In 2017, community organizer and activist Jocelyn Boreta cofounded the Botanical Bus, an innovative bilingual mobile herbal medicine clinic that promotes healing in Sonoma’s Latinx community. Boreta, who has studied both herbalism and cultural anthropology and previously worked with indigenous women in Guatemala and Peru, says the nonprofit’s efforts are needed more than ever, as Sonoma’s Latino population continues to suffer disproportionate health impacts during the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to Covid last spring, Boreta and her colleagues distributed 500 herbal care kits for immunity, stress relief, and respiratory health.
This year, they will continue their outreach with mobile health services for farmworkers at more than two dozen worksite clinics. The Botanical Bus also sponsors a promotora program, which engages community leaders to organize culturally relevant, bilingual wellness workshops.
Here, Boreta shares some thoughts on the healing power of plants.
I see through my work and in my personal life that our connection to herbal medicine is extraordinarily empowering.
The idea that all of us have a deep knowledge of how to care for ourselves, our families, and our
communities, with plants that are surrounding us—and that we actually have instincts, and that we have co-evolved with the plants that surround us—is a really powerful thing to learn and to embrace.
From Wildfires to Pandemic
Those first fires identified a deepening health disparity in Sonoma County. And it’s not a surprise that housing density, access to medical insurance, and workplace safety affect Covid infection rates. We’ve seen these social determinants of health affecting the Latinx community here, so that’s really the foundation of why we wanted to take action.
It’s alive and well, and we’re there to support it. We’re growing a group of advocates who have deep knowledge and want to share. There’s an indigenous woman who’s joined us from a village outside of Oaxaca, and her knowledge of herbal medicine is really strong. She’s rediscovering it through our community, because it’s not necessarily valued in other in other realms of her life here.
Herbal Medicine and Covid
Our practice at the clinic is often about nourishing the nervous system so that people can restore healthy sleep cycles and manage their stress in what are often very stressful circumstances, and also
bolster immunity. There’s no magic plant that’s going to stop people from getting Covid, but there are definitely wellness remedies that will build our resilience. And that’s what we’re focused on.