Lauren Haynes is a folk herbalist, medicine maker, plant enthusiast, and the founder of Wooden Spoon Herbs, a small apothecary line based in the Appalachian mountains. Take a look at Lauren’s shop offerings, and you’ll be immersed in a world of plant-powered tinctures, salves, oxymels, and teas, each one more magical than the other.
In this interview, Lauren tells us about self-care as a form of self-respect, kindness as a form of beauty, her favorite plants for stress, beauty, and colds (and more!), the importance of sourcing her ingredients locally and working with what’s available, as well as exercise, sustenance, inspiration, procrastination, and much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
Oh, open and free, absolutely. Since I work from home, things end up being pretty routine: tea, emails, breakfast. But if I have my way I love to see how the day unfolds uninhibited.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
Most mornings start with a hot tea or something creamy with raw milk and occasionally marshmallows. I check and return emails first thing, then I’ll meditate and make some breakfast and get to work. On lazier mornings we’ll go into the small town nearby and eat eggs benedict and read the paper.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
My new favorite nighttime tool is the Flux app for my computer. It gradually turns your screen from blue light to orange with the arc of the day, so the blue light doesn’t deter melatonin production come bedtime. Other than that, just reading a great book until my eyes get tired. Living out in the county where it’s dark and quiet helps me sleep soundly every night.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – smoked salmon omelette with sauteéd greens
Lunch – egg salad sandwich with a bowl of good soup
Snack – fruit or hummus or a little chocolate
Dinner – soul food: pinto beans, cornbread, a baked sweet potato and collard greens, topped with hot sauce and ferments and a slice of blue cheese
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
I drink tea most mornings. Sometimes matcha or Earl Grey, or sometimes just ginger and lemon balm, to ground and calm myself before a hectic day.
— Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, how do you keep it in check?
Um… yes, check. I have a major sweet tooth and Lily’s stevia-sweetened chocolate bars save my life.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
Right now my regimen includes fish oil, Mother’s Best beef liver pills, a tincture of medicinal mushrooms, and evening primrose oil. I also love using lymphatic herbs steeped in vinegar throughout the year. Every spring I steep whatever edible herbs are coming up naturally in raw apple cider vinegar: plantain, violet leaf, dead nettle, dandelion greens, chickweed and cleavers. That lasts me all year and keeps me feeling vital, just a spoonful a day.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I try to exercise but if I have a full schedule it’s the first thing I cut out. I live on a tract of wilderness, so walking a few miles a day is super easy and I do that interspersed with yoga when I’m feeling too tired to get outside.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
A little bit of both! It’s definitely hard to make the time for it since I work from home and just go, go, go. I definitely find walking in the woods pleasurable, so that keeps me motivated to exercise. I can’t even imagine going to a gym… Maybe someday. Exercise is something I’m starting to get excited about.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
True beauty is when someone makes you feel like your soul is illuminated by the way that they treat you. That’s what is beautiful to me. If I want external beauty, I’ll just scroll Instagram for a bit, you know? But true kindness is actual beauty.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
Laidback is how I would describe my skincare routine. See also: erratic. I use a rosewater and witch hazel toner daily (Poppy & Someday), followed by a blend of rosehip and carrot seed oil (Zizia Botanicals). Sometimes I use a gentle rose quartz scrub on my face (Aquarian Soul), followed by oil cleansing, but usually I’m pretty lowkey.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
Yes! Nettle and alfalfa infusions, and also evening primrose oil internally.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
Drink tons of water, sleep as much as you can, and wear red lipstick.
