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67 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT, 05701
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Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) promotes local food knowledge, production and market opportunities for farmers and community members throughout our region.

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Herbal Medicine is Taking Root in “Grooveland”

Phil Gurley

By Lindsay Arbuckle Courcelle      

Taking Root’s display at the Rutland Winter Farmers Market (provided photo)

Taking Root’s display at the Rutland Winter Farmers Market (provided photo)

The Rutland Winter Farmers Market at the Vermont Farmers Food Center has grown into a one-stop shop for many customers. Not only can you find high quality meat, produce, eggs, and prepared foods, but also wine, soap, dog treats, and even medicine.

It’s not the same selection of medicine as the corner drug store, but visit the Taking Root booth and you are sure to find something to improve your health.

Taking Root is a new business started by Rutland-area native Lani Courtney, an herbalist trained at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism (VCIH) in Montpelier. Put simply, herbalism uses plants for medicinal purposes. Herbs have been used by humans as food and as medicine for thousands of years, and modern medicine often validates what our ancestors instinctively knew about the medicinal power of plants.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, stated in 431 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This is a different approach than that taken by many modern Americans—food is sadly not often connected to health on a meal-to-meal basis, and medicine is used only once the symptoms of illness have set in. Instead, herbal medicine promotes both a healthy diet and the use of plant medicine on a regular basis, not just to heal you when you’re sick but to prevent the illness in the first place.

Lani is quick to say that modern, technological medicine has a role, but it is secondary. “I see herbalism as a Nature-based option that can empower primary medicine to be practiced at home, the use of pharmaceuticals/invasive medicine to then serve as a secondary resource, and the herbalist is the educational bridge between the two. The issue today isn’t whether the best choice is synthetic pharmaceuticals or natural herbs, as that is as complicated as the individual and illness being considered.  The issue is that we have options—and as thankful as I am for modern drugs, many of our everyday issues can be addressed from a holistic approach.”

At the Taking Root booth, you’ll find a variety of herbal products, including herbal teas, syrups, and salves. You can try a sample of the hot tea of the day, which changes each Saturday. The teas are packaged in tins with nice labels and clear lids, so that you can see the colorful mixture of herb leaves and flowers inside. My favorite is “Habitual Bliss,” a blend of linden, nettles, oat tops, lemon balm, peppermint, red clover, and rose petals.

The Fire Cider, a mixture of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar infused with a cocktail of super strong anti-microbial herbs (garlic, ginger, horseradish, cayenne, turmeric, etc) and raw honey, has been a huge success. Lani says, “It’s a sweet-spicy-sour mix that will get your blood pumping and fight off any invading germs.”

The elderberry syrup has also been a favorite of mine this winter—a delicious combination of anti-viral elderberries and raw honey to keep illness at bay. The syrup can be taken by the spoonful, and it is very tasty. Taking Root has several other products, including a Heal-All Salve and Pain Salve, to be rubbed on the skin.

Best of all, Lani is there to tell you about her different herbal products. All of the ingredients she uses are organic or ethically wild harvested, including herbs she’s grown herself. For her first year, she has sourced herb plants and ingredients from local farms like Yoder Farm and Alchemy Gardens, as well as Zach Woods Herb Farm, an herb farm in northern Vermont.

When asked if she has witnessed any miraculous healing through herbal medicine, Lani told me that she has “customers that melt my heart returning each week to stock up on the tea that allows them to walk up the stairs and stop using Ibuprofen.” Through her work at VCIH, which offers consultations with sliding-scale fees, Lani has seen clients overcome lifelong injuries, and eliminate half a dozen medications through a transition to herbal medicine.

Just as healing as Lani’s medicine is her inspirational feeling about Rutland, which she often calls “Grooveland” in an attempt to encourage people to “get out of the Rut and move into the Groove.”

“Someone at the market told me that ‘people think Rutland lacks culture, but what we lack is pride.’ And I see a community that is brimming with culture, and now genuine pride springing up everywhere!  At this point in my life, belonging to a community that is passionate about grassroots change is inspiring and completing.”

Whether you’re feeling healthy or ill, a stop at Taking Root will no doubt get you into the groove, thanks to Lani’s healing heart and the magical power of plants.

Lindsay Arbuckle Courcelle and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a farm business growing vegetables and herbs in West Rutland. Learn more at http://www.AlchemyGardensVT.com.

Originally published in the Rutland Herald.