Persimmon Herb School connects people and plants

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It started with a sore throat.

When Greg Monzel was young, he was inspired by his grandfather’s book on herbal remedies to find a cure for his chronic strep throat. The anti-inflammatory enzymes in raw pineapple did the trick.

“I grew up in a family that was tied to the land and foraging and gardening in my youth, and so that’s pretty basic to me, just living close to nature and plants,” said Monzel. “So I try to learn as much as I can from plants.”

It was one of his earliest memories of turning to nature for self-healing, and now Monzel and his partner, Colleen Donahoe, have made herbalism and plant medicine their lives.

The couple co-founded Persimmon Herb School in 2015, which is based in their Southeast Indianapolis home and surrounding grounds. The school offers seasonal crash courses, community classes, and yoga classes, as well as cooking, medicinal, and personal care products.

During the intensives, participants learn herbalism skills and knowledge centered around a seasonal theme through two to three months of weekly classes.

A community class that Monzel leads regularly is Wild Food Tours, first started by Indy resident Kelley Schuyler.

On a recent visit to Christian Park, Monzel led a small group along Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive, identifying plants and trees along the way. At the end, they shared the food Schuyler had prepared with some of the plants they had just learned to identify – papaya fruit, lamb’s-quarters, and hackberries.

But mission goes beyond education.

A community pledge on Persimmon’s website talks about challenging the status quo to better serve the natural environment and says it is “committed to being a vehicle for social justice, environmental justice and community care for all” .

“We live, practice, teach, play and grow on the stolen lands of the Kickapoo, Lenape and Myaamia peoples,” the pledge also reads.

“Herbal medicine is really the people’s medicine and, you know, anyone can go out and pick plants and heal themselves, and so I think it’s really important to keep those traditions alive,” Monzel said. “We need diversity of people. We need diversity of cultures, everything flourishes better with that.”

“I feel like it’s our job to try to heal our relationships with the land, people and plants and try to keep a niche and an ecological niche for humans on this planet.”

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