By now you’ve seen (if not purchased!) Tangle Chocolate’s best selling Winter in New England gift box. It’s full of products to keep you cozy and healthy and happy through a cold winter. One of the items in the box is Elderberry Syrup, an immune booster, made by Sweet Birch Herbals in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
My favorite thing about this syrup, setting aside that it’s delicious and non-alcoholic, is where I get to go to pick it up. A half hour of backroad meandering through farms with gorgeous views of distant mountains leads to a small wooden barn on the roadside with hand painted welcome signs. A tug opens the sliding door and reveals a well-stocked herbal shop and...wait for it...on the other side of a partition, a family or two of goats. They are the sweetest ever, and they and their feed hay smell wonderful. Plus, they heat the shop!
Hannah Jacobson-Hardy of Sweet Birch Herbals
Sweet Birch Herbals founder Hannah Jacobson-Hardy got interested in herbalism while experiencing stress leading to digestive issues as an undergrad student at UMass Amherst. A friend suggested she turn to herbalism to help her find more balance and relief, so Hannah tried taking herbs and they worked wonders.
Hannah graduated and became a full-time goat farmer while studying Community Herbalism. In addition to growing most of her food, she discovered the magic of making medicine from her herb gardens. Eventually her work with herbs began to take over her garden and house until she began her own business in 2014. Today, Sweet Birch Herbals is a community herbal medicine company that offers a wide range of seasonal herbal products, workshops, apprenticeships and consultations.
Hannah wishes that people knew that herbalism is the most widely used form of medicine in the world and it is thousands of years old. While it is generally safe to take herbs, there are some combinations or specific herbs about which one should consult with an expert, and always consult with your doctor. It’s a holistic practice, Hannah says. “Herbalism looks at the whole person, not just a symptom. My intention is to get to the root of the issue and work on all levels: mental, spiritual, and physical, inviting more balance into the person.”
About Elderberry Syrup
The elderberry syrup in Tangle Chocolate's Winter in New England gift box is made from elderberries, of course! Elderberries grow in wet, marshy areas, and are loaded with vitamin C. Hannah just planted 100 elderberry plants on her farm, but until they are mature, she harvests from Bug Hill Farm just up the road in Ashfield. Elderberries are full of antioxidants and anti-viral properties, which makes the syrup perfect for cold and flu season. “It can prevent you from getting sick, or if you take it while you’re already sick, it can shorten the length of illness.” One tablespoon up to four times daily is a safe dosage.
Herbalism in Western Massachusetts
Hannah loves working and living in Western Massachusetts because the area experiences all of the seasons fully, and there are so many microclimates in the area. She says, “Herbalism connects me to the seeds and to the cycles of the earth.” This connection reminds her that there are no coincidences in the natural world, and that there is a higher reason behind her connections with certain plants. “Plants are our oldest relationships,” she says, “and we’ve evolved together.” A new and exciting direction her work is moving is leading group and personal plant journeys incorporating shamanic practices.
During her Wild Edibles and Medicinal Herbs apprenticeship, Hannah invites each student to meet the plants in their environments before she shares too much information about them. That way, her students build unique relationships with the plant world using all their senses. Plants have spirits and “personalities,” for lack of a better word. Often the exact herbal medicines we need are already growing in our backyards or in the sidewalks of city neighborhoods. That is what Hannah loves about herbalism: it reminds her that everything we need is already here, waiting to be discovered. Her consultations and shamanic offerings guide people to wholeness with this lens that the Earth provides and we have enough.
Hannah is also grateful that Western Massachusetts is home to so many entrepreneurs who make beautiful handmade products, such as Tangle, and she is always open to collaborating with fellow small business owners. See all the goodness at https://www.sweetbirchherbals.com/