Inside a Naturopathic Doctor’s Garden

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I love the line from the Dixie Chix song, I want to grow something wild and unruly….,” which is exactly how I feel when I push a hyacinth vine seed deep into the soil and know it will bloom with crazy lavender flowers and deep eggplant-colored pods all the way into fall. Many naturopathic doctors enjoy growing plants, from edibles to culinary herbs to those used in the botanical medicine formulary. As a city kid myself, the closest I came to gardening growing up was when we planted parsley seeds in milk cartons in the spring!

My first taste as a real gardener was as a twenty one year old attending naturopathic medical school.  I pored over seed catalogues while the dreary, rain-drenched winter swirled outside our windows, dreaming of juicy watermelon, basil for pesto and echinaceae flowers to grace the front yard. When I learned about mixing in compost to our soil, when I saw the way the plants literally followed the sun , when I witnessed orange squash flowers bursting from winding vines, and when on a hot summer’s day I took my first sublime bite from the belly of sun-warmed watermelon, I was hooked for life.

I love gaining a deeper understanding of how it’s both the hardest and easiest thing in the world to grow something. I developed a reverence for farmers, I lean into the underlying optimism that is part of gardening, and the way a small seed knows exactly how to grow and what to become. I appreciate the benefits gardening presents my family: time together outdoors, being surrounded by growing plants and colorful beauty, and the health-giving nutrients of the food that nourishes us, body and soul. I know not all my patients enjoy gardening, but I think exposing everyone to the process, whether growing baby tomatoes in a pot on the porch or a parsley plant in a milk carton on the window sill, there is inherent value to playing in dirt, watching things grow and feeling connected to the natural world.

Amy Rothenberg, ND

Amy Rothenberg ND practices in Northampton, MA. Dr. Rothenberg served on the AANP Board and as President of the Massachusetts Society of Naturopathic Doctors where she spearheaded the successful effort for licensure in the Bay state.

Stevia leaves can be added to brewed tea

Dr. Yanez’s garden at home.

Growing herbs at home is a great way to incorporate nature into your life and your diet. After moving to Southern California, I decided to try my hand cultivating a few plants. As we are in a water conservation area, I personally don’t like putting water on things I can’t eat – so little by little, I am converting our landscaping to edible plants. My advice for folks is to start small – and consult with your local gardening store to understand your microclimate and what does well where you live.

My current favorites include lavender – which makes for a pretty addition to the landscape and is both fragrant and medicinal. I also use rosemary as a hedge. In addition to being great in savory dishes, I regularly add a sprig or two to my water. Another plant I never thought about growing until now is stevia, which is currently in my garden. Most people are used to seeing the processed version, however, its leaves can be added to brewed tea for natural sweetness. It’s a hardy plant and comes back year-after-year. Hibiscus also makes for a beautiful garden addition and a delightful tea as well.

At the end of the day – grow what you want to eat and what you enjoy looking at!

Throughout the year I will rotate mint, basil, oregano, thyme, onions, and other medicinal botanicals through my garden. There are no rules – just have fun getting your hands a little dirty!

JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE

JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE is the Executive Director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges and the chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH).

Lemon balm is relaxing and antiviral too

Lemon Balm from the NUHS herb garden.

Anyone who is a gardener can tell you how enjoyable it is. The benefits of gardening are recognized in research, where it was found the health benefits of gardening include reductions in depression and anxiety, stress, mood disturbance, and BMI, as well as increases in quality of life, sense of community, physical activity levels, and cognitive function.[1] Gardening has been life-changing for me since growing herbs brought me closer to naturopathic medicine, and I hope students can have a similar experience. 

By far the most popular herb in the National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) herb garden is Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon balm has many medicinal uses. The best thing about growing it is being able to smell it every day. It’s very popular as a calming, relaxing nevine to reduce stress and anxiety; and it’s been said to bring joy to the heart. It is a carminative, and effective at reducing digestive complaints (especially if stress related). Lemon balm can also be used in infections as an antiviral, especially against the Herpes virus.

Due to the aromatic volatile oils, it is best used fresh. The fresh leaves can be used in teas (I make extra to give my dog on hot summer days) – tinctures and in food. It is available as dried herb capsules, although it is more commonly added to combination formulas. Over the last few years, my favorite way to use Lemon Balm is in sun-infused water with strawberries.

Lemon balm is a perennial that can be grown in containers, but when planted in the ground it becomes a mound of delightful aromatic leaves. In our NUHS herb garden it is the first perennial to come back from our harsh winters, and except for pruning, needs very little support. If you plant it, you will enjoy it!

Lorinda Sorensen, ND, MSAc

Lorinda Sorenson, ND MSAc is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences at the National University of Health Sciences and founding board member for the Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Cilantro is antifungal and also a powerful antioxidant

Herbs not only add a pretty garnish to a plate but incredible flavor, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.  Cilantro, Chinese parsley, and coriander come from the leaves of Coriandrum sativum, it can be often found growing in my raised beds and potted plants when I am traveling. My love for this organic herbaceous goodness came from learning to mix the ground seed in Indian cooking with my Maasi/Auntie in India and sprinkling the fresh herb on top of prepared meals.

Toxic metals such as mercury and lead have no beneficial role in human health and often contribute to chronic illness and disease. Cilantro has gained popularity as an herb to help mobilize mercury and lead levels out of tissues.

Cilantro also has been shown to have antifungal properties and high amounts of carotenoids an antioxidant.

Cilantro can be polarizing—many people are obsessed with it while others claim that it tastes like soap, this is likely caused by a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associated with the soapy-taste.

My favorite preparation of cilantro has to be chopped finely and mixed into guacamole or blended in a vegan cashew green goddess dressing.

In the garden, I also love growing other culinary herbs, medicinal herbs like yarrow, sage, chamomile, calendula, and edible flowers like— hibiscus, pansies, nasturtiums, and violets as they add a pops of color to meals and many antioxidants!

Erin Rhae Biller, ND

Dr. Biller is the first naturopathic doctor in the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) fellowship program. She practices in California, Arizona, and telehealth globally through video conferencing.

[1] Soga M, Gaston KJ, Yamaura Y. Gardening is beneficial for health: Ameta-analysis. Prev Med Rep. 2016 Nov 14;5:92-99. eCollection 2017 Mar. Review.PubMed PMID: 27981022; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5153451.

INM's team is made up of naturopathic doctors and health journalists.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

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Michelle Simon

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.