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Darcie Black – Bramble Community Herbalism

Darcie Black is a certified doula (a type of labor coach) and herbalist. She’s also one of the co-founders of Bramble, an herbal shop and community space that just opened this month.

We talk with Black about her path to becoming a doula, how natural medicine has impacted her life, how the Bramble project came together and what it has to offer the Ithaca community.

Below are 5 interesting snippets from the interview:

1 – What exactly does a doula do? Isn’t that the partner’s job?

2 – Black’s “oddly” early interest in pregnancy and childbirth

3 – Black’s first-hand successes with alternative medicine

4 – How the seeds of the Bramble project were planted

5 – Some herbal recommendations that can benefit anyone


1 – What exactly does a doula do? Isn’t that the partner’s job?

In Black’s words: “A doula is someone who supports a woman during childbirth. The whole prenatal period while they’re pregnant, through the birthing process and then after birth as well.”

It does beg the question: isn’t it the partner’s job to support a woman through this process? Black answers: “Everyone needs a break, but a woman giving birth needs support always. A doula can step in when a partner can’t or isn’t comfortable.” Doulas also serve as educators and advocates and for a couple – a welcome presence because birth is scary and confusing and sometimes you simply don’t even know what questions you should be asking.

2 – Black’s “oddly” early interest in pregnancy and childbirth

Black was apparently destined for her line of work: “Right from the get go – this is really weird – I used to, you know – typical child – play house. But then I would like, breastfeed my baby dolls and play pregnant woman and say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna have a baby!’” 

She goes on to relate one of her earliest memories: “My mom said I could get any book I wanted, and I asked ‘Where are the books about babies?’ And so one of the first books I got was The Joy of Birth. It was lots of text that I couldn’t read but there were pictures of the whole pregnancy process and I was just fascinated.”

3 – Black’s first-hand successes with alternative medicine

Black first became interested in natural medicine after taking a class at IC. Once she started applying those practices to her own life, she saw really amazing results: “I was on different medications for many, many years. I was able to – with the help of herbal medicine and acupuncture in particular – come off of all of my medications.”

4 – How the seeds of the Bramble project were planted

Bramble was initially the brainchild of local herbalist Amanda David. When she reached out to other local herbalists, Black was thrilled: “I was super honored to be on the receiving end of that. I remember, back in college, doing a research project and finding Amanda online, looking at her website and her work. I remember reading up on her and saying, ‘Oh man, I want to do what this woman is doing.’”

Once the project got some forward momentum, Bramble was able to accomplish a great deal in a short time, including a successful Indiegogo campaign to help the store get off the ground.

After a successful launch on November 1, business is looking good. But ultimately, Black says, “It’s the medicine and the herbs that brought us together and keep us inspired.” 

5 – Some herbal recommendations that can benefit anyone 

Let’s say you’re in tip-top shop with no illnesses or injuries wearing you down. Does herbalism still offer something worthwhile for you? Black suggets: “Any kind of tonic – which is something that tonifies and strengthens a system in the body or adaptogen – which helps the body adapt and strengthen in times of stress and perform at it’s best.”

For example? “My absolute favorite go-to herb is nettle… nettle is jam-packed, rich in vitamins, minerals, calcium, protein… it’s king of the herbs, I take it every day and eat it as food as well.”

How do you eat nettle, you ask? Apparently, it makes a really good pesto.

Next week on the Ithacast: Scott Morris, founder of ithacash!

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.