By Rebecca Sloan

Farm offers natural solutions

Herbal teas, soaps, fresh herbs and so much more can be found at Moonhawk Herbals.

VIENNA — When most people gaze upon a garden of herbs, they see green leaves and blossoms.

Jennifer Rich, a certified herbalist at Moonhawk Herbals in Vienna, sees a God-given pharmacy.

“For every ailment suffered by mankind, there is a plant to heal it,” Jennifer said. “That’s how it was intended. God put every plant on this earth for a purpose.”

Moonhawk Herbals specializes in medicinal herbs to treat everything from depression, to insomnia, to allergies.

Browse the herb farm’s retail store, and you’ll find products to enhance weight loss, ease premenstrual syndrome and improve circulation, just to name a few.

You’ll also find products designed for pure enjoyment, such as the fragrant herbal soaps and candles.

Some of the products are made on site. Others come from well-known companies such as Bach Healing Remedies from England, Prince of Peace, Ron Teeguarden’s Dragon Herbs, Nature’s Way, RidgeCrest Herbals, Apollo Herbs, Aura Cacia and Kabbalah, just to name a few.

“We are the largest distributor of Dragon herbs in Ohio,” said Ron Rich, manager of the Moonhawk Herbals retail store. “We also buy some of our products from smaller businesses. For example, we get our herbal soaps from a woman in Lancaster, Pa.”

Ron is Jennifer’s dad, and he’s been managing Moonhawk Herbals retail store since it opened in April 2005.

Sandy Simon owns Moonhawk Herbals and lives on the herb farm, but she prefers not to do interviews.

“Sandy used to raise quarter horses here on the farm,” Ron explained. “She became interested in herbs about 18 years ago. She started by making her own teas and salves, and she became very knowledgeable in herbal treatments.”

Ron said Sandy opened Moonhawk Herbals because she wanted to share her knowledge of herbs and allow herbs to help others the way they had helped her.

Sandy has passed much of that knowledge along to Ron and Jennifer.

Jennifer now makes many of the teas sold at Moonhawk Herbals. She has invented some of the flavors herself and will even concoct custom-made teas to suit a client’s needs.

“We have the largest herbal tea selection in the area,” Jennifer said as she pointed to shelves lined with bags of tea in every flavor imaginable. “I have full faith in them. I try all of these myself before I sell them.”

To make the teas, Jennifer harvests and dries the herbs.

“Every herb needs to be harvested at a different time of year and in a different way, so the harvesting keeps me busy,” she said.

Each tea is designed to ease a particular ailment.

There’s one to treat headaches, one to curb symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, one to improve memory and one for bladder infections, for example.

Jennifer said her personal favorite is a tea made with stinging nettle.

“Stinging nettle is my all-time favorite herb,” she said. “It is used for many ailments including allergies, asthma and inflammation.”

Just don’t touch it while it’s growing in its natural state.

“It really will sting you,” Jennifer said. “But after it’s harvested and dried, it is safe to touch and has so many beneficial uses.”

It’s not every day that you find a local greenhouse that sells stinging nettle, and herb enthusiasts will be thrilled by the variety of herbs for sale at Moonhawk Herbals.

The farm has nearly 30 varieties of mint, eight varieties of lavender, 14 varieties of thyme, six varieties of oregano, 15 varieties of sage, 12 varieties of basil and numerous herbs you can’t find at other greenhouses.

Some of these herbs have unusual names such as rupturewort and Joe-pye weed and feverfew.

Customers can buy potted herbs at one of the farm’s three greenwhouses, or — in season — they can buy freshly-dug field-grown herbs that are much hardier and easier to establish in a garden.

“People can also come in and buy a bunch of fresh herbs for cooking,” Jennifer said. “We sell herbs year-round from our greenhouses.”

And, of course, everything at Moonhawk Herbals is organic.

Speaking of culinary endeavors – Moonhawk Herbals also sells natural health food products such as goji berries and raw honey.

“Sugar is one of the worst things you can eat,” Ron said. “Raw honey can be used as a substitute for sugar, and it tastes wonderful and is good for you.”

The store also sells a healthy substitute for coffee called Dandy Blend that’s made from a mixture of dandelion, chicory and sugar beet roots.

“Many people think of dandelions as weeds, but they actually have many uses,” Ron said. “This coffee substitute smells and tastes just like coffee. It’s perfect for people trying to break their coffee habit.”

Goji juice, organic food bars and dark chocolate bon-bons with pine nuts are among some of the other yummy and healthy edibles for sale in the store, which is open year-round.

The greenhouses are also open all year.

Jennifer said she spends most of the winter harvesting herbs and making teas, herbal extracts and other products sold in the store.

Jennifer became a certified herbalist under the instruction of nationally known herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, the author of several herb books and the founder of International Herb Symposium, The New England Women’s Herbal Conference and Sage Mountain in Vermont.

People who are interested in learning more about herbs will be pleased to know that Jennifer plans to start offering educational classes at Moonhawk Herbals.

“We are renovating one of the [former quarter horse] arenas and turning it into a place where we can hold classes and seminars,” Jennifer said. “We plan to have our first class either the last week of July or the first week of August. It will be a basic introduction on herbs.”

Many area herb guilds have toured Moonhawk Herbals, and Jennifer said anyone is welcome to come peruse the gardens and see what’s growing.

Just watch out for that stinging nettle!

“We have a sign up warning people that it really will sting them,” she said.

Pets can benefit from herbs, too.

Ron said pennyroyal and mint are natural flea repellants, and the Moonhawk Herbals store sells an all-natural herbal flea collar that keeps fleas at bay.

Both Jennifer and Ron said there is a new enthusiasm for all-natural approaches to health.

“People are becoming aware that there are so many things out there that are bad for you that you put into your body,” Jennifer said. “The hormones in the meats, the pesticides on the fruits and vegetables, the medications that lead to more health problems – people are looking for natural, healthier alternatives.”

It’s important to note that not all herbal products are created equal.

“Products made from fresh herbs work the best,” Jennifer said. “I know people who have taken St. John’s wort for depression and had great results, but I also know of people who have taken St. John’s wort of a lesser quality and not had any results. If you go into a mainstream health store, you may not be getting products that are as fresh or potent as what you can find here at Moonhawk Herbals.”

It’s also important to note that many herbal products are not tested or approved by the FDA.

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