Interview with Margi Flint

Margi Flint is a practicing herbalist, registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild, and herbal mentor from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Margi’s wisdom spans over 20 years of labor coaching certification, polarity therapy, and Reiki, alongside 40-plus years of clinical herbal practice. She teaches at Pacific Rim College in Victoria, British Columbia, and has lectured at numerous prestigious herb schools, including Tufts Medical and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, as well as Boston University.

She is also the author of one of my favorite and, in my opinion, one of the most useful herb books of all time, “The Practicing Herbalist: Meeting with Clients, Reading the Body,” now in its fourth edition. She is most known for sharing the legacy of the late William LeSassier. The plants and her clients are her revered teachers. 

Margi is one of the most inspirational herbalists I know today and a true master in holistic evaluation and client intakes. For this episode of the Plant Path, I had the opportunity to connect with her, learn more about her expertise, and hear what’s in store for us in her new book honoring the late William LeSassier.

In today’s blog post, you’ll learn:

  • How to get the information you need in a consult by asking the right questions and reading the body
  • Ways to help clients overcome their skepticism and get the most from their sessions 
  • The best way to filter what’s important in a consultation and follow-up sessions
  • What’s really behind the wave of digestive issues and food allergies today
  • About Margi’s upcoming project, and how you’ll have the chance to learn from one of the most influential herbalists of our time in the first-ever book recording of his work

Table of Contents

Sajah: This week’s episode of The Plant Path is very special because I have one of my favorite herbalists and humans ever with me today, Margi Flint. It’s amazing to me that we haven’t had you on before, so thank you so much for taking the time to join us, Margi.

You always hold a special place in my heart. I remember when we first met, I was the new guy and young dude teaching at herb conferences. Some of the other people were a bit skeptical, like, “Who’s this guy?” But you were so welcoming. You took me in and were always so kind to me. So, thank you for that. You hold a special place in my heart.

Margi: You have reciprocated a hundredfold. Believe me, I feel the vibration of our mutual admiration, and it’s wonderful. When I wrote a review for your book, what I got from it was hope for the future. You’re so smart and so connected to the plants, and I appreciate the diversity of your background. It made me feel like I didn’t need to worry anymore.

So you’ve got some new books and projects happening now, and you mentioned working on some William LeSassier books. Can you talk about that a little?

Yes, the big project for the next few years is publishing the work William intended to release before he passed away 21 years ago. His daughter asked me to take on this task because he was a perfectionist, and I’m not. I’ll be editing but will keep the books in his voice and as true to his vision as possible. Historically, he was incredibly impactful; most herbalists my age were influenced by William. Even Rosemary [Gladstar] and her Herbal Elders podcast frequently mention him. He really needs to be documented.

It’s a massive project involving many volunteers typing and transcribing. I had just stopped seeing clients when Ona called and asked if I would do this for her dad. I immediately said yes because I believe in preserving legacies—acknowledging your teachers and where your knowledge comes from is crucial. This project is very close to my heart, but I need a lot of help and financial backing.

It’s interesting because it’s common for people to be aware of herbalists who publish books, but William didn’t publish anything aside from what you’re working on. So I had never heard of him. I kept hearing his name from you, Matthew Wood, and David Winston, and I was like, “Who is this William LeSassier guy? Can I read his book? Does he have a lecture I can hear?” Everyone says he was a game changer—really knowledgeable, competent, and a good healer. This is a huge contribution you’re making to the field of herbal medicine and its continued development.

Thank you, and it isn’t just me. It’s a community effort. That’s why I love herbalists; we work together to make things happen. There’s a fundraiser out, and it will continue for the next three years.

So I was thinking about our talk today and what we should discuss. The title of your book, *The Practicing Herbalist*, is perfect and unlike any other herb book I’ve ever purchased, and I have a lot of herb books! I thought it would be neat to talk about your approach to working with people. 

It’s one thing to know your materia medica, pathophysiology, plant pharmacy, extraction, medicine making, and formulation strategies. But if you don’t know how to work with the person sitting in front of you or how to get the right information and translate that into what type of remedies that person needs—not just their symptoms—all that knowledge is kind of wasted.

Yeah, there are tricks, and they’re in the book. The book starts with my story of how I became an herbalist, and then about questioning—how to ask questions. But before all the questions and knowledge, you have to learn how to sit quietly and listen. A lot of people listen but don’t hear. You need to watch someone as they talk and really hear and observe their body. They might say yes to something, but their body says no. There’s a lot of subtlety involved. It’s the same with reading the face, nails, and tongue. There are shades, tints of color, deep lines, and shallow lines. You have to learn all the nuances of how we communicate, appear, and the words we use.

I have certain favorite questions in my intake. One is, “What makes you happy?” Some people will literally look around, like, “happy? What’s that?” And they take a lot longer to get better. But if they say, “I love my husband, my job, my work,” they get thousands of points. I do have a point system. The important questions are: Are you happy? Do you drink enough water? Do you evacuate daily? How many times? If you have all that going on, you’re gonna get better. And then I find something in their face, nails, or earlobes that proves they have a strong constitution to get through whatever their health process is at the moment and get to the other side. Giving people hope is very important. Words are so important, and no one should leave your office without feeling empowered that they can really get through this.

As a practitioner, before they walk through your door, you have to clear your space. You have to be clean and neat—no one wants to see a filthy herbalist. The bathroom should be clean. It’s basic but has to be a nice, clean office space. I clear my space every day. You can use bells, clap your hands, pray, or burn things, whatever you want. But you need to clear the space because people leave their “ghostbuster goo” on the walls if you don’t, and I don’t want that in my house. I have a home practice, so the first floor is all business. When the day ends, I want my private space to be just for me.

Another important thing is to be working on your stuff. I remember a practitioner in the clinic one year, and I asked, “What are you working on for yourself?” She said, “Oh, nothing.” It’s like really!? Are you human? Are any of us ever not working on something within ourselves? 

So, be working on your own stuff so you know what real life is. And be able to leave your energy aside when the client enters. You are a vessel to hear, observe, and write down the messages as they come to you. Once I tap into my own stuff while listening to somebody, I’m not practicing anymore—I’m the client. Karen Sanders taught me that. She’s such an incredible teacher. Be empty, have good boundaries, and be a vessel to listen. Don’t have an ego. People often say, “I came to see you 20 years ago, and you healed me.” I didn’t heal you. You’re the one who put herbs in your mouth. The herbs did the work. I always say that. 

I like what you’re saying here because especially for people just getting started, it can be easy to jump into giving advice in the first five minutes when someone says they have an upset tummy or something. But that can kill the whole interview. I love how you’re talking about being silent, listening, observing, and paying attention.

Letting someone’s story develop is really important to the success of the interview. There’s an energy to an interview where you’re trying to build trust and rapport. Sometimes people come in thinking, “I’ve been to the MD, the ND, the acupuncturist, the massage therapist, and nothing’s helped. I guess I’ll try you now.” How do you overcome those situations? Do people ever come to you with skepticism, or are they usually pretty open?

Yes, but the people with skepticism are usually those whose family members or someone else suggested they come or paid for them. I’ve found that it’s always best if the person chooses to come themselves because otherwise, they don’t have that level of commitment. That’s when I see skepticism. 

When it comes to intake, I ask people why they come. If they say they’re here for a tummy ache, I write that down and whatever else they mention. At the end of the consultation, I go back and ask, “When you originally came, you said you wanted to work on these things. Is that still what you want to work on?” Often, there’s a shift in energy as time goes by, so I like to revisit that original contract by asking if that’s still what they want to work on.

One thing people struggle with at times when interacting with a client is getting overwhelmed by the amount of information and being able to filter what’s important. I find people these days seem so complicated, with really complicated health situations. How do you decipher everything going on? Do you have a structure for your interviews where you ask really direct questions? 

