Where Do Your Herbs Come From?


Who Grows Your Herbs?

We are now becoming aware how important it is to know where our food comes from, how far it travels to reach us, and why buying locally grown products is better for us and the environment. But what about our herbs and teas? We tend to think that buying herbs and herbal teas is an inherently healthy and eco-friendly choice. However, commercial herbs are just like any other commodity and the bottom line is often the motivating factor behind the choices corporate herb companies make. So we must also begin to ask ourselves: where do my herbs come from?

Quality is Everything

When it comes to herbs, quality is everything. If the biochemical compounds in the herbs are damaged during processing and transport or if the herbs are contaminated with toxins, they will do little for your health and could actually contribute to adverse health effects in the long run. Currently, there is little oversight or quality control in the conventional herb supply chain, but few consumers are aware of these problems when shopping for their herbs.

That's why writer and anthropologist Ann Armbrecht of the Sustainable Herb Project spent months researching the complex, convoluted herb supply chain. In trying to trace herbs from harvest to shelf, Armbrecht uncovered some startling details about the process, which she shares in her forthcoming book From Seed to Shelf: Following Herbs Through the Supply Chain. During her research, she discovered that conventional herbs change hands an average of 15 times before they reach consumers. She observed farmers using all manner of harvest vessels including old concrete bags and saw workers harvesting herbs from polluted areas. She found farmers drying herbs on the ground in the sun, where UV rays zap potent volatile oils from the plants while animals can freely roam across them, and she saw herb manufacturers storing bags of dried herbs uncovered, leaving them exposed to moisture, dust and rodents.

Herbs treated in such a manner will lose much of their volatile oils, lack potency and flavor, and may be unsafe to consume. Though few tests have been done to check herbs for contamination, those conducted thus far  have revealed that some herbs contain unsafe levels of pesticide residue even on organic herbs. Some of these herbs come from areas where chemicals like DDT are still allowed. For more on this, check out this video from the Sustainable Herbs Project. On the processing end, some manufacturers also use harmful chemicals to extract compounds from herbs.

Environmental Impact

In addition to these concerns about herb quality, Ambrecht’s research shows the environmental impact of corporate herb production. Organic and commercial herbs often travel thousands of miles and change hands a dozen or more times before they make it to the shelf. Many companies import herbs to the US from a long list of countries overseas and during this process, they can travel back and forth through several countries from grower to trader to processor to manufacturer to exporter to importer to retailer. Consider all of the fuel required to transport herbs so many times over such great distance, and you can see the reason that this unsustainable manner of herb production is problematic for the environment. Some large scale manufacturers also rely on wood to fuel their operations and are accelerating the process of deforestation in vulnerable areas.

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What Can You Do?

Not all herbs are created equal. We must put the same effort into learning where our herbs come from as we have been for food. Quality is of the utmost importance. Buying organic and fairly traded herbs is a step in the right direction. These herbs are at least held to standards by a certifying body and farmers were paid a living wage. Buying locally grown herbs ensures that the herbs do not have far to travel and chances are, they are significantly fresher and more potent than herbs which have been imported. You may even be able to visit the very farm from which they have been harvested! So, next time you are shopping for an herbal product, make sure you ask yourself: where have these herbs come from?

Spilanthes acmella: An herb you must know for cold and flu season


A Go-To Herb for Cold and Flu Season

Winter for farmers is a time of rest. Plants die back, markets slow down, the body has time to recuperate. Along with this time of limited sunshine comes the dreaded cold and flu season. With two small children, we are often inundated with winter maladies. When I discovered Splilanthes, an herb touted as an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral, I was intrigued. Often called the toothache plant, Spilanthes acmella var. oleracea has long been used as an analgesic (pain reliever), particularly for toothaches. We now use this wonderful herb intensively at our house around cold and flu season and find it immensely helpful in doing battle with all of the bugs and flus our little ones bring home. We wouldn’t go a winter without it. We take 20 drops of the tincture on an empty stomach 2-4 times a day or drink 2-3 cups of tea a day at the first sign of symptoms.

The Toothache Plant

Spilanthes contains a wide variety of biochemical compounds thought to be responsible for its traditional uses. As a tea or tincture, spilanthes creates a pleasant (though if you're not familiar with it, surprising) tingling sensation in the mouth. It FEELS like it's working. It is also being used more and more in beauty care cosmetics as an anti-wrinkle agent. Its high antioxidant content and muscle relaxant properties make effective for these applications when applied as a salve. For further reading on salve making: https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/diy-herbal-salves

Benefits of Elderberry Tincture: An Amazing Immune Booster

An Immune Boosting Powerhouse

Many people already familiar with Elderberries know that they are an immune-boosting powerhouse. These North American native berries are a potent cold and flu remedy, especially when it comes to treating viruses. Elderberries have had great results in clinical trials, demonstrating their ability to disarm the mechanism by which viruses enter our cells. They can prevent or cut the severity and duration of a cold if taken regularly when symptoms first appear.

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Rich in Antioxidants

In addition, elderberries are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help to rid the body of harmful free radicals which are responsible for many different degenerative diseases.


One dropperful of elderberry tincture can be taken once a day throughout cold and flu season as a preventative or 3-4 times a day while symptoms occur. Our elderberry extract is made with organic vegetable glycerin, making it sweet, tasty, and kid friendly.

Shop our tinctures here


Holy Basil seed.

Holy Basil seed.

