Elaine Kilgannon


Elaine Kilgannon

Clinical Herbalist, Owner/Operator, Second Nature Kutztown, PA

How did you get started in the health food retailing business? What was your background before that?

I graduated from Chestnut Hill Hospital School of Radiology and became a registered Radiologic Technologist. Later I specialized in mammography and became a registered mammographer. I also graduated from Hahneman University with a science degree. In my late teens and early 20s, I experienced a lot of digestive issues. I read the book Diet for a Small Planet and instantly became hooked, changing and cleaning up my diet to be more vegetarian and became aware of what was happening to our foods. I had the great opportunity to stay at home and raise my four children. As different health situations arose, I always tried a more natural approach including diet.

With our children all in school, I was working part time for Lehigh Valley Hospital. While working at the hospital, I saw the direction of the medical field and decided it wasn't for me. In 1996, when The Nature Den, a small, sparcely filled health food store, went up for sale in our town, my husband encouraged me to buy it. Never having had the desire or business background to go into retail, he helped me realize I could turn this around and really have the freedom to help people the way I wanted to. Three years later, we bought a building and moved the store increasing it to approx. 2,000 sq. ft.

We are a pretty complete health food store offering everything from essential oils, health and beauty aides, books, food, supplements, herbs, etc. so that we can remain a teaching store. I find that most people are intimidated to shop in a health food store, so we literally lead them around and explain all that seems so overwhelming. Lifestyle and diet changes are what we aim for, but is not always what the customers are interested in. I will spend whatever time is needed with a customer, any time of the day, to help give free counseling, guidance, literature and whatever is needed to help teach that the power is and always has been in their hands to get what they need to be healthy and make the right educated choices. I hope, in the next several years, to be able to add on an office for further counseling.

What motivated you to take David Winston’s 2-year herbal training program?

I took a correspondence herbalist course, provided through Dr. Christopher, and realized it wasn't close to being enough. I also took a couple of individual courses from David and realized I could really learn from his style of teaching while getting a more comprehensive education. I also thought that as time went on and restrictions got tougher his course is one of the few that would hold merit with the changes in health reform.

How do you incorporate that training into the store? How does it enhance your retail business?

As far as incorporating this into my business, my employees benefit greatly by being able to teach and pass on the basics of what I learned, depending on their willingness to learn. It was pretty challenging balancing both business and school but the benefits my customers receive are far more encompassing. When someone walks through the door with a problem, I have only a few minutes to read them, find out what they want or think they want, take a history of their condition or conditions and then pull it all together, giving them the information and ability to make an educated decision on quality products.

David’s courses along with my background and understanding of the how the body and its systems work enable me to quickly accomplish this with the knowledge of a broad arsenal of herbs. It has always amazed me how one herb can be so supportive and overlapping for many different afflictions so many people experience, and the synergism of a variety of herbs can even go further to bring balance back. Too often in conventional medicine, a patient is so micromanaged that the symptom is treated and the underlying cause is missed. The intelligence and beauty of these gifts we've received through herbs are able to help many underlying causes and symptoms gently without disrupting the natural process of healing and balance of the body. I will always be grateful for what I've learned through David and look forward with excitement to being able to continue my journey of sharing and learning the power of herbs for the rest of my life.

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