A chronic illness is what sent Leah Larabell in search of herbs. After years of discomfort, she said she met a Native American healer whose teas seemed to be the only thing that made her feel better.
But she knows that not everyone has had the life-changing encounter with herbalism that she had. So now, as the owner of High Garden Tea in East Nashville, part of her job is convincing skeptics to give it a try.
“Sometimes people kind of [say] — I don’t know if it’s testing me or poking or whatever — but, ‘You really think this works?’ And it truly is just as simple as, do you think coffee gave you energy? That’s herbal tea. Plants have constituents, they have compounds, they have chemicals, and those meet our body’s chemistry, and it creates a reaction,” she told WPLN’s Emily Siner in our live series Movers & Thinkers.
But Larabell’s interest in herbalism is not purely scientific. Once she started getting into it, she says, it began to change her view all of humanity.
“Every one of you are herbalists,” she said. “It’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA. You walk out into your yard, and you are a part of nature. … Whether it’s, ‘For some reason, when I take a walk outside, I feel better.’ You just had a relationship with nature. Or it’s, ‘You know, I went out and pick some peppermint and made some tea.’ Now you’re getting a little bit deeper. Or you can just go as far as you want to.”
Interacting with plants in a meaningful way is “just about removing that wall for just one split second and not being this isolated human,” Larabell said. And that feels, for her, like a spiritual experience. It may seem like just an act of consumption, but she says it makes her feel part of something bigger.
“That’s like having this amazing cup of tea, and all of a sudden, like, this cough that I had starts to loosen up. It’s, because I had this connection, I feel better or I’m not as alone in all of this.”
This is an excerpt from a recent Movers & Thinkers episode, “The Butcher, The Vegan Baker, The Potions Maker.” Hear the full interview, including some DIY herbalism tips, at wpln.org/movers or in your favorite podcasting app.