I have a health infatuation - herbal remedies. Utilizing herbs as a natural means to¬†treat health issues and ailments is something I‚Äôve been interested in since my first¬†allergic reaction to Western medication in my teens. As someone highly sensitive¬†to both over-the-counter and prescription meds, I find herbs to be less irritating¬†and often more effective than their laboratory-manufactured counterparts that are¬†often inspired by or even derived from plants that are readily available in nature.
Combined with energetic medicine like traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic care and Reiki, I personally choose herbal remedies as my first line of¬†defense/offense to treat a host of both chronic and acute maladies, especially when¬†used under the guidance of an experienced herbalist.
I recently explored herbal shopping options in Milwaukee and was thrilled to¬†discover The Natural Food Shop. Situated on a block of South 13th Street near Oklahoma Avenue that is littered with retail cultural treasures like Indian, Middle Eastern¬†and Latin grocery stores as reported in detail by Molly Snyder in 2011, The Natural¬†Food Shop is a healthy treasure trove in a neighborhood full of unique local¬†commerce. I made a special trek just to explore this hidden gem geared for wellness¬†nuts like me.
The store is small yet inviting with shelves stocked full of teas, foods, supplements,¬†tinctures, salves, oils, balms and flower essences at fair prices. I was especially¬†impressed with their beauty and personal care section that introduced me to an¬†organic, Bulgarian rose-based skin care line called Alteya Organics. I was also made¬†aware of Green Hope Farms Flower Essences, compounds used in vibrational and¬†energetic healing with none of the drawbacks of chemical medicine.
The shop was busy with the bustle of an array of patrons who stop in for specialty¬†items and personalized service. During my visit, I observed a woman picking up a¬†gigantic order of loose, bulk herbs, a father and son shopping for natural toothpaste¬†and deodorant, a young lady picking up raw coconut oil and a young man grabbing¬†an organic, raw food bar for a quick snack. I purchased some gifts for friends, including hibiscus tea, Alteya Organics Baby Massage Oil and Dr. Bronner‚Äôs Magic Soap.
During the hour I browsed, chatted and was educated, I kept marveling at how I¬†never knew about this store that has existed in Milwaukee for 53 years! (North¬†Side girl ignorant of South Side world I guess!) Jack Green and Judy Weiss¬†purchased The Natural Food Shop in 2011 and take great pride in maintaining the¬†store as an integral part of the neighborhood.
"We are all about¬†serving the community," says Green "That‚Äôs what we are here for."
Now, I‚Äôve already stated my love and respect for herbalists. But, I‚Äôm especially¬†enthralled with the ones who realize their craft from being raised in a natural,¬†herbal tradition like Helen Dentice, an indispensably valuable member of the The¬†Natural Food Shop team.
Raised by Sicilian and Ojibwe grandmothers, traditional remedies were a way of life¬†for her family that has translated into a 30-year career helping people find better¬†health through natural, herbal remedies. Helen is overwhelmingly modest and loves¬†to tout the skills of her co-workers who include a physical therapist, a yoga teacher,¬†a hypnotherapist and a massage therapist.
Raised in Milwaukee, Helen says, "I¬†learned at the knees of my grandmothers. My Sicilian grandmother was the ‚ÄėHealer¬†of the neighborhood.‚Äô" Helen would watch her and absorb the knowledge that she¬†now so generously conveys to her guests at The Natural Food Shop.
A veritable encyclopedia of herbal information, Helen gave me a tour of the over¬†99 percent organic and wild crafted stock of loose, dried herbs available for purchase at The Natural Food Shop. She kindly and enthusiastically suggested a combination of¬†herbs for me to prepare a homemade salve with, since I disclosed I had just taken¬†a class on this craft. She indulged me in educated conversation about the products¬†and services offered at The Natural Food Shop, which include workshops, yoga classes¬†and mail order.
Gazing at the glass jars in the stock room, I was reminded that there is such beauty¬†in the way herbs look, smell and feel and a simplicity and earthiness in the fact that¬†they naturally grow all around us. Helen revels in this miracle too, remarking that¬†many herbal remedies can even be found growing up from the sidewalk cracks in¬†the alleys surrounding The Natural Food Shop‚Äôs neighborhood.
"I would never recommend using those, because they are ‚Äėdirty‚Äô from exhaust and¬†such, but it is a fact that many remedies grow in your backyard!"
Piggybacking on this idea, Helen will be teaching a workshop on July 27 at The¬†Natural Food Shop called "Learn about Herbs Growing in your Neighborhood."
The cost of the class is $10. Sign up by calling (414) 383-4330 and visit The Natural¬†Food Shop website for a complete listing of classes, products and services.
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