Terra Luna Herbals' Elise Hanks

Kensington Resident on a Mission to Heal Philly Through Her Urban Garden

When she’s not working as Floral Director at Egan Rittenhouse, Elise Hanks, owner of Terra Luna Herbals, spends most of her time in her garden in Kensington where she grows plants for the herbal medicines and healing tea blends that she creates and sells via her apothecary brand.


Years of skin issues prompted her to dive into making tinctures (described as a basic, ancient herbal technique using fresh or dry herbal ingredients saturated in a vinegar base and extracted as a concentrated medicine) to combat the irritation on the surface from the inside out. With this personal success and the success of selling out at punk rock flea markets around the city, Hanks began to expand her offerings.


Hanks specializes in Herbalism, commonly referred to as herbal medicine, working with plants for medicinal purposes.


After attending college for fashion design, she realized that a path in fashion was not for her and traveled west to attend farm training with an organization called, WWOOF — Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. She found a love for plants and nature and began to integrate them into her life by making products for herself.


Behind her calm and serene disposition, this entrepreneur shares her fiery passion for nature when it comes to encouraging others to take charge of caring for their own health and everyday ailments, such as issues with skin inflammation, digestive discomfort or fatigue. She suggests, “it’s a good pairing with other remedies” and “dealing with these things on an everyday level also helps your emotional health.”


Since the start of her venture, she has been determined to empower others to attain both physical and emotional benefits through incorporating simple and natural methods in ways that can be very basic to everyday lifestyles. “Herbalism is accessible…anyone can do [it], especially in the city,” she says, and the sustainability of the Urban Garden is proof of that.


Terra Luna Herbals' Urban Garden
Terra Luna Herbals’ Urban Garden

Hanks has worked to get the conversation started about the green-space and its resources since her return to Philadelphia in 2012. Along with going door-to-door to speak directly with neighbors in the community about developing the Garden, and gather support for her new venture, she turned to Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding resource. After reaching her goal, she was able to develop raised garden beds, which now house the main ingredients for her handmade, Philly-based herbal products.


Terra Luna Herbals offers multiple resources both locally and nationally. Purchase pre-made items through Terra Luna’s website or pick blends up at a variety of retail stores spanning multiple neighborhood locations in Philadelphia. Terra Luna’s expanding signature herbal tea blends, “common sage” and rosemary smudge sticks are all high-quality and thoughtfully handmade with most all ingredients coming from the Urban Garden.


Terra Luna’s product line offers a more personalized experience in self-care. For Hanks, the products create a connection to her community and a connection to nature, which is shared through her DIY workshops. For others, incorporating plant-based alternatives and the self-practice of blending natural ingredients can bring serenity and focus within your lifestyle. 


Plant-based healing is about building an awareness of what you put into your body and the positive effect it has over the body, mind and spirit.


The small batch line of products help combat not only physical, but emotional issues, such as brain fog, anxiety, and stress. The most popular are the herbal tea blends made with garden-fresh herbs, such as clove, hibiscus flower, peppermint leaf and stinging nettle leaf, because of the wide variety of symptoms they alleviate, like digestive discomfort, stress-relief, antioxidant deficiencies, suppressed immune system, and sleep troubles.


Elise Hanks. Photo by @urbncommunity

If you’re looking to go a step further with your all-natural remedies, non-toxic, chemical-free skin options are available with Terra Luna. Replacing harsh synthetic, filler-based skin products with plant-based ingredients is something Hanks encourages. “You can learn about skin issues from the inside out. Tinctures were a great way for me to dive into that… [however] you can help the reactions inside, but toxins come out through your skin,” she says, which is why she has moved forward with the development of her topical skin oils, soon to make their debut. In the meantime, take a trusted organic approach to skincare with Terra Luna’s skin salve, made with a combination of oils, such as jojoba oil, which soothes redness and irritation, including skin conditions like acne or eczema.


Hanks also offers collaborative DIY workshops at retail shops around the city. Workshops are based on the idea of blending your own medicine and learning about each herb’s properties, and tea recipes, and how to incorporate plants and herbs as an everyday medicine. Not only will you take home an abundance of knowledge but you’ll receive a large mason jar with ingredients straight from the Urban Garden as well as an herbal smudge stick used to scent your home, practice meditation, and cleanse the air around you with its antiseptic qualities. Workshops are a great way to connect with Hanks, learn about custom options, and meet additional local healers or artists.


Terra Luna Herbals. Photo by @urbncommunity
Terra Luna Herbals. Photo by @urbncommunity


“Terra Luna Herbals is infused in so many ways by the care and love of its creator, Elise Hanks. I think each salve, tea, and CSA box comes with her energy and enthusiasm for the healing power of plants. It is the personal touch that makes her brand so special,” says Natalie Yon-Eriksson, Terra Luna customer and owner of Earth and Flax. These products go hand-in-hand with fostering self-love, especially through the CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, which is another vital resource Elise offers as a way to educate the public on what they can do for themselves, empower other individuals to use natural ingredients to change what makes them unhappy, and to help individuals to dip their toes into daily self-practice and herbal integration. The CSA is a monthly subscription box that delivers seasonal contents to your home. Every month has a different theme. Up to six large portioned sample items with not only Terra Luna’s natural solutions, but also with a local “healer, maker or artist” product, such as incense, poetry or pressed flower petals, that is unique to each box, are included.


Just as she has done so for herself, Elise continues the conversation on incorporating natural resources in their own way, and opens lines of communication for those who may not already be inclined or interested in turning to herbal alternatives as a healing method. With so many tools and resources offered, everyone is guaranteed to find a blend or method that will improve physical health and emotional well-being. “Self-love is about the empowerment to take your life into your own hands. I use herbs and the CSA as a way for each person to ask themselves what they need today or this year.”