In this installment of our Student Feature series, we interviewed Dave Achula (@achula_). Dave is the owner of Achula, an immersive experience that invites individuals to explore the healing power of nature, directly in nature. He has completed Herbal Academy’s Intermediate Herbal Course, Business Herbal Course, and Mastering Herbal Formulation Course.
HA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started your path into herbalism.
Dave Achula: Growing up in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands, I embarked on an extraordinary journey that would forever change the course of my life. As a teenager, I found solace in crafting homemade preparations from the bounties of nature, a passion that ignited a profound appreciation for the transformative properties of herbs. I also had transformative experiences by getting to know plants individually, which opened my eyes to close observation of the beauty of nature and the plant world around me, sparking a yearning to delve in more deeply. I turned to books and documentaries to immerse myself in study, changing the trajectory of my life as I enthusiastically surrendered to this path.
An encounter with a wise herbalist left an indelible mark on my soul. His words resonated with such clarity that I felt an instant connection to his philosophy. Eager to explore the health-giving potential of herbs, I wholeheartedly embraced this way of life. Sadly he passed away this same month due to illness. I ordered the herbs he had suggested, which traveled all the way from Honduras and took more than a month to reach me. To my amazement, these plant allies propelled me out of my shell and awakened a vitality within me that I had never experienced before. I never felt this good before. I felt alive! “What have I been doing all these years? Is it really possible to feel this great?” With this newfound energy and aliveness, I understood my path in life. I knew that I am here to connect others back with themselves and with nature.
HA: Why did you choose to pursue your herbal education with the Herbal Academy?
Dave Achula: In the midst of the unprecedented COVID era, a time when the world seemed to pause, I found myself presented with a unique opportunity to deepen my understanding of herbs and their profound healing potential. With the familiar rhythms of life disrupted and the confines of my home becoming a sanctuary, I seized the chance to immerse myself fully in the world of herbs. Years of diligent study, personal experimentation, and a profound connection with the natural world had ignited a passion within me, but it was during this period of global upheaval that I could finally delve deeper into the enchanting realm of herbalism.
Choosing to pursue my herbal education with the Herbal Academy was a decision born out of careful consideration and a deep-rooted desire for comprehensive and authentic herbal knowledge.
The Herbal Academy stood out to me for several reasons. Their commitment to a well-rounded and evidence-based education, integrating traditional wisdom with modern research, resonated with my beliefs about herbalism. I appreciated their emphasis on experiential learning, allowing students to engage with herbs practically, deepening their understanding and connection with nature. The supportive and inclusive learning community they foster is also a significant draw, providing a network of like-minded individuals passionate about plant-based wellness. With their comprehensive curriculum and diverse course offerings, I could tailor my education to meet my specific needs and goals. Knowing that I would learn from experienced and passionate herbalists further instilled confidence in the quality of education I would receive. Ultimately, the Herbal Academy felt like the ideal institution to nurture my passion for herbalism and facilitate personal and professional growth in this field.
HA: Do you own an herbal business or brand?
Dave Achula: Achula is an immersive experience that invites individuals to explore the healing power of nature, directly in nature.
With a deep appreciation for the Indigenous practices of connecting with plant spirits and the land, Achula seeks to bridge the gap between traditional wisdom and contemporary understanding. Through captivating herb walks in picturesque locations in The Netherlands, participants are introduced to the fundamentals of wild-crafting and herbal applications.
The aim of Achula Medicine Walks is not only to educate but also to foster a sense of community and connection with nature. By embracing the plants and sharing their stories, participants are encouraged to open up, learn from one another, and feel the profound connection to the Earth. This transformative journey of discovery and healing is designed to inspire and empower individuals to deepen their relationship with the natural world and harness its innate healing potential.
HA: How did your Herbal Academy courses help shape or improve your business?
Dave Achula: The Business Herbal Course offered by the Herbal Academy was instrumental in equipping me with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively operate my herbalism business, especially when working with groups. The course provided valuable insights into various aspects. These invaluable skills have enabled me to foster a sense of community and connection during my herbal hikes and group activities, ensuring a positive and enriching experience for all involved.
In addition to the Business Herbal Course, the Intermediate Herbal Course provided me with a more holistic perspective of herbs and their interaction with the body. By introducing Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) alongside Western medicine, the course broadened my understanding of herbal properties. I learned how to approach health and wellness from multiple perspectives, considering individual constitutions, energetics, and imbalances.
