Herbal Academy Student Feature: Grace Jones (@gunkinthewoods) by Herbal Academy
20 Mar 2024

Herbal Academy Student Feature: Grace Jones (@gunkinthewoods)

We spoke with Grace Jones (@gunkinthewoods), graduate of Herbal Academy’s Introductory Herbal Course, Intermediate Herbal Course, and Advanced Herbal Course. Grace is the owner of Gunk in the Woods where she sells herbal products, art, apparel, and more. She also runs a neighborhood kids garden club, and is the co-creator of Seasoned, a farm-to-table herbal dinner where she, along with a chef, creates a menu featuring local plants, produce, and meats from farmers they trust and love. She loves connecting people with local plants and farms and teaching them how to incorporate them into their daily lives.

HA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started your path into herbalism. 

Grace Jones: Growing up, I was probably the person least interested in anything nature-related. I was holed up in my room dreaming up other worlds, doing art, and learning photography. I remember my mom taking me to a small herbalism workshop on a Saturday when I was a junior in high school. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I think I knew deep down that there was something there. 

Fast forward to 2017, I became very ill and after a few months of no answers from doctors of what was going on, I somehow got my hands on some herbalism books. These books changed my life. They introduced me to the magic and power of plants when worked with properly. I remember sitting in my bed reading and re-reading these books till the edges started to become worn. After recovering from the illness, I started my first garden and got to get my hands on all the plants I would come to spend many hours learning about. This sparked another light within me. I fell intensely in love with growing the plants I was working with and sharing them with all those around me. And because of this I also started to learn how to forage and then that progressed quickly into creating art using all these plants that I was learning about. 

HA: Why did you choose to pursue your herbal education with the Herbal Academy? 

Grace Jones: I decided to pursue the online courses during 2020 when I no longer had any work and had all the time in the world to do a deep dive into the Herbal Academy Courses.

HA: Do you own an herbal business or brand?

Grace Jones: I create herbal goods, art, and more. Most of the things I share are from my garden or foraged from the woods around me. I have a fondness for electuaries and oxymels. I do herbal-based workshops, and sell herbal goods (@gunkinthewoods). I co-create farm-to-table herbal dinners where a chef and I create a menu together featuring medicinal plants and all local produce and meats from farmers we trust and love (@eatingseasoned), and I put on a garden club for the kids in my neighborhood where they learn how to tend and care for a garden, all in my front yard.   

And of course, I have the kids in the club learning about beneficial herbs during their “plant of the week” segment of garden club, and if I can brag about them a little…they all are becoming quite the little herbalists!! It’s been so fun facilitating this introduction to plants for them and teaching them how to identify plants and how to use them. Last year, they all fell in love with tulsi and chamomile! And last, but probably not least, I am a photographer by trade! (@graceejones

HA: How did your Herbal Academy courses help shape or improve your business? 

Grace Jones: Without the Herbal Academy courses, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That’s just the truth of it. They gave me the confidence and know-how to create all that was in my head. 

HA: Did your Herbal Academy courses help you avoid any potential mistakes while launching your business? 

Grace Jones: They were such a great foundation for building off and for bringing to life the visions in my head that I wanted to create to share with the ones I loved, and also the world! 

HA: What were you looking for when you enrolled in your Herbal Academy course that you were not able to find elsewhere?

Grace Jones: Where I live, there are no in-person herbalism courses. I had been following the Herbal Academy for years and during 2020 I had plenty of time to learn, so that’s what I did! I enrolled in the Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced courses

HA: What did you like most about your Herbal Academy course? 

Grace Jones: I really liked the community that came with it, and of course, the education aspect too, but the community is really where I loved spending a lot of my time talking to other people who were taking the same course, especially since I was doing all of this during 2020. 

HA: How has your herbal education deepened your connection with nature and the seasons? 

Grace Jones: It made me want to get outside and discover all of the plants around me. It finally got me out of my house and into nature. My herbal education changed my life. Looking back to who I was before all of this and to now, I don’t think you’d recognize me. Truly transformative. 

