Old Ironworks Days, the two day event at Maramec Spring Park, focuses on demonstrating crafts and skills that date back as far as the 1800's. Blacksmithing and weaving can be seen at the event alongside other classic trades, but there are a few that can remain relevant to a household even today.
Cindy Thompson is one of the demonstrators at this year's event, and is a certified master herbalist. Thompson uses her knowledge to educate other's about the medicine they can find growing everywhere around them.
Old Ironworks Days, the two day event at Maramec Spring Park, focuses on demonstrating crafts and skills that date back as far as the 1800’s. Blacksmithing and weaving can be seen at the event alongside other classic trades, but there are a few that can remain relevant to a household even today.
Cindy Thompson is one of the demonstrators at this year’s event, and is a certified master herbalist. Thompson uses her knowledge to educate other’s about the medicine they can find growing everywhere around them.
“It’s called wildcrafting,” said Thompson, about what she’ll be displaying at Old Ironworks Days. “It’s more of a traditional herbalism where you’re finding natural herbs and stuff in the wild. It’s naturally growing and not cultivated.”
Thompson said her goal is for people to learn what is readily available to them, and give them the ability to correctly use what they find.
“I want people to be able to heal themselves,” she said.
Thompson’s wildcraft is made up of what she described as “western herbalism,” which focuses on using what can be found naturally growing in the United States, or more specifically, Missouri. Thompson gave the example of chicory, which can often be found growing on the side of the road.
“Everyone knows it’s been used for coffee for years and years, but it’s also an astringent,” she explained. “It’s great for acne. That’s something you can go out and get before going to the store.”
Thompson gave the example of a few other herbs that can be found and used locally:
Comfrey - “It’s great for healing scrapes and cuts. You can take the leaves and dry it to make a paste to put over large bruised areas.”
Geranium - “It’s one of those plants you don’t want to take internally, but it’s really good for acne. You boil out the leaves and it will work as an astringent on your face.”
Thompson said she’s always had a passion for agriculture and nature, but it was her passion for helping people that caused her to go back to school to become a master herbalist after working in conservation for a number of years.
“I went to college and got a degree in agriculture and a minor in agro-business, and I loved it,” she said. “I really enjoyed what I was doing. When I finished school and started my career, I could only get a job basically working for the government. The thing is, working for the government, you’re kind of restricted in what you can say and do.”
Thompson said she then became a hazardous materials technician, working on environmental emergency response before moving to salt water conservation.
“I felt like I needed to do something other than be a regulatory person,” she said. Thompson was approached to take over an organic cautionary systems program, helping farmers and small producers in Missouri “go organic,” as she described it.
“I found people were liking getting away from those chemicals and getting away from that intake that’s being put on our bodies,” she said. When the program was cut, she switched gears and began doing it on her own. Thompson said people eventually began seeking her out with questions, and upon encouragement, went back to school for her certification.
“I have tons of education but no one’s really a master. As long as you can learn, no one’s ever a master,” she said.
Now Thompson said she works as a master herbalist not only to teach people how to treat sickness, but to help treat the body as a whole.
“An herbalist works with a lot of different things,” she said. “We’re used to going to a doctor when we’re sick. We go to a priest when we’re gong through an emotional problem . . . you may go to a psychiatrist. An herbalist looks at all aspects of that life. They want to make sure you’re a balanced person. They’re going to talk about their soul, mind, body and heart. You’re helping all aspects of your life.”
Thompson said that herbalism is about getting to know yourself and learning what you’re body can handle while understanding it’s not just about the body—it’s about the whole person.
And while Thompson encourages people to find ways to move away from synthetics, which don’t always contain valuable things the body needs (such as iron and magnesium) that herbs provide as an added benefit, it’s important to converse with a doctor about using herbs.
“All of it falls under the guidance of your doctor,” Thompson stressed. “It’s important you have that relationship with your health care provider.
Thompson explained she used to be on several medications while working at a high-stress job and has since dropped some of them due to herbalism, she still remains on one. Even so, she still said the use of herbs has a valuable part in American culture.
“History has shown this has worked…somewhere in our timeline we took it out of our lineage,” she reasoned. “I think we need to reevaluate it and bring it back in—I think we’ll be healthier people.”