The Urban Herbal Apothecary

Feb 24, 2019 | Uncategorized

Foraging has been Josie Weber’s practice since she was a little girl. In the deep, dank darkness of the forest interior, Josie would gather her loot: soft clusters of green moss, jagged pinecones, and sleek forgotten feathers. At home, she would display these treasures in Mason jars for safe-keeping. As homage to the calm and quiet of nature, these “nests” would help her find peace in a tumultuous household.  

“I struggled with anxiety and depression in my adolescence. I had a traumatic childhood, and nature always made me feel grounded,” she explains as we sit at the dining table in her Craftsman-style bungalow in Schnitzelburg. On the table is a basket of pinecones, and an altar of owls peers down from the credenza to my left. Despite the five o’clock traffic outside this urban home, the feeling inside is that of the forest: dimly lit, quiet, and spiritual.

“I still collect crystals, stones, feathers, and create little nests all around the house. Over there,” she points into the fireplace, “I have a pot with a blue stone inside, and on the shelf across from it, I have a black obsidian [known for protective qualities] and a quartz crystal beside it to cleanse and recharge its energy. Together, they balance the energy and protect my home. When one of them is moved or missing, I can feel it,” she says with a smile.

The grid, placed by the home’s entryway, is curated with intention, like the rest of the  home, for protective and healing properties. Outside, lavender adorns the front porch, a symbol of luck and devotion, planted as a welcome to her guests. Inside the doorway, rosemary hangs to ward off evil spirits. In the kitchen, open shelves display various jars of dried flowers and herbs, a natural apothecary Josie has cultivated through her practice in herbalism. A dried tea wreath of rosehips, sage, white pine, and black cherry hangs in the center, a circular portal to Josie’s memory of foraging in the Appalachian Mountains

In the next room, another “nest” of tiny feathers (the small ones, Josie was once told by a medium, symbolize wishes), moss, her son’s baby teeth, and two iron nails held in cross formation by bright red string (a pagan folklore practice intended to dispel negative energy and protect loved ones). In the basement one finds a complete apothecary of dried flowers, rows of brown bottles for tinctures, and concoctions of flowers and stones stored in giant glass jars.

This is the home of a modern herbalist. Josie has spent the past five years immersing herself in the world of herbal medicine, mostly in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. There, natural medicine and witchery are part of the culture and it’s where she began her study.

Josie, a recent graduate of The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in Weaverville, North Carolina, says she has found her purpose. A few years ago she was struggling to feel fulfilled.She had too long waited tables and was looking for a change. Scott, her husband, suggested that she make a list of what makes her happy. “Everything I wrote down had to do with nature: gardening, hiking, flowers, and healing. So I did some research and enrolled in The Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism in Asheville.”

There, she hiked through the forest in total silence and sat with the plantlife, communing with the flowers and plants on the program’s plant walks. “I was at a place in my life where I was really listening to myself, so I was also able to listen to the plants and flowers.”

Out of this path, Josie has planted the seeds of a small business. Hearth + Moon is a small batch, local herbal apothecary that makes tinctures, tonics, salves, and stone or floral essences geared toward a variety of ailments: stress, anxiety, sleep, sexual and hormonal support, etc. She grows the plants herself in two community gardens and makes the medicines in her home while her owls and bundles of sage surround her with protection.

Through the use of herbalism, Josie has weaned herself off of antidepressants and anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals, she treats her family’s coughs and winter maladies, and continues the matriarchal practice of natural healing.

“Witchery is a trend now, but these folk practices, passed down from hundreds of years, have kept people alive. All women had back then was what grew around them, the ability to cook, and the instinct for survival,” Josie says. She shows me the beginning stage of her flower essence cider. As she rolls the jar around, revealing the meaty magenta flowers inside, I can see that Josie is living beautifully despite the city noise outside. Inside her urban herbal apothecary, the spirit of nature protects her clan.  

Looking for more inspiration for your nest? Find some clever and innovative tips here. 

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