By Erin DeCoste - Ladysmith Chronicle
The sharp smell of herbs and essential oils greets health-seeking visitors at a unique shop in Ladysmith.
The Medicine Garden, owned and operated by Francis Cherrett and Connor Drader, is a one-stop shop for everything alternative.
Cherrett, a master herbalist, hypnotherapist, Reiki master and aromatherapist, is not only multi-talented, but has a warm and inviting presence.
Cherrett attended the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary where she met Drader, a shamanic coach.
Both had found their way to the college through a long soul search.
Cherrett said she always had an interest in alternative health — even as she was studying physiotherapy.
She ended up at a health food store when visiting her family and it just clicked, she said.
The three-year, full-time program she took, incorporated Western information, chemical compositions and physical exams with alternative health, Cherrett said.
“It was just what I needed,” she said. “It was a huge personal revelation as well as a career one.”
Drader grew up in small-town Alberta, moving away for college.
He was quickly introduced to tarot cards and had his first shamanic experience in Calgary.
“I was invited to a sweat lodge,” he said. “It was quite magical, very healing, very eye opening into a different world.”
After time in Toronto, he reconnected with his journey back in Calgary.
The two immigrated to the Island when they decided it was time to create their own space and vision.
“We kept being pulled back to Ladysmith,” Cherrett said.
Things moved fast for the couple.
Within a month of finding property in the town, they were doing renovations and opening up the store.
“We were not sure who our clientele would be,” she explained. “It’s evolved as we’ve understood the community.”
The Medicine Garden serves a wide variety of clients, from the seasoned health veterans to the curious.
“We see clients who want a health check up,” Cherrett said. “To the odd cases.”
Cherrett said many people seek alternative health treatments because they’re disillusioned with Western medicine and health care.
“The way the health-care system is set up in the Western world, there is definitely a use for it, but it takes away personal power,” she explained. “There’s no control over what’s happening. People feel powerless and it’s scary.”
She said it’s satisfying to watch someone heal and feel better after using alternative forms of health care.
“The fear goes away,” she said. “It’s a fantastic thing.”
Drader said many don’t really know what shamanism is.
“It’s a traditional teaching with native people’s traditions,” he said. “It’s Earth-based teaching.”
He said he usually gets clients who are looking for healing in their body or who are looking for a ‘journey through the self.’
He uses drum journeys, crystals, sound healing with tuning forks and special ceremonies.
“All symptoms within the body are a manifestation of what’s going on mentally,” he explained. “Most traditional systems understand that.”
Like Cherrett, he enjoys seeing the changes in people after his treatments.
“I can actually watch the change in people I work with,” he said. “I love that. I’ve worked with people and watched them change before my eyes.”
He said shamanic tradition is all about healing the self.
“Everything’s about intent in shamanism,” he said. “I don’t actually heal you, I supply you with the tools and energy and you do all the healing work.”
He said it works as long as the person is open and willing.
“I can’t push healing onto someone,” he said. “I have clients that are utterly shocked it worked. Some people just need a tool.”
Cherrett said she uses traditional tools, such as Chinese medicine, tongue and pulse, ridology and a combination of other teachings to find out what’s happening in someone’s body.
“It works really well with Western medicine,” she said, adding she would never tell a client to stop taking medicine.
“I work with doctors, I need to know what they’re taking,” she said. “I recommend seeing their doctor again.”
Cherrett said working with herbs is something that most people understand.
“It’s easier for most people to wrap their heads around it,” she said. “They grasp the functioning of it.”
She explained Western drugs come from plants, just in a more distilled form.
“Herbs are more balanced and it’s rare to have side effects because it’s the whole herb. Nature’s genius has already balanced it out.”
The two have strived, and achieved, a work-and-life balance.
“It’s really fun,” Cherrett said of running the shop. “We learn new things every day and it’s not stressful. You get to stay balanced.”
She said it’s not a drag to get up in the morning.
“Everyday’s an opportunity,” she said. “The goal is to impart what I’ve learned.”
Both Cherrett and Drader are not concerned about naysayers and skeptics.
“Most people who think this won’t work just won’t come in,” she said. “The stuff we do does work. They’re going to have results. They’ll experience their own healing.”
Cherrett said many think it’s just a placebo effect and she understands that.
“But it doesn’t matter,” she argued. “You still feel better.”
The two have plans to stay and continue running the shop.
“We love Ladysmith,” Cherrett said. “We fill a much-needed niche here and we want to continue to do that.”