The Mastering Herbal Formulation Course offered by the Herbal Academy was a game-changer in my journey as an herbalist. It provided me with invaluable knowledge and skills on how to formulate herbal preparations effectively.
During the course, I delved into the art and science of creating herbal preparations, gaining insights into various methods such as tinctures, teas, salves, and more. I learned about the properties and actions of different herbs, their synergistic combinations, and the principles of dosage and administration.
HA: Did your Herbal Academy courses help you avoid any potential mistakes while launching your business?
Dave Achula: YES! I remember reading this personal story of one of the students in the course; they said that running your own business is like having a mirror in front of you. I actually went to look it up now and would like to share it with you since these words stuck with me forever and helped me realize many obstacles on the way.
“Your business is a kind of sacred mirror, showing you all your talents, but also illuminating everything that is blocking you from bringing those gifts to the world…Businesses are truly about the business of becoming ourselves. No matter what is happening (or not happening) in your business, exactly what transpires is important. There is a message here that will help you transform every other aspect of your life, if you can receive it.” – Asia Suler
HA: Tell us, what’s next for you in your herbal journey?
Dave Achula: In my herbal journey, my vision remains steadfast: to share the incredible experience of herbs with others and evoke the same joy and transformative power that I have personally felt. I am a dreamer, and I believe in dreaming big.
Looking ahead, my aspirations extend beyond my current endeavors. I envision creating a haven nestled within a tropical forest, a serene village where individuals can immerse themselves in the healing wonders of nature. This haven will be a sanctuary for herbal transformation, where the abundant gifts of the plant kingdom are harnessed to promote wellness and vitality.
In this envisioned village, people will have the opportunity to explore various forms of therapy that reconnect them with their inner selves and the natural world. Alongside herbalism, acupuncture, dance, and singing will be offered as additional modalities, embracing the holistic nature of wellbeing. It will be a place where individuals can truly embark on a transformative journey, finding solace, rejuvenation, and harmony amidst the lush greenery and vibrant energy of the tropical forest.
My dream is to create a space where people can unwind, heal, and rediscover their connection to nature. Through this vision, I hope to empower individuals to embrace the profound wisdom and healing potential that reside within the natural world.In addition to my aspirations of creating a healing village and offering various therapies, a significant part of my herbal journey involves sharing my passion through the creation and sale of my own herbal products.
I dream of developing a line of herbal preparations, carefully crafted with love and intention. These products will reflect my deep understanding of herbalism, incorporating the finest, ethically sourced herbs and botanical ingredients. Each formulation will be thoughtfully designed to address specific health concerns and promote overall wellbeing.
Through my herbal products, I aim to provide individuals with access to the transformative power of herbs in their daily lives. Whether it’s herbal teas, tinctures, salves, or other preparations, my goal is to offer high-quality, potent, and sustainable herbal preparations that inspire health and vitality.
HA: What were you looking for when you enrolled in your Herbal Academy course that you were not able to find elsewhere?
Dave Achula: When I enrolled in the Herbal Academy course, I was seeking a comprehensive and well-rounded education in herbalism that integrated various traditions such as Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western medicine. I wanted a program that went beyond surface-level knowledge and delved deep into the science, art, and practical application of herbs.
HA: If you were to recommend an Herbal Academy course to your best friend, what would you say?
Dave Achula: If I were to recommend an Herbal Academy course to my best friend, I would enthusiastically encourage them to enroll in the Intermediate Herbal Course. This course offers a comprehensive and in-depth exploration of herbalism, covering topics such as anatomy, physiology, herbal properties, and plant identification. I would speak and make him/her understand why this is such valuable knowledge.
HA: How has your herbal education deepened your connection with nature and the seasons?
Dave Achula: My herbal education has profoundly deepened my connection with nature and the seasons. Through studying herbs and their growth patterns, I have developed a keen awareness of the natural rhythms and cycles that govern the plant world. This understanding has allowed me to align my herbal practices with the seasons, harnessing the potency of herbs at their peak and respecting their natural rest periods.
By observing the changes in plant life throughout the year, I have learned to recognize the subtle shifts in energy and adapt my herbal formulas and products accordingly. This connection with nature’s cycles has not only enhanced the effectiveness of my herbal formulations but has also instilled in me a deep sense of gratitude and reverence for the natural world.
HA: Have you learned more about your ancestral roots and traditions through your herbalism studies? If so, what have you learned?
Dave Achula: Yes. Through my herbalism studies, I have gained a deeper understanding of my ancestral roots and traditions. As I delved into herbalism, I discovered the profound wisdom and rich traditions that Indigenous cultures have cultivated in their relationship with plants and nature.
