“SELF-CARE IS MORE THAN BUBBLE BATHS,” LOCAL HERBALIST LOUKEISA DENISE OF TRIPLE MOON ALCHEMY TELLS ME AS WE SIP A BLEND OF GINGKO, CHAMOMILE, AND LEMON BALM TEA IN HER WILKINSBURG WORKSPACE. THE STUDIO IS FILLED WITH NATURAL LIGHT AND OVERLOOKS A LUSH COMMUNITY GARDEN OUTSIDE. THE WALLS ARE LINED WITH ORGANIC HERBS AND INSTRUMENTS FOR BREWING, BLENDING, AND DISTILLING.
On one shelf sits a framed photograph of Denise at her high school graduation. In the photo, she is flanked on either side by her grandmother and mom, who are proudly grinning as they embrace a baby-faced, teenaged Denise. Looking towards the photograph, Denise explains that her journey with herbalism has had as much to do with family as it has a love for plants. Her mother and grandmother before her were her first teachers, and along with Denise make up the three moons in Triple Moon Alchemy’s moniker.
Denise was a child growing up in Pittsburgh when her experiences with plant medicine began. Scuffing her knees while playing outside of her grandmothers Northside apartment, Denise would run inside where her grandmother, Mary, was typically chatting on the phone with an old friend, an Aloe Vera plant just in reach. Wedging the receiver between her chin and shoulder, Mary would reach over to the Aloe Vera plant in the window, snap off a piece, split it down the middle, and rub it onto Denise’s wound.
“Let it sit. Don’t rub it off,” Mary would say to Denise as the friend on the phone continued to chat on the other end. Denise recalls how as she resumed play with her friends, the swelling and hurting would reside, like her knee had taken a cool drink of water. On the brink of feeling invincible, Denise’s lifelong pursuit of studying the healing nature of plants was just beginning.
Now the owner of Triple Moon Alchemy apothecary, Denise is sharing her herbal wisdom with the world. Inspired by her training in Western herbalism, a personal practice of African hoodoo, a passion for alchemy, and the matriarchs of her family, Denise is always coming up with new formulations that can provide balance to her customers, wherever they may need it. Beyond the vibrant flavors of Triple Moon’s teas and delightful aromas of their sprays and salves, Denise is a firm believer that possessing the knowledge of how our minds and bodies can be helped is one of the most powerful steps we can take for our wellbeing. Her favorite way to introduce customers to the healing power of plants is through her herbal tea blends.
TABLE was lucky to taste some of those teas for ourselves.
Not Today Satan (Skullcap, Tulsi, Oat Straw, Marshmallow Root): Denise describes this tea as an “herbal chill pill.” It’s for the day’s where you find yourself thinking ‘I just can’t right now.’ Earthy Skullcap is balanced with the sweetness of Oat Straw, and it’s great over ice with a touch of your favorite sweetener.
Goodnight Tea (Hops, Lemon Balm, Valarian, Chamomile, Lavender): What sets Triple Moon’s sleepy time special apart from the rest is the inclusion of Hops. If you’ve ever felt drowsy after drinking a beer, that’s because Hops can assist you in falling asleep, as well as staying asleep.
Peaceful Warrior (Linden, Tulsi, Hawthorn): This is a tea to quell the whistling of your internal kettle. Instead of hemorrhaging energy, allow this herbal blend to help you contain it for the person who needs it most: yourself.
I down the last of what’s in my mug and feel the beads of stress roll off my back, buoyed by Denise’s confidence that we are all deserving of a moment, or two, to take care of ourselves. She points out to me that most of us, intentionally or not, have connected with healing plants throughout our entire lives. As children we make wishes on dandelions and bring fistfuls of the yellow flowers to our teachers and mothers, not knowing their healing properties for our kidneys and urinary tracts. Today, Denise is a grandmother herself, and inevitably her grandchild will bring her ‘bouquets’ from the park, or scrape their elbows on the playground, become restless at bedtime, or keel over with a stomachache. On those days, like her mother and grandmother did before her, Denise will extend the helpful hand of herbalism, perhaps instilling another passion for the practice, for yet another generation of her beautiful family.
Triple Moon Alchemy is an online apothecary and organic herb shop offering teas, sprays, salves, consultations, and more, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To find out where their products are carried around the city or to find out how to attend one of their pop-up events. Follow Triple Moon Alchemy on Instagram @triplemoonalchemy.
STORY BY NINA KATZ / STYLING BY KEITH RECKER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE BRYCE
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