Chamomile with Ann Armbrecht


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-- TIMESTAMPS --

  • 00:00 - Introduction
  • 01:54 - Ann’s journey to becoming an herbalist
  • 04:47 - How Ann began delving into how herbs are sourced in the marketplace
  • 06:19 - Why it’s challenging to find out how herbs are sourced
  • 9:16 - Chamomile as a case study for why herbal source matters
  • 19:37 - Using personal values as a guide for which herbal suppliers to support
  • 21:46 - Influencing the herbal supply chain by asking questions as you’re sourcing herbs
  • 28:46 - Working with chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • 30:47 - Ann shares about her current projects
  • 36:13 - Ann’s thoughts on how herbs instill hope for a future based on relationship and reciprocity


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Transcript from the Chamomile with Ann Armbrecht Video

Rosalee:
Hello and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee podcast. I'm your host, Rosalee de la Forêt, and today, I'm delighted to be here with Ann Armbrecht. I've been a huge fan of Ann's herbal contribution over the years, especially in regards to her research and travels to investigate what it means to source herbs sustainably.

Ann Armbrecht is the director of the Sustainable Herbs Program under the auspices of the American Botanical Council. She's also a writer and anthropologist whose work explores the relationship between humans and the earth, most recently through her work with plants and plant medicine.

She is the co-producer of the video documentary, Numen: The Nature of Plants, and the author of the award-winning ethnographic book memoir, Thin Places: A Pilgrimage Home, based on her research in Nepal. She was a 2017 Fulbright-Nehru scholar documenting the supply chain of medicinal plants in India. Her most recent book, The Business of Botanicals, explores the complexities and stories of the global herbal supply chain. She lives with her family in central Vermont. Welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee podcast, Ann.

Ann:
Thank you. Thanks so much. I'm a big fan of yours. It's great to be here.

Rosalee:
Yay! Well, I always enjoy talking with you and it's been years now that you've been working in this realm, and it's been fun, and I would say enlightening, every step of the way to see what you come up with.

So, Ann, you have an extensive academic background. You received your PhD from Harvard in 1995, and then, somehow ended up in the herbal world. So, could you share a bit about how you fell in love with herbalism and the plants?

Ann:
Sure. Well, I had just returned from about two years in northeastern Nepal, where I fell in love with rural Nepal, and mostly, that sense of connection with the land and the plants. Not plants specifically, but the earth as something alive with which I could have a relationship and I spent a lot of time studying the stories of the priests and shamans and their journeys across the landscape. And so, that was kind of deep inside me.

And then, I came back to the U.S. and I was writing a dissertation at Harvard, which has little of that aliveness or sense of the aliveness of any world. It was quite a rigorous, intellectual program. And around that time, I met Deb Soule at A Good Life Center Retreat for Helen and Scott Nearing. They had just passed away, and she was there.

And I was intrigued by how she talked about the plants, and how she moved through the world, and I wanted to know more. And so, she suggested I go to the Northeast Women's Conference, which I did, and met Rosemary [Gladstar]. And I immediately signed up for the year-long apprentice course and kind of jumped in with both feet.

When I started, I was in Vermont and we were moving to New Hampshire, and I would travel an hour to Sage Mountain, and it was the first time I was away from my daughter who was, like, a year old at that time, and I would sit in my tent, pumping breast milk, go and learn about ... You know, learning herbs and how to heal, but it was also the container that Rosemary creates at Sage Mountain as a way to connect with that same sort of aliveness and sense of the sacred, being in relationship with the earth rather than just extracting resources, a lot of what I found so ... that resonated with me so much in Nepal.

Rosalee:
I love that. Yeah. And Rosemary. It's not just what she teaches, right? But her presence, and like you said, the container that she creates that is so compelling. And obviously, you felt that because you were all-in from the get-go.

Ann:
Yeah. Yeah, as a new mother, like so many herbalists now, you see a chance to take care, create things, grow things, harvest plants, that you can then care for your child with. It's incredibly empowering.

Rosalee:
Yes. Absolutely. Well, for our herb focus today, we're going to be talking about one of my all-time favorite plants, which is chamomile, and we're going to be approaching this in a little bit different way because Ann's going to specifically share information about how chamomile is sourced from overseas.

