A BIT ABOUT ANNIE
I am a native North Carolinian, raised in the woods and fields of the Piedmont Region. My grandmother and great grandmother were "country doctors" (Herbalists), and I have always felt that it was this heritage that compelled me to explore the magic of plants and their uses. I have been taught and I believe that God through Nature (and a little common sense) has provided us with everything we need to make and/or keep ourselves and our companions well. I grew up on catnip and sassafrass, wild garlic and mustard plasters. We grew, harvested, and "put by" nearly everything we ate. Summers were spent picking wild berries for jelly-making, and canning and freezing vegetables and fruits. My mother still kids me about asking for fatback and salad for breakfast (salad here referring to mustard, kale, and/or collard greens, depending on what we had at the time). I don't eat fatback anymore, but I still love my greens!
Even after my grandmother passed, I can remember hiking down to the creek at the Old Place with my grandfather to collect a plant he called yellow root where it grew wild on the creekbank. He'd take his pocketknife from his overalls, then gently tug on a plant until he'd exposed just the right amount of bright yellow root before slicing it off with his blade. He'd collect about a dozen plants, then swish them around in the water to wash the dirt off before we hiked back to the house. Every night before bed, he'd slice off a small piece of root and chew it for a few seconds before letting it rest under his tongue, where it stayed all night while he slept. He told me it was good for the digestion and what he called the "sore mouth." I didn't think much about it at the time. It was just something fun I got to do with Grandpa.
Years later during my herbal studies, I searched and searched for yellow root in all my herb books and asked other herbalists if they were familiar with the plant. No one had heard of it. Finally, in June of 1996, I attended the first Medicines from the Earth conference in Black Mountain, North Carolina. While at the conference, I went on an herb walk with David Winston down by the river, and low and behold, there they were--the biggest yellow root plants I'd ever seen. David talked about it a little, how the Cherokees had called it Dalenai and had used it to treat a host of problems. Similar to but milder than goldenseal, it is antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and a good digestive bitter. Like goldenseal, it contains berberine, and is useful to treat all the things goldenseal is used for. It has a special affinity for the mucous membranes and is used to treat mouth ulcers and pyorrhea (what grandpa had called the "sore mouth"). Turns out grandpa was on to something after all!! (Please note: Goldenseal is now endangered in the wild from overharvesting, thanks to aggressive marketing by the herb industry. It is not for long-term use and should be reserved for specific situations where it is well-indicated.)
Herbs are my life. I am blessed to live on a piece of land where medicinal herbs grow wild in abundance, and in a county that is still mostly old farmland, forest and field. In the spring, John (my husband of 20 years) and I enjoy "yard" salads of plantain, comfrey, dandelion, sheep sorrel, lamb's quarters, and blue violets, with wild onions, chives, borage, chickweed, and fresh and wild lettuces, plus any other of the organically cultivated herbs we grow on the farm. Sometimes we simply roam around the yard, picking a leaf here and there and just snacking. What constantly amazes me is how most people find these "weeds" offensive and will use whatever chemical is necessary to extract them from their manicured lawns. One of the greatest rewards I find in teaching herb classes is getting people in touch with their surroundings --making them aware of what's right in front of their noses. The herbs they are perfectly willing to spend money on at the health food store are often native to their lawns. I'll bet some of them are in your yard too if you have one (or even in the cracks in the sidewalk). GO LOOK!
While my lifelong passion is working with herbs, I had the good fortune in 1994 of entering the employ of homeopathic veterinarian, Dr. Charles E. Loops, DVM. In homeopathic treatment, certain substances are known to interfere with or even antidote a remedy's action. My first products were developed with these considerations in mind. For instance, Herbal Ear Relief was developed as an alternative to conventional ear treatments containing steroids, and in most cases performs as well as or better than the conventional treatments. Annie's Healing Salve was also developed as an alternative to corticosteroid creams in the treatment of various skin ailments and to facilitate wound healing. Over time, I developed more products and began offering them to other holistic veterinarians who were also pleased with the results. Soon other holistic companies and pet stores were inquiring about the products, and a wholesale business was born. Now, thanks to the Internet and my computer geek husband, Annie's Herbals products are also available direct from the farm. In addition, I am in the process of completing my homeopathic training with the Caduceus Institute of Classical Homeopathy and have begun my own homeopathic practice. Together, herbs and homeopathy offer incredible healing potential, and I feel blessed to have found this work.
Working with herbs has brought a peace and center to my life that is difficult to describe. My sister Miriam says that it is because it is God's work--taking what has been provided for us and preparing medicines that are in keeping with the natural rhythms of Creation. Perhaps that is true. I do know that I can't imagine my life without a relationship with the plants. Each plant has a unique personality experienced through its many expressions: sight, taste, habitat, aroma, etc. I believe that all plants are gifts of the Mother, each with many potential uses, whether medicinal or simply to delight our senses. If you really want to experience herbs, I strongly recommend that you start an herb garden where you can touch the plants and experience their unique individuality. This could be a windowbox in a high-rise apartment or a small plot in a side yard. We belong to the earth. Do something today to reconnect your spirit to all She has to offer.