Ingredients Matter: What is Wildcrafting?
At Bonjibon, the more we investigate the ingredients that go into body products, the more passionate we are about offering environmentally and body friendly options. So, when we learned about wildcrafting, we knew we had to find a way to carry these types of products. When Flora Sapien Apothecary, a small business run on Salt Spring Island by wildcrafter and dear friend Sarah Cordes started making period kits, we knew we had to carry them. Recently, we sat down and chatted about wildcrafting, herbalism, the patriarchy and more.
What is wildcrafting? What is herbalism? How are they different?
Wildcrafting and herbalism are very interconnected but not all herbalists are wildcrafters. Wildcrafting is when plants are harvested in the wild and used for medicinal or culinary purposes. This practice has been a part of human life for all of time. Many herbalists choose to wildcraft their herbs as there are many benefits. Some plants thrive best in their natural environments and are difficult to propagate as they require really specific conditions. Wildcrafting has become more popular and mainstream recently and it's important to note that when done improperly can cause a lot of harm. Overharvesting can deplete plant communities so it's important to learn about wildcrafting techniques and to know how well certain plants are doing in your area before harvesting. It's extremely important as well if you are a settler as I am, to know who's land you are on. Requesting permission from indigenous communities in the area you wish to harvest and giving back to those communities is incredibly important. I try to grow as much as I possibly can myself and commit myself to only harvesting in places I will return to yearly to monitor the area. I like to spread seeds, bring water and cut back old growth in areas I harvest. Wildcrafting should be treated with the same care as your own garden!
Tell me a little bit about yourself! How did you get started?
For as far back as I can remember I have been fascinated by the plant world. I was the quiet nerdy kind of kid that was easily occupied by picking dandelions and making strange potions in the yard. Natural medicine was a big part of my childhood. I often joke I was raised in a healthfood store as my mom brought me to work with her for many of my younger years. I started to really dive in as an individual in my early 20's when I was beginning to develop a lot of my political ideas. When I had my light bulb moment with feminism as a bright eyed 18 year old, my world really blew up in an amazing way. Herbalism really became tightly woven into the fabric of my politics when it came to concepts around bodily autonomy, reproductive justice and taking a stand against the patriarchal medical system. One of my first introductions to herbal medicine was a zine called "Hot Pants". This zine was a DIY approach to herbal medicine for common ailments involving reproductive health. My passion for combining herbalism with accessible medicine led me out west in my mid twenties to study at the Wild Seed School of Herbal Medicine. In 2018 I started my business after graduating from their clinical program and now here I am!
What are some of the ethics that motivate you in your work?
I could talk forever about the many layers of politics and ethics that are wrapped up in my work and feelings around herbalism. I would say that what stands out the most for me is creating connections between people and plants. When I first started learning about native plants and herbal medicine, the way I looked at the world around me drastically changed. I could walk through the woods or even through the city and identify what was growing around me. I felt empowered and I started to look more closely and understand natural landscapes in a new way. I think the more connections that can be made between those two worlds the more opportunity we have as people to participate in saving those spaces. Imagine your favourite coffee shop was about to close down, you go there every day and love the coffee. Upset, you petition the city to support this business to stay open. Ok, imagine your favourite wild space is about to be paved over. You go there everyday and visit some treasured native plants and sometimes pick some for medicine. You now have a strong connection to this space and a desire to keep it wild, so you fight to keep it that way. I wish to live in a world where we can value our wild spaces this way, where people realize and value these interconnections. This really motivates my work, among many other things.
Can you explain the process behind making your products?
Almost 100% of the herbs used in my products were either grown myself or wildcrafted so the process begins with the growing process. At all times of the year I am either starting seeds, harvesting or tending to my gardens depending on the season and what's growing. Once harvested I either process the plants fresh into a solution (honey, alcohol, oil etc.) or I dry the plants for use later. Each solution has a unique processing technique where I make calculations based on weight, volume, water content of plant etc. It's like being a mad scientist with plants! Once a herbal preparation is complete in its process (sometimes taking months to macerate in the solution) I press the herb from the solution in a hydraulic press and what's left is the just solution which I label and store until it goes into a product bottle. That is a very simplified version of the process. I often have various projects on the go at different stages of process.
What is your goal with Flora Sapien Apothecary? What motivates your business?
Flora Sapien Apothecary is really a creative side hustle for me that continues to keep me connected to the herbal world. I work full time in the social services sector, so this project was born out of love for herbal medicine and a desire to keep creating in my free time. My goal for the business is to continue to produce creative and engaging herbal products that are accessible and ethical. I hope to keep evolving the business and to one day have the time to open a free clinic for folks living marginally on Salt Spring.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If you have any questions please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org