A Bridge To Better Health
From ancient days, Hawaii has respected and called upon the power of nature in the healing process. That tradition can now be found at a modern-day apothecary in historic Hawi town. HA Hawi Apothecary, a plant-based natural drugstore, opened last fall and has been steadily drawing North Hawaii customers and visitors ever since.
“I’ve always loved helping people and now I get to do so by joining it with my love for plants,” says Biz Gonik, the store’s co-owner.
She came to Hawaii by way of Texas and Michigan about two years ago, leaving behind a successful career in corporate communications to pursue her truer passion of growing food and extracting medicines.
After extensively researching worldwide farming opportunities and wellness programs, Biz signed on for an internship at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary, the holistic healing and wellness retreat center and farm in North Kohala.
Serendipitously, while attending a healing circle at the Kokolulu Qigong Healing Center in town, she met Ki’i, an expert herbalist and alchemist born and raised on Hawaii Island. The connection that sprouted that day has culminated into them living their dream of opening and operating their own apothecary.
Ki’i has a vast cultural knowledge of the unique flora and horticulture of the South Pacific islands and parts of Asia which he is passing on to Biz. Together they cultivate multiple nurseries in and around Hawi, growing the plants, herbs, spices and flowers that they then dry and extract in a back room of the store. The plants are turned into customized teas and elixirs, non-toxic household cleaning products, soothing products for bath and body and tasty guilt-free food treats.
Inside the store, Ki’i and Biz have created a healing oasis with beautiful wooden shelves made from local bamboos and Bermuda cedar, stacked high with jars full of Hawaiian, Ayurvedic (Eastern) and Chinese herbs, teas and spices. Among the spices are raw ginseng and organic olena (turmeric), as well as ginger, basil and locally grown lemongrass. An accompanying chart illustrates how the spices can be used: Always tired? Add Menehune Maca Dust. Feeling down? Lemon Balm tea might help. Achy joints? Add Olena. Under the weather? Perhaps a chai spice Mamaki Popsicle might help.
The apothecary’s “wall of tea” includes teas sold in bulk packages or loose, and includes raspberry, rosemary and lotus leaves for customized blends aiding digestive, immune health or just to get a better night’s sleep. A fresh herbal infusion is made daily, and the store carries local ’awa, also called kava, long used by Hawaiians to promote enhanced rest and muscle relaxation.
“We believe in the power of plants, but also in the power of the mind and in people realizing they have the power they need to heal themselves,” Biz says. “We think people are ready to take responsibility for their own health, so we are here to help connect, educate and keep that process going of tasting, smelling and feeling amazing.”
Ki’i and Biz say they also opened their store as a way to share their favorite tempting treats including lavender-salted caramels; “bomb bars” made from cacao, coconut, Kona coffee liqueur and chocolate mousse; and fresh-pressed nut butters like cashew, almond and local macadamia with no added salt or sugar. In addition, the store carries all-natural soaps handmade in Hilo from saponified oils of coconut, olive and palm infused with essentials like lavender, neem, kukui, kava and honey.
Locally sourced items include organic “soul happy” Ayurvedic spice blends from local practitioner Chelsea Morris, and Big-I-Chai — a product created by Waimea physicist Robert Hutchings that is gaining fame for relieving the ill effects of vog. The apothecary also carries Rainbow Bliss. a new lineup of homegrown native American herbal remedies; and all-natural deodorants and lip balms crafted on Hawaii Island by Ka’ Aila Niu.
HA is the only store on the island that stocks and sells trigger point therapeutic equipment espoused by nationally known pain expert Sharon Sauer.
A regular HA customer, Hawi resident Richard Bodien says the Big-I-Chai is “amazing” for treating vog and colds. His other favorites include the macadamia nut butter and almond butter made in the store.
“It doesn’t get any better,” he says. “As a neighbor and business owner (of Hawi Gallery and Medicine Man, inside the gallery), I am a big supporter of what they’re doing.”
Arguably the only Native Hawaiian business owner in Hawi, Ki’i is particularly proud of the connections he and Biz have made in Hawi, North Kohala and other communities around the island. They work with as many local farmers as possible to create their products, more than a dozen vendors, and are always looking for more.
The HA owners are particularly proud of their partnership with the Kohala Elementary School Garden.
“The kids love the connections they make with the plants in their garden,” Biz says.
Already, the students are growing medicinal herbs and keiki plants that HA buys from them, and Biz and Ki’i have gifted Mamaki trees to the garden that they will be teach the kids how to tend and utilize. Revered and considered sacred by Hawaiians, the plant is best known for its refreshing herbal tea and medicinal uses. The red-vein Mamaki is beneficial for the heart, helps to reduce high blood pressure and can help with issues related to women’s health, while the green-vein Mamaki plant has specific health benefits tailored more to men.
The HA owners are also meeting their number one goal: to be a bridge linking customers to products and education.
“We love this community and are thriving in a community full of healers, seekers and makers,” says Biz. “We want to provide our customers and communities with the ability to grow, make and discover for themselves which plants and products will help them feel and be their best. It’s all about collaboration and experimentation.”
HA offers free, educational and cultural events for locals and visitors such as “Intro to Ayurveda” workshops, essential oil blending parties and presentations by visiting lecturers. Kahuna Papa Kilo Hoku Michael Lee, a star practitioner who spoke to an appreciative crowd at the apothecary last fall, is scheduled to return April 11 and 12 to share more of his immense celestial and cultural knowledge.
To find out more about HA events and products, follow them at www.facebook.com/HAHawiApothecary.
HA Hawi Apothecary, located at 55-3406 Akoni Pule Hwy in Hawi, is open from noon to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, call 889-0042.