By Dakota Parks for Pensacola Magazine
For most people, the start of the New Year is a reminder to slow down and listen to our bodies. Whether that means eating healthier and setting fitness goals or simply focusing on mental clarity, reducing stress, improving the quality of sleep and boosting your immune system, we all have individual needs.
For Marni Woodson, a local herbalist and owner of Asher & Bee Apothecary and Teahouse, plants have the power to help and heal the mind, body and soul. Woodson first encountered herbalism from watching her grandmother tend to her garden, making hot toddies and herbal remedies for bodily ailments. From there, Woodson earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology with a minor in Africana studies from UWF and became a certified herbalist. To better understand natural remedies for wellness and some tips, tinctures and teas to support key health areas, Pensacola Magazine spoke with Woodson about common misconceptions and the root of her work as an herbalist.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to do one or the other—pharmaceuticals or herbalism,” Woodson said. “Herbalism is great for helping subdue side effects of pharma, and some herbs can even make medicine prescribed from your doctor more effective. You should always consult your doctor before you start something new, but we use plants medicinally as a holistic treatment approach. An apothecary is basically a plant pharmacy, and I’m the plant pharmacist.”
Everything inside Asher & Bee is handcrafted and plant-based including teas, tinctures, capsules of plants and herbs, skin and beauty products like salves and serums and aromatherapy candles. Patrons to the store can stop by for advice and products to treat specific conditions, or for more in-depth needs, they can schedule a consultation with Woodson, which are free and can last around 30-45 minutes to ask about medical history and help individualize and formulate products. As Woodson explained, she is also serving a serious need in the community for uninsured or underinsured people and bridging healthcare gaps.
“I think it’s important to have herbalists to help people that want and need natural healthcare, but it’s especially important in black and POC neighborhoods,” Woodson said. “There is a distrust of the healthcare system and a distrust against Western doctors, so I think that black herbalists can bridge that gap that disproportionately affects the health of minorities. Most of my time is spent listening to people and finding out what is affecting their health, so that I can help them.”
For beginners tiptoeing into natural remedies and herbalism, tea is the starting point. Both Woodson and her assistant direct new patrons to tea before recommending tinctures or capsules. Not only is tea easy to incorporate into your daily life, but it can also be individualized in blends to treat specific ailments.
“Tea is so underrated and underappreciated,” Woodson explained. “Tea should be your first line and first entry into herbalism. I can do the same thing with a cup of tea that I can do with capsules and plant medicine. That’s why I knew that I wanted to make my shop a teahouse as well. Plus, you can always add drops of new tinctures down the line to your tea too. Not every herb is going to work for everyone, so we have varieties and blends.”
Navigating wellness in the New Year can be difficult and overwhelming with increased marketing and advertising directed at consumers to encourage them to buy new wellness products. Many people are simply looking for natural solutions to help them kickstart their goals and focus on their health. No matter what your body goals or health focus might be, Woodson explained some core herbs that can be incorporated into tea blends as a base to help with five of the most sought-after health focus areas in the New Year.
Recommendation: Alkaline foods, Valerian or Blue Dream Tinctures and Sleepy Time Tea
"Food really impacts your sleep cycle. First, I would recommend incorporating more fruits, veggies and alkaline foods for sleep. I always tell people to really be careful with melatonin usage because it can negatively impact the functionality of your pineal gland later on in life, which is vital for sleeping. So, food first, then we can add in some extra tinctures. I have two tinctures I recommend for sleep: Valerian and Blue Dream, which can be taken right before bed to help the body rest. Sleepy Time Tea is another great calming agent."
Lowering Stress Levels
Recommendation: Melissa, St. John’s Wort, Scutellaria and Oatmeal
"Melissa is what some elders call a cure-all. It’s great for stress, anxiety and depression. I also recommend St. John’s Wort in limited amounts for stress, meaning no longer than a 3-month period. The third would be Scutellaria, which I recommend for some of my PTSD patients—it’s an excellent plant for lowering stress. Those are my top three plants for stress, but I can’t stress oatmeal enough. Oat tops are really good for nourishing the brain and enhancing your mood. Eating oatmeal in the morning is great and can act as an antidepressant. People overlook oatmeal, but it’s one of the most natural medicines out there that you can get off the shelf."
Recommendation: Passionflower Tea and Lemon Balm Tea
"Mental flow and focus are big areas that tea can help with by starting your day off with them. Passionflower tea is a great one for mental flow and focus. Melissa, also called Lemon Balm, is a calming plant that also boosts the immune system. It’s a great tea for kids or adults with attention deficit disorders because of the calming nature of the plant. You can also cook with rosemary and sage or add them to your tea to help with clarity."
Immune System Boost
Recommendation: Melissa, Elderberry and Irish Moss
"Melissa, again, is a great one to boost the immune system, and it’s safe for children. I also recommend Elderberry tincture and syrup for immune health. Do not attempt to make them at home though. Elderberry can make you sick if made incorrectly. We sell them very reasonably too at only $12 for either product. Irish Moss is another great immune system booster. Irish Moss is an edible seaweed that grows in Canada, Northern Europe and Ireland and contains 92 of the 102 minerals the human body needs. We know that sickness comes from deficiencies in the body, so it’s a great product for the immune system, and it does a ton of great things for the body in the process."
Weight Loss/Healthy Eating
Recommendation: Irish Moss and Hibiscus Tea
"I always tell people, if you take the word ‘diet’ out and just make better choices with your food and learn to recognize what foods do for your body, you’ll feel balanced and won’t feel like you need to deny yourself anything. For example, fruits and sweeter foods are great for electricity and energy in the morning. Following the seasons of harvest is another great tip to get plenty of nutrients. Irish Moss and Hibiscus Tea are a great place to start for filling deficiencies and cravings though. Often when we crave something, it’s actually caused by a deficiency in our body. I’m a sugar person with a sweet tooth, but once I take Irish Moss, I can actually say, ‘Wow, that cake looks delicious, but I’m fine without it.’ It’s about finding a balance for yourself."
Asher & Bee Apothecary and Teahouse is located at 3014 N 9th Ave Suite B and they are open Tuesday 11-4; Wednesday 11-4 and 6-8; Thursday and Friday from 11-4; and Saturday 9-2. To shop online or learn more, visit asherandbee.com. On January 29-30th, Woodson is having the grand opening for a new health-based grocery store, The Busy Bee Mercantile & General Store. The store will be open M-Sat: 9am-6pm and will serve lunch items and sell healthy, organic foods at affordable prices.