As a kid, Lisa Rose learned to love bright orange, boxed mac and cheese just like all Americans growing up in the 1980s but, at the same time, listened intently as her engineer father preached about protecting wetlands and the habitats of honeybees.
Sailing on West Michigan lakes, she learned to love water reflecting the clear sky and became concerned with the health of forests and oceans. It’s no wonder that as an adult — single-parenting teenagers — Rose discovered a life purpose to empower Americans to appreciate the natural world as a salve for human health. Her latest book, “Midwest Medicinal Plants,” invites readers to explore nearby fields and forests for edibles and healing plants.
“I am an evangelist, but I like to do it from a place of delight and joy, and not damnation or polarization,” Rose said.
She forages for foods regularly, inspired by her mother gathering crab apples, wild grapes and mulberries. A decade ago, Rose began learning how to use local herbs and plants as medicinal supports, which drove the creation of this book.
“It’s magical, actually,” she said. “Nature is everywhere, (with) resources to take care of you. You don’t need a Ph.D. to do this. You can learn to identify plants, make a salve or massage oil, chew on sassafras if I have a dry mouth, (gnaw) on crab apples if my blood sugar is low.”
Her teenagers are full on into eye rolling, but when they think she’s not looking, Rose said her son will make a poultice for bug bites or scratches, or her daughter will use white pine for a tea or tincture.
“People need to go outside and take a walk,” she said. “Realizing our place in the realm of things, it’s a small piece, but our choices can collectively add up to a systems change.”
As an herbalist, forager, urban farmer and food systems advocate, Rose comes from a place of education and love, hoping every person can learn to do one thing to live a healthier life and, in turn, make the planet a little healthier, too.
If there were one thing she’d recommend for every American, Rose said it would be to learn to cook. “If you can take one day a week and add in a home-cooked meal, even a basic meal that can bring your family together. Health starts in the kitchen.”
“I believe people are doing the best they can with what they have,” she said. “I’m insatiably curious as to the way we’ve come along as humans and how we treat the earth. I really want people to connect to the idea that our health and our economic system are tied to the health of the earth.”