Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.
If you get Slow North newsletters, chances are you know Stephanie Tait. She’s the newsletter queen here, but she’s also a knowledgeable herbalist and wise soul.
Listen in on my conversation with Stephanie as we talk about her magical, Hogwarts-like herb school on the Sonoma coast, the moment when herbs changed her life, and the herb she loves recommending for menstruating people.
Hi Stephanie! Thank you for opening up about your herb journey with us. Let’s just start at the beginning. Why herbs?
I didn’t pay any attention to herbs until I moved to the Bay Area. I was basically having really terrible menstrual pain and I wasn't finding a lot of relief from other avenues, so I started going to this apothecary. I was trying things and picking up some books and self-studying. Then I found out there was a really great school close to me called the California School of Herbal Studies.
I lived in a yurt for a year there at the school! They teach you everything you want to know about growing herbs, using them for health, starting your own practice if you wanted to.
It was kind of like going to Hogwarts. It was magical. It's on this land on the Sonoma coast in the redwoods. It's a really deep valley and at the bottom of it there's a beautiful herb garden and a renovated barn and these beautiful women with flowing skirts holding baskets of herbs.
It changed something in me, that place with the really thoughtfully minded people who are so deeply invested in learning about and caring for the earth.
I feel some of that magic just hearing you talk about it! Can we switch gears for a moment? I almost got fired once because I had menstrual cramps so bad I could barely function. It’s such a huge problem for so many people. Were you able to find relief?
Yes! I wandered into that apothecary and picked up a zine and it recommended red raspberry leaf. I just purchased some and thought I'd try it. I drank it a few times that week and almost immediately the issues I was having were better and I was like, oh my god!
It was my “aha” moment around natural wellness. Growing up, we didn't have a lot of natural remedies, just the normal Western medicines. I'm not against Western medicines, but herbal medicine is so different.
It’s like, oh there's this plant and it grows from the earth and you can use it and it can help heal you. It was just so different from taking Tylenol.
I think herbalism helps women connect back into our bodies and weave us back into the earth, the bigger picture being, maybe, that we can help everyone. If women are healthy and whole we can uplift the planet, basically.
I love that your knowledge hasn’t stayed with just you. You are using it to help others. Tell us about the bulk bar!
When I started working for Slow North, Michelle (the owner) and I got really excited about the potential for me bringing some of my herbal knowledge into the store. That's how the bulk bar got started. We wanted our community to have access to really great herbs! We worked to curate 14 different herbs that I just love and recommend using.
If I’m brand new to herbs, where should I start?
Raspberry leaf is the herb that I would recommend for anybody who wants to use herbs but isn’t sure where to start, or is nervous about contraindications. If you don’t have a lot of herb experience or want a soft intro, I recommend raspberry leaf. It’s just the leaves from the raspberries that we eat at the grocery store!
It’s so available, and it has such healing properties. It's supportive through all phases of the cycle but especially when you're menstruating. Fragrine specifically helps with aiding blood flow to the uterus. It has antispasmodic properties. It has magnesium, iron.
It's super tasty, kind of like a green tea. You can mix rose in it, which is so good and a killer combination to support yourself during menstruation!
I know you’re going to say it’s really easy to use raspberry leaf, but it still feels like a lot! Help us!!
Making tea was actually really overwhelming for me at first, too! I thought it was this exact science. But really the basic idea is hot water, herbs, strain it out. That's what’s really great about folk herbalism. It’s ok to just try things out and be playful and feel how things feel in your own body!
If you want a stronger potion that really gets every ounce of benefit from raspberry leaves, I recommend a longer steep. You can use a larger mason jar (16oz or 32oz), or a pot. Put a big handful of leaves in there, pour hot water in there, cap it, and let it sit all night. From there it will last for three days in the fridge. You can just pour it out every day.
Drinking raspberry leaf tea that has been steeping for five minutes is definitely helpful. It’s very relaxing. But when you use a bit more herbs, a bit more water, and a bit more time, you’ll get more benefits.