Medicine from the Forest

Philippa Joly takes care to harvest ethically from the forest, respecting the original people of these lands who have gathered plants sustainibly for millennia.

Philippa Joly just has to step outside her Denman Island home to find an abundance of materials for her craft. The surrounding forest provides almost everything  she needs to create her product line of healing salves and tinctures. Lichen. Elderberries. Oregon Grape. Cedar. Forest mushrooms. Even her hand-made chocolate (medicine for the soul, she calls it) contains wild rose petals from the bushes that grow in fragrant tangles in her backyard.

Joly is a clinical herbalist, medicine-maker, educator, and proprietor of Bright Moon Botanicals. “I create high-quality handmade medicine out of mostly wildcrafted plants,” she says. You can find Joly at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, Nov 30 and Dec 1. This will be her seventh year vending at the fair.

Her table will focus mainly on her winter product line: Kick the Sick, an immune booster; Sunshine in a Bottle, which treats winter time depression; a cough syrup which is a client favourite; and a new heart medicine which works for physical disorders like high blood pressure, as well as for emotional challenges of the heart like grief and heartbreak.

Products like Kick the Sick and Sunlight in a Bottle provide help during the winter months.

All are made by hand, in small batches. “This allows me to pay attention to every detail and to ensure the medicines are high-quality.” Herbalism is a complex science and Joly draws on years of training, including programs at Wild Seeds School of Herbal Medicine on Salt Spring Island, and Pacific Rim College in Victoria.

Joly is motivated by her love of plants. “I love what plants know and offer us; they’re so generous. I enjoy being the messenger, the intermediary between plants and people. And once you get to know the plants, you’re never lonely. You always have friends around,” she says.

This intimate relationship with plants, like all relationships, can’t be a one-way street, says Joly. It has to be reciprocal. That means practicing ethical wild crafting.

Making small batches allows Joly to pay attention to every detail, ensuring her medicines are high quality.

“A big part of this is that I think about the ancestors of this land and the people whose territory this is,” she says. “I’m aware that these are places where for millennia people have gathered plants and I’m gratefully and humbly walking in their footsteps.

“And it’s really important to know the places you gather from, so you can go back and see the effects of your gathering with an awareness of how each plant grows and spreads, and what a healthy population of that plant looks like. It’s important to give back. Some places really like it when you bring them some compost.”

The Denman Craft Fair is a favourite annual event for Joly. “It’s very affirming, because many people are excited with what I have to offer. It’s nice to be part of the community of artisans, and I love the festive feeling.”