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Herbal Healers: Honoring Black Herbalists of the Past

February is Black History Month and we’re celebrating the contributions of black herbalists to the field of herbalism. Today, we’re recognizing the work of three influential herbalists: George Washington Carver, Onesimus, and Edmond Albius.


George Washington Carver was an African American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. He is best known for the many uses he discovered for the peanut. He also developed a technique for crop rotation to prevent soil depletion. Carver developed numerous products from sweet potatoes and peanuts, many of which are still used today.”He created over 300 products using these ingredients, these products included medicines, cosmetics, and soaps. George was a pioneer in the field of sustainable agriculture and helped to revolutionize the way

we use plants for food and medicine. He was a major influence in the development of modern herbalism and farming, especially for poor farmers who wrote tens of thousands of letters to him, asking for advice. George Washington Carver is said to have responded to about 20,000 of these in his life. He would pray and get answers in his sleep.


Onesimus was an African slave in the 18th century. He was brought to the colonies in 1706 He taught his master, Cotton Mather, about a smallpox inoculation technique he had learned in Africa. He shared his knowledge of variolation, a method of inoculation using material from a smallpox sore. His work helped introduce the practice of vaccination to the Western world and saved countless lives.


"Edmond Albius, is known as the "father of vanilla". He was an enslaved person on the French island of Réunion in the 19th century. At the age of 12, young Edmond discovered the technique for hand-pollinating vanilla orchids, which revolutionized the vanilla industry and made it possible for vanilla to be grown outside of its native Mexico. This method is still used today and it likely because of him that vanilla one of the most popular flavors in the world.


These are just a few examples of the many Black herbalists who have made valuable contributions to the field of herbalism. Their work continues to inspire and shape the industry today. Let's honor the legacy of these herbal healers by continuing to learn from their wisdom and using plants for food and medicine in sustainable ways. Happy Black History Month!