Wisdom of the medicine woman
Earlier this year I journeyed to a small island off the coast of Washington state for Heartbeat Retreat, a retreat that would focus on the voice, song and nourishment of both body and soul. Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs was one of the creative spirits who had been called to take part in this gathering of women.
Unlike the majority of us who had traveled to the island explicitly for the retreat, for Sophia Rose this was part of an extended journey and constellation of experiences. With her caravan perched on the hillside above the field where the rest of us camped, and her pop-up apothecary standing amidst the woods, this modern-day medicine woman was the embodiment of the near forgotten traveling alchemist. The spectacle of her healing offerings–handcrafted tinctures and edible treasures–being at the center of the medicine show.
Aside from being a skillfully trained herbalist–and maker of incredible chocolate truffles–Sophia Rose is generally a woman wise beyond her years. I have learned much in my conversations with her in preparation for this post and last week’s review of La Abeja Herbs Rose Petal Elixir. The poetry of her prose and the insights she shares with us are truly a gift.
Instead of paraphrasing, or masking her voice in any way, I offer you this Q&A with Sophia Rose–on the path that led to the inception of La Abeja Herbs, on reclaiming the full bodied orgasm, on what makes her medicines unique.
What inspired your apothecary name?
La Abeja means the honeybee in Spanish. Bees are the messengers of Love for the flowers, moving pollen from one blossom to the next as they sup the sweet nectar which sustains them. Where bees thrive, so too does all of life. Through La Abeja Herbs, I hope to emulate the efficiency of the bee — nourishing myself, all the while creating fertile ground for the healing of others and of the Earth.
Have you always used natural products for yourself, or was there a particular ‘aha’ moment or health concern that led you to the world of herbalism and natural body care?
I have always had an innate sense of what is and is not “real” so to speak. This was challenging for me growing up and continues to be, in a world where so much is synthetic and man-made. However, because of this, I have been inspired to create everything from my own natural leather iPhone case to my own canola-free mayonnaise. I relish the daily practices of slow living–grinding coffee beans, cooking bone broth for days atop a wood stove, hanging wild plant medicines to dry in my camper.
What sparked your recent cross-country travels?
My reasons were, predictably, both personal and professional. The last couple of years have been hard ones and I wanted to create a space for myself to heal and wander and rest. That’s not exactly how it’s gone down, but it was a nice idea. This trip has led me to make new friendships and deepen existing ones. It has reaffirmed my love for the high desert as a singular and defining force in my life. It has taught me that I can do a hell of a lot on my own, but that when I need the love and support of others, they will be there.
The medicine we set out to gather is often not what we end up collecting after all. I had intended to spend long stretches of time alone in the wild, writing, wildcrafting, and generally indulging my introverted self to the max. However the Summer ended up being a journey of a different sort, one that I am still living and coming to understand.
Tell me about how you’ve continued to work, harvest and make medicines while on the road.
By the end of this journey, I will have traveled roughly ten thousand miles. All summer long I have been gathering beautiful wild medicine all the way from West Texas to the San Juan Islands off the Coast of Washington. Why? To share them with you. To know them myself. To inspire you to connect more deeply with the wild plants and wild places near and far and foster a way for me to continue to do so. To help you to understand and honor the waysides and havens where these plants make their homes and to honor them in my own quiet way as well. I gathered this medicine as a way to stay curious and to explore what it means to be a steward and protector of these fast disappearing sacred places. It is my hope and prayer that they will do the same for you.
For a long time, I’ve felt a pull and a longing to allow my medicine making practice to take the strange and lovely, often unpredictable, shape that the wild plants and places guide me toward. While I maintain a profound connection with each and every medicine I have made and offered through La Abeja Herbs over the last four years, these place-based medicine collections are by far the most important way I’ve devoted myself to knowing and sharing plant medicines to date.
It has been and continues to be, such a journey. I am always listening, always asking permission, waiting for the right moment to gather, to pray, to go deep and trust in the often subtle language of the wild. That said, it is with excitement, tenderness, and a hopeful heart that I invite you to learn about the Medicine Collections, now available for pre-order.
