Posted on Marin Independent Journal on December 2018
Amy McKelvey knows firsthand the healing power of herbs. After developing adult asthma in college and instructed to make lifestyle changes she didn’t believe in, the San Rafael resident’s search for alternative remedies led her to herbalism. It wasn’t long after she started consuming green tea, ginger and other herbs to strengthen her lungs that her health improved.
From then on, McKelvey, 47, began growing herbs in her garden, using them for tinctures and medicine for herself, friends and family. She trained at the California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville, one of North America’s oldest centers for herbal education.
After working in marketing for the natural products industry, the integrative herbalist decided to start her vital way, her year-old wellness company with products she’s formulated for women.
Q How did you get into herbalism?
A I had always been a healthy athlete-type person and out of the blue developed adult asthma. I had doctors saying, “I am sorry, you are going to have to be on steroids, use inhalers and you are going to have to curtail physical activity.” I started exploring all kinds of alternative remedies. I picked up my first herbal book in a used bookstore in San Francisco and that’s when I really started to go deep into herbs. This idea that there were medicinal properties to plants, really intrigued me and as soon as I started down that path, there really was no turning back. … I started incorporating all these little things into my life, and sure enough, I stopped having asthma attacks and I was able to start doing little short runs again. I am that nutty herbalist, that’s what my friends call me.
Q What made you want to start your company?
A I wanted to empower women to proactively look after their health and I couldn’t do that if I was writing about a functional beverage or copy about skincare. That coincided with my best friend of 33 years being diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was on that journey with her. Unfortunately I lost her in August of this year. She and I wanted to run a business together and I said to her about two years ago, “I need to stop doing marketing and I need to create a business for women.” She said, “Do it.” She’s part of the main reason that I did it. I wanted women to put their health first and really listen to themselves, to really make sure their doctors are listening to them, and to have them look to herbal alternatives and not just say yes to every prescription.
Q Why are your products geared toward women?
A We are these extremely empathetic creatures who have a tendency to put ourselves last. When women feel well, when we feel energized, I do believe we are unstoppable. We have a long history of not listening to women, and women giving over that power to a doctor. It’s not to say to not listen to doctors, but don’t take yourself out of the equation.
Q What are some of your favorite things to make?
A I have elderberry curing right now. I am taking it every day, and that’s for anti-viral support and to combat the flu. I love a class of herbs called bitters — they helped me with my digestion immensely, so yellow dock is one of my favorites, as is dandelion and gentian. I make teas all the time and I love nettle. I have a huge nettle patch in my backyard. They are very high in all kinds of vitamins and minerals.
Q Where does your love of gardening come from?
A I was raised by an avid gardener, my mom. When I was little, we would bring vegetables, fruits and herbs to people on our street. I always saw my mom go out to the garden and now that I have two kids and run my own business, I understand what she was doing. It’s a very grounding place to be.