Dublin herbalist teaches healing properties of common plants

  • Katherine Gekas introduces medicinal herbs to visitors in her garden in Dublin. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Katherine Gekas introduces medicinal herbs to visitors in her garden in Dublin. July 7, 2020 Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Katherine Gekas led visitors through the qualities of herbs growing in her garden in Dublin on July 7, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Katherine Gekas led visitors through the qualities of herbs growing in her garden in Dublin on July 7, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Katherine Gekas led visitors through the qualities of medicinal herbs growing in her garden in Dublin on July 7, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Katherine Gekas led visitors through the qualities of medicinal herbs growing in her garden in Dublin on July 7, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Katherine Gekas led visitors through the qualities of medicinal herbs growing in her garden in Dublin on July 7, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/7/2020 5:49:27 PM

Herbal remedies have a tradition as old as humanity, yet some people still express surprise when they work. Dublin herbalist Katherine Gekas has heard a lot of it – some from her own family after she’s treated them —  but she’s more than happy to share what she knows and get others excited about the power of plants. Gekas is a herbalist and a longtime user of herbs and completed five years of apprenticeships under what’s now called the Boston School of Herbal Studies. She moved to Dublin in 2016.

Gekas has been delivering hands-on classes on the healing properties of herbs throughout the summer. In July, she brought five visitors and a reporter around her home gardens, describing the results she’d seen in treating her and her loved ones’ burns, nosebleeds, and stings, and boosting their moods and immune system with various planted and wild herbs on her property. Visitors learned the uses and contraindications for certain herbs, many of them common weeds, and the important distinctions between the tinctures, oils, teas, decoctions, and tonics used to ingest them.

Although she is trained to do formal consultations, Gekas mostly serves as a “family and friends” herbalist, she said. New Hampshire is full of naturopaths with more rigorous training than her, she said, and she sees her role in the community as teaching people the potential for how plants can help them, and how to responsibly work with them.

“Because herbs are so accessible, and they are categorized as food by the FDA for the most part, people think they don’t need to go see clinical herbalists,” Gekas said. In reality, herbalists are trained pretty rigorously, and for good reason. Her lectures are peppered with disclaimers. “FYI, herbs have an effect on you… even when it’s a store bought herb, if you’re feeling something 10, 20 minutes later, think about what you just had in your mug,” she told the group. A plant like tulsi, also called holy basil, can have a calming or antidepressant effect in a tea, but it can also drop your blood sugar, she said. Every person’s response to every plant is going to be a little different, she said, and that’s where a consultation with an herbalist experienced in a plant’s uses can be really important. “Ten percent gets totally stimulated by this. The other 90 percent will sleep well,” she said of a valerian plant the group gathered around.

The walkthrough continued: Chamomile flowers are widely used in teas for calming, but other countries use the plant’s stems and leaves for drastically different applications, she said. Catnip is good for the upper digestive system and can also serve as insect repellent. Yarrow can stop nosebleeds, but also cause them – in addition to treating varicose veins and cuts. Elderflower can break a fever, hops are a sedative, lemon balm serves as an anti-anxiety, comfrey can treat burns as well as acne.  “My husband and children are skeptics,” Gekas said, but they’re supportive when a treatment she recommends works.

The greater herbalist community responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing advice that could keep people out of the hospital, Gekas said. “There are things out there you can be doing to keep yourself strong,” she said, although she added that there are no guarantees. Legally, herbalists may not give medical advice, they may only educate about the traditional uses of herbs, she said. She detailed the procedure for inhaling steam infused with herbs, a process she conducts after going out to the store in hopes that the heat and antiviral properties of the herbs discourage the virus if she happened to come in contact with it despite wearing a mask and keeping her distance.

Eventually, Gekas said she intends to organize monthly workshops at the DubHub. Other workshops she’s conducted this year have been heavier on picking and smelling, and she hopes to do a hands-on harvest of wild cherry bark later in the fall. People interested in upcoming classes can reach Gekas at katherinegekas2@gmail.com.

 




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
603-924-7172

 

© 2020 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy