My name is Rachel Milford, and I am a Knoxville, TN based herbalist, herb grower, and wellness educator. Through my business Reclaiming Your Roots, I offer classes about herbal medicine and healing with whole foods, as well as grow and sell a variety of herbal teas, salves, and other herbal products.
Reclaiming Your Roots was born out of my own healing journey and a desire to help empower individuals to heal themselves and reclaim their health through addressing the root causes of illness with food and medicinal herbs. It was born out of an obligation to support others in the process of regaining their own wellness and the wellness of our communities and to provide local access to herbs. It is my belief that when we connect with the soil and the plants that root in it, we connect more deeply to ourselves, our bodies, and our ancestors.
My Healing Journey
My healing journey began 8 years ago. I was 25 and living in NC, apprenticing with a local herbalist and performing with puppet troupe. I found myself surrounded by an incredibly supportive community and financially able to pursue both my passions for community-based art and plants. It seemed like my life was finally coming together. That summer of 2010, I moved into a beautiful old farm house in Hillsborough, NC with a few other ladies. Despite how emotionally fulfilled I felt, within a few months of living there, my body started to act strangely. I had experienced chronic seasonal allergies, occasional low energy, and some digestive complaints for awhile, but these new symptoms began to worry me. I started to experience chronic panic attacks that would arise out of nowhere, continual cold/flu-like symptoms, migraines, and even lower energy. By fall, my body started reacting when I would eat soy or wheat and taking my daily 24 hr antihistamine caused crippling headaches. Around this time, I met some other folks in the community who had suffered toxic mold poisoning and after telling them my symptoms and finally paying attention to the mold growing all over our house, I realized I had mold poisoning.
So, I moved out of my home, armed myself with herbs, and stopped taking all of my allergy medicine. Almost immediately, my system exploded. It felt as if I had a chronic case of cold/strep that wouldn’t go away. I continued to experience intense inflammation, breathing difficulty, and a growing number of food allergies. I assumed that this way just part of my body’s natural detoxification response. I went to see Western doctors, naturopaths, herbalists, acupuncturists, you name it but no one seemed to know what to do. As several natural practitioners tried to detox me further, my symptoms only worsened. By the spring of 2011, the toxic mold poisoning that had catalyzed my illness had turned into an autoimmune/environmental illness condition, complete with chemical sensitivities, multiple food intolerances, leaky gut, chronic fatigue, and extreme weight loss. I could no longer work and found myself hopping from home to home of NC friends, as my chemical sensitivities worsened and made it difficult for me to find any indoor space to live in. Finally, my parents came and coaxed me into returning to Knoxville to live with them.
Once in Knoxville, despite the chronic brain fog I experienced daily, I began to research my health issues and seek out others who struggled with the same. This is when I first heard the term environmental illness. At the time, I still sought out help from other healers, herbalists, etc. hoping that someone could give me an answer or a miracle cure, but my health continued to decline and many of the remedies they suggested made me feel sicker. It was at this point that I made a decision. My only options were to get better or stop trying. I felt angry, frustrated, and scared. But despite how depressed and awful I felt, I knew that the only option was to channel my anger and use it to feed my life force. I was going to get better or die trying. So, I began to read more. I stopped talking with folks who had similar issues and told me I would always be a canary in a coalmine, who could never be around any toxins again (At this point, I only had a few completely organic, non-dyed cotton items that my body would tolerate wearing). I decided the universe was telling me I only had one option. So, I called on my own experience with herbs and foods and pushed through fear to become my own healer. It was a slow process (one that continues to unfold) but a powerful journey, as I learned how to start healing myself and bringing my body back into balance with food, herbs, and energy medicine. As my energy began to return, I felt an obligation to share my experience and knowledge with others and started teaching donation-based classes in the spring of 2012 about herbal medicine, digestive health, and healing with food in the Knoxville community. I was inspired by the outpouring of support I received and soon began teaching classes throughout the community. Eventually, I began making herbal tea blends and other herbal products to meet the need I saw for better local access to herbal medicine. And thus, Reclaiming Your Roots was born.