Tell us a little about your background
I’m from northern Arizona, the Tonto national forest area, I grew up in a little community called Whispering Pines. There is a large indigenous community there, the Apache and the Navajo Native Americans. As a child I truly listened to the pines, trees communicate with you, if you listen carefully. I moved to Colorado about 20 years ago, I was a single mom and wanted better educational opportunities for all three of us to pursue. I attended Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism about 4 years ago and received my certificate in Fundamentals of Medical Herbalism. Since then, I’ve been a practicing Professional Herbalist. I have my own business on the side called Herbal Vice. A key part of my business is growing the herbs used for my herbal preparations. The reason I do that is because I like to practice bioregional herbalism to really connect the whole circle. Growing a Calendula seed to making an infused Calendula oil, you really get to know the plant and what it’s good for, and you make potent herbal preparations.
What is your role at WishGarden?
I am the Sourcing and Purchasing Manager. From a day-to-day perspective, I work to find sustainable sources of raw materials for WishGarden to make our beautiful tinctures. I work closely with farmers and wild crafters in the industry. Everything starts with sourcing – it’s the square one. I make sure the suppliers are not only growing things correctly, but also drying them correctly, so they are passing our quality assurance specifications. I make sure we are using material that doesn’t have bacteria in it or other pesky organisms that can cause adverse reactions.
Tell us more about your process and how you ensure WishGarden sources sustainably
WishGarden has had sustainable sourcing established for decades now, so it’s pretty easy for me to find a sustainable cultivated or wildcrafted herb. But times are changing in the industry. Half of my job is research – what is the sustainability of the plant and where is it being cultivated? How is it effecting the ecosystem? I develop strong relationships with who is cultivating the plant. I have farmers who directly call me on my cell phone when they have questions about paperwork or an herb that we might need in the fall. We are always thinking ahead. I feel fortunate to have our leadership team support me in our sustainability efforts.
Recently I’ve found myself looking at the United Plant Savers list to identify at-risk species I need to be aware of. If a plant is "critically at-risk" then we stay away from it. The United Plant Savers list updates frequently and as it updates, we want to eliminate any herbs that are no longer sustainably available. For example, we've recently looked at our birth practitioner’s formulas and a couple of herbs in those formulas are no longer sustainable to purchase. Our Research and Development team is committed to phasing it out entirely because of its population risk. Instances like these can cause a snowball effect with reformulations, but it's a brand pillar of ours and we stick to it. Once I've checked the sustainability of an herb and it's sourcing, we prioritize sourcing domestically as a means to lessen our carbon footprint. Is there an organic farmer that I can work with for our yearly needs? Not only are we doing our part to combat climate change, but we are also supporting local farmers.
I’ve found that sustainability efforts are most successful when you educate people on climate change and its effect on biodiversity. It's not only the planet's best interest but also the business' best interest. If we don't protect our raw materials now, we won’t have a future. Act fast!
What do you believe is the number one threat to sustainability in this industry?
The number one threat to sustainability in this industry is people overlooking plants' vulnerability and continuing to support people who wildcraft endangered plants and businesses that accept that material. As much as we need plants, they need us to be more conscience of their sustainability and biodiversity. For example, you can go and hire a wildcrafter to get 100 pounds of Osha but that is the most unethical practice to do right now because Osha is endangered from over-harvesting. It's important to work with farmers who are cultivating Osha and to support their efforts to keep this wild population alive.
Is there any good news? What positive trends are you seeing?
The great news is that we have a generation that is changing the way people are selling goods. We are changing the industry with our purchase behavior. We are in the information era and there is more education and awareness about business practices and its effects on the planet and its species. 65% of consumers research a company before buying a product. In other words, Millennials and the younger generations give a damn! Regardless of values, companies will start to not have a choice but to do the right thing – get on board or get left behind.
What’s your favorite part about working at WishGarden?
My favorite part is that it's a family-owned company so there is a lot of room to be creative. I can be creative in creating an apothecary in the office, writing a blog about forest farming or any topic I am passionate about. We're laid back and have room to learn but also have accountability. I feel like my opinion is honored and explored.
What is your spirit herb?
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. I connect with Yarrow so much because it's known as the survivor herb. It's used in first aid a lot. It grows abundantly in the Rocky Mountain region and its leaves can be used as a poultice for the skin. I connect with it because I was a single mom throughout my 20s and I had to learn survival skills when I moved to the city. Yarrow is resilient. You can see it grow in concrete, that's a part of its medicine – its resiliency to adapt. I am resilient like Yarrow.
Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small-batch skincare company, and organically grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently the Sourcing & Purchasing Manager at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.