DUNEDIN — Elisha Smith became a vegetarian at 21 out of a concern, she said, "for the welfare of animals." Afterward, she followed the predictable path of craving a healthier approach to everything from her diet to the personal products she used every day.
But, three years ago, the birth of her daughter Emelia propelled her passion for a healthy lifestyle to new heights. She moved from Omaha, Neb., to Dunedin to raise Emelia in a sunny, active community of "natural-minded" residents. And, she opened her own business, providing organic and environmentally friendly products for other like-minded locals. Nestled on Main Street facing the Pinellas Trail, Emelia's Apothecary of Dunedin is a calming respite from the busy downtown boutiques and restaurants teeming with visitors.
Fragrant dried flower bundles and wreaths hang throughout the shop, the aroma of essential oils fills the air and jars of colorful dried flowers and herbs line a row of tall shelves. Smith sells diffusers for her oils, room sprays with her aromatherapy collection and baby products including powders, soaps and sunblock.
"If it's not organic or wild harvested, we don't carry it," said the 34-year-old entrepreneur. The products are made off-site, but the dried leaves can be blended at the store for things like teas and oils. Customers can also create their own blends of different ingredients to make lotions or salves at the shop.
At the forefront of Emelia's Apothecary is a display of herbal blended teas. Drinking herbal tea was one of the first ways Smith launched her own holistic journey. She offers numerous varieties of leaves for blending, along with suggestions and recipes of mixtures for steeping.
"Just the act of drinking tea is relaxing and calming," allowed Smith.
Nourishing Hair & Skin Tea is sold in jars, as is Night's Rest Tea and Cool Down Tea, designed especially to combat symptoms of menopause. All of the ingredients are listed on the jars.
She also sells preblended pouches of teas, including a black tea, Aunt Emelia's Persian Tea, named for an aunt from Iran and sold with a few cubes of saffron-infused sugar cubes for an authentic Persian taste. She offers Welcome to Florida Tea, a black tea mixture with vanilla and organic orange peel, and Orange Grove Tea, a caffeine-free tea with lemongrass and organic orange peel in the recipe, as well.
"I just wanted something for people to take back home as a piece of Florida," said Smith.
Happy Child Tea is a favorite of moms who come in looking for ways to help their children sleep better, she said.
While some of the teas are marketed as remedies for things like digestive health (Happy Belly Tea) and improved focus (Concentration Tea), Smith makes no medical claims about her products.
"No matter what age you are, you need to talk to a doctor," says Smith. But, she said she believes "all ages can benefit from herbalism."
A licensed cosmetologist and skin care professional, she has been incorporating herbal recipes in her treatments for years. She's also working on becoming certified as an herbalist.
On weekends, though, she invites customers to book appointments with Sara Ratza, a board-certified holistic health practitioner and herbalist, for one-on-one consultations. Bookings range from $300 for a three-hour "kitchen cleansing and coaching session" to a one-hour, $59 "herbal only" new client consultation.
While herbalists are divided on the subject, Smith said she believes in a balance between holistic remedies and traditional medicine.
"I'm more on the side of incorporating these into your lifestyle," she said, noting that some holistic approaches can be very judgmental "and turn people off."
"I want to have a place where customers can get accessible remedies and knowledge," she said. "Here, they can go as little or as far with it as they like."
On a personal level, Smith is committed to helping to promote the benefits of a holistic lifestyle for her customers and, especially, for her daughter.
"There are a lot of preventative remedies, and my belief is that if you care now, you may have less to worry about later," she said. "When I had Emelia, I got more into the inner workings of herbalism, and with the shop, I feel like she'll know what to reach for for her kids one day."
Tea Recipes from Elisha Smith
Spring Flower Tea
2 parts nettle leaf
1 part chamomile flower
1 part rose petals/buds
1 part lavender flower
Allergy Season Tea
2 parts peppermint leaf
1 part lemon balm leaf
1 part nettle leaf
¼ part lemon peel, dried