Herbs From the Labyrinth Builds Community from Tradition
Sep 30, 2014 10:50PM
By Gisele Siebold
“My love of plants, trees and wild places was instilled in me by my mother,” says Sarah Preston, herbalist and owner of Herbs from the Labyrinth, LLC, and Radiance, in Lancaster. “Some of my earliest memories are of being allowed to play alone in the pine forest just outside my grandparents’ house in North Carolina. My grandfather was the forester, and he gave me an early love of trees; an incredible gift,” she recounts, citing such childhood experiences as the foundation for her development as an herbalist.
“While I was growing up, my mother made real food from real ingredients, even before it became a mainstream idea in the 1960s. She was responsible for the health of our household on a daily basis,” Preston adds. “This sent a powerful message to me that the responsibility of our health was not relinquished to someone else; using herbs and eating authentically was truly the way to live a healthy life.”
Preston has resided in her present home since 1990, where she tends her garden. In 1999, she added a labyrinth. Using the herbs from her garden, she began making tinctures, teas and other products, at first for personal use.
Preston studied with and was influenced by Rosemary Gladstar, founder of the California School of Herbal Studies and the nonprofit United Plant Savers; Susun Weed, director of the Wise Woman Center, in New York; Deb Soule, founder of Avena Botanicals, in Maine; acclaimed herbal medicine author Matthew Wood, of Sunnyfield Herb Farm; David Winston, dean and primary instructor for the Center for Herbal Studies, in New Jersey; Kate Gilday, of Woodland Essence, in New York, and many others. Preston describes her herbal practice as being in the “Wise Woman” tradition, which Weed describes as “a way for men and women to think about and create health in all stages of their lives; it empowers women to take charge of their health and their lives, to honor and respect themselves and the earth.”
Preston remarks, “I see my herbal practice as a lifelong learning process, and am deeply grateful to all of the teachers, human, spirit and plant, who are my partners in this work.” As she learned more about herbalism, friends began to seek her guidance and use her products. Her initial vision was to work out of her home and her garden. “Opening Radiance in 2006 was nearly accidental,” she shares. “My daughter, Kara, was looking for one space where she could offer massage therapy and children’s yoga, rather than continuing to rent two spaces.”
A spacious, welcoming, second floor area worth the climb from the cobblestone Grant Street alley, Radiance now houses the Herbs from the Labyrinth workspace, a retail shop, a classroom, two massage rooms and the Full Circle Susquehanna Molly Keen Memorial Library. Services include massage, Reiki, and personal herbal consultations. Classes of varying topics include yoga, belly dance, herbal instruction and creative arts, with special events held throughout the year. The retail shop sells herbal products for wellness, body care and ceremonies; books; tarot; wearable art and organic clothing; crystals; African baskets; and other fairly traded items and products handmade by women.
Mindful of how she and her business can have a positive effect upon the community, Preston became a founding board member of Full Circle Susquehanna, Inc., a small, eco-feminist nonprofit, dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. She and her staff of five part-time employees are “intentional in having the shop be a safe, peaceful place where members of the community feel welcome,” she says.
With a capable staff managing Radiance, Preston is given the freedom to teach, and enjoys sharing her knowledge of the practical use of herbs. She reflects, “With access to the internet, the meaning of community has changed. People have access to the work of many herbalists, and it’s an exciting time for all of us.”
Gisele Siebold is a contributing writer for Natural Awakenings magazine, Lancaster-Berks edition, who lives in Lancaster.