Julia Plevin: Forest Bather
Julia Plevin is a writer, creative strategist, and steward of place and community. She’s the founder of The Forest Bathing Club and Wild Kabbalah. She’s the author of The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing (Ten Speed Press, 2019) and writes a weekly newsletter called The Vilde Chaya (that means Wild Child in Yiddish) on the intersection of food, nature, and Jewish culture. Julia has a BA in History from Dartmouth College and an MFA in Products of Design from The School of Visual Arts. She lives, forages, hikes, and explores in the mountains near Ashland, Oregon in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, traditional land of the Shasta people past and present, with her fiance Isaak and sheepherding dog Mesa.
How did you first discover plant-based medicine?
Lyme Disease has been a big teacher for me and has opened me up to a lot of healing modalities. I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease at age 18 and after exhausting Western medicine, I began to look elsewhere for answers. I have spent a good half of my life trying out every alternative health remedy under the sun so I worked with a lot of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. There are a lot of herbal remedies and supplements that I have tried.
I first got really into cannabis while working at a design studio. I was doing strategy for a cannabis project so I started to study the plant and learn all about its healing properties.
My relationship with plants deepened when I moved to the forest and began identifying the plants that were living alongside me, learning their healing properties, and making medicines. I’ve also learned a ton from two herbalists friends I met in Oregon and now I’m studying clinical herbalism with Sajah Popham.
What is one of your key plant-based medicine rituals?
Every morning I go out and greet the sun and the six directions.I believe in Nature’s power to heal both from the inside out and the outside in. I think it’s easy to forget that just being in nature is really healing us and that often the medicines we need most are the ones that are growing where we live so it’s important for me to be intimately connected to the land I’m on.
Do you have a cultural or ancestral connection to any plants?
My ancestry is Ashkenazi Jewish and there’s a huge black hole in our history, but I did recently come across an amazing book that has helped me to understand more about my ancestral and cultural relationship to plants called Ashkenazi Herbalism: Rediscovering the Herbal Traditions of Eastern European Jews. Really there was no differentiation between what would now be considered “scientific” and “folk” remedies for a long time so my ancestors were definitely using the plants that were growing around them for all sorts of healing. Jewish healing has now been jokingly reduced to “chicken soup” but there’s actually a lot more.
And of course, cannabis residue has been found in ancient Jewish temples. So I know that my ancestors used to go into a Holy Hot Box :)
What is the one plant/herb you can’t live without and why?
It really changes with the seasons! In the winter, elderberry and reishi. In the spring, nettles and dandelion. In the summer, I like to pick yarrow and St. John’s Wort and make tea. In the fall, rosehip!
These are all plants (and fungi) that I wild harvest and I believe that Nature is providing us with what we need at the exact right time. These medicines keep me healthy and balanced as the seasons change. I love wild harvesting plants because I am able to form a relationship with them.
As far as a first aid kit, yarrow is a must have!! I sliced my finger on a mandolin and it wouldn’t stop bleeding, but then I just crushed some dried yarrow and put it on the cut and it stopped immediately. Plants are so magic!
Can you share your favorite self-care practice?
My morning routine is my biggest self-care practice to start the day off right. I wake up at 6am and do yoga/meditate for an hour, then have warm water with lemon followed by celery juice, then I take my dog out for a few mile hike and greet the sun and the directions. I come home and either make a green smoothie with bananas and wild blueberries or have a cup of hot cacao with coconut butter, maca, lion's mane, reishi, and stevia and get to work!
I also love to soak and sauna -- there’s a great place in Ashland called the Jackson Wellsprings and my favorite thing to do is get a group of friends together to go for an evening soak.
How do you like to use Prismatic Plants in your daily routine?
I love to take Good Night after post-dinner Dandelion tea and before taking magnesium! It tastes so yummy and feels pretty light on my tongue. I love how it doesn’t knock me out, it just gently aids me in falling to sleep and getting good quality rest, which is SO important for healing.
What is one organization you think people should know about and support?
Sagorea Te Land Trust — https://sogoreate-landtrust.org/
It’s an urban indigenous women-led land trust that facilitates the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous people
Also Outdoor Afro: https://outdoorafro.com/