Interview with Marie & Travis of Althaea Herbals

Posted on April 21, 2022 by Dannika Soukoroff

Marie and Travis are an Herbalist dream team in Nelson B.C.

"Althaea is the Latin name of a plant very dear to our hearts, commonly known as Marshmallow. It can be translated to “healing plant” or “to grow, nourish and heal”. The work we do in centered around the health and healing of ourselves, our community and the wild, living world around us. The name Althaea Herbals encompasses the journey that we are on to bring growth, nourishment and healing into the world through the support of herbal medicines."

Both Clinical Herbalists & medicine makers, Marie and Travis offer their own unique tools in working with those are seeking to improve or manage health conditions from a naturalist standpoint. 


Travis Cartwright, D.Phyt, RHT

Travis is a clinical herbalist, herbal medicine maker, educator and co-founder of Althaea Herbals. He maintains a professional membership as a Registered Herbal Therapist (RHT) with the British Columbia Herbalists Association (BCHA). He received his formal education from Pacific Rim College and has furthered his study with The School of Evolutionary Herbalism.

Guided by nature, his practice integrates the holistic energetic system of Traditional Western Herbalism with modern scientific knowledge. Travis is honored to support individuals in their personal growth and healing with the use of herbal medicine. Travis lives in Nelson, BC, where he forages and prepares various herbal medicines, teaches and runs a clinical herbal practice.


Marie Zak, D.Phyt, RHT

Marie is passionate about creating a container for her clients to explore the deepest layers of themselves. She works with herbal medicines and somatic tools to support her clients to become fuller, more embodied versions of themselves. Marie’s clinical focus is mental, emotional and spiritual wellness, as well as psychosomatic conditions. 

Her love for nature and plants is woven into her clinical practice, classes and medicine making.

Marie completed her herbal studies through Pacific Rim College, and is a Registered Herbal Therapist with the British Columbia Herbalists Association (BCHA). She is the co-founder of Althaea Herbals. She completed her Somatic Relational Therapy training through Mariah Moser’s training, Opening to Grace.

We had the absolute pleasure of interview these two amazingly skilled and amazing human beings!

Gaia: Hi Marie and Travis, such a wonderful opportunity to chat with you both. Why don't you tell us a bit about yourselves... 

Marie: I’m one of the founders and Herbalists behind Althaea Herbals.
I grew up here in Nelson with my five siblings, parents and dogs. It was a full and busy house, infused with a mix of love and conflict. My parents are very Christian, which was hard for me, especially once I hit my teens as I wanted the freedom to explore my own path. I was so lost during this period; I knew I
wanted something different but didn’t know what that was. Once I graduated from high school I started traveling and getting to know parts of myself that I hadn’t been allowed to explore when living with my parents. I fell in love with the practices of yoga, and eventually settled down in Victoria to study deeper. Yoga was the modality that opened me up to other holistic ways of living, and eventually I ended up studying holistic nutrition and herbalism at Pacific Rim
College. Once I completed my herbal training I moved back to Nelson to start my practice and study Somatic and Relational Therapy. Most of my interests are centered around nature and holistic living. I love cooking beautiful food, making
medicine, and spending time in nature. I’m fascinated by human consciousness and development, and love modalities like astrology and human design that connect the dots between the cosmos and human

Travis: I grew up in Red Deer, Alberta, a place that can be a challenging place to live for a person sensitive to the natural living world. As a teen and young adult I found sanctuary amongst the trees and wetlands and spent plenty of time traveling the extensive pathways and parks scattered throughout the city. I found
comfort in these places but knew little about those that lived around me. The forest was like a sea of green, rather than a diverse array of unique individuals.
One day, while visiting Kerry Wood Nature Center, a hub a part of the Waskasoo park trail system, my friend and I discovered and purchased a local medicinal and edible plant book. Outside the center, we identified our first wild plant, Yarrow, and learned a few of the plant's medicinal uses. Since this moment,
I have been infatuated with medicinal and edible plants.Upon graduating High school, I soon left Red Deer for Calgary. I worked at a local health food store for a few years where I learned some basics of natural health. Driven to learn more, I studied Herbalism with Wild Rose College, in their last in-person classes before they moved online. Seeking further herbal studies, I discovered Pacific Rim College in Victoria, BC. I relocated to Victoria, having never visited
before, to study western herbal medicine. I worked at a natural health clinic in Squamish, BC after graduating from school. While I was working,
Marie was still studying. We dated long distance, but visited each other regularly. When discussing our future, it became clear we both wanted to settle together in Nelson, BC, her long time home, where we
now practice herbal medicine. My interests are primarily focused around living a life in relationship with the natural living world. Herbalism is one of the aspects of a broader life practice that also happens to be a career choice. A large portion of my time is spent hiking, cultivating and foraging food and medicine, and more recently practicing archery to prepare for hunting.

