Find out about writers of This!
Click to See Contributors.
There’s a new shop in town that offers over 100 bulk, dried herbs, and herbal extracts. This is exciting! However, you might ask, why use herbs when there are so many other options out there? Why not just go to another supplement shop and pick up a ready made herbal product? This might be quicker, and there are some excellent products on the market. For me, though, my path to wellness is not a straight path, nor a “one size fits all” experience. Blending teas or tinctures allows customization for my ever changing needs. You might have tried some standard herbal products here and there, and thought maybe it worked and maybe it didn’t. For example, Valerian is often touted as a sleep aid, but for some people, it can be over stimulating, exactly the opposite of what you would want!
Generalizing uses for herbs as in “this for that,” is not the most effective way to use plants for healing. People’s unique constitutions require solutions made solely for them. Echinacea, for instance, is used widely for cold and flu symptoms and is found in a number of “immune” or “cold and flu” products. Echinacea’s character is very cooling and antimicrobial, so if you have heat, fever and an infection, Echinacea can work spectacularly, but if you’re chilly and tired, Echinacea may not work for you. It’s also not traditionally used long term, so you may have tried using it as a preventative, and had mixed results. So then you might think “man, herbs don’t work!” In reality, there are many other herbs that we might use with cold or flu symptoms, or even as immune builders.
Let’s look at another scenario. 5 people go to their PCP with low back pain. The conventional scenario is usually a linear system of Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. All 5 are put on NSAIDS. Some get better, some people come back, those get muscle relaxers, and it goes from there. Where traditional herbalists differ from this is we ask questions to get to the bottom of the root cause of your complaint. What kind of back pain do you have? Are you craving a heating pad or does a cool compress sound better? Is it because you’re stressed out? Is it worse when you wake up in the morning or at the end of the day? Depending on the answers to those questions, we might use different herbs and teas or tinctures. For example, some people are feverish and thirsty, those people are going to get different herbs than those who are always tired, sluggish and cold. We want to be able to differentiate and parse out the flavor of their ailment.
Wellness is a very individual path, and it is constantly changing. When the selection of herbs fits the symptom picture, remarkable things can happen.
Two of our herbalists worked on this article, Carrie Speck and Sheila Guarnagia, L.Ac.
SHEILA GUARNAGIA, M.AC., L.AC., DIPL. AC., DIPL. C. H., the Beary Godmother of Queenpin Herb Shop holds a B.A. in Biology from Smith College, a Master of Acupuncture from the New England School of Acupuncture, and completed a three year program in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine with renowned Master Herbalist Sharon Weizenbaum, L.Ac. Sheila is certified by the NCCAOM as a Diplomate in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology. She has worked and published in the fields of ecological and medical research and completed over 4 years as an apprentice home birth midwife in Arizona. Recently she has studied Appalachian Folk Medicine with Phyllis D. Light, AHG, and Traditional Western Herbal Medicine with Matthew Wood, M.Sc., AHG.
CARRIE SPECK, the Sultana of Spice of Queenpin Herb Shop has long held an interest in natural healing modalities for people and animals, and has studied them throughout several career changes. In 2014, she completed the three-year clinical herbalist program at Sacred Plant Traditions in Charlottesville with Kathleen Maier, which was a life changing experience. She has studied with many other notable herbalists through workshops and conferences, including Matthew Wood, Phyllis Light, and Margi Flint, among others. When not studying plants and concocting things in the kitchen, Carrie spends time hiking and trail riding with her corgi and horse.