Plants & Farm StoriesFeb 2, 2022

Reflecting on 40 years in business

This year marks a major milestone for us: On March 8, 1979, Herb Pharm officially became a business, co-founded by Sara Katz and Ed Smith. Much has changed in 40 years, but we have never wavered on our commitment to creating the highest quality herbal products possible.

To celebrate our anniversary, we dug through the Herb Pharm archives to find photos and other relics from the last four decades. We wanted to share some of our favorite moments and mementoes with you.

As you scroll through this post, you may notice our trademark shade of yellow — we call it “Goldenrod” — pop up time and again. Here’s why that color has become synonymous with Herb Pharm.

Today, we grow about 65 species of herbs, from Alfalfa to Yarrow. Back then, one humble plant started it all.

Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) was among the first plants that “Herbal Ed” learned to identify in the hills around our Certified Organic farms in southern Oregon.
He and Sara had learned about Goldenrod’s long history within herbalism, so finding it in the wild was a transformative experience.

Soon after, we needed to upgrade our labels, which Sara typed herself. The printer showed them paper in a vibrant shade of yellow-orange. The name? Goldenrod! They took it as a sign. From then on, the color became associated with our brand. Its genus name means “to make whole” in Latin, and the herb is believed to bring good luck. It certainly has for us.

Goldenrod is one of Ed’s favorite herbs and plays an integral role in our company’s history. It is deeply connected to our roots and is among the crops we cultivate. No matter how much we grow, no matter how many herbs we add, we will never forget Goldenrod — or the values that it represents.
As we reflect over the last 40 years, we are grateful that so many people have chosen to trust us and our products.


(Left) Late 19th and early 20th century

US Pharmacopoeia texts
In the 70s, Ed found old U.S. Pharmacopoeias and Dispensatories in a used book store and spent many late nights studying them with Sara. They provided a wealth of knowledge on formulating herbal extracts, enabling their nascent company to succeed.

(Center) 1979
Herbal symposium brochure
The “herbal renaissance” took place in the 1970s and 80s in the US, and “Herbal Ed” Smith is considered to be a pioneer — not only through Herb Pharm but also as a popular teacher and lecturer on herbs and herbalism.


(Right) 1979
Sara's Bike
This is the bike Sara used when she and Ed would bike up the hill to visit a beautiful farm with excellent views of the Siskiyou Mountains. They dreamed about owning that farm — and it’s now our farm, which they call “The Pharm Farm.”

Ed Smith’s daily planner
Since day one, we’ve kept meticulous records. Ed used this calendar our first year to plan his herbal classes and lectures — and our harvest and extract production schedule. We went digital early on, buying our first computer in 1981.


(Left) 1980s

Wildflower field guide
This is one of many books Ed and Sara used to help them identify herbs on the land that surrounds what is now our Certified Organic farm in Williams, Oregon. It is located in the Siskiyou Mountains, part of the Cascade Range.


(Center) 1980s
Harvest bag
In order to produce high-quality herbal extracts, Ed and Sara realized they needed to have high-quality raw herbs. They explored the local mountains and fields to responsibly wildcraft many herbs, collecting them in bags like this one.


(Right) 1980s
Black Cohosh liquid extract
The first year, Sara typed every product label on an old typewriter at the kitchen table. It’s how she memorized the spelling of many botanical names of herbs. As we grew, we had labels professionally printed — on Goldenrod-colored paper.

Photo of Ed and Sara
For more than a decade, Sara Katz and Ed Smith ran Herb Pharm from their home in Williams, Oregon. Here, they’re inspecting a batch of herbs.

(Left) 1989
Mortar and pestle
The mortar and pestle has been used for centuries by herbalists to crush and blend herbs, spices and resins. It was also a key part of our logo for about three decades, as a nod to ancient herbal traditions.


(Right) 1983-1984
Herb Pharm catalog
During Herb Pharm’s first decade in business, we offered more than herbal products. Because Sara and Ed wanted to share their knowledge with the herbalist community, we also sold bulk herbs and some equipment for making herbal extracts.


