Rural Missouri - August 2019 - 36

RM

| NEIGHBORS

Amber Robinson makes nature her
classroom at the Bitter Herb Academy
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

A

mber Robinson's roots run deep in the hills of St. Elizabeth. As a young
girl she walked the woods of the old family property helping her grandmother, Doris Cross, forage food and native medicinal plants. It's been
a long journey full of moments that pointed her back to those ways, but
Amber knows it was her grandmother who sowed the seeds.
"She is my inspiration," Amber says. "We'd dig up goldenseal roots. She has
those in her cabinet now and will drink that in some tea when she's sick. She's
all about the natural remedies."
If those walks in Osage River country are what made Amber a lifelong student of the natural world, then she credits motherhood with inspiring her to
teach others. She says it began with that basic instinct, wanting to help her
sons, Matthias and Justus, not only survive but also thrive off the land around
them. Amber made natural tick repellents from yarrow in the summer and
YLWDPLQ&H[WUDFWVIURPURVHKLSVZKHQWKHÁXVWDUWHGPDNLQJWKHURXQGVLQ
winter. Soon the high school English teacher found herself trading the chalkboard and Shakespeare for copper pots and chokecherries. Her dream to start
The Bitter Herb Academy had sprouted.
Through the online school, Amber offers classes in four areas: aromatic disWLOODWLRQZLOGFUDIWLQJDQGIRUDJLQJPHGLFLQDODQGHGLEOHSODQWVSOXVFHUWLÀFD
tion courses for herbalists and creating herbal remedies. The coursework is
VHOISDFHGZLWKDFRPELQDWLRQRIÀHOGZRUNLGHQWLI\LQJSODQWVDQGIXQJLDVZHOO
as written assignments. Amber created the curriculum based on her experiences becoming a Level 2 professional aromatherapist through the National
Holistic Association of Aromatherapy and a registered herbalist through the
American Herbalists Guild. Although most herbalists are primarily hobbyists
who make essential oils and their watery, less potent forms - hydrosols -
IRUSHUVRQDOXVH$PEHUIHOWWKHFHUWLÀFDWLRQVZHUHDQLPSRUWDQWVWHSWRVKRZ
skeptical students the real science behind herbalism and aromatherapy.
"I wanted to have as much education as I could before teaching this to somebody else," the Three Rivers Electric Cooperative member says. "If I want to
learn from someone, I want to know that they know what they're talking about."
One common myth Amber has heard is that because they contain natural
ingredients, essential oils are safe for topical use directly on the skin or for
consumption. In reality, they are highly potent distillations of the plant and
can cause allergic or even lethal reactions in adults, children and pets, if used
improperly. While local plants can provide some natural preventative and healLQJEHQHÀWV³HOGHUEHUU\·VDELOLW\WRUHGXFHLQÁDPPDWLRQLVRQHWULHGDQGWUXH
home remedy - Amber is quick to point out they should never be used in the
place of medicine or treatment prescribed by a doctor. People with serious medical conditions would do better to seek the advice of trained professionals, she
says. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are many natural measures
people can take toward preventative health care.
"There's a middle ground to that," Amber adds. "I think modern medicine is
wonderful in so many ways, but if there's something I can do to avoid having
to take all that stuff, I will."
As the local food movement has gained awareness, Amber's noticed people
DOVR ZDQW WR EH DEOH WR OLYH RII RI WKH ODQG DQG VSHFLÀFDOO\ ZKDW LV DOUHDG\
growing around them. It's an interest she shares. Her foraging and wildcrafting courses originate from those rambles hunting for Missouri's many native
edible mushrooms, tapping sycamores and walnuts for their syrup or even
PDNLQJÁRXUIURPFDWWDLOV7KDWODVWH[DPSOHLVGRDEOHLQDSLQFKE\WKHZD\
EXWQRWRQHZKLFK$PEHUUHFRPPHQGVZKHQLWFRPHVWRÁDYRU+HUVXUYLYDOLVW·V
knowledge of botany, though deep and complex, comes from a very simple and
common desire: that of self reliance.
´,ZDQWWREHDVLQGHSHQGHQWDQGVHOIVXIÀFLHQWDVSRVVLEOHµ$PEHUVD\V´,
feel like everything I need is here."
For more information on The Bitter Herb Academy follow the school on
Facebook or visit www.thebitterherb.com.

St. Elizabeth

XX

RURAL MISSOURI | AUGUST 2019

Top: Amber Robinson checks on an essential oil's progress in her distillation
still. Above: %QFIVEHHW]EVVS[¾S[IVW[LMGLEVIYWIHEWEREXYVEPXMGOVITIP
lent. Bottom: The distillation separates into a thin band of oil and watery
L]HVSWSPEPIWWTSXIRXJSVQSJXLIIWWIRXMEPSMP


http://www.thebitterherb.com

Rural Missouri - August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2019

Contents
Rural Missouri - August 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - August 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - August 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - August 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - August 2019 - 4
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Rural Missouri - August 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - August 2019 - Cover4
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