In our most recent Student Feature interview, we spoke with Serena Hartwell (@serenahartwell), owner of Everyday Homestead, where she shares foraging tips and wildcrafted recipes that feature locally foraged and homegrown plants. Serena has completed Herbal Academy’s The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, Herbs for ADHD, Cognition, and Focus Intensive, Intermediate Herbal Course, Emulsifiers and Preservatives in Botanical Products: 2 Part Intensive.
HA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started your path into herbalism.
Serena Hartwell: I am a first-generation American with roots in Eastern Europe. Herbalism has been a part of my life since childhood. I was raised in a mixed heritage family with blended cultural traditions from my Eastern Europe and French Canadian background. We lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling north in the summers to hunt and fish in remote villages of northern Canada. Foraging for wild food such as dandelions and nettles was something we did as part of everyday life. Growing up, I knew the names of all the plants around as gifts that gave us food, health, and a sense of connection to the living world. I began to value herbalism and the skills from my upbringing only after a traumatic experience as a result of a work injury. After trying to find answers from all the experts in the area and finding no relief, I turned to a naturopath and Chinese medicine doctor who gently helped me back on the path toward healing. It was about remembering the teachings of my youth, of reconnecting to my roots. My positive experience with herbalism awakened a deep desire to learn more about herbal alternatives to pharmaceuticals. It was the beginning of my journey to reconnect with the earth and remember the healing that comes from cultivating a caring and reciprocal relationship with nature.
HA: Why did you choose to pursue your herbal education with the Herbal Academy?
Serena Hartwell: I wanted to pursue education to delve deeper into the beneficial aspects of plants. I was spending time on the land, learning my local plants, and wanted a trusted source of information to learn from. I discovered Herbal Academy through social media, where I started sharing my journey as an aspiring herbalist. I loved how the herbal courses were at an affordable price point while offering so much practical information.
HA: Do you own an herbal business or brand?
Serena Hartwell: Everyday Homestead is my blog where I share foraging tips and wildcrafted recipes. My recipes feature locally foraged and homegrown plants. I love to share my wild food creations as a way to introduce others to the abundant wild food and medicine all around us and spark a connection with the living world and the gifts that nature offers us.
HA: How did your Herbal Academy courses help shape or improve your business?
Serena Hartwell: While completing my herbal studies, I tried some of the recipes in my courses. I experienced the potency of plants when I successfully managed to reduce my chronic stress and anxiety levels with adaptogens and nervines. I have since been able to support my family and friends to find natural methods to use for their own health problems. Herbal Academy was instrumental in helping me to gain the knowledge to feel confident sharing natural strategies and incorporating them into my daily life.
HA: Did your Herbal Academy courses help you avoid any potential mistakes while launching your business?
Serena Hartwell: The Herbal Academy courses have helped me to be aware of the potential legal implications of how I practice herbalism. Specifically, how to avoid giving medical advice when suggesting herbs but to instead reference traditional uses and personal experiences to practice safely. The courses taught me to be cautious about making health claims and using medical terminology.
HA: What’s next for you in your herbal journey?
Serena Hartwell: I intend to relocate to live off grid on a homestead in upstate NY this summer. I want to deepen my connection to the land and live a slower paced lifestyle in harmony with the rhythms of the seasons. I’d love to grow a large herb garden and launch a small shop to share seasonal offerings with the local community. I can’t wait to get to know the plant allies waiting for me to discover on the east coast. My journey as an herbalist has opened so many doors and allowed me to make connections that are deeply fulfilling and I’m so excited for what lies ahead.
HA: What were you looking for when you enrolled in your Herbal Academy course that you were not able to find elsewhere?
Serena Hartwell: The first course I took was The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course because I was looking for information on how to incorporate herbs into my home-brewed sodas and kombucha. I’d been brewing kombucha on my own, but had not been able to find specific information on how to add herbs safely and a simple process to follow for success. The course gave me that and opened my eyes to so many possibilities for using herbs. It was the starting point for my foray into wild foods in search of flavors to experience the unique terroir of my local mountains.
HA: If you were to recommend an Herbal Academy course to your best friend, what would you say?
Serena Hartwell: It depends on where they are in their journey. If they are just beginning, I’d recommend the Introductory Herbal Course, because it’s packed with so much in-depth information about using herbs, spices, and teas and includes recipes for how to incorporate them into daily routines. Or, if they have gained a basic knowledge of herbalism through practice, I’d recommend the Intermediate Herbal Course to delve deeper into all things herbalism. It contains a wealth of information on each body system and how to incorporate herbs for a holistic approach to wellness. In addition, the course teaches how to identify which herbs might be particularly helpful for certain persons or conditions, based on the energetics and actions of the plant.
HA: How has your herbal education deepened your connection with nature and the seasons?
Serena Hartwell: I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the beauty and wonder of plants. I find learning new plants and their traditional uses by Indigenous peoples to be endlessly fascinating. The more I learn, the deeper my appreciation and gratitude for the many gifts of the earth and how freely they are offered to us. I’ve learned to live in balance with the rhythms of nature, to pause, listen, and learn from the world around me. I have a deep sense of gratitude for nature and the plant allies that support us gently yet so powerfully in so many ways, year-round.