So, I guess, my first question for you is, does a lot of chamomile used in the U.S. come from other countries?

Ann:
So, I want to just back up before jumping into chamomile and say a little bit about how I came to looking at where the plants are from after Sage Mountain, because the other gift, I think, of Rosemary is how she plants a seed in each of her students of our own relationship with the plants, and she kind of nourishes that and then we follow our own journey, and I think that's brought in that incredible creativity that you see in the herb world.

And so, at first, I thought I wanted to study to be an herbal practitioner, and quickly discovered that was not what I was ... I wasn't set up to do that. I just couldn't pay attention to the anatomy and physiology in the right way. So then, we produced Numen, which was really to celebrate the whole philosophy of herbal medicine, not just this-for-that herbal stuff, but really getting to the deeper, the heart of it. And I called it Numen because that's that animating force in plants and nature and all things living.

And then, that led me to looking at the industry because I wanted to know: Can that animating force, that aliveness of the world, be present? Is it present in herbs that are bought and sold on a global market? And if so, what do I look for? How would I find it? What kind of question do I ask?

So, if that is kind of the big question, the thing that's super, super challenging about this work is it's really hard to find out where herbs are from. There's no one place to go and see: Where's all the chamomile from? And when Josef Brinckmann, who has probably done more around sustainability and sourcing than most anybody else -- He worked at Traditional Medicinals for years -- I would ask him one single question I thought was very simple; he would talk for an hour about why there was no simple answer. Or, I would ask a question about numbers, and he would send me this long paragraph with all of the ... Well, this is the harmonizing codes, and all this... impossible to say how much chamomile is in the U.S. and how much is overseas.

He would produce these market reports that he was paid for, quite generously, I think, as a consultant. It would take him three to five days of full-time work on one plant. And partly, that's because there's this history of lack of transparency in the botanical industry, which has a whole bunch of reasons for that. In my book, I kind of root it back in the early days of transnational trade. But I'm not avoiding your question about chamomile.

Rosalee:
Well, what comes up for me, Ann, when I hear all that is that there's this whole hidden world going on in the botanical industry that a lot of us grassroots herbalists don't necessarily know about, whether we harvest the herbs from around where we live, or even if we order them dried from an herbal apothecary, or even from a local herbal farm. Sometimes, it's like, they show up on our doorstep, and we don't necessarily know the story behind those.

And that's one thing I really loved about Business of Botanicals, your book, is you brought so many stories to life in such a compelling way. I had a tough time putting down the book, and I was often ... I didn't want to set it down, and then, I also had my highlighter in hand, and I just love the way you put so many things. And I appreciate that there is no simplicity, and there's a lot of complexity in regards to those, too. So, I'm looking forward to hearing all of that—not just the easy answers, but the complexity behind it, because that's very insightful as well.

Ann:
Oh, thank you. So, to try and prepare, if we're talking about chamomile, Josef Brinckmann sent me this whole file, his country file of reports—and it's over 100 reports, probably—of focus, country, species-specific, or country-specific reports on medicinal and aromatic plants from that region and these reports to try and boost the trade. And I didn't get very far in that because it's really boring to read.

But then, I also spoke with some people who work at Organic Herb Trading Company, which is a trading company in the UK who really, in my mind ... I talk about them some in the book, but in my mind, they really embody the kind of herbs that I ... as a person who really cares about the quality and who defines quality, not just as the constituents in that plant, but the quality of life of all the people involved along the way, and the environment.

Herbalists talk a lot about the constituents in the plants, and how chamomile will help you sleep, or the end product, and it's all about wellness, but what I'm trying to do in all the work that I do with the book and the Sustainable Herbs Program is really say, "We can't be well until that whole process from source to finished product is well.”

And so, when I was talking to them about chamomile, they get their chamomile from Egypt. So, the big sources are Egypt, India, Eastern Europe, and then what's grown in the U.S. You know, Zack Woods Farm, or Oshala Herb Farm, or a lot of the ... Probably Foster Farm Botanicals ... that kind of domestically grown botanical chamomile. And then, Egypt, Eastern Europe. We have been doing a series of webinars for the Sustainable Herbs Program, and I interviewed ... One of the speakers was a woman from a family-owned company in Croatia, and their biggest product is chamomile, and it's UEBT-certified, which means Union for Ethical Biotrade.

