Making medicine from nature

And other ways to BeeWell this winter.

She’s in her fourth week with Lyme disease, and Susie Nedley hasn’t taken a single antibiotic. “I decided to treat myself herbally,” Nedley said, sitting within her display of herbal tinctures, oils, and teas at the Annex workspace in Vineyard Haven. “I’m still feeling little twinges of nerve pain, but I’m able to function now. About a month ago, I could barely walk. I was in really bad shape.”

Nedley is a clinical herbalist, and started studying plants when she moved to Martha’s Vineyard 10 years ago. About five years later, she started her business, BeeWell. It’s a hybrid operation. She gardens, forages, tends bees, makes teas, conducts consultations, and mixes herbs to make medicine.

“It’s been pretty amazing to see my body responding to it all,” Nedley said of the herbs she’s using. “I’ve been studying it the past five years, and all of a sudden I’m hit so hard with it. I feel now more than ever I believe in the power of herbal medicine. It’s incredible.”

Each time Nedley talks about herbal medicine, it’s as if she’s talking about it for the first time. She held up a tin of dried lemon balm. “I harvested these from a client’s garden in West Tisbury,” she said. “Lemon balm is good for digestion and relaxation, and is specific to Lyme too. Here, smell it.”

She held up another small mahogany jar. “This healing salve is my favorite,” she said. “It’s made with wild foraged medicinal plants I find in lawns without pesticides or fertilizers. They’re everywhere. I have a client who calls her lawn the freedom lawn, and I’m always picking plantain and yarrow out of her yard. It’s pretty amazing.”

Martha’s Vineyard is the optimal place for Nedley’s business. Not only because of the clientele, but because of its native landscape.

“We’re lucky here,” Nedley said.”We live in a place where they say some plants are really rare. But they’re abundant here. It’s almost like they’re waving — Hey, over here! It’s really awesome having access to so many of these plants.”

Nedley’s business began with just gardening. She noticed, though, that she entered every landscape with more than one intention.

“I tried to turn people’s ordinary landscapes into something edible — something they can connect with,” she said. “I’m always wild foraging and finding things for clients to eat in their yards.”

Take dandelions, for example. “They’re the premier herb for your liver,” she said. “I make tinctures out of them, but the greens are edible. Everyone has liver toxicity, so I feel like everyone could be taking a dandelion tincture or eating dandelion greens or flowers.”

In addition to growing edible gardens and concocting herbal medicines, Nedley also has bees.

“I almost forgot about that part,” she laughed. “I have honey bees in Vineyard Haven, Chilmark, and Aquinnah. They’re amazing. I think they look like little flying teddy bears. They produce all different kinds of honey, depending on what plants they’ve been to.”

Nedley uses honey in her salves and tinctures. Her bees also inspired the brand name and logo of an anatomical heart sketched to look like a beehive.

“Really and truly, I love making medicines, but I love working with people one-on-one the most,” Nedley said. “So that we can figure out what’s happening in your body …

“I do 90-minute consultations with clients. We sit down and discuss entire health history and diet nutrition. We get into psycho-spiritual stuff. Are you happy doing the work you’re doing? Are you happy living in the house you’re living in? Just clues so I can figure out what’s been going on.”

BeeWell has been set up at the Annex for the past two months, and will stay there through January. Every Sunday since the beginning of November, Nedley has facilitated Self-Care Sundays, which give participants herbal and meditative tips.

“Right now we’re doing energy healing and meditation techniques,” Nedley said. “These are techniques I learned in India. I’ve spent the last eight winters traveling there.”

That’s where Nedley’s headed come February, but she’ll continue Self-Care Sundays and daily displays at the Annex until then.

“A lot of people come in curious to see what’s in here,” she said, “And they leave with something that’s really going to help them balance their bodies and support them. Winter’s coming, and the more tools we have, the better.”

In addition to medicines, Nedley makes rosehip face serums, and ginger bitters to help with digestion. “They’re also fun to mix into holiday cocktails,” she added.

She makes goldenrod tinctures for allergy immunity. “Most people think goldenrod is causing their allergies, but it’s actually their antidote,” Nedley said. “Goldenrod doesn’t actually have any pollen, so there’s nothing to be allergic to. This tincture is great for allergy relief.”

Glycerins are another all-encompassing favorite. “You should try this beach rose one,” she said, handing me a bottle. “Put it on top of your tongue. It tastes like Chilmark beach roses. It’s winter medicine to open your heart. It’s a nice way to keep the Island with you when you’re not here.”

She’s also big on medicinal mushrooms. “Adaptogenic medicines are like mycelium under the ground with trees,” Nedley said. “They go toward whatever part of the body is in need, or in a little bit of disfunction. Adaptogenic medicine goes right to that spot. That’s how I use medicinal mushrooms.”

The list is endless. She makes tinctures to help with immunity, to help with sleep, and to bring on appetite. She makes some that help with PMS. She makes oils that relieve headaches, and some just because they smell good.

“I’m blown away by the human body’s brilliance and the relationship we have with herbs. We have so much going on in this world, but plants are living in the same world we are. They’re building the same resilience, having to deal with the same environmental changes.

“I think they have the answers for us. Answers without words.”

 

To shop BeeWell products, visit the Annex during its holiday hours, or visit beewellmv.com.