Over the past 3 weeks, we’ve shared only a few of the greatest Black herbalists. Imhotep, Mary Stepp Burnette Hayden, Emma Dupree and countless others used their love of nature and healing wisdom to improve the overall health of their communities. In his debut book The Divine Fiat: Black Excellence in Herbalism, House of Imhotep’s founder Kwame Vaughn gives honor to those who have inspired and fueled his fascination with herbal medicine. Today, he combines new and centuries-old traditions to health in a unique blend that is relevant today.
Raised in rural North Carolina, Kwame learned to appreciate nature at an early age. Life was simpler as a child living in the south. Some of his most vivid memories are fond experiences outside in nature. It was an initiation into the invisible, this revelation he would later be reintroduced to as an interest in herbal medicine. In the summers, Kwame spent most of his time exploring and playing outdoors. The sense of family and community he felt then is something that inspires his work today. If you ask Kwame, his grandparents were key in his love for community as well as being self reliant:
“As I grew up in North Carolina, it was a normal routine that [mostly] everything we ate was a product of our own planting and harvesting. I learned [what it took] to do all of these things because my grandparents passed down traditional knowhow to my Dad. I recall hot summers gathering cucumbers, okra, peas, and tomatoes in a bucket for my grandmother to prepare. It was hard work, but spending time outside in nature and with Grandma, I was in my element.”
This time spent in nature further deepened his curiosity. Kwame essentially became Nature’s apprentice. As a child, he wasn’t aware of the significance of his outdoor explorations. It would become clearer later in life as he dealt with his own health issues following the death of his beloved Grandma. The compounded devastation led him to a dark place, where his own health began to suffer as a result. Overtime, as his grief subsided, Kwame emerged with a deeper sense of self-awareness.
As a result, he returned to nature. He began making better food choices and major lifestyle changes while exploring other therapeutic modalities, such as yoga and meditation. As he committed himself to improving his wellbeing, he started to discover the power of herbs and other holistic supplements to alleviate anxiety and depression. It can easily be said that Kwame found his calling as he emerged more vibrant by applying many of the remedies and skilled practices towards his own personal wellness.
In the years that followed, Kwame devoted himself to learning more about the historical and modern applications of herbal medicine and nutrient-rich foods. He studied herbal remedies from indigenous peoples, root-workers, enslaved ancestors and many more. As he began sharing his holistic wellness advice with friends, family, and coworkers, it became very clear that Kwame gained a perspective on an enormous body of knowledge that is much needed today more than ever within the Black community and abroad.
As House of Imhotep expands its influence, Kwame openly acknowledges the value of using medicinal herbs not only for healing but for self-awareness and everything in between:
“Herbalism is important for the Black community for a number of reasons. It’s representative of our past history and the key to our future existence. Herbalism is agriculture, Herbalism is freeing yourself from pharmaceutical dependency. Herbalism is about sustaining the health of future generations. Herbalism is about survival of the fittest. Herbalism is something we can’t separate ourselves from because it is intertwined in the very fabric of our historical significance and resilience as a people.”
Every product House of Imhotep provides is made in honor of Mother Nature as we advocate the benefits and remarkable evidence in the art of healing and self-empowerment with the use of herbal medicine. Kwame’s first book, The Divine Fiat: Black Excellence in Herbalism captures this mission in paper form. Highlighting the brilliant herbalists that came before him was not only important, but necessary. In his own words:
“The herbalists that came before me have taught me that the art of healing is not a complex art. With the bare minimum, our grandparents and great grandparents herbal remedies were very effective. As it still stands today, those herbal remedies are tried and true. We’ve lost our natural instinct to heal ourselves and our families. Reconnecting our culture to the lost art of healing encompasses House of Imhotep’s mission within our communities.”
If there’s any guidance to give young people considering practicing herbalism, Kwame shares:
“Our elders are our walking libraries. Learn from them while you have the opportunity. The struggles and hardships that many herbalists mentioned in my memoir, came from a place of me wanting to highlight their unsung contributions, to ensure their accomplishments weren’t in vain.
I’m simply a seed, of a seed, from a seed, doing the work of my ancestors, while fulfilling my purpose. I come as one but I stand in representation of thousands. Their determination has shown me how to pursue my dreams with single-minded focus and dedication.”
To read more about Kwame Vaughn and the excellence he has learned from, pick up your copy of the Divine Fiat: Black Excellence in Herbalism.
While Black History month comes to a close, remember that everyday, we are creating history. Providing something of value to our communities today will sustain generations yet unborn.