I have learned that herbalism is not just about the physical benefits of plants, but also about honoring the spiritual and cultural aspects tied to their usage. Studying herbalism has allowed me to connect with the knowledge and practices that have been passed down through generations, enabling me to rediscover and embrace my ancestral heritage.
By delving into the traditional uses of herbs, I have gained insight into the ways my ancestors used plants for healing, rituals, and spiritual connection. This journey has provided me with a profound appreciation for the wisdom of Indigenous cultures and a deep respect for their relationship with the natural world.
Additionally, my herbalism studies have encouraged me to explore the history and contributions of different cultural traditions in herbalism. I have discovered the diverse approaches and perspectives from various cultures, each with its unique wisdom and practices. This exploration has not only deepened my understanding of my ancestral roots but also fostered a broader appreciation for the interconnectedness of different cultures and their contributions to herbalism.
HA: If you were an herb, which herb would you be?
Dave Achula: If I were an herb, I would be a passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Like the passionflower, I embody a sense of tranquility and serenity. Just as the herb’s beautiful and intricate flowers captivate the observer, I strive to bring a sense of calm and beauty to those around me.
Passionflower is known for its ability to soothe the mind and promote relaxation. Similarly, I aim to offer a comforting presence and bring a sense of peace to others. The herb’s gentle yet powerful nature resonates with my own desire to provide support and healing to those in need.
Moreover, the passionflower is a symbol of connection and unity. Its vines intertwine and reach out, forming intricate patterns, much like the way I seek to foster meaningful connections.
Passionflower is also associated with passion and creativity. It serves as a reminder to follow one’s dreams and embrace the things that ignite a sense of purpose and joy. I, too, believe in the power of passion and strive to inspire others to pursue their passions and live authentically.
HA: Do you have any rituals or traditions surrounding herbalism that you would like to share? These can be long-standing traditions or new ones that you’ve integrated into your life since taking our course.
Dave Achula: Certainly! One ritual that I have integrated into my life since exploring herbalism is the practice of conscious tea drinking. This ritual has become a cherished part of my daily routine, allowing me to engage with herbs on a deeper level and cultivate a mindful connection with nature.
When preparing and consuming herbal tea, I approach it as a sacred act. I start by carefully selecting herbs that resonate with my current needs and intentions. Whether it’s soothing chamomile for relaxation or invigorating peppermint for clarity, each herb carries its unique energy and beneficial properties.
As I steep the herbs, I take a moment to appreciate their aromas, colors, and textures. I observe the dance of steam rising from the cup and the way the herbs infuse the water, creating a vibrant brew. This process heightens my senses and deepens my connection with the plants.
Once the tea is ready, I find a quiet space where I can fully immerse myself in the experience. I hold the cup in my hands, feeling its warmth and energy. I take a moment to express gratitude for the plants and the transformational properties they offer. This acknowledgment sets the intention for the upcoming ritual.
Before taking a sip, I close my eyes and inhale the aroma deeply, allowing it to awaken my senses and prepare my body and mind for the experience. As I slowly sip the tea, I savor its flavors, allowing them to unfold on my palate. I pay attention to the sensations and the way the tea nourishes and enlivens my body.
During this time, I engage in introspection and self-reflection. I use the quietude of the moment to connect with my thoughts, emotions, and intuition. It becomes a time for self-care, self-discovery, and self-compassion.
Conscious tea drinking has become a meditative practice, allowing me to be fully present and attuned to the gifts of nature. It provides a space for stillness, contemplation, and a deeper connection with myself and the natural world.
Another ritual I have incorporated is the mindful harvesting of herbs. When gathering plants, I now approach the process with reverence and respect. I connect with the plant on a deeper level, expressing gratitude for its gifts and asking for permission before harvesting. This ritualistic approach helps me foster a stronger bond with the plants and acknowledge the reciprocal relationship we have with nature.
These rituals and traditions have enhanced my connection with herbalism, bringing a sense of mindfulness, intentionality, and reverence into my daily life. They have enriched my understanding of the incredible power of plants and have deepened my appreciation for the wisdom that nature offers us.
HA: Did you feel that something in your life was missing before you discovered herbalism? If so, what do you think it was and how was herbalism helped?
