An herb farm in Steuben County is growing medicinal products for people who live nearby and pharmaceutical companies.
The married couple behind Healing Spirits Herb Farm and Education Center aren’t clinical herbalists, but with their extensive resume they’re sharing their knowledge on the world of plants.
“We’ve been farming herbs for about 25 years, and I got started in it because of the man I married,” Co-Owner Andrea Reisen said. “He’s a plant man.”
Andrea and Matthias Reisen live on 30 acres of land in Avoca. They’ve lived on their property since 1982 and started off dairy farming. About ten years later, they transitioned to herb production and growing.
“We grow about 60 to 70 different medicinals and botanicals,” Matthias said. “We dry them. We ship them fresh and dry all over the United States.”
They sell to local residents, other herbalists, and herbal pharmaceuticals.
“One of the biggest ones is actually Japanese knotweed which is an invasive, and that is used a lot by the herbal pharmaceutical industry for treating Lyme disease,” Matthias said.
One medicinal herb that’s in season now is the sweet birch bark. In order to harvest it, you must strip the branch with a sharp tool. The bark emits a wintergreen scent that you can put in your teas or use as an essential oil.
It’s dried for 24 hours before placed in tea.
According to WebMD, birch is effective for arthritis, achy joints, hair loss, rashes, and more. Mixing it with reishi mushrooms, organic cocoa powder, and maple syrup makes for a flavorful and wholesome tea.
“It’s a spring tonic,” Andrea said. “Because we’ve come through the winter, our bodies can be a little depleted, so when you get the sweet birch bark, the sap’s coming back up into the tree and bringing the nutrients back up to the tree to go into leaf growth.”
One thing the couple enjoys is teaching people the power of plants.
“We want to explain what other trees, what other shrubs can people use to help give a better quality of life or improve their health,” Matthias said. “It’s all available there.”
The couple adds that although plants have been used medicinally by many cultures, they advise to seek advice of a qualified health practitioner before using their products because different people can react differently to herbs.