HA: How has your herbal education deepened your connection with your personal health and wellbeing?

Grace Jones: It’s taught me to trust myself and my intuition deeply. Growing up, I was always sick, or something was always happening with my health. I always felt like my health was never in my hands. With all that I have learned, I have felt those feelings shift. 

HA: Have you learned more about your ancestral roots and traditions through your herbalism studies? If so, what have you learned? 

Grace Jones: My ancestral roots are a bit of a mystery as there isn’t much documentation or stories from either side of my family. With that being said, my maternal grandfather, whose birthday was the day before mine, was a farmer by trade but was known to forage and bring home many surprises from his days outside in the fields and woods. One of his favorites was dandelion to make fritters and wine. By the time I was interested in plants and was ready to start learning from him, his mind had slipped away. Doing what I do now with plants makes me feel closer to him in a way. I had always felt an unspoken similarity between him and me, and now I enjoy carrying on the “surprises” I bring home to create with. 

HA: Do you feel empowered by your herbal practice?

Grace Jones: Short answer, YES! The first time I was able to identify plants in the wild and use them to create beneficial herbal preparations was such an empowering and pivotal moment in my life. It was the “I can do this” moment. And to this day, I still get that little butterfly in my stomach when I do a thing. It’s all very empowering and has guided me towards a life of purpose and understanding! 

HA: Is there a specific herb that you feel particularly drawn to? If so, why do you think that is OR what is it about that plant that fascinates you?

Grace Jones: So hard to pick just one. The first plant that I learned from and about was tulsi. Something about it is intoxicating to me. I can get lost in a tulsi tea for hours. She’s taught me a lot about myself and how I interface with the world. 

HA: If you were an herb, which herb would you be?

Grace Jones: I think I would be a dandelion! I love the transformation they go through during their life cycles and how their roots are so deep and beautiful. They also remind me of my grandpa and who he was as a person. 

HA: What is your favorite recipe from the course(s) you’ve taken? Please be as specific as possible and share how/when you enjoy this recipe in your day-to-day life.

Grace Jones: After learning about oxymels in the Intermediate Course, I was hooked. I have at least 5 different ones I am cycling through. I personally love them because they take me on a journey back to a different season. Right now I am enjoying the last of my summer ones. I drink some daily in sparkling water or just take a shot of them. 

Another recipe that I use daily is garlic honey (I add ginger in mine too). I always have a jar on my counter that’s filled with garlic/ginger honey and add it to whatever I am making in the kitchen. It’s so versatile and lends such a unique flavor to food, not to mention its great benefits. 

HA: Has your herbalism experience encouraged you to learn and explore other related niches, like botanical crafts, gardening, natural dying, aromatherapy, etc?  

Grace Jones: Oh yes, the floodgates opened with learning about plants. My love of gardening exploded and my love of cooking and baking really blossomed! I love creating with the plants that are thriving around me and incorporating them into the food I bake and cook. In 2018 I created my first garden. It was 4 ft x 4 ft and I grew more than I should have in that little plot, but it delivered. After that, I was hooked. Now our whole backyard and front yard have evolved into one big garden. The front yard garden is for the garden club kids’ gardens! It’s funny to me because, growing up, both my parents were really into gardening, as were their parents. I wanted nothing to do with it, much to my mom’s dismay. Looking back, I wish I would have gone out to learn more from my mom, dad, and grandpa. But we are here now and we are learning and thriving. 

HA: What is the biggest way that herbalism has brightened your life? 

Grace Jones: Just the process of creating with plants has brought me so much joy! Being able to work with my hands to plant a seed to then create something with the plants I have grown or foraged for is just such a beautiful process that will never cease to amaze me every time. 

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? 

Grace Jones: Yes! I grew up in a pretty strict church and never felt like I fit in there and it never really made sense to me. I always felt like the black sheep and ended up leaving once I moved away from home. It was a hard transition but plants came in and taught me so much. Nature is my “church” now. I have never felt such a deep, undying connection as I do when I am working with plants or am outside with them in their homes. 