Each one is an extensive treasury of small batch wildcrafted medicines harvested by hand and formulated to communicate the splendor of a specific bio-region. They are meant to serve as an educational resource, a love letter to the wild, and an opportunity to connect deeply with the plants and the place.
What ultimately spurred the decision to launch your own apothecary?
I moved to the desert, very much by accident in 2012 having completed a two year clinical herbalism program at the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism (now the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism). Medicine making came naturally to me and it allowed me to spend time in the wild. An entrepreneur from the get-go, I often joke that I am thoroughly unemployable. So, when I arrived in a new city, uncertain of how I would support myself there, it unfolded quite naturally for me to begin offering my medicines at the Farmer’s Market and teaching classes at my friend’s farm on botanical medicine and traditional foodways.
Is there a teacher or mentor who’s work has been particularly formative for you?
I have learned most, first from the plants themselves. My formal education has come primarily from my teachers Paul Bergner, Sean Donahue, and Laura Clemmons. I am, for the first time in many years, ready to meet a new teacher. I have felt so full for so long with knowledge and experience to digest that I’ve not had space for anything too big or too new. It is such a thrilling feeling, to be a holy empty vessel, ready to receive and to integrate new perspectives and traditions.
When you’re not traveling and finding inspiration in unfamiliar terrain, what is your process for developing new formulas?
My formulas are like paintings. They come to me in dreams and in meditation, often from a muse unknown. I cannot simply decide to make something, but rather, it must arrive of its own accord, a nearly fully formed thing. I court these formulas by living my life and by having my own messy internal process and healing. When there is need, the medicine will find you. Every medicine I make and share through La Abeja Herbs, I do so because it has been of personal importance on my own path.
Did you start La Abeja Herbs with one foundational medicine or with an expanded offering?
The Rose Petal Elixir came first. I come by my name–Sophia Rose–both by birth and by nature. I believe it came first as a gift, but that now I’ve earned it. So, the Rose is a great ally and teacher of mine and the Rose Petal Elixir is the most essential medicine that I offer. She brings us back to baseline, back to softness and receptivity and curiosity. She takes us, swift and safe, on the most important journey we can take, that is, the eighteen inches from the Head to the Heart.
Are you currently exploring any especially exciting ingredients?
I am currently very excited about Ocotillo (a spiny, scarlet-flowered desert shrub) and Baby Ginger Root, respectively. Ocotillo has been a very potent healer for me. Through working with an elixir of Ocotillo and Smokey Quartz that I made last Autumn, I was able to wade through some deeply rooted and long held grief that had kept me “pre-orgasmic” my whole life. The journey with her medicine brought about so much healing and movement in my womb and in my psyche that now I have one orgasm after another, with beautiful waters flowing forth from me. So yeah, Ocotillo is a current favorite. I recently spent a week in Southern New Mexico gathering wild medicine for our next precious batch, available this Autumn.
Unlike the Ocotillo, the Baby Ginger Root is something I am just getting to know. It was grown in Albuquerque, where I’ve been resting for the last week and a half. Her milky white and pale pink hues beckoned to me at the coop and I have a very special remedy currently in the works which brings together both plant and stone medicines in a way that I sense will be very powerful.
What makes your medicines stand out from other apothecary lines?
A lot of people write to me to tell me that they cry when they open our packages. My wonderful assistant, Lindsey, does an amazing job putting together bundles of medicine that delight people when they very first open the box and glimpse its contents. This is a small thing, but it communicates much about the guiding principles behind our medicines. Healing is beautiful. Nourishment is luscious. So many people in the wider culture of “holistic health” seem to have a deep-seated belief that there is something within them that needs to be fixed or cleansed or something improved. I don’t believe that at all. When we offer ourselves real kindness, real patience, real connection–then healing is possible. Nourishment is the primary goal of every single item in the apothecary line. When the body and the soul feel nourished and safe, we can come back into balance with surprising ease.
Where to find La Abeja Herbs
The full apothecary line is available online at La Abeja Herbs as well as stockists across the country. Visit this page to reserve your space for the monthly open house in Austin, Texas and for upcoming apothecary hours.
Follow Sophia Rose on Instagram to learn about new medicines, classes, and ceremonial offerings.