.Herb Folk Medicine: Erin Masako Wilkins

Erin Masako Wilkins is an herbalist and acupuncturist based in Petaluma. Her new book, Asian American Herbalism, has received notices from the likes of eater.com, Vogue magazine and our own Rosemary Gladstar.

As interpreted through an Asian lens of traditional Chinese medicine, the book instructs the reader in the preparation of European and Asian herbs as teas, tinctures, syrups, salves, baths and meals. Together, these preparations address 100 common ailments, including joint pain, the common cold, allergies, skin breakouts, low energy, stress and dysregulated menstruation.

CH: Most of the medicines employed by corporatized and industrial Western medicine are based in the deep European tradition of herbalism. Pills come from plants. You explain in the book that one of the reasons for returning to these roots is “health justice.” Could you elaborate on that principle?

EMW: It’s the issue of accessibility. When I was studying to get my degree and licensure, I was very quickly aware of the gatekeeping of medical knowledge. I felt compelled to ask, how can I share this knowledge freely with people that don’t have the means, time, bandwidth for a private session? One of this book’s highest goals is to empower folks with tools and knowledge to heal themselves.

CH: You learned the foundation of your knowledge from the Japanese herbalism of your mother and grandmother. What did they teach you?

EMW: They taught me consistency, presence, showing up for yourself and your family every day … and how to brew an amazing cup of genmaicha green tea. What they taught was less about the intellectual nuances of herbalism and more about how to inhabit the experience of being an Asian American woman here in California.

CH: Was the writing of this book an opportunity to work through what it means to be Asian and American?

EMW: Yes. The question I continued to ask myself was, what does it mean to practice traditional Asian medicine in the context of modern day America? What came up was the stripping away of “the exotic.” The book isn’t an ancient secret or a mystical translation of a classical text. It’s about our connection to the earth and the people that came before us.

‘Asian American Herbalism’ is available at Copperfield’s Books.

This interview is taken from a longer audio interview available at ‘Sonoma County : A Community Portrait’ on Apple, Google and Spotify podcasts. linktr.ee/cincinnatushibbard.

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