About Sarah Bearden, D.N.Med., M.S., CN
Nutritionist, Aromatherapist, Herbalist, Natural Foods Chef
My name is Sarah Bearden and I am a Nutritionist, Aromatherapist, Herbalist and a Natural Foods Chef. I have been in practice in the field of Holistic Health since 1996.
Why I Became a Holistic Health Practitioner and Educator
When I graduated from Bowdoin College in 1976, I went straight into the U.S. Peace Corps and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire, Africa for two years. (Zaire is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). I had my first experience as a teacher in Zaire, teaching English as a Second Language to high school students and through this experience I learned that I loved being a teacher.
In Zaire, I also had the opportunity to see how local people used food and natural remedies as medicine. I love the idea that the food we eat can nourish us but can also have qualities that can keep dis-ease conditions at bay. From then on, I sought out traditional cooking classes and natural remedy classes in other countries I lived in or visited.
After my Peace Corps experience, I had more opportunities to live overseas and up until this point, I have lived in Japan for 7 years, England for 7 years and have done extensive traveling in many other countries. In all my travel experiences I have sought out information on which traditional foods and natural remedies have been historically used by that culture. I attended several overseas cooking schools, including a 4 year professional program in Indian Cooking taught in Tokyo, Japan. All of my host countries taught me that they did indeed have a traditional cuisine that historically has a food as medicine purpose and my hosts also taught me about their traditional natural remedies which mostly consisted of using herbs and plants prepared in specialized ways, including teas, tinctures, poultices, balms, vinegars, syrups, salves, creams, lotions, body butters and also the distillation of plant parts into essential oils, which we know of as Aromatherapy.
Early on, I read a book that really changed my direction towards wanting to learn more about foods and natural remedies and this was a novel called "Lucifer's Hammer," by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell. It is a doomsday novel where a comet hits the earth and devastates most of the planet, but it is really a story about how those who survive regroup and create a new civilization. Their definitions of what is and what isn't really important to survive and then thrive changes from what they previously were to what they needed to know after that cataclysmic event.
This book had a profound impact on me! I started to wonder what kind of knowledge and skills we might need if we were faced with a situation where we really had to get back to basics. It seemed to me that knowing how to grow and harvest food that would nourish well and also knowing how to use plants as medicine would rank right up there on the list of "Important things to know and know how to do".
Every professional and personal decision I have made since reading that book has included an element of seeking these kinds of skills and knowledge and I am constantly asking "What do we all really need to survive in the world?". As I have been forming my own answers to this question and as I bring this knowledge forth to my clients and students, I call this my "Comet Philosophy": "If a comet hit the earth, and we survive it, what do we need to know to continue to survive?" For me, it is this idea of being able to live off the earth, to grow and harvest real food and to understand how to prepare and use plants as remedies.
So while in Japan, I studied traditional Japanese Temple Cooking (the Japanese form of Macrobiotics) and the Indian Culinary class I mentioned above, and then in England, I studied with a Cordon Bleu Chef. After all the culinary training I decided I needed more scientific education in Nutrition to complement my knowledge of food preparation.
I attended a formal in-class two year diploma program in Nutritional Medicine in London, which gave me the science I needed to understand the western clinical approach towards Nutrition (now called the Plaskett International College), and I also attended a full time diploma program in Aromatherapy at The Tisserand Institute, with Robert Tisserand and his teachers. (The Tisserand Institute is no longer an in-class course in London but can now be found online) I also took a course in the "Energetic Properties of 50 Oils" from Gabriel Mojay at his school, The Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy. I passed my 6 hour qualifying exam in Nutritional Medicine and received my qualification as a D.N.Med (Diploma in Nutritional Medicine) and set up my practice, which primarily focused on Nutrition.
Still in England, I attended a full time Reflexology school at the Practitioner's School of Reflexology and became qualified in the practice of Reflexology. I became a professional Member of the Association of Reflexologists. I also studied Flower Essence Therapy in a course offered by teachers from the Bach Centre.
As I learned more about Aromatherapy and Reflexology, I brought these skills into my practice and was able to offer my clients personalized Aromatherapy products and Reflexology sessions to enhance the customized Nutrition programs I developed for them. At the time I thought: "Often people don't like what Nutritionists have to tell them so my clients might like me better if I can also give them some beautiful but therapeutic Aromatherapy products and Reflexology treatments.". It all worked quite well!
