AUSTIN, Texas (April 10, 2023) — The American Botanical Council (ABC) presented its 2023 Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award to Mimi Hernandez, RH (AHG), the executive director of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG). This annual award is given to individuals who have played a significant role in creating a sense of connection and community among herbalists, botanical researchers, members of the herb and natural products communities and industries, and others who work with medicinal and aromatic plants.
Hernandez is an herbalist and ethnobotanist with a master’s degree in herbalism from the Tai Sophia Institute (now the Maryland University of Integrative Health). Mentored by the ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD (1929–2017), as well as acclaimed herbalists including Kevin Spelman, PhD, James Snow, DCN, RH, and Simon Mills, FCPP, FNIMH, Hernandez also draws on the tradition of curanderismo, the holistic system of Latin American folk herbalism, and her Colombian and Mexican heritage.
Currently, she facilitates AHG’s Sanctuary Dreamers Meetups, which are events designed to offer support and tools for those who want to become members of the United Plant Savers (UpS) Botanical Sanctuary Network, and stewards the PonderLand native plant sanctuary in Polk County, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of the upcoming National Geographic Herbal (National Geographic, 2023), which will highlight herbal medicine traditions, from traditional Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurvedic system of medicine to Latin American curanderismo and Gullah Geechee practices. (The Gullah Geechee are descended from enslaved people from different African tribal groups who, after emancipation, formed a distinct and unique cultural group along the waterways of the American South.)
For Hernandez, building healthy relationships with people is inextricably linked with building and preserving the natural environment. “As I contemplate the idea of community building and the role of an herbal community builder, I stand in awe of the herbalists who quietly tend to the connections between people and plants,” she said. “I am inspired by those wise folks who cultivate a sense of belonging amongst herbalists.
“I am grateful to be recognized by the American Botanical Council as a recipient of the Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award,” she continued. “When I was first informed of this honor, I had to let it sink in. It baffled me because I am just one individual, a thread in the vast fabric of the herbal community. As the concept of ‘community’ implies more than one person, a network of living beings, I humbly share this award on behalf of the many communities I find myself woven into.”
Hernandez has been the executive director of AHG since 2013. Her goal has been to promote understanding among people with different backgrounds and experiences, with the goal of maintaining and stewarding native plants in the United States. AHG was founded in 1989 to promote clinical herbalism as a viable profession rooted in ethics, competency, diversity, and freedom of practice. According to the organization’s website, AHG envisions “a culture of vocational empowerment for aspiring and practicing clinical herbalists, as well as other members of the herbal profession including educators, herbal product makers, herbal business owners, growers, wildcrafters, and formulators.”
AHG’s diverse membership inspires Hernandez’s goal of building bridges. “We have much work to do in shifting community ideology, especially for those of us involved in longstanding organizations,” she said. “What are we doing to showcase the tapestry of voices of plant lovers? How are we building communities that foster trust and amplify reverence for the ethnosphere [the cultural web of unique customs around the world] of plant traditions? How are we engaging our communities to practice awareness and ethics toward healthy plant communities? I hope these questions remain at the forefront in the hearts of today’s community builders to better seed the bountiful fiber of community for generations to come.”
ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal said: “Mimi is a quintessential community builder. She has an innate sense of respect for and connection with all people on the plants-for-people path. The humility with which she accepted this recognition speaks to her sense of seeing herself as simply being a servant to her botanical education and activist calling. She is most deserving of ABC’s recognition for her energetic and positive role in the American herbal community.”
Previous recipients of the ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award are Emily Ruff (2022), director of Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary; Michael McGuffin (2020), president of the American Herbal Products Association; Mary Blue, Katheryn Langelier, and Nicole Telkes (2019), “The Fire Cider Three,” who successfully battled in federal court to keep “fire cider” a generic term; Linnea and Larry Wardwell (2018), organizers of the Medicines from the Earth and Southwest Conference on Botanical Medicine symposia; Jon Benninger (2017), director of the annual SupplySide East and SupplySide West trade shows; Ikhlas Khan, PhD (2016), director of the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research and the annual International Conference on the Science of Botanicals; Michael Tierra (2015), herbalist, author, teacher, and co-founder of AHG; Loren Israelsen (2014), founder and president of the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA); Sara Katz (2013), co-founder of Herb Pharm and past president of UpS; and Rosemary Gladstar (2012), author, lecturer, and founder of UpS, the California School of Herbal Studies, the International Herb Symposium, Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary, and other herb-related groups and events.
The 2023 ABC Mark Blumenthal Community Builder Award was presented at the 18th annual ABC Celebration and Botanical Excellence Awards Ceremony on March 8, 2023, in Anaheim, California, during the annual Natural Products Expo West Conference and Trade Show.
The ABC Celebration and Botanical Excellence Awards were generously underwritten by Alkemist Labs, Amin Talati Wasserman, Applied Food Sciences, Brassica Protection Products, Eurofins, Euromed, EuroPharma, Herb Pharm, Indena, MegaFood, Natural Factors, New Chapter, NOW Foods, RFI, RT Specialty, and the United Natural Products Alliance.