Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Building of a Store

Shawn shows me the vacant storefront.
 Let me tell you a story. It is how the brick and mortar location of Boline Apothecary came to be- it's a long and winding road. It's the story of how small businesses happen. It's full of tiny triumphs and setbacks and I own every one of them.

In the beginning, there was me, Lily. I had spent my teen years and adulthood dabbling in holistic remedies and herbalism and finally attended an herb school in California in my thirties. I moved to Ohio in 2011 (and Columbus in 2012). Once settled in the Capitol City, I started helping friends one--on-one with small maladies and remedies. Never one to make a little of this or that, I made large batches of my remedies and found myself with a surplus of "leftovers". So I started selling online and started to attend a farmer's market (400 West Rich).

That pink!
One farmer's market led to another and another, and soon I was selling out of my remedies and adding products based on what folks asked of me in clinical visits and at the farmer's market booths.

In the meantime, I decided to enter the healing profession full time. So I began to take a master's program traditional Chinese medicine (thinking that it complemented the western herbalism quite well). I also started delivering Boline orders to small independent retail establishments. One of those establishments, City Folks Farm Shop, asked me to teach classes and so I did. I got to know the proprietor better and became friends with her. It was shopkeeper Shawn of City Folks, who cajoled me into looking into renting the retail space next door to her shop. But I was skeptical. I did not think my little business was ready for such a step. I mean, I sold well at the farmer's markets- but to fill a whole shop? That seemed more than a little daunting.

Painting progress!
I didn't think that I could afford such a venture and I did not think that anyone would lend me the money to start such a project, anyway. But Shawn had kindled a spark. I realized I could make the shop bigger than me and my line- it could be a sustainable community project! I realized that Columbus could have an actual apothecary- one that it was ready for! I fantasized about dried bulk herbs and high grade products that are hard to find all in one place. I realized that we could connect the farms in Ohio with the city folks who need medicinal herbs. In short, I started fantasizing on Facebook about the idea of not just a place for my products, but a much larger vision.

My first furniture.
Every major city (and plenty of smaller ones, too) she had visited had an herb store/apothecary, but Columbus had none. Yes, the City of Gahanna has the Herb Education Center (yay!), and the local coops have bulk dried herbs from hither and yon. But there was no place like Scarlet Sage in San Francisco, Moonrise Herbs in Arcata, CA, Rebecca's Herbs in Boulder, CO, or Flower Power in NYC. A place that was an epicenter for herbal healing and education with a variety of products and services available to the populace. A place to get eco friendly and holistic health care, toiletries, and supplies. And Columbus needed one, I thought. While my line was popular at the markets, if I combined forces with other local artisans, herbalists, and farmers the store could serve so many!

So the vision expanded from a shop of Boline-made products to a shop that included other amazing local and national lines of remedies and body care- as long as they met my criteria of "organic, ethical, pronounceable, and effective".  And I decided that I would carry things like dried bulk herbs, therapeutic grade essential oils (so hard to find here!), flower essences, and the like. But I thought, "we can do better than than that, after all, Ohio is rich in family farms!"

So I dreamed big- not just dried bulk herbs, but the majority of them grown right here in Ohio, supporting non-profit gardens and small family farms! Not just the same national lines everyone else carries, but a specialty place focusing on local artisans and healers! So I started reaching out to growers, producers and artists. And in my conversations, I heard about a way to make it happen:

Starting to take shape
with temporary furnishings.
One of the friends I have made on this journey was from the first farmer's market I did (400 West Rich Street): Jen. And Jen was now working for ECDI, a non-profit that helps grow businesses. They had a loan program. She was encouraging and pushed a little. So I went in and met Kevin, the loan officer and he explained the process- that was January 2014. I went to work. I filled out the huge paperwork packet and wrote a business plan and submitted it within two weeks. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

