GATHER HERB SHOP
Many people believe plant medicines allow the body to maintain health, and that herbs tone our ability to respond to illness while aiding in the healing process. Western Herbalism offers support for most general health complaints and encourages healthy living through holistic lifestyle choices and nutritional suggestions. As an Herbalist, Sarah Berkman, owner of Gather, sells a wide variety of organic herbs, roots, flowers, and seeds. Her practice is centered around respect for the plant allies and connecting them to the people that they serve.
Returning to her own roots (pun intended) after a stint studying on the west coast, Sarah used a magical touch in manifesting her dreams of opening a shop in Newport - a calming place where she could better serve her community with nourishing teas, consciously crafted herbal products, holistic services, and event space. When Sarah isn’t creating a delicious concoction or educating patrons on self care, she is gardening, supporting mothers in labor, and adventuring with her adorable daughter, Luna.
Your profession is so rare. What is the formal training to become an Herbalist entail?
I studied formally for 5 years, starting out apprenticing with herbalist and author Kathi Keville in Grass Valley California. Under her I studied the native plants of California and their traditional uses, folklore, first aid, botany, and medicine making. I continued with her on Clinical Aromatherapy, studying the chemical compounds of herbs, clinical and various forms of bodywork, scientific research, how to judge quality, blending techniques and how to treat certain disorders and infections. After two year of studying with her i went to the California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville, CA where I studied body systems and physiology and advanced medicine making; Then I continued on to a clinical training.
Why did you ultimately come back to Newport, your hometown?
I lived in Boston, Colorado, in a farm community in the Sierra foothills of California and spent a lot of time traveling through South America and Asia before moving back here to RI. I chose to return because I missed my family, the Atlantic ocean, the ability to walk and bike everywhere, thunderstorms, (the list goes on) - this is my home. I missed my roots.
Did you come back knowing that you wanted to open your own shop?
I didn’t plan on opening a shop before moving back. I had planned to continue a project I had in CA which was operating a free herbal clinic out of my VW Westfalia for people who are homeless and underserved. Once I settled back here in Newport, Ii felt really inspired to open a brick and mortar shop. I wanted a space that was comfortable and also a space to teach classes, host community events, serve tea, make medicine and operate a low-cost clinic out of. I knew that was what I wanted more than anything so I made it happen. I wrote my business plan, applied for loans, made vision boards, found the perfect spot, asked for help when i needed it. My heart is still overflowing with the amount of support I've received in getting this place going.
What is the breadth of services, products, and classes you offer at Gather?
The shop is pretty multi faceted, we sell bulk herbs and herbal products, serve tea, offer walk-in consultations for acute issues and in depth consultations for those who want to work on more chronic or serious issues, provide massage and reiki, teach classes on herbalism and self-care, and host community events.
And how about your elixirs – the carefully crafted concoctions you make?
All of the tea and elixirs on my menu are formulated to fit most people. Many of them are formulas I’ve used over and over again. When I'm preparing a customized formula for someone, to keep it simple, I have in mind the goal(s) in healing for this person. What body systems am i supporting? Are there herbs that can be used for more than one goal? I try to use as few herbs as possible and match the energetics of the plant to the energetics of the person (sometimes looking at the tongue and feeling the pulse). For example, if a person’s body tends to be damp and cool I try to use plants that are warming and drying.
When deciding what kind of preparation I'm going to make (ie; tea, tincture, powder, syrup, oil, etc.) I look at the lifestyle of this person, the properties of the herb and the best way of extracting its medicine, and consider the easiest and most appropriate way for them to get these herbs into their daily routine.
What is your own personal routine? Do you have a set regimen of herbs you consume daily? Or are you always experimenting with new things?
It kind of depends on the day and what I’m needing but I do take medicinal mushrooms everyday (Reishi, Cordycepts, Chaga, Maitake), I drink Tulsi tea with Rose and Lemon balm almost every afternoon and I always add lots of spices like fennel, fennugreek, corriander, cardamom, cayenne, turmeric and ginger to food. I put seaweeds, and roots in things that are slow cooked. I think incorporating herbs into our food is the best way to get them into our bodies and support health. I do drink coffee every morning though and am guilty of not always practicing what I preach :-)
What sort of things do you forage for in and around Newport? Is there an abundance of certain plants here that are rare in other areas throughout the U.S.?
Some examples of the plants I forage here are, Nettle, Burdock, Rosehips, Solomons Seal, Red Clover, Cleavers, Hawthorn, Elder, Mullien, Yarrow, and some Seaweeds. I always follow certain rules when taking plants from the wild.
Only take when abundant, take from the middle of a stand, never take the forat, never take the last, never take more than half, sustain those who sustain you, be ok with an empty basket, give thanks.
How are you involving the greater Newport community into the shop’s programming and events?
I try to involve and collaborate with other Herbalists by keeping most of what I sell here made by local Herbalists and small herbal businesses. I am working on sourcing my bulk herbs from mostly local herb farmers and will be looking to hire more community Herbalists to join the staff soon.
I host community events regularly in order to support local artist/musicians, activists and spiritual seekers. My vision for the shop has always been to provide a space for community gatherings and creative collaboration. There are a lot more herb classes coming up.
I am working on expanding into the space next door to me to secure more space for events and classes, as well as some other exciting uses for the space. I won’t say too much yet but I will give you a hint; Self-Care Sanctuary!
What has been your favorite thing about being a part of the growing creative community in Newport?
My favorite part is watching the creative community here grow, and constantly feeling inspired by the people around me.
Keep Up With Gather
Photos by Rich Ferri