The Power of Plants at Farmacy Herbs
A community health and herbal education center is tucked away among the flowers in a quiet corner of Providence.
We talked with Anna Fox, manager of Farmacy Herbs, about the education and knowledge in which people can learn how to integrate herbs into their day-to-day lifestyle. For these herbalists, it is all about taking herbs back to their roots and using the power of plants for holistic and whole-body purposes.
How would you describe what Farmacy Herbs is to people like me, who are non-versed in herbs?
Farmacy Herbs is a herb shop and a herbal education training center, if you will. We have a five-acre farm where we grow and harvest herbs, a line of products we make ourselves in our production kitchen and an integrative clinic where we perform herbal consultations. So, we essentially cover the full spectrum of working with plants. Here at Farmacy Herbs, we are really passionate about the education and knowledge in which people can learn how to integrate herbs into their day-to-day lifestyle. Customers can come into the shop and help themselves if they know what they exactly are looking for, or we can guide them in the right direction towards a specific herb or product depending on their needs.
What is the Farmacy Herbs herbal philosophy?
It is all about providing accessible health care to everyone regardless of their economic standing, because having access to herbs is something that every single person deserves. It is also the knowledge about herbs that we as humans have had for a long time and taking it back to those roots. It is the education on how to use herbs preventatively and for nutritional purposes.
How did the idea for the shop come about?
Mary Blue has owned Farmacy Herbs for over ten years now. The shop has always been in this location, as she actually used to live in the house next door. It is now our production kitchen where we make some of our herbal products. Mary started studying herbs and working at Seven Arrows Farm in Seekonk, Massachusetts. She pretty quickly knew it was her passion and is what she wanted to do. So, she opened the shop in the detached garage of the house.
How did you become a herbalist?
The herbalist path is alternative for every single person. There are actual programs at universities that focus on botany, biology or herbology but I went to school and received a degree in Ayurveda. However, many people become herbalists through apprenticeship. Mary was my mentor and Farmacy Herbs is where I started my path to herbalism. I wanted to learn more about the herbs that grew in my area and sought out Farmacy. I spent some time in Costa Rica too, learning from several different Costa Rican herbalists.
Where are your herbs from?
We grow most of our herbs on our farm in West Greenwich. We are a chemical free, small operation. At the farm, we have a large climate-controlled drying shed, which helps us to complete most of the process there. That means putting the plants over screens to sort the leaves from the stems, to getting to the final product of the crushed herbs in the jars at the shop. We also have relationships with other local farms where we can harvest cover crops from their properties. As for the other herbs we can’t get locally or grow ourselves, we source from Mountain Rose Herbs, an all organic company in Oregon.
What herbs and other products do you offer in the store?
We make over one hundred tinctures, which are herbal extracts. These are meant to be taken internally by diluting them with a little bit of water or tea. Our culinary herbs are pretty straightforward – you cook with them. We also make and sell eighteen different tea blends that are loose leaf teas and are mostly of decaffeinated varieties. Guests can also find our infused oils, which are typically olive oil based and are infused over heat with different herbs. We make a bug off oil, a massage oil, tooth powders and salves. Plus, the shop carries essentially oils; however we don’t make those.
Do you provide herbal consultations? What do those typically look like?
Yes! In the last couple of years, we opened an integrative clinic called the Sage Healing Collaborative in East Providence. We collaborate with Doctor John McGonigle, who is very integrative and knowledgeable in his medical approach. During the hour-and-a-half long consultations, patients complete an intake form that discusses what exactly they want the herbs to support, whether it be a certain body part or system. It is also very important for us to know if they are on other medications or supplements so that there is no counteractivity between those and the herbs. Then, we discuss their digestion, nutrition and energy levels. These components are all little pieces of the puzzle we use to gain an understanding of what they are looking for or are needing. As herbalists, we look at the body holistically and as a whole system operating together. From all of the information we gather, we formulate a tea blend and or an extract, which would be a tincture, for the individual. We always try to meet people where they are at and cater to each person’s needs because adding herbs should be a positive addition to what they are already doing.
Do you offer classes or programs?
Mary offers extensive training programs here at Farmacy. There are three different levels, the first being the intro to western herbalism. The second level is putting those ideas into practice and learning consultation-styled work. The last stage is the residency program which is held at the clinic in East Providence. Total, it takes about three years to complete. We also offer a kid’s camp at the farm in West Greenwich every year, and most workshops and classes can be found on our event page on our website. Plus, we offer an internship program where interns do work- trade on the farm or at the shop. It gives them the opportunity to gain hands on experience in working with the plants.
What is the most popular herb sold at Farmacy Herbs?
I would definitely say nettle. It has so many amazing qualities. Just to name a few, it is highly nutritious, is packed with vitamins and minerals, is high in iron, is good for joint health and inflammation because it is an anti-inflammatory, and it is also an anti-histamine, meaning it is great for allergy support. The list could just go on and on. To eat nettle, you would cook it as a green, as it is delicious sautéed. A great dish to try is nettle pesto; you just have to blanche the leaves before you use it, meaning you put the leaves in hot water briefly.
Any fun events happening at Farmacy Herbs this summer?
Next week on July 21 and 22 we are hosting the Rhode Island herb festival. Teachers from all over Rhode Island will be in attendance to teach both children and adult classes. We will also be offering plant walks on our farm, which is truly a wonderful way to learn about what we do.