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Hello! I’m Alex, co-founder of First Curve Apothecary and community herbalist based in Chicago.

In addition to working with clients, I offer herbalism classes and apprenticeship, run a community apothecary offering sliding-scale herbal remedies to Chicago communities, teach sociology at Roosevelt University, and every once in a while, write an occasional haiku. To learn more about my journey as an herbalist, read on!

A little personal history

I grew up in the midwest, where the combination of forest, prairie, suburban lawns, freshwater lakes, and large swaths of corn and soy informed my sense of place. It’s hard to say precisely what initially informed my enduring connection to wild plants and ecosystems, but memory traces it back to childhood visits to my grandparents’ home, whose forested valley of a backyard provided a stark contrast to the tidy lawns that stretched across my suburban neighborhood. The wildness of this place piqued my curiosity and drew me into its lush and verdant hills and stream beds, which became my sanctuary when I visited, and my daydream during the car ride home.

As early as my teens I became interested in herbal preparations (for, perhaps different reasons than why I’m currently interested): Batches of dandelion wine that I would clandestinely ferment with friends in our parents’ basements to later share floating down the DuPage river. Later, in college, I would make many attempts at homemade absinthe and amaro.

Although my experiments with various herbal preparations continued into adulthood, I felt that I was pursuing a path that did not feel like my own. I began to question the ways our culture pressures us to obtain success and stability and wondered at the environmental harm this engenders. So I started to read. About ecology, about food, about what people call ‘the environment’, and about herbalism. Seeking to understand the many misguided values of our culture, I earned my Master’s degree in Sociology, and became a teacher.

During this time, I would return to my sanctuary in the forests surrounding Chicago, learning about the mushrooms and plants I encountered and how they weave webs of reciprocity through the forest’s soil to support and sustain the whole. I learned deeply from the forest, and started to ask myself, what webs of reciprocity can I weave to support and sustain myself and my community?

From this alchemy of woodland wandering, teaching in the city, and bartending to make ends meet, my practice as an herbalist quietly unfolded in the background. All the while, I learned to gather plants with humility and respect, and to prepare them as food or make them into medicines to support my health and the health of my community.

This practice eventually evolved into what is now First Curve Apothecary, and continues to evolve into the herbal practice I now offer, grounded by the mission to reclaim the wild connection of body and self to the more-than-human world.

The Name

The name 'First Curve' originated as my first batch of bitters made years ago as gifts for friends and family. As First Curve's offerings continue to expand, the name continues to resonate because it reminds me of when I first deviated from the paved path of academia into the wild world of herbalism, foraging, and mycology. It reminds me to take risks, to not let myself become comfortable with the familiar, and to work in a medium that is alive. Now that I have immersed myself in that living medium, I'd love nothing more than to share it with you.

Our Mission:

  • To craft herbal products that draw us in to our own bodily ecology while grounding us in the world around us.
  • To encourage vibrant aliveness through the use of herbal preparations and movement, while learning to tune in to our body’s needs and natural cycles.
  • To offer affordable products to ensure that herbal self-care be as accessible as possible.
  • To promote well-being and resilience in individuals and communities so they can afford greater space for living.
  • To create meaningful connections through sharing our herbal products, learning, and knowledge with our community.
  • To provide spaces of learning for our community to develop and learn what our health means to us.
  • To defer ourselves to the fungi and plants, the true healers of the world, while we work to become allies and stewards of the ecosystems in which they thrive. 

Acknowledgement

As a bioregional herbalist, I understand I am working with plants on unceded Potawatomi, Odawa, and Ojibwe land. The Great Lakes region was for millenia traversed, occupied, stewarded and sustained by these groups of people allied in the “Three Fires Confederacy,” which includes people from many other tribes as well. I believe it is my responsibility as an herbalist to do my work in deeply understanding and feeling through the history of the U.S. violently seizing this region over the course of several centuries, and work to repair the harm done in some way.

Aside from occupation, the values our culture holds continues to encourage the everyday reinforcement of racism, sexism, gender essentialism, classism, and ableism. With this in mind, I aim to to carve out a space of healing within the context of these toxic aspects of our culture to promote the health and resilience of the communities I serve. To practice in such a way requires an acknowledgement and awareness of these issues, and to move through them with compassion, respect, and care.

I am grateful that I am in a position to offer this healing work, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to support environmental and social change within these contexts, and to make healing work more inclusive and accessible to all who are interested. One aspect of this work is to offer free and low-cost herbal remedies, consultations, and education through First Curve’s Community Apothecary and Free Clinic. Donations and proceeds from these efforts support covering the cost of these initiatives, while remaining proceeds are donated to local community organizations that address social, ecological, and environmental issues, as well as black-led organizations working within the larger movement of black liberation.

 

Alex's Herbal Education

jim mcdonald - herbcraft

  • Lindera Four Season Herbal Intensive
  • Foundations of Holistic Immunity Course
  • Blessed Bitters Course
  • Gut Healing Teas Course
  • Vernal Virtues, Vol. 1 & 2 Courses
  • Midsummer Medicines, Vol. 1 & 2 Courses
  • Wild Roots & Fall Foliage, Vol. 1 & 2 Courses

Erika Galentin, MNIMH, RH (AHG) - Sovereignty Herbs

  • Clinical Herbalist Mentorship
  • Spring into Herbal Clinical Practice
  • Demystifying Herb-Drug Interactions Course

Tammi Sweet - Heartstone Herbal School

  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Transition Zones - Advanced Physiology for Herbalists
    • Healing Power of Inflammation Course
    • Pain Pathways and Correlating Herbs Course
    • Gut Inflammation & Food Intolerance Course
    • Allergies, Asthma and Respiratory Health Course
    • Heart Coherence & Relaxation Course
    • Skin Physiology and Herbal Interactions Course
    • Endocannabinoid System Course
  • Medicine Making with Cannabis Course

The Herbal Academy

  • Introductory, Intermediate, and Entrepreneur Herbal Courses
  • The Craft of Herbal Fermentation
  • Materia Medica Course

Peter McCoy - Mycologos

  • Mushroom Identification Course
  • Mushroom Ecology Course

Paul Bergner - BotanicWise

  • Food for Optimal Health Course

Matthew Wood - Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism

  • Pulse and Tongue Evaluation Course

Christopher Hobbs - BotanicWise

  • All About Kava Course

Ember Peters, RHP (HANS) - Wild Current Herbalism

  • Holistic and Integrative Cancer Care

Kami McBride - Living Awareness

  • Handcrafted Healing Herbal Oils 

Photo Credits: (1) Cebe Loomis of Candid Fare, (2) Cam Sand