Artist Interview

Emma Donnelly of Blue Dragon Apothecary

By Kristin Kelly - Originally posted November 10, 2015 at www.odeboutique.com

Stepping into Blue Dragon Apothecary is like stepping into something from both Harry Potter and The Secret Garden. First you have to climb up a flight of stairs and walk through a hallway into a room with one of the most amazing couches EVER (beyond description... you just have to see it). That room opens into another room, where all the magic is mixed, infused, and created. Shelves of jars, pots, bowls, tinctures, and elixirs; every one of which smell as intriguing as it sounds. Then you meet Emma Donnelly, the personification of a deep, calming breath. You want to tell her every ailment you have, every anxiety, because her wealth of holistic knowledge and breadth of information about nature's healing powers astound you.

If you were an elixir, tincture, or bitter, what would you be made of, and why?
Elixir: Rhodiola, Schisandra, Albizzia, Oat Tops, Fennel, Raw Local Honey

Rhodiola is found in Northern Europe (my ancestors probably used it) and it is a powerhouse. It is known as an adaptogenic herb. It is a smart herb that goes to areas of of the body where there is imbalance. It builds stamina and endurance, fights cancer, good for depression, immunity, cardio and more. [ http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-rhodiola.html ]

Schisandra is the many-flavored fruit. It contains all 5 flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and pungent. This berry is a powerful energy tonic and also stimulates the libido. It is an adaptogen like Rhodiola and as such it increases the ability to resist disease and stress as well as improving energy and physical endurance. It is protective of the liver and has a laundry list of benefits including alleviating depression and irritability such as PMS. [ http://www.medicinehunter.com/schisandra ]

Albizzia is referred to as the collective happiness tree. I grew up with two of these Chinese Medicinal trees in my home in NJ. We call it the Mimosa or silk tree, and it is considered invasive here. It is actually kind of profound when I think about it, because it is medicine that my whole family needs. The bark anchors and calms the spirit and the flowers uplift it. That is why this herb is widely used to treat depression, grief, anxiety and insomnia in Asian medicine. So it is uplifting and energizing, yet balances the yin in Chinese medicine which helps us come to a place of rest and relaxation especially where there is an imbalance. [ https://www.planetherbs.com/specific-herbs/albizia-the-tree-of-happiness.html ]

Oat Tops are a huge source of nutrition, full of vitamins and minerals. Oat straw and oat tops can also nourish the nervous system, immune system, and libido. It regulates the hormonal and endocrine systems. Oats help the heart by lowering cholesterol. Milky Oats are harvested during a seven-day window when the oats are secreting a juicy oat milk in between flower and grain stage. Milky Oat tops must be freshly tinctured to capture their profound action as a nerve tonic, which builds up the nervous system. This medicine is helpful in treating drug and alcohol withdrawal. [ http://herbalacademyofne.com/2014/05/oats-benefits-getting-to-know-avena-sativa/ ]

Fennel is part of my Italian heritage. It is so delicious and sweet, and is useful in hundreds of ways. Blue Dragon Apothecary uses fennel seed all the time in tea and tincture because it is a strong digestive aid, so it is helpful for flatulence, colic, and constipation. It is full of fiber, which is helpful in treating heart disease and high blood pressure. Fennel seed offers selenium, copper, potassium and zinc, and it builds up the red blood cells.  Studies show it promotes blood vessel dilation. It may also help prevent cancer because it is rich in anti-oxidants. [ http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/amazing-benefits-of-fennel-seeds/ ]

Tell us about The Blue Dragon. Where did the name come from?
According to Blue Dragon Apothecary founder Mary Ryan MSC, PhD, Dip. CHM, the name "Blue Dragon Apothecary" came from one of her favorite Chinese classical formulas: Minor Blue Dragon formula, or Minor Blue-Green Dragon formula. It's for early stage colds, and it's safe for children, as well as having a nice calming effect because it has Bai Shao (white peony root) in it. The formula is great for adults, but she has had much success with her children as well when they were little. The dragon also came up in Mary’s training as an Asian Medicinal Practitioner. The Druk-pa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism is the Dragon lineage, and Dr. Lady Dhadon, a physician to the Dalai Llama and whom Mary trained with in Dharamsala, India, is from this lineage. 

What feeds your soul?
Gardening, and all things plants, and connecting with people. I am living in the Pioneer Valley so of course music, writing, and art are how I also nurture myself. I am always trying to take care of people, to a fault. I am a Cancer so I think I enjoy nurturing, and that’s why I love being at Blue Dragon Apothecary!

Five favorite herbs:
Calendula, California Poppy, Catnip, Elecampane, Anise Hyssop: I’ve grown and used these herbs quite a bit. I feel connected to them through my journey into herbalism and gardening. They are a source of inspiration and offer a wide range of medicinal benefits. These plants are so beautiful to me and we make a wide of range of products with them.

Do you have any mantras that help you throughout a day or week?
Stay Open but Discerning, Do Self-Care, Follow through with commitments.

You have training in Plant Spirit Medicine. What’s your spirit plant?
Hard question, I’ve never asked for a plant to present itself to me in that way. I will have to meditate on it… although I’m tempted to say Albizzia, or maybe Elecampane.

Where do you feel most at peace?
In the Spring and Fall it's anytime I am planting in the ground. I find myself all blissed out smiling; sometimes I crack up at my geek self.  In the Summer it’s definitely being at the ocean with besties and family. In the Winter it’s in front of a fire with my besties and family.

If you could have any magical power, what would it be?
Mind reader. I’m really into honesty when possible. I’m sure it’d be intense, but I think I could handle it. See then I can connect people with what they really need faster. Oftentimes we don’t ask for what we need, especially when we are nurturers.

Where’s your favorite thing to do in Western Mass in the Fall?
Harvesting herbs and making plant medicine! The fall is a huge harvest time. It takes commitment and follow-through, but medicine is the reward of a summer spent in the heat, keeping up with the weeds and all the tending. We still harvest leaves and flowers in September, and then the roots in October and November, when the energy leaves the tops of the plants and has come down under ground, like any dandelion, first year Mullein or second year Elecampane. Fresh herbs in alcohol and water tastes amazing and is often times the most potent form of tincture. I’ve been known to buy 12lbs of honey at a time, and I get the most delicious medicine that way, by just mixing the honey into a ball jar full of the chopped plant. But I never get to it all. The intention is guiltless gardening, and with utmost respect for the plant (Susun Weed).

Are you more a sugar scrub or salt scrub?
Sugar!  Delicious and Nourishing.

What inspires you?
This is a photo of a dear friend's daughter Sasha who helps me at the apothecary and at markets. Her mother and grandmother are massage therapists, so she has healer in her blood. Shasha provides me with great inspiration because she is so dedicated to her work at such a young age. And when she is blending teas and sharing her knowledge with me, I feel blessed.

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