In the herb garden with Holly Bellebuono Herbalist Holly Bellebuono arrived on Martha’s Vineyard ten years ago, when her husband, Rocco, took a job with South Mountain Company.

Born and raised in Asheville, NC, she knew nothing about the Vineyard. In fact, she’d never even heard of it. But her business has thrived here. She writes books, runs an herbalist training school, is a familiar face at the farmers market and lectures all over the country. Here she talks to The Vine about herbs for beginners, learning from her elders, and what to do about that pesky winter cold.

How long have you been an herbalist?

Twenty-two years.

Where did you do your training?

I got my certification through David Hoffman, an herbalist from Wales and California. But I did sort of on-the-job training with old timers in the Appalachian mountains.

I followed around a lot of old people, essentially, to learn what they did. They didn’t go to doctors, they literally went into the woods. They didn’t call themselves herbalists, but that’s what they knew. They taught me a lot about wild plants and trees, what’s edible and what’s medicinal.

Is the Vineyard particularly interested in or receptive to using herbs to promote health?

Here on the Island, we have a lot of farms and a lot of people interested in sustainability. It is in the mindset to take care of yourself and to do that in a natural way with natural remedies. It fits really well.

Which products sell the best?

All of my teas. I have I think 17 blends and they’ve been extremely popular. And my arnica liniment for sore muscles and sore joints is a best seller.

This is cold season. What herbs are recommended to treat respiratory ailments?

The recommendation or suggestion would be herbs that are bronchial dilators and expectorants like elderberry, and thyme, oregano, wild baptisia; or a cough suppressant, like elecampane.

What advice would you give to those who would like to learn more about herbs?

My recommendation for people who are interested is to just start using herbs in their food and teas. Herbs are full of trace nutrients and chemistry that is good for you so you will improve yourself without really meaning to.

If you garden, think about planting two or three new medicinal herbs and experimenting with them.

Just get to know them. That’s a good way to start.

Finally, what do you and your husband think of the Vineyard, now that you’re settled?

We love it. I think I was in shock for the first six months or so at the cost of living. It was easily triple, if not more, than what we were used to paying…for everything! It took a lot of getting used to but now we really love it.

Paula Lyons is a former ABC and CBS television consumer journalist who is now semi-retired and lives in Vineyard Haven.