Audrey Barron is the creator and owner of Indianapolis’ vegan and gluten-free restaurant, Ezra’s Enlightened Café, which opened in 2014. She transitioned to plant-based eating in her 20s to heal her own health issues—including chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances, IBS, and depression. It worked, and she never looked back.
But Audrey didn’t stop with the restaurant. A few years ago, under her personal brand Gaia Chef, she started a Medicine Woman membership program wherein she shares her experience in herbalism, plant-based cooking, holistic healing, and regenerative gardening. In this membership, women learn to use plants to heal, thrive, and take care of themselves and their families.
As doors to the membership are about to open again, I sat down (virtually) with Audrey to ask her a few questions.
What was your motivation for starting Medicine Woman?
My goal is to empower women to step into their power when it comes to taking control of our health. There is so much we can gain by connecting to what our ancestors would have done, which is connect with and use the plants in our area to nourish and heal ourselves and our family.
We bring empowerment back into our daily life when we have basic knowledge of how to take care of ourselves and prevent sickness when possible. Medicine Woman is heavily rooted in the power of intuition and guiding women to come back to their inner voice when it comes to what our bodies need. That is paired of course with practical lessons and wisdom shared regarding how to not only use the plants but grow them and make medicines. I also wanted to create an online offering so women outside of our local area could benefit from what I’m sharing. It’s a self-led body of work to take at your own pace.
The program lasts a year and is ‘guided by the season’. Do you have a favorite season? As we move from the summer into autumn, do you have any tips or rituals you turn to to help with the transition?
I recommend taking extra care during seasonal transitions as it’s often a time when our bodies can be more exposed and run down. As the air pressure changes, the humidity, the pollen in the air, the temperatures, our body must adjust and that can cause stress to the system. My favorite remedy for transition is a clove of chopped garlic with a bit of raw local honey and just swallow it down. I’ll do that every day for a while as the seasons change. I stay hydrated and take extra steps to really layer good medicine into the meals I make. We focus heavily on this in Medicine Woman.
An easy way to start honoring the seasons is to honor the Equinoxes and the Solstices. I will sometimes have a ceremonial fire, burn herbs in the home, journal, make a special meal, or even just go for a walk in the woods on that day and observe. To me, those seasonal celebrations are just as important as the traditional holidays we’ve grown up with in the U.S.
For someone curious about Medicine Woman and using plants to heal but very much a novice, what suggestions do you have to make it all less intimidating?
I would say start with growing one herb, even in a pot inside and watch her grow and observe her in all of her stages. Use her in teas and meals. Purchase an herbal healing book that calls to you and read a few pages every day.
Take time outside every day and simply observe the plants around you and start to find out what they are one by one. It doesn’t matter if they are medicinal or not. Just knowing the plants in your area means you are making friends…you are acknowledging the plants that have surrounded you and I promise this will open up so many gifts in ways you possibly couldn’t imagine. Take the pressure off and know we never stop learning and it’s never too late to start!
If you could get every human to add one thing (food, tea, herb, plant, water!) to their daily diet to improve health, what would it be? Why?
Stinging Nettle. She grows just about everywhere. Nettle is extremely high in calcium, iron, magnesium, and even protein. She is almost unmatched when it comes to nutritional value in a wild green. As a culture, we are depleted in truly nourishing and mineral-rich foods. We need these minerals for our body and organs to thrive and this is what she provides. And she’s easy to use – you can add her fresh to soups and make tea or herbal infusions with her.
She’s also easy to dry and use for later. As her name suggests, she does sting! And as uncomfortable as those stings can be, they too are actually medicinal. The sting is known to be anti-inflammatory and can even reduce arthritis pain. There are stories of yogis and monks subsisting on nettle tea while meditating in caves for weeks. She is a powerhouse!
Interested in being a medicine woman yourself? Add your name to Audrey’s waitlist here. Doors open September 16th – mark your calendars!
Maura Malloy is a writer, teacher, and one-time TedX Talker.