Herbal Sciences Grad Launches Successful Retail Venture

Many natural health enthusiasts dream of opening an herbal products shop to do what they love while helping others to achieve wellness. Katya Difani, a 2009 graduate of our herbal sciences bachelor's completion program, has done just that. Using the herbal expertise and industry knowledge she gained in the herbal sciences program, she is now thriving as a store owner and health advisor. Learn more about her path to success in the interview below.

Briefly describe the work you do now.

I own and operate a retail herb store in Kirkland, Washington, called Herban Wellness. The store opened in July 2009 and offers all things herbal, including bulk herbs, herbal tinctures, teas and herbal tea blends, tincture blends, herbal capsules, essential oils, books, natural skin care products, and more. I consult with people on herbs and nutrition, help formulate custom herbal blends for their health needs, and educate them on using herbs and foods.

What is your background, and how did you find your way to Bastyr?

I grew up in rural Montana and have always had an affinity for nature and the plant world. My family was intimately linked to the rhythms of nature: We grew and raised most of our own food, including a big vegetable garden. I studied cultural anthropology for a Bachelor of Science from Southern Oregon University. I travelled the world and worked odd jobs, searching for a career path that would spark my enthusiasm.

I actually became interested in holistic healing through my own spiritual journey and health issues. I used nutrition, vitamins and herbs to work toward my own healing. Then I worked for a time at a natural health clinic focused on nutritional and herbal therapies for cancer prevention and treatment. I was fascinated with the results I saw and how quality of life was greatly enhanced in most patients.

When looking into which healing modality to focus on, plant medicine seemed like a natural choice. I chose Bastyr University for my education because it offered the only Bachelor of Science degree in herbal medicine at the time I enrolled, and also because it is located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Bastyr is a well-respected school that I felt would give me a strong foundation to stand on, since the practice of herbal medicine has no national standards for practice.

How did you get into this career?

I felt the Eastside (the urban area east of Seattle) needed an herb shop, so I was excited to open my shop and to share my knowledge of natural health and wellness.

What did you appreciate most about your degree program?

The herbal sciences degree exposed me to a broad array of plant-based information, including botany, plant identification, organic gardening, sustainable wild-crafting, the ancient and modern materia medica of herbal medicines, and herbal medicine-making. The degree also gave me a basic foundation in the human body's anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, as well as allowing me the opportunity to explore whole food based nutrition and its benefits to the body. The program gave me a strong foundation from which to grow in my study of medicinal plants.

What's next for you? Where would you like to place your energies?

Right now, my focus is on networking and promoting my business. There is a market for what Herban Wellness carries and the services it provides, so I am expanding my reach into that market to help people better understand how they can use my shop. I am learning a new set of skills and thinking creatively!

How did your Bastyr degree prepare you for your career?

In addition to what I mentioned above, my degree gave me research skills that allow me to continue expanding my knowledge base. I gained confidence in blending and formulating herbal preparations, which allows me to bring the healing power of several plants together for internal or external use for therapeutic benefit.