We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen, Ph.D. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark “Merriwether”, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
The goals of Medicine Man Plant Co. are to: 1. Reattach people to the medicinal plants and mushrooms of our ancestors that we co-evolved with to maintain health. 2. Reattach people to nature itself by teaching them of the miracles she contains. 3. Have people re-think the way they take care of themselves based on how we evolved rather than what a pharmaceutical infomercial tells them. When they start understanding how humans got here, it makes the path forward more clear. When you think of the evolutionary phrase “survival of the fittest” remember that we have been using these plants and mushrooms to maintain our health for thousands of generations. Those that responded best to these natural compounds thrived and reproduce more, giving their children the same benefits. We evolved to use these plants/mushrooms. Turning away from them denies our bodies what it became designed to use. By redirecting people’s interest to nature and her powers, they come to love nature. This love drives a sense of protection can caring for nature. The more people who feel that way, the better off we are! By understanding the world that shaped us…the foods it supplied and how we hunted and gathered it, the very ground we walked on…all these played a role in the evolution of our bodies. However, our amazing brains figured out how to change that environment into something much easier to survive…with bodies still designed for the “old ways”. This dichotomy between old bodies and new ways leads to health issues. Once you understand this so much makes sense!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Someone once described me as “a chemist raised by wolves” who wouldn’t love that?! As early as I can remember, my parents would take us for walks in the wilds every day and while out there they’d tell us how their parents and grandparents would use the plants we say…food, medicine, fire-making, natural cordage, etc. They infused us with a sense of wonder about nature. By the time I entered kindergarten I already knew I wanted to be a scientist and found chemistry to be the most fascinating. The plan was to become a pharmaceutical chemist making medicine which led to getting a master’s in medicinal chemistry and a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry…but after graduating I ended up in Houston working for the oil industry. This turned out to be a win-win, though. My knowledge of plant chemistry allowed be to refashion many less-than-friendly oilfield chemical systems into something much safer for everyone. My first patent was using cinnamon as a corrosion inhibitor, and currently 13 more patents of similar nature followed. However, in 2016 the oil market crashed and I was laid off…and then immediately picked up by a consumer products company to revamp their line of products to make them safe and natural. While there, I was allowed to dabble in creating a line of herbal-based skin and health care products. I was finally making medicine! That lasted 3 years and then I was approached by Medicine Man Plant Co. in January 2020. While working as a professional chemist, in 2008 I had also set up a side gig as “Merriwether” and had created www.foragingtexas.com to help people learn the edible and medicinal wild plants that surrounded them. This led to teaching in-person classes all over Texas; interviews in magazines, radio, and TV; and all sorts of other media activity. I was reattaching people to nature and the way humans used to live. My medicine-making plant workshops were people’s favorite, where we went out, gathered plants, and turned them into the medicines of our ancestors. This is what caught the eye of Medicine Man Plant Co. Now I spend my days creating herbal formulations based on these plants and mushrooms to give them back to the people. Where once I could only help dozens of people now I can help thousands!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Assuming the weather was nice, the first day we’d go down to Galveston and check out The Strand, making sure to hit the Ocean Star oil rig and the Issac’s Storm museums, followed by lunch at Bubba Gump’s then down to the beach for the rest of the day, swinging by Whataburger on the way home. Next day goes to NASA and then Pappadeuax’s for their crawfish combo. The last day in civilization will be spent at the Museum of Natural History and the art museum, followed by some random Mexican place. After that, the last few days/nights will be spent camping and mushroom hunting up in the Sam Houston National Forest!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shout out to all those dedicated to reattaching people to nature and the old way! Texas Parks & Wildlife, Bayou Land Conservancy, Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas Historical Society, Spring Creek Greenway Memorial Park, the Houston Arboretum, and everyone who takes the time to go for a walk in the woods with their child.