And at the end of February, I got word that she was most likely approved, but no guarantees. But there was trouble on the horizon! The retail space that would be so perfect for my vision, the one that was affordable and next door to City Folks, was in demand suddenly! After being vacant for four months, there were a couple others that wanted it and unless I could come up with a deposit and sign a lease, I was going to lose it, even though my loan was so close to coming to pass.What's an herbalist with a vision to do? I started a crowdsourcing campaign. If I could raise the security deposit, I thought- I'll take the risk of signing a lease, even without the loan. (Gulp.) I crowdsourced enough for the deposit and a friend came forward with a short-term loan until the loan came through. This allowed me to put down the deposit and start work on the space, buying paint and hardware.

Scrap lumber = steeping shelf!
So sign on the dotted line I did. It was terrifying. A couple weeks into work on the space, I got the news! I was approved and in a week or so, I could close on the loan and get the money! Huzzah! In the end, they even split up the closings into two- so I could get half the money right away (from a women's foundation and the Small Business Administration) and the second half (from the City of Columbus) could take its bureaucratic time.

The first adventure in owning a store was painting and construction (not exactly an herbalist's forté). The store has been left an unfortunate pink and black combination that required lots of primer and paint. But eventually, the store became that signature green with brown trim.

As soon as I got the loan money, I hit the ground running, buying starting inventory, furnishings, and packaging. As it arrived, I was able to make more products. As I worked in the store, I invited more and more artisans to put their wares in the store. It started getting fuller and fuller. So many people came forward to help in some way- donating furnishings, their labor and hours of toil, and their expertise to making the retail space possible. There is no possible way that I could have applied in January and launched in April without the blessings and help of so many. In more ways than one, this store is a community effort and is richer for the hands and minds of myriad folks from different parts of the community.

The walls were my bane.
Plaster over cinder block
means special tools and a lot
of sweat and tears to install
Now that the store was open, I had a lot of work to do to get it to where I envisioned it. I needed to find suitable jars for the bulk section, make labels for each and every herb coming into the store for sale, research which essential oils to carry, make opening orders without maxxing out my micro-loan capital, get a new insurance policy, and so much more.

I am now in my second month of business. I still do the farmer's markets as promotion for the store and still supply small independent retail. But now I have a much bigger project to juggle. I hope to hire a part time staffer, get another day off a week, and eventually pay myself (hopefully by the end of the year). We shall see.

I am offering classes and workshops, tastings and events to bring folks in. So you should come in!

The story of the store continues every day. I am open for business and each week brings new exciting challenges and items in the door. Come by and see what is new and say hi!

Temporary furnishings.
Eric, who helped install shelves.
Eric again! So helpful!

My first signage.
My first farm delivery!
Seasonal Display!

New labels!
Happy herbalists male things.
A seasonal offering of seedlings.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why We Carry Oshadhi and Tisserand Essential Oils

This is part two in a series on essential oils at Boline Apothecary. Part one can be read here.

 At the store, we have selected two lines of essential oils to carry on a regular basis. Since they are less familiar to many folks in the area, I wanted to introduce them and explain why I selected them. The two companies that I selected are Oshadhi and Tisserand.

Both are European companies, not US companies. Oshadhi is German, and Tisserand is British. Both companies were started by world renown aromatherapists who started this science in the 1970's. As someone who believes in both "organic, ethical, pronouncable and effective" remedies -and- locavorism in what you ingest, why on earth did I go with foreign companies, you may ask?

Because the United States has little to no effective regulations on essential oils and the ones that they do have favor companies, not consumers. The EU is much more stringent on what ingredients are allowed, what processes can be used, and how things are labeled. I wanted that level of scrutiny on a product that I put on my skin or inhale. (1)

When selecting essential oils, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. How are the plants sourced? Does the company know the cultivator, or do they own the land themselves? Oils are only as good as the plants. So the cultivation and harvest methods should be overseen by the company. Companies like doTerra do not have land or relationships with cultivators nor do they distill their own lines. In order to ensure the oil is pure, a good aromatherapy company has no choice other than to source essential oils direct from the grower/supplier, and to build a close relationship with those farmers who cultivate healing plants to the highest standards. Through this personal contact we know that they practice methods of cultivation which are in accordance with the natural rhythms of the land, and that they utilize methods of distillation which do not damage the pure essences from the plants.

