Maine Herbalist Taps Local Plants and Trees

| 3/10/2015 11:21:00 AM

Tags: herbs, Maine, apothecary, Mary Quinn Doyle,


A visit with Natalia Bragg at her Knot II Bragg Farm in remote Wade, in Aroostook County in northern Maine, is a delightful and educational “step back in time.” When you enter her Why Not Shop, there is an amazing collection of herbs, tinctures, salves, and hand-carved items that fill every available inch of space. Baskets and bunches of dried flowers and herbs hang from the ceiling. Squirreled away in this unique farm shop is everything any traveling apothecary would ever contain.

Mirroring the feeling of plenty that the shop exudes is the abundance of natural resources that make up her farm’s land. Throughout the eighty acres there are ponds, cedar swamps, natural springs, fields, woodlands, wildflowers, and herbs. Wildlife is plentiful, as well, since black bear, moose, fox, deer, coyote, bobcat, and Canadian lynx have all been visitors to the property. When Natalia leads a farm tour, it seems as though she can regale you with an interesting folk use of just about everything that grows on the land.

The farm’s unusual name, “Knot II Bragg,” is associated with the comment that Natalia Bragg’s grandmother always made when she took her biscuits out of the oven, “Not to brag, but I feel that these are the best biscuits I ever made!”

Six Generations and Their Herbal Practices

Natalia’s appreciation for her grandmother and her family’s fascinating history is evident from the get-go when you meet her. She is very proud to be a sixth-generation descendant of her great, great, great aunt, Sarah A. Randall. Sarah was a descendant of the Lords and Ladies of the Randall Estate in London, England. The Randall Estate was the supplier of the medicinal herbs and fancy soaps used by the King and Queen of England. Natalia shared that Sarah A. Randall was by no means your typical nineteenth century woman. In the 1870‘s, Sarah became a nurse and then a Doctor of Osteopathy. Since such an undertaking for a woman at the time was unacceptable, Sarah was considered to be scandalous by many. Unfazed by the criticisms and lack of recognition, Sarah held steadfast to her career and practiced medicine in Aroostook County until she died at the age of 64. Sarah A. Randall was not the only “female pioneer in medicine” in Natalia’s family. Her great grandmother, Carrie Turner Alley, a wife and mother of eight children, was a midwife and lay doctor. She practiced in Mapleton, Wade, Ashland, Castle Hill, Washburn, and the Crouseville area.

Natalia shared several stories about Carrie Turner Alley, her feisty great-grandmother. She was a skilled horsewoman who made her rounds with a traveling apothecary in a wagon led by a horse in the summer and in the winter she traveled with a pung. Although small in stature at at four feet and eleven inches, she was a force to be reckoned with! A discussion of Natalia’s ancestors would be incomplete without mention of Eva Randall. Eva was Natalia’s grandmother with the bright red hair and the lively Irish temperament. She practiced herbal medicine and Natalia had the opportunity to learn quite a bit from her. As a child, Natalia was very sickly and she spent a great deal of time with Eva and the elders of the family in becoming acquainted with the natural remedies and the traditional cures.

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