At Garden of Eden, two decades of healing

David Briggs
Eden Clearbrook brings her family roots, Sufi training, high standards for plant cultivation and herbalist's touch to her Point Reyes Station apothecary, which she is hoping to pass on to a new owner after more than two decades of hard work.   
07/31/2019

After 22 years running the Garden of Eden Apothecary in Point Reyes Station, the shop’s proprietor, Eden Clearbrook, is ready to pass the torch. Ms. Clearbrook is looking for an herbalist to take over the small shop, which offers remedies for a wide range of maladies—from cuts and sore muscles to chronic illnesses and deep emotional wounds.

For decades, Ms. Clearbrook has “worn at least 13 hats,” preparing many products from the plants she grows in her garden, advising customers and managing the store front, where she offers over 150 different dried botanicals alongside homemade salves and tinctures. 

“I see people take a breath at the door,” she said. “Sometimes they burst into tears! I think that’s because when you walk into the shop, you have permission to be who you really are. To establish that, and to receive that gift—that is something that will continue here after I leave.”

Born in Paris, Ms. Clearbrook left home at 17 and moved to England to study English, “which I love,” she said. Drawn to both the United States and the seaside, she moved to Bolinas in 1974, where she soon started a family. She had four children, but lost her first as a young child. 

It was during these years in Bolinas that she began studying herbs, though plants and healing work were integral to her life from the beginning: both her parents were horticulturalists, and her grandmother had been the matron of the largest hospital in Paris in her day, Hôpital Saint-Louis. 

The first herb Ms. Clearbrook fell in love with was comfrey, commonly used in salves to mend the skin. “Comfrey revealed to me the very potent need for me to heal myself,” she said. “It’s a very profound investigation, to find what is broken, hidden under the layers. It can be a terrifying thing to do to enter that place that is dark and dank, where no one has ever been, and it takes time, support and guidance.” 

Herbs guided that exploration for her personally, she explained, and it wasn’t long before she wanted to share her discoveries with others. 

Before she rented it, her storefront behind the Cowgirl Creamery could never keep a business for very long and therefore often held pop-ups or temporary uses, she said. The square footage is small but provides just enough space for a shop in front and a cove in the back where she prepares her remedies. 

If her plant products aren’t from her own garden or certified organic, Ms. Clearbrook has labored over their source to ensure they were produced to her standard, which she called “ethically wildcrafted.” 

She has trained with renowned herbalists over the years, including through the National Institute of Medical Herbalism, which certifies herbalists worldwide. She has also received training in the Sufi tradition, an Islamic discipline with its own healing methodology. 

Herbs, however, have been her greatest teachers. When she was diagnosed with a cervical condition that put her at risk for cancer, Ms. Clearbrook said she turned to herbs and was able to resolve the condition within a year. Customers report similar kinds of successes, she said. 

“She’s amazing,” Inverness resident Margaret Gaffney said. Ms. Gaffney described a stye that had persisted for months despite various treatments, including at the University of San Francisco. She consulted Ms. Clearbrook, and within two days, it had disappeared thanks to a remedy Ms. Clearbrook prepared: a combination of Kangen Water, black cohosh, chickweed and Oregon grape root. In another instance, a remedy of Ms. Clearbrook’s healed a tumor in Ms. Gaffney’s dog that a veterinarian had estimated would cost $600 to remove. 

Moreva Selchie, a longtime friend and customer, told the Light, “Whenever anything goes wrong with me, the first place I go is Eden’s shop. I’ve sent a lot of friends there over the years and even the people who don’t live here, they go back.”

Ms. Selchie said the “bioregional healing salve,” a mixture of lavender, calendula, beeswax, rosemary and comfrey, “works like magic.” A variation, with just lavender and calendula, is her go-to for everything related to skin. “First signs of poison oak? It will get better instantly,” she said. 

Yet Ms. Clearbrook’s ability to mix tailored formulas on a moment’s notice is her true gift, Ms. Selchie said. An essential oil formula Ms. Clearbrook prepared with black spruce—reminiscent of the trees of Ms. Selchie's childhood in New England—has made it possible for her to go anywhere and withstand commercial fragrances, previously a hindering sensitivity.  

Ms. Clearbrook explained her approach. “I spend a tremendous amount of time with people, really listening and telling them about the plants. That is a huge part of my personal healing: to train people to heal themselves,” she said.

To fill her shoes may be a tall order, but Ms. Clearbrook says she thinks her business would be best inherited by someone trained both in herbs and traditional medicine, considering that many people use both approaches and it’s helpful to know how alternative and conventional remedies interact. A couple, or a collective of people, would be also great, she added. 

For her, healing has necessitated not only a relationship to plants but also the support of a strong community like the one she’s found in West Marin. 

“There are so many of us that are fractured, that have profound wounds. That is not a unique problem,” she said. “It truly takes community and sharing in a very safe way to heal them, to air them out, to bring them into the light. These are emotions buried in a lot of shame and guilt. They actually thrive in the darkness of being unknown. But in the light, they can be cried out and expressed.”

 

The Garden of Eden Apothecary is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a lunch closure from 1 to 2 p.m. On Saturdays, the store is open from noon to 5 p.m. and on Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. To make an appointment or express interest in the shop, call (415) 663.1747.