The Buzz

If you’re looking for a women’s conference that offers a generous dose of herbal education mixed with camaraderie, empowerment and self-reliant living, then the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference may fit the bill.

The sixth annual conference, to be held Oct. 1-3 at Lake Eden in Black Mountain, draws women from across the Southeast to attend more than 60 classes offered by more than 30 instructors. Many of the 600 participants return year after year, says Lee Warren, one of the conference’s organizers.

“We hope we can give women a taste of what it’s like to live closer to the earth, closer to their own inner instincts, closer to the food that’s grown near them, closer to self-care,” she explains.

Herbs, their properties and uses naturally command the spotlight at the conference, but classes branch out from there to cover a range of topics under the umbrella of the Wise Woman Tradition, a term for herbal-medicine healing coined by nationally known herbalist Susun Weed. Conference organizers say the Wise Woman Tradition focuses on simple living, earth-based healing and using local plants.

“It’s not just herbs and not just for herbalists,” says Warren.

Classes — which range from beginner to advanced — include a series of herb walks, along with topics such as cold and flu remedies, botanical skin care, classic kitchen remedies, seasonal living and “making peace with your body.”

Advanced workshops encompass classes on heart health, the uterus, the endocrine system and autoimmune disorders. Last year, the conference offered continuing-education credits for nurses, Warren says, and applied to the American Holistic Nurses Association to do so again this year.

There’s also a group of workshops built around the theme of “tending our spirits,” which include drumming, art, astrology and a panel discussion on diversity.

Then there are the holistic sexuality workshops offered by Sheri Winston, a registered nurse, midwife, massage therapist, sex educator and author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure (Mango Garden Press, 2010).

“Kind of edgy stuff for the South,” comments Warren.

Special guest speaker Rosemary Gladstar — who’s been called the “godmother of American herbalism” — will offer a cluster of workshops as well as lead the opening and closing circles. Gladstar, a prolific herb-book author who now lives in Vermont, founded the California School of Herbal Studies, co-founded the Traditional Medicinal Tea Co., and is president of United Plant Savers, a nonprofit dedicated to conserving and cultivating at-risk North American medicinal plants and preserving botanical sanctuaries across the United States.“

Apart from a couple of notable exceptions, though, almost all of the conference speakers are from the Southeast, complementing the event’s focus on using local resources. Those local speakers include Corinna Wood, director of both the conference and Red Moon Herbs, a medicinal herb company based at Earthaven Ecovillage, an intentional community near Black Mountain (she’s also a Mountain Xpress columnist).

“Let’s get our wisdom locally,” suggests Warren.

Men, while appreciated, are not invited to the conference. A women-only event offers a different energy than a mixed group, and allows women to bond with each other and feel less self-conscious than in a mixed group, notes the conference Web site.

“We just want a little bit of a safe space to be who we can be in this context,” Warren says.

The conference’s highest-level sponsors are Red Moon Herbs and Western North Carolina’s Natural Awakenings magazine, with additional sponsorship by Asheville.com, Flagpole magazine, The Laurel of Asheville, Main, Mountain Xpress, the Natural Awakenings magazines of Atlanta, Greenville/Spartanburg, and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Natural Products Lab, Western North Carolina Woman, Whole Foods and the Wise Woman Center.

Conference organizers have also developed on online forum on its Web site (www.sewisewomen.com) to allow women to continue to be involved and ask questions long after the conference’s closing circle breaks up.

“This is a resource and a touchstone and a real jolt of information,” Warren says.

Friday, Aug. 20, is the deadline to take advantage of early discounts for the conference ($240 instead of $275) and high-level workshops called “intensives” ($35 each instead of $45). There are additional fees for food and lodging. For more info or to register, check out www.sewisewomen.com or call (877) 739-6636.

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