PhotoWorking with my Arabic teacher and attar Shayk Abd el-Jaleel in 1979

Community Herbalist and Attar عَطَّار
     My first exposure to community herbalism came in the 1970s & 80s when I worked as a linguist in the Middle East. My Arab neighbors introduced me to traditional aromatic herbal teas like anise and sage to help me deal with my family’s exposure to what is known as "lafhat hawa," or wind sear.  I learned how to deal with often acquired GI upsets by eating ripe guavas, and to prevent such problems by adding fresh garlic to food. 

      One of my Arabic teachers, Shayk Abd el-Jaleel, was also an attar, a maker of botanical essences. The Arabic word "attar" has also become a term used across both Asia and Africa with the general meaning of "herbalist."  My teacher's small dome roofed limestone sanctum where we met for instruction was full of equipment he used in preparing his herbal formulas. A heavy floral aroma always hung in the air. It was in this Middle Eastern context that I first became fascinated by indigenous plant medicines and perhaps set my inner compass on one day becoming an attar myself! 


 soon became adept at navigating the vibrant herb markets of old Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut, Damascus and Cairo.  


During my work as a naturalist guide in Amazonia in the 1990s, I was introduced to powerful purgative and visionary plant medicines like oje, ayahuasca, huachuma and coca. These traditional Amazonian botanicals profoundly impacted my life as I learned from local teachers how to prepare them.

 I was amazed how the salubrious atmosphere of the herb markets of Cusco, Iquitos, Manaus and Belem stood out in sharp contrast to the sterile, antiseptic, chemical miasma of the pharmacies I had grown up with the USA. 


Down in the Haw River Valley, Riverdave and Suki Roth shave off the bark of our native black willow tree that will go into Herb Haven's Pain Free Formula.


     Since 2006 my herbal awareness expanded to include Ayurveda, Thai Massage and Yoga based therapies and in 2017 I was nourished by Sanskrit study in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have become a student of the tridosha theory 
of constitutional balance, finding it to be amazingly accurate in holistically mapping both health challenges and herbal remedies.
  After completing study in Community Herbalism at Pacific Rim College i
n 2010 and then treating my own Lyme Disease condition, I have been working as an apothecary assistant (attar!) to herbalist Suki Roth at Herb Haven in Saxapahaw, NC.
      Through these study and work experiences I have come to understand that the practice of herbalism is foundational to all traditional systems of healing. Diverse shamanic and bodywork therapies are really only adjunct to a more basic and universal practice of botanical medicine.  My priority is to first choose medicinal plants native to my home region of Eastern America. If they are not readily available, plants from other regions and traditions can be incorporated. At present I am researching the possibility of a sustainable herbal pharmacy based on medicinal trees native to Eastern America. My primary method of testing these backyard trees as an attar is through the preparation and ingestion of twig bark teas. My first product in its testing stage is a Ten Bark Tea. 

     As a community herbalist, I invite you to explore with me herbal options for any acute or chronic challenges to your health. Some of the herbs I may recommend I can teach you how to wildcraft locally.  Others can be purchased through the Herb Haven apothecary.  My fee for a consultation of up to an hour and a half is $75. To schedule a consultation at my home on Wanda Ridge, or through Apple FaceTime, please email me at

Essays about some of my discoveries as a student of Herbalism

December 1998 - My first season of traditional herbal study in South America 
September 2017 - Exploring the Himalayan Medicinal ties of the Maha-Nimba tree  
January 2014 - 

A helpful constitutional assessment tool for the herbalist

December 2010 - Project for my herbal pharmacy class at Pacific Rim College
February 2015 - My hometown aromatic life 

June 2013 - My Five Level Herbal Treatment for Lyme Disease

December 1998 - I became a leaf chewer
Midnight Watch
November 2012 - My approach to the resolving the sleep dilemma 
November 1999 - My second season of traditional herbal study in South America
December 2017 - Riverdave's herbal path to remedy Season Affective Disorder

June 2011 - My basic method of herb ingestion

January 2016 - Hunting and gathering in our Piedmont oak-hickory forest 
April 2012 - A great restorative herb to harvest locally 

April 2019 - Chewing pine resin as a natural cough suppressant 

January 2011 - A comparison between two health care models