BISBEE — Tucked away under Rose Canyon Suites off Subway Street, the owner of a new herb store is keeping his fingers crossed as he readies for a grand opening Friday, Aug. 28.
The Raving Raven Apothecary, run by Thaddeus Johnson, opened its doors last Friday and saw a few shoppers who came in to check out the new store and the 289 different types of herbs in various forms from seed to ground, and even a few fresh culinary herbs for home planting. Eighty percent of the herbs are grown in California organically and under sustainable farming practices. All the herbs are sold by the half-ounce.
Johnson’s interest in herbs is part of his family’s history, he said.
“My family had a background in herbal medicines and I’ve been drawn to herbs,” he said.
His culinary herbs cover the gamut of spices from anise to rosemary. And he carries a favorite customer treat, candied ginger.
For teas, there are comfrey, chamomile, lemon grass and even horse chestnuts, which are said to be good for circulation. Lavender and rose add a special flavor as well as additional benefits.
With the increased interest in home remedies, he carries medicinal herbs, including some that are hard to get like Chinese red ginseng and golden seal root sought for their anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and other medicinal qualities. Bee pollen also is an important dietary product that is said to help immunity and provide B vitamins. Wormwood is used for digestive problems and in salves and tinctures for pain relief and arthritis. It may be best known as the green or colorless liquor absinthe.
There are herbs some regard as metaphysical like the mandrake root. Mandrake gets much of its mystery from a long, thick taproot that resembles the human body, according to the website Gardening Know How. As a member of the Nightshade family, it is dangerous, highly toxic and in small quantities can produce hallucinations, so it is important to know how to use it and check with an expert.
“People may have heard of it from the Harry Potter book series,” he said. “It’s a practitioner’s herb.”
Practitioner’s herbs are used by pagans, Wiccans and druids, he added. It seems there are quite a few in the Bisbee area.
Johnson also carries baseball caps with bills he hand painted with colorful acrylics.
He also carries incense, oils, some iridescent rave products and some brilliant, multi–colored tapestries great for bedspreads and curtains.
Johnson started a shop in Douglas, near where he lives, but decided to move it to Bisbee when the business did not go as well as he had hoped.
He came to southeastern Arizona six years ago to help his mother, who died two years ago, and decided to stay.
Before that, he traveled around the country working in outreach programs to help the homeless and hopes to build something to help the homeless obtain identification cards and sign up for Social Security. He plays Santa at the Tin Town Homeless Shelter for the annual Christmas party.
“My passion is the homeless,” he said.
At the grand opening Friday, there will be door prizes at the top of every hour from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. For every $5 purchase, the customer gets a raffle ticket for a TV. For every $25 spent at the store, there will be a $5-off certificate on the next purchase.
“There’ll be a lot of freebies,” he added. “It’ll be fun.”