And what that means is it has to be certified organic, and they have these plants for biodiversity to really—how are they increasing the biodiversity in the area? But, what really struck me from that conversation with her was the importance of a company that's a family business. Her parents started it. She and her generation now run it. They're from that region, so they care about the quality and the inputs, the chemicals, the work. Employees are cared for. Because it's the region they're from. And so, there's this closed circle in a way, right? So, they see the impacts, and so, they're going to take better care. Whereas a lot of the herbs ...

Now I'll get to the Egypt part. They're sourced from Egypt. When I asked them about the challenges, they're like, "There's so many challenges," but in Egypt, the Nile is quite polluted and there's also huge acres that are in conventional farming, and so... Irrigated, even if it's certified organic, it can get pesticide residue from the irrigation, or, also, they described walking into a farmer's organic fields, but to get there, you walk along this tributary that's surrounded by conventional farms.

And so, what they're trying to do is move to a different region, and they're trying to build the soil in a more desert region that can have separate source of water so that the water isn't going to be polluted, which means digging bore holes, and that it's not as exposed to pesticide drift. So, that's one of the challenges, is finding land that's not polluted.

Another challenge they were talking about is there's certified organic chamomile coming from Egypt, but there's not a real context for supporting rigorous organic practices. So, it's more like organic, checking the boxes, and not seeing that organic means building the soil, or fair trade; checking the boxes, not really answering questions about pre-financing. You know, the things that make it a fair deal. Pre-financing, better pay, long-term commitments, all the things that anybody hopes to have to sort of have a better livelihood.

So, what they're doing is they have spent a lot of time going back and forth to Egypt to develop these relationships with farmers and give them training, and provide them support, and develop that over time to get the quality that can pass the rigorous quality-control things on the end, but that also kind of support what I think ... You know, that small, grassroots model, while really supporting rural livelihoods, which I think is what is in the philosophy of herbal medicine. But, often, the herbs aren't coming from that route.

I'll let you ask because I could keep talking.

Rosalee:
That's interesting. And hearing you talk, and also through your book, is just all these different layers of what it means to be sustainable, all the different layers it takes, again, just to get the herbs to our front door, and that's something ... You know, when you think about even how much herbs cost, it's amazing to me that I could buy a pound of dried chamomile flowers that has been sourced from overseas, and until the work that you have been doing, I haven't even begun to realize the work that goes into bringing ... You know, it's just so easy. It just shows up on my doorstep.

But, there's so much that goes into it. You're talking about years of relationship-building. You're talking about all of these different certifications or just mentalities to make sure that the people are treated well, the soils are treated well, the plants are treated well.

We haven't even talked yet about processing or shipping, or anything like that, but it is pretty amazing what goes in to bringing these plants to us.

Ann:
Yeah, yeah. And that's one thing I was learning and one thing I feel like what I'm trying to do in my work that's directed more at the herb student, herb community is I was so naïve about the questions to ask and what things mattered, and what mattered less. And I feel like a lot of what the book is about is really trying to shed my naiveté a little bit, understand through the eyes of the people who are grappling with, "Yes, ideally, you dry the herbs this way, but in this village, this is what they're doing. Okay. So, how do I work with that? What are the differences? Is it putting them in clean sacks? Is that the thing that is most important?” You know, sort of prioritizing and seeing in that nuance, and figuring out how to navigate that and what steps can make a difference.

Rosalee:
Yeah. I think for most grassroots herbalists, if you said, "Okay. I have two different batches of chamomile for you, and this chamomile was grown in polluted, poor soils, was watered with polluted water, people weren't given a living wage to harvest it, and there weren't precautions taken along the way to ensure the quality, et cetera." You describe that, and then you say, "In this other batch of chamomile, there were certifications," and—I don't want just the word, "certification," but kind of like you talked about, a family business ensuring that their workers and people involved were paid well, that the soils were built up, that there wasn't polluted water being used, et cetera.

