Don Ollsin is a pioneering educator, leading practitioner and herbal elder. His story begins in 1969 when, working in Vancouver’s Golden Lotus Restaurant, as one of B.C.’s first vegetarian chefs, his inherent love of natural food drew him to the study of herbs and their therapeutic value. At this time he was initiated into the practice of Surat Shabd yoga. He also began to apprentice under the noted American herbal authority, Dr. John Christopher, with whom he studied the science and art of herbalism. Wanting to work directly in the natural health field, and be in a more conducive environment to practice yoga, he moved to Victoria, B.C. in 1972. Once there, he opened Sawan Natural Foods, which included Victoria’s first herbal dispensary.
In 1976, Don continued his study of herbalism through the Emerson College of Herbology. That same year he decided to devote all of his energy to promoting the value of herbal medicine by opening Self Heal Herbs in Victoria, B.C. --- a retail store and information resource center, which helped set the guidelines for quality herbal medicine and education. Don earned his Master of Herbology (M.H.) degree from the Emerson College of Herbology and soon after began teaching classes on herbs and healing. He then broadened his activities to include lecturing and giving workshops with noted authors and teachers.
Don is a professional member of The American Herbalists Guild and one of fewer than 250 such practitioners nationwide whose education and clinical skills have been peer- reviewed by the American Herbalists Guild, so as to be granted the status of a "Registered Herbalist" (R.H.).
As a professional herbalist with a practical orientation, Don believes in seeing results. His knowledge of what works comes from his years of experience in treating the widest range of conditions amongst thousands of clients. In 1987, Don along with his partner Sandy began to offer an intensive herbal training program called the Herbal Healing Journey, and they also developed a home study program. Over the years they have created many herbal programs and Don has taught at many colleges and universities including: The University of British Columbia, The University of Victoria, Bastyr University, Langara College and Royal Roads University.
Don is the author (Sandy Ollsin - editor) of Pathways To Healing: A Guide to Ayurveda, Herbs, Dreambody and Shamanism. It is a Time/Life One Spirit Book Club selection that is used as the textbook for his Herbal Programs.
In 2013 Don completed his MA in Environmental Education and Communication at Royal Roads University. The focus of his thesis was online learning, and transitioning his classes into an online format. Don's teachings are about healing the environment and communities with sustainable medicine. He is and always will be a Grassroots Herbalist. He wishes to empower people with the knowledge to heal themselves and others, using herbs and holistic healing systems. He now offers online herbal education and mentorship through his two programs: the Online Herbal Course and the Herbal Mentorship Collective.
1969 – I began working at the Golden Lotus vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. where we served herb teas. I purchased my first herb book, Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss, I still have it.
1970 – Dr. Christopher, Master Herbalist and formative force in establishing herbalism in North America came into my life and I started my study of herbs and Iridology. It was there I also began studying native teachings, including wildcrafting and local herbs with Norma Meyers. James Green, author of The Male Herbal: the Definitive Health Care Book for Men & Boys and The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual was also involved with us at that time as Norma and James were friends.
1971 – I opened Sawan Natural Foods and Herbs in Victoria, B.C. We carried an extensive selection of herbs along with natural foods. I enrolled in Emerson College of Herbology, in Quebec, Canada to further my herbal studies through correspondence. I successfully completed the course a few years later.
1972 – I continued studying local herbs with Nancy Turner, Professor of Ethnobotany, University of Victoria, B.C. I began teaching classes on herbs and other healing modalities.
1976 – I sold Sawan Natural Foods and Herbs and opened Self-Heal Herbs, an herb store, clinic and dispensary. I made all of the herbal medicines, tinctures, tincture formulas, tea blends, oils & salves. We carried a selection of over 200 dried herbs, as well, and I was seeing clients privately and conducting wellness consultations. After eighteen years I sold the store. It is still operating as a successful herbal dispensary, with many of the original formulas and blends that I created.
1976 – 2001 – I joined and was a professional member of the Canadian Herbalist's Association of B.C., serving on the Board of Directors for many terms.
1983 – 1986 - Earth Medicine Festivals – I organized large gatherings with teachers like Ellen White, Rosemary Gladstar, myself and other local teachers.
1986 - now - Met my partner Sandy Ollsin who has graciously shared with me all aspects of our work (including teaching) from the Healing Journeys, Shamanic apprenticeship with Ellen White, Dreambody studies and teaching, teaching Shamanic Workshops, writing the book Pathways to Healing, a Guide to Herbs, Ayurveda, Dreambody and Shamanism and running Self Heal Herbs.
1986 – 2008 - We began our Herbal Healing Journeys, a training program for budding herbalists. Over the years the following teachers have shared their wisdom with us and our students: Ryan Drum – herbs, seaweeds & wildcrafting, Michael Tierra – herbs & TCM, Dr. Philip Chambers – medical herbalism, Nancy Turner – Ethnobotany & herbal identification, Rosemary Gladstar – herbs & respect, Christopher Hobbs – herbal identification plus uses, Susun S. Weed – Wisewoman Ways, Bernard Jensen – Iridology, Nutrition, Skin Brushing & Slant Board, Ellen White – native use of local herbs. Our course reflects the diverse teachings of everyone we have worked and studied with over the years.
