'Medicine of the people': Persimmon Herb School connects people and plants – IndyStar
It started with a sore throat.
When Greg Monzel was young, he took to his grandfather’s book on herbal remedies to find a cure for his chronic strep throat. The anti-inflammatory enzymes of raw pineapple did the trick.
“I grew up in a family that was connected to the land and sort of foraging and gardening in my youth, and so that’s pretty foundational for me, just living close to nature and plants,” Monzel said. “So I try to learn from the plants as much as possible.”
That was one of his first memories of turning to nature to self-heal, and now, Monzel and his partner, Colleen Donahoe, have made herbalism and plant medicine their lives.
The pair co-founded Persimmon Herb School in 2015, which is based out of their southeast-Indianapolis home and its surrounding land. The school offers seasonal intensives, community classes and yoga classes, as well as some cooking, medicinal and body care products.
During the intensives, participants learn herbalism skills and knowledge centered around a seasonal theme through two to three months of weekly classes.
One community class Monzel regularly leads are Wild Food Tours, first started by Indy resident Kelley Schuyler.
On a recent tour of Christian Park, Monzel led a small group along Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive, identifying plants and trees along the way. At the end, they shared food Schuyler prepared with some of the plants they had just learned to identify – pawpaw fruit, lamb’s quarters and hackberries.
The mission goes beyond education, though.
A community commitment on Persimmon’s website talks about challenging the status quo to better serve the natural environment and says it is “committed to being a vehicle for social justice, environmental justice, and community care for all.”
“We live, practice, teach, play, and grow on stolen land of the Kickapoo, Lenape, and Myaamia peoples,” the commitment also reads.
“Herbal medicine is really the medicine of the people and, you know, anybody can go out and pick plants and heal themselves, and so I think it’s really important to kind of keep these traditions alive,” Monzel said. “We need the diversity of people. We need diversity of culture, everything flourishes better with that.”
“I feel like it’s part of our duty to try to heal our relationships with the land and the people and the plants and try to try to keep a niche and ecological niche for humans on this planet.”