I’m on my way to eventually becoming a Canadian citizen, and I’m proud to call myself a Phytotherapist.

So that’s it… the long story. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

About the Apothecary.

White Owl Apothecary is my answer to a very long envisioned idea.

I have always wanted to connect science, medicine, and magic.

The feeling you get when you see old and mysterious things, walk into sacred places like forest groves or antique book stores. There is a touch of reverence and excitement and somehow a mix of seriousness and playfulness. I wanted to capture this feeling in my art and my medicine.

To me, magic is finding the will to carry on and heal yourself. To hold onto something and believe it can help you. To know that you have everything you need to carry on, but sometimes it feels good to put a little of that energy into a stone, a feather, a cup of tea, and allow that object to remind you of what you’re capable of.

Sometimes the apothecary will help with a stubborn cough by using garlic because it is a scientifically researched mucolytic (breaks up mucus), and respiratory disinfectant. I’ll site research, and use more clinical terms.

On the other hand, sometimes the situation is not as cut and dry. Sometimes someone can be dealing with something as ephemeral as fear… or collective sadness. In these cases, sometimes someone needs to be handed a small warm river stone to rub in their pocket and remind them of the earth, and sip a tea with things that wrap the heart in a sense of safety, and a little vial of tincture that can calm nightmares or dark daydreams. Things like this call upon an older and deeper side of ourselves, and can give us just what we need to help pull ourselves back up again.

If someone wants to speak scientifically and clinically, I will speak this language, and if someone is open to something that is a mix of science and magic, then I am all too happy to reveal the energetic side of herbal medicine. There is room for both at White Owl Apothecary.       

The story behind the name of the apothecary developed over the year in which I was searching for my herbal education. Every decision I have made in regards to herbal medicine has been answered by an owl. When I first started the Rosemary Gladstar course, I saw my first wild owl while kayaking solo on an inland lake. When I choose to go to England, I found my first owl feather resting gently on my deck. When I choose to go to Pacific Rim, I found another owl feather while hiking, and then I found a whole owl wing down by my favorite beach in Tahoe. Since then, the feathers have kept coming, and when I see one, I know I’m on the right track.

I find connection with a lot of different animals, but accepting the owl as a mascot and ally feels particularly appropriate for me considering I have a special interest in sleep and dreaming, and I always felt that the owls watched over me while I slept, keeping me safe while I dream.

      

Training and Credentials

Diploma of Phytotherapy, issued by Pacific Rim College, 2017.

3 years of classroom training and clinical experience which included:

  • 510 hours of Clinical Practice (within the school clinic as well as the Victoria Native Friendship Center)
  • 510 hours of Biomedical/biological sciences (includes physical examinations, western pharmacology, physiology, pathophysiology, biochemistry, phytochemistry, etc)    
  • 810 hours of Western Herbal Sciences (includes materia medica of over 200 plants, nutrition, physiology of plants in the body, specific therapeutics for various conditions, and advanced medicine making.) 
  • 90 hours of Nutrition and Supplement training
  • 225 hours of professional development 

Other courses and certificates:

With Rosemary Gladstar and Sage Mountain. (2012)

With Slipstream (2016)

Issued by Victoria (2016)

With Thriving Roots (2015)

Offered by LearningHerbs.com (2012)

Continuing Education Weekend Workshops: (15+ hours each)

  • A Holistic Approach to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 2016: Where we dove more deeply into states of PTSD and what herbal support may look like.
  • Inclusiveness in the Clinical Setting with Bryn Eliot 2016: Where I was mentored on how to create a safe, welcoming, and professional environment for people within the LGBTQA++ community.
  •  Medicinal Mushrooms with Robert Rogers 2014: Where I was introduced to the variety of local mushrooms on Vancouver Island, and taught safe practices for harvesting, and using them medicinally.
  • Healing the Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Dis-ease with Robert Rogers 2014: Where I was trained in the use of flower essences, and good patient communication, with an emphasis on emotional needs.
  • Reading the Body with Margi Flint 2014: A course focused on observing patients in the clinic and knowing how to spot physical markers for deeper states of disease or distress.
  • Materia Medica of Local Plants with Robert Rogers 2014: An extended course on local plant medicine.
  • The Art of Distillation 2014: A course on distilling plant hydrosols, what to look for when purchasing quality and medicinal hydrosols, and how to spot good professional practices.

 

I’d like to thank some of the teachers that have made my path possible.

~Dawn Richarde, who somehow managed to nail being a mom, a freaking incredible healer, as well as a teacher and a best friend… how in the world did you DO THAT? I can barely keep my house clean AND myself fed.

~David Richarde, who was my philosophy teacher, history teacher, debate professor, fact checker, English lit teacher, adventure specialist, and who taught me practical things like how to catch a fish, solder a broken pipe and tend a good fire.

~Chris Richarde, who taught me how to push myself, get out of my comfort zone, go beyond what I thought I was capable of, and managed to save my life at least once, all before the age of 12! Thanks bro. 

~The Bush-Baker family, who taught me things like canning, bread making, winter survival, and much, much more.

~Sue Belanger, who taught me how to make maple syrup and care for the trees respectfully, who also introduced me to the works of Rosemary Gladstar and made my first correspondence course possible!

~Chuck Green, who always challenged my intellect and my preconceived notions of myself. He made my first two semesters at PRC possible. Told you I could handle a college course load Chuck! But you already knew that… didn’t you?

From PRC I’d like to thank:

~Lindsay Hounslow, who taught me how to quiet myself enough to listen to the plants with my heart.

~David Caudwell, who on more than one occasion made me cry with compassion as he spoke on the beauty and mystery of the human body and the phases it goes through, as well as laugh and laugh and laugh at the most ridiculous and brilliant jokes a classroom could experience! He taught me how to be a better listener and practitioner.

~Sean Donahue, who taught me that within all magic is science, and within all science is magic, and to trust my intuition. I’ll never forget the tangent during one class that lead to the ins and outs of a proper invisibility spell, it was at this moment that I realized that yes, in fact, I had enrolled in Hogwarts after all!

~Peter Conway, who encouraged me to follow what had only been a dream.

~Bryn Eliot, who used some kind of magical power to get me to absolutely LOVE biochemistry and phytochemistry. 

~Jamie de Melo, who used absolutely every tool in the book to make Anatomy, Physiology, and Western Pharmacology somehow understandable and memorable.

~James Christian, the amazing Dean of my college, who also taught my first potions class at PRC and shared an infections passion and love of plants.

~Krista Dawn Poulton, who taught me advanced potions, and showed me that it was possible to do all of the things I wanted to do, she is an inspiration as the herbalist I aspire to be. 

There are SO MANY more people than this that I would like to send my gratitude to. It seems the world has conspired to surround me by amazing, inspiring and supportive people in this lifetime.

My friends… old, new, and everywhere in between.

My various bosses, who all managed to support me in becoming what I wanted to become.

Families of my friends, who always cared for me as much as their own kids.

And relatives, who were always one huge group of cheerleaders.

I want to acknowledge that so many people in life have not gotten the same privileges, freedoms, and support as me. Whoever you are, know that you have my support in reinventing yourself, following your dreams and goals, and getting through and surviving in this wild world. I hope to use my privileges to be the change I want to see in the world, and to support others who may not have been as lucky. Keep on living and letting your being make the world a better place!