Each October, there are a number of festivals I look forward to on Martha’s Vineyard, including the Living Local Harvest Festival, Saturday, October 4th.
I like to check out the line-up of events, and see if there’s something that catches my eye, something I’d like to learn more about.
This year’s festival is chock full of fun for all ages from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with farm animals, beer tastings, local food, harvest market, horse rides, cooking demos, and even mini seminars, like Seed Saving and Delicious and Effective Herbal Medicines with Holly Bellebuono and more!
At 3 p.m. there’s open mic for musicians and poets to show their stuff, and at 5 p.m., there’s a community supper featuring local food ($15 per person).
The event with Holly Bellebuono piqued my interest. In a time where many of us are moving towards natural foods and solutions for health concerns, I thought it could be fun to learn more about the Martha’s Vineyard Herbalist.
For 20 years Holly Bellebuono has been working with herbs for health and medicinal benefits. She started in North Carolina where she and her husband lived before moving to Martha’s Vineyard 10 years ago.
Holly began her love of plants when she was a landscaper during college. She was intrigued by the amount of wild edible plants she was discovering.
Once she researched the plants she found, she learned that there were a number of benefits to the plants. She began learning more and more, connecting with what plants could be used for and the spiritual side of plants, working closely with them to heal and help people, naturally.
I met with Holly at her house and workspace in West Tisbury. The first thing we did was explore her herb garden for a bit.
About 90% of the herbs and plants that Holly uses for her products come from this garden or from the surrounding land.
In her herb garden, she showed me a number of plants including Milkweed, and Motherwort, which is can be used to help with anxiety and calm a person. It works with the central nervous system, helping release dopamine.
There was also Butterfly Weed which helps with respiratory problems, working as an expectorant. There were so many herbs, I would have loved to learn about all them and learn how to identify them.
We made our way into her studio. There were shelves full of all sorts of herbal products. What I first noticed was the numerous amount of herbs and plants in liquids which are called menstruum.
Menstruum is the how she gets the necessary plant extracts, the medicine from the various plants. Different liquids draw out the medicinal properties from the plants.
For some, its olive oil, others it might be vodka or apple cider vinegar. After a certain period of time, the menstruum is strained and the remaining fibers are removed.
You’re left with what you need to create a tincture, a salve, or a tea.
Holly uses the various plant extracts in her different tinctures. I asked Holly how she knew what liquid to pair with what plant, since there are so many different plants.
She said it’s all about knowing the plants and knowing which plant can help with a particular problem.
She creates her Vineyard Herb tinctures, with each one focusing on a particular aliment. There are a number of Vineyard Herbs tinctures available, including one for helping you sleep, one for helping you become more calm, one that can help with the symptoms of menopause, digestive aid tinctures and more. There are a lot to choose from.
Holly has seen an increase in popularity of her products over the years. People are taking a more integrated approach to healing their bodies, a combination of herbal and Western medicines, both of which have benefits.
At this stage in her career, Holly is probably one of the most well known, respected herbalist in the Northeast. She has written a number of books on the topics of herbs, their benefits and education about herbs, including her newest book, Women Healers of the World: The Traditions, History & Geography of Herbal Medicine.
This new book is seven years in the making. Holly went about finding and writing about some of the most important women in the world of herbal medicine and healing. It’s quite a collection of women who have had a major impact on the lives of so many.
These programs are actually for intermediate learners, typically those who are in the medical field like nurses or doctors, and are integrating herbal medicine into their work.
Holly also has a line of teas she has developed, some with names related to Martha’s Vineyard, like Chilmark Chai. Many of her teas use the same medicinal herbs as her medicines.
The teas are an easy way to enjoy the beneficial properties of the herbs. Holly’s favorite is her Gratitude Tea which is made with Holy Basil (Tulsi) and rose petals. She loves it because it’s smooth, relaxing and beautiful.
For a little fun and refreshment, the Vineyard Herb Body Spritz is pretty awesome and gives you a little pick me up.
There is also Grace Your Face which is Holly’s line of facial essentials, made in small batches with all stuff that’s good for your skin.
In the line you’ll find a cleansing grains, a clarifying clay mask, a hydrating serum and more. These products are so pure, many of them are even edible.
For Holly, working with plants, having a spiritual connection, is extremely gratifying. Through her years of work, many people have been helped and continue to be helped.
Her work is changing lives for the better, and she’s here on the Vineyard doing this.
Holly’s products are available all over the Island, including Morning Glory Farm, 7a, Waterside Market, and Cronig’s Healthy Additions. Prices range between $14 – $33. You can also buy right from her website.
For Living Local from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Holly will be demonstrating how to make an assortment of remedies, hoping to inspire people to use the plants available in their backyard to help them lead healthier lives.
You’ll also be able to sample her teas and herbal honey. She’ll be singing books too.
It was really a pleasure meeting Holly. Her passion for her work shines through, and I think there’s a lot of potential with her products.
I know I am excited to try the tincture that I got from her, Organic Mood Mend – supports healthy mental and emotional functions. I’ll let you know how it works! I know that I can use a little help now and then.
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