Business of Botanicals Book Club Beginning

It is incredible to see the level of interest of those ready to dig in to a deeper discussion of the themes and ideas explored in The Business of Botanicals. Thank you so much for joining this experimental journey! 

Here’s how it will work. Each Monday I will send an email message with questions, suggestions for reflection, a video link, and some additional resources. If it is a week with a live session, the message will include the link to the live session. These will be recorded for those who can’t make the session in person. They will be available for a limited time for registered book club members only. 

If you are in the Facebook group, I’ll set up a spot to reflect/engage in a discussion on these issues. While I will moderate and chime in on that discussion, that’s really a place for you all to share ideas with each other. So please don’t hesitate! I just ask that you follow the ground rules and be respectful and kind. 

Almost 500 people have signed up for the book club, which is fantastic! Please fill out this simple survey to let me know a bit more about who you are and, in particular, whether you’d like me to set up additional face to face time for discussion:

Below are some exercises and questions to reflect on for this first session.

Thank you again for joining!

Before You Begin

Take a moment to reflect on why you’ve signed up for this book club. What is your intention? Write down one or two commitments. Think about making one actionable commitment to take by the end of the course. You don’t need to decide that commitment now, just pose it as a question: What is one action I can commit to by the end of this series? And notice what answers arise.


I invite you to begin this journey with a short journey of connection. I’ve recorded this journey in this audio file: Connecting_Business of Botanicals.mp4

The text is below as well.

Think about the most recent medicinal plant you ingested, it could have been in tea or a tincture or capsule or the spices you used for cooking. Taste that, remember how it felt in your body. What do you know about how that plant arrived in your home? Did if come from your garden? A grocery store? Did you buy it online? What do you know about how it arrived at that place?

Follow that further. What do you know about where the product was made? Can you picture the factory? Can you imagine the people handling the products? Or the plants arriving at the manufacturing plant? What form were they in? Were they in sacks? Wrapped in plastic? Keep going with this exercise, going all the way back to imagining where the plant grew, in a field or a forest or a meadow. What do you know about the soil? What machines were used? Who were the workers doing the work? Stick with the producer, the farmer. Think about the energy in that particular plant. What gave that plant that energy? What do you know about that environment? What was the quality of the air? The water?

Take some time.


Now pick up your pen and write about what you imagined, what you knew and didn’t know. I encourage you to do this as a free write. Keep your pen moving without pausing to think a lot. Just start with the words, “I saw… “ and then write what you saw. Or “I knew….” When that thread runs out, begin a new sentence with “I didn’t see…” or “I didn’t know….”


Pop on over to the Facebook group and share your thoughts. What surprised you about this exercise? What didn’t surprise you? What questions are alive in you as a result?


Many of you have likely seen this video, What is Sustainable Herbalism? It is one of the first we produced as part of the Sustainable Herbs Program and it features many of the people and places I discuss in the book. Take a moment to watch it again or watch it for the first time.

Take a moment to write down what surprised you or what confirmed what you already know. What questions do you have?

The Supply Chain section of the Sustainable Herbs Program website offers short videos of each step from harvesting to finished product manufacturing: 

Reading Questions for Chapters 1 and 2

1. Seeing

“We hold all things or not depending 
not on greed but whether they suit what 
life begins to mean.”

I love this poem and this passage in particular, even though it always feels slightly hard to grasp. What does it mean to you?

A key theme in this book is the relationship between seeing, responsibility/accountability, and action. These questions relate to this theme: 

  • What is the concept of phenotypic plasticity and plants? How does it relate to Craig Holdredge’s idea of the signature of place?
  • How do you relate the idea of phenotypic plasticity to the description of Barry Lopez’s essay, “The Invitation?” (This is a wonderful, brief essay and well worth reading it in its entirety! I had a such a difficult time trying to pare it down to just this one paragraph:
  • And finally what do the priests and shamans in Hedangna refer to when they talk about  seeing double?
  • Reflect on how these concepts relate to how you think about the business of herbal medicine and the questions you are asking?
2. Medicine as Process

What distinction do I make between herbal medicine as a product and as a process? In what ways does this distinction matter?

3. History of the Herbal Renaissance

Chapter 2 was one of the most difficult chapters in the book to write (along with Chapters 3 and 4, each for different reasons!), mostly because it involved having to select only a handful of stories among the many I could have included. The history I share about the renaissance of the business of herbal medicine is the history I have come to know based on the people I have spoken to, it is in no way The History of this period. I also selected these particular stories because they touched on certain themes I wanted to explore in the book. What are some of the key questions and points that you take from this chapter?