Shirley Genus, herbalist and Jamaican native, lets us know how she got started in the business and shares a few of her trade secrets in this 60 second chat – unless you’re a very quick reader, or a really slow one.

Can you explain what a herbalist is for the uninitiated?  

A herbalist is some one who collects, studies or experiments with herbs for medicinal purposes. These herbs can be used in a multitude of ways. They can be ingested, infused in tea or food, applied directly to the skin as a superficial treatment, used in baths and steam rooms or simply engulfed in a beautiful garden set up with carefully selected herbal blends to evoke an inner calm and harmony with the spirit  & self.

What are some of the benefits that comes from using herbs and essential oils?

As alluded to above,  herbs and essentials oils can be used as a panacea for many life style diseases. Let’s take lavender oil as an example. It has long been used to invoke calm and relaxation, especially after stressful circumstances. When used in steambaths lavender oils produce vapours that can be inhaled, resulting in relief from tension and headaches.  It’s a medicinal herb and it can also be used as an antiseptic and pain reliever and also as a treatment for sun burn & sunstroke.

How did you learn about herbs and their various benefits?

For me it started out with traditional exposure from my parents and grandparents. As my interest grew, I sought more in-dept knowledge and started working with other herbalists and traditional or alternative medicinal experts.

Is it something you pick up through practice and develop your own methods? Or are there universal practices used throughout the world?

Herbalists are just another form of holistic medicinal and therapeutic practitioners. The great difference is that herbalists have home-grown talents learned through years of oral knowledge passed down over time through trial and error. Every herbalist develops their own ambience and skill set while also developing a wealth of knowledge  in particular areas such as skin, viruses, lifestyle  diseases, cuts & bruises etc..

How long does it take to learn about the various herbs before you can call yourself a herbalist? Are you still learning about them today?

Learing is a lifelong process and so is gathering knowledge about herbs and botany. It depends largely on how well you embrace this gift and what is your main purpose of learning about the use of herbs.

What are the favourite herbs you like to use and why?

That can be a tricky question to answer as I’ve fallen in love with a few. However, my most versatile and loved herb is lemon grass. This herb can be use in food, soups, teas, rubs and as an inhalant  (vapor ). It can also be used as a relaxant,  preservative, insect repellent, to fight anxiety  disorders and to relieve coughs.

What made you want to get into this profession?

As a young adult I was introduced to the Rastafarian faith which has a direct link to natural foods and holistic living.  It infused my early exposure to herbal medicine and propelled me along this path as I delved into the practices of my fore fathers. More so through the faith I embraced this side of me as these practices had captured my imagination and spoke to my inner spirit and soul.

What is your favourite place in Jamaica?

Treasure Beach


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