Why does it matter who you get your herbal medicine from?

Cheri Neal of  Herban Myth  at the 2018 Autumn Herb Faire in Chico, CA

Cheri Neal of Herban Myth at the 2018 Autumn Herb Faire in Chico, CA

As herbalists, we love the convenience of being able to go to the local natural foods store to pick up herbal remedies like green salve for boo-boos instead of Neosporin, or nettles for tea for allergies.  Whenever possible, we know the power of plants to work with our bodies to restore our natural state of health. 

As The Elderberry Apothecary, we have even partnered with some great local & national companies to sponsor this year’s herb faire. (!!!) We love their missions and products, and are stoked for their support!

But, if we wanted to simply buy our herbal remedies from a store, well then, we would not be putting together an herb faire! We would buy our herbs from the store, like everyone else.  So…

What can you get from going to the Herb Faire that you can’t get from a regular natural foods store?

Even if the herbs you’re buying in a store are from highly-reputable brands that wildcraft or grow organically, you may not be getting the highest quality, and therefore the best results, from what you buy. It’s not that herbal products sold in stores are bad—by all means, there are some fabulous remedies on the shelves of our local natural foods stores! And, they are convenient & accessible, helping people replace their conventional (and often toxic) beauty, health, and home products with natural ones.

But there is more to the picture that often goes unconsidered… here are 3 things to think about when making your herbal purchases:

  1. Using local plants increases the effectiveness of herbal medicine for your health. 

    This theory comes from Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book, “The Lost Language of Plants.” Essentially, he says that plants growing in your local environment are the plants best suited for helping you. Since they live in your environment, they face similar stressors that you do, so they can do a better job of helping your body, mind & spirit than plants growing 1,000s of miles away from you.  When you buy herbal products in the natural foods store, those herbs could be coming from anywhere in the country, or world.

  2. The prolific “weeds” are usually the ones that can help you the most—not the rare ones.


    There’s a trend in herbalism to go for exotic herbs that are hard to grow and rare to find. They are considered “super foods” to “super herbs” and many herbal brands promote using them everyday. The thing is, these herbs were never meant to be used all the time! They are rare for a reason, and meant to be used only when truly needed.

    When you start to learn how to see the world through the eyes of an herbalist, you notice that many common “weeds” that grow in abundance are actually medicinal herbs (you can learn to identify them during the Plant Walk Workshop on June 2!).

    What’s more, those weeds are often the ones that would actually help you the most.  They have their own superpowers. Usually what we need the most is growing in abundance, all around us. We just need to slow down enough to take notice of them. And, they are way less expensive than the rare “super” herbs!


  3. How medicine is processed and made (and who makes it) makes a huge difference on how effective it is.

    When medicine is mass-produced, it’s processed differently than small, local medicine makers, so naturally, it has a different kind of effect.

    For example, think about applesauce you buy from the store. It’s good. It’s certainly still applesauce. But compare it to the applesauce your grandma makes—totally different! It’s not that the apples are better (necessarily). The process is different, the people making it are different. You can taste those difference it in the applesauce your grandma makes. That’s the difference you can find from the herbalists vending at the Herb Faire.

Check out the Herb Faire June 2, 2019. Details here.

Written by Lily Rothrock for The Elderberry Apothecary

Lily Rothrock