That’s why we do facial diagnosis. If you can read the face, tongue, and nails, you can figure out which organ system really needs to be worked on and start there.

Let’s talk about this a bit and dig into the body reading piece. Some people might be like, face, tongue, nail—what is that? Can you give a quick intro for those not familiar?

William was my teacher for this. Your face maps every organ—large intestine, small intestine, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, stomach, spleen, pelvic floor, gallbladder, and liver. People say, “Don’t I have those lines ’cause I’m getting old?” Well, I got old, but I don’t have a lot of lines. Every line and color says something. if you have blue or black under your eyes, it’s liver or adrenal; puffiness, kidneys; red nose, rosacea, thyroid condition, or alcoholism. That’s where you learn how to differentiate. It’s a blessing and a curse because you end up diagnosing everyone but can’t say anything. So when you think, “This person is so complicated,” start with the organs. 

If it’s the heart, you can’t support that organ first. Instead, you need to strengthen the supporting organs. Otherwise, you see which organ is under the most stress and start there. I also suggest returning to that beginning question, “Why are you here? What do you wanna work on?” And then merge those things. When I was young, I would give people so much stuff, trying to heal everything. But now, I know better. I pick something that’ll make them feel healthier and get rid of some symptoms, but go to that root cause because if you don’t go to the root, they’re always gonna be sick.

Yeah, exactly. It’s such a dynamic balance, especially with deep chronic issues that might take time to resolve. Do you find yourself administering things to alleviate symptoms while also treating the root cause?

Yes, I think you have to be kind, you know? We want to alleviate suffering and help people feel better. Yeah, I’m nice. We don’t want to take the sledgehammer approach.So, reading the body, do you use that alongside the intake process to further clarify and refine your understanding of what’s going on?

Yes. And at the end of the consultation, I also use drop pulse testing that I learned from Matthew. If I know they have a liver condition and I want to test six liver herbs, I can just drop one on their vein, feel their pulse, watch for improvement, and know which herb is perfect for them by directly asking their body to tell me the answer.

Yeah, it’s a really cool method. I remember doing that a lot with Matthew over the years, and it’s pretty amazing. So, what you’re looking for is whatever quality you feel in the pulse, you’re looking for it to improve in the direction towards a more normal pulse, right? Is that usually your goal?

Yeah, improve, so the three pulses under your fingertips become even and strong, with no agitation in anyone. I’ll tell you a good story. I was just teaching in Europe, and we did drop pulse testing. William would say, you know, if somebody is always smiling and got a huge smile on their face and you ask “How are you?” and they say, “Well, the house burned down, my husband left me, and the cat died,” just give them Catnip and send them home. So, I had a woman with this big smile, telling us all these conditions she had. I didn’t have Catnip with me, so I just wrote “Catnip” on a piece of paper, folded it up, put it in her hand, and she immediately burst into tears—her first true emotion. Every person in the class had an amazing reaction. It was incredible. 

So when you’re reading someone’s body, you want to look for multiple indications, not just one, right? For example, if someone has one line, you need to find other things that confirm it, right?

Yeah, David Winston said always look for three indicators. Common lines, like a liver line between the eyebrows or gallbladder line. Crow’s feet are just part of aging. But you need three indicators before you pass judgment on an organ. That’s why I wrote that QuickSight section in the book. You can just open it up and look at the Lungs and see six different indicators for a lung issue.

Those are really handy, by the way. For those not familiar, in Margi’s books, you’ll have a whole page or two for a certain organ. It’ll show the lines on the face, pulse position, colors to look for, and key symptoms. It’s like putting the pattern together. So, about that testimony of three, do you typically look at something on the face, something in the pulse, and something on the nails?