Back in the U.S.A.
In 1981, I married a man I had met in the Peace Corps and we later had two beautiful children, so my family was very much a part of my overseas living and learning experience, in fact, they were my first clients. I got to practice everything I learned on them!
By 1998, we were at the end of our England tour and our children were approaching high school age, so we moved back to America after having been away for 14 years. We moved to California and I set up my Nutrition practice. I soon learned that my overseas qualifications did not allow me to work with certain nutritional companies and laboratories, so I went back to school and received both a Natural Foods Chef and a Nutrition Consultant qualification with Bauman College and became a Certified Nutritionist (C.N.) with the American Health Science University. (Another 6 hour qualifying exam for this one!) Ultimately I received an M.S. degree in Nutrition with Hawthorn University. I also had the opportunity to study herbalism in a 2-year apprentice program with a very knowledgeable herbalist. I have also attended the Herb School at Gathering Thyme. Currently I am attending the Aromahead Institute of Aromatherapy for additional education in the use of essential oils.
I intend to keep on learning and I am thoroughly enjoying the great opportunity the internet gives us with its rich array of online learning possibilities. Every year, I attend CEU (continuing education) seminars on a regular basis, to remain current in my fields of practice.
I love where I am right now. I am grateful for my beautiful family and I am grateful to all my clients and students who have allowed me to come into their lives and share my knowledge with them. Education is very important to me and along with the teaching I do in my classes, I also bring education into my practice. I passionately believe that my clients will get so much more from the personal programs I create for them if they understand why things are the way they are. Teaching is a spiritual practice for me. If you want to know more about my practice, and how I work with my clients, please go here. If you want to learn more about the classes I teach, please go here.
I have been described as being "motherly" towards people. Being a real mother to my children is my greatest joy. But when it comes to working with my clients and my students, I interpret "motherly" as being "empathetic". I always try to understand what it is like to be the person I am communicating with. Everyone has their own story. I am not judgmental when it comes to giving advice about Nutrition or anything else. Maybe because of this or maybe because of my name, I am known by many as Mama Bear. My blog that is dedicated to teaching about cooking real food is called "Mama Bear's Den". (A real link to my name!). If you'd like to visit it, please go here.
So. The Picture. My "headshot". It gets a lot of criticism. I have been told by marketing experts it is not professional and I should go into a studio and have a proper photo made. I should be wearing more professional clothing. I need to have a better smile. And so on and so on. But I am not going to change it. I like it and here's why: That photo was taken by my husband who was sitting across from me at an outdoor coffee shop in Peru. We had just gotten back from an extensive and very physically challenging trip high up into the Andes to visit the site of one of the aid projects that is overseen by World Neighbors. (My husband David was on the Board of Directors for a number of years). World Neighbors is an impressive organization whose statement is "inspiring people, strengthening communities". They go into areas of the world that serve the poorest of the poor with the goal of inspiring lasting change through education and training so that communities can eventually thrive on their own. They don't give handouts, but rather, they meet the real needs of the communities they help, We were there to see how the program in micro-lending was working in the remote villages where they were working. These micro-lending programs have been very successful in lifting people out of absolute poverty and the villagers we met were, indeed, thriving. But we had to travel in a van up some very winding and harrowing roads with sheer cliff drops and a lot of dust. I was so inspired by the determination and the grit of the villagers we met! And after days of traveling, we came down from the mountains, exhausted and covered with dust. We ended up at this outdoor coffee shop - I was drinking a very welcome cup of hot chocolate. I was weary and my clothes could have stood up by themselves. But I was very happy. So I am keeping the photo. If you are looking for a very worthy cause to donate to, please consider World Neighbors, and go here to learn more about this wonderful organization. And if you would like to read about our trip to Peru with World Neighbors, please read my journal account here.
My intention is to use this website as a place to share with you what I have learned about Nutrition, Food, Cooking and Natural Remedies such as herbs and essential oils from my many years of working in the field of holistic health. I will announce upcoming classes that I teach here and I will archive articles about these subjects for you to read, under their respective tabs above.