Holly Dunbar is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Registered Herbalist, and Certified Aromatherapist. With a deep-rooted connection to the healing potential of plants she founded New Moon Bodywork & Botanicals, a haven for those seeking the delicate balance of bodywork and botanical remedies. In this exclusive interview feature on DeliveryRank, Holly shares her journey, insights, and wisdom, unraveling the profound impact of incorporating herbal remedies into our daily routines and embracing the innate healing abilities of the natural world.
I grew up on a 45-acre farm where we literally cut the road to get to the land. This was 1977, and homesteading was hardly cool! It was deeply ingrained in me from my childhood experience that plants are the staff of life. I observed how the trees gave us not only shade in a sweltering summer without electricity, but firewood to keep us warm, which was our only fuel source. The grains fed the sheep, rabbits, and pigs that were our staple protein along with wild game, and the garden fed us with its abundance not only in season, but throughout the winter as we opened jars that we had canned at the peak of the season.
One of my earliest memories that sparked the healing potential of plants came from aloe. I had burned my hand in the kitchen and my Mom split open a fresh leaf and applied the cooling gel to my burn, which instantly relieved the pain. I was so impressed by this experience at the tender age of five that I divided that plant and repotted it in yogurt cups to give to friends. I enrolled in Baltimore School of Massage at age 20 to pursue an education in massage therapy, never having received a professional massage in my life! It was a true calling. My formal herbal education followed and has led to seeing many clients in my private practice for almost thirty years, countless teaching experiences for the community and fellow professionals, and a lifelong commitment to learning!
Herbal medicine is often mistaken as being a weaker form of pharmaceuticals, but nothing could be further from the truth! Herbs offer a more synergistic, balanced approach to not only maintaining health, but addressing specific symptoms without causing further imbalance. Consider the humble dandelion, which has nutritive, diuretic, blood sugar balancing, alterative, and hepato-protective properties. If one were to look to a pharmaceutical drug to address water retention, the side effect is often potassium depletion and the resulting muscle cramps. Dandelion is an effective diuretic, but is also a rich source of potassium and magnesium, decreasing the likelihood of muscle cramps. This phytochemical synergy occurs in many herbs.
Herbs can be used as condiments, seasonings, syrups, and teas- tasty culinary ways to consume them on a daily basis that enhances our well-being and promotes homeostasis of all the organ systems.
It is difficult to narrow in on the plant kingdom - there are so many beneficial herbs! I do like to point out the beneficial herbs growing in one’s own environment, and to familiarize oneself with these. Yarrow Achillea millefolium, for example, is an herb that grows throughout the United States and has many uses. As a diaphoretic, it helps to induce a sweat at the onset of colds and flu and prevent the onset of infection, it is a circulatory stimulant in general and good for those with sluggish circulation. Yarrow’s slightly bitter taste benefits gallbladder and liver function, and as a topical it helps arrest heavy bleeding and prevent infection.
I generally use formulas in my practice, as the synergistic effect is greater than a single herb's indications, but there are herbs such as yarrow which provide a range of benefits with the use of one herb. Local plants can be a great starting point to introduce clients to the healing wonders of what may be growing in their backyard.
Taking the time to cook wholesome, freshly prepared meals is crucial. No herb will overcome a nutritionally poor diet over time. Use fresh antioxidant herbs freely in your cooking to enhance digestion and optimize nutrients- small doses of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, basil, dill, and marjoram provide a huge antioxidant boost!
Stress management is an important skill to master in today’s fast paced lifestyle. Minimize screen time, make time for friends, move and sweat to exertion daily, and find joy in hobbies and skills that cultivate mindfulness, help foster a healthy immune system and promote longevity.
My herbal training is strongly rooted in the differential diagnostic techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which assesses a person’s constitution and energetic profile to determine if the symptoms are rooted in excess or deficiency, hot or cold, or internal or external influences. While I use both Chinese and Western herbs, I always turn to these assessment tools to determine an energetic match for the client, and what they are presenting at that time.