                             Travis and Marie

Gaia: What prompted you to study herbal medicine?

Marie: My herbal studies were a byproduct of being in nutrition school. I knew nothing about herbal medicine until, in my first semester in college, I had to take a couple herbal elective courses. It was in those classes that I fell in love with the practice of herbalism, and after a few semesters I switched programs to become a Herbalist.

Travis: It’s difficult to determine what exactly prompted me to study herbal medicine because there seems to be a number of things over an extended period of time that lend me to this world. The innumerable hours spent
in nature inspired me to get to know the individual plants and mushrooms I encountered regularly. I learnt a few interesting medicinal uses but it remained that, just an interesting piece of information. It wasn’t until I began working at a natural health store that I began to recognize the medicinal value of herbs.
There were many stories shared by the customers and coworkers telling of the ways herbs helped them through various health challenges. While working at this store I began consuming and experimenting with many different herbs and supplements to get to know them. When I experienced my own serious health
issues I worked with herbs, supplements and conventional medical treatments. It was a difficult time but I made it through and healed. Not long after I decided to fully commit to studying herbal medicine.


Gaia: Did you find in pursuing your path of herbal medicine there was conflict with any beliefs or lifestyle you were brought up with?

Marie: My world view has changed dramatically from what I was taught as a child. As a kid I was taught that nature belongs to humans, and that humans are separate from plants and animals. Now I see through the lens of animism and vitalism; there is an intelligent force that animates all things. We are all micro
reflections of the macrocosm, and innate connected to one another. This lens informs the way that I work with plants and people.

Travis: Not at all. Looking back, I feel as though the path of herbal medicine has been a blessing and guide. Growing up I didn’t have any strongly held beliefs besides the felt sense that mine didn’t reflect those around me. I felt like I was in conflict with the culture I was embedded in, and herbal medicine has been a
guiding light towards what felt true, that helped form and clarify my current beliefs.

Gaia: How did you know herbalism was for you?

Marie: I felt it so strongly. The plants brought me so much joy, and there was this magical quality about them that I was drawn to. I make most of my big life choices based on feeling, and this was certainly one of those

Travis: I didn’t conscientiously know herbalism was for me. It was more of a slow process that pulled me in further and further to the point I’m at now, where it basically forms most of my lifestyle, identity and cosmology.


Gaia: As a Registered Herbal Therapist what does your job look like? What do your patient sessions look like?

Marie: My practice is different then most RHTs because I approach my work from the lens of Somatic and Relational Therapy. Patients come to me wanting to work on embodiment, nervous system regulation, boundaries and other mental/emotional/spiritual themes. We spend the majority of the session exploring these layers and we incorporate plant allies to support them in their processes. It’s been beautiful bringing these two unique modalities together to help people become more connected to themselves and the magical world of plants.

Travis: I am somewhat of a generalist in my practice. I welcome people of all sorts with a variety of health concerns. I offer containership for those who are seeking a safe and comfortable place to assess and reflect on their personal health and their broader place in the world. Clients who work with me value
working on the multiple aspects of one’s self, including emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. With my support they are able to transform longstanding conditions that haven’t been adequately supported or assessed by any other health modalities. I offer a new perspective through the lens of Traditional Western Herbalism while taking into account modern medical diagnosis and therapeutics. In my sessions I review past medical history, current health & life circumstances and broad energetic patterns to offer customized lifestyle adjustments, dietary recommendations and herbal therapy. With my support my clients are empowered to integrate and implement deeper shifts they desire into their lives for long term change.

Gaia: Where do you source the herbs you use for your preparations? Why is it important for the product and for yourselves that you source the herbs the way you do?

