“…Prepared Herbs and Roots…”

Rebekah Roberts, Program Specialist

“A large business is done… in pressed and prepared herbs and roots, besides many tons in bulk…and many tons of extracts, both solids and fluids. The War makes great demand for all the articles. They sell in large quantities. We cannot prepare enough to meet the demand.” – Harvey L. Eads, South Union Shaker Village

Although perhaps not widely known, the Shakers were among the first group of Americans to begin selling herbs for medicinal purposes in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Shaker communities from the east coast to Kentucky produced a wide variety of medicinal products that went out in the world including medicines, salves, extracts and pressed herbs born from their “physic” gardens. Most Shakers followed the Thomsonian perspective regarding herbal medicines: they believed herbs could cure all ailments. Luckily for their economic fortunes, many Americans at the time believed the same!

At Pleasant Hill, the community produced several hundreds of pounds of herbs each year, and began to expand their garden plots to accommodate their growing industry in the 1840s. “Today we ploughed up a piece of meadow on the west side of the south shed for the purpose of removing the medical garden to that place. Same day ploughed up a piece of meadow, on the west side of the south street, twice as large, as we need more space. Medical garden by John Shain, length 28 feet by 11 feet.”

By the time of the Civil War, as the quote from Harvey Eads above indicates, the herbal industry was extremely important to the two Shaker communities in Kentucky (Pleasant Hill and South Union) and a booming business was to be had. Such success was widespread and shared by the Shaker communities along the east coast as well due in large part to the popularity of one particularly famous herbal remedy: Mother Seigel’s Syrup, also known as Shaker Extract of Roots. In fact, this remedy was probably the most widely distributed herbal medicine in the world during the last quarter of the nineteenth century!

Mother Seigel’s Curative Syrup was a very popular remedy in the late 1800s.

Alongside their success in tying agricultural pursuits to the demands of the market, the Shakers also used herbs within their communities. At Pleasant Hill, Shaker Sisters and children would often take to the woods, seeking out medicinal plants that could be foraged, considering wild plants to be gifts from God. What sort of native medicinal plants did the Pleasant Hill Shakers forage? Their journals reference many: boneset, lobelia, hoarhound, elder flowers, and wild ginger, among others.

By the late-1870s, declining fortunes at Pleasant Hill led the Shakers to seek a financial panacea in the form of an herbal cure-all remedy that they purchased from a Shaker apostate and her husband. Titling this new substance The Shaker Elixir of Malt, the medicine was never a successful sell. Ultimately, the Pleasant Hill Shakers had to seek out additional sources of revenue to try and recover from the financial losses of the failed venture.

At Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill today, herbs are still a prominent feature in our agricultural pursuits. After preservation work was recently completed on the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling, we replanted our herb garden and divided it into beds that mimic how the Shakers would have organized their own herb beds. What do you think we grow in each bed? Well, some things you are going to have to come to Shaker Village and find out for yourself!

The newly replanted herb garden at Shaker Village, spring 2019.

Join us this winter for the daily program Shaker Herbs: A Winter Tea Tasting to discover more about the Shaker herb industry and enjoy warm herbal tea made from a traditional Shaker blend! Check the daily schedule for program times.

5 Things You Don’t Know About The Inn

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Shaker Village has been a warm beacon of hospitality for more than 200 years. The Shakers used to host travelers in the Village long before 1841, when The Trustees’ Office was built. The Trustees’ Office signaled open arms to guests with its one front door, instead of the well-known double Shaker entrance. It was a greeting place; the heart of the Village to outsiders, business partners, friends and family members of the Shaker community. Boarders, as they were called, were welcome to stay, dine and visit with the Shakers, as long as they followed their rules during their stay. Today, while we don’t insist that you follow a list of Shaker rules, we do insist that you sit back, relax and enjoy your time at Shaker Village!

Trustees' Office

The Trustees’ Office, circa 1842

Named as a top hidden travel destination by BBC News, The Inn is much more than a traditional hotel. Guest rooms, suites and private cottages—each offering distinct character—are located in 13 restored Shaker buildings. Rooms are comfortably appointed with Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors and spectacular countryside views.

Old Stone Shop 174.2

1. Each room is unique! Request your favorite room, or be ready for a different adventure each time you visit. Find a handwritten poem on the windowsill of room 174. Look for letters from past visiting guests in a floorboard under the bed of room 207 (and write your own letter to add to it). Enjoy a perfect view of The Preserve from room 160. See original pieces of the building on the second floor of East Family Dwelling. Open the tiny door in room 505 and ponder what it’s for. Watch the sunrise from your window in room 563. The list goes on and on. These buildings have real history, and each room tells a different story.

2. We’re sustainable! In true Shaker form, we try to be as sustainable as possible and use our resources to the best of their ability. From LED lightbulbs and green toiletry and cleaning products to our newest venture with waterless urinals, we strive to make differences that will impact the entire village for the better.Tens of thousands of guests visit the Village each year and are served by approximately 140 employees. Despite serving an increasing number of guests through meals, programs and events, staff have managed to decrease solid waste. This accomplishment took a coordinated effort across departments, and the recycling program continues to be improved and expanded. More than 432 cubic yards of plastic, glass, aluminum and cardboard will be recycled by the end of the year. This volume of trash would fill 12 average-sized bedrooms from floor to ceiling and represents a savings of approximately $2,300 in trash service fees. We will continue to find ways to be more sustainable in The Inn and all areas of the Village this year and every year to pass on the legacies of the Shakers and to preserve this site for future generations.

3. We have pet-friendly rooms! No need to leave your fur baby at home when you plan your getaway to Shaker Village. Explore the grounds with your dog (on a leash, please) and then check out our pet-friendly hiking trails, as well as overnight rooms.

4. You get complimentary admission to the Village! Every day is filled with self-guided and staff-led tours, talks, exhibitions, hands-on activities and more throughout The Historic CentreThe Farm and The Preserve. Scheduled experiences change daily based on the seasons and VILLAGE@WORK projects. Enjoy outdoor fire pits or go stargazing. Hop on one of our bikes and take a ride. Go hiking or birdwatching. Enjoy the view from our tree swings and so much more. Visit our events calendar to see what else is happening around here.

5. By staying here, you contribute to making great things happen at Shaker Village. Your online and onsite purchases generate revenue to keep this site going. All operating proceeds benefit Shaker Village’s mission and are used to develop new programs and events, compensate employees, buy new linens, feed the farm animals, maintain the trails, keep the lights on and much more! Visit our website to learn more about how you can support Shaker Village.

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This Kentucky destination allows you to be as active or as restful as your heart desires. Come ready for a new adventure or a peaceful retreat. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, weekend getaway, business meeting, destination wedding or other special occasion, The Inn provides the perfect stage for your most memorable occasions. Start planning your getaway now!

Check out these promotions currently going on at The Inn:
Bee My Valentine Package
Cozy Winter Nights at The Inn 


Anthony Cardano is the inn manager and joined Shaker Village after cutting his teeth in the corporate hotel world…