Consider h&h a haven to gently explore your bodymind. Expect to be nurtured & validated as you reconnect with parts of yourself you may have lost touch with, after traumatic experiences, stress or just the ebbs and flows of living.
I came from a holistic household, where it was normal to take lots of vitamins, do cleanses, and visit wellness practitioners on the regular. Thanks, mum! You could find me outside much of my childhood, scraped everywhere, muddied and maybe eating a flower. I would get sick often and end up at my Serbian Baba's house, to be spoonfed soup and given herbal medicine. Later, I found out that herbs were the reason my parents were able to bring me into the world, so it makes sense that my work centers them now!
As an athletic yet clumsy teen, I ended up with two concussions and developed post-concussion syndrome. Although I experienced physical and cognitive symptoms for years, I did not rehabilitate my bodymind properly because of internalized ableism. Taking supplements and altering my diet, along with classical Hatha yoga and meditation, thankfully helped me to regain cognitive functioning. I thought I was hale and hearty again—until I became chronically sick.
It took three tick bites to destroy my health in 2016 and render me disabled. After spiraling from specialist to specialist, I reclaimed my sick body by learning to advocate for myself and studying herbal medicine. Thanks to my mentors, Tamara Segal, Rosemary Gladstar and Dr. Edward Bach, I nurtured my newfound calling so that it grew from a hobby into a vocation. While herbalism is a lifelong learning process, at this stage, I'm taking Wild Rose College's Master Herbalist Program alongside a master's degree in public mental health at Brown University.
As for my heritage, I'm a second-generation Canadian of Serbian-Dutch descent. Some of my ancestors were healers, educators, refugees, farmers, scientists, midwives, activists and lawyers. I see my roles as a community herbalist and gardener as a homecoming; like I've slipped my hand into the perfectly sized (gardening) glove to carry on time-honored traditions.
"Aleksa has an evident calm, warm and attentive presence that makes her a real joy to be around."
Hale & Hart bridges biomedical and holistic approaches to mental health care. I do this using my integrative mental health model that centers human diversity, creativity and autonomy.
One day, I hope every household can reclaim herbal wisdom and apply it to regenerate their communities and the Earth. In the quest to transition away from destructive and exploitative ways of life, I know that plant allies can help us care for ourselves and others, better.
Everyone's experience of health is unique. Here, it's not about conforming to wellness standards or comparing your body to someone else's. Exploring our bodyminds can be playful and affirming. I'm here to support you, mentally and emotionally, on the path towards personal and collective healing.
Position & clinical focus
Get to know my positionality before deciding to work together.
a second-generation Canadian immigrant
of Serbian-Dutch descent
from a high socioeconomic status
a survivor of trauma
I support folks with these experiences:
depression, anxiety, insecurities and grief
physical, psychological, iatrogenic and sexual trauma
chronic illness and pain management
stress and burnout
Studies & Training
Beneficial Herbal Medicines at an Integrated Free Clinic (Intensive) with 7Song
Twenty-Two Basic Herbs: An Herbalist's Toolbox (Intensive) with Matthew Wood
International Herb Symposium at Wheaton College
Bioneers Conference at Berkeley University
Master of Public Health (2022-2024) at Brown University
Master Herbalism Diploma (2022-) with Wild Rose College of Natural Healing
Professional Training in Healing Sexual Trauma with The Breathe Network
Bach Foundation Level III Training with The Bach Centre
12-Month Herbalists' Circle with Healer's Harvest
Master Gardener Certification with University of Guelph and Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc. (2020-2021)
Practical Herbalism Diploma with Wild Rose College of Natural Healing
Experiential Herbalism: Practitioner Program with Registered Herbalist Tamara Segal
Bach Level II Practitioner Training with BFRP Sarah Brune
Herbs, Health, the Elements & the Moon Series with Registered Herbalist Tamara Segal
The Science and Art of Herbalism with Registered Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar
Bach Level I Practitioner Training with BFRP Sarah Brune
Corporate Yoga & Meditation Facilitator Training with Isha Foundation
Green Roof Professional Training with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
Biodynamic Farming & Horticultural Apprenticeship with Tom Petherick (2015-2016)
Horticultural Therapy Assistant with Thrive UK (2015-2016)
BBA (Hons) in Social Entrepreneurship at Hult International Business School (2011-2014)
The inspo behind H&H
Do you recognize the saying, "to be hale and hearty"? Hale comes from "whole" or "safe" in Old English, while hearty means to be in a state of vibrant health. Hart is a portmanteau of "hearty" and my maiden name, "Hartog".
