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Herb Your Appetite With These Local Medicinal Plants

Heartsong’s Dana Nivens in the greenhouse. Credit: Rinne Allen

“There’s no place on Earth like the world. There’s no place that I’d rather be.”—Brendan Behan, The Hostage

The advent of Earth Day reminds us that the products of the Earth itself can make the world a better place. For all the local riches of the Athens area—music, art, food, beer, architecture, sports—(legal) herbs might not come to mind. But around here, herbalism is strong, multifaceted and focused on farming practices that regenerate the soil as well as the body.

The website of the American Herbalists Guild reminds us: “Herbal medicine is the art and science of using herbs for promoting health and preventing and treating illness. It has persisted as the world’s primary form of medicine since the beginning of time, with a written history more than 5,000 years old. While the use of herbs in America has been overshadowed by dependence on modern medications the last 100 years, 75% of the world’s population still rely primarily upon traditional healing practices, most of which is herbal medicine.”

People in the South have relied on herbal wisdom and treatments for centuries, dating back to the Cherokees and Creeks as well as enslaved Black people, who accumulated knowledge of herbal healing that preceded a long line of Appalachian folk healers and Black “Granny Women” who knew how to cure with plants. Also, given our inadequate health care system, more and more people are taking matters into their own hands and learning about preventive medicine, nutrition and growing their own food.

Presently, lots of local entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the climate and soil here in our little patch of the Earth to produce herbal remedies, and here’s a sample of who’s out there.

Heartsong, a small farm and apothecary (, puts it this way on its website: “We are a part of a growing movement of farmers who are taking the necessary next step beyond organic and moving into regenerative agriculture. These growing practices, which revolve around optimal soil health, are exponentially beneficial for all life on Earth. Regenerative farming produces herbs with the vigor and potency of plants found in wild places, creating the highest quality herbal medicine.”

Heartsong grows herbs and converts them into tinctures intended to palliate a variety of maladies. In addition, Heartsong holds an annual plant sale (just recently concluded) and conducts workshops to show us how to grow herbs and make our own medicine, ”helping to bring health back into the hands of the people”

Dana Nivens, founder and owner of Heartsong, says they’ve been in business for four years and that every year “people’s interest in adding herbs to their health protocols has grown exponentially, because there’s so much we can do for ourselves in the daily maintenance of our health.”

Shop online or at Urban Outfitters, Lotta Mae’s Supply Co., Indie South, ReBlossom Mom & Baby, Collective Harvest, Community, Treehouse Kid & Craft and Daily Groceries.

The Herb Girls, Amy Wright and Eileen Schaeffer Brantley (, in addition to their college degrees in the sciences, are both certified nutritional therapy practitioners, and they offer a wide range of assistance in which herbal remedies are part of the mix in a healthier lifestyle and include a wide range of potions to pep you up, wean you off sugar, detoxify you, calm your allergies, resist stress, ease indigestion and relieve inflammation.

The Herb Girls “value the power of balanced lifestyles and simple, traditional means of nourishment.” They offer private classes and workshops, a sugar detox and health-restoration program, and they will even come to your home and make a thorough inspection of all your food and give you personalized instruction on what to avoid and what to keep. Then they’ll take you to your favorite grocery store and clue you in about how to buy to meet your needs and how to avoid the bad stuff and the “sneaky marketing tricks.” Shop online.

MEplusTEA ( is “more than a tea company… grounded in herbal wellness and the pursuit of the perfect cup of tea.” It buys tea from around the world and combines it with local herbsto create sips that soothe the ills that flesh is heir to—and the spirit, too. You can shop online and also find them at the Athens Farmers Market and the Marigold Market in Winterville.

Georgia Vinegar Company ( is the brew of Cherokee Rose Botanicals (Almeta Tulloss) and Third Moon Botanica (Nicole Bluh), two herbalists who combined their passion and their skills to form Cherokee Moon Mixology, the creative power behind Georgia Vinegar Company. From local fruits and herbs, they produce fresh cider and wine vinegars, bitters, sours and tonics which apparently, with or without the addition of your favorite alcohol, do you good and help you, too—besides the benefits you get from them. Shop online.

Piedmont Provisions ( is a local company founded by Heather Russell and dedicated to using locally and regionally sourced herbs and other organic ingredients to make “small batch preserves, herbal vinegar infusions, old-fashioned drinking vinegars (shrubs), bitters, pickles, relishes and all things fermented.” They grow most of the herbs and peppers that they preserve and get the rest from Georgia growers. Shop online and at their store in Winterville and their stand at the Athens Farmers Market.

UGArden Herbs ( is an organic farm at UGA with the mission to teach students about medicinal herb production and business practices. “We grow over 40 different medicinal herbs, teaching students and community members how to grow using organic practices and incorporate medicinal herbs into everyday life. We dry, process and use the herbs in our handcrafted herbal product line that we sell throughout the community.” Needless to say, UGArden has been a big stimulus to the burgeoning herbal business around Athens and represents the kind of local UGA impact we need. Shop online and at the Georgia Botanical Garden Gift Shop and at Community.

UGArden has a big plant sale coming up, involving some of the above purveyors and more on Saturday, May 1, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. 2510 S. Milledge Ave.