We think choices work like raindrops. Each decision we make, by itself, can seem small. Almost inconsequential. But taken together, they can flow into something powerful. Something that defines who we are.
We began back in 1979 when our founders, Ed Smith and Sara Katz, set out to make extracts the right way. They set out to make liquid herbal products that were effective and undistorted, to avoid the temptation to manipulate nature, and to do it in ways that made their community and their environment stronger. This mission and their values have propelled us forward ever since.
Sara and Ed met at a naturopathic college in the 1970s and soon began their first herb-based venture, the “Foundation for Natural Living.” This foundation held herbal retreats and eventually evolved into a naturopathic college built on the couple’s values. While the project was a success, they learned that they wanted to do more than educate, they wanted to work with the plants themselves.
Our mission is to create the highest quality herbal extracts products possible. We’re committed to educating people on how to practice safe, effective herbalism. We believe that our work can inspire more love for plants and respect for Nature and that it will improve the health, happiness and harmony of the Earth and all of its people.
In the 1970’s, our founders, Ed and Sara, searched store shelves for extracts made with high quality ingredients and a thoughtful process. They wanted purity and simplicity. They wanted herbs that were good for them and the world around them.
They didn’t find what they were looking for as the herbs and capsules they did find were pallid, aroma-less and seemingly stripped of their natural bounty.
What they did discover was literature on how to create their own extracts. They were drawn to traditional and somehow forgotten methods of preparation. They sought out old, used books, like the United States Pharmacopeia and the National Formulary, to learn them.
Ed and Sara found many of the books that inspired them in the Used Books section at Powell’s of Portland. These books were out of print, some dating back to the 1850s, but it introduced them to ways of preparing herbs that they’d never heard of. The couple, along with some contemporaries, set out to revive these practices.
Herb Pharm officially came to life in 1979 when the couple moved to a wooded community of herb-enthusiasts in southern Oregon’s Josephine County. They started wildcrafting in the hills around town, relying on their books to help them identify herbs and teach them how to revive traditional methods of herbalism. By 1982, they were successfully extracting herbs they’d grown and harvested in a lab attached to their home.
Over the next 10 years, as their products became more and more popular, they turned their home into a hub for the growing company. They built an addition that housed a lab to make extracts. Their dining room became the shipping department. Sara sat at the table, using their typewriter to create labels for each bottle. Their home and lab became a classroom where Ed and Sara could pass their knowledge down to future herbalists. This training and educational system would eventually become the Herbaculture Internship Program.
To this day, the program is a powerful, residential, hands-on experience in herbalism. Many intern graduates have gone on to become herbalists in their own right. The program grew and formalized with the company. Today, herbal education is part of the fabric of the company.
Ed Smith (left), known as “Herbal Ed,” and Sara Katz (second from right) started offering Herbaculture Internships on our Certified Organic farm — which was also their home — shortly after they founded Herb Pharm in 1979.
By 1983, Ed and Sara (second from left, top and bottom) had a well-established internship program on the farm. The interns are an important part of our culture.
Herbal Ed — shown here on the farm in the 1980s — and Sara had a simple mission, to make the most effective and undistorted herbal products. The internship program passes on those values to the next generation of herbalists.
Ed Smith, our co-founder, has traveled to over 60 countries in his ongoing search for traditional herbs and herbal knowledge. His quest for Turmeric (Curcuma longa) took him to Costa Rica.
Here’s Ed showing his affinity for Kava (Piper methysticum) during his travels to the South Pacific. (We actually only use the root and rhizome, never the leaves.)
Before co-founding Herb Pharm with Sara, Ed traveled the world learning about the traditional use of herbs and herbalism. His travels have continued, including this 1998 trip to the South Pacific to source Kava (Piper methysticum).
Ed, at the foot of a monastery in the Himalayan country of Bhutan, has spent his life traveling the globe, learning from people whose herbal knowledge has been passed from generation to generation.
Ed’s search for Maca (Lepidium meyenii) took him to the plant’s native Peru. Here, Ed is high in the Andes Mountains with local Maca farmers.
Since 1979, what’s on the outside of our bottles has changed dramatically, but what’s inside will always remain the same — the highest-quality herbal extracts possible. That’s been Ed and Sara’s mission for all these years.
Before founding Herb Pharm with Sara, and even after the company had begun, Ed traveled the world learning about the traditional use of herbs and herbalism. He met with spice sellers in bazaars of Asia and the markets of Central America. He lived with a shaman in the Amazon. He learned from people whose knowledge was passed from generation to generation. Then he brought those learnings home.
By the mid 1980s, Herb Pharm was in a position to hire a few employees, and, in keeping with the company’s mission, they offered their new hires benefits as soon as possible.
In the mid 1990s, Herb Pharm built a large facility dedicated to extracting herbs. Over the course of the last few decades, the facility has steadily grown to accommodate growing demand for our products. We follow the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices not simply because the regulations are federally monitored, but more importantly because they help us maintain high quality control. In addition to adhering to the required regulations, we have been 3rd party audited by UL.
When Ed and Sara got the opportunity to expand their company, they purchased a parcel of land they’d admired frequently on their bike rides through the country. Parts of the land had been under-watered and over-grazed by sheep for years. It took time to nurse it back to health, but their hard work turned into bountiful harvests. This passion for supporting the soil has continued for decades through Certified Organic and regenerative agriculture practices.
Sara and Ed became leading, founding members of United Plant Savers, or UpS, a group dedicated to preserving native herb populations in the US. The organization changed the way the herb world thought about cultivation and wildcrafting. At a time when wildcrafting was considered to be the optimal way to harvest herbs, UpS observed that some wild plant populations were under threat from the practice. We worked with the organization then and in the decades since to conserve and protect native herb populations for generations to come. That’s why we became a UpS Botanical Sanctuary.
Our passion for the work UpS does is apparent in the decades of actions, stewardship and advocacy we’ve taken to support it. These include being a Certified Organic farm, a Monarch Butterfly Waystation, Salmon-Safe, Bee-Friendly and a Certified B Corp.
Ed and Sara remain a vibrant part of our company today. Their commitment to learning and teaching others how to ethically create high quality extracts continues to inspire us to do things the Herb Pharm way – a way that cares for every plant, animal and person in every ecosystem we touch.
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