Beauty + Brains
Meet William Siff and His “Goldthread” Standard
At the risk of sleep due to a stack of deadlines and school papers, I rushed out the door one recent Wednesday evening to make it in time to a plant gathering – a plant ceremony? – held at my friend’s Mount Washington home. The details were sparse, but my friend’s interests intersect with mine frequently, so I said yes – a theme of mine this year. Learning about plants’ infinite positive properties for humans has long been a passing interest of mine. Herbal, naturopathic medicine and heeding my inner cravings and dietary compass as a child born into Midwestern/Southern eating traditions, turned my story from that of a sickly, asthmatic child into an energetic and athletic adult. Yet I knew I’d only scratched the surface of plant knowledge, and I CRAVE knowledge, especially of the healing kind. Plus, I was told several times this past year by our Monthly Medicine author, artist and clairvoyant Mary Grisey, that I would be working in some ways with plants in the future. However, these prognostications were not present in my mind as I crossed LA traffic to the gathering.
Sparse details or not, I could not have anticipated the evening of stimulation, education and camaraderie with mostly strangers surrounding plant experiences. The night was led by William Siff, clinical herbalist, licensed acupuncturist and life-long ethnobotanical adventurer, who has practiced natural health and wellness techniques for over 20 years. He is also the founder of an incredible line of high potency tonic drinks and company called Goldthread Herbs. Interestingly, we heard little at all about his company and primary source of income, from him or his wonderful team there that night. Nope – we got a hit off of his infinite knowledge and the high he rides of living a life in harmony with plant’s medicinal properties. He taught us a ton, he deadpanned, we passed around scents sourced from around the world, intentioned to invigorate us, calm us, stimulate us and to invite us in. The night was this incredible guerrilla workshop spreading the gospel of plants and how we should and could really integrate them into our lives, not a sales pitch for these – as it turns out – INCREDIBLE tonics.
So, I did as I do – I promptly reached out and asked if the Goldthread team would like to team with Of The Wolves for an afternoon Plantventure, as they call these get-togethers, and share a little about himself and his healing knowledge with all of you. William recently left western Massachusetts and a thriving herb farm (growing over a 100 species of herbs) he tended for years to build his company here on the West Coast. The farm’s legacy of “Farm to Pharmacy” education – teaching students from around the country how to grow and utilize herbs for holistic health – continues on.
How did you initially begin this journey of working with plants and the healing arts, as in what were some of the first factors that led you to it?
I’ve always had an interest in plants and culture. In my early 20’s, I was a Project Director for a non-profit that allowed me to travel around and experience indigenous communities. I was fascinated with how they used plants for medicine and healing. My curiosity grew and lead me to study ethnobotany and learn how people use plants for food and medicine. I’d go to Chinatown in Boston to visit all the Chinese doctors and their herbal apothecaries. I was amazed by how plants could play such a large role in making you feel better, stronger and optimize overall health.
Do you still own the farm in Massachusetts? If not, do you plan to begin one here on the West Coast in your new adventure?
We sold our herb farm in 2015 to focus our attention on our plant-based tonic line. The plants that we cultivated are living on and the space continues to operate and serve the community as an herb farm. Since we’ve moved out to the West Coast and are scaling Goldthread’s plant-based tonics to be available nationwide, we have partnered with small herb farmers around the world to support the ongoing cultivation of medicinal plants and the farmers that cultivate the plants in their native regions.
You talk about “leading the movement in revitalizing herbal traditions”. In a way, it seems the Western world moved far away from this usage of plants for healing and everyday health. Why do you think that is?
Humans feel like they’re able to control the way that we interact with the natural world. There are, of course, instances where science and modern medicine have made a greatly positive impact (i.e. polio vaccine) but we’ve defaulted to pharmaceuticals as the quick fix instead of correcting the underlying problems. Plants work in concert with the body and the natural healing process. If you take an herbal remedy for a headache, you can dull the pain and begin to correct the underlying manifestation. Those who want a quick and convenient fix will take an Advil to temporarily numb the pain without ever correcting the issue. That’s why we decided to formulate a functional plant-based tonics so that people could easily incorporate a healthful doses of herbs into their diet and optimize their health.
What few herbs would you suggest people start with to add in to their daily practice for health and vitality?Start in the kitchen! Cook with fresh herbs and spices like cinnamon, garlic, basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme. You’ll get a ton of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and complex plant chemicals that improve digestion, decrease inflammation and aid detoxification. Incorporating herbs into your meals add zest, flavor, and delight to cooking while enhancing your health.
What plants can we incorporate into our routine for vitality and brain function?
Some of the best cognitive enhancing herbs are: frankincense, tulsi, gotu kola, and matcha.
The high I felt after your generous Plantventure ceremonies from consuming all of your tinctures, tonics and oils was incredible. I thought, instead of communing around bottles of wine we should commune around these potions. Is that part of your hope for Plantventure’s growth?
Yes, definitely. The ability for plants to subtly alter consciousness and our bodily state knows no limits and they have a much richer texture than continuously using alcohol as the only expansive experience. In other cultures, there are a multitude of plants that facilitate group experiences. In the South Pacific, people enjoy kava socially and ceremonially for its pleasantly relaxing effect. Similarly, in Japan they enjoy the ritual of preparing and serving matcha when they gather in ceremony.