Harnessing the power of herbs and plants to treat illness and promote overall wellness is one of humanity’s oldest traditions, yet with the development of modern pharmaceuticals, plant-based medicines are more commonly associated with dubious homeopathic remedies and pseudoscience. Cameron Strouss, the clinical herbalist behind Deep Roots Apotheké & Clinic, is working tirelessly to shift this way of thinking and to educate and empower both her clients and the greater Birmingham area on the transformative power of plants.
Cameron’s journey toward herbalism began at age 16, when she was injured during intensive dance training. Physical therapy didn’t help, and surgery ultimately made the injury worse. From there, a number of health conditions began to pile atop one another, from anxiety and depression to poor digestion and hypothyroidism. With this long list of relatively low-grade health problems, Cameron felt ill all the time and wasn’t getting answers from any of the doctors she visited. Then, while on a walk one day, Cameron spotted a plant nearby and began to wonder what impact natural herbs, which she knew had long been the only medicine humans relied upon, could have on her health.
The daughter of a former forester and a florist, plants had always been deeply entrenched in Cameron’s life, and though many were surprised by her interest in herbalism, it seemed to her like an incredibly natural course. “I just had a joy around plants. When I was really sick I had a terrible memory; the only thing that I could remember were plant names and what they were for,” Cameron says. “Some people just have a propensity for certain things, and that was something that I really had an affinity for and felt like I was supposed to do.” She shifted her major at the University of Montevallo from art to biology, and, while earning her degree, she spent two years studying alongside Darryl Patton, a traditional folk herbalist in northern Alabama. She then honed her skills in identification and native plant knowledge while working in the Kaul Wildflower Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens before moving to Oregon, where she interned with tincture manufacturer Herb Pharm and completed her clinical herb training with clinical herbalist Thomas Easley, a Registered Herbalist (American Herbalist Guild). This training in functional medicine taught Cameron how to utilize a combination of herbs, supplements and good nutrition in transforming her clients’ wellness.
Cameron’s comprehensive, holistic approach to health is one shaped by her own experiences with battling poor health and struggling to find answers. “This idea of us not as machines, but as beautiful, living things, that when provided with the building blocks and the nourishment on all levels — socially, spiritually, physically — we can heal ourselves,” Cameron says. “It’s not me that’s working the magic. I’m just helping your body do what it does best.” When meeting with clients, she spends time getting to know them individually and takes all factors, from living environment to relational dynamics, carefully into consideration when recommending her handcrafted, wild-harvested herbal medicines. Along with the herbs and supplements she recommends, Cameron also suggests attainable lifestyle changes that are tailor-made for each client. Through this dynamic approach, Cameron works toward the goal of lasting change in each client’s health and happiness.
Educating others about clinical herbalism is an integral component of Cameron’s practice. “You can’t do something unless you believe in it and understand the reasoning behind it,” says Cameron. “A problem that I see a lot is that we don’t understand how our bodies work, so for me it’s helping people understand what happens in the body so they have a greater appreciation and understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. And it gives them the gumption to continue to do it in a way that’s deeply, intrinsically true for them.” Cameron is spreading that empowerment across Birmingham, from equipping her clients with their own understanding of how to treat various ailments to sharing her expertise in classes she co-teaches with Antonia Vietri at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The courses, which cover a variety of topics, including their upcoming lessons on The Art and Science of Tea Blending and Rose Medicine Making, offer an engaging, fascinating look into Cameron’s world of herbalism.
And this year, she’s taking her talents a step further as Deep Roots Apotheké & Clinic will be setting up tents at Pepper Place Farmers Market. There, Cameron will offer a range of her products, from her minty mineral tea to scrape and pain salves, and she will be on hand to interact one-on-one with customers and make suggestions that are best for each individual situation. “I wanted to make us more available to people, because right now it’s the clinic or nothing,” Cameron says. “So doing the farmers market allows me to provide herbal remedies and education about the product, but mostly teach people about herbalism. It is important for me to teach people about how easy it is to learn to take care of yourself.”
As Deep Roots Apotheké & Clinic continues to grow, so does Cameron’s knowledge and the scope of her understanding of and relationship with the herbs that she plants, harvests and works with. “The plants never stop teaching me. I’m always learning about life and how to ebb and flow,” Cameron says. “I have lots of tools in my tool bag. I can make medicine or food or food as medicine. I love the versatility of plants and the infinite creativity that you can enjoy without any waste. From growing something, starting a seed, watching it grow, making five or six things out of it, making tea, tasting it, recognizing that it’s different every single time and then using it in my practice. I get to see the completed life cycle, and that plant got recycled into a body instead of the ground. It’s so rewarding to see that cycle and have a part in it.”
If you’d like to schedule a consultation with Cameron, call (205) 790-4102 or book your appointment on Deep Roots Apotheké & Clinic’s online appointment scheduler.
Thanks to Mallie Beck Wilkerson Photography for today’s beautiful photos.
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