The Plant Whisperer
Billie Thibodeau is a botanical herbalist who shares her passion for plants, and especially cannabis, through her business Emerald Alchemy. Her handcrafted cold water hash, sustainably grown cannabis, and artfully crafted elixirs are created through her love of nature and dedication to sharing organic horticulture. I had the pleasure with speaking to Billie about her background as an herbalist, her relationship to cannabis plants, and the art of crafting plant medicine.
Billie will be serving her hand-crafted herbal elixirs at HelloMD’s Laughter Haven event on Oct. 5, 2017 at San Francisco’s The Midway.
How did you start working with plants?
The ability to tune in and listen to plants came from playing in nature so much as a kid. I grew up in Santa Cruz mountains – we were outdoor kids. When I was very little I loved making flower petal water by soaking fragrant flowers to infuse the essential oils into the water. There is an innate trust and connection to the power of plants and herbal medicine that has always thrived in me. Plants have always been my friends.
What’s your background as an herbalist?
When I spent about a year on the island of Crete in Greece I completely fell in love with herbal medicinal studies. Malotíra (mountain tea) and Faskómilo (Sage) had me hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the very powerful Mediterranean herbs of Crete. I snuck loads back with me! During that time, I discovered the herbalist Juliette de Beracley Levy. Her wild and enchanting stories of traveling through the Mediterranean with practically just a few sprigs of herbs to keep her and her children free of ailments or disease completely fascinated me. I wanted to be her!
How did you transition into working with cannabis?
I believe the spirit of cannabis chooses who works with her. I moved to California from New York City in 2008 and I immediately started working as cannabis trimmer. Working with cannabis after working with other herbs felt like an honor.
The farmers I worked for loved my work ethic and enthusiasm and invited me be a part of the cold water hash team. I helped develop a larger scale production system for ice water hash. We experimented with a lot of machinery and I found that using my hands worked the best, producing the greatest yield and the greatest quality.
What inspired you to create Emerald Alchemy?
I’ve always fiercely loved my independence, autonomy and a good thrilling adventure. Working for myself just makes sense and the challenge of creating a business keepsme engaged with that independent, creative and edgy young spirit there.
The name Emerald Alchemy came to me in 2013 after I harvested my first crop of high CBD AC/DC strain. ‘Emerald’ represents the heart and ‘Alchemy’ represents the powerful transformational shift that happens when we act out of love from the heart. I believe our most powerful medicine is loving kindness. I created this company out of my love for life and this precious planet.
What’s your approach to growing cannabis?
I have a spiritual approach to growing cannabis! It is such a special treat to be an organic cannabis farmer because cannabis is so extremely communicative and receptive. I feel like truly farming cannabis in alignment with nature you must get in touch with an innate intuitive knowing that is very spiritual. While we are farming cannabis we are also farming healthy soil ecology and farming ourselves as healthy stewards of the craft. Training staff to care for cannabis gardens is teaching an art. To be fully engage with the changing weather, microclimates, soil ecology and the fast paced cycles of flowering cannabis varieties is a beautiful spiritual dance. Many cannabis farmers feel as though they are married to their plants!
What are your grow methods?
My cultivation methods are pretty simple but require a lot of listening. I’m a sun lover! I like to grow in beds outside with hoop houses over them. I do year round cultivation. I always get annoyed when we have to use supplemental light. A lot of hiccups happen with artificial light but it’s good for freshness of product and business to grow year round.
One of the cool things about my process is I’ve figured out a way to save all the excess hash water and feed it back to the plants. That’s one of the best foods you can feed your plants because all those phytonutrients and water soluble terpenes are in the water.
What strains do you grow?
I grow quite a lot of the 20:1 AC/DC strain. I really love the 3:1 Cannatonic strain. I grew Orange Cookies strain last year. I always schedule in the AC/DC strain and depending on what is available to me from my colleagues nurseries or what mother plants I am cultivating.
Why do you grow CBD strains?
Once I was educated about the medicinal benefits of CBD, I was all in and I made it my mission. I started hearing about CBD around 2011 and I’m very sensitive to THC, so it was so exciting to me when I tried a CBD flower. I found the genetics which was really hard to get back then so I had the specialist Lawrence Ringo introduce me to the right people.
How is your cold water hash prepared?
My process is entirely handmade. We use no machinery at all. With hand-stirred hash, it’s all about having a holistic relationship at every step of the process so we can guarantee the quality of the product.
It’s quite an experience to make hash on my farm. We wear enormous thick gloves up to our shoulder and rubber waterproof goulashes for the ice agitation portion of the process. The engagement that comes with completely handmade processes allows for customizing each batch of hash to the variety and signature of the individual plant material. It’s totally an art!
How do you formulate your tinctures? What makes them different than others?
Formulating tinctures is like writing poetry or music. Creating herbal combinations involves an incredible amount of knowledge and I do a lot of research before I decide on a specific formula melody. Each herb wants to be extracted in it’s own way. The ethanol I use for extraction is certified organic made from organic grapes. I think what sets me apart is that I am creating works of art. Therefore each formula and product I create stands apart for it uniqueness.
What is the story behind your cannabis elixirs.
The Elixir Collection is infused with a micro dose of cannabis in order to balance out the expression of the other herbs in the formula. The Elixirs are designed to work as a holistic support with cannabis as one of the integral herbs in the formula. Cannabis has such a dominant expression I choose to lower the dosing simply to achieve harmony in the formula.
The Elixirs are incredible in an evening libation for a nightly healing ritual. We created some Canna Cocktail recipes for the Elixir collection and on Sava, a statewide delivery service in California.