This Grower’s Spotlight features L. Denise Edwards, a Pittsburgher and the owner of Triple Moon Alchemy, an apothecary focusing on organically grown, responsibly harvested herbal teas, herbal tinctures, and herbal personal care products. Denise is an herbalist, gardener, educator, and more. Read on to learn about Denise, her business, and her time working at Garden Dreams. Plus, join us for one (or all!) of the upcoming workshops she is leading at Grow Pittsburgh.
Grow Pittsburgh: Tell us a bit about yourself.
L. Denise: I am a mom of an adult child. I’m a wife. I’ve been married for 23 years. I’m a plant lover. I am a nature lover. I call myself an earth steward. I feel like it’s humans’ responsibility to care for the earth because the earth cares for us.
I have been an herbalist for about twenty-three years. I grew up in a house of healing women in their own way. My grandmother was very much an herbalist even though she didn’t call herself that and I had never heard of the word but looking back, she was very much an herbalist. And my mom was more of a spiritual healer. My dad even grew a lot of plants and herbs. Having a love and connection to Earth and plants was very natural in my house growing up.
GP: When did you start gardening?
L. Denise: I grew up in a plant-loving family. Growing house plants was second nature- if something broke off, they put it in water and watched it grow. My grandmother grew tomatoes and okra and greens and things like that. She had a small yard and even when she downsized to an apartment, she grew things on the windowsill.
For myself, I didn’t grow things for years and years. I grew up as an herbalist and had some herbalist training but it wasn’t until I did an herbal apprenticeship in New York City for a small period that I thought it would be interesting to see some of these herbs that I understand in their infancy and grow into the end stage that you use them. I started to grow rosemary, thyme, the kitchen herbs. At that time, I was only using herbs for medicine in a very small way. I understood but I still was not really utilizing them. So I would grow kitchen herbs every year. And then I started to use them medicinally and it just elevated my herbalism journey to a different degree. So small kitchen herbs turned into large pots, turned into grow tents in the house, and turned into a full-on yard.
GP: What’s your favorite thing to grow? What do you like to make with it?
L. Denise: Holy basil has got to be my favorite because it is so beautiful to watch it grow and evolve. As it matures, it has this purple kind of undertone to the green, which I think is really beautiful to watch. And the smell of it is just so beautiful. I grow it in several places around the garden so that I can brush against it “accidentally” and have the fragrance. Another reason why I love to grow it is because I enjoy it so much. At any time I can just go into my yard pinch some fresh leaves off, and make a fresh tea. I love it because it’s a very grounding, very calming tea in a different way than say your lemon balm. I feel like it brings a certain clarity when I drink it.
GP: Tell us more about your shop Triple Moon Alchemy. How did you get started?
L. Denise: When the pandemic happened, I was working as a real estate agent. If anybody remembers, it was a really scary time. A lot of people were freaking out, including me. And we just didn’t know what was going to become of life as we knew it.
I had a very transformative experience and I realized that I was for all intents and purposes, happy. But I wasn’t being fulfilled. I had an apothecary in the home, but it was just for family and community. And I never really saw myself monetizing the herbalism. It was more just about the innate desire to be a healer. But when the pandemic happened, I really just had to ask my innermost self, what is it that you do that makes you the most happy? And it was herbs, it was herbalism, it was helping people.
So I decided to start a business. I did a little bit of research or a lot a bit of research and a little bit of training and started the business. I reached out to Kiva to crowdsource funding and did that and was off and running, I knew that it needed to be an e-commerce business and not a brick and mortar because the vision that I had for brick and mortar, my finances, was just not going to make that possible. So I decided to open up an E-commerce site and I was doing everything. I created my labels. I took my own photos. The first website that I had was a WordPress site and I built the website. A year later, I needed more money so I went to Bridgeway Capital. And through Bridgeway Capital, I was able to secure a loan, which also put me in connection with resources. And one of those resources was the Origins program, which is an accelerator program or our incubator program for black creatives. That is sponsored by Bridge Bank Capital. Nisha Blackwell created the Origins incubator. The loan from Bridgeway helped tremendously, but the resources are even more valuable. Being a part of Origins helped me to get out of that limitation and to really see a business and not a hobby. And so the business grew from there.
GP:What motivates you to offer organic herbs and herbal formulations?
L. Denise: It’s important to me that herbs and plant medicines are treated in their most natural state. We sometimes have to employ alternative methods to grow things in an organic way, but it’s absolutely worth it because we’re ingesting everything. And I don’t want myself my family or any customers to ingest unnecessary elements such as chemicals. If we are leaning on herbs to support our bodies, I don’t want anyone to take in anything that would create imbalance because I’m looking to help people balance their bodies. So pesticides, chemicals, growth hormones, or whatever the things are, are excluded from Triple Moon Alchemy products because I believe they hurt the earth and it hurts us and we have a symbiotic relationship. There’s no separation.
It’s important to me also to have packaging that reflects that. Earlier this year I was able to switch any of my products that come in bags to compostable bags or glass bottles. I am on a mission to make all of the elements of product packaging for Triple Moon Alchemy reusable, compostable, or recyclable. Every year, I hope to do this some more.
What was your experience like working for Grow Pittsburgh’s Garden Dreams Plant Nursery this past season?
L. Denise: Working with Garden Dreams has been a dream. It helped me to be able to understand an organizational flow with regard to the timing of growing, the timing of seedings, and greenhouse rotation of plants. It was such an expansive experience in that way. My education just really grew. It was confirmation that I was doing some things right and it was also an indication that I was doing some things wrong and how I can fix those things.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a job where I have enjoyed my work and the people that I work with so much. As humans, we’re always looking for community, the community of our families, and beyond. And oftentimes one of the least communal places is our job, sadly and we spend so much time with these people. But working at Grow Pittsburgh, I found that these are my people. When you are the same-minded, and you are earth stewards and you take that word seriously and you share that with the people that you see every single day.- there’s something very special about that. In working at Garden Dreams, I was able to experience that.
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in learning more about the medicinal uses of herbs?
L. Denise: My advice would be to just do it. Don’t get caught up in the paralysis of analysis. Do research but don’t let that stop you from trying different things. My advice would be to just try a different herb once a month. You can get an herb deck to learn about different herbs and draw a card once a month. Each month read about that herb obviously if it’s a deck, it’s going to talk about the energetic properties of it and how you can use it magically. I suggest you do but you don’t have to. Check any contraindications or precautions. Most herbs are perfectly safe to use. But if people have pre-existing conditions, or they are taking certain medications prescribed, you know, it’s important to know what contraindications there are.
And if you have the opportunity to grow a particular herb do it. See how it grows, how it unfurls and evolves and changes. I think it’s important for people to realize that herbs have their own energy. And sometimes we take in herbs, not just for what they can do for our physical bodies, but what they can do for our emotional and mental bodies as well. And I find that a lot of times when growing herbs, if I am tending to it if I’m watching it every day, if I’m sitting next to it, there is an energy is admitted.
Just try it. Whatever method whether it’s a deck or even just through looking up, try to get to know one herb a month, and before you know it, you’ll look back and have a greater herbal knowledge and your brain will naturally reach for an herb when you are experiencing things.
Where can people find your products?
L. Denise: On my website Triplemoonalchemy.shop. I have products in Workshop which is in Wilkinsburg on Trenton. I have products in Love Pittsburgh in Mount Washington as well as the Strip District. And pop-ups around the city. Just follow me on Instagram to see when the next pop-up is!
Want to learn more? Check out the upcoming workshops Denise will be leading at Garden Dreams: