How to Practice Sustainable Herbalism at Home
After the last few years, many of us are looking at wellness with fresh eyes. We've been reminded that living holistically means connecting deeply with nature and all the nourishment it provides. We can start by practicing sustainable herbalism at home. In the spirit of Earth Week, we sat down with Yarrow and Angela to tap into their wealth of knowledge on the topic.
Yarrow and Angela Willard are Clinical Herbalists and the founders of Harmonic Arts. One of their core values is Sustainable Action, both at home and in business. Read on to explore their top tips for cultivating a sustainable herbalism practice at home.
Sustainable herbalism can be approached in a few different ways:
Q: How do I practice sustainable herbalism?
Y & A: In a nutshell, make your home herbalism practice cost-effective and earth-friendly by learning to grow, harvest, and utilize herbs yourself.
Q: How can this be sustainable for the community?
Y & A: Split and share your harvests or botanical creations to make sure everything gets used. This spreads abundance and gives more folks access to plant medicine.
Q: How can I make my practice sustainable for the environment?
Y & A: When sourcing herbs from a business, choosing organic is a way of voting with your dollar. This supports sustainable farming practices.
Let’s dive a little deeper! Here are Yarrow and Angela’s top tips for practicing sustainable herbalism at home.
Tips for Sustainable Herbalism at Home
Keep it Simple
We understand that not everyone has the capacity to forage or tend to a garden. Look at your daily routine and consider some simple ways to incorporate herbalism. It doesn’t need to be complicated or elaborate! Making herbalism a part of your lifestyle ensures a sustainable practice. Whether homemade or store-bought, a few ways to incorporate more herbs include:
- Herbal tooth powder
- Cordials or syrups for bubbly drinks
- Powders in oatmeal or smoothies
- Decoctions for soups and broths
Choose flavours that you enjoy. Some herbs have stronger chemistries that deter folks from herbalism altogether. Start with gentle flavours like peppermint before trying more bitter herbs like goldenseal or dandelion root. Add honey to make bitter herbs more palatable. Looking for some inspiration? Check out our blog for recipe ideas.
Slow and Steady Education
Be sustainable with your time and energy by pacing yourself. Start with getting to know one plant and work your way up from there. Knowing even 10 herbs intimately can serve you well for a whole lifetime.
Understanding the herbs you plan to work with allows you to use them more efficiently. Some herbs are more bioavailable in a tea, some in a tincture (Sometimes, you can use the same herb for both!). Working with herbs correctly means using less while still getting potent medicine.
When foraging, focus on plants that are native to your area, especially “people plants.” Dandelion, thistle, burdock, and yellow dock all thrive in human-impacted environments. These are very sustainable to forage as they grow in abundance and don’t require any work from you.
Use endangered or at-risk herbs sparingly, if at all. Try to find something local that is similar and readily available. The United Plant Savers website is a great resource for learning about at-risk plant species.
Honour Nature's Balance
Harvesting when herbs are in season is best for the herbs and your own energy. We suggest taking photos when you harvest to keep track and get reminders of which herbs are in season.
Take only what you need and stretch what you use. When harvesting, it is important to utilize the herbs right away. The sooner you preserve your harvest, the more bioavailable the medicine is. Squeeze out every little bit of the herb and try various methods of extraction. Cooking is a really easy way to do this! Create broth, honey, vinegar, or add herbs to your bath. Compost any leftover plant material. No waste or low waste is the goal!
When growing your own herbs, tending to them makes a big difference. Pruning amplifies chemistry, creates stronger root systems, and encourages herbs to grow robustly.
Pro tip: It’s possible to connect to the energy of a plant and the medicine it provides without consuming it. With Echinacea, for example, in seeing the flower, noticing its scent, and gently pruning, you are connecting with it. The unique energy of the plant does the healing.
Grow Your Own Herbs
Whether you have a backyard garden or live in an apartment, growing your own plant medicine is a wonderful way to approach herbalism sustainably. First, determine your ‘gardening zone’, to understand which plants will thrive in your area. Click here for a handy zoning resource.
We recommend dedicating at least 20% of your garden to herbs. Culinary herbs such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, dill, and mint are easy to grow inside. They have volatile oils so you can enjoy their scent. Medicinal herbs such as calendula, valerian and passionflower would do well on a balcony. Replacing your lawn with clover will attract pollinators and provide you with an abundance of flowers for infusions.
Seedy Saturday Events, Richter's Herbs, West Coast Seeds, and Horizon Herbs are some of our favourite places to purchase high quality seeds. Don’t forget to check out your local nursery, too!
If you don’t have the right conditions to grow your own herbs, we recommend looking into a community garden or forest walk to forage in your local area. If you’re on the West Coast, we have a blog post sharing some of our favourite wild herbs to forage here. Alternatively, you can source prepared and ready-to-use herbs from Harmonic Arts. Click here to check out our Botanical Dispensary, featuring herbs, superfoods, and blends.
Learn more about Yarrow and Angela and how Harmonic Arts got started on our website here.
Have questions? Contact us HERE