You know I could talk about plants and their eye popping, jaw dropping, tongue twisting properties ALL day! ….kind of like it’s my job.
There is truly no end to the wonder of plants, and believe me, I’m content to talk your ear off about them.
But, to confess, the super truth of the matter is my favorite part of herbal medicine is the RELATIONSHIP between plants and humans. I’m all up in that business. I want to know all the gory details of that dynamic, the romance, the drama, how it went meeting the parents; is it a ‘read the newspaper in bed on Sundays’ kind of relationship???
Being an herbalist lets me wear my nosiness like a badge of honor.
So why am I sharing one of my glaring personalities flaws with you? Well, to talk about Skin of course!
Here’s where Plant Oil meets epidermis…
From the jump, Skin always thought Plant Oil was cute, but from afar- she wasn’t so sure about Plant Oil’s wild ways. You know, having all these crazy nutrients and phytochemicals. Plus, could she really get over her barrier character strategy and really accept all Plant Oil had to offer?
Plant Oil had its eye on Skin since she started to emerge from under the fur of our ancient ancestors. Plant Oil was like, “Oh dang, I could synergize with that”. Plant Oil hollered at Skin, got to know her sebum, and they found out that besides having so much in common, they were downright complementary!
When Skin finally showed her vulnerability by sharing with Plant Oil about the complex makeup of Skin’s sebum, which includes a fatty acid exclusive to human beings that promotes cell health, one that Plant Oil’s nourishing properties emphasize and support- the two knew they were meant for each other. The rest is history.
Ah, yes, ritual. At first, it seems like an old word. Some relic from the past, an exotic practice or tedious formal event. The very word is derived from the word “rite” – you know, like a sacred practice of one kind or another. But rituals are ever present and ever necessary in this human life.
Ritual gives us stability in a changing world around us. It both brings us back to the familiar and helps usher us forward to an unknown. Consider for a moment that life is a circular event, bringing us back to the same seasons year after year. The same sunrise and sunset, day after day. And at the same time, the beauty of life is an unpredictable flow from one event to the next, from birth to death and everything in between.
Ethnographer and folklorist Arnold van Gennep coined the term “Rites of passage” in his 1909 piece, “Les Rites de Passage”, to describe the process of moving from one stage of life to the next – think high school graduation (y’all on your own now!). Rites of passage are often formalized processes that all members of a general community experience. For example, if you want to practice law in the States, you take the Bar Exam. Or in many societies, if you want to be ushered into adulthood, you engage in a puberty ritual. In the States, all practicing lawyers share the story of the Bar; in many communities, all recognized adults share the story of a puberty ritual. Rites of passage are a form of social care, creating place and expectation among others.
It is in the smaller, daily rituals that we emanate self-care. On the daily, we rely on smaller scale ritual to usher us through our days, weeks and months, creating familiarity in the unknown hours ahead. By their very nature, rituals are infused with intention and meaning. Don’t underestimate the sacred in that morning cup of joe or nightly bedtime story. We invest in what is meaningful to us, and from time to time the intent of our ritual can get lost in the busy hub-bub of everyday life. Even worse, when one part of your daily ritual is thrown off, your whole day might get wonky. Because we invest in what is meaningful, our personal rituals become vessels of self-care. This is their blessing: that when we take a moment to reflect, to stop and breathe in the midst of our ritual, we realize its value. Our value.
Trees need the time of darkness, to bear their roots deep in the rich soil for the winter, so they can lie dormant and nourished, gathering all of their energy for the next season. This is inherent in them as a seed. They know they need this time to slow down, so they can grow towards the coming light of the spring when the warmth comes back again. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, as our earth makes its way around the sun, the light tips below us and we are experiencing longer darker days. That day when the longest night of the year grabs a hold of us, is known as the Winter Solstice.
The word Sol means sun and sistere is to stop, or to be still. Despite all that our modern culture does to remove itself from the cold bleakness of winter, the wildness of our beings know that we need this season, this darkness and stillness, just like the trees.
We humans are dependent on this same, slower flow of the season to keep us growing. By understanding the power of darkness from the rhythm of nature in winter, we can reclaim it in celebration and look towards the time when we too can spring upwards towards the light. We can honor this changing and turning within ourselves as well, by learning from those beings that embrace the dark and grow from it. Those beings that I believe capture the spirit of winter are mushrooms.
Mysterious and magical, mushrooms seem to pop up out of nowhere when the rain has fallen and settled upon the earth. Just under our feet, everywhere in the deep rich humus, there is a whole network of mycelium, like the neural connections in our brain, communicating and absorbing nutrients to sustain its growth. What we see are the mushroom bodies. Among the many benefits of this being, they bring us deep healing immunity, modulating our system, feeding our nerves and calming our spirit. Along with the physical properties, they carry tales of mystical wonderment, of an ancient belonging to a world below. Of slow dark growth in the depths and layers of decay and rebirth for the floor of the forest.
