29 Mar 2022

Herbal Academy Student Feature: Rachel Baker (@3_sources)

For this month’s Student Feature, we spoke with Herbal Academy graduate, Rachel Baker (@3_sources). Rachel has an online business, 3 Sources, to help others maintain optimal health using nutrition and lifestyle as medicine. She is currently enrolled in the Intermediate Herbal Course and Mastering Herbal Formulation Course, and has contributed to Herbal Academy’s blog with her article, An Anti-Inflammatory Approach to Eating + a Wild Greens Smoothie Recipe.

Photo credit: Joanna Maclennan https://joannamaclennan.com


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

Rachel Baker: I’ve always been drawn to nature. As a young girl, I would mix potions and “perfumes” in our tiny garden shed, using the treasures I’d collected around the neighbourhood; flower petals, berries, herbs, leaves, twigs, etc. Intuitively, even back then, I knew that communing with nature was a sacred thing, and whilst I couldn’t have known it at the time, I was creating rituals that would stay with me for the whole of my life.

My first formal introduction to herbal studies came as part of my Master’s degree course in personalised nutrition and nutritional therapy. I committed to this path of study following a health crisis that forced me to evaluate the way I was living my life— and to make changes in order to heal my body. After two years of seeking answers and researching widely alternative and natural ways to recover, I became more convinced that I could change my declining health by nourishing myself with nutrient-dense plant food and making very intentional changes to my lifestyle. I turned to what I always knew: food as medicine.

During this time, my husband and I moved from England to Provence, France, seeking a slower, more authentic pace of life. We bought an ancient house in a tiny hilltop village where locals still gather on cobbled streets to share stories; the rhythm of their days is dictated by the church bells that chime on the hour, surrounded by hills, vineyards, and olive groves. It is here that I experience and celebrate the abundance of the seasons and the slow, simple  life I was yearning for. 

Built around the 13th century, our home was once used as a hospital for the poor. Something about its story and history really spoke to my heart and inspired and motivated our vision to preserve its original simplicity. The back of the house is built into the rock with a vaulted stone troglodyte, or cave dwelling, which we transformed into an atelier where I dry herbs and continue to mix and blend preparations for my apothecary and, most recently, an area to dye natural linen with plants and roots foraged from our natural surroundings throughout the changing seasons.

jars of dried herbs on a wooden shelf

Photo credit: Joanna Maclennan https://joannamaclennan.com


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

Rachel Baker: Plants are our greatest teachers, and provide us with a lifetime of learning. I was looking for a trusted online school that shared the same ethos and offered courses co-created by herbalists who were passionate in their field. The Herbal Academy ticked all the boxes.

HA: Do you own an herbal business or brand?  

Rachel Baker: I established my online business, 3 Sources, to help others reclaim, attain, and maintain optimal health using nutrition and lifestyle as medicine. My mission is to help people live more optimally by sharing the tools and strategies to support them on their own wellness journeys, rooted in both functional and biological medicine principles. Now more than ever, nourishing ourselves at a cellular level and building in daily, weekly, and seasonal rituals to support overall health and wellbeing is crucial. My online Membership focuses on a balance of mind, body, and nutrition, providing a clear road map to help people live as optimally as possible through the power of plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine.

drying herbs and dyed cloths on a line

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

Rachel Baker: I wanted to empower others to reconnect with their surroundings by learning about the medicinal plants and edible greens growing in the wild. Part of that connection also ties us to our food—it turns full circle. Inside the 3 Sources Membership, I’m slowly adding to an herbarium of plant monographs, which showcases a plant’s beneficial qualities either in the kitchen or home apothecary, using simple, supportive tisanes, infused oils, or herbal skincare preparations. The Herbal Academy inspired me to create these additional herbal offerings, through their well-researched, deeply informative, and sound knowledge. 

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

Rachel Baker: I already had my online business prior to enrolling in the Herbal Academy courses. However, I am continually impressed that their online resources are steeped in so much credible research. This is important in my line of work, and so it continues to be a constant reminder to carry this code of practice through with my ongoing herbal studies. 

wooden bowl filled with herbal dyed cloths

HA: Tell us, what’s next for you in your herbal journey?

Rachel Baker: I plan to continue my plant path — there’s so much more to discover! This year, I’d like to carve out extra time for natural dyeing using plants indigenous to our area through the changing seasons. I’d love to develop my own seasonal colour wheel with an eye to creating a bespoke selection of naturally hand-dyed items for the home. I’m also deeply fascinated at how natural plant dyes can affect the skin and ultimately our overall health and wellbeing, for example, through their antimicrobial effects.

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

Rachel Baker: The Herbal Academy courses are approachable, yet deeply informative and widely researched. Studying online is not something I always look forward to when I’m trying to find more ways to disconnect from my laptop and smartphone. I really appreciate that the Herbal Academy provides printed textbooks, which goes a long way to help reduce my online presence. I’d choose an old-fashioned book over a screen any day. I love that they offer this option.

HA: If you were to recommend an Herbal Academy course to your best friend, what would you say?

