Plant power: Herbalist shares knowledge, love of plants with others through herbal products
Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 1, 2022
SALISBURY — Within the walls of her workshop in the woods, Candice CasaSanta blends science and folklore. Then she packages the aromatic, therapeutic and delicious results.
Mason jars filled with oil and herbs sunbathe on bright window sills. The leafy tops of plants with fairytale names like mugwort hang upside down to dry. There are always ingredients to mix together — some of this and a little of that — to capture just the right smell, taste, effect.
CasaSanta is an herbalist — someone who knows the secrets to unlocking the power of plants. She uses her expert knowledge to make remedies, teas and skin care products she sells under the brand name Fiddlehead Traditional Wellness.
CasaSanta has an online Etsy shop, a wholesale business and offers her products at the Salisbury Farmers Market and other vendor events. Some Salisburians may have tried one of CasaSanta’s products without even knowing it. Her Chai Five! powder is used by downtown coffee shop Mean Mug to make chai tea lattes.
Whether it’s selling her products online, in person or at local stores, CasaSanta is happy to share her love and knowledge of herbs with others.
“It’s very fulfilling to me to be able to access the side of me that’s very artistic that wants to design things and come up with packaging and that kind of stuff, but also I’m getting to create things and I get to play with plants out in the woods,” CasaSanta said. “Also, I get to help people. That’s always something I’ve been drawn to, helping others.”
Like many people, CasaSanta spent most of her life relatively unaware of the helpful qualities of plants. Her interest in herbs was sparked about seven years ago when she was pregnant with her first son.
“I started really looking into what he would be consuming as a small child and was really unimpressed with what was out there,” CasaSanta said. “You start really looking into ingredients and what they are. It’s funny, when it’s not for yourself, how much more you care about it.”
CasaSanta gravitated toward herbal remedies that could help with ailments like diaper rash.
“I’ve always been a little bit of a folklore nerd and a science nerd and finding the practice of herbalism really combines those two in a really beautiful way,” she said.
Her bookcases filled with volumes on herbalism and she started reading through internet resources, but the real education came when she started working at Gentle Harmony Farm near Lexington. The organic farm specializes in growing and processing herbs and plants of all varieties, from bee balm to the bright yellow calendula flower.
“It was super cool to be able to go from studying books and things like that to actually having a relationship with these live plants and taking them from growing out of the ground to fully processed,” CasaSanta.
CasaSanta put the “indispensable” knowledge she learned while working at Gentle Harmony to work when she launched her own herbal business — a feat she accomplished with two toddlers at home.
“Looking back, I’m like why in the world would anyone (start a business) with a 2 month old and a 6 year old?” CasaSanta said.
Now that her boys are a little older, they’re a part of Fiddlehead’s operations. They often help CasaSanta mix together the ingredients for her chai tea latte powder and they like to harvest herbs growing in the garden. Teaching her children, and others, about herbalism is a way for CasaSanta to feel like she’s restoring a lost art.
“Herbalism is a handed down tradition. That’s why it’s not around as much anymore,” CasaSanta said. “All of this knowledge of using lemon balm to help calm nerves and things like that would be knowledge that was passed down generation to generation for most people. In the past 100 years or so, we’ve lost a lot of that. I do feel passionate about teaching that stuff again.”
CasaSanta grows many of the herbs she uses in her products on site, but does get some from other local growers. CasaSanta uses Gentle Harmony’s calendula flowers — the cream of the crop, in her opinion— in her skin-healing calendula oil.
CasaSanta’s mother might not have passed down any herbal recipes, but she did pass down her green thumb.
“She is the first person I call when I have questions about growing or caring for any plant,” CasaSanta said. “My interest in herbalism and natural remedies definitely came later in life, but it wouldn’t be right not to mention she was the root of that love for nature.”
Not only does CasaSanta grow herbs she needs in her garden, but she forages for ingredients growing naturally in the woods around her home. One of the plants CasaSanta runs across often are fiddleheads, the curly fonds of baby ferns that inspired the name of her business.
Since launching her business, CasaSanta has continued to create more products. She has eight different blends of tea, but plans to introduce four more. Over the last year, Fiddlehead has continued to grow and CasaSanta’s products have found their way onto shelves in stores across the country. Being a mom and running a growing business is a balancing act for CasaSanta. To help, she brought on a part-time employee last year who is still with the company.
CasaSanta said she doesn’t want to grow too fast, but will continue to focus on making herbal products in small batches and with only the best ingredients.
More information about Fiddlehead Traditional Wellness can be found on its Facebook page.