Making with Plants with Jenn from The Wilderness Maven Herbal Apothecary
We are so thrilled to be able to interview Jennifer Ziegler from The Wilderness Maven Herbal Apothecary! You can find Jenn’s herbal supplements, bath salts, salves, and more in her on her website, and you can follow her on Instagram.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What’s the story behind you and your business?
I’m Jenn, the farmer, maker, and plant-lover behind The Wilderness Maven Herbal Apothecary. Everything I make has its origin in soil + sunlight. Every plant I use is grown with love and intention on my land, sourced from ethically-minded sustainability-focused farmers in the United States, or harvested from the wild in a careful, conscious manner. Every product is handcrafted in small-batches with clean, local, seasonal ingredients.
Medicine of the people is anything that we consume or surround ourselves with that supports wellness, vitality, and health of the whole person. Medicine making at home can be a strange idea in this age, but how powerful and freeing to know you can take a walk through the woods, harvest a plant growing at your doorstep, and with some basic knowledge and preparation, turn it into a powerful whole-person medicine. This is the kind of medicine that provides energy, healing from chronic illness, and vital health. Plant medicine is our collective birthright.
Where do you draw inspiration and motivation from? How do you stay creative?
The plants I work with are my biggest inspiration. I received my certification as an herbalist after 120 hours of school, but reading those books and taking those tests only taught me so much.
It was only when I began to grow medicinal herbs from seed, and take part in nurturing and guarding their entire life cycle, processing the harvested herbs by hand and turning them into products, that I felt all of the knowledge come alive. The plants themselves are what taught our ancestors how to use them. They are humble yet thorough teachers, and spending time with them always sparks new ideas for formulas and applications that will be powerful medicines.
Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
There are many parts to my creative process, but it all starts with listening to my community and hearing what the needs and desires are for a healthier life or increased feeling of wellness. Then I begin working on formulations, taking the time to make sure I have the most powerful combination of herbs with complimentary actions to treat the whole person, not just throwing the whole kitchen sink into the mix and hoping it works. My garden is a huge part of my process. As I watch the plants grow, fighting off weeds and pests on their behalf, I begin to see all the different ways in which I can use them to create things.
I also spend time driving to the most remote place I can find, then parking the car and hiking for hours, or days, to find rich populations of wild medicinals that grow in the Pacific Northwest region, harvesting those plants in a sustainable manner, and carrying them back to my shop to give them new life.
Each time I harvest botanicals to fill my copper still, the smell of that whole plant fills my space as it becomes a hydrosol and essential oil. The distilling of plant essence in the making of essential oils is such a miracle of alchemy, and it’s impossible for me to hold that small vial of essential oil distillate in my hand and not see a thousand possibilities.
My workspace is the wilderness where nature provides bountiful harvests, my garden where I spend hundreds of hours each month, my front porch where I peel the bark off of freshly harvested roots, and also a cramped room lined with hanging herbs, jars of dried flowers, barks, and berries, vats of macerating plant combinations, and a hot plate that powers my still and melts salves. The history of every healer to come before me is my starting point, and the medicine cabinet of my community is my final destination.
What’s your current favorite podcast, music, or tv show that you’re hooked on and why?
This question always gets me! I don’t own a TV or listen to a single podcast (I really DON’T live in a cave, I swear!!), but music is a necessary part of daily life. I’m currently spinning Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes on my record player over and over…and over again. It’s one of the most beautiful albums from start to finish.
Name one thing not many people know about you.
I can recite the entire alphabet backwards in less than 5 seconds, but I cannot whistle to save my life.
What are your top three values in life?
Family, Authenticity, Learning
Do you have any business challenges and/or goals you’re hoping to crush over the next 6 months?
I currently grow 41 varieties of medicinal botanicals but I want to expand the farm to grow almost 70, adding a lot of larger plants like elderberry, hawthorn, and witch hazel. And I want to start raising ducks for natural slug control!
Do you have any advice for all the small handmade business owners out there who are just getting started?
It’s easy to get caught up in social media marketing and base your success on your following, but just focus all your energy on making what you love, and if you believe in it, the people will come! Passion speaks louder than perfect photos or the number of followers.