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NATURE LEAVES A TRAIL TO CURES; OJAI HERBS EXPERT PROMOTES HEALING POWERS OF WILDERNESS.

Byline: Deborah Sullivan / Daily News Staff Writer

A child's skinned knee wouldn't normally be seen as a stroke of fortune.

But ironically, the minor mishap offered Ojai herbalist Lanny Kaufer the opportunity to show viewers across the country the effectiveness of herbal remedies.

For as chance would have it, the accident occurred during an herb walk filmed for a segment of ``Health Week,'' a nationally syndicated PBS television series.

``There happened to be a plant along the side of road that helps stop bleeding,'' said Kaufer, 50. ``It's a great field bandage, because it's leaves are sticky.''

Kaufer plucked some of the leaves and performed impromptu, natural first aid on the scraped and crying boy.

``He got so fascinated with what was going on that he stopped crying,'' he said. ``They caught it on the segment.''

The coincidence illustrated what Kaufer has spent 30 years studying and teaching: that plants can provide gentle, effective medicine.

``I've come to believe in a life force that is the healing power inside us,'' Kaufer said. ``When you use herbs and food for medicine, you're nurturing or enhancing that life force.''

Herbs, he argues, offer a safer alternative to some potent but potentially dangerous medications.

``Many other synthetic drugs are harmful to the body, that's why they have so many side effects,'' he said. ``They're trying to get a quick response, but they're depleting that life force, rather than feeding it. When you use herbs and foods, it's a more natural way, because herbs are really concentrated foods.''

Kaufer's work gathering, studying and teaching about herbs attracted the attention of producers of ``Health Week.'' A segment featuring Kaufer will air Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on KCET.

`` `Health Week' is a PBS program that looks at all aspects of health, fitness, wellness,'' said the show's spokeswoman, Jacquelyn Jackson. ``So we felt that what he was involved in with herbs was an important part of that as far as giving people the broadest possible access to health care information.''

Kaufer's interest in herbs took root while he was visiting a Pueblo Indian Reservation in New Mexico 30 years ago.

``I had a cold and an old man brought me a bag of tea,'' he said. ``It turned out to be cedar leaf tea, and I took it and my cold went away. So I was intrigued by the possibility of using a tea as a medicine.''

Kaufer studied under the tutelage of local herbalists, eventually becoming an herbal authority in his own right.

For 21 years, he has led herb walks under the auspices of the Sunbow Ecology Center in Ojai. He instructs hikers to identify herbs, pointing out members of the rose, carrot, nightshade and other plant families.

And he explains their use for food, medicine, crafts and ceremony by Chumash Indians, early California settlers and modern herbalists.

For instance, he said, the leaves of wild cherry might be combined with yerba santa to help suppress a nagging cough.

But the benefits of herb gathering go beyond their practical uses, Kaufer said.

``For many of us who have been raised in the city, it's a way to reconnect with nature to go out into nature and gather plants,'' he said. ``Rather than nature being just scenery that you look at, by gathering herbs you go out and interact with nature. So you learn a lot more about it.''

Studying plants has taught him about birds, animals, insects and the complex interactions between the members of the natural world, he said.

``You can't help but become an ecologist, because you see how it's all related,'' he said. ``And that's when it takes on a spiritual aspect. You begin to realize how everything is connected, what the Native Americans call the web of life, what the Zen people are trying to achieve as far as the oneness of life.''

THE FACTS

WHO: Lanny Kaufer

WHAT: Appearance on ``Health Week''

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: KCET (Channel 12 in Ventura, Channel 28 in Los Angeles)

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1--color) Herbalist Lanny Kaufer tastes a wild cherry growing along a trail in Ojai. In addition to its fruit, the tree bears leaves useful for treating coughs.

(2--color) Lanny Kaufer, an expert in herbal remedies, examines white sage during a hike Thursday.

Bob Halvorsen/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 22, 1997
Words:722
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