The Herb Expert at Richters Herbs

By Alexis Dobranowski

Koidu Sulev just loves plants. She loves looking after plants, taking care of plants and talking about plants. At her home in Udora, Koidu has a huge garden that is often featured on summer garden tours. At work as the retail supervisor and herb expert at Richters Herbs in Goodwood, Koidu spends her days surrounded by plants – 900 different herbs, to be exact.

Richters Herbs was opened in 1969 at its present location by Mr. and Mrs. Otto Richter, immigrants from Germany. Richters now sells herbs, in plant, seed, extract and dried forms, from all over the world. And, Koidu, who’s worked at Richters for about 10 years, knows them all.

"Yes, I know every single one," she said.

Growing up in Sweden, Koidu spent a lot of her childhood days learning about herbs and their medicinal properties. Her father was a doctor and mother was a pharmacist.

"In those days, doctors would prescribe their own herb mixtures and the pharmacists would have to prepare the mixtures," she explained.

During the summer, Koidu and her sisters would stay with their elderly aunts in the Swedish countryside. While her aunts weren’t pharmacists, they would prepare cough medicines and other herbal remedies.

"(My sisters and I) would go out and gather the herbs," she said. Later, Koidu trained as a pharmacist, where she learned more about herbs and herbal preparation. She worked as a pharmacist in Sweden until she moved to Canada about 30 years ago. Koidu is unable to practice pharmacy in Canada, but still uses her knowledge during her work at Richters.

"Canadian law prohibits me from telling customers what to take or how to take it," Koidu explained. She said she tells customers to seek the advice from a naturopathic doctor, or refers them to the many medicinal books available. Koidu can, however, discuss the herbs and their properties with interested customers. For example, ginkgo tree helps with memory and rosemary can improve mood, she explained. Koidu said herbs are used for various reasons, from culinary to medicinal to aromatherapy.

As part of her job, Koidu lectures about herbs both at Richter’s and in other locations. She answers questions that come to Richters Herbs from around the world.

"People call from Costa Rica, Florida, all over, for advice," she said.

Koidu credits various herbs for keeping her healthy.

"I use herbs a lot in cooking," she said. "It builds up the immune system. I am almost never sick."

Reprinted from The Uxbridge Cosmos, April 12, 2007. © 2007 The Uxbridge Cosmos.

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