I get this question at least a few times a week and today I'm gonna tell you my story.
When I was a young girl, someone once asked me..."Is that your Nana's brew"? It was a friend of mine, probably a neighbor, and as I held the mug of tea in my hand I was perplexed and confused.
"What do you mean?" I ask. My friend repeats, "Is that your Nana's brew?" I didn't know what they were saying or what it meant and I just looked at my friend, shrugged my shoulders, shook my head and took a sip of my hot tea.
See, when I was growing up, drinking remedies for upset stomach either Chamomile or Spearmint was just a normal process. Parents and elders massaged our foreheads and limbs with olive oil for headaches and growing pains and they would blow smoke into our ears when they ached- we didn't consider any of these things fancy or mystical. We didn't name it. It was casual, it was just something we did, these remedies were just apart of our life.
Growing up my mother and father loved on the land in the homes that we grew up in. They tended the soil, planted the seeds, watered the earth and grew lots of plants. They dug in the desert heat and we all became so excited when the fruit of their labor began to flourish and produce. We had chickens, dogs, cats and birds. And my father well, he worried- a lot.
My father was an Aquarius, and was definitely ahead of his time and always thinking outside the box. He was in a few different branches of the military and perhaps that's where his anxiety for preparation came from; but, he always imagined a moment in his lifetime where we would need to live off grid. He was a prepper. And at one point, he dove into learning a whole lot about what we needed to know if ever we needed to live off the land, when people would ask him why he was so scared he would reply 'not scared, prepared'...There wasn't a lot of resources to glean off of during that time to learn about plants the way there is today, it was the pre-internet era, so he relied heavily on his experience in the military, his 'Mother Earth News' magazine subscriptions and books. He was one of my teachers.
My mother was a nurse. I saw how people called her on the phone and consulted with her, or how she would visit them and asses their situation and talk to them about their next steps. I used to sit and watch her and how she gave them treatments and education that allowed them to make informed decisions. My mother also empowered people who sought her out and taught them how and what to do to take care of themselves. To this day she is an avid gardener who finds deep purpose in a garden. She, was one of my teachers
I, had an affinity to making mud pies as a young girl. I added leaves and plants to our shampoo because I saw it said 'botanicals' on the label and thought that perhaps in some way I could elevate the formula. When I was in my teens I discovered Cannabis- also, one of my teachers.
Cannabis hit me with a huge, hard shift and I started to feel like if weed could make me feel like this what could other plants do...
I was a teen mom, having my first child at 18 years old and being a Cancerian, I felt motherhood strong and deep in my spirit. I wanted to do the best for my starseed little bae. I cleaned up my teenage diet of soda's and candy bars, was put-off by over the counter medications, not that I took them that often to begin with, but I just wanted to do the best for my body and my growing baby. I dove into books much like many first-time mothers and read about Red Raspberry Leaf as a tonic to the reproductive organs and how it was often used in pregnancy. Later when I had my baby and she was fussy I would revisit my 'Nana's brew'...Chamomile always did the trick and it wasn't far after in my research that I came across Fennel for colicy babies. As my interest grew so did my father's, so did technology and the internet. I came across a website which taught me so much, it was called Stoney Mountain Botanicals and my dad and I would share things we learned with each other, and before you knew it he would have spent a couple hundred dollars on our first order. It was so exciting receiving these bags of herbs in the mail. He got his herbs and I got mine. Self-study on the internet, books and plants were my teachers. Now the web has become so massive I suggest people who want to learn to get a really great book with the author being a reputable herbalist in the field. There's just so much misinformation being publicized everyday, it's hard for anyone new to this study and practice to discern what the truth is and what it's not.
I scoured the internet for more information and found a local herb shop and it was at this point in my life where my first marriage started to become really rocky. I started attending classes at the shop and at the end of that class I failed the final test and never got around to retaking it. I stayed away from my favorite place for the next 4 years because I was too embarrassed and ashamed to walk back in there.
After that, and years of self-study I felt herbalism was strong in my heart and now in my head. I had been helping people for years at that point by sharing information, making herbal tea blends, salves, oils and herbs. So I opened up my first Herb Shop. By this time I had gotten a divorce and remarried, I now had a new baby boy after 3 daughters. I worked full-time as a case manager for a behavioral health clinic and my store was quite a ways from home. I was only opened on the weekends where other practitioners hosted classes. I realized there was so much that I didn't know, about herbalism, about business, about product development, about legalities or what things I could or couldn't say. So after a year we shut down the shop and I enrolled into a collage with a program in Western Herbalism.
I had attended that same school in the past for my certification in hypnotherapy. This time I was enrolled in a degree program for where I got formal training in Herbalism. Teachers became my mentors and my mentors were my teachers.
Shortly after graduating I started to vend at local events and practiced herbalism as professionally as I could at the time, after doing that for a couple of years I opened up Tangled Root Botanicals when I was in my mid 30's. I rarely had customers in my hidden brick and mortar. My business was in it's infancy. I hardly made any money that entire year but I went everyday and worked feverishly by creating systems to bring my vocation, shop and products up to industry standards. I was on my own and though I received my degree there were still so many unknowns. Can I prepare and sell tea here? Who do I ask? What do I need to do to make that happen? Can we install plumbing? How do I make labels? Do I need to do my taxes differently now? I didn't have anyone to ask...No one I knew had ever done the things I was doing, from scratch, on their own.
My husband was amazing! He worked 2-3 jobs at a time for 3 years to pay the overhead. He really believed in me, we met years after my herbalism path started and he knew it was my passion. We moved our first Tangled Root Botanicals shop to a better location, I started making enough money to pay half the rent, then we expanded into a larger shop after a couple of years and I was able to hire employees, my business became sustainable and profitable in that location. My shop started gaining a following, and had it's own community of supporters who I love so much that I still see to this day. It was at that location that I really came into feeling that I was finally able to call myself a professional herbalist.
Since then we have been blessed to purchase our own property, a permanent home for Tangled Root Botanicals. I manufacture somewhere in the area of 50 products. I hold classes, serve tea, and assist those who ask for guidance in their journey towards wellness. From where I started to where I am took about 12 years. It certainly has had it's ebbs and flows but I can't see myself doing anything else. Herbalism is my calling, and I'm here for it.
And that's my story, of how I became an herbalist.