In 2007, Krista Coyan along with her husband and two young daughters sold their house in California and everything they owned to move to the Czech Republic to work as teachers on a two-year teaching assignment. Ten years later, Krista has gone from teaching English in the local zakladni skola to becoming the director of the primary school at Townshend International School in Hluboka. She has studied herbalism for many years and makes several herbal products for family and friends. She recently received her Herbalism Certificate from the Herbal Academy of New England.
Q: You originally planned to stay only two years. Why did you decide to stay for the long-term?
K: We really appreciate so many things about living in the Czech Republic. For example, the culture is very genuine. We had many friends in California, but relationships there tended to be more superficial and materialistic. Here we have fewer friends, but they are deeper and more genuine relationships. It is also a much safer place than where we are from. In California, I wouldn’t feel safe letting my daughters go walking alone in town, but here I feel absolutely safe. I also really enjoy the nature and the Czech appreciation of natural things, like collecting mushrooms and berries in the forest.
Q: How did you get involved with herbalism?
K: My older daughter Rebekah was diagnosed 5 years ago with a chemical imbalance in her brain and was put on several strong medications. These have serious side effects and this led me to search for other ways to treat her condition. I began studying and taking courses in herbalism, learning about the amazing plants that grow all around us that can be used for so many different conditions. I recently received my herbal certification and plan to take a Master’s-level herbalism course over the next three years.
Q: Are there herbs growing here in Czech that are useful?
K: Absolutely. Most of the herbs I use in my products I find in the forest and meadows near our house. Amazing herbs like plantain, comfrey, nettles, St. John’s Wort, yarrow, burdock, and red clover are easily found throughout the country. I also grow plants like calendula, feverfew, and Echinacea in my garden which naturalize and grow almost without any care.
Q: What types of products do you make?
K: I make many different types of tinctures, salves, and teas. My favorite products include my Healing Herbal Salve, Stings and Bites Salve, Thyme Cough Syrup, Calendula Face Cream, Cold and Flu tincture, and Sleepytime Tea.
Q: Are these difficult to make?
L: Not at all. My goal is not to sell products, but to teach people how to make them themselves. Most things only require a few ingredients and less than an hour in the kitchen.
Q: Do you need any special equipment?
K: No. Most things you can do by hand and a stove. For example, I have a dehydrator that runs constantly from spring to fall to dry my herbs, but you could also hang them in a dry place. I also use some attachments for our Sana 707 horizontal juicer that let me press my own oil and grind my herbs to a fine powder, something I used to use a mortar and pestle to do.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming herbal workshop in Prague.
K: At our workshop, I will show how to make three different products: Echinacea Throat Spray, Fever Buster Tea, and Clear Chest Salve. I limit it to a smaller group so everyone will get a chance to see how it is done, and then can take home the completed products.
Q: Do you teach the workshop in Czech?
K: I have someone translating to make sure it is accurate. However, I’ve been speaking Czech for 10 years and most of the questions and answers and one-on-one conversations are in Czech.