We catch up with incredible herbalist Lauren Haynes, owner of Wooden Spoon Herbs, on what herbs can help alleviate stress and anxiety, the perks of her new Indiegogo campaign (and how you can help!), and why plant medicine is a radical political movement.
How were you first called to plant medicine? I’ve been drawn to plants and animals my whole life—when I was little, I would want all the pets, but would settle for getting potted flowers to tend. I remember being a really young kid and being horrified that I had to eat animals, because that meant they had died! I also didn’t want to eat plants, because they had feelings too. It was a real dilemma for me. All of those sensitivities kind of fell to the wayside as I aged and got more into the greater injustices of the world, like realizing patriarchy existed and the gross inequality at every turn. I got into feminism and DIY punk, but it didn’t come full circle until my early twenties when I started working in a health food store. I realized that changing the quality of food we eat is a radical political move on so many levels: Needing less outside healthcare, developing less disease. At 22, I got into organic food and segued from fermenting vegetables ala Sandor Katz—who actually started his teaching career in the same food scene I was a part of—to identifying and using backyard medicinals like plantain, chickweed, cleavers, and violet. I was instantly hooked. Herbal medicine was the synthesis of all of my passions: Plants, animals, helping myself, helping others, and magic. Now, I’m almost 29 and have been studying for seven years and am totally immersed.
How did that first experience then ignite you to create Wooden Spoon Herbs? I’ve always wanted to be self-employed, and knew in my bones that was my path. When I was 10, I used to make homemade dog treats and sell them door to door. My current business started after I made and sold simple remedies at a holiday market at my friends art studio in the winter of 2014. I sold out of my wares the first night, and it was a two day market! I woke up at 5am the next day and made more, which all sold out again. I realized that there was a demand for what I was making, so I decided to sell at the farmer’s market. I was also blending teas for the cafe I worked at, but was too scared to tell anyone it was my venture. I was also scared to admit that I ran a business for the first two years—I didn’t want the attention [laughs]. It was only after I was featured in Vogue last year that I was like, “fuck yeah, I run a business!” The name Wooden Spoon Herbs came to me after seeing a picture of a bunch of beautiful wooden spoons. It’s really evocative, like you could be in your kitchen with a wooden spoon and stirring over your cauldron. You can also go into the woods and grab a twig and carve a spoon—for me, it represents working with what you’ve got to make what you need.
What was the first product you created for Wooden Spoon Herbs? The first tincture I ever made was for menstrual cramps! I had never made a tincture before, and had belabored over what to make because I was nervous about getting it wrong, so I made this tincture and it had like, thirty different herbs in it. If any book said a plant was good for menstrual cramps, that plant went in the mix. It was crazy. Fast forward to trying the tincture out and it did absolutely nothing at all—that’s when I learned the fine art of simplicity. My first products for WSH were the herbal classics: Fire cider, elderberry syrup, cleansing grains. I also made some really beautiful seasonal stuff like goldenrod honey and wild onion cough syrup. In the beginning, I grew or foraged all my ingredients and there was a lot of experimentation.
What are some of your personal favorite products that you carry in your line? I feel like my favorite products are still yet to come, but my favorites that I have right now are the Rosy and Golden Cocoas and the Wild Earl Grey Tea. I just love tea and tonics. What could be better than an adaptogenic hot cocoa? Oh I know, an aphrodisiac adaptogenic hot cocoa that tastes like roses! The Wild Earl Grey tastes like Earl Grey but without flavoring additives, subbing bee balm instead. It’s delicious. My boyfriend’s mom made it iced for Christmas dinner and I was super proud. I’m also super proud of my Migraine Melter tincture formula—I made it for myself once in the midst of a migraine and it helped so much. I have people tell me all the time how well it works for them.
What inspired you to start your Indiegogo campaign? When I started my business, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t “plan for my success”, as they say. But for whatever reason—maybe it was the apparent love and passion for my craft, maybe it was the right time in the market, maybe it was my boss graphic designer—the business took off and has grown 100% each year. I moved out of the city and into the country, into a tiny cabin in the woods two years ago and have been working out of my home studio. It’s really important for me to live out here, in nature on tons of wilderness next to a spring-fed river. It’s paradise here, but I’ve outgrown my little home studio in a ridiculous way. Meanwhile, my landlord is this amazing older hippie who built our house for him and his wife back in the ‘80s. They lived here—in our amazing passive solar cabin—and ran a commercial succulent propagation business. Fast forward to now, and the bones of said greenhouse are still on the property, just hanging out, fully equipped with electricity and water, right outside our front door. Said landlord is also an engineer and builder and can easily execute a build out to make the structure fully functional as a workspace. My business is going to continue to grow, and I would love to see the container for it really, really expand. This studio build out is going to happen—it has to happen—but I need help. I’m just hoping my community feels compelled to rally around me and give back what they can, helping my work life support me as much as I nurture and support it. It’s taken a lot of work for me to feel comfortable asking for anything, but I’m super excited and proud and nervous and ready! I’m ready to take Wooden Spoon Herbs to the next level: Hire another person, have serious back stock, and take on serious retailers. The studio will be ten times the size of our current workspace and we can do so much with that! I’m going to expand my line to include natural skincare and online courses and E-books, I just need space to hire more help so that I’ll have the time to keep expanding my vision. The main part of the studio will be for production and then I’ll also have a small office where I can see clients and host workshops. I also want to have apprentices and really be able to educate. I love my clients and my community and am hoping we can all pitch in to make this dream a reality. [Editor’s note: HOI <3’s WSH. If you can, you may donate to the Indiegogo campaign here.]