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
Consistent routines are hard for me, but I am constantly checking in to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed by stress, even if that means five minutes of yoga in the middle of the day.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
I really love regular acupuncture treatments and massage, as well as daily meditation and moxibustion. Calming teas that ease tension, like ginger and chamomile. Also just goofing off as much as I can get away with. You can’t be silly and stressed at the same time.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
My first line of defense is a few dropperfuls of fire cider. I make one called Sunshine Cider with turmeric and rosehips, but my friend Gretchen made me some with habanero peppers and that always helps me stay on the right side of health. Fire cider, a shot of elderberry syrup and then some red root tincture, an amazing lymphatic herb that relieves a sore throat.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
They definitely bleed together, as I work from home and run my business with my partner. I try to take the weekends off and get out of the house daily to break up the work mode, even if it’s just a drive to the post office. Luckily, I love my work because it’s a huge part of my life.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
Honestly, mindfulness is key. Just checking in with myself constantly to see how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling that way and what I need. I just take little tea or chocolate breaks or go put some sun on my face or make a nourishing meal. A hot shower if I’m feeling cold. Self massage if I’m feeling anxious. Shutting the computer if I’m getting tired. And making time for the little things that make me happy, like reading a book.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Cleaning up my diet was key for me in resolving a lot of health issues. In college I was just eating garbage and drinking alcohol and doing all the teenage things. Once I realized that you’re literally what you eat, and started treating my body with respect, a lot shifted for me. I really feel like that small change helped align me with the path I’m on now, which is 100% what I’m supposed to be doing.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
I’m usually brimming with ideas and running myself ragged trying to make them all happen, so if I struggle with anything it’s occasional procrastination. Usually this looks like doing the easier things on my to-do list before the hard-hitting work chores, which isn’t such a bad thing. I just kind of let myself have some slower times, because I work really hard. I may sip tea and pull tarot cards and then eventually get a burst of energy. Or sometimes I do nothing for like two full days.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
So, so many. I love The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, as well as so many books from the 70s by obscure hippies and natural living advocates. Living on the Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel, for example.
— What was your path to studying herbology and founding Wooden Spoon Herbs?
I came to herbs when looking for a path to self-sufficiency. I romanticized living off the land, providing all that I would need for myself through my connection to the earth. And that’s basically how it happened. I got all the books I could find about herbalism, read them, and started making herbal remedies. I started selling them slowly and it just kind of took off. Then I got to put my business hat on and that’s been such a rewarding challenge.
— Can you talk a little bit about your decision to work only with herbs native to your home region of Appalachia?
There’s so much to say about this. When I started opening my eyes to the bounty that surrounded me, it struck me as absurd to order herbs from suppliers that sourced from the far corners of the earth, when we had so many of the same herbs that could be sourced from the bioregion of Appalachia. For example, why am I going to order nettle that comes from Croatia when my friend has an acre of it on her farm? And no offense to Croatia or the herbalists that use those sources, but it just wasn’t for me. I saw the opportunity to create a righteous supply chain and source from local farmers and forage my materials. To this day I still source directly from small organic farms around the country.
Appalachia’s medicinal herbs are legendary: ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot. People from all over the world use these herbs exclusively. And many of the herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine grow in Appalachia, because when the continents were Pangea parts of what is now China and parts of Appalachia were the same land. The geography of these regions is still very similar, and that is really special. So I wanted to learn about these plants for myself, because they are my neighbors and we share the same space.
Not to mention that my family has been on this land for at least five generations, probably more. It’s my most recent ancestral tradition, and I think it’s really important to learn about the traditions of your own ancestors so that you’re not co-opting someone else’s. Our pasts are precious.
Finally, I believe in slow, local medicine for the same reasons I believe in slow, local foods – because they’re more potent and they taste better.
— What are some of your best-selling products and what herbs is your customer most excited about at the moment?
My bestsellers are the Anxiety Ally, Brain Tonic, Moontime Magic and Migraine Melter tinctures. Elderberry Sumac Syrup is always a hit, as well as the Golden Cocoa (adaptogenic golden milk meets hot chocolate). I also have some new, more esoteric offerings based on the elements, and the Spirit one has been selling really well. I think my customers are just always after herbs that ground and expand the spirit, which is super beautiful. That and herbs for stress, always.
Fun and Inspiration
— What is something you are particularly excited about at the moment?
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
I love seeking out hot springs, getting massages and acupuncture, going to the movies with my partner and eating at good restaurants. In the summer, swimming in the river behind my house and lying in the sun.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – The Caravan by Stephen Gaskin
Song/Album – “Tried So Hard” by Gene Clark
Piece of art – the entire Motherpeace tarot deck
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are some essential objects that would be in yours?
My favorite mohair cardigan, a striped shirt, high-waisted leggings and denim, Poppy & Someday’s Gypsy Rose Toner, whatever books I’m reading, a notebook and Uniball pen, magazines, calming tinctures, bagged tea, thermos, Ricardo Medina botines, charcoal toothbrush
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Jess Fuery, Beatrice Valenzuela, Shiva Rose, the founders of Cap Beauty, Ashley Neese, Connie Matisse of East Fork Pottery, jeweler Annika Kaplan, Erica Chidi Cohen, Rachel Craven, Beth Kirby of Local Milk, Rachel Budde of Fat and the Moon, Kristen Dilley of Nightingale Acupuncture, and, naturally, Ilana Glazer
Photos by Beth Kirby and Lauren Haynes