A Day’s Work: Herbalist

(Photo by Dawn Green)

(Photo by Dawn Green)

Josh Boughton is an herbalist and the natural products director for the Village Apothecary.   He is responsible for quality control of the supplements sold. He looks at where and how the raw materials were produced, and whether there were any adulterants used in production.

How did you get into this line of work?

I got a job working with my friend’s consulting business and I started to see what was going on behind the scenes; and I was frankly appalled and astonished. Working for his consulting business led me to start my own consulting business and I’ve run that and worked in various stores until I came to work for Neal [Smoller]. Neal wanted to create a place where people could get supplements that are safe and evidence-based, because right now it’s the ‘Wild West.’ You have no idea what you’re getting. Just because a company comes in and says ‘oh, this product is great,’ it doesn’t mean it’s great. There’s no regulation in the industry.

What sort of person makes a good candidate for the job?


You have to have a very skeptical nature. You have to be very rational. You can’t let your personal beliefs interfere. You have to be willing to go against things that you personally believe. Too many people treat companies like religion, and saying anything that goes against them personally offends them. You have to be willing to admit when you were wrong about something. Basically, you can’t have any sacred cows. Unfortunately, that’s the industry.

What is a common misconception about the work?

I think a common misconception is that everything is safe, and because everything is natural, there’s no side effects. That couldn’t be further from the truth. That everything is going to be properly labeled, things like that.

How are the hours?

Long. It’s not for someone who just wants to work 9-5 Monday to Friday. You’ll get a clinical trial, but when you really read through it, it wasn’t done properly. There’s so much information and it’s constantly changing. It’s a mentally taxing job. It’s not really for someone who wants a ton of home life.

What makes for a really good day?

Not finding any issues, so I know that every single customer is getting a clean, properly labeled, safe product.

What makes a bad day?

Finding out one of the companies you really liked sold out so you’ll have to discontinue them. I get sad because I have a lot of friends in this industry; I talk with owners, and when they change things just for a few bucks it’s a sad day.

How has the job changed since you’ve started?

It’s gotten harder, because the amount of schemes and scams, there’s more and more all the time. I’d say every month it gets harder. Adulteration is rampant in this industry because there’s no penalties. Industries require regulation or they will just take all the money they can.

Do you see yourself at the same job ten years from now?

I see my job changing, but I enjoy being able to help protect consumers. I definitely see myself in the industry trying to make it better.

How’s the pay?

The pay is good. It’s a nice, middle-class living. You’re not going to get rich in this industry doing the right thing. I could make five times the amount of money doing the wrong thing.