Listen to this!! I found out some more about my great-grandmother! Not only was she an herbalist, but before that, when she was still living in Italy, she was a nurse!! When she moved to the US she began working as an herbalist! How wierd is that?? My degree is in Nursing, but I stopped to become an herbalist. I spoke with my cousin, who is in his 50’s and who was raised where Carmella lived, and he remembers picking herbs and squeezing out the alcohol. He said she started the business in 1928 and got special permission from the government to buy, use and sell alcohol during prohibition. The document says she can use alcohol for her “patent medicines used for the stomach”. (He also thinks that many people just bought her medicine so that they could get the alcohol.) Her company was actually called Aro-Stoma Tonic Company and he found records of one remedy that was actually Trademarked called “erba-ruta”, which in English is the herb Ruta graveolens or Herb of Grace. She must have had a tincture with Rue in it that she trademarked.
Ok, so here’s something else. A few years ago I met this woman who was learning to do past life regressions. I don’t know what I think about all of that, but she said she would do one for free, so I said, what the hell. Anyway, it was pretty uneventful and I felt like I was just making up this story or something, but at the end she asked if any of my ancestors had any messages for me. The first person who popped into my head was my great-grandma Carmella. I pictured us in a kitchen together and she was giving me a plant. I didn’t know what it was by site, but I said it was a rutabega. The woman doing the regression looked at me with a sad face, like I was messing with her. But really, that is what I saw in my minds eye. Now, I learn she was an herbalist, and maybe it was a ruta, and not a rutabega that she was trying to give me. I am definitely going to plant some of this in next years garden!!
I wish I had know this woman. She sounds like she was pretty cool! My dad died when I was 14, but I vividly remember the stories he use to tell about her. She raised him from an infant after his mom got sick. He said she was a very large italian woman and her breasts were so big that she would knock out a door frame if she turned around in one. He also said he use to come home from school and all his clothes would be gone. When he asked Carmella about it, she would say that he had the clothes on his back and there were poor children out there who needed the other clothes more than he did.