By Ashley Litecky Elenbaas, MSc., RH(AHG)
Over the years I have been asked by many people what it takes to become an herbalist and how to know when you are ready. For me it was an organic next step that came after many years of searching for a career path that would combine my love of the natural world, environmental activism, plants, the medical sciences, a delight in ancient myths and stories, with an earthy and hands-on way of connecting to people. Through my work as a clinical herbalist I am blessed to sit with a wide range of people, help them exploring their own deeper physiological and psychological patterns, and then match them with custom blended plant formulas that bring ritual and nourishment back into their lives.
The work of an herbalist can take many forms. While my path has always been to work with people, some herbalists take their craft to the fields and work primarily with the plants themselves. Other herbalists take the activist route and work to educate the population about endangered herbs and ethical wild crafting. I have friends who are amazing community herbalists who create tea blends and formulas for friends and family and know others who work in herb shops and natural food stores sharing their knowledge of the plant world.
Being an herbalist is a great gig. You get to spend time outside, you become a part of a vast network of other like-minded earth lovers, you get to learn the names of all of your favorite green friends, and you learn how to make amazing medicines like tinctures, salves, cordials, and syrups!!
However, before you put on your overalls and grab your hori-hori or digging stick, have a look below and see if there are more cosmic signs that a career as an herbalist is in your future:
- You find yourself looking at bottles and jars at your local health food store thinking, “I could make that.”
- When walking outside you find yourself constantly stopping to pick a flower, gaze at an interesting leaf, or behold a large ancient tree. If you are walking with other people you often feel their annoyance.
- You have a child-like curiosity for the natural world and you enjoy studying ancient cultures and practices. If you could have it your way, you would sleep under the stars, treat yourself with plants, and surround yourself with other people who see the magic in all things.
- You overhear someone in a grocery store line or public place talking about a health concern and you have to bite your lip to keep from blurting out a list of medicinal herbs or home remedies.
- Every time you drive past a cornfield or farm you fantasize about taking it over and growing lavender, calendula, or poppies.
- When you hear the word “apothecary” you start to space out and salivate.
- You love plants. A lot. You dream about plants, have plants in your house, desire more plants, and wish you could make your home into a personal jungle.
- Your favorite room in your house is the kitchen. You love mixing things, experimenting with new flavors and recipes, and find yourself making your own spice blends or seasonings.
- You have a fascination with scent and your bathroom medicine closet looks like the aromatherapy aisle at Whole Foods.
- You talk to plants. Sometimes they talk back.
- You are an unconventional thinker and consider yourself a pioneer. You are a self-starter and crave a career where you get to make your own schedule and organize your own work load. You know how to make money and sustain yourself in creative and non-traditional ways.
- You carry around a mason jar that contains an unidentifiable green liquid.
- At work you find yourself staring out the window wishing that you could spend more time “out there”.
- You believe that magic and science are not opposites and you desire a career that can blend the best of both of these worlds.
- When your friend enrolled in an herbal apprenticeship all you could think about was how to fit in her suitcase.
So there it is! If you found yourself nodding yes to a number of these then you might be ready to take the plunge toward becoming an herbalist!
Next week we will take a look at how to select the best herbal program for your unique goals so stay tuned!