Hi Rachelle! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I work with plants and people - bringing the two together, along with really well-grounded, practical information, to help others to be healthier. I do that at my newly opened cafe, Supernatural; in one-on-one work with private clients; in classes & workshops; and with products, which I produce in small batches from time to time.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I grew up on a farm but ran away from it as fast as possible to move across the country and work in the fashion industry in NYC. While I loved it, I had attained that dream and so started to drift. I realized that I spent ALL of my free time (and had all of my life) deeply studying and pursuing experiences with natural medicines. (If I had another life to live, it might be as an ethnobotanist.) As soon as I put more focus on the plant work - and essentially came out of the closet about my obsession with it - my priorities changed and I was swept away by a demand in the market. Thankfully, I got started before it was as trendy as it is now, so had a solid footing with the wave hit.
Photo by Katie June Burton
Did you grow up understanding the power of plants and how they can aid our bodies or is that something you learned later on in life? When did you decide to enter the holistic wellness world?
In many ways, I did grow up with it, though I wasn’t consciously aware of what I was learning then. Growing up with nature made me extremely sensitive and gave me, I realize now, a really special friendship with plants. My dad was an anaesthesiologist, so stories about surgeries were typical dinner-table conversation and I was even able to go to work with him a few times and sit in the operating room. My mom is a dietician, which meant we asked her what was good about pretty much every single food we ate. Though surrounded by eastern and western medicine, I was on a spiritual quest. I picked up Varieties of Religious Experience, which was way beyond my reading level at the time, and had no idea how right for me it was.
Long story short, I dove into every belief system I could, looking for the one that was right for me. And in the process, learned all about plant and traditional medicines - from ayurveda to traditional chinese medicine and beyond.
It was never something I intended to make a career of, but now that it is, I couldn’t be happier.
Through your consultations and workshops, is there a common thread of what people want to learn/alter in their lives?
I find that people want simple, understandable, practical, usable help with their health. So often, someone comes in because they read about an adaptogen, but then confide to me that all they really care about is being well. If that means taking an adaptogen, they’ll do it, but probably - they suspect - it means learning how to eat healthier, or get to bed earlier. And, they’re right! I demystify health trends all day long. And I personalize everything to make it work for each person. Along with being able to own awesome health, I find the most common complaints are: anxiety & depression; digestive issues; low energy; and weight loss.
Could you tell us more about Supernatural Cafe - its beginnings, the concept behind it, how people can interact with you there?
Supernatural Cafe is the new physical home for my work - a place where I see clients, sell products that I believe in, serve herbal beverages and custom-blended loose herbs, and spend much of my time simply being available for anyone to walk in with a question or need.
The cafe is located at WOOM Center, a multi-sensorial yoga and sound meditation space with a wonderful community. It was somewhere I had visited previously and after hosting an herbal dinner there, the owners and I became close. They graciously opened their space for me to install Supernatural and it’s been a wonderful open relationship since!
I think for a lot of people, the wellness world can seem overwhelming since there is always a "new" product or herb being talked about. Do you have any tips or insight on how people can start to incorporate more natural foods/supplements into their lives?
It can be SO overwhelming! I answer questions like this everyday, and much of my session work involves helping people either start or simplify their routines into lifestyles that work, and stick. (Which has to be the case for any of this wellness stuff to work!) I always, always recommend starting with food first. More plants, more green, more produce. That is far more important than taking adaptogens. Once a food practice is really well intact, we can start adding in herbs and super-stuff. But, those really are icing on the cake. I also advocate starting with just one or two herbs at a time, and really understanding them. Try them for long enough to know how they make you feel, and if you want to keep them. Even with my library of herbs, I only use a couple a day.
What are a few of your favorite herbs, plants, or recipes and how do they help your body and mind?
Nettle is my favorite. I grew up with the plant, though as a kid he was always stinging me when I was playing outside. I’ve since learned that nettle is something you could refer to as a pharmacon - both the poison and the cure. When dried and had as a tea, or steamed and eating as a green, nettle is an antihistamine (the opposite response of the topical sting). It’s also high in minerals and chlorophyll and easy to drink all day long, which I often do. It’s a nourishing plant, like a multivitamin, and also a very common one, which is part of my philosophy: that local and common are preferable to exotic and foreign whenever possible.
Generally I prefer nourishing, preventative-type plant-medicines to the strong ones. Oat straw or milky oat tops, rose petals and hips, red clover. I also love herbs for calmness and sleep: skullcap, valerian, chamomile, and kava kava.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
A combination of belief, fascination, and reward contribute to my passion for this work. I’ve realized that plants and natural medicine have been a throughline in my life. Driving my interest in all of this as a deep desire to understand the experience of reality, and the forces that affect our minds, bodies, and spirits. Psychopharmacology, or the effects of substances on our minds, feels very root to that understanding. And, I absolutely love simplifying this wellness work into practical applications that people can use. I see it work every single day.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
I’d say the greatest challenge right now is the trendiness of wellness which unfortunately generates a ton of misinformation and ill-intentioned healers. I don’t feel a need to prove the quality or value of my place in the industry, which I thank my clients and followers who stick with me for reinforcing. It’s a challenge to do 25 different things every day but I like challenges, and working my ass off. ;)
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
We can be so sensitive, so subconsciously competitive, and so often disconnected from each other as a result of not feeling safe, or equal, or capable. (To say the least.) The simplest gestures of kindness and support can change lives, especially woman-to-woman. I think we all need more of it, to undo conditioning and to create a broader lasting change in perspective about gender (and humanity) for future generations.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Resourcefulness, patience, and fluidity were lessons I learned early in life, which I believe helped me create this business and my lifestyle. The Tao teaching to flow like water is something I encountered early in life and have lived by since. Around obstacles, uncompetitively, perpetually in motion… though that last bit is my addition. I love my dad’s advice to ride the waves of life, one after another. Because everything will change eventually.
I also value patience and communication. Extreme humility and persistent gratitude. Again, these are learnings that lead me to today; the creation of Supernatural is one of the flowers of thousands of seeds planted along the way.
Is there someone who helped shape your career path?
My future self.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
I recall all that I’ve done to be where I am now, and trust that. If it’s not too existentially frightening I might remind myself that none of this really matters anyway. :)
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
Everything! I’m kidding, kind of. Gosh, I am always studying. Not a day goes by that I don’t read, listen to a podcast, taste or travel out of my way to encounter something new. That is a fundamental part of who I am, and I think, what makes life so fun to live!
What are some of your favorite places in New York?
The streets and parks on a bike. Bed Stuy (my neighborhood) on a run. The Brooklyn and New York Botanical Gardens. (The “World of Plants” at NYBG is the BEST.) Overstocked herb shops like Flower Power and Dual Specialty Store in the East Village. Waterfronts and rooftops with views of the skyline, and any new street I walk down for the first time.
Photos by Rachelle
This story originally appeared at The Glossary, here.