The tongue is a big indicator, but the face, tongue, and nails tell you a lot. Then you can look at the toes—if the toe next to the big toe is the same length or longer, chances are they’re missing intrinsic factor. If they have “stalagmites” (plica fimbriata) under the tongue when they curl it out, that’s the only indicator you need. They’re missing B12, and you need to supplement sublingually, not in pills. Many people with MTHFR snips in their genetic code are missing intrinsic factor. And that’s where the methylated forms of those B vitamins come in.

Interesting. So what’s your process like for remedy selection? After you conduct your intake, how do you translate that into the right remedies? Some people have remedies pop into their head, while others are more linear. I’m curious about your process.

One of the first things I determine is if they’re vata, pitta, or kapha, drawing on thousands of years of Ayurveda. If they’re vata, they’ll be irregular and won’t take their herbs on time. So, I need to remind them or have someone else remind them. And you can make them feel really good by saying, “You’re vata, you’re irregular, it will be a challenge for you, but this is normal for you. It isn’t a bad thing that you’re irregular.” and then they often express a feeling of relief in response. If they’re pitta, I have to convince them I’m smarter than they are, then they’ll do whatever I say. And if they’re kapha, the remedy has to taste good because their gastronomical delights are what run them so it has to taste good. 

With each dosha, I have to consider what types of herbs to use, and this cuts out a lot of guesswork—no astringents for pitta, for example. I learn their dosha primarily by looking at their tongue, which reveals a lot about their temperament and habits. The three tongues are very different and easy to identify. Many people have two doshas. The way the tongue looks when it comes out is the dominant dosha. Then I ask if they could make it pointed. If they can, they have a secondary pitta dosha. When you figure out who they are, it eliminates tons of herbs and tells you which ones are correct to use. It’s just a good trick.  

I love the compliance insight you shared. It’s so important to consider someone’s constitution and what might make them not follow your protocol. After you do your intake and send them away, what does your follow-up process look like to assess compliance whether their treatment is working, and how does it differ from the initial intake?

Anne Macyntire taught me a good trick. After the initial intake, the only thing I look at is my timeline sheet, which has all the important information outlined, including their invoices, which tell me their formulas. I book their follow-up before they leave, and depending on their issues, it can be in a week, three months, or six months. 

When they come back, I ask how much time they want to spend with me and charge them in 15-minute increments. That way, I can book out my day practically, and they know what to expect. You can cover a lot of ground in a short time, unless they’re there for therapy (which is pretty common), then they have to pay for it.

I want to see what they’ve accomplished in taking things. That’s why I try not to overwhelm them with too many remedies, so they can feel good about taking their tea, bath, or a walk. Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing a good thing and like they’re not failing. If your client walks in and apologizes for not getting things done, that’s not good for them. I advise young herbalists that if your clients don’t take the herbs you recommend and they’re just coming in for entertainment, don’t waste your time. 

When I retired, I had a lot of clients and none wanted to leave, but I only kept clients who actually did what I told them to do. I’m retiring and don’t want to work all the time, so if you do what I say, I’ll keep you, but if you don’t do what I say, you can go to someone else. 

When someone comes back and they followed everything you said, but things aren’t working, what’s your approach for reassessing? We don’t always hit the nail on the head the first time around, so how do you rethink, reassess, reevaluate, and reformulate?

I’d look back at the intake and see if I might have skipped a portion of an organ system’s questions. My intake is laid out by organ system, so if I think they’re healthy in one, I’ll ask a few prominent questions, and if everything seems okay, I’ll move on quickly to assess another. But if I feel like I’m missing something, I’ll delve deeper into those questions or emotional aspects. I’m pretty good at figuring out what’s going on with people. It isn’t common that people don’t have success, but when they don’t, I want to know if they’re really taking their herbs or if some emotional aspect came in that’s playing a bigger role. Body-mind-spirit is a circle; there aren’t any commas in between. You can’t separate the spirit from the body and thoughts so, I might focus more on thought processes, which can be huge obstacles. 

If you could go back in time to when you first started seeing clients, what advice would you give yourself then?

