María Benedetti on Revitalizing Botanical Traditions of Healing and Reciprocity with Nature

Photo by Thais Llorca

Photo by Thais Llorca

It’s important to bring Her, Mother Earth, in... It’s time to stand up for the natural world, and the culture at large is destroying the natural world, so it’s time for all of us to stand up and be counted as those who put our relationship with nature before other things. ~ María Benedetti

Today’s episode is one that is dear to my heart. We’re speaking with María Benedetti, an ethnobotanical researcher and author focusing on the plant medicine and invisible people of Puerto Rico. We talk about her journey of self-discovery through her work of documenting and preserving plant wisdom and folkloric medicine. She shares incredible stories of so-called “barefoot healers” and we discuss the history and impact of colonialism and capitalism on folkloric medicine and the communities that hold these wise traditions and knowledge. María also shares her refreshing and hopeful take on the challenges that Puerto Rico has faced and continues to face in light of the recent natural disaster and economic plight.

Photo by Ángela Mari

Photo by Ángela Mari

María Benedetti is an ethnobotanical researcher, author and educator focused on the botanical traditions of healing and reciprocity with nature in the Puerto Rican archipelago.  A student of anthropology, literature and the art of writing in both English and in Spanish, she has worked as an educational journalist (culture, ecology, environment, botanical medicine) for nearly 40 years.  She began herbal studies with Susun S. Weed in 1977, and came to Puerto Rico ten years later to learn about and document the tradition of green medicine in the native land of her mother’s family.

She has authored several books including Earth and Spirit and has continued to document the Puerto Rican botanical tradition in several other books, most recently a novel Dolores and Milagros.

María Benedetti is director of BotaniCultura, an ethnobotanical education project, which includes a publishing company and a beautiful classroom without walls where she offers workshops and conferences, plant/tree recognition walks and facilitates circles of plant wisdom.  

I know you’ll love her contagious belly laughs and uplifting spirit and the power of the stories she shares. Enjoy!

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Show Notes

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What is ethnobotany and the meaning behind “botanicultura”
  • What Maria describes as “the most important thing I could ever do in my life”
  • The rich stories of “barefoot healers”
  • How colonialism, imperialism and capitalist systems have impacted folkloric medicine and the adopted and internalized the message that our ancestral medicine was only practiced out of ignorance or poverty.
  • How these traditions are moving out from invisibility with a new generation of young people
  • Why Maria believes “we are all healers”
  • The importance of wild foods and how medicine comes through nourishment first
  • Puerto Rican folkloric tradition of green medicine and home remedies
  • The importance of faith in medicine and Maria’s take on 2 sides of the “faith equation”
  • Miraculous remedies and the most surprising ones that Maria encountered
  • Maria’s new book Dolores y Milagros, which gives breath and life to the untold stories and realities of real people representing the invisible
  • What she says to people who tell her “there is no science to back up these traditional medicines”
  • Her passionate belief in the empirical science of green medicine and traditions
  • What she believes to be the most precious thing that we have as a nation and as a people, and what she will defend until the “day she dies”
  • How you can begin to revitalize the wisdom of your ancestors
  • Advice she has for anyone interested in exploring the traditions of their own family or speaking with others and an important “trick” that she used as a journalist to create space for the interviewee in a dignified and respectful way
  • What maria has to say about the recent disasters and hardships that have hit Puerto Rico
  • 2 things that are currently feeding maria’s wild and a helpful meditation anyone can do any place


Connect With María Benedetti

Website | Facebook 


Resources + Links Mentioned

Susun Weed ~ Wise Woman Traditions

María Benedetti’s books including:

  • Earth and Spirit: edicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico
  • Dolores and Milagros: A story for our innocence
  • Sembrando y Sanando en Puerto Rico: Tradiciones y visiones para un futuro verde

Marisel Herbal Bath & Body in San Juan, PR

Harvard study:


Ways you can Support Puerto Rico

From the VRNIK blog:

Trustworthy organizations that are helping with reconstruction efforts

5 Ways to Help Puerto Rico as a Tourist


Wildly Rooted Resources

Sacred Ecology Activation Journey Audio


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