Despite living in the rarified air of the Rocky Mountains near tree-line our summertime give us an amazing array of plants in our alpine forests, meadows and wetlands. Like most Summit County locals, I'm usually running or bicycling through our landscape at a fast clip, rarely taking the time to step off the path and soar the beauty and wonder that creates the dappled botanical canopy below and above. When I do take the time, it is a treat.
I was fortunate to grow up in a family that valued gardening and herbalism and was even more fortunate to stumble upon the profession of naturopathic medicine. My studies included a healthy dose of botanical medicine, nutrition, the research that verifies and modifies age-old uses for each, along with the usual sciences of a doctor. Dr. Kim Nearpass and I met while on our final years of graduate school and residency, and in 2003, made the move to her home State of Colorado. Keeping with the root meanings of both physician and doctor (docere = teacher), our goal is to educate and empower people to participate in their own healing. We work with the body's innate healing power, utilizing the least invasive therapy appropriate for the situation – lessening dependence on pharmaceutical drugs.
For the last 15 years, we have been practicing naturopathic medicine at our location along Frisco main street, and every summer, I have been leading herb walks in the forest. The dates I have set for summer 2018 are below. They may change, so please call our shop, Backcountry Herbal Apothecary, at (970) 668-1700 to RSVP.
Thursday, July 5 starting at 10am
Sunday, July 15 starting at 9am
Saturday, August 25 starting at 9am
The herb walks always start in the parking lot called “Zach's Stop” at the Southwest corner of 2nd Avenue, beyond the Peak One neighborhood in Frisco. I have a list with around 50 different plants listed, and we can usually discuss 2-3 dozen of them during the course of an hour. Suggested donation is $5 for adults, with kids free.
One of the books that I like to reference on herb walks, “Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies” by Linda Kershaw, describes the value of herbals this way. “All animals, including humans, depend on plants for survival. Throughout human history, plants have provided us with food, clothing, medicine and shelter. Our recent ancestors needed to know which of their local plants were edible or poisonous, which could heal or harm, and which could provide materials for making implements, clothing and shelters. Today, many of us spend our lives in artificial environments, isolated from our natural surroundings. Most of life's necessities are mass produced elsewhere and purchased as needed. We no longer forage for food and it is easy to forget that the air we breathe, the food we eat and many of the drugs we use come from plants. Recognizing wild plants and knowing how they have been used in the past increases our appreciation of our environment.
Many of the plants that grow wild in the Rocky Mountains are also found in towns, cities and roadsides across the continent; millions of dollars are spent each year controlling weeds that might be better used for food or medicine. An appreciation of how our ancestors survived through the centuries, using many of the plants that surround us every day, may help us to bridge the gap between the artificial world in which we live and the natural environment in which we evolved.”
Modern studies are proving there is measurable, reproducible value in connecting people with the outdoors. For a humorous take on the idea of prescribing time outdoors, take a look at the faux commercial online called “Nature Rx”. Even if you cannot make it to one of the dates, we have set aside for herb walks this summer, make sure you get out to enjoy the streams, rivers, canyons, meadows, forests and mountains this area has to offer. Nature is one of the most valuable healers. Spend some time out there!
Not long after starting our practice serving Summit County in 2003, Dr. Kim and I co-founded the Backcountry Herbal Apothecary, which serves as a doorway to our naturopathic practices, the practice of Tami Clark, LAc, and several excellent practitioners of massage therapy. We are Summit County’s place to find high quality, local Western and Eastern herbal and natural products to benefit your health and well-being. We believe in the healing power of nature, honoring and preserving the health of our planet, as well as our customers and patients. For this reason, we carry products that are sustainably produced. Our herbs and essential oils are the highest quality, either organically grown or sustainably wild-crafted. The supplements we offer are professional line products, which are held to the highest standard. We also carry a variety of natural body care products and gifts, most created by Summit County and Colorado artists.
Written by Dr. Justin Pollack, ND (You can also find this article in the Summer issue of "Listen, Share and Be Kind".) Photo from AANP attendee several years ago