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Like many people, during this pandemic, I’ve spent more time than usual in nature. With limited social interactions and work and school going remote, we were all thrust outdoors—for walks, to sit in the grass, to inhale fresh air. I realized that I found it very meditative; it helped to alleviate some of the stress.

The more I thought about it, the more I became interested in the idea that our relationship to the Earth—and all of nature’s elements—is synergistic. We need to care for nature, so that nature can heal us.

That’s when I heard about Arkansas-based Kailah Tidwell of Bloom Co., a hub at the intersection of spiritual wellness and holistic herbal education (with some amazing body care products thrown in!). As an herbalist and mental health therapist, she has a unique perspective on how exploring each of our unique relationships with the Earth can help us mitigate anxiety in our daily lives. The work she does is calling “Earth healing” and it centers around tracing the roots of our relationships to the Earth and then harvesting its bounty to make some plant-based folk medicine magic.

In talking to Kailah, I realized: My mother’s family comes from Puerto Rico and my father’s comes from Memphis, Tennessee and Tupelo Mississippi. Though those places are disparate, in many ways, I am a descendant from people who loved, appreciated and gave back to the Earth, but who were also forced to sacrifice themselves and their humanity to care for it. My roots are grounded in the soil of these places in the same way a tree would be.

I can learn about myself and where I come from through my story—and the stories of many—which begins with slaves traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, forced to work on plantain plantations in the Caribbean and cotton fields in the South. My Earth healing begins with healing the wounds of the past, generational trauma and embracing where I come from. And I hope Kailah’s insight can help you heal too:

Katherine Tinsley: How did you begin your work as an earth healer?

Kailah Tidwell: My work is nervous system centered. By trade, I am a mental health therapist and, one year into my career, I realized working with anxiety was my interest. My herbalism practice began with root working, learning about “conjure,” which is a Black American tradition heavily involved in using plants and believing that they have spirits. This led me to wonder about the practical use of herbs. This curiosity led to me seek out herbalists and learn from a community of elders. I later integrated what I learned into my practice. 

KT: What is the focus of your practice?

KT: I feel as though it is vital for us to feel calm and experience a feeling of deep rest, which is especially important at times like this. My practice is centered around helping people understand their central nervous systems.

KT: How have you been able to help clients with their anxiety?

KT: I don’t know if I have the magic eraser but, I can say that education is everything. A lot of us don’t know what anxiety is. My role not only as an herbalist or a therapist, but as a community member, is to provide information—telling people that this is what their nervous system is and this is how to control it. A lot of us are running on fumes and we don’t realize it until we crash or have a panic attack.

I think the way that I have been able to help people the most is by explaining what’s going on with them and providing them with the tools they need, whether that’s through breathing techniques or a blend of nourishing herbs.

KT: Which herbs do you recommend for anxiety?

KT: Herbs called “nervines” will relax the nervous system, depending on their strength. Adaptogens and nervines are great with helping you adapt to stress. I often make one blend specifically: passionflower, blue vervain and lavender (which all fall in the nervine class). They nourish the nervous system and give a sense of relaxation without making you feel drowsy. For anyone looking to heal their nervous system, looking into adaptogens and nervines with the help of a clinical herbalist is a great place to start.

KT: What does plant healing mean to you?

KT: You’re establishing, thoughtfully, a connection with Earth, with the purpose of not only healing yourself, but giving back to the Earth as well. Recognizing the properties these plants have. Having a heart of thankfulness to the Earth.

KT: How would someone go about finding an herbalist?

KT: It depends on which type of herbalist you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a clinical herbalist who is prescriptive, usually you walk away with a regimen. After that, you would come to someone like me who sources herbs to fill that. The American Herbalist Guild is a great place to start if you’re looking for a clinical herbalist. 

KT: What advice would you give to someone interested in earth healing?

KT: When it comes to your relationship with the Earth it is very much a relationship. If you are embarking on a natural healing journey that involves plants, then you should establish a relationship with them. It’s important to view your relationship with the Earth as reciprocal.

KT: How do you live the process in your life?

KT: I’m always seeking balance.

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