The alchemical symbol for salt inspired this logo. Salt represents the essence of matter and is renowned for its purifying qualities. Even the expression, "salt of the Earth", refers to the qualities of being honest, simple and hardworking. This reflects who I am (even though I cannot push my disabled body as I once did) as well as the folks I enjoy working with, who live with integrity, and make the world a more kind, safe and just place to be. H&H is here for you!
Where are you from?
What are your favourite plantmates?
Burdock at the moment, along with blue vervain to build my nervous system.
How do you spend free time?
I do yoga, qigong, meditate and contemplate my existence for a few hrs each day...You'll also find me in the garden or in the woods foraging. I read. I crochet and longboard. I also think up lots of ideas, some which see the sun and most which burn out.
What are your big three?
I am a Capricorn Sun, Virgo Moon and Libra Rising.
What is your Bach remedy constitutional type?
My personality types are part Oak and Water Violet, which means I'm strong and introverted!
And your human design?
Sacral generator 3:5!
Who would you want to be stuck in an elevator with?
Probably Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th century German mystic, poetess, musician and physician.
Any fur babies?
Harold, my Norfolk terrier; Rafa, the Havanese; and Luna the tabby cat. You'll see them on the gram when they are too cute or silly.
Tell us a secret.
I read the dictionary while housebound because I only had the bandwidth for bite-sized information (and I'm a nerd).
What's the weather forecast?
Don't even go there!
My entrance into folk herbalism began the first time my Baba (Serbian for Grandmother) coaxed me back to health. I was a feeble child, prone to seasonal flus and colds. My mother always sent my sister and I to her parent's when we were sick. She spoon-fed me until I was 13. She fed us liver and parsley-laden dishes I've forgotten the name of. I know she made her own tinctures and herbal vinegars that she would occasionally dose us with. She is my oldest living grandparent. I will forever be enchanted by her!
When I became ill, I stayed at her house again, for a few months this time. We fell into the same routine. I reconnected with my familial lineage through her, a lineage of midwives and medicine women, and stepped into their shoes when I decided this path was for me, too.
I met my local herbal mentor, RH Tamara Segal of Hawthorn Herbals, for a herb walk around my garden in the summer of 2019. The rest was history! Although I was already growing plants, including medicinal ones, she empowered me to work with herbs that I wildcrafted in my yard. The first herbal product I made was a vodka tincture from the leaves of a young black walnut tree. I started using herbal medicine to heal my infected body from tick-borne illness.
I took Rosemary Gladstar's The Art and Science of Herbalism didactic program in 2020. Afterwards, I studied at Wild Rose College of Natural Healing and earned their Practical Herbalist Diploma. I finished a 6-month Experiential Practitioner Program with Hawthorn Herbals and a 6-week intensive with Christopher Hobbs called, Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide, in 2021.
I know my herbal education will be never-ending as I meet many wise mentors in this tradition. My plan is to become a Registered Clinical Herbalist by 2023.
My interest in flower essences began in 2005. The vet told my mother about Bach Rescue Remedy, which we gave my dog to calm his separation anxiety while we were away at school. He stopped clawing at the door after taking it for a month or so! In 2020, I realized I could try this for my CPTSD symptoms, as it works for humans and animals alike. The Rescue Remedy ended up settling my nightmares of two years. I would not say this crisis formula works 100% of the time, but it is the world #1 natural stress relief remedy for a reason! I trained as a Level 1 Bach Practitioner with the Bach Foundation in 2020 and completed the Level 2 training in 2021. My plan is to complete Level 3 in 2022 and finally become a Registered Bach Foundation Practitioner.
Flower essences are very much a part of the herbal medicine tradition. Dew has been for millennia for its healing properties. I started experimenting with creating my first flower essence out of borage in my garden in 2019. These energetic remedies can affect your spiritual, mental, emotional, and social selves. The Bach Foundation does not propone using flower essences for their physical benefits directly, but some have found that essences relieve certain physical symptoms. They are safe, affordable, and definitely worth experimenting with if you have an open mind!
I am all about turning my kitchen into a lab and experimenting with herbal products! My newest flower essence play fantasy is creating a line of fruit and vegetable flower essences, like zucchini, strawberry and tomato. Just have to wait 'til the right season...
My trauma work has been personal before professional, as I think it is for most people in this field. Finding out my Dad was ill in 2011 jolted me so much that I remained in a hyperaroused and disassociated way for a couple years. I was even having absence seizures which I was not aware of until a Nurse practitioner observed one. What brought me back into my body was actively pursuing embodiment, by grounding myself in parks in London, like Hampstead Heath, and visualizing roots coming out of my soles and digging their way through the floorboards, deep into the soil. I developed other grounding practices, some self-learned. I worked with many therapists, some trauma-informed, and others less so (they would always tell me how self-aware I was which amused me). I of course read lots of books as the worm that I am. And I participated in and led support groups for grief and chronic illness with Bereaved Families of Ontario, Generation Lyme and PEC Lyme Support.
