‘THE HERB LADY’: Johnson publishes collection of gardening columns

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 27, 2019

For Nadine Johnson, it all started with a voice.

“In 1980, a voice came to me out of the blue,” Johnson said. “It said, very simply, ‘Go build a greenhouse and grow herbs.’”

She first shrugged off the voice as just a fleeting thought. But the voice kept coming to her, over and over, “Go build a greenhouse and grow herbs …”

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Johnson told her husband, Richard, about the voice in her head but he didn’t have much to say.

“The voice continued, over and over, 24 hours a day,” Johnson said. “Finally, Richard said, ‘Now, we’ll build a greenhouse.’ Richard had the common sense to know where the voice came from. We got busy and built the greenhouse and that is the beginning of my story as ‘The Herb Lady.’”

From the first nail that was hammered into the framework of the greenhouse, the course of Nadine Johnson’s life was destined for the growing of herbs as she had been directed by the voice.

“I grew up as a farm girl in Hopewell back in the 1930s and ’40s,” Johnson said. “We grew cotton, peanuts, corn so I knew what it was like to work in the fields. We grew butterbeans, peas, tomatoes and squash. I knew how to plant and tend a garden. So, growing herbs came natural to me.”

But Johnson had no idea of the impact that herbs would have on her life. Nor did she realize the ground work had be laid for the journey on which she unknowingly embarked when she was a young woman.

Johnson began a career in the medical field as a nurse’s aide at age 17 at Beard’s Hospital in Troy.

She was later trained as a practical nurse and received her license as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Richard Johnson worked with the railroad in the Mobile area and Nadine worked there as an LPN and she grew herbs.

There, in South Alabama, Johnson’s medical training and her growing knowledge of herbs and their healthful and healing benefits impacted her life and the lives of others with whom she shared her knowledge.

“I continued to learn more and more about herbs and their many benefits,” Johnson said. “Every herb is used for something. It’s just that we don’t know the useful benefits of every herb, yet. But, we are learning. We know now that there are good uses for marijuana. Every herb has a useful benefit.”

Johnson continued to grow herbs and, in the process, she learned more about herbs and was more than willing to share what she had learned.

Soon, Nadine Johnson was regarded as an authority on herbs and earned the title of The Herb Doctor. But it was a title she disregarded and discouraged.

“I was not a doctor; I just shared the knowledge that I had gained through reading and research and personal experience about the medicinal benefits of herbs,” Johnson said. “I did not want people to think of me as a doctor.”

Later, when she was referred to as “The Herb Lady,” Johnson was agreeable.

When Richard Johnson retired from the railroad in 1990, he asked Nadine if she would like to move back to Pike County. He was originally from Little Oak so Pike County was home ground for both of them.

“I had never said no to Richard and I immediately said yes,” she said. “I was happy to be coming home.”
Back in Pike County, in Goshen to be exact, the Johnsons bought a house but there was no voice telling Nadine Johnson to “build a greenhouse” and no voice was need to tell her to grow herbs.

“We didn’t build a greenhouse but we had a large backyard,” she said. “Richard cleared away the kudzu and I started growing vegetables and, of course, herbs.”
And, Johnson continued to share the knowledge she had gained about herbs with those who inquired personally and through the written word. Johnson was a correspondent with the Montgomery Advertiser and a columnist for the Alabama Farmers Cooperative’s Cooperative Farming News magazine.

Her columns were widely read and her knowledge and experience with herbs were found to be beneficial to many who read her columns.

Johnson now makes her home in Daphne to be close to her sons and their families. And, even though she no longer has a backyard with herbs a-plenty, her commitment to sharing the knowledge she has gained over the years is just a strong.

Johnson recently published a book, titled “Nadine Johnson: The Herb Lady” that is a collection of more than 100 of her favorite columns. The columns share stories about her colorful past and current facts about the effectiveness and healing that can be had from the wide world of herbal and nutraceutical remedies. The book also includes herbal and nutritional information.

The books are $20 and are only available at Scott Farms near Goshen which is on the property where Nadine Johnson grew up.

“That is hallowed ground,” The Herb Lady said. “For each one of the books, for each column, I give God His due. If it had not been for Him, none of this would have been possible. It was God’s voice that instructed me to ‘grow herbs.’ To Him, the glory.”