Don’t give them so much stuff and keep it simple. I used to send people out with huge bags of tea. Now I just give them a bit more than you could find at a natural food store to see if they regularly take it. If the herbs are local, they can pick up more when they’re compliant. But if I give them a little and they haven’t even used half, I know they’re not doing what they’re supposed to. So, does it not taste good? Is tea too hard to make? We think it’s easy, but for a lot of people, it’s weird and unfamiliar.

That brings up another important practical aspect of practicing herbalism clinically. What does dispensing look like for you? Do you have a fully stocked tincture dispensary? Do you make everything yourself, and compound formulas? What happens if there’s an herb you want to give, but you don’t have it? Can you talk a bit about the dispensing of the actual physical herbs, what works, and what doesn’t?

I make most of my products, but I like to have my friends’ products on the shelf too, such as David Winston’s products for Lyme because they’re so good. I try not to reorder everything since I’m not seeing clients as much, but the quality has to be fresh and vibrant. I went through pounds of herbs all the time, refilling the herbs going fast. I also checked my jars for Miller moths because they have excellent taste and want the best herbs they can find. There is a lot of turnover, and this is good because it means the herbs stay fresh. If I run out of an herb, it’s rare, but if I run out of a tincture in a formula, I can have one made in four hours using a Sous-Vide. This is a cooking tool that you can attach to a large pot filled with water, and it keeps the water rotating at a constant temperature the whole time. All you need to do is place your glass jar filled with herbs and alcohol or glycerin and put the lid on (not too high or tight) Fill the pot up to the curve in the jar and keep the water at 140°F, and after four hours you have the equivalent to a two-week “shake and pray” tincture. While that’s going on, I set my intention for the herbs, give thanks, and then I have my formula by the end of the day. 

How long do you usually keep a dried plant around? Does something ever sit around long enough to a point where you think, “Hmm, maybe it needs to go in the compost”?

Yeah, they compost regularly. But now if an herb is questionable, I just give it to the chickens. It has to go back to the earth. We shouldn’t use old herbs. Aromatic seeds and roots last a long time, but leaves and flowers don’t. I keep my herbs out of light and heat in a cool room. Most tinctures last for years, but some, like Eyebright and Lemon Balm, can go bad. I haven’t noticed that before, but some people have experienced this. 

Do you have any particularly interesting or difficult cases that come to mind or notable clinical experiences you’d like to share?  

Well, my practice evolved to have many clients with cancer because I wasn’t afraid of cancer. I was diagnosed with a tumor when I was 24 and told I had a year and a half to live. So I worked with a lot of people with cancer, even those with stage three or four. And I learned certain herbs were amazing for cancer. Yarrow puts a healthy boundary around a tumor and changes tissues like fibroids and is really good for any condition of blood. I think I probably gave fresh Yarrow tincture to every cancer client I had. B vitamin deficiencies, Folate deficiencies are common in all cancers, so I focused on methylated B vitamins, which can significantly improve energy and nervous system function and overall vitality. 

And of course, diet, but it’s really hard for people to say you have to give up everything you are accustomed to eating while you have cancer. So I was more into suggesting portions, you know, once a week have whatever it is you love and bless it and eat it. So I’m really big on those things. 

For those with stage four cancer, I’d say, “I’m not promising you anything. These herbs will support you, you might feel better, your hair might not fall out, and your radiation burns might not hurt so much. But you know, at least the quality of whatever time you have left will be better.” People appreciate you being honest with them. I had a client of 25 years or so who ended up developing prostate cancer. We successfully treated it for years and years. When it got worse, he didn’t want to do Western medicine. I supported him in that because that’s his choice. Toward the end, he would come and say “I so appreciate that I can talk to you about dying and about living before I die.” I think we’re missing honest conversations about the end of life in our society. People who have a solid concept of death usually have an easier time in their process. 

Wow. Thank you for sharing that. Working with people with cancer is a big responsibility.

And infertility too. So many men and women are struggling with infertility, and it’s such an emotional topic. It’s primal.

