SHEPHERDSTOWN — While many local residents are familiar with Tonic Herb Shop’s main floor, a growing number have also tripped up the stairs to the shop’s second floor, to participate in classes held by one of the shop’s owners, Ashley Davis.
Davis, who is a clinical herbalist and permaculturist, not only holds independent workshops on the shop’s second floor, but she also established a school there. Offering three instructional programs from March through November, Sacred Garden School of Herbalism is recognized as a member of the American Herbalists Guild, Davis noted.
“The next round of classes will start next spring,” Davis said, mentioning her current school schedule includes two programs on the beginner and intermediate levels — Roots and Vines: Foundational Herbology and Buds + Blossoms: Clinical Herbology, respectively — which she plans to expand with a third program this coming year, which would certify those who pass it as herbalists.
According to Davis, she does her best to ensure her students get a well-rounded education, by taking them on field trips to herbal farms, such as Sacred Roots Herbal Sanctuary in Shepherdstown, and by introducing them to other local herbalists with different disciplines.
“I try to have one other voice every month, so it’s not only me. I’m also introducing people to other herbalists in the area that they can study with, if they resonate more with them,” Davis said. “The ‘foundations’ class is a survey to let you get acquainted with the world of herbalism and everything it encompasses, and then you can decide where you take your herbalism journey from there.”
Davis said she recognizes that not everyone wants to fully pursue the road her intermediate class begins to take her students on, which involves them learning to treat clients with herbal medicine. For this reason, she considers it even more important to introduce her students to the other sides of herbalism, through the input of guest speakers.
“If you want to pursue the clinical route, that’s just one of many different paths you could pursue,” Davis said. “Some people might want to pursue Ayurvedic nutrition or growing herbs or just doing medicine making and not seeing the clients. I’m trying to give them resources to help them continue studying in any one of those paths.”
Ironically, Davis was once one of those people who did not anticipate using her herbal knowledge in one-on-one consultations with clients. Prior to opening her shop in Shepherdstown with partner Carmela Cesare, she completed a similar three-year clinical training program through Sacred Plant Traditions and a 500-hour certification in Ayurvedic nutrition through the Joyful Belly Institute, but did not use her knowledge in a clinical sense.
That all changed after the opening of Tonic Herb Shop, as it soon became clear her stars seemed to be literally aligning for her to take on clients and then to branch out into teaching others to do the same.
“The school was inspired, mostly, by an astrologer — someone read my natal chart and really encouraged me, based on what she saw, to open the school,” Davis said, mentioning this took place as she was financially preparing for the birth of her second child. “The school — I love it — it’s not just for financial benefit. With the nine-month programs, I’m able to get deeper on a topic than is possible during a one-to-two-hour workshop or teaching at a conference.”
To learn more about the school and its programs, visit https://sacredgardenschool.com/. A $200 early bird discount is available, for those who register by the beginning of February.