By Shannon Traphagen

Across cultures, herbal medicine is a part of our human heritage. Herbs are an important tool in conventional medicine throughout Europe, Asia, and India, and have been used since the 1800’s. In the early 1900s, American doctors commonly used naturopathy, homeopathy, and other holistic practices to help alleviate or combat certain ailments and diseases. While it has taken some time to gain popularity again in mainstream medicine, there has been renewed interest in plant-based medicine due to evidence-based support of wellness.

A living plant is a complex system with hundreds of interacting chemicals, balancing each plant’s strengths– creating a greater impact than the effect of consuming isolated components. Using the whole plant or whole plant extract, influence how each of the plants work, offering several different ways they may work in synergy. For example, they may help stabilize each other, enhance each other, or modify the impact of certain elements.

Sarah Sorci, of Sweet Flag Herbs in Buffalo NY, says, “There are so many plants right in our own backyard that can heal or promote health.” Sorci has a passion to foster deeper connections with plants, especially medicinal and edible plants in our local ecosystem, and enhance individual well being and environmental sustainability. A graduate from Denison University in 2007 with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies/Sustainable Development, Sarah went on to obtain certification as a graduate of the Holistic Herbalism program at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. “Becoming an herbalist is the perfect combination of natural gardening and permaculture, forest ecology, counseling skills,  anatomy/physiology, nutrition, world culture, botany, and chemistry all rolled into one,” states Sorci.

Sorci says she is asked all the time how she uses plants to promote personal health. “I love incorporating medicinal plants into cooking, whether eating the leaves in a salad or adding the root of a plant into a soup or tea.” Some of her favorites that offer healing benefits include, lemon balm, peppermint, and dandelion root. “Lemon balm is a garden herb that I’ve found grows wild here in WNY. It’s part of the mint family and can help alleviate digestive symptoms, balance mood, or be used to cook with–for example as a marinade in salad dressing. It’s also great as an antiviral.” She explains that with education, many plants are edible and beneficial, “Peppermint can be used as an anti-microbial, and dandelion root supports liver health, stimulates the gallbladder for fat breakdown, and is an excellent source of prebiotic which feeds our gut flora.” According to the Mayo Clinic, prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds that are key for managing immune and digestive health. They nourish the probiotics in the digestive tract and fortify the protective barrier between the gut and the rest of the body.

I, myself have eaten dandelion leaves and tend to saute them as a side dish with dinner. While they have a mild bitter taste, they are truly delicious and have helped ease digestive upset. Sorci says plant-based medicine is truly a passion of hers. “Not only have I developed richer relationships within my community, but it’s helped me connect with people and the environment on a deeper level.”

Sorci teaches classes to help educate the community on the impact of plant-based medicine, both personally and ecologically. She works part-time at Lockwood’s Greenhouse in Hamburg, NY where she occasionally teaches classes. She has also partnered with several continuing education program, including, Jamestown Community College. Sorci offers nature hikes and walks through Greystone Nature Preserve in Fredonia, and offers education classes at the Dawnfire Sanctuary in Williamsville and Creative Wellness in East Aurora.

Sweet Flag Herbs next two education classes are: Springtime Herbal Remedies on May 15th and 22nd at the beHealthy Institute in Hamburg NY, and Backyard Remedies May 23rd and 30th at Creative Wellness in East Aurora.

For more information about Sweet Flag Herbs education classes and plant-based medicine, visit or call 716-997-2007.