Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas (and a Sale!) from Goldthread

Dear Friends,
As we head towards the holidays, Goldthread Apothecary in Florence is filling up with exciting new products, and we hope that by the time you've finished reading this newsletter you've decided on the perfect gift for everyone on your list!

First, we've expanded our bulk tea section where, in addition to artisan teas from around the world, you will now find traditional matcha and maté accessories, gorgeous flowering tea sets from Numi Tea (that's one blooming, above), lidded tea cups, super-convenient (and BPA-free) on-the-go french press mugs in 6 glossy colors, and more.

We also have lots of stocking stuffers to choose from, like Juniper Ridge incense made with 100% wild-harvested leaves, wood and resins from the mountains of the West. There are also new charcoals and Japanese incense bowls for burning the Floracopeia resins we carry — like Black Copal, gathered from wild "elephant trees" of the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico.

Speaking of Floracopeia, we recently restocked our essential oil display with some of our customer's favorites like tea tree, Frankincense, and peppermint — and have Aroma-Globe nebulizers in which to diffuse them. Compact, quiet and attractive, Aroma Globes are the most technologically advanced nebulizing diffuser systems on the market today. In fact, if you need to restore some focus during the hectic holiday season (and who doesn't?) an excellent mental clarity blend of essential oils for diffusing is 4 drops of lime, 2 drops tulsi and 2 drops of peppermint.

If you haven't yet experienced our super-comfy "Farm to Pharmacy" organic bamboo and cotton tee shirts, you can find them in a new display at the front of the store, with more colors and sizes due to arrive this week.

As always, we have a wide variety of Goldthread-grown culinary spice mixes, teas, hydrosols, herb-infused honeys, tinctures and elixirs, many of which are currently on sale for 20% off! Organic, local, hand-harvested and produced in small batches, these special items are rich with the colors, scents, and tastes of our Conway summer gardens and make wonderful, unique holiday and hostess gifts, especially when gathered together in a basket. Click here to see our sale flier for details.

Community Supported Medicine Shares for next summer's herbal bounty also make excellent gifts, and we have customizable gift certificates available for those, as well as a special price! From now until December 31, 2011 both small and large shares are $25 off — small shares are now $125 and large shares $225. During our summer distributions, shares can be picked up at the farm in Conway or at the Apothecary in Florence, or shipped if you'd like to share the herbal goodness with someone who is not local.

Come to the Apothecary to shop locally, take a class, browse our new books and items, or to just say hello, relax and savor the scent of the resins we'll be burning and the sight of last summer's harvest dried and tucked into glass jars in our bulk herbs section.

We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Best Wishes,


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Goldthread's November Newsletter

For those of you who aren't yet subscribed to our email list (which can be done here), we wanted to share our November newsletter...

Dear Friends of Goldthread,

It's hard to believe we're already in the midst of the busy holiday season and standing at the threshold of winter, isn't it? At the farm in Conway we handed out the last CSM share of the 2011 season, have nestled bulbs of garlic into the cold soil for next summer's crop, and are about to build a new, second greenhouse for this spring's seedlings. Both our Community and Clinical Herbalist classes are headed into their second months, and applications are already coming in for the 2012 Farm to Pharmacy internship, which begins in April.

Spice Month Ends... 

Spice Month at the Apothecary ended on November 9th with a Spice of Life Workshop. In a review on the Northampton/Amherst Herbal Meetup site one attendee wrote of the two hour class, "Bill was very generous with his ideas, suggestions, explanations of illness and how herbs and rest can help ward problems off. He sent around interesting samples of items that were available in his store and we sampled them...I felt very well taken care of in his place of business. I bought a couple of items that resonated with me, and would go back to hear more and learn more and purchase items that could do me some good that I do not have at home already." 

Spice Month is over but our organic culinary spices, grown at the farm and processed by hand, are still available and make great stocking stuffers for the locavore cook on your list! Hand processing means that none of the valuable essential oils responsible for an herb's medicinal qualities, taste, and smell are burned off and lost to the heat generated by commercial, mechanized processing — this makes a huge difference in the quality of our herbs and spices compared to larger producers, as fans of our products know. 

Immunity Month Begins! 

