Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed BSc, MSc
Latifa is qualified with a Bachelor of Science with distinction in Botany from the University of Calgary, and a Master’s of Science in Herbal Medicine with distinction from Middlesex University, London, UK. She supports the movement for regulation of herbalists in Alberta and is a professional member of the Alberta Herbalists Association.
To learn about her personal journey to become a botanist, herbalist, wild plant forager and educator read on.
My journey into plant medicine started when I was child, as my mother strongly believed in natural remedies. She took me to see several different natural health practitioners, and I remember having to drink foul smelling brown liquid every night. One time I asked her to buy me a mysterious stinging nettle tincture, which I imagined could be used to be make a witch’s brew.
When I went to the University of Calgary I felt drawn to plants. My colleagues seemed to think that plant cells were boring, but I couldn’t help feeling fascinated. This drove me to study Botany. I was blessed to have so many inspired and brilliant plant enthusiasts teaching me, many of whom retired during my time as a student. My graduating year of 7 students ended up being the last year to ever graduate from Botany.
My degree led me to begin a career in conservation, identifying and analysing wild plants in Alberta. While I was fascinated by the diversity of life I encountered, I often felt something was missing. Even though I was supposed to be conserving life, I didn’t feel like meaningful change could happen unless our beliefs and actions as human beings changed.
Feeling disenchanted I travelled to South America to “find myself” like so many of us Northerners do. I encountered a pair of healing women in Oruro, Bolivia who helped me to see what it really meant to nourish my body, mind and spirit. I participated in a simple but deeply meaningful ceremony to help me become a healer. I have been fascinated by the power of ritual to signify meaningful life change ever since. I also started meditating every day to keep my mind still and focused.
On returning to Canada the path of the plant healer was calling to me, and my once inexplicable fascination for plants was transformed into a clear direction and purpose for my life. I found the perfect course in London, England at Middlesex University: a 3-year Master’s of Science in Herbal Medicine offering the ideal mix of tradition and science that would satisfy my need for evidence-based herbal teachings.
I had the privilege of being mentored by incredibly experienced and brilliant herbalists including Hananja Brice-Ytsma, Marcos Patchett, Colin Nichols and Martin Logue. The University had its own training clinic that allowed us to experience the deeply important patient-practitioner relationship week after week. As we learned to apply our medical, pharmacological and herbal teachings, we were pushed sometimes to our mental and emotional limits, keeping reflective diaries to develop as human beings, as well as academics. The University also housed its own beautiful medicinal garden that served as an on-going source of inspiration and support.
My passion, commitment and hardwork was awarded in 2015 when I received the Phyto Pharmacology Award, recognizing academic excellence, from the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIHM). NIHM is the oldest professional body representing herbalists in the UK and is over 150 years old. Finally, after completing a modest microbiology research project on the effect of marigold on skin bacteria, I graduated with distinction in 2016.
I have since been keeping very busy building my own herbal practice. My work stands on a foundation that believes the best medicines grow around us, gifts from the earth. I harvest as many of my own medicines as is feasible and I focus on educating my community about the edible and medicinal abundance that grows around us. Plants have always been our allies; they nourish, heal, clothe, and shelter us. My long-term goals are to be part of the growing movement that is working towards living in harmony with mother earth.