I mean, it'd be a no-brainer choice, obviously. You're going to want the good stuff, and it's probably going to be apparent not only because of the stories, but I'm guessing that the way the chamomile looks, and smells, and then acts in our body when we work with it is also going to be different.

But, what has happened, I think, is a lot of times the choices that people see are ... Like, a lot of that story is erased in the background, and what we see is cheap chamomile and expensive chamomile, and then that's what people base their choices on. "Is this the price that I want to pay?"

Ann:
And that's a hard choice.

Rosalee:
And it's interesting to ... Yeah, it is a hard one. It's not necessarily that we want to pay expensive prices that put a burden on us when working with herbs, absolutely not, but it is good to hear the story, to hear what goes into this, to know the questions to ask. I love that you brought that up because that was such a powerful part of your book ... what are those important questions and how can we shed some of our ideals in face of what is reality?

But, it's good to know all of that, and then, as a result, work with those herbs and use those herbs really responsibly, to cherish and value them and all that went into bringing them to us so that we aren't just amassing pounds of herbs and storing them in our basement for years.

Ann:
That's such a good point. You know, I know when I was studying herbal medicine, and we were encouraged to buy a lot and make a lot, and Josef Brinckmann recently spoke in the book club I organized for Business of Botanicals, and he talked about ... These are precious things, and to treat them with that respect.

And Elise Higley from Oshala Herb Farms says whenever people complain about the prices of their herbs, and then they come out and spend a half a day harvesting and they don't ask any questions anymore about the price.

But I think it's a real issue because herbs are expensive. If you're going to take a tincture for the time to make a difference, and you're buying that tincture, that can be expensive. There's access questions, I think.

But, within the botanical industry, there's such a range in quality and you definitely get what you pay for, and I think another thing around that complexity that I do think is important for the herb community to understand that complexity, that there is a lot of black and white. Like, domestic is better, and sometimes it's better, but it's not always better because there might be small-holder farmers in Southern India whose lives are organized around trading because of the history of colonialism. And it's a way ... If it's done well, it can provide a good livelihood for those turmeric growers or ginger growers. Or, in Eastern Poland, wild harvesting nettles is a way to provide that kind of income. Again, if it's done in a way that considers the price and over-harvesting and all of that.

It's not necessarily that versus organically-grown in the U.S. ... It's not that one's better or worse, it's that each has different impacts and effects. And so, I'm just trying to connect those so that we can choose, "Okay. What values do I want to support? I really want to support small farmers in the U.S.," then that's how I'm going to find the herbs to support, to purchase.

You know, buying our herbs is the world we're creating, and to understand what world we are creating when we buy them.

Rosalee:
Yeah. I like that, that it's really not a black and white thing. It's that there's this gray shade in-between and looking to see what's most important to us. And I might choose to source herbs differently than the way you source herbs, and that doesn't make either of us wrong or right, but just following our values in that way.

So, a question I have then—I asked, "Does a lot of chamomile that we use in the US come from overseas?" And your answer is, "Well, that's very complicated." And you talked about how you asked questions that were naïve.

And so, I guess I'm wondering, if someone wants to source, we can say chamomile, but maybe we can include other herbs in this, what would be some questions to ask?

Ann:
I would, to whomever you buy ... If you buy bulk herbs, say, from someone's who's importing them, it could be domestic or international, call them and ask them, "Where is your chamomile from? Do you have a relationship with the growers? Do the people you buy it from ..." because there's so many layers, in fact.

And even at a wholesale company in the U.S., Starwest, Mountain Rose, they might not buy directly from those farmers in Egypt, but hopefully, they've visited them and then someone else helps handle the logistics, because that import/export, with quality control, that can be quite challenging. So, ask them what their relationship is.

Another thing I just learned to ask if you want to buy domestically-grown herbs, ask what percentage is domestic in that lot. In a recent webinar with domestic herb growers, they said that companies will claim that their herbs are, say, grown in Hawaii when, in fact, because the price is so different, then they'll mix them and still claim that it's domestic. So, you got to ask that.

Another question is, are they wild-harvested or cultivated? I did this a little bit. I searched for 10 different companies. I found them on Amazon that sold black cohosh. And I wrote them emails and I asked where it was wild-harvested. And like, 97% is wild-harvested in Appalachia. 2/3 of them said, 3/4 said it was cultivated.

