Plants & Farm StoriesFeb 2, 2022

4 questions with 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 classes focused on hand-on herbal preparations 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 species of basil used in herbalism and something just clicked. This sudden realization that plants can be so much more than food and that people have had relationships with them for millenia 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 herbalism, this little pocket of plant people. 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.