Today we’d like to introduce you to Abbe Findley.
Abbe, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up on a farm in rural Missouri outside a town of 200 people certainly has had some influence on my field of interest; herbal medicine. I grew up playing in the dirt, and come from a family whose still doing it to this day. I come from a long lineage of farmers and earth movers on both sides of my family, so I guess you could say working with plants is in my blood. I admire the life and work of a farmer, the ebb and flow of the cycles of nature, weather, the land, and community. It runs deep and there is a level of intelligence in this field of work that you’ll never learn anywhere in a textbook. There is some satisfaction in knowing this, and it serves as a reminder that some of life’s most vital skills are perfected through practice and the oral tradition and will never be privatized through institutions. Because once you learn a skill, people are less able to take that away from you, and that’s something I find empowering and most certainly embedded in the study and practice of herbal medicine as well as foot care. I studied visual art in Kansas City focusing on photography and later installation and video. This experience and my art practice definitely feed the visual life of Zizia. After school, I returned home for about a year to a rural area of Northwestern MO. In that year, I ran an art residency called the Pequignot Palace, I had a big vegetable garden, goats, chickens, ducks, an herb garden, and created a kitchen pantry that would allow me to make almost any type of cuisine in the world. I got really into cooking, gardening, and it was there that I fell into a deep curiosity for the ways in which herbal medicine could become a skill that would empower communities and individuals to take their health into their own hands.
Nearly two years later, after living in Brooklyn for a bit, post-farm, I decided to go study with 7Song at his school, the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine. I had been wanting to study with him for a few years after meeting him at the Florida Earthskills Gathering and feeling really inspired by his style and approach to herbal medicine. I stayed after the program ended and apprenticed with him at the Ithaca Free Clinic where he is the Director of Holistic Services and a clinical practitioner of western herbal medicine. It was there that I had the experience of seeing herbs in action and the beneficial effects of using herbal medicine in a clinical setting with individuals to address their health concerns. I’ve studied and worked with several other herbalists over the years, and it’s been great to see the different ways people practice. It really is a spectrum, and at the end of the day, there are many to align with; though most drift toward a way that resonates most with them and their life experience.
I moved to L.A. three years ago with my entire apothecary of herbal tinctures stuffed in my car trunk (literally). I came to L.A. to make a movie with two friends, I didn’t anticipate staying permanently though I secretly wished for it. I’ve been practicing and studying herbalism rigorously and somewhat obsessively for the last five years. So I guess you could say Zizia started in a cabin in the woods in Upstate NY, then moved to a car trunk, then my bedroom (where it literally started taking over), a studio in Cypress Park that last two years and now this October will be moving into a storefront in Highland Park. While the new Zizia headquarters has no plans for operating as an herb store, it will be a space to run the sliding scale herb clinic out of as well as a studio/workspace.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s not always easy starting something from nothing, and people don’t always understand your vision until you begin to actualize it and show them what it looks like. It takes more time and can be difficult to start a business and free clinics without financial backing. However, I’m learning that the slow and steady approach is better in the long run for various reasons; some obvious and some personal.
There are many opinions people have about herbal medicine; some view it as quackery, with great skepticism, and or are even frightened by it. I’d say there are more frightening things that exist, clearly labeled but somehow passed as standard. On the flip side, some believe it is the ultimate form of medicine and therefore other forms should not be utilized; which I just find to be foolish. There are issues faced as an herbalist when dealing with the growing trend and popularity of herbal medicine at this very moment in time. This isn’t terrible that people are turning to herbs for their health but there is work to be done on educating people about plant medicine and its uses. This includes how to take it effectively and safely, the sustainability and ethics of using certain plants, quality control of herbal products, and most importantly stewardship of the land, plants, and ecology of our planet. The internet is somewhat of a nightmare for researching information on herbalism. Often it’s people with very little experience working with plant medicine perpetuating misinformation and inaccurate claims pertaining to them and with little information on the practical application. I’d recommend for those interested to ask a trained herbalist for herbal recommendations and sourcing information.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Zizia – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Zizia is a community herbalism project and small business based in L.A. that offers handmade herbal products, herb clinics, educational videos, herb clinics, and foot care.
Zizia has a handcrafted line of herbal products that utilize potent and effective medicinal plants that grow abundantly in the wild and/or can easily be cultivated here in the United States. The uniqueness of Zizia as a business is the additional services and programming offered. This includes the monthly free Skid Row Herb Clinic (a free herb clinic offering consultations and herbs held in the garden of the L.A. Catholic Workers Hippie Kitchen) , the Herbal Medicine Database (a public access video database that documents and shares the oral tradition of herbalism as its currently being practiced by bioregional herbalists), the Herb Clinic (offering sliding scale services and refills to those wish to work one on one with an herbalist to address their health concerns), and Street Feet L.A (a free mobile foot care clinic created with nurse Josie Mattson that offers services in two locations in Skid Row). The Zizia apothecary stocks hundreds of medicinal plants in various preparations and many of those plants I’ve gathered myself over the years from the mountains to the desert.
The Zizia standouts are the Herb Clinic (a service where individuals can receive high-quality one on one herbal care by a trained herbalist and receive custom formulas all made in-house), the Kava Suckers, Mushroom Mesquite Powder, DIRT skincare, Relax Tincture, Nerve Tincture, & the 11 Flowers Tincture.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Zizia just launched a new 100% plant-based skincare line called DIRT that utilizes medicinal plants growing right here in the U.S. I’m looking forward to stocking this in more stores as well as offering it for purchase online. In the future, I look forward to continuing to travel and create more videos for the Herbal Medicine Video Database. My big dream is to eventually travel around the world documenting the tradition of other cultures and their use of botanical medicine. There also need to be more free foot clinics for underserved communities, so that’s also on the agenda. Training more people and spreading foot care to those who need it. There’s also the Zizia Candy Land line, the herbal suckers I make. There probably need to be more of those around, like in gas stations and bodegas. I love imagining all the ways herbal medicine can be incorporated into the everyday; it already is in some ways if you think about our use of coffee, tea, chocolate, etc…, but it hasn’t all been done yet. The ideas are never-ending around here, it’s a blessing and curse. I have secret inventions stashed away, some I may never get to, but they’re there, sitting on the table. I won’t get everything done I want to in this lifetime, but will just get to what I can while I can.
- Sliding Scale Herb Clinic ($50-$150 for an initial consultation and this includes herbs)
- DIRT Skincare ($54-$74)
- Zizia Products ($5-$39)
- Address: Los Angeles, CA 90042
- Website: zizia.land
- Phone: 213.286.1893
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Cole Smith, Abbe Findley