The Stump the Herbalist Friday morning seminar offered education and entertainment in equal measure, with teams competing to answer arcane tests of herbal knowledge. The seminar was a veritable who’s who of herbal knowledge, with Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council (pictured below) and plant specialist and photographer Steven Foster serving as moderators/game show hosts.
The panel itself was divided into two teams, with Roy Upton, founder of the American Herbalists Guild and executive director of the U.S. Pharmacopeia; Mindy Green, aesthetician and herbalist; and Zoe Gardner, program coordinator for the medicinal plant program at the University of Massachusetts, squaring off against Ed Smith, founder of Herb Pharm; David Winston, founder of the David Winston Center for Herbal Studies; and herbalist Brigitte Mars. Even the audience was star-studded, with Celestial Seasonings Founder Mo Siegel and medicine hunter Chris Kilham in attendance. Had the seminar room been vaporized, America would have lost a significant percentage of its herbal wisdom in one fell swoop.
Though the answers to most questions included Latin plant names that many in the audience would have trouble pronouncing, let alone remembering, there were also some fascinating tidbits of herbal lore dispensed along the way.
Among the things attendees learned: Echinacea was used as a snake bite remedy a century ago; Lewis and Clark carried two pounds of cream of tartar on their expedition for use as a laxative; lotus seed and coriander were found in King Tut’s tomb; and figs are not technically a fruit, but rather a flower pollinated by a specialized wasp.