Artemisia makes a business of wild-crafting herbs in Dixon
By Wolf Schneider
I stockpile the Lavender Honey from Artemisia Herbs like a squirrel stashes nuts in winter. Folk wisdom says consuming locally grown honey helps ward off springtime allergies. That’d be a bonus. Mostly, this smooth, rich honey has always seemed like the purest distillation of lavender I could find. Plus I like anything related to Artemis.
In Greek mythology, Artemis was the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, and vegetation. The daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo, Artemis was said to be Mistress of Animals. This earth goddess was sometimes also considered a moon goddess.
It wasn’t just a creative quirk that Susan Feavearyear, 50, named her Dixon, NM-based company Artemisia Herbs when she founded it 17 years ago. Feavearyear has been an herbalist for more than 20 years, and knows all about herbs and myths and mystical, magical truths. “I’ve studied with herbalists all over the world,” she says. “I’m mostly interested in vibrational medicine. The way I work with plants and people, it’s a vibrational healing energy that is in alignment with my oneness philosophy that we’re all interconnected in the universe. It’s vibrational medicine, and the plants are part of our healing.”
The Lavender Honey is one of Artemisia’s biggest sellers, along with the Muscle Relaxant and Sound Asleep tinctures, Muscle Ease lineament, Osha Root Honey, Candied Osha Root, Lavender Body Butter and Lavender Rejuvenating Face Cream.
Of British and French Huguenot heritage, Feavearyear—who has wavy long hair and dresses in layers of velvets and scarves—was born in Canada and grew up in upstate New York, on a farm near Ithaca. “We grew a lot of our food on five acres. We didn’t have cows and pigs, but we had a lot of gardens and vegetables,” she recalls.
She went to music school in her twenties, then traveled to India to study aryuvedic medicine, to South America to huddle with healers and to Australia to learn about herbal medicine. “After traveling, I didn’t really want to come back to the States and be part of mainstream America. I heard about New Mexico in the Australian outback. I ran an herbalist business in Maine. I kept having these visions of myself in New Mexico as a local healer in a village kind of thing,” she remembers.
She moved to New Mexico twice, staying for good the second time, and studying with famed herbalist Michael Moore in Albuquerque, along with working at Santa Fe’s Herbs Etc. “It all started unfolding in Dixon, and I did become like the local village healer. I still am,” she says.
On her two-acre Dixon farm, she’s grown as many as 80 different herbs. These days, she mostly grows wild perennial herbs, like lavender, comfrey, St. John’s wort, Echinacea, sage and motherswort, which she wild crafts. She buys other herbs from her Dixon farming neighbors and her brother Simon, who produces fields of lavender on his 33-acre Dixon property. Her mother Kate sells the products at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. “I like keeping it small. And it’s mostly an organic product. Keeping it small has brought me a lot more peace in life,” Feavearyear offers.
“I think of myself as a bioregional clinical herbalist,” she explains. “I try to focus on the Four Corners area, and that’s where I get most of my wild-crafted herbs. There’s that old philosophy that you can use whatever’s in your backyard to heal you. There are backyard herbalists, and I have more than usual in my backyard. I’m about supporting local communities and local agriculture. That’s my philosophy.” Wild crafting is key. She describes,
“Wild crafting is going out into the wild and harvesting by hand my own herbs. I’m very aware of all the plants that are near extinct, and which plants we’re not supposed to harvest anymore. I’m very connected to the plant spirit medicine, and do a lot of my own rituals around gathering, and offerings to the plants.”
Artemisia uses only organic grain alcohol in its tinctures, organic olive oil and other oils, and all of its bath and beauty products are wild crafted and unprocessed, according to Feavearyear.
Favorites? I’m attracted to the Sound Asleep tincture with passionflower, for insomnia and waking during the night; the Echinacea-Osha Compound for sore throats that’s like an antibiotic formula; the Healing Salve (it miraculously healed stubborn skin splits on my thumbs); a peppermint-flavored Digestive Aid tincture for nausea and gas pains; Nettles tincture for arthritis pain; and Oat Seed tincture for overworked and stressed-out individuals.
The Lavender Honey and Osha Root Honey are always popular. “The Osha root grows from 9,000 feet and is part of the local culture and folklore, and has a magical, mystical personality for the Spanish and Native peoples. It’s a medicinal plant for coughs and the respiratory system,” Feavearyear explains. There’s also Candied Osha Root and Osha Cough Syrup. “We can’t keep the syrup, the candy, and the honey in stock,” she confides.
In the bath and beauty line, best sellers include the fabulous-sounding (although pricey at $45) Lavender Rejuvenating Face Cream with lavender and calendula oils, which can help reverse sun damage; Lavender Night Oil with unrefined apricot kernel oil; and Lavender Body Butter with wild-crafted shea butter, vitamin E oil, lavender and calendula.
“Lavender works on every level,” she notes. “Topically in healing salves, it helps burns. Internally, it’s in my Soundest Sleep formula, it’s calming. Nowadays, people are finding it’s an amazing culinary herb. It’s an antidepressant; it uplifts the spirit too. We put it in our bath sea salts.”
Her newest product is the Viral Defense tincture to ward off newer viral strains like swine flu. It has licorice and elderberry in it.
“I usually have a new product or two every year, but it comes out of synchronicity,” she explains. “Myself being in balance creates a product in balance with nature.”
Artemisia products—which are manufactured at the company’s Dixon lab, and range from $10 to $45—are also available at the Dixon Co-op (“That’s like a factory outlet for us, where I give a reduced rate on the products,” says Feavearyear), Sid’s in Taos, the Taos Pharmacy, Santa Fe’s La Montanita Coop, Santa Fe’s Critters and Me, and Santa Fe’s Whole Foods. “What makes our products different is the family aspect. We still do everything by hand. Chopping the herbs, it’s all hands on,” Feavearyear points out.
Now living part-time in Santa Fe, Feavearyear also does spiritual counseling, chakra work, and clinical herbal work. An intuitive practitioner with an astrological chart that emphasizes Virgo, Leo, and Scorpio, she reasons, “Superficially, people say Scorpio is about death and sex, but death is really transformation. Every part of my being is about transforming and taking things to the highest self, highest vibration, highest level.” As for her Virgo influences, she pinpoints, “For me, Virgo is not so much about perfectionism as it is about exactness. I’ve learned that in my healing work. That’s when I get into the vibrational flow. I get visions and see things and hear what’s supposed to happen in a finely tuned way, that’s the Virgo for me.” And the Leo? “It’s about the sun and warmth and generosity. It’s the wholeness of the energies.”
Wolf Schneider has been editor in chief of the Santa Fean, editor of Living West, and consulting editor at Southwest Art.