1983 – Shamanic Herbal Apprenticeship with Ellen White, a Coast Salish Elder. Other teachers of Shamanism have been: Joan Halifax, Sun Bear, Brant Secunda & Rolling Thunder. In 1986 Sandy joined me in our studies with Ellen.
Dr. Ellen White, or Kwulasulwut (Many Stars) is a Coast Salish Elder, teacher, author, story-teller and medicine woman widely known for her dedication to education as key to social change and community building. Dr. White is a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation in Nanaimo, B.C. In 2011 she was the recipient of The Order of B.C. Award and in 2016 Dr. White was added as a member to the Order of Canada for her work as Elder and community leader, and for her efforts to preserve the Hul'qumi'num language.
"I have known Don Ollsin for over twenty years. I was one of the instructors for the workshops he held for his school of herbal medicine. I am eighty-five years of age and I am a practicing herbalist since I was very young. My teachers were spiritual communicators and herbalists. My teachers communicated with plants by energy and vibrations. Don Ollsin was very interested in what I was doing and he became my student over these many years. He learned a lot from me, names and usefulness of plants, but I also learned from him the English names of plant life. Native people used the energies of water and air, and Don was very interested in this. He was able to understand this in a few years and use this information. I have listened and watched him teach the students. Some of the students were coming from far away – South America, England and Africa. I liked how he explained and how he taught them. He was able to find words for me to make it easy for students to understand. In that way their retention stayed. We taught the students how to identify plants and to communicate with them and feel the vibrations from them. The students learned about air and what air carries, such as the feelings whether warm or cold from plants or dead animals, and how they can feel the feelings of them directing us. All of this can be taught to students without scaring them. We used words so it was easy for them to see and feel without actually mentioning the people who have gone a long time ago, who were the original teachers. The students learned about the use of energies, whether on land or in the sea. Therefore, they learned about the use of plants from land and from the sea. Don Ollsin has a deep understanding of these teachings and was able to teach his students in a way that they could see this and understand the teachings. While he was going to diving school it showed that he used the energies of the living and dead animals in the sea. All these years of Don Ollsin’s learning – not only from myself – should not be wasted. It should be given out to others who are interested. This old lady would be so very happy if Don Ollsin would find a way to reach more students through an academic setting for longer periods of time. His courses previously were only for nine weeks in his school. The recipient of Don Ollsin’s teachings would have a better life as they would understand their inner strength. He would not only be teaching them herbs and their usefulness but also about inner strength, energy, and being a whole human. I have seen Don Ollsin turn students around to very calm, vibrant, understanding people. They were able to find their self esteem. I know some of them are still working in the field of helping others from what they have learned from Don Ollsin. Through knowing Don and working with him for all these years I would recommend him to be instructor in herbal medicines and self help."
Yours truly, Ellen White, Respected Elder
1986 - Dreambody (process-oriented psychology) studies with Arnold & Amy Mindell, Stan Tomandl, Julie Diamond, Max Shumaker & Gary Reiss from the process-oriented community in Oregon.
1986 – I began my study of Ayurveda with Robbie Svoboda including constitutional assessment, tongue and pulse diagnosis.
1986 - Dorothy McLean, one of the founders of Findhorn, along with Ellen White trained us how to tune into devas and communicate with elemental energies.
1998 – 2004 - Langara College, Vancouver, B.C. accepted our course, Herbal Healing Journey – Level One – Practical Herbalist Program as a College Certified Program.
1998 – We began Level Two – Consultant Herbalist Program at Langara College, Vancouver, B.C.
1999 – We published Pathways to Healing, A Guide to Herbs, Ayurveda, Dreambody and Shamanism.
1972 – 2000-3000 hours plus of formal herbal clinic practice & 20,000 hours plus of dispensing herbs and herbal information (conservative estimate).
2000 – Present – we continue to educate and mentor serious students on herbs and complimentary paradigms like Ayurveda, Shamanism & Dreambody
2001 – Present - Don became a Professional member of the American Herbalists Guild (A.H.G.).
2001 – Sandy & I co-founded The Modern and Traditional Herbalist Guild.
2007 – Don created the original Community Herbalist Program at Pacific Rim College.
2008 – Don graduated from Northwest Culinary Institute in Vancouver, B.C.
2011 – Don was the curriculum designer and teacher of Herbal Studies Program at Camosun College.
2011 - 2012 Don was a graduate student of Environmental Education and Communication at Royal Roads University.
2013 - Don received his Master of Arts degree in Environmental Education and Communication.
2015 - We created the Online Herbal Course, an online version of our healing journey program, which we have been teaching and developing since 1986.
2016 - Don developed and launched the Herbal Mentorship Collective.
2017 - Don & Sandy teach the Intercultural Shamanic Workshop four times a year on Pender Island at the solstices and equinoxes.