How we find it: St. John’s Wort

At Herb Pharm, we use St. John’s Wort flowering tops, sustainably-wildcrafted from its wild habitat. But what does that mean? And how do people even find St. John’s Wort anyway?

Let’s start with some definitions. Sustainably wildcrafted means we don’t grow the plant on a farm; it’s picked from the wild. And it’s picked in a way that leaves plant populations safe for future generations.

We use a lot of St. John’s Wort. It’s in formulas like Good MoodTM, Nervous System TonicTM, Trauma OilTM, Inflamma ResponseTM, VirattackTM, Soothing Throat SprayTM, and well you get the idea. We need lots of St. John’s Wort every year.

So how do you get St. John’s Wort from the wild?

The easy answer is that we work with talented, dedicated wildcrafters we trust to find the plants, harvest them and deliver them to us each year. For the long answer, we head out into the wilds of Southern Oregon. Here’s what it’s like to commercially wildcraft St. John’s Wort for a single day. Continue reading “How we find it: St. John’s Wort”

Building Healthy Soil Communities: Evaluating Soil Texture

Well, it has been a couple weeks since my last farm blog. And writing about farming becomes as linear of a task as everything else that needs to be done on the farm. So, I will have to admit this blog is weather induced…..it’s raining outside.

Sweet spring rain turning into a tumultuous downpour that makes Oregon such a great place to love plants. If you live in Oregon, you know spring is for warm sunshine, sideways rain, hard hail, and a rainbow finale all within a five-minute span. Nature is exhilarating! And it is within these short windows that my long-term tasks are completed for future harvest success.

On our farm, we track seasonal phenology. This is the term for watching our natural cycles in a specific location, to make daily decisions. When making farming decisions, I consider things like average rainfall, mountain snowpack, relative humidity, prevailing winds, day length, sun exposure, and heat units influence each crop cycle. Continue reading “Building Healthy Soil Communities: Evaluating Soil Texture”

Building Healthy Soil Communities for Medicinal Herbs

My first organic farm mentor used to refer to topsoil as “skin of the Earth.”.And each time this fine layer is broken by plow, nature’s response to heal by covering its wound with a green bandage of plants. This moment of healing becomes an opportunity. A chance for farmers to blend their own mixture of plants into a beneficial poultice.

This is where “cover crops” come in. Both preventative and restorative, cover crops are specific species of plants proven to restore soil fertility. On our farm, I make long-term rotational plantings of cover crops such as alfalfa, rye, clover, oats, buckwheat, vetch and sorghum key components of our fertility program.

But how do cover crops work? Why do they help? And why is topsoil so important anyway?

Continue reading “Building Healthy Soil Communities for Medicinal Herbs”

Do you promise to give the Skullcap and only the Skullcap?

Skullcap is not a liar. No herb is. But you’re forgiven if you have trust issues with it. Actually, these issues are why we grow it ourselves. So we can keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t get mixed up with bad company. Make sure our Skullcap supply is pure and never adulterated.

You see, Skullcap has a long history of adulteration. For more than 25 years, the American Botanical Council has tracked incidents of dried Skullcap getting sold mixed with a type of Germander. What’s worse, this Germander is considered a liver toxin. As a result, Skullcap has been falsely implicated in liver dysfunction cases.

Clearly, this is unacceptable. So we did something about it.

Continue reading “Do you promise to give the Skullcap and only the Skullcap?”

Smells delightful. Tastes bitter. Let’s break it down.

Think of a time when you could smell home cooking from another room. The aromas drifting out of the kitchen. The scent of simmering garlic maybe, or of herbs like Rosemary and Thyme. The promise of a warm, delicious meal prepared with love. Picture yourself walking into the kitchen, grabbing a wooden spoon and sneaking a taste. Now imagine a powerful bitter flavor washing over you. A desperate, mouth-puckering, need-a-glass-of-water bitter.

This is Wormwood. Smells delightful. Tastes bitter. Let’s break it down. Continue reading “Smells delightful. Tastes bitter. Let’s break it down.”

Our favorite Aviva moments from Expo West 2016

It’s been a whirlwind year since we announced our Aviva partnership before Natural Products Expo West last year. Now the bottles for Adrena Soothe, Adrena Nourish & Adrena Uplift are packed up, shipped out and already open in our customers’ homes across the country. And more collaborations are coming soon.

And Expo West has rolled around again. (For the 99.5% of you that aren’t coming, Expo West is a big convention in Anaheim for companies that make things that are organic or natural in some way. It’s 88,000 people in a big convention center that smells like new carpeting.  It doesn’t really remind us of farms or nature, but it’s actually a bit of fun.)

Anyway, last year we had Aviva with us at our booth holding conversations about topics that interested her. Here are some of our favorite moments from Aviva’s chats at the booth.

Aviva and Sara Katz (Herb Pharm Co-Founder) discuss ethical sourcing

Continue reading “Our favorite Aviva moments from Expo West 2016”

What’s the difference between a root and a rhizome? And where do bulbs and tubers fit in?

dandelion_root2

When you look at a plant in the ground, some parts are easy to spot. Most kids could do it. Hey, there’s the flower. That there is a leaf. Done and done. But below ground, things get a bit more confusing. There are roots, sure, but rhizomes too. And some plants like tubers and bulbs exist almost entirely underground. So what are all these things?

Well, let’s break it down. Continue reading “What’s the difference between a root and a rhizome? And where do bulbs and tubers fit in?”

Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca

Herb Pharm Maca Sourcing

The journey to the heart of Peru’s Maca fields starts in the early morning in Lima. Traffic noise filling the air. Horns of various pitches and volumes competing for attention. Lima is the second largest city in the Americas. Bigger than New York, bigger than LA, bigger than even Rio or Mexico City. Only Sao Paulo is larger.

Getting out of town means hopping in a car with our supplier, putting the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean at your back and heading uphill, crawling through a traffic jam. White taxis cutting you off at slow speed. Pedestrians crossing between idling cars and buses. Until we reach the highway and start the real climb. Continue reading “Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca”

The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.

GentianHerbalist or no, you probably have Gentian in your home. It’s in the pantry next to that weird bottle of alcohol you got as a gift and never opened. Can’t find it? Don’t worry. Gentian is in every bar in America, Europe or wherever you’re reading this. People take it for its flavor, but it’s not what you think. Continue reading “The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.”