By Ken Jordan
Adriana Ayales is a rainforest herbalist from Costa Rica. She founded Anima Mundi Herbals as a way to bring justice to the rainforest lands, as well as reviving the hidden wisdom of ancient botany. Anima Mundi botanicals have been among the most popular offered on the Evolver Apothecary online market. Adriana recently opened the Anima Mundi Apothecary in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Evolver: What made you want to be an herbalist?
Adriana: I didn’t really choose it, it chose me. I was born into a lineage of grandmothers who practiced the psychic healing arts, mediums and such. They awakened me to that power at a very young age. They chose meand knew I was one of the daughters who would take on a herbal and pharmacopeia type of healing modality.
You were raised in Costa Rica. I figure you spent a lot of time in the rain forest with your grandmothers.
Yes, we did a lot of practices in the jungle. When I was young, most of what they taught me was hands-on healing, and the herbal teas that followed the hands-on healing experience.
So for you, working with plants has always been part of an energy healing practice?
With your deep connection to nature, what are you doing in Brooklyn?
I know! It’s such a wild thing! I still don’t even know how I ended up here.
What brought you to New York?
I lived in Costa Rica and was visiting for a friend’s art show. I discovered that a lot of people wanted rainforest medicine, so I started bringing in a bulk supply of fresh botanicals, mostly from the Amazon and the Costa Rican rainforest. I stayed here doing one-on-one healing -- which I don’t do anymore -- and providing practitioners, from conventional to homeopathic doctors, with incredible herbs. It became a whole product line all of a sudden. Things moved fast.
Most of your herbal products come from the Amazon or the Costa Rican rainforest?
It's basically half and half.
What standards do you use to decide which growers or wildcrafters to work with as suppliers?
There's a big difference between wild crafters and small organic farmers. The small farmers are a lot better than big plantations, but they practice monoculture, focusing on one certain herb that's popular. This means there's some deforestation happening just to grow certain herbs. Biocrafters are constantly navigating the jungle 24/7 and harvesting from just wild plants. There’s no control over the garden. That's what makes it so special.
Isn’t there some concern that wild crafters are taking too much, over harvesting?
Definitely. So ethical wild crafting is ideal. At the same time, medicinally speaking, wildcrafted herbs are a lot better. In laboratories they've shown that the chemical structure of wild crafted herbs is much more vibrant than even those from a small organic farm.
Was there a particular tonic or elixir that you learned from your grandmothers that has been a lasting inspiration?
Yes, definitely. That’s where my dream elixir comes from -- plants to go to sleep with. We would do a blend of different ones, like wild mugwort. with passion flower, passion root, and a beautiful root I don’t even know the name of. It had these bright pink flowers, gorgeous, and they call it the spirit harmonizer. Also [calia saca di chisi], which is an amazing riverbed plant, very bitter, which induces dreaming.
Where do you get your inspiration for your herbal products?
From what the community needs and wants next. I like to kind of dance with people’s requests. Even before I opened the herbal line, people were constantly asking me if I had a libido enhancer, or a hormone regulator. Even though everyone has their own specific story, there’s always an underlying shared story. Archetypically it breaks down into 20 cases that constantly have the same recipe, in effect. So I gauge it in accordance with that.
It seems that you arrived in New York just in time for a new wave of interest in herbalism.
These past two years, there has been a huge growth in that department, it blows my mind! We just opened an apothecary with cold pressed juices in Greenpoint. Seeing people respond to the elixirs on tap, I'm amazed that they understand what’s going on. I would have never guessed that so many people are tuned into next level super foods, liquid botanicals, and higher vibration medicine. That’s extremely exciting.
This time of year is flu season. Have you gotten a cold?
No, not at all.
What do you take?
I call it the cold cocktail. It’s basically ginger, garlic, hibiscus flower and medicinal mushrooms. I drink it daily and it seems to work fantastic. I haven’t gotten sick at all since I’ve been in NY, or in Costa Rica either.
Do you have a GP you got to for check ups?
No, I don’t.
Even in Costa Rica?
No. I guess I haven’t had a doctor's appointment in quite a long time.
It's a challenge to find doctors who respect herbalism and other integral health therapies. I was wondering how you navigate that for yourself.
If I ever did have to go to the doctor, I do have a couple in mind in Costa Rica. They are fantastic and practice both modalities, even shamanically they have a whole practice. It is hard to find, but they’re out there, thank goodness.
Ken Jordan is Co-founder, Publisher and Editorial Director of Reality Sandwich and Evolver.