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Sustainable Herbalism
In 2003 and 2004 Candis traveled to remote villages in the Tien Shen mountain region of the Kyrgyzstan republic, Central Asia. Her goal was to introduce medicinal herbs to the villagers and assist them in starting their own local herb businesses. The last available medical resources from the Soviet Union had been gone for some time and the villagers were surviving day to day with little or no connection to the outside world.

The mountain region, although isolated from modern civilization, provides an abundance of lush herbs and plants growing wild-everything from groves of walnut trees and Hawthorn forests, to acres of Elecampane. The villagers of Kyrgyzstan are lively and animated, and more importantly, receptive to learning how to use the local herbs and plants. As it turned out, the villagers already had some knowledge about how to use the herbs. In one village a medicine man, or "Tabib," tended animals in pastures for the summer feeding time. He took the villager's pulses and prescribed some herbs for stomach distress. The villagers themselves understand a little Avicenna, which utilizes hot/cold and wet/dry concepts for treating sickness. Avicenna was a central Asian physician in 940 AD, creator of the Unani Tibb medicine. This medicine was practiced in Central Asia and the Middle East by the ancient Greeks. Candis was able to help them remember their lost herbal traditions.

Living in the mountains, the life of the people is pastoral and in harmony with the cycles and seasons of the Earth. Living a life so in agreement with their environment is what Westerners can only dream about. The people are secular Muslims, open and honest. Their living quarters are rammed earth or adobe bricks. Their lives are extremely rural without televisions, phones, stores, or even running water. The only available water is the water that runs in the ditches and through everyone's land. Fortunately, the area is full of rivers and streams at the headwaters of all the countries of Central Asia.

Candis' most memorable class experience took place in the mountains near a villager's cabin. She gathered many herbs from the area and arranged them on a rustic table. Mongolian looking people gathered around in front of Candis wearing colorful headdresses, clothing, and earrings. As they laughed and smiled, their gold teeth gleamed in the sun. They took notes enthusiastically and were full of questions. The interaction of the villagers was warm and appreciative as the wild mountains embraced them. Chickens wandered by the participants and riders on donkeys and horses were on the road, these animals being the only transportation. As the translator was speaking, Candis looked over the mountain and saw a large flock of goats being herded to the high summer meadows. The sounds of whistles, horses, goats, and switches punctured the air. Later a herd of horses went up the same mountain. People, animals, plants, air, the season, the medicine, all are one in Kyrgyzstan-there is no separation.

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