2. How are they distilled and processed into oils? Most people "into" EOs know enough to choose companies that use steam distillation over chemical solvents when possible (some plants cannot be extracted by steam distillation). But there is more to it than that. Are the oils high quality, single source plants, or is it a blend that includes low quality cheaper oils and spiked enough with higher quality ones to "test well"?

Only about 5% of the total global production of essential oils is ultimately destined for therapeutic use. Most essential oil production is bound for the fragrance or flavor industries, and (let's be clear about this) they have less exacting standards of purity(2). It's from these various sources that doTerra gets its oils, because they do not have relationships with growers. Yes, they claim to test them to be ensured of potency (but these oils are likely blends of many species from all over the world, some lesser quality mixed in with some higher quality). Industrial production generally attempts to obtain a specific standardized reproducible note of fragrance, or an identical active ingredient. These oils will generally not appear in price lists under a specific botanical name. The reason for this is that those oils are produced either from different species of lesser value, from mixed crops or from mixing with synthetic components. This is why you will see "Frankincense" on many commercially available oils, but not where or how it was sourced. It is a conglomerate of sources, all mixed together. It is not pure and some of the lesser quality oils are mixed in with enough of the higher grade ones to "test well".

3. How are they tested? It is important to perform careful laboratory testing for purity using gas chromatography and - if necessary - mass spectrography. This guarantees that essential oils are 100% pure. Comprehensive analyses and quality controls, supported by on-going state-of-the-art laboratory tests should be done including:

Optical rotation
Gas chromatography analysis
And, if necessary, mass spectrography

doTerra makes the claim to have the highest grade testing in the United States. Anyone familiar with US law regarding cosmetics, drugs, and body care knows- all the power is in the hands of for-profit companies and the government does little to no regulation on consumer health and body products. So that "best in the US" claim is not worth much. No one is enforcing their claim. But in the EU, the standards are much higher than in the US for these products. This is how doTerra gets away with creating their own certification (that is meaningless) and makes the claim that they are the only ones who have it. The US does not enforce standards.

3. How are they labeled? Is it clear and accurate as to source, extraction method, date bottled, and the latin name for each botanical (so you know that you are getting one specific plant instead of a blend of related plants from different parts of the world)?

4. Is the oil adulterated? For therapeutic use, we want to have a pure, clean, unadulterated oil with a good energy value and a clear fragrance. The more exact the description of the essential oil, the less risky it is for the buyer to purchase something impure. A company who can inform its customers about its oils and where they come from (species as well as geography) shows that it is better connected to the plant source and therefore the chances of adulteration are minimized.

All oils for therapeutic use should be unadulterated: 100% pure natural products. This means no chemical additives; no diluting with alcohol; no thinning with other oils unless necessary for certain purposes (i.e. access to the product because too solid, or specifically for the creation of new products, blends, etc.) Essential oils should not be peroxidized, decolorized, nor deturpenated.

