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The shelves at Sacred Vibes Apothecary hold a bounty of medicinal roots and herbs. On one wall, the names of spices and botanicals sound like Harry Potter potion ingredients: wormwood, shepherd’s purse, myrrh gum, and mugwort. Another wall is stocked with specially crafted elixirs and tinctures designed to reduce stress, curb insomnia, and increase passion.
It’s the work of proprietor and master herbalist Karen Rose, whose mission is to inspire more people to embrace curative plants. At her Brooklyn, New York, boutique there’s a constant flow of neighborhood residents interested in and curious about her dizzying selection of oddly named aromatics and colorful resins. Ask Rose about almost any plant or root and she can discuss its composition and full spectrum of therapeutic properties from memory.
“Herbs have many healing indicators,” notes Rose. “You can use basil in your cooking, but it’s also uplifting and can be used to combat mild depression. Calendula is used as a skin softener, and you can give babies a bath in it. It’s also good for lymphatic congestion. Several herbs can be taken to lessen anxiety and high blood pressure, or to relieve constipation. The key is to find out what works with your body.”
What has become her life’s work was a natural calling for this South American native, who first studied business at the University of Phoenix and graduated in 1999. In 2001 she enrolled in classes at the Educational Center for Botanical Medicine in Phoenix. “I grew up in Guyana, in the country, where we didn’t have doctors,” Rose explains. “The doctor came once a month, so if you had a sore throat, you went to your grandmother or the village elders, who said, ‘Go pick that plant out back and bring it to me.’ And they would prepare it in a tea or include it in a balm. I think people are looking for the remedies of their grandmothers. They want to revisit those traditions.”
After receiving her certification, Rose began developing a clientele. This past May, she opened Sacred Vibes (www.sacredvibeshealing.com), a full-service apothecary that includes personal consultations, custom-made bath products, and weekend classes that connect herbs to physical and emotional benefits. Rose is quick to point out that she is not a physician and encourages her clients to maintain their schedule of regular checkups with their doctor. Her therapies, she urges, work best for day-to-day maintenance and a sense of well being. Many of these botanicals can also be used to affect your environment and relax the body after a stressful workday. Popular products such as lavender, rose, and chamomile can scent a room or bed sheets, be used for a soothing bath, or made into a calming tea. At the heart of those traditions, says Rose, is reconnecting with nature and plants, a practice she says can be as simple as cultivating herbs or brewing your own healing tonics. “You can grow peppermint in your yard or your apartment,” she notes, “and if you’re having stomach problems, you can snip a couple of leaves to make tea. It’s a great way to restore yourself.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.