“I’ve always loved nature and being in nature,” says Lauren Haynes, who grew up in East Brainerd and went to Ooltewah High School. Though she graduated from UTC with a degree in communications, an interest in wild foods and fermentation led her down a different path. “I was led to using plants as remedies, and when I realized that was possible, it just kind of took over my world.”
Lauren is the founder, owner, and herbalist of Wooden Spoon Herbs, “a small batch herbal apothecary.” It grew out of her “personal herbal practice and curiosity about the incredibly rich bio-diverse region of southern Appalachia,” and led her to locate her business in the mountains of north Georgia. Her company’s name evokes the essence of herbalism: remedies made in the kitchen from what we have around us; the tool itself is made from a natural source and is found in every Southern kitchen.
Treating illness and promoting well-being with herbal remedies has been practiced since prehistoric times, as humans instinctively experimented with plants to cure their diseases. The oldest written account of using plants medicinally is from Sumer (Iraq) 5,000 years ago and refers to 250 plants used by Sumerians for healing. Which plants were efficacious was initially discovered through experience – trial and error. The Egyptians, Chinese, East Indians, and Greeks built on that early knowledge, expanding and recording the list of medicinal plants and the Bible lists various aromatic plants used during healing ceremonies. People continued throughout the following centuries trying and documenting new plants, until more than 1,000 had been described. In the Middle Ages, the French and English referred to medicinal plants as simples and to herbalists as simplers. These were usually woman who grew plants and herbs, then made them into tinctures, salves and ointments The word apothecary also has ancient origins, dating back to 2600 B.C. in Babylon, where symptoms, prescriptions, and directions for compounding them were written on clay tablets.
As Chattanooga continued to develop, Lauren decided to move away from the heart of the city and found the perfect place on Lookout Mountain, where she lives in a cabin in the woods. “It’s amazing to be so close to nature,” Lauren says, “and to see the plants that I use all the time.” She began educating herself by reading “every book on herbal medicine I could find. I cleaned out the herbal medicine shelf at The Book Company, which used to be on Ringgold Road,” she says. A more formal education in clinical herbalism followed.
Lauren lives and works in an extremely bio-diverse area that lends itself to herbalism. Initially, she grew or gathered all the ingredients herself, but as the business grew, that became impractical. Today she works with small farms all over the country that grow everything she needs. Shipments come from her farmer partners and are sorted and filed, then blended into tea formulas, salves, creams, sprays, tinctures, and syrups. A tincture, for example, is steeped for six weeks, strained, and then bottled. Each product is produced in a similar way: grown, gathered, prepared, and packaged, with care, by hand.
Wooden Spoon Herbs offers a variety of products designed to promote and support good health. At this time of year, Elderberry Rosehip Elixir is popular because it builds the immune system. Anxiety Ally is formulated to keep us grounded and calm and to soothe frazzled nerves. Creaky Joint is a salve that aids the musculoskeletal system and circulation and soothes inflammation, too. For colds, Appalachian Cold Care Tisane benefits the immune system and the lungs. And Lauren recommends the company’s herbal hot cocoa blends, which are made just like hot chocolate but include various herbs to promote well-being. Each product has a complete description of its ingredients and their health benefits. Lauren’s products are carried by boutiques and shops around the country, and individuals can buy online at woodenspoonherbs.com.