By Jacquelyn Dobrinska
With a solid foundation, they announce transition
Red Moon Herbs—the most established small-scale herbal company in the region, respected for making potent, high-quality extracts from fresh, local, and abundant plant sources—announces its twentieth anniversary with a change in leadership. New Director, owner and long-time herbalist, Jeannie Dunn will carry on Red Moon Herb’s tradition of making herbs that are not only helpful for our health but also sustainable for our planet.
“We stand apart,” says Jeannie, who took over the position from Corinna Wood this winter, “in part because we are committed to using fresh, local herbs.”
Red Moon Herbs is a leader in an emerging movement of herbalists who recognize that plants growing in abundance, often overlooked as weeds or invasive, have actions that powerfully support structures and functions of the body. “Many local ‘weeds’ are shouting their invitations, asking us to receive their medicine,” says Jeannie. “We simply need to listen. When we do, we gain great benefits for our body and mind, while also reducing the industry’s impact on the earth.”
She says that working with local, abundant herbs helps protect diversity. As the medical paradigm shifts, more people are choosing alternative approaches to their healthcare, including herbal supports. Some of the more popular herbs are declining from over-harvesting and development. So turning instead to local, abundant herbs with similar actions helps protect these species.
It also has the added benefits of decreasing our carbon footprint while supporting our local economy. Instead of turning to the exotic herbs from distant lands, which may not be sustainably grown or organic, “going local” with herbs means less energy is used to ship raw materials to our shore, we can guarantee their source and our dollars go back into our community.
Another benefit of local, abundant herbs is that they makes a more potent finished product. According to Corinna Wood, who founded the company, “Fresh plants contain more vitality, which can be directly transferred into the brewing extracts. In contrast, the vast majority of herbal extracts are made from dried plant material that has been stored a long time. In storage, the herbs oxidize and reduce in potency and vitality.”
“This is simple, earth-based healing,” she continues. “The heart of the Wise Woman Tradition and the foundation of this business.”
Corinna started Red Moon Herbs with her dear friend Jessica Godino in 1994. After receiving a Bachelor of Science, with a focus on botany, biology and nutrition, Corinna apprenticed with world-renowned herbalist Susun Weed in 1993 – the woman who has been holding the voice for the Wise Woman Tradition for over 30 years. Beginning with the standard six-week apprenticeship, Corinna ended up living and working at Susun’s side for nine months.
According to Susun Weed, The Wise Woman Tradition places the responsibility and power of health into the hands of the people, recognizing that life is ever-changing and disease are simply doorways to change. She writes, “The Wise Woman Tradition brings with it openness to change, flexibility and compassionate embodiment, even while dancing with cancer or healing from serious accidents. It is about uniqueness rather than normalcy. Not a cure, but an integration; not the elimination of bad, but a nourishing of wholeness/health/holiness.”
The tradition includes herbal medicine, nourishing foods and nurturing lifestyle practices. As Corinna began to embody of these principles, she found not only her passion, but also the foundation for a truly holistic approach to living. Health issues she had struggled with – including cervical dysplasia, amenorrhea, and Lyme’s Disease – began to heal.
She began to share these principles, practices and herbal medicines with friends and family, and soon she and Jessica began making and supplying the herbal tinctures and salves. In response to the high demand they started Red Moon Herbs, and in the years that followed, Red Moon grew into a full-fledged business including mail order and wholesale accounts nationwide.
As people learned about their approach to herbs and health, the business continued to grow. In 2001, Jessica left to become a licensed acupuncture, bridging eastern and western herbalism, and Corinna stayed on board to nurture the company’s expansion. Increasing nearly fourfold in size, customers and clients began to find the company’s tinctures, salves and vinegars not only online and in catalogues, but at food co-ops, organic grocery stores and even veterinary clinics around the region.
