Community Healing: Herbalism plants the seeds for better health.
In 2010, four friends decided to start a business together in New Orleans. That might not sound unusual, but for herbalists Rachael Reeves, Jen Stovall, Wendy Hounsel and Amy Seifert, it was a big step. “It was our dream, but it was too scary [to do individually], so it was like, well, let’s all do it together!” Reeves says. The group opened Maypop Community Herb Shop at 1036 Franklin Ave. in the Bywater, bringing New Orleans a resource for plant-based medicine and herbal healing.
Maypop’s approach to herbal medicine focuses on using regional plants and herbs to address problems with health and quality of life. “Herbalism can be preventive healthcare, and it’s great for preventing healthcare issues,” Reeves says. “It can be supporting and nurturing when you’re having health issues. All of us feel that herbs can be part of a whole program — and maybe should be part of a whole program.”
Herbal medicine targets “baseline conditions,” like poor sleep quality and digestive issues, which can be the root causes of other ailments.
Each of the shop’s founders has more than 12 years of experience in addressing these conditions through herbal remedies. “We are all Western herbalists, although we have trainings in different modalities,” Reeves says. “We use the same anatomy and physiology as Western biomedicine.”
Herbs can be taken in a variety of ways: brewed into tea; swallowed in capsules; extracted into vinegar, oils and even honey; and distilled into tinctures. All of Maypop’s herbs are FDA-regulated for safety and consistency.
While herbalists can prescribe herbs to soothe certain conditions, herbs differ from pharmaceutical medications in that, generally, they do not target a single body part or condition. “For the most part, herbs bring the body back into homeostasis,” Reeves explains. “The body’s going to take what it needs from that herb and use it to bring itself back into balance.” So it’s also important to pay proper attention to other factors like sleep, diet and exercise.
The shop regularly holds classes on treating common injuries and conditions with herbal medicine, and offers community outreach and education. “I think our big mission is to make herbs accessible to folks, so that people can actually use herbs as a part of their healthcare plan,” Reeves says. maypopherbshop.com
Perfect Position: Learn how a mind-body technique can ease your tension.
Feeling like your posture needs some loving attention? There’s a practice for that. Named over 100 years ago for Australian actor and voice teacher F. Matthias Alexander, the Alexander Technique addresses body carriage, posture and movement to improve quality of life. “The Alexander Technique is a skill that can help you do all of your daily activities — walking, standing, practicing yoga, working at a computer, taking care of children — with less tension and greater ease,” says Lisa Lutton, a certified teacher of the technique.
We’ve all been told that good posture means pulling our shoulders back, lifting our chins or strengthening core muscles. But these strenuous efforts may have more harm than benefit. “In truth, good posture is effortless, and the first step toward finding good posture is to stop trying to force your body into shape by doing something,” Lutton explains. In her private practice at the Affordable Healing Arts Center on St. Claude Avenue, she works with clients to bring gentle attention to their movements, gradually ingraining better habits.
“By allowing the musculoskeletal system to come back into better balance by releasing tension, posture improves and movement takes on a more fluid quality,” Lutton says. “Another benefit of studying the Alexander Technique is that it can have dramatic results for people who suffer from pain.” Fibromyalgia, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, chronic headaches and repetitive strain injuries are just some of the conditions that can be ameliorated by practicing the Alexander Technique.
Lutton enjoys seeing clients overcome physical ailments and mental stress using the technique. “But my favorite moments are when people realize that they have more control over their health than they had ever imagined,” she says. “It’s recognition of the power of choice in every moment, and a realization that the concepts of the Alexander Technique can be applied to a lot more than just the body.”
On the evening of Oct. 28, Lutton will offer an “Introduction to the Alexander Technique” workshop at the Uptown New Orleans Jewish Community Center. The workshop is $15 for JCC members, and $20 for non-members. Readers can register through the JCC, either at nojcc.org or by calling (504) 897-0143. lisalutton.com
Fresh Skin, New Chances: This artist’s body-product line raises funds for domestic violence victims.
Photographic artist Debbie Willson spends a lot of time wading through swamps to snap the perfect shot — so it makes sense that when it came to scrubbing off the silt, she turned to her own creativity.
Good Gris-Gris, Willson’s new line of sugar-based face and body scrubs, takes a simple, local approach to skincare. “All of my raw cane sugar comes straight from a mill in Louisiana,” Willson says. “The closer you are to your resources, the better it is all the way around.” She uses grapeseed oil and pure essential oils for scent, including lavender, peppermint and a blend called Bayou Beauty — all of which make the finished goods naturally luxurious. “Everybody loves my formula,” Willson says.
But these pretty products have another purpose. “Part of the profits are going to help build shelters for domestic violence victims,” Willson says, noting the lack of shelters outside of the New Orleans area. “There’s not one in Natchez, Concordia Parish or Catahoula Parish … and that covers about a 50-mile radius.” She also points out that domestic violence is not a popular hot-button issue. “People don’t want to talk about this very much,” she says.
Willson, who experienced psychological and physical abuse at the hands of her former husband, knows the shame, humiliation and fear that come with the territory. “You can go and do whatever it is you need to do to get through and get past the situation, but for an abused child or an abused woman — that pain will never go away,” she says. “I just realized that the only way I can feel better is to help somebody else … That’s my ultimate goal: to be able to make a go of this and give back.” Be sure to keep eye out for Good Gris-Gris’ upcoming online store!