How Plants Healed a Country

September 18th, 2014

Recently, I attended the Botanica 2014 Conference in Dublin, which celebrates herbs and clinical aromatherapy. It was a global affair featuring 24 presentations from 16 different countries on the different benefits of using herbal preparations and essential oils to heal our minds and bodies.


There was one presentation, in particular, that really resonated with me. It was the story of how Julia Hoffman Graves, an herbalist and naturopathic practitioner from France, was able to use to plants to save thousands of lives in Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010.

 earthquake1Devastation from the January 12, 2010 earthquake


It all began when her friend Venerable Thupten Jinpa, a Haitian-born Tibetan Buddhist monk who was on a meditation retreat in France when the quake happened, got wind of the devastation and decided to fly to Haiti to bring his father back to the US. He mentioned that it would take some time to get his father’s papers cleared, so he wanted to spend his time in Haiti helping the survivors. Julia quickly sprung into action, launching a last-minute fundraising effort


48 hours later, Julia arrived in Haiti with $2,500 in contributions plus another $4,000 worth of donated natural remedies. There, she linked up with Jinpa and the skeleton crew he had put together consisting of Lisa Schrempp, an ayurvedic message therapist from Arizona, Ven. Thupten Punstok, another Haitian monk who served as a translator and medicine preparer, and Oliama Deriviere, a local bone-setter, midwife and herbalist.

 julia-pillsJulia creating custom essential oil blends.


The team traveled to desolate villages, where no other help was available, and set up shop with a tarp, table and two chairs. Under Jinpa and Julia’s direction, people would line up to see the doctors and then move on to massage, cupping or bone-setting, if necessary.  Patients would then move to the “pharmacy” where custom essential oil blends and bagged herbs were prepared and distributed.


lisa-handLisa massaging a woman’s wrist.


This mobile clinic, now known as the Naturopathic Relief Clinic for Haitian Earthquake Survivors, was the only naturopathic clinic created in the aftermath of the earthquake. It proved invaluable, as many of the Haitian people were skeptical of forced vaccinations and modern medical treatments, which are common in traditional clinics. Julia recalled how many people first came and asked, “Do they do vaccinations here?” When they were told no, they would respond, “Good, then I will stay for a treatment.”

 oliama-adjustingOliama doing adjustments on a man with back pain.

They used essential oil rubs for coughs, colds skin infections, rheumatic pains and psychological disorders, homeopathic treatments for fever, diarrhea and injury, and flower essences and Ayurvedic massage for emotional healing. According to Julia, “Even tiny amounts of essential oils were used to sanitize stagnant water supplies and prevent epidemics.” They gave dietary and herbal advice, empowering people to take control of their health and use their native resources for healing. The word spread throughout the island and more and more patients arrived to line up each day. There was no favoritism for those that could pay, and there was a separate line just for the children. The clinic became not only a place for treatment, but also a source of education and hope.

 jinpa-girlJinpa administering flower essences for grief.


Since 2010, the Naturopathic Relief Clinic for Haitian Earthquake Survivors was able to treat over 18,000 villagers.


To learn more about the clinic or ways that you can help, please visit







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