Tierney Salter, owner of The Herbalist store in Seattle, Washington, died on May 21, 2017, following complications with her lifelong battle with severe asthma. Due to her health condition, Salter turned to herbal medicine as a natural and sustainable way to alleviate her symptoms and improve her quality of life, and dedicated her career to helping others do the same. She opened The Herbalist in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle in 1984 and a second location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill in 2014.
After earning a degree in anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1980, Salter studied under the late herbalist Michael Moore at his Southwest School of Botanical Medicine in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1980 to 1982. She then moved to Seattle and opened The Herbalist.
According to Alison Brownrigg, who worked with Salter for 15 years at The Herbalist, Salter’s experience with her own chronic illness inspired her to open the store (email, January 4, 2018). “The natural medicine industry was a very different place in 1984,” Brownrigg wrote, “and, even in a progressive city like Seattle, she was definitely breaking boundaries and pushing people’s ideas of self-care.”
At The Herbalist, Salter sold her own line of products, including single-herb and combination-herb tinctures, salves, and teas, and used organic and wild-harvested materials whenever possible. Eventually, her line expanded to more than 200 products, and she added private label body care products and vitamins to her shelves. She kept up with the evolving regulatory landscape for natural products and steered her company through labeling concerns, scrutiny from the US Food and Drug Administration after the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994, and pressure from increasing competition.
Salter also studied iridology, the practice of examining patterns, colors, and other characteristics of the iris to determine information about a patient’s health, and offered in-store consultations. “She was very generous with her knowledge,” Brownrigg noted. “She never had an employee sign a non-compete clause, she never hid her recipes, [and] she wasn’t [upset] when a former employee became competition. [She was] genuinely happy for their success.”
Salter “practiced what she preached” in regard to natural healing, and used her own products faithfully. She advocated for natural cleanses and integrated dietary suggestions into her recommendations and protocols. (“But she definitely enjoyed life and wine and good food,” Brownrigg added.) She strived to make her shop a healing entity in and of itself, using aromatherapy and similar holistic techniques to create a soothing atmosphere. The shop’s logo, a beaver with herbs in its mouth, held deep meaning for Salter. “Beavers make their homes with many different entrances and exits,” Brownrigg recalled her mentor saying, “so they have lots of options in their lives, many ways to do things, and come and go as they please. She thought this was the way with healing: there are many different options to choose, including herbal medicine.”
Brownrigg remembers Salter as intelligent, savvy, vibrant, and quick to laugh. She was devoted to her family, and her two sisters and son worked at her store. She also had a huge heart for animals, and often brought her dogs to work with her. She visited Mexico frequently, and maintained a residence there as well. “No article about her would be complete without a nod to her flair,” Brownrigg wrote. She enjoyed a flamboyant personal style with bright colors, especially turquoise.
Tierney Salter is survived by her son Philip; sisters Erin Chesledon and Tracey Isaacson; and her nephew, uncles, and cousins. “All she would care about her legacy is that she helped people heal,” Brownrigg concluded. “I really think that’s what it was all about for her.”