WV Farm2Fork: Sue’s Nourishing Herbs
Column first appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/life/wv-farm2fork-sues-nourishing-herbs/article_9076246c-f77d-5930-b92d-a024ec6a380b.html
From nettle to goldenseal, blessed thistle to red clover, the forests of West Virginia are rich with native plants and herbs, many of which have been used for their reported health benefits for generations.
Sue Hovemeyer, a retiring Hebrew midwife and one of The Wild Ramp’s producers, is passing along her Appalachian heritage and knowledge of herbal remedies through her line of products, called Sue’s Nourishing Herbs.
“Appalachians, my ancestors included, have survived for centuries by living off the land,” Hovemeyer said. “I really appreciate and love West Virginia. I am fascinated with the woods and the history of my people, and I enjoy working with things that are grown in my native area. They are made for the people and animals here.”
Using herbs from her seven-acre wooded property or other organic sources, Hovemeyer creates blends of loose-leaf teas, bath herbs and tinctures. Hovemeyer’s teas are certified organically sourced and range from well-known names such as Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Chai and Green, to blends specifically formulated for wellness purposes like Sue’s Tummy Tea, which contains marshmallow root, slippery elm, licorice, lemon balm, catnip (“catnip was used by the midwives of old,” Hovemeyer said.), spearmint and stevia.
“A lot of people have gut issues,” Hovemeyer said.
Hovemeyer tests her formulations by drinking several different versions and consumes her products regularly. The nettle tea, she said, is her personal favorite. It is a simple mixture of nettle with just a hint of spearmint.
“Nettle is a dark green that is rich in chlorophyll, iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin K. It nourishes all of our vital organs, nerves and circulatory systems,” Hovemeyer said. “It is particularly good for the kidneys and in the prevention and treatment of UTIs.”
And while she emphasized that her products can be beneficial to most individuals, because of her profession, Hovemeyer specializes in blends that she says are good for expectant and nursing mothers.
“The woods are rich in plants that are important to women,” Hovemeyer said. “I have been specializing in care for home and natural childbirth for over 40 years. It is my desire, as a retiring Hebrew midwife, to pass on the art of traditional midwifery and knowledge of herbal teas and foods that nourish the sacredness of the childbearing years where mothers experience the joy of new life flourishing in their wombs. I recommend these herbs and minerals in my practice.”
Hovemeyer herself is a mother of nine (5 boys, 4 girls between the ages of 25-45 years), all except one of whom was born at home. Her passion for and knowledge of herbs grew as her children did.
“I wanted to explore the ways of using herbs to facilitate the health of my family,” she said. “It was part of their education. We also canned, had free-range chickens and dairy goats.”
As for Hovemeyer’s favorite herb? It’s comfrey, which had been growing, untouched, on her farm for decades but is now a main ingredient in Sue’s Massage Oil.
“It is the most healing of herbs. Comfrey can be used to treat cuts, burns and rashes; soothe sore muscles and reduce inflammation from sprains and broken bones,” Hovemeyer said. “I combine comfrey with calendula flowers and olive oil to make it into a healing salve and recommend it for prenatal and labor massage.”
Along with her teas and massage oil, Hovemeyer has added Elderberry syrup — which has proven to be quite popular — to her line. It contains elderberries, local honey, cinnamon, cloves, apple cider vinegar and echinacea angustifolia root.
“Echinacea has been harvested all over North America and is used to strengthen the immune system against colds and the flu,” Hovemeyer said.
Hovemeyer has been selling her products at The Wild Ramp for over two years, but she and her family have long been supporters of the organization.
“My daughters, when they were teenagers, sold gluten free chocolate chip cookies when it [The Wild Ramp] was at Heritage Station years ago,” Hovemeyer said. “I chose to sell my own products at The Wild Ramp because I wanted to be in a place where people knew or would come to know me. And, having grown up here, I heard stories of my grandfather taking produce to local markets, so having a local food market, like The Wild Ramp is such a tradition for this area.”
And she plans to continue that tradition through the expansion of her own business.
“It is my dream to just keep growing more and more,” Hovemeyer said. “Herbs are who I am.”
Sidebar (Sue’s Nourishing Herbs):
Find these and other products from Sue’s Nourishing Herbs at The Wild Ramp, located at 555 14th Street West in Huntington.
For the immune system: Sue’s Wellness Tea, made with echinacea angustifolia leaf, red clover, rosehips, marshmallow, chamomile, lemon balm, nettle, red raspberry and spearmint
For energy (without caffeine): Sue’s Energizing Tea, made with basil, lemon balm, gingko, gotu kola, hibiscus and stevia
“I made it up for myself during the summer,” Hovemeyer said. “Add a pinch of salt, some lemon and honey, and you have a nature-made electrolyte drink.”
For a mood boost: Sue’s Happy Tea, made with lemon balm, chamomile, oatstraw, St. John’s wort, passionflower, catnip, lavender, spearmint and stevia
For pregnancy: Sue’s Nourishing Tea for the Childbearing Years, made with red raspberry leaves, nettle, alfalfa and spearmint
“Red raspberry strengthens the uterus and the pelvic floor region,” Hovemeyer said. “Alfalfa helps enriches milk production, which I learned when I was younger when I was tending to horses and cattle.”)
For nursing mothers: Sue’s Nourishing Tea for Nursing Mothers, made from alfalfa, red clover, fennel seed, blessed thistle and lemon balm
To relax: Sue’s Sleepy Time Drops are a glycerin tincture of chamomile, passion flower, oatstraw, catnip, and lemon balm