MOON MOTHER APOTHECARY
Meet Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, an herbalist, community organizer and the Founder of Moon Mother Apothecary. Your soon to be favorite new brand.
Tell us about Moon Mother Apothecary, what sparked the need for you to build this and what do you hope to accomplish with it!
Moon Mother is the coming together of so many of my greatest loves: my daughter, the moon, my community, and these precious and powerful plants. I’ve always been drawn to the beauty and magic of plants. They remind me of the sacredness and the gift of breath, of being, and of my spiritual connection to life force. I grew up in Morningside Heights, with the North Woods of Central Park as my backyard. I still have so much of that land in my memories and so many of my dearest memories are of and in that land. My first apartment in Brooklyn was two blocks down from the Grecian Columns in Prospect Park, the site where I would later marry my wife and best friend. My second Brooklyn apartment was up the block from Fort Greene Park and today, I live down the street from Prospect Park. I’ve always been surrounded by my city’s most precious green spaces. I never thought it was unusual to be an NYC girl who felt such a connection to nature. It was just my truth. I danced around plant work for years before I wound up at Sacred Vibes studying spiritual herbalism with Master Herbalist, Karen Rose. I studied environmental justice in graduate school, created a photography-based platform called, “The Earth Warrior” to capture the beauty of plants and humans interacting with them, and worked all across Latin America doing environmental preservation work with youth leaders. In early 2018, I decided that I wanted to share my plant wisdom and medicine with my community, and Moon Mother Apothecary was born. In the beginning, my clients were my wife, my daughter, and my closest friends. When something ailed us, I was called forth to create formulas for things from headaches to heartbreak and this work has really been the true nucleus of Moon Mother: healing myself and my loved ones with plant power.
My journey into plantwork has revealed a collective hunger for this type of healing. We are returning to our ancestral and indigenous wisdom and what a beautiful thing to witness that has been. I am proud to step into the arena and contribute my medicine and knowledge. I have so many dreams and wishes for Moon Mother (workshops, moon circles, and more) but in this era, I’m letting the work (and spirit) guide me. I do know that I’m starting by centering myself. It is only by achieving wholeness for myself that I will be able to genuinely offer my gifts from a place of abundance. And so, my dreams for Moon Mother feel very personal and inward-facing at this stage, but I know the work ripples outward still.
You have a baby girl, what are some things you want to teach her around wellness & self care?
Sometimes the lines are blurred in terms of who is teaching who. Luna has already taught me a great deal about patience, perspective, and being gentle with myself. She came to this realm with a natural appreciation for plants, and I have my ancestors to thank for that. I know she’s constantly watching me, so I try my best to live in my full truth, to allow her to participate in making plant medicine, to make mistakes and try again, and to share what I’m doing/making aloud because I can already see she’s soaking every bit of it up. We’re both learning, together.
My wife and I actually learned we were having Luna a few weeks before I started spiritual herbalism school at Sacred, so we’ve been on this journey together from Day 1. Truthfully, she’s just as much of an herbalist as I am and her love for plants is something that’s undeniable and special to witness. I think she has a fundamental, inherited love for nature, so she’ll have a unique starting point.
NYC is expensive AF, which can make pursuing wellness expensive. What are your top 3 herbal shops/places you shop for your herbal medicine ingredients?
Listen! I’m a native New Yorker, so I’m a lifelong victim of this expensive a$$ city. I’ll say this: going for a long walk in the park is one of my favorite & free things to do –exploring new paths or waterways and quizzing myself on the plants as I go (I’m a Virgo, everything is a competition especially versus myself!).
If I’m shopping for herbs, my go to places are:
Sacred Vibes Apothecary, 376 Argyle Road, Brooklyn NY
Flower Power, 406 East 9th St., New York, N.Y.
And let’s not forget all of the Bruj@s making magic on the interwebs:
Last but not least, your local farmer’s markets and food co-ops are fantastic places for fresh herbs, spices, and honeys.
You're AfroDominican, how has that influenced your work and the things you've pursued in your journey
I feel like the only way forward in this journey is backwards. That can be difficult when your parents came to this country to start over from scratch. For so many of us, our ancestors have intentionally cut off their homelands as a way to escape and survive their oppressive, traumatic pasts and consequently, we too have been cut off from our own histories, traditions, and heritage. So really, my exploration into who I am, who we are, and who we used to be, requires deep commitment and spiritual work that is facilitated by my relationship to plants and to spirit. My AfroDominican roots have and continue to teach me about legacy and the importance of continuing the work of my ancestors. These days I’m doing tons of research of how Dominicans (both on the mainland and here in New York) have used herbs and plants medicinally for healing work. I’m also working on a creative project to document, uplift, and share that wisdom with my people. Stay tuned ;)
Black & Brown women are not seen at the center of wellness spaces, why do you think that is and how do we change that?
These days I’m leaning deeper into the question of how we change that and RE-center Black & Brown womyn in this work. I really appreciate the action in that question. I refuse to invest any more airtime discussing how we got here – I think we can all imagine. I think to RE-center Black and Brown healers, we begin by investing in Black and Brown spaces, places, conferences, movements, herbalists, teachers, organizers, mothers, and communities. And I don’t just mean investing money. I mean time, energy, resources, skills, offering what we have to ensure the success of this community. We use our voices, dollars, and votes to choose and demand that these same conferences, schools, and workshops teaching OUR ancestral herbal knowledge and wisdom are taught by people who look like us, because 1) We’re out here! and 2) We’ve been here! We refuse the commodification of our traditions and heritages. We blast imposters and instead highlight and support Black and Brown Bruj@s. We may not be able to do all of these things, but we take action however we are able to. It is my responsibility to my lineage to protect this work and the Black and Brown practitioners who have been pushed to the margins, while our work is stolen and retaught in another voice.
I also want to say that it’s important to consider what your own unique world looks like, because Black and Brown women are, and will always be, at the center of wellness in my world.
What's the wildest/most awe-inspiring thing you've learned as an herbalist?
Plants have survived so many tests and yet, they have been resilient, adapting when necessary, and thriving in new lands. We can learn so much from the way they are.
LASTLY, What's 1 thing all our readers should have in their pantry/cupboard that would be useful for a quick fix me up?
Garlic! I feel like I’m having a serious love affair with Garlic these days. Garlic is antibiotic and antifungal and can support us with issues like: heart disease, ear infections, blood impurities, asthma and much more! Eat it raw, add it to a pesto, or drop some cloves into a jar and cover them with honey as cough/cold syrup this season. Just remember: if you want the medicinal properties, you must use garlic raw. Garlic also helps to keep spiritual vampires at bay, and Halloween is coming, so hang some over your door (just in case).