By Clare S. Richie
Throughout human history, people have used plants for medical treatments. This practice is still alive and thriving here in Atlanta, thanks to Lorna Mauney-Brodek and her Herbalista Health Network. Lorna is an herbalist, medicine maker, and teacher who blends western medical herbalism, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda natural healing, and conventional practices to provide person-specific holistic care.
“People have a right to be healthy and have access to health care,” Lorna said.
Working toward this goal, the network she started provides free herbal clinical services such as a weekly foot clinic at Open Door, mobile clinics (Herb Bus and Herb Cart), and a monthly health fair.
Lorna has studied and practiced herbalism since 2000, but she learned about the power of community during her childhood. She grew up in Lake Claire across from the Land Trust and went to Mary Lin Elementary School. Her parents were part of social group that started and supported local cooperative efforts like Sevananda and the Bond Federal Credit Union.
“The neighborhood vibe was all about community and access to education, banking, and food,” Lorna recalled. In high school, she volunteered at a neighborhood homeless shelter, making meals and washing clothes. She graduated from Columbia University with an art degree, but felt more compelled to serve others.
Herbalism became the perfect outlet to balance her creativity and her passion for health as a fundamental right. She studied and practiced herbalism across the U.S. and overseas. Lorna completed her residency with renowned herbalist Michael Moore at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, and her clinical internship at the Blue Ridge School for Herbal Studies. In northern Spain, she learned the importance of foot health while treating foot injuries of those on a religious pilgrimage.
Upon her return to Atlanta in 2006, fate took a hand, or in this case a foot, as she teamed up with a high school alum at the Open Door foot clinic. Her journey had led her back to serving those in need alongside the husband and wife team, Ed Loring and Murphy Davis, who had also started the Lake Claire shelter where Lorna had volunteered as a high school student.
Over the next decade, Lorna would pour her studies, experiences and collaborative spirit into a network of partners, practitioners, volunteers, and donors with a common purpose of free herbal health services and education.
Lorna reaches the underserved by partnering with groups already meeting other needs like shelter or food. Every Sunday at Woodruff Park as Food Not Bombs serves meals to those who are hungry. On select Sundays, student herbalists provide first-aid services from the Herb Cart The most prevalent health problems they see are from stress-related illnesses, often manifested as anxiety, body tension, and high blood pressure – remedied through individualized treatments.
The network also welcomes all Atlantans to take part in Herbalista Community Health Fair, “a grassroots effort to regain some control over our health and bodies.” It’s held the last Wednesday afternoon of each month at the Big House on Ponce. There you’ll find volunteer practitioners offering consultations at both the Herb Bus and the Herb Cart, massage therapy, Reiki, wellness classes, and more.
Beyond providing direct care, Lorna leverages her reach through educational programs that also help sustain the network. Under her guidance, apprentices learn how to assess a patient, how to set up clinic, and advanced medicine making. With Grow a Row, farmers are taught how to grow herbs in exchange for donating back a row of herbal produce. Pay-It-Forward workshops show participants how to make remedies, which are then donated to her herbal clinic. All her programs and models are documented in free “how to” manuals available on the Herbalista.org website.
For more information on donating, volunteering, or participating in the network, visit Herbalista.org.