A Visit to the Green Farmacy

Castorbean Plant

Castorbean Plant

Last weekend, I had the great good fortune of attending a medicinal herb walk/talk with James Duke. The talk was sponsored by Tai Sophia Institute (a wellness school offering graduate degree programs in acupuncture, herbal medicine and applied healing arts) and took place at Duke’s Green Farmacy, his own private gardens with over 150 medicinal plants.

In his earthy, conversational, humorous and incredibly knowledgeable way, Duke led us on a tour of the plants in his garden that are mentioned in The Bible. He welcomed us to smell, touch, and sometimes taste the various species as he told us stories about his experiences with them, and what he knew about their active components and healing properties.

During his long and auspicious career, Duke has worked to study and catalog the myriad chemical constituents of plants. One tremendous resource is the Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases that he helped create for the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. You can search the database to find the chemicals and activities of various plants, as well as their medicinal uses. You just need to enter in the plant’s scientific name.
James Duke, PhD

James Duke, PhD


Great Paper Discovery


Lokta sign at Paper Source

Lokta sign at Paper Source



I am always on the lookout for creative packaging and wrapping ideas that are also earth-friendly. Currently, all of my products come in recyclable bottles or tins, and the labels are made from recycled paper printed with soy ink. I believe that there’s no reason that packaging can’t be attractive, fun AND sustainable.

So I was thrilled last week when I discovered Lokta paper at Paper Source in Old Town Alexandria. It is made from the fronds of the Lokta plant in Nepal, so no plants are destroyed in its production. It’s made by women’s cooperatives, so it provides a stream of income to the villages where it is handcrafted. The paper has a wonderful texture, and comes in solid colors, as well as attractive prints. A quick Google search showed that there are many online stores that carry Lokta paper.

Anyway, I bought a few pieces to try them out, and plan to create some new products so that I have an excuse to use them!

I Love Lavender

photo from Purple Haze Lavender Farm blog

photo from Purple Haze Lavender Farm blog

The first time I visited a farmers market was when a friend took me to a huge one in San Francisco several years ago. I was in awe of the variety of products being offered. My favorite was a lavender stand featuring dried culinary-grade lavender, along with a variety of other lavender products. I was mesmerized by the deep, clean, delicious scent of the dark purple buds.

Lavender is an incredibly versatile flower with many health, cosmetic and culinary uses. In aromatherapy, lavender is a popular remedy for stress, as it has wonderful calming properties. It also has antiseptic and insect-repelling properties — try it instead of moth balls (does anyone use those anymore?)! Lavender is a wonderful addition to salads, soups and sweets. A couple of days ago, when the heat index hit 109 degrees farenheit, I headed over to my local chocolatier for their lavender-infused lemonade (see my easy recipe below), an incredibly refreshing drink.

Two years ago today, I had the opportunity to visit Sequim, Washington, the Lavender Capital of North America. It was just past season, so the pick-your-own farms were not open, but you could still drive around and see the many lavender-devoted farms. One farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, had a store in downtown Sequim that featured a variety of lavender products, including culinary-grade lavender. They have an excellent website with lots of lavender information, and a store featuring their many dried lavender products. I recommend their cookbook, a sampling of which is available on their website.

The Herban Lifestyle Story

Once upon a time (back in the late 1990s/early 2000s), I had a handcrafted herbal bath and body product business in New England. I sold my all-natural lotions, masques, balms and oils at my local farmers market, as well as through my (primitive by today’s standards) online store. I delighted in the process of creating new products, and I took great pleasure in learning about the aromatherapeutic properties of essential oils and the healing properties of herbs. When people came to my house, they always commented on how wonderful it smelled. I did all this while working full time, raising my two daughters and working on my doctorate in psychology. I didn’t have much spare time, but I relished the moments when I was able to work on my herbal business – it provided me with a creative outlet and much needed stress-relief.

Then one day, I took a position in NYC, which made my days very long. I soon found that I had little time for my business. So, reluctantly, I let it go.

Over the years, people have inquired about my old herbal business, and I always responded that I hoped to resurrect it some day. I never let go of my herbal habit – I loved the process, and continued to make bath and body products for myself, family and friends.

I reside in the DC area now, working as a wellness consultant and Reiki practitioner. I’m learning to balance my urban lifestyle with healthful habits – mind, body and spirit – and I share this knowledge with others through my workshops and writing. Since moving to DC, as part of this balance, I began formal herbalism studies, and it occurred to me that this would be a great time to re-start my herbal bath and body product business. So, after several months of planning and formulating, I would like to introduce you to my new love child – Herban Lifestyle™.

Welcome! And please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. And please do visit my Etsy store!


Three weeks ago, I launched my first Etsy store (http://herbanlifestyle.etsy.com), featuring my handcrafted herbal bath and body products. And, since I have a love of blogging (shameless promotion: please visit my wellness blog, Becoming Your StellarSelf), I thought it would be fun to create a blog dedicated to the topic of natural bath and body products, herbs and herbalism.

This blog will be a place where I will tell you about the various properties of the herbs I use, the importance of natural and organic ingredients, my new products, cool products other people make, etc. I hope you enjoy it!

If you want, you can follow me on Twitter (http://twitter.com/herbanlifestyle)