As 2023 wound down to a close, I reached out to an old friend, Mary Bove, ND, a visionary and trailblazer in clinical herbalism. We had a conversation about what 2024 may bring to our community of practitioners, including what she’s thinking about, and what she’s planning for. She obliged by reflecting on the evolving tapestry of holistic health as she sees it: growth mindset, the importance of nature, connecting with plants, and forgotten inner wisdom, illuminating the path forward for the coming year.
Comfort to Meaning, a Tale for us All
It began with a personal revelation, when Mary Bove, ND, with over 30 years of clinical practice behind her, wondered if she was spinning her wheels. As she was questioning her own purpose, she emerged with a mission close to her heart—to combat professional burnout by helping others immerse themselves in the healing embrace of nature. “I realized how much burnout there is in my profession – how practitioners are telling you what to do to get well, but they themselves are not vibrant or healthy.”
Bove is joyful and compelling as she shares her passion for helping people cultivate an appreciation for botanical life. In 2023, she began leading nature excursions, through Earthways Guide Service, inviting participants to paddle through her natural classroom on canoes, helping them forge a bond with the vegetation and foliage in the world around them. “What excites me in 2024 – taking people out on canoes and connecting people with plants,” she admits.
Championing a growth mindset in 2024, Bove urges her peers to embrace new challenges and explore uncharted territories. Her current foray into guiding nature and paddling excursions, a new professional endeavor which she was initially nervous to lead, unveiled dormant strengths and rekindled forgotten knowledge within her. At the outset, she wasn’t sure she could do it, but she took on the challenge nonetheless, and she can’t stop thinking about the significant impact of the experience as the new year begins.
For Bove, leading small groups of 10 people into the wilds of Maine to study plants and enjoy time on the water has conjured a strong and positive remembrance of inner strengths and deep personal wisdom. Thoughtful connections, forged during time in nature, left an indelible mark on both her and the professionals she worked with over the summer, who ranged from a firefighter, to an opera singer, to medical doctors, to construction workers.
It’s a call to action for those comfortably ensconced in decades of practice—step out of your comfort zone, she advocates, and embark on a meaningful journey of self-discovery. “Push yourself and look at aspects of change for things you want to do that are new. This is a really constructive practice that helps me grow.”
Propagating change can also include surprising benefits, such as calling up a long lost, youthful version of yourself. Recalling one of the 2023 retreats she led, Bove assigned participants a project that would connect them with the plants they discovered in the field. She describes rolling out a vibrant array of 100 colored pencils on a picnic table, skeptical of how her diverse, decidedly grown-up audience would react. In a delightful twist, these art supplies were met with enthusiastic oohs and aahs, and later in the week, the magic continued to unfold – “on the last day everyone presented their plant projects.” Bove reports, “and a woman, drawn to ghost pipe, Monotropa uniflora, discovered the plant had chosen her: its pink essence, unseen until she neatly sliced it open, mirrored the drawing she had created during the retreat, before seeing the inside.”
A Glimpse Into 2024
Bove, who has spent a good portion of her clinical work focused on neurology, brain function, and the microbiome, believes these topics will remain focal points in 2024. However, she also anticipates a continued resurgence in women’s health, specifically emphasizing hormonal and brain well-being for perimenopausal and menopausal women. “Everything has to come around,” she notes, echoing the cyclical nature of health trends, as seen through the lens of a clinical career within holistic health focused on women, children, and families.
A confirmation of her growth mindset, Bove stands poised to deliver the keynote lecture at 2024’s Medicines From the Earth, a testament to her work with herbs since the 1970s. “I plan to talk about my journey and the inspiration I’ve had from plants.” She will reflect on a lifetime inspired by plants and the incredible people and events that her botanical journey has introduced her to, spanning the globe. From caring for patients who hike the Alps, to welcoming newborns, she’s looking forward to weaving a narrative tracing back to her 16-year-old self. She will share stories – some happy, some less so – that she’s carried with her along her path to a fulfilling, extraordinary life with plants.
At the sunrise of 2024, Dr. Bove’s message is clear: “If you have a dream, go get it – be flexible, read books, change your plans, and talk to as many people as you can.” Inspiring advice for the New Year. Make 2024 your year of growth – elevate your clinical practice at the Medicines from the Earth Herb Symposium, in person, May 17-19, 2024.
Lily Holmberg holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education. She has worked as a naturalist, a biology educator and has dedicated much of her career to premium, mission-driven and health-focused work starting with Whole Foods Market in the mid-2000s, at various roles over a ten year period at Gaia Herbs, and most recently at ŌURA. Lily has presented on topics including herbalism and herbal supplements, medicinal mushrooms, hemp, and more in front of national audiences.
As a committed gardener of medicinal plants, Lily maintains an urban garden in the Chicago metropolitan area and also cultivates land in the forests and fields of the Michigan countryside. She grows many varieties of unusual, rare, and commonly used herbs annually, using what she grows to promote health throughout the year. She’s passionate about movement, seed saving, and advocating for people to spend more time in nature. Lily can often be found in her kitchen cooking, and she’s always reading a good book or two.