Rachel Baker: I recommend Herbal Academy courses to my friends and online community pretty frequently, because I’m asked about them a lot. What I would say is start wherever you are, whether you are an absolute beginner, or someone who has been walking with plants for a while. The short courses are a great introduction and a fun place to start. The Foraging Course, or The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, for example, are great and will give a good idea of what to expect with the longer courses. Choosing a course is a very personal thing, but it’s also intuitive. I’d recommend studying the website to see if it aligns with your ethos and aspirations, but ultimately to trust your intuition. Intuition exists to guide us.

herbalist holding basket of herbs

Photo credit: Joanna Maclennan https://joannamaclennan.com


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

Rachel Baker: Herbalism has essentially helped me to return to my roots, deepening my connection with both my intuition and my environment, within which I’ve become a guardian for regeneration and care, nourishing and taking care of myself, others, and this planet in a way that brings vitality and joy. Learning how my body flows with the changing seasons and how Mother Nature has already written the natural prescription for what it needs in order to thrive is nothing short of miraculous.

HA: Do you feel empowered by your herbal practice? 

Rachel Baker: Creating a home apothecary is a mindful and empowering process that brings with it the assurance of purity of ingredients and plant-powered therapeutics. Becoming your own mixologist and harnessing the power of plants to help you heal from the inside out connects you to nature in a special way that brings the most rewarding outcome. Alchemy happens, and you become more attuned and realigned to nature’s way.

herbal remedies in bottles and jars

HA: Do you have any rituals or traditions surrounding herbalism that you would like to share? 

Rachel Baker: Becoming more familiar with the botanical world and gathering materials directly from nature is such an empowering and worthy way to support health and wellbeing. This seemingly simple ritual helps me savour the moments where the real alchemy takes place: the discovery of new plants, the creativity of preparing home remedies, a deeper connection to my roots, and the satisfaction in communing with nature that first took hold in me as a young girl mixing potions in the garden shed. All praise to the plant world.

HA: Is there a specific herb that you feel particularly drawn to?

Rachel Baker: We spend a lot of time in the Swiss Alps and this is where I first discovered Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), known locally as Immortelle des Alpes (everlasting flower of the Alps). Despite its delicate appearance, every one of the flower’s organs is designed to withstand extreme weather, from the wind-resistant underground stems to leaves that contain a UV-protective microstructure. I think I feel particularly drawn to this plant because it teaches me about resilience, and how a community of seemingly fragile plants can affect my perception of interconnectivity, intimacy, and breath by reminding me of the forces of life and the struggle of presence.

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

Rachel Baker: Immortelle des Alpes!

herbalist cutting herbs

Photo credit: Joanna Maclennan https://joannamaclennan.com


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

Rachel Baker: I am learning the craft of natural dyeing. What it’s teaching me (besides the final result or the beauty of the colours), is to pay attention to nature, to the seasons changing, to the plants around me, and to their properties and the chemistry behind them. It’s also an exercise in patience that involves washing, fixing, gathering plants, extracting pigments, failing or succeeding, becoming more organised, telling stories, being environmentally responsible, and thinking sustainably.

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

Rachel Baker: One of my favourite writers of all time is Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss. Her work is a beautifully written blend of research and personal reflection that invites us to explore the life of plants. She teaches us how we can learn so much from nature if we are willing to slow down and pay attention. Her writing has had and continues to have a major impact on the direction of my life and work. This is one of my favourite quotes, which continues to inspire the way I work:

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them…
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimises harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
― Robin Wall Kimmerer

Closer to home, I’ve learnt a great deal from French ethnobotanist François Couplan, who is the author of many books (in French) and teaches week-long courses on wild foraging in France and Switzerland. His Japanese wife, Keiko, teaches wild cooking classes, and together they have inspired my journey into wildcrafting and wild cooking.

dried herbs and tea pot on tablecloth

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

Rachel Baker: In many different ways: in the kitchen, where I cook with aromatics that I grow in pots in our garden or the wild greens that I’ve foraged close by, in my apothecary where I make tisane blends according to what my body needs that day, to treating myself to a warm oil-infused self massage or herbal bath. Each day, I try to seek out the little moments to pause and recalibrate. I’ve learned that prioritising rest and making a daily practice of pausing is not a luxury, it’s essential. It’s in the pausing that I begin to unfold, even just a little, and find a slower rhythm. This way of being is oftentimes at odds with the constant pressure of the be more, do more, achieve more mindset that’s so prevalent in our society.

herbal ingredients with recipe written on paper

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

Rachel Baker: One of the greatest joys in my life is being able to serve others with what I’m truly passionate about, either inside the 3 Sources membership where I create seasonal recipes, rituals, classes, and many other supportive resources; writing journal posts and newsletters, or styling for photoshoots and capturing the day-to-day photographs and musings of what inspires me. If I can make a small bit of difference in other people’s lives in a positive way, then it’s all worth it.

Herbal Academy Student Feature: Rachel Baker (3_sources) | Herbal Academy | We spoke with Rachel Baker of 3 Sources, a business to help others maintain optimal health using nutrition and lifestyle as medicine.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Student Feature Series with Shannon Mulligan-Mayernik (@mayernikkitchen).

Read past student interviews with:

Farai Harreld (@thehillbillyafrican)

Hannah Lasorsa (@hannah_aften)

Jake Lasorsa (@meadowroot

Shiang-ling Bissonnette (@halfbakedbarelymeasured

Liz Witter (@backcountrybotanicals

Adriana Jensen (@backcountrybotanicals

Jess Madsen (@the.wildcraft

Nana Meriwether (@drinkcale

Inspired by Rachel’s herbal journey? Further your own journey today by perusing our online herbal courses.