Herbal KnowledgeFeb 2, 2022

Root Values: Looking Back on the Early Days of the ‘Herbal Renaissance’

Our root values: Our values are deeply rooted in doing what’s right for community and nature — as farmers, as herbalists, as stewards, as educators and as employers. This article and video series explains our commitment to doing right all the way from our farms to your home.

As Herbalists

When Sara Katz and Ed Smith founded Herb Pharm back in 1979, they ended up as pioneers in what we’ve come to call the “Herbal Renaissance,” a resurgence of interest in herbalism after decades where such practices were largely dormant. Even natural food stores in the ‘70s didn’t really have a section for herbal products. If you were lucky, you could find a few tinctures but nothing more.

While living in Portland, Oregon, Sara and Ed found old herbal compendiums, which they read voraciously. They headed south to Williams, Oregon, where they passed their time collecting herbs from the nearby mountains and tending to their modest garden. Using those old books, Ed and Sara then made small batches of traditional tinctures, salves and more. Back then, they relied on kitchen tools, like canning jars, a carrot juice press and a coffee grinder.

Word spread quickly that there was a new company offering herbal products — with a commitment to quality unlike any other. People were eager to connect with nature through plants and to find an alternative to the status quo.

The few herbal products you could get back then were made from dried-out, conventionally grown herbs, often sourced from a commercial warehouse. Sara and Ed were collecting and organically growing herbs like Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) in small batches and either processing them fresh or immediately drying them to preserve their quality.

Over time, they began using restaurant-size equipment to accommodate growing demand. After burning out what Ed said was a “record number” of coffee grinders, they upgraded to large-scale production and quality testing equipment — but those traditional formulations stayed the same.

Now, more than 40 years later, Sara and Ed are proud to know that families have been using their products for generations. They know that here at Herb Pharm, our commitment to doing things right will never change.

“Herb Pharm has stayed true to our values as we've grown, and it's taken a village to do that,” said Sara.

Hear Sara and Ed share the story of those early days: