Donna trained as an Herbalist for 3 years and established Spiral Herbal Remedies in 2017. Prior to this, Donna worked as a Registered Nurse at Beth Israel, a Harvard Affiliated Hospital in Boston for 13 years. That's why you'll find links to some of the research on each of the Herbs she uses. As 21st-century humans, our bias is toward evidence-based healing. The best part? It's all there. Funny how that works. Our ancestors knew what they were doing. 10's of thousands of years of hypothesis, trial, evaluation, and repetition should be enough evidence but alas, it helps sometimes to see how the NIH weighs in.
Speaking of Ancestors!! Donna trained as an artist and received her MFA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. In 2016, Donna was invited to attend an Artist Residency in Ireland. She had been curious about Herbalism so she looked up Irish Herbalism prior to attending. Much to her shock, she discovered that her father's family - Troy - ran an Herbal Medical School in Munster County from 1400-1700. Before leaving Ireland, she met with the Irish Herbalism Scholar who asked what her mother's maiden name was. That's when Donna discovered that both sides of her family had been Herbalists in Ireland. Lee is a derivative of the Gaelic word for medicine - Leighis. Her mother's family were Herbalists as well.
Irish Herbalism was outlawed in 1700 under British Colonization when Indigenous Irish were not allowed to have a profession, be educated, own land, or speak Gaelic. That ended the legacy of Herbalism on both sides of her family. No one in her family knew anything about this long history. Donna's mother was intuitively tuned into healing while she was growing up and she believes that was the genesis of her healing endeavors.
In Continental Europe, Herbalism ended in the Middle Ages, when autonomous women, operating outside of the Patriarchy were labeled "witches" and burned at the stake. It is thought that up to a million women were burned at the stake, drown, or hung. A large percentage of these women were Herbalists. They were a threat to the church because they worshipped the landscape and they were able to heal people without the aid of priests. They were also organizing protests against wealthy landowners who were claiming common land for their livestock. To disrupt these women, the landlords and church created a law, Malleus Maleficarum. This law allowed intimidated men and discontented neighbors to claim these women were witches, and the killing ensued.
Donna inhabits this tradition at a crucial time in our history when Big Pharma's focus has turned towards profit and Allopathic medicine focuses on treating illness, not prevention. Donna also sees this as a radical feminist act.
She honors and is grateful to the cultures that held onto these healing traditions and especially to her teacher Karen Rose, of Sacred Vibes Apothecary for sharing her broad depth of knowledge.
Donna is dedicated to ongoing study, including how nutrition, our environment, industrialized farming, and our microbiome play a role in health. Contact her here for a 1-hour consultation or stop by the shop for a free 15-minute consult.
Donna now teaches Herbalism from this broad perspective. Find more information here.
Spiral Herbal Remedies reopened at 810 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY in May of 2021. It is open daily from 12-7. Tuesdays, the shop is closed so Donna can make the medicine for the shop.
Donna feels immense gratitude for the profound experience of carrying, caring for, and sustaining the lives of her two children during her time as an at-home mother. They will always be the most significant thing she has ever created. Her life honors them, their spouses, and her grandchildren.
Herbalism is Social Practice for Donna. Her role as Healer fills her with joy, allowing her insightful and fulfilling interactions while guiding people toward health. She also makes sculptures that embody her diverse past, merging care-based activities, organic forms, and the body.
To see more of her art, visit donnacleary.net