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An “intuitive” experience with motherwort led Kim North to traditional herbalism in St. Williams

Kim North of North Roots Herb Farm, St. Williams, says that she was always attracted to herbs. This self-described “traditional herbalist” vividly remembers playing with mints and similar herbs at her childhood home in Hamilton. “I was even caught eating boxwood from a relative’s hedge,” she said, laughing.

But her journey towards establishing her full time herbal teas and salves business and herb crops didn’t start until age 19, when she left Hamilton for Norfolk County. Like many of that generation, North worked in tobacco for a living. She loved doing that -- especially weeding, hoeing and going barefoot in the sandy soils.

Today, North grows and wild crafts approximately 50 medicinal and culinary herbs on a friend’s nearby 100-acre property – a former tobacco farm that has been chemical-free since 2007.

She dries, prepares, and crafts the harvested leaves, flowers and roots into loose-leafed herbal teas, salves and tinctures at her shop located behind her home of 36 years, on the East Quarterline Road. The products are sold on site, online and at some local businesses.

North offers herbal workshops on herbs’ properties and uses, with titles such as “The Personality of Stinging Nettle and Plantain” using her backyard herb gardens as teaching aids.

North’s products are audited and certified by a third party organic inspection agency that is approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“I’ve always had a natural health background is science-trained,” said North. In addition to studying homeopathy, chiropractic and nutrition with friends, North took formal training in massage therapy. That program demands “intensive hours” in physiology, muscle groups and all bodily systems, she said.

But despite this scientific bias, it was an intuitive moment that veered North into herbalism.

She developed a health issue that was difficult to cure. Then she spotted a motherwort plant growing beside her porch. She instinctively consumed it as a tea.

The condition cleared up almost immediately, said North. Subsequent research revealed that her issue was one of several health problems that motherwort is reputed to treat.

The experience prompted North to study herbalism, the study of the nature and use of medicinal plants, which are a basis of traditional medicine. She studied under registered medical herbalist Christine Dennis (MNIMH, MS) of Pt Burwell. “I already had my background in anatomy and physiology from my hours of massage therapy training.”

This, in turn, led to a joint partnership with Dennis called Herbal Posey in 2008. North grew and wild crafted the herbs and began to produce salves, tea blends and tinctures.

Presently, North bought out her share of the business, initially using the name Herbal Posey-North Roots. She changed the business name to North Roots and adopted a colourful logo designed by the late Lynnette Carrington-Smith.

The North Roots motto listed above the Carrington-Smith logo on North’s packages sums up her philosophy: “Nature’s wisdom in a teacup”. So does the logo, which depicts a colourful plant whose leaves and flowers merge with the heavens while the tap root grounds it into the earth.

“All living beings, including plants, have energy….Mint for example is there to help with your health, and when it’s done, the plant is composted and then it feeds the soil.”

“Herbs grow where they are needed,” added North. For example, plantain appears in compacted areas. I harvest it and use it as a salve for treating mosquito bites and removing shards.

Each plant has different preparations and uses, such as catnip and mints for teas, said North. Others can be chewed and applied to affected areas of skin; yarrow can be added to baths for other benefits.

Long, colourful rows of different herbs grow side by side on the farm’s main field. Pulled weeds and the unused portions of harvested plants such as comfrey are placed on the ground between rows to dry out and decompose into the soil.

North’s tea shop-herbal apothecary carries teas, loose leaf herbs, spices, some organic salts and soap. North brings in castor oil and sells some local pottery and crafts. 

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