The most common methods of adulterating essential oils (and most cheap oils and commonly found ones like Aura Cacia, Now, and the like) are:
  • Dilution with vegetable carrier oils, alcohol, and synthetic oils (which are cheaper).
  • Blending with cheaper oils of the same plant but from another country. For example: Bourbon Geranium with Geranium from China; Moroccan Myrtle with Myrtle from the Balkans; Siberian Fir with Chinese Fir.
  • Mixing with cheaper essentials oils of the same plant but extracted from a different part of the plant. For example: Clove bud with Clove leaves; Cinnamon bark with Cinnamon leaf; Angelica root with Angelica leaf.
  • Dilution with cheaper essential oils of plants of similiar species. For example: Thyme (thymus vulgaris) with wild Thyme (thymus mastichina); Lavender with Lavandin; Ceylon cinnamon with Chinese Cassia.
  • Adulteration with cheaper essential oils of different plants or of species with a similiar name. For example: East Indian with so called 'West Indian Sandalwood' (Amyris); Lemongrass with Litsea; Patchouli with Eucalyptus; Verbena with Lemongrass; Frankincense with turpentine; Rosewood with Ho oil; Melissa with "Indian Melissa" (Lemongrass etc.); Clary sage with Lavender; Mandarin with Orange; The so called 'white' Thyme  with turpentine...
  • Mixing with isolated natural or (semi-) synthetic compounds. For example: Lemon with citral and Orange-terpenes; Peppermint with menthol; Eucalyptus with cineol; Geranium with geraniol or citronellol; Patchouli with clove bud terpenes; Rosemary with camphor; Thyme with thymol or carvacrol; Cardamon with terpenyl acetate; Elemi with Orange terpenes; Clary sage with lynalyl acetate or synthetic linalool; Clove bud with eugenol

Yes, these adulterations happen all the time. It's likely happened to the oil you have right now.

4. Are they respected internationally? What do certified aromatherapists worldwide think of the company and their practices?

5. Do they "train" their own sales reps to tout a company line, or do they rely on independently certified professionals to tout their products for them? MLM companies like doTerra and Young Living train their reps themselves - and often spread misinformation as a result. doTerra and Young Living, against the common sense and expertise of every certified aromatherapist out there, has products they recommend for internal use and even train their reps to talk about their oils as "food grade". No essential oil should ever be ingested without supervision of a trained professional, period.

You can guess where I am going with these leading questions. Most oil companies out there cannot answer these questions very well at all. Let me tell you about Oshadhi and Tisserand:

Oshadhi: Experts on rare and organic oils 

Oshadhi sets the standard for meticulously produced, pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils, worldwide. They not only have furthered the study and research in aromatherapy by investing in new and rare oil production (there are now 650 botanicals in their line), but have set the standard in how to work with growers and producers when making a healing product. The company was founded by Dr Malte Hozzel, an internationally respected expert on medicinal oils and educator.

If you are going to make a botanical product that you claim is pure, you should know the source of your botanicals. Oshadhi works with farmers directly:
"Our 'treasure hunt' for the best essential oils goes on and on, never ending, always more surprising, always more demanding. This is a challenge we relish. During our quest, we have established strong ties with over 100 farmers of medicinal plants throughout the world. These farmers are committed to the wise and prudent treatment of the soil and have demonstrated a deep respect for nature. Many do the same work as their father and grandfather did, often using traditional stainless steel or copper stills which provide the optimum conditions for the full aroma of the essential oils and maintenance of the active ingredients." -Oshadhi UK website.
They work with farmers employing responsible ecological farming methods:
"There has been ever-increasing degradation of soil due to the misuse of natural resources. This is specifically due to the clear-cutting of plants, over-harvesting, the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and monocultural farming. Unfortunately, few farmers are aware of the dramatic consequences of these widespread practices. Oshadi promotes organic farming (both with certified growers and those using organic methods that are uncertified- ed.)."
They respect the plants. Here the founder talks about that topic:

Oshadhi has a range of 650 finest quality, organic, natural essential oils. They are sourced directly from farmers and handled without any electronic or mechanical filling equipment -that's right, oils are bottled by hand to ensure purity. Oshadhi sources oils only with farmers who work in harmony with nature, and who share their ideals of organic agriculture. The wildcrafted plants are ethically sourced. The non-organic (Select) lines are raised with no pesticides and is raised with organic practices, but the soil has yet to receive organic certification.

