What the Heck is a Herbalist, Anyway?

Good question, friends. Gooooood question!!

So today I thought I’d talk a little bit about what a herbalist actually is-and what exactly we do.

Some of you might know me by way of social media, which is how a lot of us come to know each other these days. And on social media I post a lot of plant & flower pics.

Like, a lot.

And why? Well, I’m a herbalist, that’s why.

But what the heck is a herbalist anyway?? What do you actually *DO,* you may be wondering, besides playing with flowers all damn day?

Straight up: herbalists are people that work in the tradition of using plant medicine.

Me, Sarah of Golden Poppy Herbal Apothecary, Christina from WA, Leslie W., Ordinary Herbalist (actually!) & Amber from New Mexico
Me, Sarah of Golden Poppy Herbal Apothecary, Christina from WA, Leslie W., Ordinary Herbalist (actually!) & Amber from New Mexico at an Herb Conference In Arizona


And within that “definition” there are many kinds of herbalists that wear many different cloaks. Within the realm of herbalism we may have people that work or practice in many ways that overlap (and then again, sometimes not at all).

There is no one-size-fits-all-herbalists, so to speak.

But really, What IS a Herbalist? Aren’t they all tree huggy-granola crunchy-dreadlocked living off the land DIY disaster preppers?

Well I have been accused of being a tree hugger and granola crunchy but I promise you wouldn’t pick me out in a crowd. I live in a regular little 50’s bungalow in northeast Edmonton-a city of nearly 900,000 people now. I putter in my garden, I drive a car in a large city that I find has a lot of room for improvement in the way of functional public transit, & shop at the grocery store more often than I enjoy. I spent 20 years on Vancouver Island, the place of my birth, and so yeah, I’ve hugged a tree or 2–like it’s a bad thing??? (And may I suggest you try it sometime?;))

Me & one of my mentors, Abrah, en route to the Vancouver Island Herb Gathering. We had to stop & take the Sea Bus over to Granville Island, obvs. Pretty regular stuff!!

As I said, a herbalist is a person who chooses to work with medicinal plants & plant medicine. There are many different ways this can look from person to person-some herbalists grow herbs, some make plant medicine, some craft & sell personal care products or perfumes, some work with aromatherapy, some work clinically one-on-one creating wellness protocols for clients, and on and on. There’s many different paths to “being” a herbalist, and that may be another post for another time!

As a Herbalist here’s some of the hats I wear:

  • Herb gardener
  • Plant medicine maker
  • Herbal educator (teaching workshops on self care and plant medicine & hosting herb walks within the Greater Edmonton area)
  • Clinical consultant (I do one-one-one consults with people & create customized health protocols just for them. My particular area of interest is in fatigue, burnout & thyroid disorders.)
  • A writer & obsessive plant photographer.
  • A researcher on traditional uses of plants within my own Ukrainian cultural tradition (just for fun.:))
Just some regular everyday Edmonton Herbalists. We look pretty normal, right?

Some herbalists work more in the “folk” tradition of kitchen herbalism, some within a certain cultural tradition or context, some more from a physio-medical model, and some a combination of them. Some follow the path of studying Ayurveda or Traditional Chines Medicine & use herbs from those traditions only, & some adapt western herbs to that system of medicine.

Some are poets, publishers, survivalists, story-tellers, & fibre or fabric artists.

Some herbalists are what people loooove to call “hippies” but most are just regular folks like me who love plants, who love working in the lineage of a hundreds of year old tradition of healing, believe in freedom to choose our own mode of health care, and have low tolerance for things that just don’t work health wise–or leave us in servitude of our own poor health.

(We’ve only got a short run on this planet-let’s have a good quality of life so that we can enjoy as much as we can, okay?)

I find herbalists to be unique, deeply interesting, intelligent, often quirky lovers of plants & the planet who dedicate their lives to the study of plants and their traditional uses so that they can support their communities at large in whatever way they feel is a fit for them.

When I first met fellow herb geeks, I truly felt that I had found my tribe, so to speak. I love the diversity within the community and yet the strong commonality of love for the plants and our fellow people. I would love for you to meet one too, so join me over at the Edmonton Herb Club Facebook page to stay up to date with local events & workshops.

Green Blessings friends,


your YEG Community Herbalist, Edmonton



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