Where: 70 Broadway Suite 150, Denver
Neighborhood: South Broadway / Baker
When: Sunday – Monday, 12 – 6 p.m.; Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
While a natural approach to health and medicine are nothing new, it has been gaining traction as a viable and important alternative to standard medical practice. At the core of this alternative is the blurring of the boundary between food and medicine, which is best exemplified by teas made with medicinal herbs. One neighborhood apothecary, Artemisia and Rue, has been pushing the boundaries between food and medicine with its delicious line of tea blends. But the real forces behind the shop are its enthusiastic, well-trained herbalists and the community classes they teach that take neophytes from curiosity to expertise.
The shop offers teas for everything from simple, nutritive teas that act as multivitamins for general, everyday use to more powerful blends targeting tougher problems—like the difference between the light, pepperminty Nurturing Tea and the spice-heavy, fatigue-and-stress-busting Root Down Tea. They also offer several blends focused on Women’s health, including the fertility boosting Parterra Tea with raspberry leaves. Or you could try the sweet and soothing Tummy Tea with chamomile and spearmint for GI troubles.
But don’t feel limited to their house blends–the staff at Artemisia and Rue encourage their customers to craft their own tea blends from the self-serve bulk herbs in neat, attractive rows of glass jars. The staff can offer guidance and assistance in choosing herbs that target your needs, but you’re more than welcome to experiment on your own. Not only that, but they also offer a regular (and free) “Introduction to Tea Blending” class for beginners to give you the basics of formulating delicious, health-boosting teas. Marian Shorb, one of the herbalists at Artemisia and Rue, described tea blending in terms of making a cake, where lighter, nutritional herbs build up the base of the tea while herbs with stronger flavors and effects, like icing on a cake, provide the high notes. While it may be a month or two before they offer the tea blending class again, coming up on their list of free classes is the Halloween-themed “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Herbal Aid for Armageddon,” on October 27 to tide you over in the meantime.
Much more than a tea shop, though, Artemisia and Rue is committed to a program of instruction and community building as much as it is to having great teas. In fact, it could be said that empowering individuals to make informed choices about their health and well-being is at the heart of its mission. Supporting this mission is its robust menu of classes, trips, and training opportunities offered throughout the year . For example, in addition to rotating community classes taught by trained herbalists—the majority of which are free—the shop also hosts, under the supervision of owner Shelley Torgove, the more extensive Community Herbalist Certification Program and Women’s Ethnobotanical Studies Program.
Torgove’s own background in Western Herbal Medicine contributes a unique flavor to the teaching. Coming by way of Yucatán Maya healers through the late Michael Moore’s Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine is based around using the plants native to the American Southwest to make medicines. Torgove spoke fondly of her time learning from Moore and his wife, Donna Chesner, and she still takes students to study with Chesner from time to time. She also regularly plans training trips to study with traditional curanderas in small Maya communities in Mexico. These are more than a mini-seminar for her students, however. These trips are also a source of renewal for the Maya communities. The excitement Torgove’s students bring to their time learning with the curanderas inspires the Maya youth to see their elders and the traditions they profess as still relevant and meaningful in our modern, tech-focused times. These trips are a symbol of the bridges being built between the generations of teachers and students and between the disparate communities of people who make up these groups.
Locally, this bridge building is gaining pace, as with each class of new graduates the traditions and practices taught at Artemisia and Rue are strengthening the Denver herbalism scene. At once a point of pride and humility, Torgove is finding the seeds she’s sown over her 20 plus years of practice blooming in unexpected places, such as the burgeoning interest in mixing herbs with food. The store has recently started selling herb-infused bitters for cocktails, and their medicinal teas are tasty enough to pair with a meal whether hot or chilled. What’s also exciting for Torgove is the way that her staff—all of whom have gone through her certification program—are expanding the penetration of herbalism in communities she would personally struggle to reach, such as the African-American community, and expanding the diversity of the store’s educational offerings with classes on men’s health and problems with sleep and anxiety, to name only a few. While her own specialty is women’s health, she feels blessed to see the growth of different approaches and possibilities that her work has made possible. The next generation of Denver herbalists is already showing a taste of its promising future at Artemisia and Rue.
All photography by Danielle Webster.