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Natural Awakenings Rhode Island

Herbal Empowerment in Providence

by Gina Cronin

Herbal remedies have been utilized around the world for thousands of years for everything from digestive complications and emotional stress to skin and hair issues. Many of these healing traditions are taking root in Providence through the efforts and knowledge of herbal community leaders. Through herbalists sharing information and herbal products, residents understand the potential of herbs to support health and wellness.

Mary Blue, founder, owner and herbalist of the community health and education center Farmacy Herbs, began growing and working with herbs out of concern for planetary and personal health. She and a team of staff, volunteers and work traders cultivate and wildcraft herbs on her five-acre farm. The area has been utilized as farmland for more than 270 years and is now used by Blue to grow calendula, lemon balm, tulsi, elderberry, echinacea and more for teas, salves and extracts. Blue puts great emphasis on soil health and creates 100 gallons of soil amendments called compost tea weekly for her plants, which in turn makes the leaves, roots and flowers rich in vitamins, minerals and volatile oils.

Jo-Anna Cassino, owner of Flipp Salon, has been interested in herbalism since she was a child growing up on her grandmother’s fruit, orchard and herb farm. Both of her grandparents were farmers from Italy and used folk medicine regularly. She studied herbalism with renowned master herbalists through their certification programs, and is currently pursuing her degree in Tibetan medicine. The salon and apothecary grow many of its herbs on local urban farms for use in cosmetics, first aid kits, perfumes, tinctures and bitters. Cassino hand blends all of the oils, facial scrubs, serums and masks used in the salon, and offers her clients custom-blend tea and aromatherapy to personalize each experience. “Herbs are a source of empowerment,” says Blue, “they give people a chance to take their health back into their hands and not rely wholly on pharmaceuticals."

She is also the founder of an herbal activism nonprofit called Herbal Aide, which makes herbs accessible for low-income communities, and works to protect traditional herbs from being trademarked. “I grew up in a place with no access to herbs, so it has been empowering to forge my path,” shares Blue. She encourages people to detect what body systems need support and start with a tea high in vitamins and minerals every day that supports those body systems and imbalances.

“Unfortunately many people are at a disconnect and do not develop body awareness,” says Cassino, who believes that she is responsible for her own health. “Knowledge and traditions are useless unless you pass them down, and that is how herbal use can be empowering, by making that knowledge readily available.” She shares that although it might seem daunting at first, it’s easy and fun to get into a credible course and study the basics; she holds classes and workshops to get people started. “Herbs can sometimes even be harmful if you don‘t understand how they work, so it is crucial to speak to and learn from an experienced and well-trained herbalist,” Cassino says.

To learn more about Farmacy Herbs, call 401-270-5223 or visit

To learn more about Flipp Salon, call 401-274-1981 or visit

Gina Cronin is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.