By Tash Nikol
Each wave flowing so freely to meet the shore. The glow from the stars illuminating the night sky.
It all feels unreal but what’s even more so, is that it is so real. This place exists. In Manzanillo, a little town in Puerto Limon, nests the Centro Ashe Herbal Center in Costa Rica. A herbal plant and medicine center in the Caribe coast of Costa Rica.
I came here, along with 8 others, to immerse myself in the traditional practices of herbalism by ancestors and the indigenous people of the region. Each of us making this journey to strengthen our knowledge base, and due to our own personal transitional situations. I made the journey to understand natural healing practices and to gain a better understanding of how I can use traditional herbalism in my community -- whether in practice or by example.
During our first week at Centro Ashe, we learned about the fabric of the small community of Manzanillo, the aunties and uncles who nurture and pass on the traditions they learned from their youth, the stories of the afro-caribbean migration, and the indigenous people who sustained themselves and the lives of others using the gifts of the earth and its soil.
Centro Ashe is a reflection of this community. Molly Meehan, who has spent the last 15 years studying and understanding herbal plants and medicine in the Costa Rican tropics, has intentionally built a community in herbalism that centers around the black and brown people that have passed down practices in plant and herbal medicine here for many years. Our teachers represent the men and women who live and practice here day to day as a way of life.
On our first official day of class, Alda, one our teachers and nurturers for the month, took us on a plant medicine walk. There we discovered the many plants, herbs, and trees that hold the magic of herbal healing. These plants all literally right around us. Lining the streets, surrounding Centro Ashe, and following the beautiful sand beaches.
We discovered Hombre Grande and its digestive benefits, tasted the delicious leaves and flowers of the Hibiscus plant, smelled fresh cinnamon straight from the bark of the tree, sucked the sweet fruit and seeds of Guanabana, and learned of the protective powers of the mysterious Zorilla plant.
This first week was like no other there is so much to take in from exploring the jungles of Cahuita, and discovering the tropical farm of Punta Mona, to learning about the importance of ethical practices in harvesting and seed starting. Centro Ashe is our home for the month, and an experience that I am sure will change us like no other before.