On World Herb Day, We Honor an Inspiring Herbalist

Dr. Mary Bove brings more than 40 years of herbalism experience and 25 years of work as a naturopathic physician to her role at Gaia Herbs. Dr. Bove has worked closely with Gaia since the mid-1990s, and after retiring from clinical practice in 2014, she became our Director of Medical Education, imparting her wisdom and knowledge upon Gaia customers and retailers, fellow Gaians and health-care professionals. In honor of World Herb Day, we’re sharing her inspiring story.

Since starting her herbal journey at age 18, Dr. Mary Bove has held firm to three tenets: “Walk your talk, believe in the plants and practice herbalism every day in your life.” As our Director of Medical Education, she is honored to have a platform to educate others about herbal supplements and cultivate relationships between plants and people. Plants have a way of drawing you in, she believes.

“I can’t walk through the woods without every plant speaking to me,” says Dr. Bove. “They have an energetic pull. Just because of that love, right from the get-go, I wanted the people I worked with to see the wonders of plants. I wanted them to understand the diversity – and that there is a choice and a role with plants.”

Gaia Herbs director of education Dr. Mary BoveHer expertise runs deep, and she shares it fervently and patiently. Dr. Bove trained in naturopathy both in the U.S. and Great Britain, after owning an herbal apothecary in her home state of Maine. She is the author of An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants and is co-author of Herbs for Women’s Health. As a midwife, Dr. Bove has been present at hundreds of homebirths, and her practice specialized in fertility and pediatric health. Her trailblazing work with herbal formulas for children led to her partnership with Gaia.

Shortly after Gaia relocated to western North Carolina, she toured the farm. Founder and CEO Ric Scalzo’s extensive composting system, community kitchen program and treatment of his employees, the land and his community were among the aspects that inspired her. Every detail, from seed to finished product, had been thoughtfully considered.

“This is the company I want to stand behind, because this is the way I look at things,” she says.

Dr. Bove had just finished writing her book on pediatric health, and colleagues were constantly calling her clinic in rural Vermont, asking her to mix herbal formulations for children. She helped as much as she could, but her busy practice couldn’t handle the sheer number of requests.

She asked Scalzo to collaborate on a line of products for kids. She provided the formulas, and they worked together to fine-tune what would become the GaiaKids® line. She dispensed each formulation to children at her practice. If anything got a thumbs-down, she and Scalzo changed it. Still top-sellers, the GaiaKids line delivers the same potent herbs as the adult formulas in alcohol-free concentrates.

From there, Dr. Bove became a founding member of Gaia’s Scientific Advisory Board while continuing to see patients in Vermont, a gift she savored.

“There are not many places in our life where we can say we live in the moment for eight hours a day,” she says. “It makes you a good doctor. It also seeds your own spirit in some way.”

Standing at the forefront of modern herbalism, she witnessed a dramatic shift in the public’s understanding of her life’s work. When she opened Hippocrates Herbarium in the late 1970s, Echinacea sounded like a foreign word to most people. In the early 1990s, her peer group was spread out across the US. A good deal of her time was spent explaining what she did and extolling its virtues. Even so, most people who sought her out might have been described as “crunchy” or “earthy.”

As schools such as her own alma mater, Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, starting graduating classes of clinical naturopaths, the field began to expand, as did her career. She began teaching, served as a full-time faculty member at Bastyr and chaired the departments of Botanical Medicine and Naturopathic Midwifery.

By the time she “retired,” Dr. Bove was spending far less time explaining naturopathy and more time talking to patients.

This revival of herbs that balances traditional wisdom and modern science, is thanks in part to like-minded practitioners and committed companies like Gaia, she says. And as Dr. Bove transitioned from one-on-one care to educating her peers and the public, she revised her own story.

For decades, she proclaimed herself “a prisoner of herbs,” captivated by their power and beauty. Now, as herbs have reclaimed their place in our collective knowledge, Dr. Bove has transitioned into a sage yet humble “participant” in the herbal world. With wisdom comes patience, and the time she has long-awaited has arrived. She feels inspired by new herbalists entering the field with intensity and creativity, and by companies like Gaia that provide pure and potent herbal products made with integrity.

When she ran her shop, many of the herbs used in Gaia products were not readily available. Now, she says, you can get a soda flavored with Echinacea. It’s safe to say that herbs have reached the mainstream. The quality and variety of herbal products is what her generation dreamed of.

“That was the goal,” she says. “It makes me delighted.”

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