Hi, I am Karen Vaughan, an acupuncturist and herbalist and the owner of this site. I want you to know a little about me.
I received a MS in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College. The degree covers both acupuncture and herbs and is a four year Masters degree certified by the States of New York and California.
I did my undergraduate work at UC Berkeley and the University of Washington in Seattle. I have been in New York City since 1975 and my journey into this medicine was as tied with living here as with growing up in an area where I had access to the woods.
I grew up in northern California with a home at the edge of an oak forest and a family cabin in the redwoods. As a child I had pretty free range to go off hiking. I would arise soon after the birdsong at dawn and found that if I went very slowly I might see deer or other animals. In training myself to walk slowly I started noticing all the different types of moss or lichens, training that helped me when I later became an herbalist. My aunt Helen and uncle Russell Archerd who were avid naturalists taught me much about plants and survival training on our annual pack trips or hikes near their home in Calistoga. My grandmother, Gladys Archerd was from an Anishinibaag Indian lineage and had grown up foraging not only her beloved sea shells but also plants. She and my grandfather had a weekend truck farm near Antioch and we were expected to dig potatoes or help in the garden when we visited and we did a lot of old fashioned gardening at home with her. I learned about edible and medicinal plants which came in handy when I was living in Seattle without money. I would visit the University of Washington Botanical Garden, spend time learning with the plants, then go foraging in Ravenna Park or the alleys of Seattle. This is when I started studying useful wild plants in earnest. When I arrived in New York it wasn’t until I had learned over half of the weeds and wild plants that I felt at home.
Living in a city, especially in the more polluted 1970s was difficult, despite the Appalachian Trail being an easy train ride away. I started to come down with hair infections, skin infections, gum infections. My doctors told me that the conditions were unrelated, caused by many different bacteria, viruses and yeasts. But it was easy for me to see that all my tissues were going soft and that it had to be a systemic issue. I first sought out acupuncture then, although it was not easily available.
By the time I had been here for a decade I was getting continuous respiratory infections that would keep me ill for three to four months at a time. As soon as something responded to antibiotics I would have a relapse. Luckily I found a wonderful acupuncturist who had training in herbs and she was able to tonify my Lung Qi and to drain the dampness. I almost never get respiratory infections now, and her assistance was instrumental in my deciding to study Chinese medicine.
It was after my second child was born and I was working in the garden I was designing for Old First Church in Brooklyn that I felt a presence telling me that I should heal people with the plants. This was a significant change from my background as a land use planner, but it felt right at a deep level. I had attended an herbal conference called the Green Nation’s Gathering and after running into classes by Amanda McQuade and David Winston I bought any tapes of classes they had taught in past conferences and started putting in 5 hours a day listening and searching on the web for more information. This started a pattern of learning that has not ceased.
I was certified as an EMT so as to be able to identify emergencies, took classes at the Open Center, went for week long herbal workshops and correspondence courses. I experimented endlessly with making herbal preparations. I became convinced that I needed good clinical training, and I turned to Oriental Medicine and enrolled at Pacific College which had a four year program in herbs and acupuncture.
Since graduation I have trained in Addiction Acupuncture at Lincoln Hospital. I have worked in the acupuncture clinic for the Fortune Society, and interned at the Hospital for Joint Diseases. I studied meridian analysis acupuncture with Dr. Wang Yu-Ji in Beijing, China.
It took me a while to feel that I wasn’t cheating, being an urban herbalist. I would go to conferences where people would make snide remarks about living in New York City and breathing bad air, and I remember the look of incredulity an ex- New Yorker gave me in Seattle when I mentioned that I wildcrafted in the parks. But living in a city allows me access to herbs and herbalists from all over the world, and my carbon footprint is lower than most people living away from urban centers. And nature is here, just waiting for a chance to take things back.
I have spent nearly 20 years doing primarily western/planetary herbal healing, studying with wonderful herbalists like Michael Tierra, Amanda McQuade Crawford, David Hoffman, Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar and Ryan Drumm. I have a certificate in Green Medicine from the Open Center and did three years of continuing education studies with noted Cherokee herbalist David Winston.
In addition I work with emergency workers doing Critical Incident Stress Management, am certified in various forms of energy medicine, as a Reiki Master,and Sechim and Karuna master. I studied clinical aromatherapy with Michael Scholes, Debby Freund and Jeffrey Yuen and is certified in aromatherapy using therapeutic quality essential oils.
I have additional postgraduate training in Dermatology with Mazin Al Khafaji, Tuina with Frank Butler and Tom Bisio, Chinese classics with Jeffery Yuen, Auricular Acupuncture with Li Chun Huang, Critical Incident Stress Management with REMSCO and have a full schedule of continuing education units in western medicine through MedScape. I am currently a faculty member at the New York College of Health Professions and have taught at the David Winston School of Herbal Studies and the Swedish Institute, a College of Health Sciences in the Acupuncture Department.