When herbalist Erin Masako Wilkins was in acupuncture school, she noticed that many of the support herbs and foods taught in her classes were the same ones she saw in her grandparents’ kitchen.
“It’s in our homes,” she realized. “We have a cultural connection to foods.”
Her new book, Asian American Herbalism: Traditional and Modern Healing Practices for Everyday Wellness, is part memoir, part herbal guide, and includes a bounty of recipes inspired by local plants. On Friday, Oct. 20, locals can meet the Sonoma County author at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, where she’ll be reading and signing books and sharing simple ways people can incorporate healing herbs and plants into everyday life.
The book is pleasantly tactile and exciting to page through, and it’s chock full of wellness practices, herbal remedies and easy-to-follow healing recipes that one can confidently make at home. Readers won’t have to worry about finding obscure ingredients or expensive herbs to create the remedies offered, because the recipes are hyper-focused on easy-to-procure plants.
When Masako Wilkins, herself an Asian American herbalist and acupuncturist, realized that the ability to use herbs was a lost body of knowledge for many people, she wanted to change that. And she’s committed to using locally available plants.
“I’ve always felt that it’s important to use herbs that grow well where I live in Sonoma
County, California,” she explains. “One reason is that abundant herbs like mint, oats, mugwort and calendula are an affordable or free way for people to bring herbalism into their daily lives.”
Founder of Herb Folk, an Asian American herbalism and tea company, Masako Wilkins has specialized in Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for over a decade. She began her career as an acupuncturist, but quickly realized that herbalism was her true calling.
When working as an acupuncturist, she kept a wall full of herbs to complement her clients’ treatments, and from there, opened her shop, Herb Folk. While the brick-and-mortar is now closed, Herb Folk is still an online store where clients can find her tea blends, herbal formulas and broth herbs.
As an herbal practitioner of Asian descent, Masako Wilkins taps into her own ancestral healing traditions to empower others to reclaim their own preventive care, establish vibrant health and cultivate a connection with the rhythms of the natural world. She emphasizes that everyone has the ability to do this.
“Asian American herbalism speaks to reclaiming healing traditions in deeply personal
ways. This includes identity herbalism (learning the healing traditions of one’s ancestors), which is important because it reminds us of the cultural connection to the earth that exists for all of us,” she says.
Her book and her work explore what it means to practice traditional Asian medicine in a contemporary, multicultural frame of reference.
“It’s about appreciation, not appropriation,” she points out. “Herb Folk and my book, Asian American Herbalism, were both born from my work as an acupuncturist. My tea blends are based on the herbs that I most commonly recommend to patients.”
And those herbs are precisely what make her vision unique. The herb and tea products and recipes she offers are a reflection of her modern approach to herbalism. As Masako Wilkins integrates Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine healing traditions which have been carried through the centuries, she sets out to use the most effective and accessible plants in Sonoma County to treat common ailments and maintain optimal health.
“Buying herbs from small farms supports family-owned businesses and our local economy, a knowledge I inherited from my Grandfather Hiroshi, who worked on Sonoma County farms in the 1930s,” she says. “And spiritually, I believe we share a resonance or spirit with the herbs that grow where we live.”
Her style embodies a blend of what is already working traditionally with what is all around us. It’s all about slowing down, enjoying what’s here and applying it to our lives today.
An event and book signing with Erin Masako Wilkins and her book, ‘Asian American Herbalism: Traditional and Modern Healing Practices for Everyday Wellness,’ will be held from 7-8pm, Friday, Oct. 20 at Copperfield’s Books Petaluma. The book can be pre-ordered at copperfieldsbooks.com.