So, I wrote back and I said, "Oh, where is it cultivated?" And eventually, they stopped answering my questions—but it wasn't cultivated because it's not cultivated. But, often, it doesn't necessarily have to mean they're lying. It's that the marketing people, the person answering my questions, aren't connected with purchasing. But the more they hear that we're pulling on this string here and saying just a simple question: "Do you know where the peppermint is from? Echinacea is from?"

Whatever the plant is, "Where is it from? How are they caring for the soil? What kind of wages are people getting, or how much are they selling per pound?" Then companies will know, "Oh, people are starting to ask questions." Are those specific-enough questions?

Rosalee:
Yeah. Those are great. And that last one, I think, is so important. One thing I'm pulling from is that relationship is so important, the relationship on all fronts. And finding out the strength and depth of those relationships is important, to the best of our ability, which makes me think about the plants themselves, right?

As herbalists, we want to have personal relationships with those plants and not just have them be a pill that we swallow three times a day and never give thought about the plant. So, it echoes that relationship that we're always looking for. Yeah. And then, looking for those answers.

I mean, I feel like it's our duty to be asking those questions and pushing the button on that, even when we're given those quick answers.

I had a similar thing happen recently where I asked a company that was selling lots of chaga in their tea recipes, and so, I wrote them and I said, "I'm concerned about the sustainable harvest of chaga. Is your chaga harvested sustainably?" Well, guess what they answered, "Yes." Like, what are they going to say, right? Like, "No, it's not." So, it was a really easy answer for them.

So, I followed up, and I said, "What steps are you taking to ensure a sustainable harvest?" And I got a really vague response. And so, I followed up again, and it was kind of the same thing. It was the easy answer only. But they didn't have specifics.

And I think we're in this day and age, we need specifics, right? As we follow that trail. And if a company can't give us those specifics, then I think it's worth finding someone who can.

Ann:
I think so. And that is where certifications come in. You know, certifications aren't perfect, but they're a start, because a third-party certification like Fair For Life, Fair Wild, Fair Trade, Organic ... They have to pass these assessments and somebody comes to make sure they're checking those boxes. Even if it is just checking boxes, it's something.

And I loved what you said about the depth of the relationships, because to me, ultimately, that question I was asking, "Can intention be found in a global supply chain?" And the answer that I left with is: when there is that relationship.

And it doesn't have to be that the end person in the U.S. has that connection with that wild harvester in the northwestern Himalayas, but that someone all along the way is making that connection so that it isn't only a commodity.

I mean, I think herbs that are bought and sold on a global supply chain are commodities, but is it possible for them to be something else, too? Is what I'm asking. I'm trying to make that be possible.

Rosalee:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I appreciate that. So, with chamomile, I think it'd be interesting for everyone who has bought chamomile to do a little homework, research and find out ... where did that chamomile come from? Or, of course, if you're buying it in the future, to look for that, where did the chamomile come from?

And it'll be interesting ... Ann has told us, there's sourcing out of Croatia, sourcing out of Egypt. Of course, in the U.S. as well, but to follow that and see where that comes from. And as always, with all herbs, to try different herbs and also use our organoleptic testing. What does that smell like? What does it look like? How does it feel in my body? And that can be another way, as we develop that relationship, we can associate the relationship with that particular batch of herbs and knowing where it comes from, so it's not just, "This is my relationship with this chamomile," but knowing the origin of that chamomile. Wherever that might be. It could be from your garden, too, of course.

Ann:
Exactly. I mean, then, in the book, when I finished writing The Business of Botanicals, I thought I was following plants, but they really were connecting me to people around the world, and that journey was the healing part of it. It brought me into myself and into the world in a way I never expected herbal medicine could, but that goes back to the point I was trying to make about Rosemary, that she plants that seed in each of us so it doesn't have to look the same.

Again, which is a principle of herbal medicine. It's an individual client/practitioner or individual relationship with the plant, and each of our journeys is unique if we listen to the plants and follow them.

Rosalee:
Absolutely. Getting back to chamomile, do you like to drink chamomile tea? Is that something that's frequently in your tea cup?

