Most herbalists that I meet are of the clinical variety; they give health consultations to clients and prescribe herbal supplements to improve overall body function based on symptoms and history. Some, like me, are health educators who promote self-management by providing guidelines and information. Others are manufacturers who like to process raw materials into products. A few have the science background and expertise to do evidence-based laboratory research on how plant medicines work.
Plant chemistry led her into an interest in medicinal herbs resulting in a Master Herbalist Certificate and a job teaching Botanical Medicine classes at a Pima Community College, as well as teaching workshops at an herb store in the Phoenix area. Last month I encountered an herbalist who has combined all of these into one energetic and inspired package and business. Regina Di Silvestro earned her BA at Arizona State University in Anthropology and Zoology, and then headed into graduate school to get some pharmacology, organic chemistry and toxicology. She proposed a project to study the cancer-fighting potential of novel compounds created in root structures (the rhizo-sphere) of plants; this project attracted NIH funding.
Since we all have to work after graduation, she accepted a job in 2002 at Amylin Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, doing research on proteins. She used her “spare” time to start up an herbal products business in the classic in- the-garage manner, spending weekends and evenings setting up a website for catalog and special order sales. Her specific niche became the trans-dermal delivery of therapeutic herbal compounds through skin oils. This product line has proven very popular with holistic massage businesses and health spas due, in large part, to its scientific validation of content and efficacy, not to mention that she offers customization and provides private labeling.
In 2009, under less-then-positive economic conditions, she left Amylin and began to work full time at running a small storefront in Lemon Grove that provided her with a research and manufacturing space. That soon become too small. She moved to a space in Little Italy on India Street called R.D. Alchemy Natural Products (www.rdalchemy.com).
Having ample satisfaction for her passion for business development, she re-activated her love of teaching. Di Silvestro started a Meet-Up group and also became a guest lecturer at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. She went on to set up the Alchemy Research Institute with a board of directors, boasting a chemist, a neurosurgeon and like-minded advisors. The board is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization so that they can apply for research grants and accept donations from businesses wishing to fund current in plant-based products.
Obviously this woman has a passion. I spent hours getting to know her and did not want to leave. She captured my imagination. We explored the idea of collaborating on a project and seeking funding.
Di Silvestro’s goal is to do solid, high quality research for therapeutic products and be able to make them accessible on the market with minimal turn-around time. She wants to make a difference in health for those around her and provide confidence in botanical medicine through credible scientific research. Go on by her shop at 2040 India Street to try out her creations and meet this dynamo business woman. If you have a business, you may find that her research and/or products suit your needs. Otherwise, just enjoy the aroma and aura of her shop, try out some oils; ask a few questions. Don’t be surprised if you find Di Silvestro’s enthusiasm and outlook contagious.
published by Presidio Sentinel April 2015