If you've been by the Apothecary recently you've seen our new window display and know that Immunity Month is in full swing! Inside the shop the front table is stocked with our own line of immunity-boosting elixirs, tinctures, honeys, and teas as well as a big basket of organic garlic from the farm, some Ayurvedic neti pots and nasya oil and (just in case your immunity wasn't quite ready for the season), cough syrups and teas for either wet or dry coughs. 

This month William Siff will be teaching two Wednesday night classes about immunity, on December 7th and 21st.

The first, Building Deep Immunity will focus on the best strategies for building the deep immune reserves that we need to stay healthy throughout the winter months. We will review and discuss aspects of immune function and dysfunction from the point of view of traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, and Western herbal theory and will discuss a variety of the most important remedies for optimal immune health, including how to prepare, when to take, and at what dosage.

In the second class, Grassroots Herbal Remedies for a New England Winter, we'll discuss some common disorders that can make living in New England during the winter quite a challenge — coughs, colds, flus, sore throats and fevers — and learn some of the grassroots remedies and strategies that can be used to help you and your family prevent and treat these unwanted winter guests. We'll discuss the most effective use of essential oils, Echinacea, garlic, Tulsi, Osha, Slippery elm, Neti pots and more. You'll walk away able to confidently use these remedies immediately to treat a range of common conditions and regain the skill and knowledge that every grandmother once knew.

Tuition for each of these 2 hour classes is $25 at the door, or pay in advance and save $5! Pre-registration is required so we can reach you if the class doesn't run. RSVP by calling 413-587-0620 or emailing

Stay tuned for next email newsletter — we'll be tempting you with a list of some of the new products arriving daily at the Apothecary just in time for holiday shopping season and getting you thinking about next summer with a special offer on our Community Supported Medicine Shares. We hope to see you soon in a class or at the shop, and appreciate your continued support.

Best Wishes, 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Snowy Open House and CSM Distribution at Goldthread Farm

I must admit that when the date for Goldthread's final Open House and Community Supported Medicine share distribution of the season was set about a month ago, I was not envisioning the gardens being covered in snow. Despite looking more like early January than early November, yesterday's temperature was actually quite comfortable and a handful of adventurous herb lovers ventured to the farm to pick up shares and take a snowy sunset tour.

The third and final share of the season included bulk herbs and teas: Lemon Lunacy, Flu Relief, Goldthread Basil Blend and Immuni-Tea; immunity-boosting tinctures of Echinacea and Ashwagandha; compounds: Elderberry Elixir, Throat Spray; Infused oils of Mullein Garlic and Lavender; Dominican Sage, Yarrow, and Balsam Fir hydrosols; Holy Basil and Lavender Sage honeys; and bulbs of this season's garlic.

The Lavender Sage Honey seemed to be a popular choice at last night's distribution. Since I was on the farm this summer as a Farm to Pharmacy intern I remember the day in July when we harvested lavender flowers and started infusing that sun and flower-filled honey...

...which is truly a taste of summer in the winter months.

I also remember the Ashwagandha root harvest...

Being on the farm from April to October gives one the opportunity to see the complete growing cycle and personally I feel far more connected to both the plants and the medicine as a result.

Speaking of connected, I baked these ginger cookies for the Open House using the locally-grown fresh ginger from Old Friends Farm in Amherst MA that I blogged about here. These were accompanied by hot Lemon Lunacy tea.

We even had a surprise guest, though he was a bit shy.

The bad news is, this was the final CSM distribution of the 2011 season. The good news is, full shares of medicine will be available until January and can be picked up at Goldthread Apothecary in Florence, MA or shipped (we will post a list of what these shares include in the near future). The best news is that we are already planning for the 2012 season of Community Supported Medicine and for continued opportunities to visit and tour the farm during next summer's distributions.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Locally Grown Ginger? Yes!

Here at Goldthread Apothecary we have the perfect antidote to the early arrival of winter in New England — deliciously spicy locally grown ginger!

