Earth Island Medicinal Herb Garden: A CSA For Herbal Remedies
By Harmony Wade-Hak
Years ago, my mother’s passion for grassroots movements and health helped motivate my family to become shareholders in a local produce community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription program, and the bountiful baskets we received every week inspired many a delicious meal—though on occasion an excess of summer squash nearly confounded our creative culinary abilities.
The idea of using the traditional farm CSA as a blueprint for a project where shareholders get baskets of herbal remedies and products instead of produce got my mother—Carol Wade—as excited as I’ve ever seen her. She started Earth Island Herbs, An Herbal CSA, almost three years ago now, and that excitement has not waned one jot since.
Over this last year we’ve seen the CSA expand to include a new medicinal herb garden that is her pride and joy—and occasionally the source of frustration and stress. My siblings and I call it her new baby.
Mom has been a practicing herbalist for as long as I can remember, and her tinctures and salves always accompanied my childhood bouts of illness and injury. The bitter-tasting combination of Echinacea and goldenseal to boost my immune system at the first signs of a cold, the soothing balm of her herbal salve on scrapes and abrasions, honey lemon and garlic tea for sore throats, these were as much a part of being a kid in my house as “Eat your vegetables” and “Don’t forget your sweater!”
Now that I’m grown up (nominally, at least), I still go to my mother for anything and everything health related, short of a broken limb. I’m lucky enough to not ever have anything really serious to bring to her, but she’s worked with clients on their individual health issues and goals for over 20 years, and consequently has seen a wide array of complaints.
In her experience, many of our modern health woes can be treated or prevented with plant-based remedies, by working with our bodies’ natural defenses and boosting our overall health. In keeping with this, part of the CSA’s mission is to promote empowerment and responsibility for individual and community health, and to provide grassroots resources to support that health. The EarthIslandMedicinalHerbGarden is an ever-growing culmination of that mission.
The garden site is on the peaceful grounds of the Krishnamurti Foundation on Ojai’s East End—next to citrus groves and surrounded by stunning views in all directions. Sometimes we’ll take our dinner up there to eat while watching the sun go down, and it never fails to take our breath away, sitting on the edge of this little pocket of paradise we call home and watching the sky pale and deepen as the stars come out.
In the center of the garden is a patch of open ground for a bench and chairs, and the garden beds spiral out from that, bigger and bigger in the shape of a nautilus shell. Each of the 11 chambers represents a different body system, and the herbs in each of those chambers are especially beneficial to those systems.
In the back, still under development, is a section devoted to production, but the nautilus beds are the central focus. Mom sources her supplies from local producers when possible, and hopes to be able to use the production area of the garden for the baskets soon. A few ingredients, like ginseng or turmeric, simply don’t naturally grow in our semi-arid climate and have to be ordered from other areas.
The main goal for the garden is to showcase native and regionally adapted specimens—to connect, help and inspire people to discover the natural and holistic ways to take care of their health— not just in a practitioner’s office but in their own backyards and kitchens. And so the garden is continually growing, and will always be free and open to the public.
Just as each bed of the garden is planted for support of a particular body system, each month’s shareholder basket is built on a theme, complementing those of the garden. The contents of the basket change every month, but there are always six items, and a bouquet of edible flowers is included—calendula, hyssop, Echinacea, lavender and yucca flowers have all made an appearance. Some examples of past basket themes are cardiovascular, integumentary (skin) and digestive system health.
The baskets are tool kits, but they are also intended to be inspiration—jumping off points to learn more. The world is headed for some major changes in the coming years, and the more educated and empowered we all are in the care of our health, environment and communities, the more ready we’ll be to face those changes with strength and grace. Earth Island Herbs is our little pebble thrown into the pond, in the hopes the ripples will widen and find shore.
MINERAL MEDLEY SPICE BLEND
A nice way to spice up your meal and reduce your salt intake, this blend contains dulse, sea salt, nettles, oregano, rosemary, garlic and cayenne.
This tasty glycerite can be used in lower doses as a cold preventative, and in increased amounts the flavonoid and vitamin C–rich berries are an antiviral and antihistamine.
An excellent healing balm for chapped skin abrasions, cuts and minor wounds, this salve contains calendula, comfrey leaf and root, chamomile, St. John’s wort and tea tree oil in a base of extra-virgin olive oil.
SUMMER BREEZE TEA
A refreshing blend of spearmint, raspberry, horsetail, ginger and lemon peel, this tea is cooling and good for digestion. The horsetail adds silica and minerals to promote healthy skin and the raspberry tones and astringes tissue inside and out. I like to drink it iced and mixed with sparkling apple cider.
Harmony Wade-Hak is director of operations at Earth Island Herbs, and Carol Wade is the owner and founder. They can be reached at EarthIslandHerbs.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.