Wooden Spoon Herbs
What was once limited to obscure shops and markets, traditional herbal remedies and natural beauty products are becoming increasingly easier to find. This popularity affords many boutique makers a chance to get found, which is super exciting when you find products such as those made by herbalist Lauren Haynes of Wooden Spoon Herbs. Her huge range includes natural remedies such as syrups, tinctures and tonics as well as simple and natural beauty products all hand made in the Appalachian region in the United States. Lauren uses wildcrafted and garden grown ingredients in her blends and when needed sources from local and small scale farms. Below we chat to Lauren about her herbal medicine roots and how to go about wildcrafting in your own region.
Who is behind Wooden Spoon Herbs?
Hi! I'm Lauren Haynes, the founder of Wooden Spoon Herbs. Up until a few months ago, Wooden Spoon Herbs was just me, a 29-year-old American herbalist with an intense love of plants and natural healing modalities. Right now, WSH is me, my boyfriend as production manager and a sales person, this amazing herbalist named Rachelle. (She runs Supernatural in NYC.)
Tell us a bit about the ingredients you use and the products on offer…
Wooden Spoon Herbs offers tincture, teas, salves, creams, powders & skincare made with plants that have been sourced directly from small farms in the United States. My mission is to use plants that grow around the Appalachian bioregion, rather than exotic herbs and adaptogens sourced from the far corners of the earth. Basically like the slow food movement, but slow medicine instead. Medicine comes not just from the plant matter, but from the connection with nature and the act of gathering and making medicine.
You are based in the Appalachia region, an area with deep roots in herbal medicine. Can you tell us about the plants and people of the area?
Well, herbal medicine is the people's medicine. Where people couldn't afford doctors, they had the plants, and this was certainly the case in Appalachia. There just weren't any doctors. Not to mention these people in this area had to band together for survival. Their relationships to each other were so strong that if a fancy doctor came in from out of town, they didn't trust him. So their reliance on traditional knowledge and low-cost herbal healthcare became key. They honed these skills and they persist even to this day. You can still buy dried roots at certain gas stations, and it's a common knowledge that's dying out, of how to use the roots, but that's part of my mission is to not let it die out. The people of Appalachia are largely poor, forgotten, and scrappy. We know how to make it work.
The plants here are some of the most famous medicinals in the world. Many plants that are used in Chinese medicine grow in Appalachia, and it's said that before Pangea broke apart parts of China and Appalachia were the same land. So certain plants like trillium grow here and in China, and in parts of the Pacific Northwest and that's it. They're a bit rare. We have plants that are used in official medicine in England and France: goldenseal, ginseng, bloodroot, lady's slipper. Really special plants that have been over-harvested for centuries and exported as medicinals, now endangered.
Which plants are your favourite to find and work with?
I love working with weedy plants: chickweed, violet leaves, dandelion, cleavers, milk thistle. There's something so spunky about them, so tenacious. It's also so appealing to me that people hate them because they are so pervasive, when they have no idea all of the wonderful things these plants could do for their health if they'd just take the time to learn. I actually actively discourage people from wildcrafting. I definitely thing it's important to connect with plants in the wild, but often it feels more appropriate to leave them in their home. Like I was saying about the Appalachian medicinals, they were harvested like crazy and now are at-risk of disappearing. So, definitely thing long and hard about why you are wildcrafting. Is it for personal medicine? How little can you use? Do you know of any in cultivation? Can you achieve your goal with weedy plants?
What do you need if you are interested in wildcrafting?
A shovel, a knowledgeable human or field guide book, immense respect for nature, and a superior sense of ethics. You have to be 1000% sure you know what you're harvesting. There are too many poisonous lookalikes to go willy nilly into the woods. I definitely have had a few close calls. Also be prepared against ticks, snakes, sunburns, scrapes, etc.
What’s in store for the future at Wooden Spoon Herbs?
A skincare line! I'm super excited to be formulating a few new products to introduce more people into the world of natural wellness and beauty. Also I'm working on building a new workspace so that the business can grow, and slowly starting to develop some online classes.