Call The Herbalist
Annie trained for the last two years under the famed herbalist and gardener Marysia Miernowska, a teacher of the Wise Woman Tradition of Healing. Marysia directed the Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education before starting her own school. Annie’s apprenticeship under Marysia exposed her to Tibetan, African, Siberian, Ayurvedic, and Chinese medicine. In addition, folk herbalism, home apothecary skills, personal development, gardening, earth care, ancient methods of healing, regeneration, and the wise woman tradition of healing were all part of her training.
Annie said the two biggest takeaways from the training were, “how everything shifted personally after altering my routine and seeing how herbs created a spiritual reawakening… the power of the herbs themselves.”
“Everyone knows what dandelion is and looks like, but plantain leaves are just as prevalent, and both grow where people walk… you won’t find these plants in deserted areas,” she says. Annie explained that plantain leaf is excellent for wound healing and can pull infections out of the body. It can be eaten raw, steamed, fried, or juiced. It’s also high in calcium, vitamins A, C, and K.
Large quantities of the seeds can lower blood pressure or hypertension, which is prevalent in the Black community. Diet, exercise, and reducing stress levels are vital to keeping blood pressure in check, but Annie explained that herbs can help too. Annie makes hot infusions or tinctures of hibiscus, schisandra berries, hawthorn berries , Linden Flower, and Ginkgo Biloba for clients who need to lower their blood pressure.
Annie explained that tinctures are extractions of plant material after soaking in either alcohol (vodka or bourbon), food-grade vegetable glycerin, or a combination of both for a minimum of six weeks. A “long infusion" is another word for tea. The plant parts are steeped in hot water overnight for at least eight hours. She also makes decoctions which are similar; plant parts are covered and simmered for 1-2 hours. Annie sells a High Blood Pressure tincture that contains hibiscus, schisandra, hawthorn leaf and flower, motherwort (a nervine which reduces stress), linden flower, red clover, cinnamon, and cardamom. I tried a drop, and it was tasty. It was a bit floral with just a hint of cinnamon. Slightly sweet from the glycerin, but Annie informed me that the glycerin has a zero glycemic index versus alcohol which can raise blood sugar. “It’s perfect for people who don’t want an alcohol-based tincture,” said Annie. You can add a drop of the tincture to tea or carbonated water. It is contraindicated for pregnancy because of the motherwort and red clover. Always check with your physician before taking any herbs.
I am a huge fan of Annie’s Medicinal Mushroom Latte, which is a combination of a decoction containing Burdock root, cacao nibs, dandelion root, cinnamon sticks, and Arkansas turkey tail mushrooms combined with a powder blend of ashwagandha, ho shou wu extract (a mushroom), maca, lion’s mane mushroom, cordyceps mushroom, and reishi mushroom. She adds nut or dairy-free milk and a touch of raw honey or maple syrup before blending it all together. Served hot. It’s better than any latte you’ve ever had.
Annie also started making body products to avoid the chemicals and unnatural ingredients in many lotions and creams. Her whipped shea butter is divine. It’s made with unrefined shea butter, organic cacao butter, organic coconut oil, 100% organic olive oil, organic jojoba oil, argan or moringa oil, lanolin, raw honey, and essential oils. It retails for $25 and comes in an eight ounce glass-hinged jar. No plastics here. “Whipped shea butter is great for ethnic skin. Shea is indigenous to Africa and most of my shea is from Ghana. Shea is edible and in Ghana it's often used as a cooking oil,” she explained. Because black skin is prone to keloids and scars easily Annie started adding raw honey to the mixture.
Annie and I discussed the many factors that contribute to poor health. “The Black community has higher levels of environmental stress. If people don’t feel safe, lack access to healthy foods, work longer hours, etc. it can negatively impact their health. Some would say American culture as a whole doesn’t deal with stress in healthy ways,” she said.
Annie’s interest in Holistic health and alternative medicine started in college when her sister was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions and several family members passed away from different cancers. She also worked at Wild Oats. Some of you will remember Wild Oats before Little Rock had a Whole Foods. Twenty years later her passion continues. Annie is at Heights Apothecary in Little Rock on Fridays and by appointment. She also offers private herbal consultations by phone or in person