Health and well-being have always been high and necessary goals. People have sought remedies from a number of sources, including nature – plants, animals, outdoor exploration – and modern medicine.
Advances in the latter cannot be overstated, but many seek answers to their ailments in a more holistic, organic realm, turning to herbal tinctures, aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, nutrition, CBD products, yoga, and other proactive choices to balance the body.
“We heal each other through a web of wellness,” said Christi Albert, owner of Ellister’s Elixirs, a store on North Queen Street that sells organic, plant-based skin care and wellness products. She refers to a thriving women’s wellness collective that is currently thriving in Lancaster.
Albert notes that in particular (since the pandemic) “(Social Media) has helped support other doers and little healers by sharing content, skills and offers with one another.”
Christi Albert will mix rose geranium and sesame oil in Lancaster on Friday 5th February 2021 at Gerister’s Elixers. The locally grown herbs infusion from Lancaster Farmacy is used as a massage oil.
The result is wider public access to healthy learning opportunities.
“As women, it’s important to have support from other women in order to feel uplifted and feel good and take care of each other,” says Albert.
A focus on healing
Dr. Erin Gattuso, a naturopath in Manheim, is committed to helping women find alternative approaches to chronic diseases, from fertility problems to menopausal symptoms.
“Root healing is largely emotional and the goal is to penetrate beyond consciousness into unconscious thoughts and beliefs,” she says.
Breath and body work can also help people “connect with a deeper layer of their emotional selves,” she says.
Gattuso also works with men and often uses Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST), a gentle, hands-on technique of relieving compression around the skull, spine, and surrounding joints to heal deep-seated trauma. While the effectiveness of CST may be doubtful for some, many patients insist that it contributes to their health and wellbeing, according to Medical News Today.
Gattuso says she is proud to be part of the Lancaster Women’s Healing Collective and mentions other talented, dedicated people in the growing field.
“Christi Albert is great at cultivating and bringing together diverse experts,” she says.
One of Gattuso’s favorite complaints is that everyone wants to work with herbs, but many of them are not devoted to the art and science of them.
“In alternative medicine, you have to be fully immersed because each client’s body is different,” she says.
A collective effort
Susquehanna Apothecary offers raw herbs, tinctures, and even ergonomic and locally made Rebel Garden tools. The company is owned by Benjamin Weiss and is led by Ella Usdin. They also offer classes that Gattuso says is looking forward to this spring.
In this growing wellness collective, Gattuso also cites Lancaster Farmacy, which grows certified organic medicinal herbs, flowers and products. Lancaster Farmacy, owned and operated by Elisabeth “Eli” Weaver and Casey Spacht, describes its mission, according to its website, to empowering others “to regain their health through ancient knowledge of the natural traditions of whole foods and herbs.”
Gattuso calls Weaver “a force” and says she has the utmost respect for “radical women like you who choose to farm”.
ho-lis-tic: adj. characterized by treating the whole person taking into account mental and social factors and not just the symptoms of an illness.
apoth-e-cary: noun. someone who makes and sells drugs or compounds for medical purposes.
Blade & Spade Coffee Apothecary, a woman-owned herb and coffeehouse on West Walnut Street in Lancaster, serves seasonal, freshly prepared foods and beverages infused with Mylk, a plant-based version of milk. Owner Alyssa Miller’s vendors include the aforementioned companies who ensure that Lancaster’s wellness experts help and support one another so that in turn they can support the community.
The most common illness that people seek relief from is chronic anxiety, the women say. “But not just since the pandemic,” says Albert. She attributes the increase to the ubiquity of technology.
“It’s hard to turn things off – as technology has increased, so has fear,” she says.
Worrying and discomfort as a root disease can lead to hormone, skin, bowel and pain problems. “Fear drives other diseases,” says Albert.
She adds that there has been a “COVID shift” where parents balance work and home schooling for their children, looking for ways to remedy them in holistic and healthy ways.
Gattuso agrees, noting that the pandemic has taken a toll.
“Fear was through the roof and harder to deal with,” she says.
Anxiety can manifest itself in other areas like the gut, gut, and sleep, which affects the immune system, says Gattuso. However, a holistic approach can cure both the symptoms and the cause, and create long-term wellbeing, she adds.
Another powerful tool can be creating a sense of community, says Gattuso. For example, before the pandemic, her clinic provided parenting liaison groups where mothers with (or with) nutritional problems or allergies could meet other like-minded people.
“It’s very comforting,” she says. “Feeling seen and supported is the foundation for security that promotes healing and well-being.”
Albert is also looking forward to a pandemic-free time in which she can offer a free meditation class in the community in the studio next to her business in order to give people “a safe place where they can feel calm and charged”.
“Community is the main health factor that is lacking in most people’s lives because we encourage individualism in the United States,” says Gattuso.
That lack of community connection was compounded by COVID-19, she says.
What else is good for health and wellness? Sing and dance, says Gattuso.
“Women should sing together!” She says. Regardless of whether it is a call-and-response procedure or your own melody: “Singing is a great relief – it sets you back.”
Body movements – walking, dancing, exercising – are also critical to wellbeing. “When I work with a lot of women (with fear), dancing is often the level of liberation they need,” says Gattuso. “Dance can improve your health and well-being.”
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