What to Do: Herbalists

Herbalists: What You Can Do

If the body is healthy, then it is whole. But how can it be whole, and yet be dependent, as it obviously is, upon other bodies and upon the earth? – Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America

Herbalists as the Change

Most of the recommendations on this website involve a fair amount of engagement on the part of customer buying herbal products. However, many people simply want to know what product to buy and which company to support.

Herbalists are committed to the deeper philosophy of herbal medicine and so we have to lead the transformation that is needed in the herb industry. Through teaching, practicing, and writing books and blogs, herbalists can share their ideas about the supply chain and why issues of sustainability are so crucial to the efficacy of the herbal medicine they practice. Below are some guidelines to begin.

Looking for teaching suggestions

See also Ann’s post, Five Steps to Support Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing, a summary of a panel discussion from the American Herbalist Guild Symposium on how herbalists can incorporate these issues into their teaching and practice. Also see Teaching About the Herb Industry and Sustainability, Ann’s conversation with Australian herbalist, Sue Evans.

Herbal Practitioners

As an herbalist, think about where you source your herbs? How do you educate your client about quality, cost and efficacy?

Stacking functions is a concept from permaculture where one action meets multiple purposes. In treating your patients, think about ways your recommendations meet different functions. How can you address the conditions that brought them to their office (on a physical, emotional, and spiritual dimension) while also supporting sustainability in the herbal products industry overall? Some questions to consider include:

Can you achieve the desired result with something else – with food, with movement, with a spiritual practice?

Herbalists can encourage clients to develop a spiritual practice

Offerings at a Sacred Grove, part of a FairWild project in India.


  • Will your client take the herb? In what form?

Explain the different remedies: capsules, teas, tinctures, baths, etc., what is involved and how each works. Ask which your client is most likely to take.

  • Can you teach them to make their own remedy? To grow a plant in a pot in a window? Start a garden?

While a tincture achieves physiological change in the body, learning to make a tincture empowers us, which can lead to deeper and more lasting changes. Growing a plant might be the first step in a spiritual practice. Take the time to explain why making one’s own remedies or growing a plant makes a difference. That explanation could be what convinces a client to begin.

  • Sourcing herbs: Can you offer herbs you’ve grown yourself?

If you are make your own remedies to sell to clients, think about what added value are you offering. Are you growing the plants yourself or purchasing them from a local grower? Or, if you bought the dried herbs from a national company, can you let them know how to get the herbs and prepare the remedies themselves?

Herbalists: What you can do to educate clients about the botanical industry

  • If you recommend products from the store, what can you tell your client about where the herbs are from?

Collect a list of companies you trust based on your relationship with them, not just because it was on a list of recommended companies in a course you took. Find out for yourself. How has that company responded to your questions? What do you think of the quality of medicine you’ve gotten from them? What do you know about their work as a company, their sourcing practices, and their philosophy overall? Why do you feel good about supporting them?

  • If you do sell tinctures you have made yourself, think about what you are asking your clients to pay.

Where is that money going? If you are selling the tinctures at more than what they cost you to make them, be transparent about the fact that they are a source of income for you. Offer your client options: teach them to order the herbs and prepare the tincture themselves, or refer them to other companies to buy the tincture from.

Teach Classes? See our curriculum recommendations here