Donna Duncan is a folk herbalist, mindfully handcrafting herbal tea and self-care gifts inspired by mother nature. On Suffolk Day, she explains how her tiny herb farm has helped her to keep sane over these past couple of years
Are you Suffolk born and bred? What does the county mean to you?
Yes, I was born in Ipswich, Suffolk. I grew up in Wickham Market and went to high school at Thomas Mills in Framlingham. Suffolk is my home, you can take the girl out of Suffolk, but you can’t take Suffolk out of the girl! I feel at peace in the Suffolk countryside, even after living abroad for many years, coming home to Suffolk has made me feel more grounded.
How was everything looking for you at the start of the pandemic?
In the autumn of 2018, I moved back to Suffolk with my youngest daughter, Lily. We were just getting settled in when the pandemic hit. It has been a challenge to stay positive some days. I can honestly say that gaining an allotment AKA Tiny Herb Farm has been a major factor in keeping my sanity during the past two years. I have found a passion for growing my own food, herbs and botanicals.
When did you first have the idea for Gorse + Elder and what is the thinking behind it?
When I moved here, I intended to use my herbal training gained in the USA to start an herbal business. I first had the idea to start Gorse + Elder after a walk down to the Trimley/Levington shoreline.
I am constantly identifying plants, keeping an eye out for medicinal herbs and flowers while I am out walking. The trail leading to the shore has several elder trees and I have a deep respect for the healing benefits of wise grandmother elder.
At Tiny Herb Farm there is a huge gorse bush running along the back of the plot, before leaving the UK, I wasn’t really aware of gorse, other than being pricked by it as a kid on Sutton Heath on walks with my Nana.
I was captivated by the brilliant yellow blossoms in February, I did some research and discovered the spiritual meaning and medicinal benefits. Gorse is considered a symbol of hope and is used for treating coughs, colds and sore throats; both of which seemed pertinent at the time.
The name Gorse + Elder evolved from these two wonderful plants, it just clicked: something new (Gorse) and something well known to me (Elder).
Prior to starting my own company, I worked with a lovely group of people at Landguard Fort, Felixstowe. It’s a fantastic historic site, steeped in maritime history and run by a very dedicated team of staff and volunteers. A brilliant day out for all the family and a hidden gem!
How would you describe the Gorse + Elder range?
The Gorse + Elder range is honest, simple, and good for you, much like that of Mother Nature.
How important is it to you to be plastic-free and for your products to be all-natural?
It is very important to me! Offering plastic-free, reusable product containers and compostable packaging is one of my core values at Gorse + Elder.
I am an avid composter, recycler and up-cycler; you may well receive your order in recycled packaging, I simply can’t stand single use items, especially plastic. Just about everything can be gently reused or repurposed, in my book!
As a chemically sensitive person, I strive to use only wholesome ingredients in my products. Mother Earth’s subtle energy is intertwined within the ingredients I use. It is really important to be aware of what we put inside our bodies, as it has a direct effect on our health and vitality.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Since becoming an herbalist in 2016 it has been my dream to connect humans and herbalism. I plan to open an educational herbal garden in the future, a safe green space to pass along the joys and traditions of herbalism – a place to grow and preserve medicinal plants for our future generations.