Alternative medicine and the vast red desert of Southwestern Wyoming are not often thought of as synonymous. The endless miles of sagebrush and open range lend themselves to an idea of a rougher existence. Not the sort of place where you might expect to find a good cup of organic herbal tea. But in our occasional series on young upstarts, one woman believes the area has a growing interest in natural health remedies and she’s out to prove it. Wyoming Public Radio’s Amanda LeClaire has more.
AMANDA LECLAIRE: Heidi Harvey opens the doors to her shop every morning at 10. She dusts off the counters, restocks the jars of herbal supplements, and brews a thermos full of organic tea. Harvey is the owner and sole employee of Wild Roots, the only holistic healthcare store in Rock Springs.
(AMBI SOUND OF HARVEY HELPING A CUSTOMER)
LECLAIRE: Contrary to what you may think about the city’s reputation as a hard-working, blue-collar area natural healing therapies are a growing business here. Harvey opened Wild Roots last year and has not only seen a steady increase in her business, but also for the handful of holistic therapists who rent space in her store. Alternative medicine wasn’t always a passion of Harvey’s though. As a young mom in Wyoming she adhered to the usual mix of over-the-counter medications during times when her family was ill. That is, until the day she realized that the benefits weren’t really worth the potential health risks.
HEIDI HARVEY: “Tylenol had just been recently recalled and I had been giving them that with teething and fever issues. A good friend introduced essential oils to me. They worked so fast, I was just amazed. They were healthy, no side-effects. Just positive.”
LECLAIRE: Harvey was so impressed with the effects of using natural herbal oils to combat the colds, fevers, and allergies her family suffered from that she and her partner felt the need to share this newfound knowledge with friends and neighbors. They started holding classes in essential oil therapy at the local library, but within a few years the need for a physical retail space became apparent.
HARVEY: “And then we decided we need to share it a little bit more, you know, further with more products besides the oils. It is a lifestyle change. That was when Wild Roots- the idea of it- was born.”
LECLAIRE: Since opening last summer, Harvey says she’s seen a surprising diversity in the customers walking through her door. From seniors looking for a new approach to problems like high-cholesterol and heart disease, to moms with young children who want to stop relying on traditional cold and flu meds. Lately she’s been visited by workers from the area’s mines and oil fields looking for relief from seasonal allergies that have gotten worse, likely due to a particularly dry winter in the high desert. But Harvey says she has a cure.
HARVEY: “Equal parts lemon, lavender, and peppermint. You can take it in a capsule; you can shoot it back like whiskey, not with, but like whiskey if you’re brave enough to do that. Just as an instance I used it on my children last summer...if everyone remembers how the air quality here was so smoke-filled. They ride their bikes till it was dark, come in with itchy, watery, runny nose and watery eyes. I applied that solution to the back of their spines and within 15, 20 minutes the symptoms were totally gone.”
LECLAIRE: Harvey doesn’t see Wild Roots as only a retail store, she sees it as a learning center for the community to explore alternative therapies. That’s why almost once a week she lets local, long-time alternative medicine devotees lead free classes in aromatherapy, reflexology, and, of course, her personal passion: essential oils.
(AMBI SOUND OF CLASS, TEACHER SAYS: “As I mentioned before our essential oils are very, very powerful. For example if you want to the oregano in cooking, you put a toothpick into the oregano, then put the toothpick into say, the spaghetti sauce because it’s very strong.”)
LECLAIRE: Harvey warns that using essential oils shouldn’t be done passively. She says the key to having a positive experience is knowledge of how these oils affect our bodies.
HARVEY: “There are different grades of essential oils available. Doing your research is key…that’s why we offer the free classes. It’s very easy to have a bad experience without the proper research and know how to do it. That’s what I’m here for.”
LECLAIRE: Harvey says what was once only a desire to see her family healthy and happy has now become a full-on mission to help her community find a better way to heal. One that’s, perhaps, more natural for our bodies and our environment. And she hopes that Wild Roots will be the epicenter of that change.
For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Amanda LeClaire in Rock Springs.