About Us

Founder's Wishes

July 2024: A message from Mike Brook, Founder of Organic Herb Trading.

After more than four decades at the heart of Organic Herb Trading, it’s time for me to start stepping back. Because my health has begun to decline, I’ll be retiring in the near future, so I’ve been asked to try and capture the principles that have guided my approaches.

As the context changes and new dilemmas arise, these are the elements that I’d like to think will inform future decisions.

Choosing organic

Organic is core to this business. The plants we work with grow on farms and in wild spaces that are – as far as possible – free from artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers; growers work in collaboration with ecological systems, nurturing the soils and protecting the water sources.

Certifications and laws mean that organic methods are captured in detail, and we benefit greatly from the assurances of those systems. Almost everything we work with is certified organic, and I feel strongly that it should stay that way. There are times, though, when reality refuses to fit into the rules and standards, and it’s more important to uphold the essence of what organic means.

That might sometimes mean going further than the standards require; it might alternatively mean choosing to work with a product that, because of a technical detail, doesn’t have a certificate – though the case would have to be a compelling one. Whatever the organic regulations and certifying bodies look like in 50 years from now, we’ll be on the right track if we’re championing best-practice in land stewardship, and putting soil health and biodiversity at the heart of our decision-making.

Being fair

As with organic agriculture, many have tried to distil the rules of fair trade so that it can be regulated and assessed, but fairness is an even trickier concept to pin down into a set of standards. I’m proud of our record in holding certifications for fair practices but, again, it’s the principles that count.

Our success is rooted in partnerships; treating people fairly and with respect, listening to them, finding - and then building on - the ways in which our interests align.

We have a responsibility towards our suppliers, since the role of growers and collectors is the most vulnerable in the supply chain; in the global market, power lies with the buyers. We’ve never sought to drive down the prices we pay to primary producers, instead working closely with partners and focusing on open communication and long-term plans. A direct relationship also means we are able to better understand the factors which may lead to forced labour, and can help ensure it doesn’t occur.

Our customers too, rely on us – and by extension their employees do. We supply some fantastic businesses and fairness in the way we trade extends to them too.

And of course a spirit of fairness and long-term partnership extends to the team within the business as well, the people who work so hard to put all of this into practice. It’s fundamental that they are supported, heard, and rewarded fairly so that the community here can thrive.

Embedding quality

At the core of what we do is providing food and medicine. The herbs, spices and other botanical ingredients we bring to market are intended to nourish and nurture, which is why it matters that they’re really good quality.

A critical element in the quality of the final product is the cultivation and collection of the plants, so it’s key that we understand where and how they’re grown and harvested. Wherever possible, we build relationships with the farmers and collectors, and get to know the land and the rhythms of the crops.

It’s another good reason not to push for low prices; to supply a quality product, a business needs investment in equipment and hygienic practices, it needs a stable, well-trained workforce, and a buffer against losing a crop to unseasonal weather.

Assessing and testing play an important role in product quality, as does the expertise of our team. Standards and procedures for quality assurance is yet another area where external accreditation can guide our practices, as well as demonstrating to our customers that we meet all the benchmarks. And yet – as with the two principles I’ve already covered – it’s not the piece of paper that counts, but the values. In many ways we go further than any external safety standard would compel us to, because our intention is to ensure that our products are safe, that we deliver on our promises, and that our customers are satisfied.

Making it sustainable

The three principles above will take us a long way towards being sustainable, both commercially, and in terms of our impact on the world around us. There will be compromises to make – that’s the daily reality – and sustainability is a helpful metric to use in trying to strike the right balance.


Over the years we’ve grown into all sorts of fascinating areas, responding to the huge appetite for herbal teas, developing cosmetics ingredients, and boosting the flavour and nutritional content of everything from baobab bars to baby food.

But for me the original motivation has always remained central: to provide good medicine. Whether people are finding it in health food shops, on the internet, or through consultation with a medicinal herbalist, I want to provide trustworthy botanical products to support holistic healthcare.

It’s for this reason that I’ve been adamant about persisting in some of our most challenging areas, in the face of difficult commercial realities and numerous barriers.

Wild collection is one of these complex areas, and it’s worth understanding it, since a large number of important medicinal herbs are collected from the wild. In many places the practice is dying out, and with it the knowledge of the plants: understanding where to harvest and when, correctly identifying the species, and leaving behind enough of the plant for it to regrow.

Manufacturing liquid products – tinctures, macerated oils, glycerites – is another of those areas which has brought challenges and where I’ve been resolute in continuing, because it is such a powerful way of capturing and delivering the properties of medicinal plants. The process is transparent and the outcome specific.

Hand-in-hand with liquids manufacturing comes the growing of herbs in our herb field, to supply the very best and freshest material. This is such a rare and special pairing, and I do think having it right outside the office and warehouse helps to keep us all rooted in the founding tenets of the company. Not to mention making for a beautiful view in the Somerset summer.

It’s been very important to me that we’re independent, that we’re not constrained by shareholders, and it would be wonderful to think of Organic Herb Trading remaining in the hands of people who respect these values and intentions. I hope profoundly that these guidelines will be of some practical use, and help to keep the spirit of the company intact, so it can continue to be a force for good.


These Founder’s Wishes were written with the help of Eileen Clark. Eileen is an ethical and supply chain specialist, and long-standing friend of Organic Herb Trading.