We sat down with Bill Chioffi, our lead advisor on supply chain sustainability to talk about how he helps Mab & Stoke meet our high standards of transparency, accountability, and quality.
Q: What got you interested in plant medicine and the world of natural herbal supplements?
I went to Poland after college to teach English. The grandmother of the family I stayed with always gave the kids lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) every time they needed calming down. It worked! This must have planted a seed because when I returned to the States, I took a job as the herb buyer at a retail health food store, where I learned to evaluate quality through hands-on experience. Then I spent two decades on the manufacturing, sales, and consumer education teams at Gaia Herbs. There I looked at quality through the lens of organic chemistry, working with raw materials grown on the company farm and others from around the world. The mission was transparency and optimal conditions for growing, harvesting, and processing plants. My consulting work really completes this circle of integrity. I see my role as ensuring that when a company sources herbs from suppliers I’ve connected them to, it benefits all the communities involved.
Q: Say more about how community is at the heart of what you do?
I’ve worked with farms across several generations all over the world. I get to meet the families who rely on these plants and are proud to grow them for others. People are the way back to the nurturing essence of plants. Farmers are very proud of growing herbs in a way that restores the land, the local community, and people back in the United States. By planting the herbs, they’re restoring vital species. That’s why it’s critical to work with responsible suppliers who understand this is a nurturing endeavor, it’s not about a fast buck. It really matters that you know who the herbs are coming from and how they are being grown and harvested.
Q: There’s been an upswell of interest in herbal supplements in the United States, yet use of these plants has been around for hundreds, even thousands of years. What’s up with that?
Unlike other countries that embrace plant medicine, regulations in the United States make it a challenge to talk about the benefits of herbal supplements without making specific claims. We’re legally barred from saying much beyond what’s on the label. But, when I discuss plants with friends and family, I like to frame everything through the window of traditional usage.
What’s cool about Mab & Stoke is that the company follows traditions of effective use AND is strict about only working with suppliers that we are sure utilize safe and effective methods to get your ingredients from the raw plant state into an assimilable format. Sourcing-wise, that means the material needs to be grown with good methods (organic, no-pesticides), harvested sustainably, extracted and concentrated the right way, then specially formulated for individual use. That doesn’t exist in the retail space. It’s an important breakthrough, but based on some of the oldest wisdom humankind has at its disposal.
Q: With your help, all of our plant ingredients are organic, responsibly wild crafted, or ecologically harvested. Can you explain how herbs are grown and gathered to help make sense of these phrases?
Some herbs have been grown or harvested from the wild for centuries, such as Magnolia trees. In China, it’s a crop that’s been tended to by farmers for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. There is no organic certification for that product, but there are traditional methods that do not use pesticides. We test rigorously to ensure this. In Eastern Europe, some herbs come from the wild but are certified organic. People are collecting themselves but there is a method of inspection. There’s a lot of diversity and a lot of room for growth in the organic sector. For now that specific label doesn’t always exist in the places from which clean, ecologically grown, harvested, or cultivated plants come from. United Plant Savers; An organization we are proud to support is offering a certification for Forest Grown Verified plant material which would provide that third party audit and guidance with the help of experts in the field of Forest Farming and Native Plant Conservation.
Q: Is there a particular aspect of Mab & Stoke’s mission that made you want to work with us?
My initial attraction was the care you all were taking with the raw materials. Before even putting your attention on the formulas, you focused on sourcing the best quality from the most responsible sources. That’s my forte. After now knowing more about the mission, the concept of rewilding is exciting. It’s got me thinking more about the broader impact of having more people use herbal medicine. When we put the wild DNA of plants back in our systems, so many amazing things happen. The idea of plant intelligence being transferred through the body’s basic functions shifts one’s perspective. Humans have had a relationship with plants forever, but we’ve not been tending the garden, sort of speak. We’ve coevolved. Let’s reconnect. Let’s rewild. I love that.
Learn more about Bill’s professional work at Botanical Consulting International.