Local store offers remedies unique to personal health issues

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Jenny Hudson trains Elliott Ybarra at the cash register at The Herb Bar. The Herb Bar, located just behind South Congress Avenue on Mary Street, has been around for 25 years an offers an array of essential oils, herbs, spices and many other products.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Tucked behind South Congress Avenue is a quaint vine-covered store filled with alternative remedies for everything from allergies to anxiety.

Though The Herb Bar has been around for 25 years, owner Twila Willis has been in charge for the last 16. Willis learned the art of healing from her grandmother during the summers of her childhood.

“It was just a lifestyle; it was the way I was raised. [She taught me to] eat fresh food that you grow yourself, and if you don’t feel good, go out in the field. If you’ve got a cough going on, go pick some mullein,” Willis said.

Since taking over, Willis has expanded the shop from one room carrying a few essential oils and herbs, to a colorful and airy oasis carrying a few thousand different products, including teas, supplements, incense, candles, ritual kits, various body care products, teapots, chimes and books.

But the remedies aren’t worth taking unless they are suited to your constitution and you take them as directed.

“We talk to them about their symptoms, their mucous and elimination. Then, we pick for their specific situation,” Willis said. “Someone doesn’t come in, say they have a cold, and we say ‘Okay! Here’s your fix!’ and hand them something in a jar. There’s more to it than the one single answer. Everything is on an individual basis.”

Jeffrey Zurlo, an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, has been working at The Herb Bar for 10 years. He interacts with customers and helps clients find the right cure and method of administration for their troubles.

“Many people feel like, ‘Well, my friend said this herb would help me, and I took it once and it didn’t do anything.’ Well, it’s because you didn’t take it the way it’s best to take it. There are certain herbs that you need to take regularly throughout the day for a few days at least, and then a couple times a day after that to make sure it’s really gone. If you don’t take it enough, it’s not going to give you enough support to help you significantly,” Zurlo said.

The reason some people choose alternative medicines over conventional methods, Zurlo said, is because improper use of antibiotics can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria that instigate other medical issues. An example of bacteria overgrowth that is typical among women is a cycle of yeast infections that can follow antibiotic use, said Zurlo.

“One of the biggest challenges with Western medicines, as my professor said, [is that] many doctors are trained to use anti-aircraft guns to kill mosquitos,” Zurlo said. “Almost inevitably, an antibiotic will kill both bacteria that’s trying to mess with you and a bunch of beneficial bacteria that your body needs to absorb certain vitamins, support healthy digestion and support your immune system.”

The remedies that The Herb Bar offers are a few options in one’s medical treatment for various maladies.

“What we try to do is match a remedy to the severity of the issue. We’re never going to tell someone not to see a doctor. That’s silly. But very often, if you catch something early, if you kind of have a handle on what’s going on, herbs are a more appropriate strength remedy and do less collateral damage,” Zurlo said.

Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 as: Local store specializes in alternative remedies personalized for individuals' medical concerns