4 questions with Alexis the Herbalist

Alexis the herbalist

What is an herbalist?

Generally speaking, an herbalist is a person who grows, collects, or uses plants to promote health and healing. I think of us as historians, honoring and preserving an older way of life, and as connectors of people and plants. In my current context, it’s a wild job! I wear a lot of hats on any given day. I answer herbal questions from customers, healthcare practitioners, retail partners—anybody who might ask about our products and operations. I help with new product approvals, tasting formulas and looking at things from a regulatory and compliance perspective. I look at current and historical research on herbs and work on special projects. I also teach a series of medicine making classes for Herb Pharm’s Herbaculture Intern Program. I get to help cultivate young people’s relationship with plants, which is one of my greatest joys

How do you grow up to be one?

This is an interesting question, and I think it looks different for every herbalist. I had gardens as a kid and off and on as I grew up, and my curiosity about plants was instilled early in life. I also lost a parent to cancer at a young age, which was obviously very challenging, but it was that experience that got me thinking about alternative forms of healthcare like herbalism in the first place. As a teenager, the thought that I could turn my love of plants into a career never even crossed my mind, and when I went to college, I got a business degree.

And I ended up unhappy with it. I had administrative jobs that were challenging in all the wrong ways and I was looking for a change. Funny enough, I was on my porch watering my plants and thinking about what I was going to do when I decided to look up information on the basil in front of me. I learned that it was actually a medicinal species of basil and something just clicked. This sudden realization that plants are medicine and they can be used to heal people was so exciting, and I knew at that moment that this was what I wanted to do with my life. They say the plants find you. And that’s what happened for me. Within a few months I’d moved to Seattle and started attending Bastyr University.

From there, it’s been a winding decade or so of teaching about herbs, cultivating herbs, supervising a botanical garden, coordinating educational events and more.

What’s cool about your job?

I love that I get to make a positive impact. And I have the privilege of helping to create products that support health and wellness. Here at Herb Pharm, I can be part of a decision-making team in a company known for its ethics and integrity. That’s a great honor for me.

And I get to live in Williams, Oregon. We’re at the point where two mountain ranges come together and the biodiversity here is amazing. I’m watching a monarch butterfly right now as I sit in this garden. This is such a special place. And there’s a community here that is very supportive of herbal medicine, this little pocket of herbalism. I love it.

What are three herbs you’d recommend?

That’s so hard. There are so many. I’m walking in a garden right now and thinking, ‘what about this one? Or this one? Or this one?’ I just love plants. They inspire me to be a better person with their generosity. They take care of us and countless other species.

But some of my favorites right now are: Hawthorn Blend, Burdock Blend and Skullcap.