Locale Profiles: Farmacy Herbs

Herbs have been used to treat all kind of conditions since before recorded history. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese relied on the healing effects of the natural world, but in modern times some write off the practice as mere quackery.

For the alt-health issue, Motif decided to talk to an herb expert in our own backyard. Mary Blue is a community herbalist and the founder/owner of The Farmacy herb shop in Providence. They carry any herb or remedy you need, and they offer health consultations, internships at the shop and their herb farm, and a two-level herbal education program.

Jake Bissaro (Motif): How did you get into herbal remedies?

Mary Blue: In my late teens, I worked for a summer on Martha’s Vineyard and I got sick. I didn’t have health insurance, so I checked out the herb store they had there, and never looked back.

JB: What kind of stuff do you have here?

MB: We’re primarily an herb store, but we have our own product line, including tea blends, salves, syrups and extracts. I’d say about 80% of what we sell in the store, we make; we grow the herbs at our farm in West Greenwich. We import herbs that don’t grow in this bioregion, but we try to do as much as possible ourselves.

JB: I read that The Farmacy offers consultations?

MB: We have an integrated medicine clinic called the Sage Healing Collaborative in East Providence. I partner with a medical doctor, and we offer consultations to his clients, or just people who want to find out more about herbal medicine. They’re on a sliding scale, so those who can’t afford full price can still participate.

JB: What’s an example of the kind of info you provide?

MB: I’m not a doctor, so I don’t treat diseases, but I can create a formula to support whatever body systems a person wants to focus on, using info from the doctor as well. For example, many people get diagnosed with digestive tract issues, like Irritable Bowel Disease. I’ll provide herbs that can help reduce inflammation, expel gas, that kind of thing.

JB: Marijuana has been the most news-worthy herb lately. What is your opinion on the effectiveness?

MB: Well, I can’t prescribe it, but I have had a lot of clients who have benefited from it immensely for a variety of ailments. It’s a very versatile plant. Though I should point out that there are thousands of plants out there that also strengthen your health and are much easier to come by!

JB: What would you say to someone who thinks herbalism is hearsay?

MB: I usually try not to say much and let people have their own opinion. A lot of times, people try to put herbal medicine in the same box as evidence-based medicine, but they’re completely different models. That’s like using the rules for baseball for football. I’ve been studying herbs for a long time and have seen countless clients and students benefit from the herbs we have, so I guess I don’t feel that I need to convince anybody.

JB: What is your favorite part about this line of work?

MB: I get to be my own boss and do what I love every day! I love that my work is seasonal; in the summer, I spend a lot of time farming and in the winter I’m busier in the shop because people are looking for remedies, so it never gets boring. Working with people and teaching them about the opportunities in herbal medicine is a nice part of it, too.  I meet a lot of interesting people and a lot of people are interested in learning.

The Farmacy is located at 28 Cemetery St, PVD.

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