(Left) Circa 1990
Select Herb Pharm products
By the early 1990s, Herb Pharm had moved from Sara and Ed’s home to a new GMP-compliant manufacturing facility nearby. That also meant Sara no longer typed our labels — our professional Goldenrod labels were on all products.

(Right) 1992
Photo of Ed
As we grew into a national brand, Sara and Ed continued to teach and lecture across the country. Here, Ed rides a bike in Boulder, Colorado, where he was teaching at a conference of the American Herbalists Guild (he and Sara were co-founders).
(Left) 1990s
Herb Pharm catalog
In the early 90s, we built our GMP compliant, FDA-inspected facility, and we bought our farm and had it legally verified as Certified Organic. This catalog featured over 200 products and announced the facility — supported by 16 employees.


(Left) 1994
Laboratory equipment for quality testing
We opened our Botanical Sciences Laboratory to do chemical analysis and improve quality control of our herbal products. Over time, the lab has expanded and advanced, supporting our commitment to maintain the highest quality possible.


(Left) Circa 2000
Lectures by “Herbal Ed”
Ed has been studying herbs and nutrition for almost half a century. He and Sara served as the chief instructors in our internship program for years. Many of Ed’s famed classes and lectures were made available on cassette tapes and CDs.


(Right) Circa 2000
Herb Pharm honey
The quality of our herbs depends on us living in balance with nature. One way we do that is by raising honeybees and using Bee-Friendly Farming practices. A couple of times, we’ve been able to gift excess honey to our employees.
(Left) Circa 2000
Historical photo
Our commitment to Earth-friendly agriculture includes the creeks that run through our farm. This shows our riparian restoration project, where we planted stabilizing trees along creek banks. This work won’t be fully realized for a century!


(Right) Circa 2000
Select Herb Pharm products
We continue to use that iconic shade of Goldenrod. But we’ve added other features to labels to help consumers find their favorite products. For example, single extracts have a Goldenrod-colored background, and compounds have green.
(Left) 2004
Herb Pharm catalog
By our 25th anniversary, we had over 50 employees — and were “picky as ever about the plants we use and their meticulous extraction.” Our branding included our iconic mortar and pestle with a Goldenseal plant, in our signature colors.


(Center) 2008
AHPA Industry Leader Award
Sara and Ed have always been committed to maintaining a purpose-driven, ethical and innovative company. We’ve stayed true to our root values and guiding principles — and our founders have been frequently honored by peers and colleagues.


(Right) 2009
Commemorative glass
By our 30th anniversary, our manufacturing facility — expanded again in 2005 — had become USDA Certified Organic. (Ed likes to call it “The Plant Plant.") Organic practices are a major way we uphold our founding values.


(Left) Circa 2010
Herb Pharm logo
What’s on the outside of our bottles may have changed over the last 40 years, but the authenticity and quality never will. Our newest logo is an herbal-inspired homage to the Greek mythological symbol known as the Staff of Asclepius.


(Right) 2013
Adopt an Herb certificate
Sara and Ed were founding members of United Plant Savers, and we support their mission however we can. Since 1999, we’ve been an official UpS Botanical Sanctuary, and we officially “adopted” Goldenseal to help protect this “at-risk” plant.
(Left) 2014
35th anniversary glass
During our 35th anniversary year, we made the ethical decision to transition to Certified Organic palm-free vegetable glycerin. Not only did it improve our product line, but it also helps protect orangutans and their habitat.


(Right) 2014
Historical photo
We keep bees, help them breed for pest and disease resistance and even feed them if their honey runs low in winter months. Farm Manager Matt Dybala is also our “bee whisperer” — and the farm is Certified Bee-Friendly.
(Left) 2017
Herbs on the Go™ sprays
We launched a new line of herbal sprays, an efficient and fun way to take liquid herbal extracts. Each blend is expertly formulated to not only be portable, but to also improve the taste.


(Right) 2018
Delicious Living Supplement Award
Our Herbs on the Go Bed Time was named the “Best Sleep Aid.” It’s among the awards we’ve received over the years for our quality herbal products.