Could you Imagine...

...while you are studying sign language during a routine tutoring session you get a ‘malfunction’ of sorts in your hands? Well that happened to Jo Buono. One day she suddenly experienced an odd case of vertigo, and did not really know what was going on, but knew something was really off. We met at The Babylon Bean which she mentioned is the very place that the first episode occurred "We were sitting over there," she points to the corner with a weak smile. She was in the midst of explaining to me how she fell in love with Deaf culture. It all started when she took sign language as a second language, after High School she was learning from all deaf teachers, and during one of her study sessions everything took an unexpected turn. Jo would soon find out that she had contracted Lyme disease, and the trajectory of her life would change drastically.

"This was year 5 in lockdown for me"

Jo laughs when I ask how 2020 effected her. I have heard this sentiment before from others with chronic illnesses. She illustrates that her journey with Lyme was not easy "Doctors don't always listen, treatments are not one size fits all" and on top of that, nothing for Lyme is typically covered by insurance. This diagnosis put her plans on hold while opening doors to this entire other world that many of us never have to think about. She created a T-Shirt to raise awareness and ran an account called 'Hunting for Spoons' - "Other Lymies and people with chronic illness get it" she goes on to tell me that the analogy spoons represents how much energy you have to scoop up and pour into things. You can only push through with what you have to stay as healthy as possible. So when Jo was considering her next life move, she was going to jump into nursing, "Medicine is the endgame for me, but I just didn't have the spoons for nursing school off the bat." She knew that nursing would always be there, and decided to explore her options.

With that self-awareness, and with the spoons she had, Holistic Nutrition found her. Not being one to participate in diet culture, but understanding how important taking care of your body is after being immune compromised, Jo jumped into learning about how to make people feel good. Holistic Nutrition also introduced Jo to herbalism, and while she was receiving infusions and heavy duty treatments for her Lyme, she was finding that these herbs helped soothe some of her harshest symptoms. "Medicine and Herbs can go hand in hand like a Ying and Yang" Jo explains, one or the other isn't a cure-all, but should work together. These herbs would help curb a lot of the symptoms of her medications, as well as ease her mind when facing the anxiety that comes with chronic illness. After all, being sick, doesn't mean that living well is not an option - and the world of herbalism opened that mindset for Jo.

What I did not expect to learn, is that Jo is also a financial advisor. "The more I listened to people the more I realized that along with health, money is the first thing people mention when it comes to their troubles," so Jo decided to learn how to actually help people figure their stuff out.. Giving advice is one thing, but being able to actually plan with facts and figures adds to the Holistic Health philosophy, which is being able to treat the whole person. Building this brand for herself has given a freedom that excites her "If I never have to sit at a desk for someone else again, I will be happy." Curating this knowledge and jumping into Holistic Culture has given Jo a really strong, positive mindset with navigating her Lyme. She wants people to get curious about herbs, and she started with vanilla extract since most people will gravitate towards items they feel are 'regular' and safe. Beyond that, she formulates teas, tinctures, elixirs for wine and even pancake mix that are all packed with herbal benefits. All of this grew from her original goals dissipating with the diagnosis of Lyme, and in my humble opinion, it's phenomenal what Jo has brought to the table through her own personal hardships.

Jo brought me some Teas to try and at the end of our photo session gave me some tinctures which I easily fell in love with. On top of the teas being delicious, they really do what they are set out to do (Quiet Your Mind is a personal favorite). As an anxious person, having something natural and soothing close by is a huge plus for me. I love how Jo can explain each herb and what they are meant to do, her knowledge and passion are so reassuring that you are in good hands. When we were planning her photo session she was very firm in avoiding woodsy areas, you can understand why. We landed at The Bayport Flower house which was an extremely good fit, she even got to see some of her most used and beloved ingredients up close (like Passion Flower).

You can follow Jo on Instagram @holisticandherby and find her products at The Local Market in Port Washington as well as at Hitch in Babylon.