Way before green was hot and locally-grown was cool, Avena Botanicals was growing its own answers to healthcare conundrums.
“Healing begins in the garden,” says Deb Soule. She should know. She’s been growing medicinal herbs and turning them into medicines since 1985, the year she founded Avena Botanicals and began to teach others about the healing qualities of plants.
In 1995, Avena moved to its current Rockport location, four miles from the ocean, where Soule (pronounced like the bottom of your shoe or the music of Aretha Franklin) designed and planted a large organic and biodynamic herb garden. The garden contains over 125 different medicinal herbs and plants. In the adjacent apothecary, housed in a farmhouse built in the 1830s, Soule and her all-female team run a thriving retail and mail-order business that supplies herbal medicines to a growing market. Products include liquid extracts, creams and salves, teas, herbal powders and supplements, oils, and health remedies for women and children.
It’s a year-round operation, beginning in March with sprouts in the greenhouse. In addition to production of herbal remedies, Avena also holds classes for locals interested in expanding their knowledge of herbal medicines.
“Our most popular products vary with the seasons, but our Heal-All Salve is consistently a top-seller,” says Nadine Gallagher, Avena’s office manager. She says the salve “can heal anything from minor cuts and abrasions to relieving radiation burns for cancer patients.” Another popular item, especially in winter, is their Be Well herbal compound tincture. Designed to support the body’s immune system, the product is a long-term, in-house staff favorite for preventing and shortening colds and flus.
“All of our products are handmade,” Gallagher notes. She’s not kidding: The staff manually harvest and process the herbs, and hand pour, label, and bottle them in the farmhouse.
As one would expect, everything Avena offers, Gallagher says, “is completely artificial preservative-, toxicant-, and cruelty-free.”