A book by Dr. James Adams and Cecilia Garcia
[An interview with Dr. Adams can be heard on Nyerges’ weekly podcast at Preparedness Radio Network.]
James Adams, who is a doctor of pharmacology at USC, got very interested in the medicinal uses of native plants back in 1994. He had been taking his son out on Boy Scout walks and began to realize that all the local plants had been used by the Native Americans who once exclusively resided here. Adams then set out to find a Native American herbalist to learn from.
He talked with people from the Chumash tribe, but made no progress in finding a skilled herbalist for about two years.
Then he heard about Cecilia Garcia and arranged to meet her in the Santa Monica Mountains Adams brought his wife along, and when he met Garcia, Adams was a bit taken aback by Garcia’s request that he sing a song. “I sang a Ponca Indian song,” said Adams, “and she told me that it wasn’t a very good song, but that I sang it well!”
Then Garcia spent the next two hours talking with Adams’ wife, and when it was over, Garcia agreed to work with Adams. “She had to be sure that I wasn’t just trying to take advantage of her and exploit her knowledge,” explains Adams.
Adams and Garcia then collaborated to produce the book “Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West,” which was published in 2005. It’s a fully illustrated book which describes the chemistry and uses of the plants that were used by the Chumash for medicine, and generally used throughout the west.
“Cecilia and I got together to decide what plants to include in the book, and which to not include. We agreed generally, but we did have a few plants that she said must be included.”
The book is now in its third printing, which includes many of Garcia’s recipes for how to use the herbs.
Unlike many books on medicinal plants, this one attempts to present the full picture of what it means to be healthy, including the spiritual aspect. There are some prefatory chapters on what’s wrong with modern medicine, and how the body must be allowed to heal itself.
Each plant is discussed by identification characteristics, distribution, primary and secondary uses, active compounds, and recommendations for use. Specific commentary by Garcia on the Chumash perspective is scattered throughout the book.
Adams pointed out that there were six top herbs used by the Chumash in healing: Mugwort, sagebrush, white sage, black sage, bay and yerba santa. These are described in detail in their book.
Since their collaboration, Adams and Garcia have led nearly 100 walks and workshops to teach about the Native use of healing herbs.
Unfortunately, in early 2012, Garcia was hit by a vehicle while riding a bicycle, and died a month later on May 15, 2012 at her home in Ensenada, Mexico. Garcia learned as a child from her paternal and maternal grand parents, who were Chumash healers. Her Chumash religion was integral to her healing practice. "Spirituality helps keep us healthy," she would often say. Garcia was often described as a very intense healer.
Adams earned his PhD in Pharmacology in 1981 at UC San Francisco in comparative pharmacology and toxicology, and is now an Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences at USC. He’s written over 200 articles. His family came to Virginia from England in 1635, and learned healing from the native Americans to stay alive.
The book is available from Amazon, or from the store at www.ChristopherNyerges.com.