Earlier this summer, Arts at the Armory in Somerville hosted Herbstalk, a day-long event dedicated to connecting city dwellers with the natural world. Among the many teachers, presenters and vendors at Herbstalk was the Herbal Academy of New England, a new school in Woburn dedicated to educating budding herbalists. I recently had a chance to sit down with the school’s founder, Marlene Adelmann, and the school’s lead teacher (and a Somerville resident), Nina Katz, to hear about the new venture.
The Herbal Academy of New England is situated on Horn Pond in Woburn, which is absolutely lovely and not as far away as you might think.
People in Somerville “think this is the other end of the world,” said Nina Katz, who reported her drive from Somerville took only 15 minutes on a recent Monday morning. “The wonderful thing about the location is the lake and garden. We’re immersed in the world of plants.”
Adelmann founded the Herbal Academy after years of reading herbal books, participating in online herbal communities and wanting to create a place where herbalists could gather.
“I wanted to form a community,” Adelmann said. “Sometimes it’s better to be with someone, a mentor, and to do hands-on learning. It becomes a lifestyle.”
To that end, the Herbal Academy is offering a 12-part herbalist training certification course that is currently enrolling for its start in late September. For those not ready to commit to a multi-month course but who want to participate in the herbal community, there are food preparation classes, art classes and when the Herbal Academy’s second location opens in Bedford later this fall, yoga classes.
“This is something that everyone can enjoy,” Adelmann said. “There’s not a single lifestyle that won’t be enhanced by it.”
Adelmann and Katz are both incredibly passionate about herbalism and the way it can connect people to the world around them. When I visited them at the school, Adelmann and Katz pointed out several herbs growing right under our feet in the yard and surrounding areas. They hope to bring this awareness of the natural world to those who take classes at the Herbal Academy.
“The biggest teacher in all of this is Mother Earth,” Adelmann said. “It’s almost like I’m wrapped in her arms when I take a class like this. There’s nothing we don’t get from her.”
The Herbal Academy’s classes will focus on the physical world, such as learning how to identify and use plants, but it will also address the spiritual side of herbalism.
“This is a program that is going to work academically and spiritually to address the whole person,” Katz (below) said.
Adelmann, a vegetarian and a runner, and Katz, a vegan and QiGong practitioner, are passionate about health and plan to share that through the school’s programs.
Katz originally became interested in herbalism because of a chronic illness that was plaguing her. After a lot of reading and experimenting, she saw firsthand how herbs could heal. The benefits of using herbs, many of them local, as medicine will be part of the school’s focus.
“The plants that grow near you are often the ones you need the most,” Adelmann said.
While Adelmann and Katz have both developed philosophies on health and herbalism that work for them, the school will teach many different perspectives and they encourage people from every walk of life to join them.
“We want to be very inclusive with who we share our space with,” Adelmann said.
As herbalism becomes more well-known, with herbs popping up at places like CVS and Shaw’s, Adelmann (left) and Katz (right) hope that more people will be inclined to train as herblists and take classes at the Herbal Academy.
“Everybody knows about aloe, but most people don’t know about the herbs at our feet,” Katz said. We want people to “open the door and see what’s out there.”
Adelmann added, “even the scruffiest plants provide so much.”
Herbal Academy of New England
120 Arlington Road, Woburn
Enrolling now for herbalist training + other classes and workshops