A few years ago the folks at Old Friends Farm decided to bring a bit of Hawaii to nearby Amherst, MA and pioneered the growing of ginger as a Northeast crop. Harvested at a young stage, this local ginger is more tender than the older roots typically found at stores and has less inner fibers and no tough skin. Since the harvest season runs only from late August until mid-November, NOW is definitely the time to stock up on this delicious root (without all those transportation miles) — especially with the holiday baking and cooking season right around the corner. Ginger-glazed turkey, anyone? Fresh Ginger Gingerbread? And let's not forget what fresh ginger adds to a cup of homemade Masala Chai.

According to the Old Friends Farm website, young ginger root can be stored in the refrigerator for 10 days in a waxed paper bag or sealed container. Any part of the root that will not be used within 10 days should be frozen in a zipper bag, and can be used from the freezer for many months.

PREPARING FOR FREEZING: Clean the ginger by running it under water and gently rubbing off any soil, then refrigerate or freeze it.

USING FROZEN GINGER: When using the frozen ginger, take it out and grate it frozen, do not allow to thaw and put any unused portions back into the freezer. Grating the ginger just before it is needed in your cooking, enables you to brush the frozen gratings off your cutting board and none is wasted!

Besides being delicious (if you need more inspiration Old Friends Farm shares a number of recipes on their site) the many uses of ginger as a botanical healer are well known. In Ayurvedic medicine ginger is considered the best and most sattvic of the spices, supporting a serene, harmonious, balanced mind or attitude. A warming carminative, ginger has traditionally been used to soothe occasional intestinal gas, bloating, and cramping and to relieve the symptoms of nausea. 

You can find Old Friends Farm locally grown ginger in the refrigerator to the left of the counter at Goldthread Apothecary — while supplies last!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Farm to Pharmacy, Tuesday September 13


As the Farm to Pharmacy internship heads into its final weeks we're taking advantage of the gorgeous weather to take long herb walks in the gardens,


stopping to admire the flowering chamomile and dill, sampling the bark of Slippery Elm (whose leaves are decidedly un-slippery),
harvesting the Bacopa, known as Brahmi in Ayurvedic medicine,

building fresh new willow fences along the driveway garden,

and enjoying the beauty of the farm.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Goldthread in The Boston Globe

From today's Boston Globe....

Locally grown herbs finding their niche

By Karen Brown Globe Correspondent / September 5, 2011

CONWAY - Almost everything Joanna Miles consumes comes from a local source. The 34-year-old stay-at-home mother gets her vegetables from one nearby farm, her meat and grains from another, her milk from a local dairy. And this summer, she learned that the locavore movement has come to medicinal herbs.

That’s how she ended up at Goldthread Herb Farm, a picturesque three acres in the foothills of the Berkshires, choosing from an assortment of herbal tea, hydrosols, oils, and tinctures that originated in its lush fields.

Miles, who lives in Easthampton, filled her bag with clary sage to calm her premenstrual moods, California poppy to help her sleep, and dried nettles for calcium - all of which she could have bought at a retail store.

“I really wanted to see the ground, see where they grew,’’ she said, “to talk to the people who make it, see the care and the love they put into it. And to support the growing efforts.’’

Miles is just the sort of consumer William Siff had in mind when he bought this certified organic farm six years ago and started what he calls a Community Supported Medicine program - a variation on the better-known term Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.

Siff’s goal is to get his medicinal herbs into the consumer’s medicine cabinet the same way that vegetable CSAs get local produce onto the kitchen table.

Fifty to 75 people invest in a share of his harvest every year, he said, each paying $150 to $225 for three pick-ups a season - about 20 percent less than the retail price. Instead of kale and lettuce, they get calendula and skullcap - usually packaged for internal or topical use.

“They treat all manner of what you would typically see at the individual or family level in the course of living your life in New England for a year,’’ Siff said. “Colds, flus, allergies, coughs, sleep and stress, minor skin things.’’

While Goldthread was among the first farms to launch this CSA model, the American Botanical Council reports a growing number of herbal farmshares across the Northeast and, to a lesser extent, beyond. Some sell their medicinal herbs at farmers markets or by mail order, and others, like Goldthread, invite consumers to pick up directly from the farm and learn there how to use them.

Siff, a tall, fit 39-year-old, is an acupuncturist and practitioner of herbal medicine who also runs a retail herb apothecary in Northampton. For years, he bought his remedies from producers as far away as California and China.

