Who are you and how is your work influenced by nature?
I am an herbalist, ethnobotanist, mycologist, researcher, and lover of earth’s natural wonders. I am also a wisdom collector of sorts, including a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Holistic Health and a Masters of Science in Ethnobotany. I started my journey as an environmental activist with Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network and later used my passion for plants to travel the globe, working as a clinical herbalist and using cultural competency to influence my work in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, England, Indonesia and more. My true education has come from the cultures, plants and mushrooms that have shaped me and shared their knowledge.
I continually use all of the technicolor in my paintbox to creatively illustrate the beauty of the earth. I write and teach about my passions, which range from environmental sustainability and ecological sciences to creativity, herbalism and mushrooms! I have worked as a content writer, product developer, and creative marketing consultant for prominent health and wellness companies around the world. Whether through the alchemy of herbalism, the research of indigenous plants, or the healing practices of being a practitioner, I work hard to educate people about how to live with respect and synergistic intention with the natural world.
What was your first memory with mushrooms?
I grew up in Monte Nido, California, a beautiful secluded valley nestled into the Santa Monica Mountains. I spent my days escaping from reality, running off into the woodlands. Growing up in an equestrian family, my mom would make me watch my sister’s horseback riding lessons every week in our neighbor’s arena. Until I was about 10, I would explore the woods for hours, and every winter and spring, during the rainy season, moisture and greenery would fill the forest floor around the stables. I would spend my time chasing caterpillars and placing them on top of mushrooms as I saw in Alice in Wonderland. I would also make speed boats out of mushroom caps and leaves and race them down the creek, sometimes with my polly pocket dolls in the driver’s seat.
How do you regularly interact with mushrooms?
I love cooking with mushrooms. Currently, I am obsessed with shiitake, oyster, and maitake in my pasta dishes! I also have incorporated chaga extract into my daily routine for many years since the start of my health journey for liver detoxification and B vitamins (great for vegans like me)! I have also started using tremella mushroom for skin hydration and elasticity.
Important to note is my semi-regular use of psilocybin mushrooms, as a check-in for me and my mental health. I only use these mushrooms for medicinal purposes to explore deeper into my own self-healing. I never use them recreationally and have worked hard to explore my cultural competency around the use of this medicine by consuming with respect, gratitude and in the most ethical and sustainable ways I can.
What mushrooms are you the most inspired by?
Hmmm…well, I believe that all mushrooms are soil magicians that govern our ecosystems, they are the grand molecular disassemblers of nature. I would say right now, I’m most inspired by mushrooms, such as oyster, turkey tail, and king Stropharia, that have the ability to decontaminate the environment through a process called mycoremediation. I am also learning as a mycologist by observing the patterns of reishi and lion's mane by growing them at my house this season.
My body, mind, and soul are most connected when…
Life feels content. A day when my mind shuts off and I feel connected to truth. I have found this while I am doing meaningful research or when I am disconnected from technology, being naturally active and sharing quality time with those I love through intellectually stimulating activities with tons of laughter and music. Most importantly, this is all within the backdrop of nature, leading to an unintentional ecotherapy session. The day would usually end with a beautiful, nourishing plant-based dinner.
Website: Molly Helfend