Marisa Madge Cutlip recently celebrated her first year in business as Wildflower’s Botanical Menagerie. But in a way, she’s been preparing for decades.
She began studying herbalism 25 years ago, when she was in her early 20s.
“It’s always been definitely a passion. But I didn’t really consider making it an actual career until I moved here almost 15 years ago,” Cutlip said.
She’s from New Orleans, got “blown around” by Hurricane Katrina and eventually landed in Manitou Springs, where she loved the community and decided to stay.
In between, she evacuated to Orlando, Florida, and took classes from a respected herbalist and teacher. That teacher had studied with Rosemary Gladstar, “kind of our fairy godmother of herbal medicine in our country at this time,” Cutlip said.
Gladstar helped found Traditional Medicinals tea company and operates the Science & Art of Herbalism school, which offers certification courses; Cutlip is halfway through her course, which includes instruction on human anatomy.
She’s also read every book on herbalism she could find and spent years independently studying.
“I’ve just always been fascinated by how we have all these natural gifts available to us; plants can provide almost anything we need,” Cutlip said. “I’m also fascinated by how a lot of people intuitively know what they need. And they’ll just gravitate toward it.”
Cutlip also has herbs in her family tree.
One grandfather was a bonsai master and one grandmother, she said, could plant a branch and grow a tree. She’s learned that one ancestor served tea to Jean Lafitte, a French pirate who wreaked havoc around the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century.
But it’s the Native American DNA she carries that resonates with Cutlip.
“I would never want to appropriate a culture, but I do want to learn more about my ancestry because I’m so drawn to nature. Going outside, that’s my church. That’s where I draw the most inspiration and peace.”
Wildflower’s mouthwatering teas include Honey Orange Sunset — one of her favorites because she experimented a lot to balance the flavors — Centered Soul, Dream Boat Sleepy Time, Mighty Aphroditea and Awaken-Mint.
Find them at Brazen Bee, 10 Ruxton Ave., where owner Courtney Henslee has encouraged Cutlip in her efforts, or through manitoumade.com or Etsy (search for wildflowersbotanical), although she hopes to launch a website soon.
“Part of what I love about creating tea blends and making it available to people is that it’s such a wonderful form of self-care,” Cutlip said.
She also puts together custom teas after researching the best remedies for what customers are going through.
In addition to selling teas that she formulates from certified organic herbs, she leads herb walks during growing season.
“The goal is to show people what is naturally growing in our area and here in Manitou. We have medicinal herbs everywhere,” she said. “I want to increase that awareness so that people have an appreciation for the natural beauty around them.”
She’ll teach “herb walkers” how to ethically harvest herbs at the best time, or to grow the native plants themselves.
Cutlip also formulates tinctures such as Rest Easy, a calming combination of valerian root, hops, lavender, skullcap, passionflower and lemon balm.
If that’s not enough, she’s created Tea Mail, 5-by-7-inch greeting cards with four mini-samples of her tea blends, and tea infusers that incorporate healing crystals — the talismans in her business slogan. She uses them in jewelry; her bracelets, pendants and earrings are also available through Brazen Bee, ManitouMade and Etsy.
And yes, she started Wildflower’s during the pandemic. In fact, she came down with COVID-19 about that time.
She immediately started making tea blends for people who had COVID or were trying to recover from it, just to help heal their immune systems; she gave away many of her products.
“When the pandemic hit, I kind of felt the need to change to shift focus a little bit. Really stop fooling around and really focus on my herbal studies, and make sure that people had community healing available.”