The Birth of Benedictine

Martha Benedict sat with friends in a meadow above the Pacific looking toward China. “I want to bring Chinese herbal medicine to the West. We need to think of herbs as food. Just as you need vitamins and proteins and water, herbs contain essential nutrients and give the body what it needs to heal. I feel it is my destiny to learn all I can and share it with the westerners.”

This quest to learn the healing arts led to the study of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and healing practices. Her passion and dedication took her to China, Korea, Bali, India and to Native American cultures. A Renaissance woman, she was a Stanford graduate, a licensed audiologist, an acupuncturist, an herbalist, a plants’ woman. 

Martha connected with Miriam Lee, a Chinese acupuncturist and herbalist who had a busy clinic in Palo Alto and took Martha on as her apprentice. At that time the California Medical board in its quest to shut down all alternative healers who they considered competition, were arresting people who practiced herbal medicine, acupuncture, and midwifery, including Miriam Lee in 1974. Despite these obstacles Martha became part of a small group of activists that led the way to acupuncture becoming legal in California in the mid 1970’s by convincing the state lawmakers of benefits of the practice of Asian medicine. 

Martha co-founded the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, one of the first in the country to teach acupuncture and served on its faculty for the first few years. As her practice grew in Santa Cruz and thrived, she found that most of her clients were hesitant to boil the herbs and other things to make their medicine. As a result, she began making tinctures for her clients and over the years refined her formulas. Seeking out quality plants for her blends, Martha enlisted several acupuncturists to work with her to enhance the formulas which were changed to meet needs of the fluctuating seasons’ illnesses and symptoms of their clients. 

In 1996 Martha established Benedictine Healing Products (TM), creating internal extracts, topical oils and salves that were distributed nationwide to serve the needs of her clients. As a farmer’s daughter Martha already understood gardening and organic farming methods and grew organic herbs in her garden and soon engaged her entire family in production of Benedictine products.  As herbal popularity and usage exploded in the last decades, the need for reliable, high-quality herbal products that have withstood the rigors of clinical practice has increased. Many of our herbs are grown organically in biodynamic gardens, and are harvested by hand using time-tested methods.  


As an ecological advocate, Martha started a project to save Pipevine butterflies that were endangered due to loss of habitat and the pipevine plant on which they needed to lay their eggs. She coordinated with the local colleges to grow the pipevine and distributed them in the community.  Her vision was to create a pipevine butterfly corridor in Santa Cruz County. She even had a butterfly nursery in her kitchen and butterfly release parties in her garden. 

According to chaos theory, a butterfly in the Amazon jungle can change the weather in Mexico by flapping its wings. A Shaman at an international conference in Texas signaled to an interpreter that he wanted to talk to the blond woman named Elsa who was from Santa Cruz. When Elsa was introduced to him he told her, “I have a gift for your friend who is a midwife to the butterflies, the one who helps the butterflies.” He held out a beautiful beaded necklace with the image of the pipevine butterfly woven into the bead work. “I know who this is for and I will take it to her. Thank you.”


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