“It didn’t make much sense, considering the fact there’s a lot of fossil fuel usage getting them here,’’ Siff said. “You can’t ascertain quality and freshness at the level you can when you do it yourself, when it’s locally sourced.’

He decided to start his own herb farm - not just for his own clinical use, but to reach a growing market of people frustrated with Western health care.

Joanna Miles says the appeal of herbs, for her, is that they are designed to keep people healthy, not just treat them when sick.

Taking herbs “is self-empowering, because people can do it at home by themselves,’’ said Siff, who said he has not been to a Western doctor in 17 years. “They don’t have to run to the doctor every time they get a sore throat or a cold or cough. It’s basically the revival of what we call folk medicine.’’
Not that he expects his customers to forgo all pharmaceuticals. “But they’re looking for alternatives. Herbal medicine tends to be, if used right, something that not only deals with symptoms but strengthens underlying tissues of the body.’’

On a recent pick-up day, Siff - in a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals - led customers through his fields to see the plant versions of what they got in their shares. He passed wild jagged stalks of stinging nettles - good for arthritis and joint pain, he explained - and moved onto tulsi, a member of the basil family.

“Feel free to scratch or smell it,’’ he told them. “If you drink it every day, for a period of time, weeks to months, it will help to essentially enhance your energy, help you to sleep deeper, and resist the negative effects of stress.’’

Next was California poppy, an antispasmodic for the nervous system, Siff said. Take a dropper full of the tincture, he told them, “and then wait until you feel relaxation. Anywhere from every 30 to 45 minutes to an hour, do it again, until the pain is at a level where it’s tolerable. The thing with herbs is you have to monitor how it’s affecting you, moment to moment, hour to hour.’’

But even with this educational piece, some herbal experts question whether medicine - natural or otherwise - should be marketed the same way as eggplants and broccoli.

“Are you just supposed to take whatever medicinal herbs are being grown? Because that seems like an odd way to use medicine,’’ says Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a Georgetown University plant pharmacologist affiliated with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “You wouldn’t go into a drugstore and ask for the drug of the week.’’

Siff points out that many people keep standard Western pharmaceuticals on hand, such as decongestants or aspirin, so why not do the same for herbal medicine?

Fugh-Berman, however, worries that untrained consumers may not know how to use the herbs properly, especially since the FDA does not regulate herbs for safety or effectiveness. And while she says many common herbs - such as chamomile or lemon balm - are benign, others can be problematic if taken in high doses, or with prescription drugs.

“If it’s strong enough to be pharmacologically active,’’ Fugh-Berman says, “it’s also strong enough to have some side effects.’’

On the other end of the debate, some question how well herbs work at all - and whether taking them could delay more effective Western treatment.

Dr. David Kroll, a pharmacologist at North Carolina Central University who studies medicinal herbs, thinks consumers should be aware that the quality and potency of plants can vary greatly from farm to farm. He also points out that major clinical trials have shown little to no benefit for some popular herbs, including echinacea for shortening the duration of colds and ginkgo for memory enhancement.

“There’s this beautiful emotional connection to the land, particularly if you’re buying from a farmer who’s local,’’ Kroll says. “But I think that it is just as much of a crapshoot as far as whether the herbs will have a desired effect when purchased from a farm, relative to a retail outlet.’’
Many of Goldthread’s shareholders say the herbs make a difference for them, but the appeal goes beyond efficacy.

It’s about seeing the farmworkers, many of them herbalism students, poring over each individual yarrow stem or pulling petals off each chamomile flower.

“I have a lot of respect for people who do this kind of work,’’ said Meredith Marcoux of Greenfield, who uses medicinal herbs for herself and her dogs. “I’d like to see this flourish.’’

Karen Brown can be reached at
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What's in Store at Goldthread

Those of you who are local and who have visited Goldthread Apothecary recently have probably noticed that we are manifesting a number of changes in the store this summer. For one thing, our shelves are in the process of being reorganized with categories clearly marked by new signage...