HA: How do you find yourself incorporating herbalism into your daily life? 

Grace Jones: At this point, it’s a pretty blurred line between the two. Herbalism shapes my day, not in a forced way or an “I’m consciously thinking about it” way. But the plants and things I make with them are all around me and they often jump out at me when I or someone I know may be in need of them. I always start my day with an herbal infusion and incorporate a lot of plants into the food that I cook. 

HA: Which herbalism teachers, authors, or peers do you find most inspiring, and why?

Grace Jones: Teachers and authors: Robin Rose Bennett, Maria Noel Groves, and Rosemary Gladstar. These three teachers have shaped who I am as an herbalist. Their books were the first I ever bought and read through thousands of times. Maria Noel Groves specifically was a big influence on my understanding and connection with plants. 

Peers: Marina & Cass of Stardust Standard, Nicole of Sunny Hunny, Chelsee of Conscious Seed, and Rae of Oracle Botanical. Not only do I call all of these beautiful souls friends, but I also hugely admire them as herbalists. They are all so different and vast in their knowledge of plants and how they interact with them. I love watching them all create with plants and how they infuse themselves into everything that they make. It’s been such a beautiful process of becoming friends with them all; they’re just so inspiring and totally themselves! 

HA: What is your favorite herbalism resource (book, podcast, movie) and why?

Grace Jones:

Body Into Balance by Maria Noel Groves – This was the first book I got; I still have it and it’s so worn out and marked up. I love the way Maria teaches and shares about plants.
Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar – Another one of my first books that is full of great fundamentals and is such a well-rounded book that is easy to digest.
The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett – I love the depth in which Robin talks about plants and shares stories throughout. I have found some of my favorite recipes from her books.
Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech – Any time I have a formula question or want to know how to make something I haven’t before, I reach for this bookeasy to digest and filled to the brim with knowledge. I enjoy Richo’s books as they are straightforward and filled with dense information. I always leave the book knowing exactly what I came for. AND I use his seeds for pretty much all of the herbs I grow in my garden.
The Healing Garden by Juliet Blankespoor – Not only is it a beautiful book and well laid out, but it’s also an amazing resource for growing your own herbal garden!
Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies by Maria Noel Groves – Another amazing herbal garden book.

HA: Do you enjoy sharing your herbal knowledge with others in your life via recipes, products, photography, blog posts, community workshops, etc? 

Grace Jones: Yes to all of the above! Pretty much since day one of my journey, I haven’t been able to shut up about plants. So if you’re around me, chances are I am sharing something about some plant I just learned about. But I also love to do workshops, create online ebooks, create products, and sell them. Photography was/still is my job, so of course that’s in there for everything I do. One of the things I love doing the most is creating new recipes and sharing those! 

HA: How has herbalism sparked your creativity? 

Grace Jones: I wouldn’t say it sparked it, as my life is one big creative pond of ever-evolving interests and creative projects, but it definitely added to the pond of creativity. It’s been another outlet for that creative energy and has allowed me to create in a way I wasn’t able to do before. I love that herbalism allows me to create on a different level than a painting or a photo canit tickles more of your senses! 

HA: If you could provide any tip or encouragement to those just starting their herbal studies, what would it be?

Grace Jones:

Start where you are! Find an herbalism book or course that comes highly recommended, get out in nature, explore, and play. I have found that herbalism is a great way to “play” as an adult. Pick one plant and learn all you can about it and repeat. 

Read past student interviews with:

Natalya King (@bodylovebytal) – Maker of herbal skincare products and graduate of Tincture Making 101 Course

Jess Bergeron (@jkb.journal) – Home herbalist and graduate of Mastering Herbal Formulation Course

Dave Achula (@achula_) – Invites individuals to explore the healing power of nature, directly in nature; graduate of Intermediate Herbal Course

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.