Chelsea Ochs always knew she wanted to help people through medicine.
From a young age, the Newberg native saw herself having a career as a doctor, specifically a surgeon, when she grew up – but that changed just as she was reaching adulthood when continuing medical issues arose and doctors could not explain what was happening to her.
That's when she found herbal Chinese medicine and came to see her physical and mental health as tied together.
"Once I started viewing my body and mind as one thing, I felt like the quality of my life was just significantly improved," Ochs said. "From then on I decided that I wanted to do that kind of medicine and bring it to other people."
Now 33 with a master's degree in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Ochs has brought her craft back to Newberg with her new apothecary Herbs in Jars at 210 S. College St, which opened in early July.
From her small storefront, Ochs offers an array of different teas, herbs and spices – for medicinal and culinary uses – and classes on how to use them, as well as acupuncture services.
Walking into the shop, the wall behind the counter is lined with jars big and small containing tea blends and a wide variety of spices, including rare and unusual items like raw cacao beans, ground sumac berry, rubber tree bark and candy-coated fennel often served at Indian restaurants. Chinese herbs, her specialty, have their own section.
That leads to a back room with a small library, displays of tea ware and several small tables, where Ochs discussed her background and plans for the store last week in the way she normally receives customers and patients – over a pot of tea. Meanwhile, her 3-year-old daughter, Oswin, lackadaisically swept the floor with an oversized broom before wearily napping in Ochs' lap.
Getting her education and practicing in Seattle for years, Ochs returned to Newberg recently to find that she had to drive to southeast Portland to find the herbs that used to be at arm's reach.
"Herbal medicine is my primary medicine, so when I have a cold, I want to go to the herb store and get some tea versus going to Walgreen's and getting some Sudafed," Ochs said. "So, I wanted to make a natural drug store, basically, for people in this community and the surrounding area."
When a new customer comes in, Ochs said she just asks them questions until she can get a sense of the issue that brought them in, like poor sleep or stress, and then discusses what might alleviate that issue, whether that's acupuncture or herbs.
"My goal is for my patients to not need me anymore … that they're able to take medicine back into their own hands – that's what I want," she said.
While Ochs stressed that the Western medicine that people are accustomed to is very important, she said herbal medicine is often well-suited to address day-to-day headaches or more chronic pain and mental health issues.
She plans to begin hosting classes and hopes to make the store into a community space where people can talk over tea. She welcomed anyone with any level of interest – including local herb producers and local chefs in search of unusual spices – to drop in.
More information is available at www.herbsinjars.com.