Marie & Travis: We source our herbs as locally as possible from a variety of locations. Many of our herbs are grown by Micheal Silver, Earth Temple Farms, in Meadow Creek. We grow some ourselves, and ethically wildcraft many of them. Those that we can’t find locally we source from organic growers as close to home as possible. It’s common for Herbalists to import their herbs from overseas, which ends up being much more affordable with no cost in time. We choose to make our own medicine because our focus is on forming direct relationships with the land in the plants. It is important for us to have a direct relationship with the plants we work with and the land in which they live. We can ensure there is integrity in the growing practices and the foraging is done ethically. We have consistently observed the medicine that we make tends to be better quality and more potent than herbal medicine we find on the market. It’s really hard to do that without touching, tasting and communing with the live plants. We’re happier with the quality of the medicine that we make than we have been with most other products on the market. 

Gaia: What are a few of your favorite herbs to work with and why?

Marie: A few of my favourite herbs to work with are Hawthorn, Reishi, and Tulsi. Each of them for completely different reasons. Hawthorn is my favourite cardiotonic, that supports the physical and emotional heart. Most people feel
more heart centered while working with Hawthorn so I often give it to those who are moving through grief or overwhelm, and have lost their heart connection.
Reishi is one of my favourite mushroom medicines. It’s medicine is quite earthy and grounding; I work with it when people’s nervous systems are burnt out and frayed. It’s also a great immunomodulator, meaning it supports healthy immune function. It’s generally quite well tolerated.Tulsi is another lovely nervous system support that helps to clear mental fog and scattered thinking. It can help to clear the mind, improve focus and relieve anxiety.

Travis: Skullcap is a mint family plant we grow in our garden and source from Earth Temple Farm. It’s one of my favorites because it is consistently helpful and safe in most cases of anxiety, stress, and insomnia, while also being helpful to restore a “burnt out” nervous system.Yarrow is a common wild and cultivated plant, found in many parts of the world. The plant has a long history of use amongst many different cultures. It is a polycrest herb, meaning that it is therapeutically useful in many illnesses. It can be used internally and externally. If I was to work with only a few plants, Yarrow would be one of them.

                               Inner sanctum salve

Gaia: What’s your favourite type of preparation to make and why?

Marie & Travis: We make a lot of tinctures, which are potent alcohol extracts of herbs, they're our favourite to make. Tinctures are our most used and preferred medicinal preparation we provide for our clients. Tinctures are a highly concentrated alcohol and water extraction. The high concentration of herbal medicine means one can consume a relatively low dose of a tincture to receive medicinal benefits. The water and alcohol act as a solvent that extracts a wide variety of medicinal compounds, and often compounds that don’t extract as
well if prepared as a tea. The alcohol in a tincture helps to sanitize and preserve the medicine for many years, whereas dried herbs often degrade quickly and should be used within a year or two.

Gaia: Have you come across any herbs in the Kootenays that you haven’t found anywhere else?

Marie & Travis: Not yet! Many of the herbs that grow here can also be found on the West coast and/or in Alberta. The Kootenay area is very biodiverse, which makes our lives somewhat easier because we can stay close to home to access the numerous wild herbs we work with.

Gaia: Do you think natural medicine and allopathic medicines could ever come together and offer a more balanced and cooperative approach to healthcare?

Marie: For sure, many of our patients are on medications or working with other practitioners, and oftentimes we are able to co-create a protocol that is supportive for them.

Marie & Travis: Yes, of course. Many of the folks we work with are also working with a variety of healthcare professionals, and consuming a variety of medications and supplements as well. Herbal medicine provides a lot of support for people's health where other forms of medicine don’t. I believe herbal medicine should become much more widely available and accessible for folks because there are many gaps in other medicinal practices that herbal medicine can help in, as there are also gaps in herbal medicine that other practices can provide support for. It’s really about the person who needs help. Often people require multiple health care strategies to receive the best possible care.

                               Calm waters

Gaia: Are there any other spiritual practices you have? Do you mind sharing about them?

Marie: Most of my spiritual practices are centered around the plants and communing with nature. I often do new and full moon rituals, plus meditations, yoga/dance classes and other practices that connect me to my body and heart.