I still find it quite magical that I can plant a few seeds, each one barely the size of the point of a pen, and come back a few months later to harvest a wagon full of tasty and nutritious herbs packed with healing potential. Ideas are like seeds in this way. They start as a thought, can extend outward in our actions and have the potential to affect those in our community and beyond. This is exactly how Oma began. Just a thoughtA thought to make locally grown medicinal herbs more widely available to the local area. Now in our third season, our root system is sturdy and we are branching out. As our actions ripple outward, it is always our intention to make the highest quality, responsibly grown herbs and offer them up to you as a form of good will. At the root of it all, we aspire to share our good vibes and promote health and healing. 

This season we will have new mixes, more events, and more herbs to keep you happy and healthy. We are also beginning our Herbal Tea CSA.  We are offering a 6 month and 12 month share. You may sign up anytime and will begin receiving your tea with the next month's shipment. Included in this CSA will be some of our classic tea offerings and some mixes that we will blend exclusively for members of the CSA.  Whatever way you decide to buy your tea this season, whether it is one bag or a 12 month CSA subscription, we hope the herbs make your day a touch better and that you feel the warmth of our good intentions with each cup you brew. 

Upcoming Events:

Philly Farm and Food Fest
PA Convention Center
Saturday April 8th 11-4pm

Floral and Hardy
Mother/Daughter Tea Tasting
Skippack, PA
June 25th 2-3pm


MOYO and Winter Markets

We are happy to announce that our teas are now available at MOYO Yoga Studio in Schwenksville, PA. MOYO has a beautiful studio and a relaxing vibe certainly worth checking out. What could be a better addition to your day than a cup of tea following a great yoga session?

We are also excited to head out to two upcoming winter farmer's markets. The first is Saturday December 10th at Chestnut Hill and the 2nd is Saturday December 17th in Rittenhouse Square. Click here to get more info on hours and locations. See you there.

**Due to winter weather, we will be attending the rittenhouse square market on Saturday Dec. 24th.

Baby Bump Tea

Our new pregnancy tea, Baby Bump, is now mixed and available for purchase. This mix features Red Raspberry leaf (Rubus spp.), Stinging Nettles (Urtica Dioica), and Oat Straw (Avena Sativa), all tonic herbs which are meant for regular use and high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, selenium, and manganese. A tonic herb is one whose nutrients and chemical constituents are said to fortify and strengthen body tissue and organs. Red Raspberry leaf is a tonic herb targeting the reproductive system making it ideal for labor preparation.  This mix also features a variety of Mints (Mentha spp.), a tried and true herb, said to ease digestive upset.


This year we will also be donating $1 for every bag of Baby Bump tea sold to the Fistula Foundation to help bring relief to women living with obstetric fistula. We are blessed to have many of the modern medical amenities here to help women deal with the pain of childbirth and speed up the process if medically necessary. Women in countries without these medical amenities can labor for days on end. This can lead to a condition called fistula which leaves them incontinent, often causing them to be ostracized. If you would like to know more about the Fistula Foundation, it’s mission and projects, click here


Autumn Equinox

Happy Autumn Equinox! We are finally bagging up tea mixes and they are available again at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market! The mixes make for great hot and cold teas.

Just because it is officially fall does not necessarily mean the herbs are slowing just yet. The drying room has been jam packed for the last few months and likely will continue to be for the next few weeks. We thought we’d share a bit about our drying process with you as it is one of the most crucial parts of making great tea. Oma herbs are dried at relatively low temperatures (between 85 and 105 degrees) to preserve bioactive compounds and keep the herbs looking as much like their fresh, vibrant counterparts as possible. Drying time depends on the herb (generally 3-10 days depending on the plant) and all of the drying takes place in our drying shed which keeps the herbs out of direct sunlight.  Commercial tea producers tend to dry their herbs at a higher temperature in an effort to expedite the process however, many of the chemical constituents and oils that make the herbs medicinal and flavorful are lost at these high temperatures. This results in herbs that have a sallow, brownish hue which make for a lackluster tea without much healing value. We hope you notice the difference when you sit down for next cup of tea. 

Smooth Sailing

First of all, we are pleased to announce that our teas will now be served at Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville! Steel City is a wonderful local music venue that also hosts a very lively and welcoming open mic on Thursdays. Stop by for some great local music and a cup of tea.

In other Oma news, we now have our new Smooth Sailing tea mix available. It is a mint based mix, perfect for making into an iced tea on a hot, steamy summer day. The tea features a variety of mints including peppermint, known for its ability to aid digestion. Also in the mix is bee balm (wild bergamot), a native plant with spiky purple blooms, highly attractive to pollinators and used by Native Americans, also for digestion. The smooth in Smooth Sailing comes from the milky oats. These are from the same plant that your oatmeal comes from however, they are harvested before the oat heads set seed, when they contain a milky latex and are at their peak medicinal value. At this stage, they are said to be an outstanding nervine, rejuvenating a fatigued nervous system and helping to combat exhaustion and anxiety.

We have been busy here moving cart loads of herbs from the garden to the drying shed that will hopefully find their way to your favorite mug. Our other mixes will become available within the next few weeks. We will keep you posted on when and where to find them. 

Back at it!

Oma is putting down new roots this season. We’ve packed up our seeding trays and moved from wonderful rented land in Chester County to our very own space in Montgomery County, PA. Seeds are sprouting, roots are spreading, tiny kingdoms of soil organisms are ready to assist our plants in achieving their full, flavorful and healing potential. We hope to have begin having tea mixes available again by summer, including some new and tasty flavors yet to be brewed. Stop back for more 2016 updates on when and where to find our teas!