What’s your best advice for beginners or for those just starting out practicing herbal medicine? I started out by reading all the books I could find. Anything by Rosemary Gladstar or Susun Weed is wonderful, but find an author that resonates with you. I also recommend going on local plant walks and learning to identify plants. From there, you can start investigating potential medicinal properties, carefully and slowly. Yard medicine is always wonderful, learning what grows right under our noses. This group that I’m a part of called Plant Family has a website full of amazing resources. Definitely check it out! You can find books, herb schools, field guide recommendations, you name it.
What are a few easy ways someone can incorporate herbs into their daily life? Overall, just get outside. Be in nature, touch a tree. You can also make tea, meditate with herbs, smell flowers, and even put them under your pillow at night. My favorite way to use herbs daily is as an afternoon tea because it’s super easy. I also like to take a few drops of a single herb tincture before I meditate so I can see what messages it has for me, or see how it makes me feel on a more physiological plane. Just any way to get information about that plant. Or, if you take baths, you can put safe and gentle flowers in your bath as well.
What kind of healing do you personally do with plants? Nature heals me in every way. There have been times in my life where swimming in a waterfall was transformational in my mental wellbeing. Truly an aid in releasing what no longer serves. In terms of plants, they are absolutely not just physical matter that exists solely to remedy our ailments and be broken down into their most base parts. They are living creatures, as sentient as humans, and have layers of personality and subtle energies. I love working with flower essences, which are the energetic imprints of flowers preserved in water and brandy. You can also use drop doses of whole plant tinctures for emotional and spiritual healing, known as “spirit doses.” I recommend finding a very experienced herbalist to help you find plants that could be useful for you in spirit doses. It’s something I’m only beginning to learn. Like, black cohosh in a dose of 1 drop a day can help you shed your skin, shed a stuck state of mind. To get really personal, here’s an example of using plants for different types of healing: I have had a lot of uterine trauma—crippling cramps since age 11 and a lifetime of resentment towards my uterus because of that—coupled with additional trauma in my teenage years. A few ways I use herbs as allies to heal that relationship are as yoni steams and infused into oils with which I do Mayan abdominal and uterine massage. Plants can serve as a support network when you’re already doing the work. And then of course, when the cramps come on I can take my wild yam and black haw tinctures to help allay that physiologically.
I feel like a lot of people in this generation (myself included) deal with daily stress and anxiety. What are some ways plant medicine can help with this? I myself suffer from absolutely crippling anxiety. I am basically convinced I’m going to die 24/7. It’s not something I’ve always dealt with, but have had to work on for the past year and a half. I will say what works best for me is regular acupuncture, small doses of motherwort tincture, strong ginger tea, and theta state meditations. Also, cannabis in small doses is the only thing that works reliably. But alas, the legality prevents most of us from its healing. CBD is a good alternative, but I don’t personally like it. Some of my other favorite herbs for stress are chamomile, skullcap, licorice, pedicularis, and lemon balm. They all act slightly differently, so I encourage you all to look them up and see what you’re drawn to! I’m also a fan of using teas for anxiety when possible, because the act of holding a hot mug and sipping slowly is intrinsically calming. Tinctures are great for travel and acute situations, but nothing beats a warm cup of tea.
I feel like this generation is more conscious to the healing benefits of plant medicine vs. more “traditional” pharmaceutical medicines. Why do you think this switch is happening now? Heck yes, we are all waking up again! I am so heartened to see this shift. The cynical part of me thinks it’s just capitalism’s claws sunk into a radical movement, but hopefully there’s more to it. I think part of it is because pharmaceuticals and factory farmed meats and food have been around long enough for us to see their ill effects on a major scale. It’s pretty undeniable if you’re really looking at it. I also think the trendiness of it all helps it stick and gain mainstream momentum, social media helps us connect with each other and share information, and healthy options are becoming more widely available.
Since you’re working with your hands all the time, are there any beauty rituals you do for them? Caring for your nails is so important! Never wear nail polish or fake nails for more than 2-3 days. Let them breathe, they’re living tissue—and if they get dry, oil them, because oil is great for nails. For the hands in general, try our Wildflower Moisturizer and Heal All Salve—I recommend keeping a rich cream on hand (pun intended) and using it before bed, like a night cream for your hands.
What is your normal beauty and self-care ritual like? Dude, I am so lowkey. I love dry brushing and facial lymph massage, and applying a really simple rosehip oil on my face every night. I use Poppy & Someday’s facial toner and a mask once weekly that my BFF Stina of Mother Mountain Herbals makes. Right now, I’m working on my own skincare line so I’ve been product testing for that, but most of my self-care is mental and emotional. I have been oiling my eyebrows though and that makes me feel fancy. Is that weird?
Besides plant medicine, are there any other metaphysical practices that you love to do? Yes! I mentioned this before, but I do a Mayan abdominal massage every night—look up Rosita Arvigo and check out her book Sastun. I pay attention to my horoscopes and love Chani Nicholas for that. I meditate every day and love Lacy Phillip’s meditations—I did her Opulence course and recorded the meditations because they actually healed me so deeply I needed them in my life on the reg. I also make manifestation lists, and a lot of times they’ll come through on small stuff like manifesting my dream handmade shoes for free, so I know it’s legit. Other times I can’t tell if it’s a manifestation or if I’m just working my ass off. I love working with the moon cycles, my sun and moon are in Cancer which is ruled by the moon, so that is a really important way I connect with myself. I use the Many Moons book mostly, and I do a lot of tarot work for guidance. My fave decks are the Motherpeace, which was my first, and the Divina deck by my dear friend Mary Evans of Spirit Speak. Sidenote, Mary designed this ridiculously cool T-shirt and tote bag for Wooden Spoon Herbs, which you can also get through my Indiegogo!