Autumn is the season for the leaves to fall, to take their last dance upon the branches where they once bloomed, and then let go. Winter is the season for decay, for turning those leaves into that which they were created from. The mycelium, the network spreading underneath our feet, creates this soil. They turn death into the very substance of life.
This winter season, remember what you can learn from the spirit of the mushrooms. Winter is our time to accept the darkness and reclaim it so we can compost and turn it into nourishment for our own growth. As the world outside is letting things go to rest in the earth, imagine yourself doing the same. We are invited to go within and nourish ourselves, like the mushrooms and the trees. To explore the healing of a still quiet, to wonder, listen, imagine, and create. On this Winter Solstice night, or anytime this winter, create a space for intention setting. What wants to be born from this darkness in you? Light candles and set an intention for the warmer lighter coming days. By allowing this time to honor the natural rhythm of winter, we recognize that we are just as much a part of this turning and changing earth and we too need the darkness to keep growing. Keep yourselves warm, sleep well, and Happy Winter Solstice!
In-House Product Maker and Blue Otter Trained Herbalist
Winter solstice is rapidly approaching and with all of the beauty and holiday cheer that a winter wonderland brings, it also causes dry, dehydrated skin - which can be a real bummer. Cold air, heated homes, and cozy fires- a trifecta of real moisture suckers that'll leave your skin looking like a dry flaky shell of its once golden and dewy summer self.
Not to worry beauties, I'm here to offer up some solutions for your thirsty skin blues.
STEP ONE: Make sure your cleanser is not adding fuel to the fire by stripping away what little oil and moisture your skin has left with those oh-so deceptive suds. Enter Masa and Olive Face Paste- on double duty with olive oil acting as the moisturizer (loaded with skin loving vitamin E and antioxidants!) and corn flour helping to slough off dead skin. Hydrating while exfoliating=the happiest skin in the world.
STEP TWO: Slap a mask on it. No, not one of those thick green clay based masks that can have ya looking like a creature of the swamp. Don’t get me wrong, clay masks are great for acne and excess oil production but they can be a bit drying during the winter months and best used only as a spot treatment during this time. Enter Mermaid Mask- food for your face! Irish Moss helps rehydrate the skin with its high mineral content, leaving skin smoother and softer. Honey and aloe vera are both humectants which means they draw moisture into the skin like a magnet. Lastly, but certainly not least, lavender essential oil helps to soothe the irritation that dry, frigid air can often cause.
STEP THREE: Tone! Most certainly not your muscles, it’s pie season for heaven’s sake. Tone your skin with Sage and Rose Face Mist, loaded with rose-geranium hyrdrosol a great anti-inflammatory (aka calming agent) for dry irritated skin. This delicious mist also contains jojoba oil, which is actually a liquid plant wax. Crazy right?! Jojoba oil works wonders by mimicking our own sebum when our skin isn’t producing enough. Keep Sage and Rose handy and spritz whenever that dry tight feeling starts rearing its ugly head.
STEP FOUR: The next one may be a bit obvious but still totally deserves a mention- the beloved Face Oil, a perfect combination of skin loving oils. Don’t panic my acne prone beauts- healthy oils are exactly what Dr. Epidermis ordered after being assaulted with harsh, ultra drying products. These can cause your skin to produce excess oil and then BAM! you’ve just entered break out city and you are the mayor. Face Oil is brimming with fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A and omegas all working together to nourish your skin and help it regain balance. Apply and then Beddie Bye.
Now...I saved the best for last, and I may be a tad biased as it is one of my personal favorites.
STEP FIVE: Enter...All Cream, or shall I say the icing on the cake. For us extra dry peeps using just pure oils to moisturize during this season may not be enough for thirsty skin because there are no ingredients to lock the moisture into your skin. Beware!! Many skin hating companies make their skin creams with ethyl alcohol because it speeds up product dry time. But guess what? It also speeds up dry skin time…No Bueno. Fat and the Moon All Cream is alcohol free (because who loves you, babe?) and contains both humectant and occlusive ingredients, two of dry skin’s BFFs. The aloe vera in this cream works hard to draw moisture into the skin while the beeswax and shea butter create a barrier to stop that moisture from being sucked right back out. Basically the occlusive ingredients help trap in all of the aforementioned goodies. All Cream works wonders on both face and bod and is best when applied while skin is still moist, making the humectants job a bit easier.
Follow the above simple recipe and go from prune to peach in 5 easy steps!
P.S. Do not forget to hydrate! It is easy to forget your jug o’ water at home when it’s 40 degrees out but this does not mean your bod doesn’t need it! Staying hydrated is a crucial step in combating dry skin!
The herbal Monastery in Olimje, where medicine is grown on site by monks- and has been for hundreds of years.... The Blejski gorge where the river is turquoise and the trout shimmer.... The thick Slovenian woods, at an undisclosed location visited for the last 20 years by my family to harvest chestnuts. Consecrated, revered, devoted.