Travis: Nothing specifically. Although I have an animistic type of world view, meaning that I perceive a type of immaterial life force that animates all. Each individual being has this life force flowing through them, yet there is a unique expression of each individual based on their constitutional/elemental makeup. By working with plants directly the uniqueness of that being can help shift our being, consciousness, constitution makeup and teach us about the archetypal qualities they express. Essentially, interacting with nature is my spiritual practice if I have one.

Gaia: Are there any spiritual philosophies, beliefs or paths that you are drawn to that you’d like to learn more about? 

Marie: I love learning about how different cultures from around the world relate to plants, spirituality and our place in the world as humans. I’m especially interested in Celtic traditions.

Travis: I am very attracted to Alchemy. Alchemy is a direct study of the transformational cycles and patterns of nature. The practice of alchemy is not limited to the physical and the alleviation of physical suffering, but also the evolution of the soul and transcendence of spirit. It ties into herbalism well because herbal medicines work on the multiple levels of being, and by working with alchemical principles and practices I believe I can provide greater depth of healing for myself and the people I work with.

Gaia: How do you think you’ve grown as a person this last year?

Marie: This last year has been many big shifts for me that have helped to trust, know and value myself on a deeper level than ever before. The process of working with Travis to create Althaea has been a huge learning process that has been fun, and hard, and frustrating, and satisfying all at the same time.

Travis: This year has taught me the value of compassion, devotion and conscientiously created routine. In my practice I encounter many folks of many backgrounds and experiences. They often shared challenging aspects of their health and personal lives. By being there during peoples vulnerable moments I have developed greater compassion and care. As an entrepreneur it has been challenging deconstructing the self limiting habits and routines that have gotten in the way of me being a committed and involved herbalist and business owner. By conscientiously devoting myself to the practice of herbalism, my partner and my own personal development I have begun creating better daily habits that help me to focus and commit to the things that mean most to me.

Gaia: What is one thing you’d like to grow about yourself in 2022?

Marie: Trust is a big one, I have a hard time just letting things be. My capacity for trust has deepened over the years, but I still have a long way to go.

Gaia: What is your sun sign and how do you relate to it? If you know what your moon and ascendants are, do you feel like they reflect in your personality?

Marie: I love astrology and feel very connected to my chart. My sun is in Gemini in the 12th house, which tends to be curious people who are quite sensitive and have a natural interest in otherworldly things. My ascendant is in Cancer (tender, emotional, mothering) and my moon is in Capricorn (ambitious, earthy,


Travis: My sun is in Aries, a sign associated with the qualities of fire, activity, passion and independence. My moon is in aquarius, a sign associated with the qualities of being observant, unique, and caring of others. I have an ascendant scorpio, and scorpio tends to represent the qualities of being mysterious,
individualistic, passionate and authentic. I do feel like I embody a lot of these qualities.

Gaia: Tell us more about the products and services you offer.

Marie: My favourite way to work with people is through my embodiment container, Sanctuary. It’s 4-12 weeks of somatic work and herbalism to deeply support people to heal patterns held in their body and nervous system. We also have a sweet herbal product line, which can be found on our website, and we offer classes and plant walks.

Travis: I offer clinical herbal consultations where I assess one’s health from a medical point of view as well as through the lens of vitalism. I use both conventional diagnostic information and the unique energetic characteristics of the health condition and person to develop a customized herbal protocol. In addition, I provide basic nutritional and lifestyle advice. Teaching is a major part of my work because so little is known, in the general public, about the herbal
medicine and the healing potential they provide. We offer classes on plant identification, medicine making, therapeutics and in depth herbal studies.
We also have a sweet herbal product line, consisting of herbal syrups, salves and tinctures, which can be found on our website, and we offer classes and plant walks.

                              Inner light

Gaia: Where can we find more information about accessing your products and services?

Marie & Travis: The best place is through our website, and we’re also fairly active on Instagram, @althaeaherbals.

Gaia: What would be in your shopping bag at Gaia Rising?

Marie: Tarot cards and all the books :)

Travis: Books!

We will be doing an Instagram live with Marie & Travis of Althaea Herbals on Saturday, April 23rd at 1pm PST @gaia_rising_metaphysical 

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