Why do you think there are so many fertility issues?

Without a doubt, I’d say environmental factors. The fertility and endocrine issues we’re facing are caused by plastics and fertilizers. If it said on the front page every day that pesticides and fertilizers create small penises, that would be the end of it. 

What about digestive issues and food allergies? Why do you think so many people have food allergies these days? Is it a similar thing?

Same thing. Rhinitis and food allergies are often linked to a lack of intrinsic factor. Our environment is so removed from what it used to be, affecting both the earth’s microbiome and our own. We are a reflection of the planet we live on, and our gut health suffers because we are doing things to the earth that are inappropriate. 

It’s so interesting that a hundred years ago, the whole pattern of health and disease was completely different. You read old Eclectic books or materia medicas from the Physiomedicalists, and you’re reading about Scarlet Fever and diphtheria, things we don’t see that much anymore. These days, we’ve got all these other issues they would’ve never heard of. It makes me think about how herbal medicine has to constantly evolve and change because our environment is changing, we’re changing, and the herbs might even be changing too in their properties. What do you see moving forward for this new generation of herbalists and how do we continue to develop and grow as good stewards and healers?

I think it’s all about education. If children understand where food comes from, that it doesn’t come from a little plastic package. We have to get real again. We need to understand where our vegetables and animals come from. I used to take my grandkids to the petting farm and show them the animals. I’d tell them, “See how happy these animals are, dancing around, frolicking, and being fed, well if you eat food from animals that are happy and healthy and eat vegetables from land where seaweed, compost, and chicken poop are used to fertilize the soil, the soil becomes rich and when you eat it you become rich.” It all begins with educating children.

As a relatively new-ish father, I appreciate hearing that. It makes me think about the other day when we were all having dinner as a family. My oldest, turning four in August, is still young. We were looking at our plates, and I asked him, “Where does this food come from?” His answer was so cool. He said, “The sheep ate the grass, the rain made the grass grow, and the grass grew in the earth. So I guess it’s from the earth and the water and the air and the fire.” My heart swelled with pride.

Well, congratulations. You’re succeeding as a parent. There are always ups and downs, but what you’re talking about is reconnection to what’s real, to what gives us life every day, and what maintains the healthy ecological state of our bodies. It’s concerning sometimes to look at the state of the world and the direction things are going.

I really believe we’re in a new age, the Aquarian age, a time to set our intentions for what we want. What do you really want? How do you want to live your life? I’ve been teaching in Britain, Portugal, and Italy, and I kept coming back to the ripple. I’m really into this ripple. I’m going to ripple out William and people getting along. You know, it’s like, “All right, kids, if you can’t get along, I’m going to separate you.” That’s what COVID felt like to me, Mother Nature saying, “You kids are misbehaving. You have to go to your room. I’m going to separate you, and you don’t get any snacks.”

I appreciate everything you’ve shared today and there’s a lot of wisdom and insights that will help people on their plant path and their journey towards healing with herbs. That’s why we do what we do, trying to make the world a better place, one plant, one person at a time. Do you have any closing thoughts or anything exciting to share?

Oh, I appreciate you. If people wanna support the William project, they can contact me, and depending on the size of the donation, you’ll get eBooks or real printed books with bigger donations. 

Support the William LeSassier Project

To make a donation to Margi to support the transcription and writing of this crucial project to preserve the wisdom of a modern herbal genius, send an email to her at [email protected]

I also can’t recommend Margi’s book highly enough, so please be sure to get a copy of The Practicing Herbalist here https://earthsongherbals.com/thebook/the-practicing-herbalist-iv/

Of if you’re a little newer to the plant path, starting out with An Introduction to The Practicing Herbalist might be a better place to start. Grab a copy right here: https://health.aeonbooks.co.uk/product/introduction-to-the-practicing-herbalist/95244

To learn more about Margi and her work, visit her website at: https://earthsongherbals.com/

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