Dave Achula: Before discovering herbalism, I experienced a profound sense of something missing in my life. It was a feeling of emptiness, a lack of purpose and direction. I had no clear goals or aspirations, and I felt disconnected from myself and the world around me. My overall wellbeing, including my physical and mental health, was not a priority, and I was largely unaware of the impact this had on my life. Herbalism has provided me with a framework for personal growth and self-discovery through connection with myself and the natural world, and given me a clear sense of purpose. As I immersed myself in the study and practice of herbalism, I began to develop a greater awareness of my own body, mind, and spirit. I became more attuned to the signals and needs of my physical and emotional wellbeing. This heightened self-awareness helped me recognize the importance of self-care and taking responsibility for my own health. Herbalism has truly been a transformative journey that has filled the void and brought fulfillment to my life.
HA: What is your favorite herbalism resource (book, podcast, movie) and why?
Dave Achula: Of course one of my favorite herbalism resources is the Herbal Academy’s Herbarium. This comprehensive online library of herbal information has become an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration for me. The Herbarium provides an extensive collection of articles, monographs, and herbal profiles, covering a wide range of herbs, their properties, and uses. It serves as a go-to reference that I can rely on for accurate and detailed information.
In addition to the Herbal Academy’s Herbarium, I must mention that I am also a huge fan of Yarrow Willard, the Herbal Jedi, who has been a source of inspiration for me. His deep knowledge of plants and his ability to blend traditional herbal wisdom with modern scientific understanding is truly remarkable. Yarrow’s approach to herbalism resonates with me, as he emphasizes the importance of connecting with nature and understanding the energetics of plants. His teachings and practical insights have enriched my herbal journey and deepened my understanding of the transformative potential of herbs.
HA: What is the biggest challenge you face in your personal or clinical herbal practice?
Dave Achula: The unfortunate reality is that with the diminishing amount of nature that remains here in the Netherlands, we are being kept out of these precious spaces where wild plants thrive. The loss of natural habitats due to urbanization, land development, and environmental degradation has significantly reduced our opportunities to connect with and harvest plants directly from their native environments.
One of the biggest challenges I face is the restriction of access to natural spaces and wild plants. This is particularly evident in the case of our beloved dunes in the Netherlands, where areas are fenced off, and straying from the designated human-made paths can result in fines.
These limitations on exploring and gathering herbs directly from their natural habitats can be disheartening. The dunes hold a wealth of botanical treasures, and being able to connect with plants in their native environments is invaluable for deepening my understanding of their growth patterns, ecological interactions, and beneficial properties.
The fenced-off areas and strict regulations not only limit my ability to gather wild herbs but also hinder the overall experience of immersing myself in nature. There is a profound sense of connection and reverence that arises when I can freely wander among the plants, listening to the rustle of leaves and feeling the energy of the natural world around me.
As herbal practitioners, we deeply understand the importance of sustainable wildcrafting practices and the significance of maintaining the balance between human needs and ecological preservation. However, the restrictions on wild harvesting, while often necessary for conservation purposes, present a challenge in accessing certain plants that have historically been part of traditional herbal practices.
HA: If you could provide any tip or encouragement to those just starting their herbal studies, what would it be?
Dave Achula: Be patient and kind to yourself. Herbal studies can be a lifelong journey of discovery and growth. Embrace the process, enjoy the learning experience, and celebrate every step along the way. With dedication, passion, and an open mind, you’ll develop a deep connection with the plants and unlock the vast potential of herbalism.
Read past student interviews with:
Dagny Kream (@thecottagepeach) – Slow-living inspiration: recipes, gardening, seasonal crafts, traditional skills, and more; graduate of the Botanical Skin Care Course
Laura Rubin (@nurtureforall) – Empowers others to live more joyfully through the amazing power of herbs, helping them to reconnect with your body and the Earth; graduate of Herbal Business Course
Serena Hartwell (@serenahartwell) – Forager, photographer, herbalist, and graduate of Intermediate Herbal Course and Emulsifiers and Preservatives in Botanical Products: 2 Part Intensive
Andrea Minniti (@divinebalanceco) – Writer, wildcrafted recipe creator, and graduate of The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course and Intermediate Herbal Course
Jess Buttermore (@cedarhouseliving) – Graduate of the Botanical Mixed Drinks Workshop, photographer, gardener, and business owner.
Robin Ahrens (@barberryherbal) – Advanced Herbal Course graduate and herbalism educator.
Sarah Jaroch (@evidence_of_providence) – Business Herbal Course graduate, copywriter for herbalists, and online marketer.
Amrit-Sadhana Boyd (@theuntamedherbalist) – Canna + Herbs Course graduate, holistic anxiety coach, and herbalist.
Inspired by Dave’s herbal journey? Further your own journey today by perusing our online herbal courses.