Q&A: Swerve into Herbs This Fall

We sat down with Suhaly Bautista-Carolina of Moon Mother Apothecary to talk herbalism for the new season. She recently joined our Expression in the East Village series for a session on living well with nature's help.
What does herbalism mean to you, and what originally piqued your interest in the practice?

You know when something seemingly ordinary manages to fascinate you, even if just for a brief moment? Like a leaf dancing in the wind, or stargazing on a dark, cloudless night, or the light of the full moon reflecting on a body of water? That feeling of wonder, on repeat, is what herbalism means to me. It is the practice of being in continuous awe of life and living, of the perfect harmony of our natural world. Herbalism is tuning into the magical cosmos that I am a small part of everyday. 

I’ve always been enchanted by the natural world, and by earth science in particular! I attribute a lot of this love to having the best fifth-grade science teacher of all time (Thank you, Ms. Garcia!). My love of the physical earth has been a long time coming. It’s funny because the more I reflect on this question, the more I understand that what captivated me as a child has remained active and alive. This earth love has stayed with me. For a very long time (even into college), I wanted to be an astrophysicist. My obsession for the universe was that deep. At the same time, I was always drawn to all things terrestrial (and extra terrestrial, too). You could catch me watching National Geographic any day of the week, or quizzing myself on rock formations, and all of the different types of clouds. There’s always been a sort of high/low, heavens/earth, sky/land dialogue going on inside me, and that relationship between the two plays a major role in my practice as a spiritual herbalist. 

Moon Mother was born from a place of love for my community. It was, and continues to be, one way that I can be of service and spread goodness. I turned to my formal studies out of a desire to support the people I love, so in a way, what ultimately led me onto this path was love.

What are some ways that you're able to connect with local and underserved communities through Moon Mother Apothecary?

I always say a blessing when my medicine goes out to the world, “May the magic and wisdom of these plants land in the hands, hearts, and spirits of those who need it most.” My intention is to connect with people through the power of plants, and because I set forth with this intention authentically, with purpose, care, and love, people are able to receive this medicine abundantly. I am grateful to also be in community with other generous herbalists and plant stewards (ykwya and you are so loved), and through intentional, justice-forward collaborations and partnerships, we are always able to multiply our impact through a practice some of us call herbal justice. The plants want to support us, and my work (as much in the arts as in herbalism) is to be the bridge.

It may also have something to do with my Libra Rising!

What has been most surprising aspect of your work with Moon Mother Apothecary?
There are surprises at every turn of this journey, but one lesson that continues to knock me off my feet can be beautifully and succinctly summarized in Adrienne Maree Brown’s words from Emergent Strategy, “small is good, small is all.”
As we slowly transition from summer to fall, are there any herbs or rituals you lean on to ease the change of the season?
The ritual I would recommend (and I look forward to taking my own advice) is to try your best to match the energy of the season. Tune into the frequency of this Earth Radio. Start winding down with the sun, keep (or start) eating more of what’s in season, bring those soups and stews back into rotation, and don’t be afraid to lean on those culinary herbs and spices in the kitchen. Above all, my sleep ritual is most sacred. With less energy to pour outward, I focus on my need to preserve my fire and vitality, and I make sure I’m getting my rest every night. I invite you to make that bedtime routine irresistible!

In the fall, I start working with plant allies like cinnamon, mint, sage, nutmeg, thyme, chamomile, and lemon balm. Also, I have a great fire cider recipe that I’ve been building on for years. I make a few big batches for my family and friends right at the start of the school year, and we drink one spoonful every day through the winter and well into the spring. If you’ve never had or made fire cider, here’s my recipe for you to try!

"Tune into the frequency of this Earth Radio."

You're also well-versed in the art field, with roles at The Met and The Brooklyn Museum. What overlap do you see between the two disciplines?

The first thing that comes to mind is the poem by Mohammed Ali, “Me We.” That’s it. That’s everything.

Who are some local artists and healers inspiring you at the moment?

First and foremost, I am inspired by my loved ones. They are everything. My daughter, Luna (who is an angel on earth) is right up there and has inspired the life and spirit of Moon Mother from the very start. I am also inspired by the work of these incredible makers, many of who I am privileged to call my community: Jordan Casteel, Naima Green, Sable Elyse Smith, Sade Clacken Joseph, BUFU, Herban Cura, Goldfeather, Herbal Underground, Woke Foods, Playground Coffee Shop, and so many others +++++

Are there any resources that you recommend for aspiring herbalists?

We have so much to learn from one another! Find out who your local herbalists are, and support them. Organize knowledge shares and skill-sharing opportunities. We are  interconnected web of wisdom, and I have learned most of what I know from my own community. There are tons of free online and in-person classes, so keep your antennas up and invest time in your herbal education. Visit moonmotherapothecary.com, click on “Engage,” then click on “Resources.” Above all, trust your intuition and allow the plants to guide you! Go for nature walks and hikes, and open yourself to receiving plant wisdom. It is truly all around us, everyday. Once you’ve decided you’re on a path to becoming an herbalist, the rest will follow by universal law. 


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