Reclaiming the wild with words

Beverley Gray has a passion for wild plants. And it's something the herbalist and owner of Aroma Borealis wants to share. er new book, The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North, will help facilitate a larger discussion about wild plants and herbs.

Beverley Gray has a passion for wild plants.

And it’s something the herbalist and owner of Aroma Borealis wants to share.

Her new book, The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North, will help facilitate a larger discussion about wild plants and herbs, or so she hopes.

“Not two generations ago, I think everybody used herbs as food and medicine,” she said. “It’s been lost in so many ways for so many reasons, and I feel like it has to be reclaimed.

With that in mind, Gray worked to make the book as user friendly as possible.

It includes full-colour photographs, sketches and botanical descriptions of 55 different boreal plants.

The book details how to preserve those plants and turn them into medicine, or food.

There is even a chart in the back so readers can look plants up based on their medicinal or nutritional value.

Gray only included easily identifiable plants.

There is no danger any of them could be confused with a poisonous cousin.

At 440 pages, the book looks extensive, but it’s really just a primer.

“This is just a little drop in the bucket of the information that’s out there,” she said. “I really want it to be a reminder to people about the abundance in the boreal.”

Gray has been a certified herbalist for 13 years, but she’s been at it much longer.

She was 12 years old when she first started experimenting with herbal concoctions.

“We used to get the roll on lip balms, and I ran out,” she said. “I had no money, so I put cooking oil and vanilla extract and shook it.”

Her father was in the army and her family moved around a lot.

She found her “peace” in the woods.

“I went to the woods and felt that’s where home was,” she said. “Wherever the trees were, I was home.”

While Gray has had several careers – working as a journalist, running a recycling centre in Yellowknife – she was meant to be an herbalist.

“It’s my calling,” she said.

Despite her lifelong passion for herbs, it wasn’t until she had her first child that she really became serious about it as a profession.

“When I got pregnant with my first child, I opened my eyes,” she said. “I was living in Yellowknife and felt I needed to know more about how to care for myself and care for my child.”

It’s a profession that’s runs in her family.

Her great-great-grandfather was also an herbalist.

He manufactured and sold his own herbal remedy, dubbed “Mitchell’s Genuine Balsam.”

“It skipped a generation, but here I am providing the same thing,” she said.

In writing the book, Gray hopes she can inspire people and help them discover the abundance in their backyard.

“I believe that it’s important for people to empower themselves by going out and gathering what they need for the winter,” she said.

It’s really something that anyone can do.

“I used to think that it was every community that needed an herbalist,” she said. Now I think it’s every household needs an herbalist.”

The official book launch is on Monday at the Old Fire Hall.

The party is going to feature an herbal cocktail bar, and Gray’s nephew, a chef, is coming in from Saskatchewan to prepare food.

There will be wild weed spanakopita, pine bark bread with local goat cheese and cranberry chutney, dandelion ice cream and more.

All of it will feature wild plants and herbs from the Yukon.

While the book officially launches next week, it’s already on sale at her shop and Mac’s Fireweed Books.

So far, sales have been stronger than expected.

In the first couple days they had sold 10 per cent of the stock.

Having spent two years writing the book, Gray is ready to take a break. But she’s already planning a book tour.

“I think when you’re meant to do something it really does come easy,” she said. “I just feel so blessed that I’m able to do what I love.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read