Meet Lauren Haynes — Founder of Wooden Spoon Herbs
Welcome to my new interview series, “It’s The Remedy!” where I will be introducing you to some of the amazing people I have had the good fortune of knowing. Just as flower remedies can uplift our spirits, people can change our vibration with their loving hearts. Sometimes just being around a positive person who loves you is the best remedy of all.
Not all of my friends are in the healing profession, but they are healers in the way they live their lives. They uplift the people around them with good energy, help those in need and are considerate of how their work impacts individuals and the environment. Many of them have chosen the unconventional path, guided by their true soul’s purpose. I hope you are inspired by their lives and spirits as much as I am.
I met Lauren in New York a few years ago during a trade show. As soon as we met, I knew we spoke the same language: humour. We literally laughed our way through the West Village and by the time we got to our destination we had a fleshed-out idea for our own T.V. show.
Even without her acerbic and quick wit, I would still be one of her biggest fans. Her brand Wooden Spoon Herbs has taken high-quality plant material and Appalachian Wise Woman Herbalist knowledge and brought them to the people in an accessible and fun way.
She’s doing good in the world and in my life.
Read The Interview
Alexis: Lauren, first of all I miss you! For now I will have to accept that we are limited to long text conversations. But soon my friend, soon. I am so excited to introduce you here.
Lauren: Hahaha, hi! Thanks for having me.
Alexis: You live on a lot of land in nature. Will you tell us about it? And how being away from cities has affected your experience of quarantine and all of this craziness?
Lauren: Yes! I have never felt more lucky to live out here. I rent a passive solar two room cabin on a 500 acre conservation easement outside of a little hippie mountain town in northwest Georgia. It's really this oasis hamlet amidst more traditional rural folk, if you catch my drift.
I definitely romanticized living out in the country, and it has exceeded all my expectations, but can also be unnerving at the same time because you're literally on your own. Like, police and hospitals are far away. Really grateful for my herbal knowledge and that we landed softly surrounded by like-minded elders. Anyways, the land, yes, wow. So the boundary of this land is a spring-fed river, one of only two in the Northern Hemisphere that starts and ends on a mountain. As such, it's a very unique biome for many rare species of flora and fauna - salamanders, prehistoric water plants, hawthorn trees. All endangered. It gets filled with trout once a year and I love watching them grow up. There are bears and hawks and wild turkeys and deer all the time.
We converted an old rundown greenhouse into our Wooden Spoon studio and fulfillment center. The owner of the property (we may buy it?) moved out here with no structures, built a greenhouse, lived in that with his wife while they hand built this house, and then grew cacti and succulents and sold them at craft fairs for a living. They are amazing; we see them often.
Ok so to answer your question, yeah it's been a very different quarantine experience for me. Not much has changed, except my socializing went from infrequent to nonexistent. Haha! I am a hermit by nature, but am still missing the world. I'm very much a "go to a city, dip a toe in" kinda gal, but I do miss traveling... Obviously why we haven't seen each other in nine months.
Alexis: How did you get started on your herbalist path?
Lauren: It was a bit of a divine confluence. I got a job at a health food store, I was "backyard foraging" (lols) for like chickweed and violets and plantain and things. Sandor Katz, the wonderful fermentation expert, lives in middle Tennessee, and taught his first fermentation workshop at this wild foods festival in the woods at this eco home of my college professor of ecological conservation. I mean, very small, overlapping social groups. So I was into all of that, fermenting and foraging and learning plants. But I didn't know anything beyond the edible qualities, see. So one day on break at the health food store I wandered into the supplement section, and all these Herb Pharm tinctures were on sale for $5. Now, I'm my grandmother's granddaughter, and I love a bargain. I didn't care what it was, I was going to buy one. So I made a list of all the plants in the tinctures, and looked them up one by one to see which one to buy. Well, you can imagine my mind was blown again and again as I thought, "This plant does WHAT," over and over again. And that was really it. We had this magical used bookstore we went to every weekend (literally pre cognitive connections to this book store, another story for another day) and the next time we went the herbal book section, which I'd never really looked into before but was full of seminal 70's herbalism books, was buy one, get one free. The rest is history.
Alexis: Did you have a different career path before this?
Lauren: Totally, I went to college for journalism and creative nonfiction. I was writing freelance for our local "alternative" paper, and doing well, getting cover features, chasing down checks. I had already decided that it was too competitive a world for me though. And didn't pay. So I was working restaurant jobs, before WSH I was waiting tables at this farm-to-table cafe, very chic for Chattanooga. It was the best job I've ever had before being an herbalist, with the most supportive amazing coworkers and boss. That cafe is the reason Wooden Spoon exists. I blended the teas for the coffee bar and that was the first Wooden Spoon product.
