Fifteen Minutes with Ted Dawson, Owner of Mountain Wintu Herbs, Est. 2009
By Kimberly Boney
By Kimberly Bonéy
Photos by Eric Leslie
Tell us about Mountain Wintu Herbs.
My tinctures and remedies are made from sustainably wild craft harvested flowers, leaves and roots I find on my property or out in nature. Over the years, I’ve incorporated some certified organic materials, and some tinctures have a combination of both certified organic and wild harvested ingredients. I don’t have an official organic certification on my products – it’s really expensive and I’m not into paperwork – but I am committed to ordering from reputable companies that specialize in certified organic ingredients. I am not a licensed medical doctor, so I can’t make any medical claims, diagnose or treat medical problems, but as a native herbalist, I consider these nutritional supplements to be incredibly beneficial.
What inspired you to create Mountain Wintu Herbs?
From the time I could walk, I began learning from my great grandmother about natural medicine. She was Nor Rel Muk Wintu, a descendant of the first Californians. She’d tell me to grab a plant and eat it. To this day, my favorite food is cattail nubbins. Some people say it tastes like cucumber. I have a picture of my son eating it for the first time as little boy with a smile on his face.
What was the most important lesson she taught you?
She taught me that you can live in the woods and everything you need is there. I have more than 60 years of formal training. My dad died and left me an inheritance and I took what was a hobby and made it into a business.
What was the hardest lesson you’ve learned during your work?
When I was 36 years old, I spent 78 days in the wilderness, somewhere in Canada, right above Idaho. It was 1986, long before reality TV or GPS. They dropped me off in a helicopter and left me to live or die – with a wool blanket and a knife. I can’t say that it was a whole lot of fun. It took me six days to trap a deer and I had to finish the job. I tanned the hide and made a pair of shoes.
How do you decide what products to create?
Sometimes a plant jumps out in front of me and demands that I spend my time with it. It’s how I develop new products. This year, the plant that has chosen me is Nigella Sativa. Some people call in black seed or black cumin.
Tell us about your background in Health Education.
I have five masters degrees, including a teaching credential from San Jose State University (I can’t not teach!) and an ethnobotany degree from Chico State University. I became a master herbalist instructor through the Global College of Natural Medicine. I spent six years in private study under a naturopath named Dov Nadel. Although I didn’t complete the training, we were able to develop two important concepts, integrated structural therapy and neuromuscular structuring, during our time together.
What are some other things you have done with your background as an herbalist?
For the last eight years I have been supplying 1,500 pounds of Yerba Santa leaves (Wintu people call it mountain balm) to Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Ore. It is sold to people all over the world. Have you ever heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation? He was a dentist and in the 1930s and ‘40s, he was of the belief that if people ate the right food, there would be no need to go to the doctor. I am the host for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Redding. We meet the second Tuesday of the month at United Methodist Church on East and South Street.
So, there is something to the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?
Yes. If you put the right stuff in, you’ll be at your best. At 67 years old, I have no medical needs.
What is your personal favorite product and why?
The Solomon Seal has saved my life. They wanted to do some surgeries on my back, my neck and my shoulder, and I began using a tincture I made from maianthemum, a native Solomon Seal I found on my property. I haven’t had to have surgery. I tell people I am 47 years old and they believe me.
What is your best seller?
My Fire Infusion. My formula has been copyrighted and my name has been registered. Somebody bought the name ‘Fire Cider’ and anyone who uses it is in violation of that copyright, so it goes by the name of Fire Infusion. My recipe for it is on my Facebook page. I’m offering classes to teach others how to make it. They’ll get a bottle of it when they take a class.
Where can your products be purchased in the North State?
I’m at the Redding Farmers Market on Saturdays and at the Weaverville Farmers Market on Wednesdays. I’m at several local stores, including Enjoy the Store in Redding and Red Bluff. There’s a complete list of locations on my website. There is also a list of upcoming events on my Facebook page.
Mountain Wintu Herbs • www.mountainwintuherbs.org • (530) 474-3257 • Find them on Facebook