“My infant daughter Olivia was screaming at the top of her lungs as she lay strapped to her carrier seat dressed in a pink onesie; I had just poisoned her. It was unintentional, but the deed had been done and could not be taken back.” I explained. Thus began the tutoring of my young daughter-in-law, we’ll call her Joe, on how to care for her newborn baby boy Bray.

More than 20 years before I was a young mother and inspiring herbalist and had accidently grabbed a bottle of high-grain alcohol Echinacea tincture rather than the Echinacea glycerite that would be appropriate in treating an infant with a cold. It was one of those experiences that a mother never forgets and never forgives herself for; it’s akin to allowing her child to get sunburned at the beach.

Joe is a calm-natured kindergarten teacher and is married to my step-son  who is a local police officer following his tour as a Marine. Once, before his tour while he was still a teenager, I remember him telling his father that he didn’t want any of my voodoo sh–, referring to my herbs. Now I had been summoned to care for his most prized possession using my botanical potions.

The story was not meant to frighten Joe; rather, she was at her wits end after having to take Bray to the emergency room several times with a high fever. On one occasion he had to stay at the hospital for several days. Rather, I was trying to convey that despite having been an un-perfect parent, my children were grown healthy adults who had survived and endured the years of being herbal guinea pigs, and that Bray was going to survive too. I quickly realized that she could have done without that particular story.

Luckily, I had already built some confidence with the young parents having treated them both with acupuncture successfully for different maladies. Additionally, my stepson had requested more of the walnut salve based fungal remedy that I had sent in a care package during his tour in Afghanistan; he said it was the only thing that cleared up his and his mate’s foot fungus from wearing boots for 12 hours in the hot dessert.

I felt the urgency of the situation build as Bray now had a temperature of 102*; the herbs had to work fast before it was necessary to bring him back to the hospital. The little guy was fussy, but has a robust stature and good color. I had prepared a number of herbal infusions ahead of time to put in a bath, and enough for the parents to freeze into little ice cubes for future treatments along with instructions.

I was honored to be called upon to help care for our grandbaby. The experience not only kept Bray out of the hospital for the next 6 months, but it helped to build our family ties. As an herbalist one often finds herself outside of the accepted norms of healthcare, and family is often the most dismissive force of all. I find myself ever more thankful that I found my calling early in life and was able to follow my passion to this place of being a wise healing elder. I am also grateful that I did not kill anyone along the way.

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