23 to watch in 2023: Erin Masako Wilkins, Herb Folk founder

For Erin Masako Wilkins, once an aspiring lawyer, “food as medicine” is her business motto.|

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

Name: Erin Masako Wilkins

Title: Herbalist, author and business-owner

On the job since: 2017

Age: 40

Hometown: Born in Sacramento but has lived in Petaluma since 1996.

Why Wilkins is someone to watch:

Wilkins was studying social justice at UC Santa Cruz, thinking she might be a lawyer, when she began feeling as if something was physically wrong.

She had her first acupuncture session and that’s when she began to delve into the world of mixing modern and traditional healing, as well as reconnecting with her roots as an Asian American.

She received her master’s degree in science in East Asian Medicine from the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College at UC Berkeley in 2011, and she founded her business, Herb Folk, which opened in Petaluma in 2019.

When the pandemic hit, Wilkins decided to take her business online where it has blossomed. She sells handcrafted blends of herbs for broths, teas and more with ingredients such as rose, Korean mint, lemon balm and honeysuckle.

The whole idea behind her business is “food as medicine” Wilkins said.

“It’s the cup of green tea that my grandma would make every day. It’s the soups with shiitake mushroom and udon noodle that she would make me when I was ill.”

She believes those ingredients and combinations will nourish your mind, body and spirit as well as taste good and are made to be easily prepared, and they might sometimes be a better remedy than popping a pill.

What others are saying about Wilkins:

Joanna Paun, a counselor at Marin Academy and Petaluma School District board member, said she met Wilkins in April, 2021 when they both joined an ad hoc committee on race and policing. She ended up visiting Herb Folk because she was having major health issues and she and Wilkins hit it off.

“I think it's great that she's really puts herself out there,” Paun said. “Not just as a business owner, but really uplifting Asian voices and working with the greater AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) community. I’m glad she’s being recognized in this way. Whatever platform she has, she always elevates other people as well.”

What Wilkins says about 2023:

She is looking forward to going to Japan for the first time, where she will visit Kyushu, home to her maternal grandmother’s family, to source teas to bring back to the community.

She’s also ecstatic that her book, “Asian American Herbalism — Folk Traditions in Modern Day Practice,” will be released in October 2023. She said the book is filled with more than 100 recipes of everyday healing for digestion, sleep and “all the good stuff.”

In response to making The Press Democrat’s 23 to Watch list, Wilkins said it’s an example of how Sonoma County has welcomed her with open arms, for which she is incredibly grateful.

“I have felt completely embraced by the community. Some of the things I've shared that are so important to me have made me feel super vulnerable, and for it to be so well received ― it makes me feel safe to continue sharing myself, sharing my work ― it feels like the community values it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

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