You'll also start to see more photos from our farm in Conway MA (where Goldthread's herbs are organically grown) dotting the shelves, as well as some images of our Farm to Pharmacy interns planting, harvesting, and making medicine. Of course we welcome you to visit the farm in person during our next open house on Tuesday, September 6 from 4-6pm (please RSVP to 413-587-0620 if you're coming) or get hands-on experience growing and making herbal medicine by participating in our 7-month long Farm to Pharmacy program which starts up again next April.

But I digress. Let's get back to the Apothecary!

We're adding more space for book and magazine offerings, and have removed some of the furniture in the front of the store to make space for this beautiful  new display table, custom made by Goldthread's Farm Manager, Thomas Schieffer...

You'll also be seeing some new signage in the store windows, displayed in two of these double-sided 2'x3' reclaimed wood frames built by local craftsman Jason Drew...

Goldthread is gearing up for an exciting year ahead. Come to Florence and say hello, or join us at one of our upcoming special events and classes!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An August Harvest...

The late summer weather in New England has been gorgeous lately, and this afternoon Farm to Pharmacy interns worked on harvesting a variety of crops, like these hops, above.

It was also time to harvest some of our culinary herbs — sweet basil, Thai basil, Greek basil, thyme, winter savory, marjoram...these are picked at the peak of the season and immediately brought to our drying room to ensure potent  flavor. 


We're excited to be offering our line of local, organic culinary spices to cafés and restaurants this year and hoping local chefs will incorporate them into imaginative offerings.

We also began to harvest a bit of Echinacea root for tincture.

As well as tiny Elderberries, the basis of an effective (and delicious) immune-building syrup we create and offer at the apothecary.

Elderberries slowly cooking over a low flame.

As summer turns into fall the harvested rows will be cleaned up and put to bed beneath a layer of fresh hay — but not before a lot more medicine gets made!

There is still time to register for our last Farm to Pharmacy Intensive Week of the season, happening September 19-23. We'll be taking herb walks, harvesting, medicine-making, distilling essential oil, and learning from herbalists David Crow and William Siff. September is a beautiful time to enjoy the rolling hills and crisp air of Western Massachusetts, and an amazing season of harvest at Goldthread. We hope you'll join us!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Special Event at Goldthread: Activating the Healers

Join us for an evening with 

Claudia Abbott-Barish and Meghan Murphy
Tuesday August 30th at 6pm
Goldthread Herbal Apothecary

1 North Main Street, Florence, MA

Using popular education and anti-oppressive techniques, this workshop will cover a brief history of corporate power and how regulatory agencies have prevented (and continue to prevent) us from actions of self-sufficiency. Claudia and Meghan will focus on why cultivating, wild-crafting and teaching about herbs is a true act of resistance and creates new possibilities for us to create more healthy, reciprocal systems (social, economic, and political) in the rest of our lives. This analysis will include examples, past and present, of how people have used herbs and herbal medicine to resist dominant oppressive paradigms. The workshop will end with a dialogue around who and how to engage around these issues with members of our communities; what methods are inclusive and equitable, and how to reach the most people.

All workshop participants will receive a medicinal salve wildcrafted locally from plants that grow in your area.

Sliding Scale Donation for this event is $0-$10. Please join us!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Meeting the Medicine

On Tuesday we distributed our first community supported medicine shares of the 2011 season — bags of nettles, chocolate mint and tulsi; tinctures of skullcap, lemon balm and California poppy; calendula and lavender oils; lavender, spruce and clary sage hydrosols; lemon balm and tulsi honeys, and fresh garlic and herbs from the fields.

To celebrate the abundance we also held an open house, and felt truly supported by the enthusiastic group of members and non-members alike who came to Goldthread to meet the plants, sample some chocolate mint tea tea, ask questions, and watch essential oil of clary sage being distilled over a wood fire. It was an amazing afternoon!

We were once again joined by local reporter Karen Brown of WFCR, who interviewed several of our members about their experiences with herbal medicine and their farm shares, and tomorrow morning the story will air at 6:30 and 8:45am eastern time on our local public radio station, 88.5 (or listen online here).

The open house was such a success we'll be holding another at the end of August when we distribute our second share. Anyone interested in seeing the farm and learning more about herbal medicine is welcome to join us!

Even if you missed the first official distribution, shares are still available for the season and can be ordered here (and we do ship). Thanks again to everyone who came out on Tuesday!