Alexis: What was your first experience with herbs (it’s fine if this is all part of the first question)
Lauren: It's hard to say because I would go on walks around the neighborhood and collect bits of plants that were medicinal and edible and then bring them home and try them all at once. The first herbal tincture that blew my mind was skullcap - wow. So calming. I mean I'd had some drinks and smoked some herbs but never like that... Oh! An early recollection was smoking dried red clover. Haha, we were very experimental then - see also careless, naive. It was the same feeling in your eyes as cannabis, which is still so interesting. A lymph connection? I also remember climbing a cherry tree next to my credit union to harvest cherry blossoms.
Alexis: Do you have a way of practicing herbalism that might be different from other herbalists? (Herbs for dummies please)?
Lauren: Hmm, yeah I mean it's a very personal practice. There are things I do that I don't share with anyone, or share maybe with like one other herbalist friend. Like, totally separate from the brand because herbalism, like any practice, is just really intimate.
Anyway, I was trained by a fifth generation herbalist in rural Alabama, Phyllis D. Light, who is a total genius healer. Our school was the house next door to hers, which was as charming as it sounds, and my class of ten became deeply connected. Phyllis teaches a convergence of western European, Indigenous and African traditions. The South was really a convergence of all of those influences. She's a card-carrying member of the Creek nation herself. Anyway, the herbal paradigm is energetic, elemental.
Everything is through the lens of earth, air, fire, water. In a different way than TCM or Ayurveda, but from the same spirit. Just a different language and flair. She also taught hyperlocal herbs, which was my passion as well, so I know the local species that's an analog to all the herbs of commerce, but would never ever ever sell those publicly. We use some at home though, as needed.
Alexis: What’s your favourite Alexis Smart Flower Remedy and why?
Lauren: Unburden! And my custom remedy. I take those most often and keep them on my desk. I love everything you do though; you're truly such a brilliant practitioner. I love Unburden because I own a small business, and I'm a fiery person who likes to just burn up my energy without a second thought. This helps me release that grip on the "have to do more" feeling.
Alexis: You and I share the same philosophy of healing, which deals with the root cause of illness. With flower remedies, we look at emotional wounds and how they show up physically. Please talk about your idea about root cause of illness and how herbs address this.
Lauren: 100%. I mean, real healing is moving through something, and getting to the root of it. I can take a drying herb to stop my post-nasal drip, or I can work with gut healing herbs and nutrition to address the food allergy that's making my post-nasal drip happen so that it doesn't return and I'm more aware of my body. Wouldn't you rather the second? (Side note, I'm watching deer run though the woods right now. They're playing!) So root cause is my thing, every herbalist's thing. I'm happy to help alleviate discomfort in the meantime, but you better believe we don't stop there.
My clients have seen big shifts with the smallest adjustments for this reason, and that's the most gratifying thing for me. It always goes deeper, and once the physical / mental is addressed, I love to layer on flower remedies for energetic shifts.
Alexis: We also discovered in our first meeting that we are both writers and both want to write a novel. What are a few of your favourite novels?
Lauren: Oh gosh I feel like I haven't read a novel in ages - ever since I discovered herbalism it's been an endless knowledge quest. I've also started reading business books a bit. Ok but let's see... last year Kerrilynn (Kerrilynn Pamer of CAP Beauty) talked me into reading H is for Hawk, which I loved because it was very sad and about falconry and healing. I just started watching Outlander, does that count? The book I'm reading now is about herbal phytochemistry and extraction on a molecular level. It's fantastic.
Alexis: Favourite way to destress?
Lauren: Canoeing, lying on hot rocks in the sun, reading in the hammock.
Alexis: Any tips for our readers on how to stay healthy and grounded as winter approaches?
Lauren: Pay the utmost attention to your energy levels. Don't overdo it! Make sure your nutrition is on point - lots of brothy soups and seasonal veg. Get as much sun on your skin as you can.
Alexis: Do you have something in your line that would be a good all around tonic for right now?
Lauren: You know we do. I've been drinking our Mushroom Cocoa every morning, which is so supportive of the immune and nervous systems and it six powdered mushroom extracts, cacao, mesquite and vanilla bean. It tastes like this hot cocoa blend my Mimi used to make that was mostly Nesquik. And it tastes like Ovaltine. Then I've also been taking shots of our Fire Cider daily, which is raw apple cider vinegar infused with onions, garlic, ginger, lemons and thyme.
Alexis: What is your dream/fantasy of what you will do once travel restrictions are lifted? (Besides come visit me :)
Lauren: Oh my gosh, yes coming to the desert, heading to upstate NY, I want to visit Eugene, Oregon, and then I want to go to the Scottish Isles. Big plans. I feel like my retail therapy outfits from being in quarantine need to see the light of day.
Alexis: Anything else you want to say?
Lauren: Just thanks again for having me, I love you so much, you're amazing and a genius.
Alexis: Love to you Lauren!!
Lauren: I love you, this was my favorite interview EVER!!!