(This article was originally published here on the Thistle and Spire website on April 14, 2022.)
With 4/20 just around the corner, we thought this would be the perfect time to introduce you to Ashley Jelks, the owner of our favorite CBD-focused company The High Priestess Herbal Wellness.
Ashley wants to help you make the most of your sex life—and every other part of your life—with her CBD-based products, which include a mélange of other natural herbs and elixirs.
Don’t worry, CBD (cannabidiol) isn’t mind altering, so there’s no uncomfortable gray area around consent. Rather it’s a nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis (marijuana) and is derived directly from the hemp plant.
Ashley believes so much in the healing properties of this plant that she has created an entire business around it. The High Priestess is the first (and, so far, only) Black-woman-herbalist-owned CBD apothecary of its kind, tapping into a niche market with widespread appeal.
A trained herbalist and engineer, Ashley has developed targeted lines of proprietary smoke blends, tinctures, teas and lubricating oils that address different issues, specifically:
Sensual and sexual arousal and awakening
While all of those things are integral to a happy, healthy life, we’re the most titillated by the intimacy products containing CBD and other herbal boosts that help increase levels of openness, comfort and sexual satisfaction.
Ashley’s diverse background and training in engineering, herbalism, yoga, reiki and teaching created fertile ground for her current entrepreneurial wellness venture. Also, as someone who struggled with her own physical and mental health issues—autoimmune conditions and anxiety—she found that plants and herbal medicine helped her manage, and sometimes improve, these conditions.
She shared her story with us about a lifelong interest in natural medicine and the journey of self-healing and community creation that led her to create her own CBD business.
When did you launch The High Priestess Herbal Wellness?
We opened last year, in March 2021, and just celebrated our first anniversary. It was definitely a pandemic project, but was one of those things I had wanted to do for a while. Before the pandemic, I didn’t have the time to carve out the time or a business plan required to start a company. That was the pandemic’s gift to me—the opportunity to sit down and do what needed to be done to make this happen.
Great name. How did you come up with it?
It came to me one night when I was consuming cannabis and reading tarot cards, and I was struggling with names for my new company. I drew the High Priestess tarot card and examined it. Its meaning is about bridging the seen and unseen, the physical and spiritual worlds.
I use cannabis as a tool to tap into my intuition, which is exactly what that card and what this plant are both about. It’s also a fun play on words—high, 4/20, all the good stuff that we associate with cannabis. Right now, we only work with CBD, but at some point, I plan to branch more into THC (the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant) products, so the name will really resonate with those.
You know this is on everyone’s mind—how can your products help improve our sex lives?
Sexual arousal a biological process, but so much is happening in our minds too. Our thoughts and mental processes can enhance or detract from the overall sexual experience. [Referencing the book The CBD Solution] Some women who struggle achieving orgasm find that consuming cannabis before sex can help with that issue.
Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system, which is designed to receive the medicine and benefits in the cannabis plant and our bodies react to it. When combined with other herbs that do particular things, the results can be powerful and targeted to specific needs, both mental and physical.
I wanted to focus on intersecting herbal medicines that have certain effects, and originally, I was going to focus exclusively on a sexual wellness line. This is specifically how I wanted to set myself apart from other CBD companies and not add to an already saturated market. I don’t see many other companies doing this, especially combining herbs for sexual pleasure with topically applied sexual wellness oils.
What was your motivation to create a company like this?
I’m trained in yoga and reiki, and was turned off by the wellness experience because I realized it was super white, thin, cis-gendered and able-bodied. I’m not like a lot of the community of people I practiced with, so I wondered why the representations of this community were so monolithic.
I intersected so many different elements of myself. There’s the engineering part of my brain that likes solving problems and working on different things. There’s the herbalist in me that loves plant medicine, the part of me that uses cannabis in my own healing journey, and the practitioner in me that doesn’t feel like the images representing wellness are accurate and inclusive. I put all of these pieces of myself together and The High Priestess was the meeting point and organic outgrowth of those various things.
Did you have a specific goal or vision in mind when mapping out your business plan?
I want to change the world with plants, and my products can do that in small ways, one step at a time. I’m a woman with anxiety who made a company to help other people who may also struggle with anxiety.
I was trying to fit into a world that didn’t have room for me, and so I just made room for myself and extended that to others. I’ve always felt like I’m a bit of an outsider and I wanted to create community and space for all people to feel welcomed and included. I love that we’re moving in that direction as a society. I often forget to talk about this because it’s interwoven into my entire life experience and at the forefront of what I’m thinking.
Wellness can be a lot of different things. Human beings are dealing with so many different issues, and we all have a lot more in common than we don’t. Where and how can we help people feel more seen and included? That piece is so important to me, and not because it’s a hot buzzword, but because it’s my life.