I have advocated at certain times in my life for greater visibility and justice for sexual violence survivors. In 2020, I started receiving more signs, in dreams, coaching sessions and tarot pulls, to work with sexual trauma survivors holistically. I really respect my intuition so when both my logic and greater sense lined up, I knew this could be my lifelong calling.
In 2021, I stepped up to do The Breathe Network's Healing Sexual Trauma Professional Training and have not regretted it. I am always learning more and love to learn from my community, so please send me any resources that you think could help me support survivors more authentically.
In 2014, I completed my Bachelor's in Business Administration (Hons) with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School. If you haven't heard of our breed, social entrepreneurs start value-driven businesses that serve their community and the environment, with profit as a secondary motive. I have never been surrounded by people from so many nationalities while at Hult's London campus! I think there were 141 represented. I co-founded the Changemakers' Society there with two dear friends. We used this as a container to promote action within three pillars: People (human rights), Planet (ecological conservation and justice) and Peace (conflict resolution). It won Society of the Year across all campuses in 2013...
After graduating, I consulted the nonprofit PEC Syria on building and managing social enterprises among the Syrian refugee families in the Bay of Quinte area.
I see Hale & Hart as a community-centered, health-focused social enterprise.
My love of plants and living things go way back. As a child, I used to eat whatever I could put in my mouth: flowers, leaves, even worms...(!) I got to cultivate this longstanding love after university. when I moved with my partner out of London into the Hampshire countryside. We apprenticed under Tom Petherick, a renowned biodynamic gardener and author. He stayed at our homestead every weekend for a year. We learned how to set up a polytunnel, a forest garden, veg patches and herbaceous borders. We kept chickens and bees. It was the experience of a lifetime for me, even with all the slugs and rain! We had a goal of becoming as self-sufficient as possible to offset our ecological footprint and managed to become 70% self-sufficient. We lived this way for two years.
While in the U.K., I volunteered at Thrive with gardener clients who were disabled, elderly, and socially marginalized. I learned about horticultural therapy and made some amazing friends. I have carried my training as a horticultural therapy assistant into my therapeutic approach at Hale & Hart.
I completed the Green Roof Professional Certification in Toronto in 2017 with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. My fave part of this was learning how to design biophilic public spaces to boost urbanites' health and happiness. Biophilia means to be attracted to life; biophilic design is architecture created to connect people more closely with nature.
In 2020, I dove into a two year training to become a Master Gardener through the Master Gardeners of Ontario. After studying at the University of Guelph, I became a horticultural consultant to the public in the Bay of Quinte and PEC. I have given radio talks on the therapeutic power of gardening and on how to protect yourself from vector-borne diseases while outdoors.
I'm always moseying around my wild garden on the shores of Lake Ontario and planning unorthodox landscape designs, to the dismay of my neighbours with 1/4 inch lawns! You'll find me growing veggies, flowers, and herbs alongside each other, as one beautiful mish-mash of colour and purpose.
I've always been intuitive and spiritual, even as a kid. I remember becoming cognizant of energy at around 11, when I'd close my eyes and, half-asleep, see and feel energy moving around me. I would say I feel more at home among the evergreens than in my home, or with people. Nature was and is my meditative space.
In 2009, after going to India, my Mum told us about this spiritual organization called Isha Foundation. Some of my family and I tried their flagship Inner Engineering program, which was an introduction to classical yoga and meditation. I was 16 and none of my friends were really into yoga, especially not in its classical form, and I'll admit my body was super uncomfortable with the postures. But I became hooked on pondering my existence and wanting to transcend my body! At 18, I went to their centre in India, shaved my head at a full moon ceremony, and started volunteering intensively. Since, I've experienced all of their programs, including their 8-day residential advanced silence program, Samyama. The practice that is most in tune with my biology is breath-watching, which I practice for an hour as soon as I wake, every morning I remember to...
I trained as a Yoga & Meditation Facilitator with Isha in 2018. We are called Ishangas, or "limbs of Isha". I became Toronto's only Corporate-level Facilitator, and conducted large-scale programs for Loblaws and Scotiabank, as well as at community centres, public schools and libraries. From 2019-2021, I organized virtual programs for thousands of employees across North America. Some of my clients included the NIH, The Liberal Party of Canada, Salesforce and Boston Children's Hospital.
I no longer coordinate Isha's corporate programs or Toronto activity, but I do facilitate their wonderful yoga and meditation practices. Now, I'm more involved with my Qigong practice, and exploring spontaneous, earth-based meditation and prayer.