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I didn’t know I wanted to be an herbalist

by Arielle Hayat


My journey down the herbalism rabbit hole began in 2014 as a personal quest to find remedies for my own health issues, which started with a tick bite and a subsequent Lyme infection. Taking clients, teaching workshops, and working in a retail environment were the last things on my mind. With these self-healing intentions, and a newfound quest for herbal knowledge, I ended up at ArborVitae. Within my first semester, it became clear that learning from—and being with—plants day and night was the only thing I wanted to do.  


Enthusiastic and passionate about everything I was learning, I knew I needed to figure out how I could gain experience while also sharing this energy in a meaningful yet responsible way. How could I work in the field while still in school and not yet ready to be a practitioner? Where could I work, yet also learn and teach simultaneously? It felt like the options available for herbalists were limited. 


A woman stands in front of a shelf packed with jars of herbs and other dried plant material.

In that first year of school, guest teacher and owner of Flower Power Herbs & Roots, Lata Kennedy, taught a workshop, where she introduced the apprenticeship program at the shop. At the time, I was living in a rent-stabilized apartment on 12th street in the East Village, ArborVitae was on 14th street, and the herb shop was on 9th street. I applied as soon as I could for the 2.5 year, 1,000-hour apprenticeship; it was the second thing I ever committed to in my life, knowing I would not give up (ArborVitae being the first). It took over two months and a lot of follow-ups (much easier being a local neighbor), but with persistence, I got face time with Lata, shared my astrological birth chart, and she concluded I was fit for the job at Flower Power.


My second year in the program, about a week before leaving on my first Amazonian plant diet (which may have coincidentally earned me the cultural fit to be hired) I applied to be a retail associate at The Alchemist’s Kitchen. By the end of 2016, I worked onsite with the owner, who allowed me to be a part of the space as an herbalist. I began sharing Herbalism 101 workshops and was surprised at how easy and fun it was. Workshops opened the door for clients, and in 2017, I began to take clients that I met onsite.


I finished the 1,000 hours at Flower Power in 2018, the same year I completed the program at ArborVitae. Continuing on as an herbalist at these locations, I was able to develop and deliver workshops throughout New York, build a private practice, and begin consulting with health startups for herbal formulations whether supplements, beverages, or even just content. Consulting projects came through The Alchemist's Kitchen or were introduced to me through friends and acquaintances, and it was easy to pitch myself in this arena, as many formulas were missing advice and consultation from herbalists who had experience with the plants beyond the science. Notably, during this time, I was able to consult with Nutrafol in early stages of their formulation development, a company now with over $75 million in sales. I wrote articles published online, recorded interviews for news sites like News Channel 11 "Elderberry the new cold and flu remedy!" (an herbalist can laugh at this ancient "new" remedy) and hosted herbalism retreats in New York and Costa Rica with my sister Sabrina Vedete, a yoni steam practitioner and women’s guide.


A woman in front of a television camera.

In thinking about where I have been successful in this world, I realize the magic in it all. The pieces that allowed my life to continue with ease in the pursuit of working with plants. Prior to working with plants, I had only ever faced an overwhelming experience of what I would describe as resistance. For example: it took me seven years and three majors to finish my bachelor’s degree (which I would chalk up to “resistance”). This herbal pursuit was the very first time in my life I felt a direction flow smoothly for me and “work out.” Without going too much into how this pursuit transformed me spiritually, I will say, on my path to becoming an herbalist, a lot of synchronistic events supported the continuous movement forward. But in addition to pure luck and fate, failures are a huge part of my journey. Many other stories include: a failed herb shop attempt in The Catskills, a failed intimate product after launching to my community, and online communities that dissipated faster than I would have liked. 


As herbalists, we are trained to give as much help as we can possibly provide in only one to three sessions. Once the client's concern or goal is reached—often within a year—they might have all the tools they need, and may not need to return for ongoing support, making it difficult to have a regular source of income. Practically, a tradition rooted in honesty and sharing does not make for a great long-term business model, so we must be creative in our offerings or be located in an area with a lot of foot traffic or online exposure. In building a successful full-time practice, it can be helpful to either craft and sell remedies, sell client packages for consistent sessions (potentially based on helpfulness/accountability), or have a steady influx of first-time clients. 


Additionally, I feel like as herbalists we can promote genuine wellness sessions—meetings not designed for late disharmony symptoms but rather a seasonal, preventative check-in with a goal to maintain overall health and longevity, and maintain balance through all seasons of life—something distinctly lacking in our current healthcare system. Herbalists that also engage in a second healing modality, such as cupping, massage, or moxa also benefit from this in their practice.


In the social media world, it can sometimes feel like there is a saturation of herbalists, but I don’t think that’s quite the case. I feel like many of those who identify as herbalists are people waking up to and identifying with the values of herbalism, yet they may not have the clinical training or apprenticeships needed to bring safety and efficacy to the field. This is a conversation I have had plenty with other herbalists (one worth mentioning, @teafortorie is awesome, check out her business!). How we as herbalists go about providing that trust may look different for each of us and our unique paths, and as the field evolves it may be wise for us to cultivate some kind of trustworthy accreditation for the masses for a full-time career as an herbalist. Personally, I applied for the American Herbalist Guild “Registered Herbalist” certification for that reason, but somehow my application from 2023 fell through the cracks and is still waiting to be reviewed, unfortunately. I await July 2024; we shall see. 


A woman holds a plant in her hands.

This blessing in disguise cemented my current path to become an Acupuncturist-Physician. I moved to Miami Beach last year, and this spring, I enrolled in the program with a goal to provide a combination of modalities and a business model that will offer ongoing and consistent care to clients. The state of Florida provides a license to prescribe herbs for health patterns, which can even be purchased with insurance! How cool is that? I am truly excited by my chosen next steps in the field of acupuncture, and do not believe the commitment would be possible had I not first begun cementing the knowledge and practice of traditional western herbalism. I smile when I think I am following a similar path to William LeSassier, the teacher of my teachers, who was also an herbalist licensed as an acupuncturist. I still offer consultations for herbal education, as well as astrology birth chart readings. The best way to learn is often getting consults with different herbalists to learn their methods and styles. Get consults as often as you can!


In reflection, I realize that in addition to the ArborVitae clinic, the Flower Power apprenticeship provided me with the greatest gift: the opportunity to see how plants interact with humans in so many different ways. When at the shop, I was not only learning in school, but also learning from my mentor and colleagues at the shop, practicing my knowledge, gaining feedback from clients at the shop, and being able to put into action all the information that I was absorbing. I was able to gain confidence in working with herbs that would have otherwise taken much longer to develop.


To be successful in any field, we need confidence, and this was the precursor for the confidence I needed to be an herbalist one-on-one with clients, the understanding that we are educating our clients with the lost knowledge (relatively speaking) of which plants, what forms, the methods, dosages, and what to expect when healing with plants. But clinical herbalists certainly are not the only ones who hold this information. In my time working in these public-facing places, I encountered so much knowledge, exceptions and uses for herbal remedies that I had never expected. This is part of the magic of nature, an unpredictable invisible aspect that keeps us humans endlessly humbled, endlessly connected.


 

Arielle Hayat is an ArborVitae alumni. For the past eight years, Arielle has been cultivating her personal practice, offering guidance to clients seeking holistic well-being. She has hosted transformative workshops at renowned wellness hub, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Anima Mundi, Boston Consulting Group, The Well, Equinox, as well as various locations across NYC and Miami Beach. She is dedicated to empowering her community through herbalism and astrological birth chart readings fostering a healthier lifestyle that prioritizes wellness from the inside out. You can find her on Instagram @arielletheherbalist.

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