Ann:
You know, I don't drink a lot of tea. I mean, I drink tea that I harvest, like nettles and peppermint from my house. Oh, yes.  I drink Nighty-Night Tea from Traditional Medicinals. I'm sure it's in their Nighty-Night Tea.

Rosalee:
Yes, it must be. Yeah. Yeah, I often drink chamomile tea at night as well. And I love it as just a companion. It's such a gentle companion, but can be super strong medicine if needed as well.

Ann:
Yeah.

Rosalee:
One of my newest favorite things to do with chamomile ... I haven't done this for very long, but is to take the freshly dried chamomile from my garden and infuse that into oil and make an infused oil out of it, and that is just lovely. Chamomile, of course, modulates inflammation, and that smell is so lovely, so I love using that on my face and body at night before I crawl into bed. It's a nice bedtime ritual.

Ann:
Does it make that blue?

Rosalee:
Yeah. So, the infused oil is bright yellow when I do it, so it kind of takes on that yellow hue, but I do like to put the chamomile essential oil into it as well, which is blue, so it'll change it green, actually, because it's the blue essential oil with the yellow oil will change it green. I just put a couple drops in there and it kind of boosts the scents, but I've done it without too, and it's lovely. Either way is good.

Ann:
When we were in Bulgaria, there were some chamomile fields that we visited, and they were using it for essential oil, and he gave us the water. I guess it was ... Is that a hydrosol? I'm not an expert in that... And so, we were using it for our faces. It was lovely, and surprisingly, so astringent. But there was this factory at the side of this road in the mountains, yeah.

Rosalee:
Beautiful, aromatic experience.

Ann:
Yeah, it was.

Rosalee:
Well, Ann, one of the things I love about herbalism, and we've kind of already talked about this, is just the many ways that people bring herbs to life, bring herbalism to life. So, I'm curious what projects do you have going on right now? Or, what are you working on now in the plant world that you'd like to share with us?

Ann:
Well, my book. Here is my book. Business of Botanicals. And so, really trying to get that message out into the world and bring people along on that journey.

So, that book I wrote, because what I'm trying to do ... The work I do at the Sustainable Herbs Program is really trying to change the system, the botanical industry, to make it so that the connection between quality and care, the long-term health of the plants and the ecosystems, that it's all the same thing. But the first step to changing that system is really understanding that system and seeing the system. And so, that's what the book is about. And then, trying to talk about it and spread that word.

And then, at the Sustainable Herbs Program this last year, we've had a series of conversations with people who are really engaged in trying to do this work, who work for different companies. Either finished product brands, or ingredient suppliers, or buying directly from growers around the world, and really dig into the issues a little more. And so, what does responsible sourcing look like, what are the challenges, how can companies come together to work, to collaborate, to address building healthy soils?

You know, one of the biggest issues in the herb industry is migration to urban areas and there's nobody to do the work. And so, conversations about how to support those who do want to do the work through diversified income, or better pay.

In two weeks, we're going down to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to do some filming. So, the heart of the Sustainable Herbs Program is these short films, and we're looking at a project in Nicaragua where there's coffee growers and someone has been working with them to have them plant turmeric and vanilla, and I think cardamom, in an agroforestry setting. So, it's providing the coffee growers with another source of income, it's trying to diversify the farming practices and build the soil. You know, drawing on regenerative farming practices, and also sell for a higher wage so that more income comes to them.

We're looking at some similar projects like that in Costa Rica. So, that's an exciting up-and-coming thing.

Rosalee:
Wow. I look forward to seeing those films. That'll be great. I love the films that you've produced already. Always so insightful. And of course, I'm a huge fan of the book. My readers probably already know that because I promoted it a lot when it came out earlier this year, and I was lucky enough to be an early reader of the book, so the publishing company sent me this soft cover book that wasn't quite done yet.

And again, I picked it up like, "Okay. I got to read the book because it's an important book," and I literally could not put it down. It was just a page-turner. The stories, and the travel log, and seeing herbalism in this different light was just so eye-opening for me.
And one of my favorite chapters in the book was about the history of the rebirth of herbalism in the 60s and 70s that happened here in the United States, and that's a really interesting chapter, getting to hear about the origin of a lot of herbalists that we know and love today, like Rosemary Gladstar and David Winston, Ed Smith, Phyllis Light.

