The message that pharmaceuticals can relieve everything from insomnia to back pain is a dominant one in our society. According to the World Health Organization, the global pharmaceuticals market is worth 300 billion US dollars a year, and is expected to rise to 400 billion dollars within the next three years.
But one 26-year East Hampton native wants to offer an alternative to over-the-counter pain relievers and sleep aids.
Matt Laspia founded the medicinal herb and spice farm Bonac Farms last year when he was given the opportunity to lease an acre and a half in East Hampton.
Laspia began studying herbalism independently two years ago through reading scholarly websites, books, and journals on phytochemistry and medicine. He said he has always been interested in using plants for medicinal purposes.
“I saw that the demand for medicine was high, and I wanted to find an alternative,” he said. “I want people to realize that they don’t need to go to a doctor to get expensive pharmaceuticals. You can actually get this stuff right from your backyard.”
All the herbs Laspia grows, from holy basil to rosemary, are cultivated organically and air-dried for two to three weeks. Laspia says he avoids using a food dehydrator to preserve the essential oils found in the plants. In addition to teas and culinary blends such as Herbs de Provence, Bonac Farms also offers a variety of tinctures, which are liquid extracts from plants often added to tea.
Although he said he is not a certified USDA farmer, Laspia continues to grow all his products free of chemical fertilizers and without GMOs or genetically modified organisms.
“I don’t think non-genetically modified and organic products hold as much weight as a viable belief system,” said Laspia. “I think there are a lot of lines drawn around GMOs that don’t need to exist. The science is still unfolding, so we’ll see where it goes.”
In addition to being wholly organic, a number of Bonac Farms products contain ingredients which work to promote good health in several areas through the science of herbs. For example, Laspia said Bonac Farms’ Respiratory Tea contains sage and mullein which act as expectorants, or remedies used to treat coughs, and marshmallow roots to soothe mucous membranes.
Bonac Farms’ best-selling product is the “Sunshine Tea,” Laspia said, which consists of passion flower leaves, tulsi, St. John’s wort, pineapple sage, and lavender and helps to reduce anxiety.
“I’m always happy when someone buys a product with an intended purpose and tells me the product carried out that purpose,” said Laspia.
Bonac Farms has a stand at the Riverhead Indoor Farmer’s Market on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.