In 2007, the FDA passed new Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations that governed dietary supplements for the first time, including herbal medicines. These new regulations hurt many small herbal companies, but Red Moon Herbs, with the help of A-B Tech Bionetwork and Small Business Technology Development Center, rose to the occasion and opportunity. Since the FDA published GMP protocols for dried herbs, not fresh, Red Moon Herbs needed to create different protocols to stay true to their roots. Working meticulously from scratch, the staff and supporting organizations established detailed manufacturing and record-keeping protocols for fresh plant material that is in keeping with the GMP standards of today.
The work was rewarded. Today, Red Moon Herbs is renowned for their high level of quality and integrity, staying true to their founding principles while supporting people in promoting and sustaining health in all of its many forms.
Their line includes over 60 products. Many of them are herbal formulas, combinations of herbs that work together synergistically. Yet, a large number of them are “simples”. A “simple” is one herb used at a time, and a “simpler” is a type of herbalist who works with simples.
The philosophy behind simples is, well, simple. Herbalism is known as “the people’s medicine”. To be such, it must be easy to understand and use, no fancy degrees or certificates, just direct experience and folk wisdom. Since each herb has a specific personality and a specific way of acting, the philosophy suggests that best way to get to know an herb is to develop a one-on-one relationship with it. In a formula, it might be hard to tell which herb is doing what. In a simple, it’s like having tea with a trusted friend, you get to know its unique personality, both its strengths and its limitations.
The simpler experiences one herb’s effect on their body, mind and health. This simple act of tuning into oneself can foster better health. Combining it with healing plants can help build a circle of herbal allies that called upon in many different situations. Simplers find this extremely empowering!
For 20 years Corinna has helped people build these intimate circle of herbal allies. So, when Jeannie approached her this past year about the business, Corinna said that it felt like her child had grown into a beautiful being who was ready to leave home.
“I am delighted that Jeannie has all the strengths — head, heart, and herbal — to oversee both the art and the science of this earth-based, Wise Woman herbal business and apothecary!” says Corinna. With the transition Corinna is able to direct more of her attention to Southeast Wise Women, including the ninth annual Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference held this October 11-13 outside of Asheville.
Jeannie does have all of those strengths. She comes from generations of family farming in the Piedmont and has been making medicines and wild crafting herbs in the mountains for many years.
She grew up in a true back-to-basics lifestyle where she picked strawberries, canned vegetables and pulled weeds with her parents and three siblings. In the 1990s, she left the family farm with a passion to learn about the old ways of Appalachian and the plants that heal. She studied herbalism at the NC school of Natural Healing and One World Healing Arts, and as she learned she found that what she used to toss as weeds as a kid, could be wild crafted and made into tinctures and salves.
Now she loves making medicines and, to help make herbal extracts more chic, has started to include elixirs and tonics into the company.
Two elixirs came out in recently. The Elderberry Elixir, which is made with local elderberries, organic sugar alcohol and raw mountain honey, and is used to support healthy immune function. This she adds this to sparkling water for a tasty drink.
The other elixir includes three powerful, locally harvested mushrooms – Reishi, Turkey tail and Chaga – all of which have been historically used to promote longevity. This she adds to teas.
In addition making more elixirs, Jeannie is passionate about land conservation and protection, recognizing that human health is intertwined with the health of the earth. As development and “forest maintenance” destroys non-timber forest products like herbs and wildflowers, Jeannie spends much of her time working on land protection initiatives and exploring collaborations within the herbal industry. This spring, she spearheaded the first annual Earth Day event at Warren Wilson College, Go Wild with Herbs, a celebration aimed at bringing the community together to discuss needs within the herbal industry and potentials to land protection.
Even with this additional focus, Jeannie’s is committed to maintaining the 20-year integrity of this unique and solid herbal extracts company. She has kept the core production staff; continues to harvest many of the herbs from their original sources; and is diligent about adhering to the original GMP guidelines. With these strong roots, the company is simply growing some new shoots and reaching further out into the community and region.
You will find Red Moon Herbs cropping up at some of the farmer’s markets this summer, including Asheville City Market, as well as at local health food stores. It will also continue to be a proud supporter of the annual Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference.
For more information about Red Moon Herbs go to www.RedMoonHerbs.com.
For more information about the Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference go to www.SEWiseWomen.com.