And Ann has generously offered that excerpt—that chapter excerpt—for listeners. So, you can download that chapter of the book above this transcript. And I highly recommend reading that chapter, but obviously, the whole book is so, so good.

And then, Ann graciously sent me a hardcover copy of the book after it was published, but I can't get rid of either of them because now I have the beautiful hard copy, and then I have mine that has lots of notes in it. So, both are going to be cherished copies on my bookshelf, and something I am going to refer to frequently in terms of what are those questions, the importance of relationship.

So, I definitely feel that all herbalists need to read this book. It is so important, but it's also a fun read too.

Ann:
Oh, thank you. When you said it was readable, I thought, "I have succeeded if Rosalee ..." because often, yeah, I can get very caught in the details and over-write things, so I'm honored that you shared that feedback.

Rosalee:
Well, I'm so grateful that you wrote this book, and it wasn't you just sitting down and just writing a book. I mean, you traveled to India a couple times, and other places, and really had big conversations with all sorts of people within the supply chain. Yeah. A lot of work went into that book, and I'm just so grateful that we have that. In some ways, it's hard to imagine now not having it because it's so important for herbalists to know this information, and it was a missing piece of the puzzle for so long. So, really grateful that we have the book.

Ann:
Thank you.

Rosalee:
Well, I have one last question for you today, Ann, and that question is: With all of the challenges that we're facing today, what are some ways that herbs instill hope in you?

Ann:
Well, that's interesting. I had an answer prepared, but ... I just love the plants. And I now have this big garden. I was looking out at my garden. And I just like walking through and seeing who's there, more than using them in any way.

And because ... You know, back to those same questions that drew me to herbalism in the first place, because they take me out of my own self and something to be in relationship with what's not me.

The other thing, though, that gives me hope or that I believe is a potential, and this is what I'm exploring in the Business of Botanicals is that, right now, I think, to me, the cause of so much that's wrong in the world is our disconnection from the natural world, and in turn, our disconnection from each other. That is, using the earth as a resource for our own use.

And plants and herbal medicine offers a different way of relating. And you know, this is ... Robin Kimmerer has talked a lot about this, but we all know that from our own relationship with plants, as well, or anything that we love, right? We have a relationship, and we're going to care for that, and maybe we'll use it, but it's not just a transactional thing. It's that give and take that you were talking about.

And so, I feel like if ... You know, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about watering the seeds of what you want to bloom. I feel like if the herb community can really take the lead and water the seed of that relationship with whatever product ... You know, if we buy an herbal product or if we grow it ourselves, but in whatever way works for us, to water that seed so that it's not just a transaction. It's some give and take.

And to me, I'm curious, "Okay. What might we be able to create and what kind of pathway could the marriage of the herb industry and herbalism ..." because right now, they're pretty separate. If they were to come together a little more, what pathway might that show for right relationship with the natural world? That's my hope.

Rosalee:
I love that. That was beautiful. What you're talking about is my big why in why I'm here too. So, I really appreciate that, that relationship and reciprocity and ...  I grew up in a world that was about resource extraction and using things, and I feel like some of my most important work, internally as well as sharing with others, is reframing my own mindset and approach to be about relationship and reciprocity rather than strictly about resource extraction, which in the end is such a more deeply fulfilling and beautiful life to live. So, there's lots of rewards with that too.

Ann:
And it can be hard. And so, I like a quotation of Josef's: "Just start somewhere. It's not easy, but if you're curious, you're not worried about easy." Some things, you are going to be extracting.

Rosalee:
That is cool.

Ann:
Yeah, yeah.

Rosalee:
Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Ann. Thanks for being here on the show. Thank you for all of your important work. We really appreciate it.

Ann:
Thank you so much for inviting me, and all of your important work. Yeah.

Rosalee:
And for the listeners, don't forget to download your book excerpt above this transcript.

And before you go, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below so that you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this.

And I'd also love to hear what you thought about this interview, your relationship with sourcing herbs, how you might do things differently in the future, your thoughts on chamomile. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks, and I'm so glad that you're here as part of the Herbs With Rosalee community. Have a beautiful day.



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Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.