Earth Day 2024, a letter from our Chief Herbalist

Earth Day 2024, a letter from our Chief Herbalist

"Can love exist in business?"

This question, spoken by a Rasa team member, sparked a beautiful conversation at Rasa about what is and is not allowed in the traditional business world. Intangibles like deep emotions, spirit, and intention generally go unrecognized or are even actively discouraged.

As we work to build an internal company culture that breaks barriers and normalizes love and vulnerability, we're also called to engage in this way externally. As a business that buys, sells, and celebrates medicinal herbs, this responsibility is very present with us this Earth Day.

The question we're wrestling with:

Is love even possible in a global supply chain?

At the core of herbalism is a mindset that we are working to protect and instill into the heart of Rasa. Ann Armbrecht, in her wonderful book The Business of Botanicals, describes this mindset as "a sense of reciprocity with the natural world, an understanding of the earth as something more than a resource to exploit, a recognition of the spiritual and cultural dimensions of healing."

How is Rasa living these values? How do these values flow up and down the web of international suppliers we work with?

Here are some examples of our values in action.

🌱 Championing Organic

Organic has been a cornerstone for us from the beginning, and it is not hard to see why. Arctic ice caps are now testing positive for pesticides. The same is true for herbs wildcrafted deep in the Colorado Rockies, only an hour or two drive from our headquarters in Boulder. The atmospheric drift of pesticides is clearly a problem, and one of the most effective ways food companies and consumers can act to protect animals, fragile ecosystems, waterways, and the planet as a whole is to support organic.

We’re proud that over 95% of our ingredients and almost all of our blends are organic certified. And we don’t want to stop there! There’s still work to be done, like deepening our commitment to regenerative agriculture and continuing to support the innovative and traditional ways that our supply partners invest in their soil health.

⛰️ Protecting the Wild

One in five wild plants is threatened with extinction, mainly due to land conversion for agriculture and resource extraction. Many of our herbs are wildcrafted, and we’re committed to protecting them. If sustainability becomes an issue, we'd much rather switch to cultivated material or discontinue the use of the herb entirely than risk being part of an extractive, depletive relationship. Chaga and sceletium are two examples of herbs we intentionally source cultivated because both are under threat in the wild from over-harvesting and land loss.


Sadly, another herb has been added to this list in the last several years. The sustainability of Rhodiola rosea is something we've been monitoring since I visited China almost six years ago. We then committed to stopping sourcing wild rhodiola from China and, instead, partnered with a cooperative in Canada to cultivate organic raw rhodiola. We also switched our extract supply to buy an extract from cultivated European material instead of wild Russian or Chinese rhodiola. And I’m glad we were thinking about this then because, sure enough, in 2023, rhodiola was added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

🌍 Relationship and Reciprocity

Developing care for an herb growing 6000 miles away, or a farming community you’ve never visited, can often be an abstract intellectual exercise. That’s why we’ve prioritized Direct Trade and supplier visits. Whether it’s to the high Andes of Peru to see the maca harvest or to the heat-baked fields of Southern India, seeing the plants in their natural habitat, laughing and eating with the farmers and wild collectors, and understanding more of the cultures that gave birth to so much of our herbal wisdom offers us context through which to truly appreciate these herbs and support their caretakers.

Direct Trade means better relationships across our supply network and the ability to support our partners in tangible ways. For example, we absolutely love roasted date seed (the best coffee-like coffee alternative out there!) and paid for our Jordanian supplier to get organic certified. Another example— our sceletium cultivator in South Africa has a Benefit Sharing Agreement with the South African San Council, which ensures a royalty for all sceletium sold goes to the indigenous tribes that hold the traditional herbal wisdom and knowledge about this plant. We’re grateful at Rasa to be able to match this amount and double the royalty that goes to the San people.

🙏 Gratitude

Part of our mission at Rasa is to make products that heal our communities while also healing the earth. While we're proud of our progress, it is not enough. I have tremendous respect and gratitude for the small and large herbal companies that have been slowly clearing the path forward to a more sustainable, equitable, and loving industry. It is more expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating than just going with the status quo! And thank you, our customers, for trusting us, celebrating us, supporting us as we grow, and exploring a different way of doing business.