HA: Do you feel empowered by your herbal practice?
Serena Hartwell: There’s nothing more powerful than having the knowledge that no matter what comes next, I have plant allies all around me that I can turn to for food and wellness. It gives me a sense of peace to know that I have powerful tools at my fingertips to help my friends and family without being reliant on supply chains. The best part is knowing that herbal preparations are highly effective and safe to take and they work in synergy with the body’s own processes to support optimal wellness.
HA: Is there is a specific herb that you feel particularly drawn to?
Serena Hartwell: I am drawn to different herbs throughout the season depending on what I am facing at any given moment. However, I am particularly drawn to stinging nettle. Nettles grow abundantly in the forests of the Pacific North West, and I rarely go a day without drinking a cup of nettle tea. Nettle nourishes my body with so many vitamins and nutrients and makes me feel strengthened and energized. Nettle has become an ally that I once feared for its sting in my childhood but is now one of my favorite wild foods. I am fascinated by its ability to allay the discomfort of seasonal allergies caused by pollen when taken daily.
HA: What is your favorite recipe from the course(s) you’ve taken?
Serena Hartwell: My favorite recipe from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course is Elderflower Champagne. This sparkling, wild fermented wine is delicious and a great way to celebrate the magic of elderflower season. I make a batch every spring when the elderflowers, one of my favorite wildflowers, are in bloom. It’s one of my most requested recipes from friends and family whom I’ve shared it with. It tastes like the forest on a warm summer day and captures the sweet and spicy essence of elderflowers perfectly. I love to open the first bottle on the summer solstice to serve alongside a botanical cake decorated with flowers.
HA: Has your herbalism experience encouraged you to learn and explore other related niches, like botanical crafts, gardening, natural dying, aromatherapy, etc?
Serena Hartwell: Absolutely. Herbalism has allowed me to explore my creative side in ways that bring me so much joy. I continue to dabble in many areas using plants including beeswax candle making, creating plant-based dyes for my daughter’s art projects, using plants to naturally dye fabrics, and incorporating wildcrafted herbs to add flavor into recipes and fermented foods. I discovered my passion for botanical and food photography. I capture breathtaking images of the herbs I find in my local mountains and garden, and I work with them to create recipes that capture the magic of the plants. It has brought me so much fulfillment and allowed me to connect with like-minded people online who I’d never have met otherwise.
HA: Do you have any rituals or traditions surrounding herbalism that you would like to share?
Serena Hartwell: A ritual I’ve introduced into my life is creating my own custom tea blends. I gift these to friends and family and use them daily in my personal life. I ethically wildcraft herbs throughout the year to dry and use them in my herbal teas and remedies year-round. I suffer from insomnia and have found certain herbs to be incredibly helpful to calm my mind and promote good sleep through the night. A particular favorite herb is passionflower, which I combine with lemon balm, catnip, linden, and chamomile. I drink this tea in the evening while practicing breathwork by candlelight. This routine has helped me immensely with getting better rest at night.
HA: Did you feel that something in your life was missing before you discovered herbalism?
Herbalism has transformed my life and placed me on a pathway I would never have found otherwise. It has given me a sense of purpose and fulfillment that was missing from my life before.
I connected with my partner through our shared love of plants and holistic living, and I could not imagine being happier than I am now. It has opened doors, led to opportunities I genuinely love, and given me a joie de vivre that I could only dream of before. Previously, I worked for over a decade as a nurse and always felt limited in how I was helping my patients. I knew there had to be a better way to help people to experience a more holistic pathway to wellness; to offer something that supports the whole body and addresses the cause, rather than just masking the symptoms. I am excited for what comes next in my journey as I feel like I’ve only begun!
HA: Do you enjoy sharing your herbal knowledge with others in your life via recipes, products, photography, blog posts, community workshops, etc?
Serena Hartwell: Yes, absolutely. I love to take others on my foraging adventures virtually by sharing my photography and step-by-step recipes with the herbal community on social media and my blog. I plan to launch an herbal business with seasonal offerings locally this summer, and I look forward to connecting with local herbalists and the community through workshops and offering plant walks. I look forward to sharing my passion for herbalism with others who are looking for natural alternatives to use for themselves and their families.
HA: How has herbalism sparked your creativity?
Serena Hartwell: I have discovered a love for visual storytelling through photography. Plants are beautiful and are an endless source of inspiration for me to use daily in my work as a food photographer. I love to cook and use edible flowers to add a pop of color to salads and desserts and spark interest in plants at the dinner table. I love hearing the exclamation, “I didn’t know that was edible!” Working with plants, both wildcrafted and from the garden, has allowed me to explore a creative side of myself I never knew existed that brings me so much joy.
Read past student interviews with:
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.
Deema Al Huqail (@alkamicare) – Botanical Skin Care Course graduate and creator of hand-blended teas, flower essences, botanical skin care, and artisanal crafts inspired by the old and folk ways.
Jovan Sage (@jovansage) – Entrepreneur Herbal Course graduate, healing facilitator, teacher, and doula.
Toni Green (@unveil_natural) – Mastering Herbal Formulation Course graduate and wellness advocate.
Inspired by Serena’s herbal journey? Further your own journey today by perusing our online herbal courses.