IN DIALOGUE WITH ABBE FINDLEY, Herbalist and Artist
Growing out of an interest in agricultural farming, Abbe Findley expanded her involvement with flora and fauna, undertaking studies in herbalism. Abbe began her studies in plant medicine roughly six years ago in Upstate NY and since then has had a handful of teachers along the way, mentoring her on the many ways herbs can be used to support individuals and their health. Since beginning her career as an herbalist, Abbe has exhibited a dedication to shifting the way people think about plant-based remedies; encouraging a move away from privatized wellness, to a more inclusive practice of herbal medicine. Rather than setting plant-based medicine practices against conventional medicine, Abbe exhibits a desire to encourage both, ultimately achieving more personalized and holistic ways of dealing with health and quality of life. Abbe’s herbal practice combines science, tradition, and first-hand experience to promote cohesion between our bodies and nature.
Tell us about a notable memory from your upbringing, relating to anything, maybe something that continues to shape the way you think today?
Growing up on a farm in rural MO, I spent a lot of time with my Granny and Grandma. I treasure the memories I have with them, working in their gardens, picking strawberries, canning green beans, digging up potatoes, and foraging gooseberries, blackberries, and Morel mushrooms. They’ve shaped my love for being diligently resourceful, living simply, and cultivating beauty and quality of life from that which grows around me.
What sparked your interest in holistic and herbal medicine and specifically your line of skincare titled Dirt? Did you grow up in a household that relied predominantly on herbal remedies?
I got into herbalism through gardening and cooking. The idea of calling the skincare line Dirt came to me while jogging. It just made sense since it’s purely plant-based plus it reminds me of my families relationship with farming and earth shaping.
My mom told me my Great Grandad Reno who was known for growing the best watermelons used to drink Nettle and Comfrey infusions and read Prevention Magazine. Aside from this, herbal remedies weren’t a part of my upbringing.
You mentioned going on a recent road trip south of the border. What inspired this trip and what were you hoping to find, what did you discover?
I drove to the tip of the Baja peninsula with my friend and mentor 7Song to find Damiana (Turnera diffusa, Passifloraceae) growing in its natural habitat. It’s a medicinal plant we both really love using in practice and wanted to see it growing in the wild. We did some heavy nerding out on a handful of other beautiful and obscure plants while there and I filmed new videos with him for the Herbal Medicine Video Database.
The ingredients behind your products are predominantly from within America and you’ve been specific about which plants you use. What are the ethics behind using certain plants over others?
There are many medicinal plants now endangered in the wild, commonly as a result of overharvesting for commerce or from insect blight. This is why it’s important for herbalists and plant-based product makers to consider the ethics and sustainability of the plants we choose to work with, to highlight, and in some cases popularize. For example, Chaga, Goldenseal, Lady’s Slipper, and American Ginseng are all beautiful and effective remedies but are now greatly endangered in the wild from overharvesting. United Plant Savors has a list of Species At Risk available to the public, I do my best to avoid working with as many of these plants listed here unless they have been cultivated or gathered from a place I know and observe habitually. Zizia products aim to highlight western herbs that are potent, wild, abundant, and weedy growing in the wild or can easily be cultivated. I reserve the lesser known and obscure bioregional medicinal plants for my clinical practice to use with people one on one.
What elements of Zizia, in both the products and the brand’s philosophy, incorporate aspects of folk tradition?
I love that herbal medicine is part of the oral tradition, that humans all over the world have and continue to cultivate a relationship with plant medicine in their daily customs, rituals, and to support their communities. While I love science and that’s a big part of my practice, it’s important to highlight and pay respect to the evolution of plant medicine and its origins from the folk tradition. Afterall, it is this lineage that has brought herbal medicine to where it is today and many of our most prized pharmaceutical drugs are derived from the very constituents that are found within these plants.
What would be some advice you can give to a beginner hoping to develop their herbal rituals for skincare and inner health?
Start simple. Use one herb or formula at a time and observe how you feel after using or taking it consistently for a few months.
Have you got any exciting developments in Zizia or creative projects on the horizon?
Editing new videos I’ve recorded in the field for the Herbal Medicine Video Database. Exploring Riso printing for my personal art practice and Zizia. Training more people to do foot care and growing Street Feet L.A. Making new products for the Zizia collections.
What is something you have loved for a long time?
What is something you are yearning to experience?
Traveling to different parts of the world to shoot videos for the Herbal Medicine Video Database project.
Maimoun comes from the Persian language word, meaning to welcome a guest into your home. If you could invite anyone to dinner in your home, who would it be?
Agnes Varda, to chat about cinema, life, travels, thoughts, and food.