Over the last couple of years, I’ve been increasingly interested in finding alternative paths to wellness. Maybe it’s my inner hippie coming out, but I have such an increased sense of peace since I started pursuing a more natural path.
I’ve taken most of the processed foods out of my diet, subbed essential oils for traditional beauty products, given up Advil to cure headaches in favor of water and a brief walk. I’ve done acupuncture and realigned my energies. I’ve meditated for up to three whole minutes before falling asleep. But one thing I’ve always been curious about, but never tried, is the natural wizardry of herbalism.
There’s one name in Providence when it comes to herbs: Mary Blue, a clinical herbalist who owns Farmacy Herbs, the little shop just off the North Burial Ground. She grows her own on her farm in South County, and concocts herbal remedies at Farmacy – everything from teas and tinctures to moisturizers. Last year, she teamed up with Brown University’s Dr. John McGonigle to form the Sage Healing Collaborative, which combines homeopathic and integrative medicine with alternative therapies like massage, naturopathy, cranio-sacral therapy and Mary’s own herbal remedies.
I met Mary Blue at the East Providence collaborative on a freezing spring day, running late and feeling overloaded, as always. Her space inside the old Victorian home that Sage has taken over was bright, even on a gray day, and filled with wall-to-wall jars of dried flowers and herbs.
First, we sat down for a conversation. Mary asked me about my lifestyle (overscheduled), my diet (not terrible) and the wellness concerns I had. Top of my list was simply taking time for self-care, and better ways to exorcise all of the stress that steals my sleep, and shows up in various unpleasant incarnations on my face. Her recommendations came easily: Mary felt that I needed to regulate my stress-producing adrenal system, reduce inflammation, calm my nervous system and get some liver support, which is crucial to whole body wellness. She prescribed two weeks of herbs for me, in a custom-blended tincture of plant essences, and a custom-blended tea. The tincture combined white peony, milk thistle, motherwort and burdock (and dare I say, magic?) into a potion I took a few drops at a time, a few times a day. The tea, with dandelion, red clover, rose, nettle, skullcap and oat tops, smelled like heaven, even if it was a challenge to drink four cups of it daily.
During the process, I felt pretty good, all things considered. Simply taking the time to be mindful and make my own wellness a priority adds a lot of positivity to my outlook. It takes a lot longer than two weeks to fully reap the benefits of herbal remedies – it’s more of a lifestyle change than a spot-treatment – but, so far, so good. It’s one more way I can feel naturally better, and one more prescription bottle I can eventually throw away.