(Geeze, sorry for the poor lighting; the sun was cresting over the roof; and, looking back, I hope they didn't think I was a criminal or other ne'er-do-well when I aimed my digital camera at their business!!!)
Many Witches in the local Pagan community have long-since be-moaned the fact that there are merchants only few and far-between where we might acquire the supplies necessary to a Witch, such as herbs and Essential Oils. There are two fabulous stores--Ancient Ways--in downtown Des Moines. However, for those driving to Des Moines from outside the city this can be a long 30-45 minute trek to a small avenue near the brownstone district of Woodland in downtown Des Moines. In fact, during a February festival sponsored by the Iowa Pagan Alliance (now, sadly, defunct), I overheard a friend ask, in earnest, where one might might more easily acquire herbs and especially Essential Oils for use in our Magick, and in crafting potions and incense. It was not until this afternoon that I had an answer, after many months of searching! The internet, sadly, was of very little use...Googling "herbs" or "Essential Oils" and "Des Moines" or "west Des Moines" brought up either sparse or entirely untenable results! (Yeah, as if *I* will spend nearly $50, at a minimum, on Lavender or Frankincense Essential Oil from a mommy-to-be aromatherapy center in Clive! I don't think so....) In fact, looking back on it, perhaps the gods, themselves, led me to this store?! It wasn't until I had given up all hope that I had happened to see an advertisement a few weeks ago on TV for Campbell's Nutrition Center with two locations; one in Urbandale and another in Des Moines (addresses follow)...an ad that they really should archive on YouTube! Sadly, their contact form via their website does not seem to be working, I am sorry to report; though, they do have a Face Book page where one may post messages to, hopefully, contact them. In spite of this, I decided to drop by their Urbandale location, which is probably smaller than the Des Moines branch, and located within a lengthy strip mall.
Immediately, when you walk inside, you are greeted with two equally fascinating choices: walk to the left and you may peruse a handful of book shelves devoted to nutrition literature, cookbooks, and and organic food philosophy[!]; but, if you walk to the right (remembering to pick up a copy of their complimentary publications: Delicious Living and Taste for Life: Fair Trade which are rife with coupons from Frontier Herbs) one will be immediately faced with several shelves that hold liquid castile base-soaps that one may add herbs or essential oils to), as well as the complete line (or very nearly complete line) of Aura Cacia's essential oils (they're an Iowa-based company located in Norway) that one may use in their potions and incense, etc. I was personally impressed by the fact that each Essential Oil was precipitated by a "tester bottle" so that one could smell each fragrance in order to yield an informed purchase. You will also want to snag a small pamphlet on top of this display by Aura Cacia which goes into detail about the uses for many of their oils, as well as some of their fragrances. This pamphlet, as well as the company's website, also contain valuable coupons which one may use towards a purchase of their products...this will come in handy for any Witch who prizes himself or herself on their collection of herbal oils. If you buy one bottle of EO each week, you can simply log-on to Aura Cacia and print out a coupon for $1.00 off a single oil per visit. Here is a list of the Essential Oils distilled by Aura Cacia, and Campbell's stocks the vast majority of them. If you are looking for one that they do not carry, they can order it for you if their other location may not have it in stock.
This store is simply stocked with nutrition and remedies in various forms. Not only do they stock herbal tinctures for any need (listed with key-words denoting their applications), but I came across a line of tablets, if I recall correctly... They were packaged in tight rolls, and each was listed by ailment (such as "broken bones") with the botanical name of the herbal ingredient; in the case of the broken bone remedy, it was "Symphytum officinale" which is Comfrey--one of the best bone mending herbs that is known to us. It was so highly reputed for mending broken bones with rapid effect that a common folk-name for the plant was "Knit-Bone".
(I should have brought a pad of paper and pen with me to compare prices between these products, and other local grocery stores in Des Moines, or other mail-order outlets.)
Along the right side of the store is a veritable treasure-trove of base-oils, vegetable oils and butters, such as shea butter, large bulk cans of grapeseed oil (for for yielding a herbal lotion without a greasy feeling!), coconut oil, ad nauseum! Of course, there are far smaller (the largest was about 3.5 liquid ounces!) of rather over-priced base-oils situated with the Essential Oil displays near the front of the store, which included sweet almond oil and the costly (though very necessary) jojoba oil. It was while briefly perusing the shelves of fats and oils (pictured above) that I asked a passing clerk if, by chance, they carried beeswax...a staple resource for the Herbalist and the Witch when making their medicinal and magickal salves and ointments. She led me back to their supply of bulk herbs and other ingredients (pictured below) in the far-right back-corner of the store that I had missed entirely! To my shame, it was right across from the display of tinctures which I would have found on my own had I only turned my back!
Frontier Herbs is another Iowa-based company (also located in Norway) with an extensive catalog; and, any herb you may require that neither store carries at the moment can be special ordered. However, there is a caveat... Frontier will send only a large bag of the requisite herb or product (presumably a 1 pound bag by weight) and you are required to buy the whole supply! They had no resins to offer, unfortunately (I asked if they had ground myrrh resin, and one clerk seemed absolutely befuddled by my inquiry...I felt sorry for confusing her, of course); nor even any sandalwood chips or powder, though they still can boast (as you can see) a very fair selection for many medicinal and magickal needs. I would advise calling ahead to either store to see if an herb you are looking for is in stock, and then weigh the cost of having the staff special order a specific item for you. I even noticed that they stocked a large jar of precious ie. "costly" (endangered) goldenseal root powder, which actually was a lovely golden color! Mental Note: I must also contact Frontier and have them amend their listing of distributors here in Iowa, because Campbell was not listed among them, nor was Ancient Ways or several others in the Des Moines-area when I searched their store-locator.
As you can see (I hope!) by the middle shelf is an array of plastic gloves, baggies, labels, writing implements, and small green scoops kept in rounded clear plastic jars. The purpose of this is to be able to measure out each individual herb and label it using the black scale to the left. Using the plastic gloves is also mandatory. At this moment, I asked if the prices denoted on the green lids to each jar were per ounce. The clerk confirmed this, immediately before utterly confusing me with, "but, we can measure them up at the front by the pound, so it's the same thing!" What?!
Oh, and what of the beeswax I had inquired of, earlier? Well, because the jars were--as you can see--so densely packed, it took us several minutes to scan the jars and locate the wax near a jar of off-white bentonite clay powder (used for face masks and poultices when blended with an herb-infused oil! Yippie-Skippie!); one was infused with lavender! Well, when we finally found this jar of beeswax, it was nearly empty, with only a scant coating of wax granules on the bottom of the vessel. This led me to believe that many local herbalists, likely, perform much of their herb and essential oil shopping at this location. Either that or, as my Mom's suggested, no one's bothered to replenish the stock because it was a poor seller.
So, hear ye Witches far and wide, from all over Iowa on either side, when venturing to Des Moines on a trek for supplies, please make time to visit Campbell's Nutrition before you hit west Des Moines (or as you are leaving)!
Campbell's Nutrition Center
2749 100th. Street (Urbandale, IA.)
4040 University Ave (Des Moines, IA.)
Nota Bene: This store, at least on Saturday, is a real stickler for punctuality! They actually stood on the inside of the locked-door counting the seconds until it struck 10:00 AM, despite the customers lining up outside or drifting buy...