For the sake of transparency and clarity, Oshadhi labels their essential oils with:
  • the exact botanical name- so you are not getting a blend.
  • the country of origin- so you know where your oil came from
  • the part of plant used for distillation- Did you know that many companies label their cinnamon bark only to have it tested and actually be cinnamon leaf. This may be deliberate or it may be an honest mistake. When you rely on big distillation conglomerates to keep things straight for you, it may get mixed up.
  • the mode of cultivation- certified organic, wildcrafted, or standard (means organic methods with no certification)
  • the major biochemical compounds inside, so you know that it was tested.
Every tiny blue Oshadhi bottle has this. Does your essential oil company do that?

Tisserand: consistent quality and testing

Tisserand is the line of Robert Tisserand (the man credited with starting aromatherapy as a science and is the foremost consulted expert on essential oils worldwide). When you study aromatherapy at an independent institute for certification, you will read his texts and learn all about how he is called upon to test and further the research of this new science called aromatherapy. The fact that his name is on every bottle is a huge testament to the quality of oil in every bottle.

If you are just getting into essential oils, you might want to give Tisserand's line a look. They make high quality oils (also certified organic, farmed with organic methods but uncertified, or ethically wildcrafted - just like Oshadhi).

They have a smaller single oil product line (they have 30 botanicals in their line) than Oshadhi (but who doesn't?) and give you a larger 9 ml bottle to start, so they are often more economical. While I trust them to be pure (and testing bears that out), they do not label some of the things that Oshadhi does (country of origin and part of plant used specifically).

They are the UK's #1 therapeutic brand and work hard on environmental causes, too. (In addition to sourcing their oils ethically and sustainably, they plant trees to offset their carbon footprint as a company.) They make personal care products in addition to essential oils, and their line is ethically and naturally sound as well.

We carry many of their singles as well as blends in roller ball form, for ease of portability. They also have some wonderful starter packs (like the Tea Tree, Lavender, and Eucalyptus trio for $30!)

No matter whether you choose Oshadhi or Tisserand at Boline Apothecary, you are getting some of the finest essential oils on the planet.

If you are interested in a mini course on aromatherapy, we plan to offer one this summer. Sign up on our email list to make sure you hear about registration for that.

(1) Please note that I did not say ingest when referring to how to use essential oils. No matter what a company tells you, EOs are *not* to be ingested unless you are working directly with a certified aromatherapist on a specific therapy. To sell a product like On Guard (or to train our reps to add Eos to smoothies and other food) like doTerra does is deliberate malfeasance and shenanigans. They say that to get you to buy more and go through more product.

(2) Did you know that "vanilla" and "raspberry" flavors are often not from those plants but from beaver anal glands? Eew.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Safe Sunscreen: Choose Wisely!

As spring turns to summer, our seasonal display (and the products we make a lot of) changes from spring liver detox to bug spray and sunscreen. As you have come to expect from Boline Apothecary products, our Sunscreen and SPF Cream has been researched and tested thoroughly to find a safe recipe for you and yours.

Many folks turn to large national conglomerates for cosmetics and sunscreens and if you are one of them, you need to know about The Environmental Working Group. They rate cosmetics, body care, and cleaning supplies in a huge database- make sure any product you ingest orally, through the skin, or through the respiratory system has a good rating from the EWG before getting it.

Fo those of you that prefer to shop local, I make an artisinal sunscreen in two formulas: a lotion in a 4 ounce pump bottle (easy to apply!) or a thick cream in a 4 ounce jar (great for noses, tips of ears, and baby skin). I use a deliberately simple formula that is good for the skin and uses minerals, among other things, to provide sun protection.

Facts about sunscreen that you should know

The FDA recently passed new rules about labeling, but these may actually make things worse for consumers. For example, sunscreens can claim “broad spectrum” coverage, even without research.

Sunscreen doesn’t prevent cancer. Most scientists and public health agencies, including the FDA itself, have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.

Higher SPF doesn’t provide more safety. Sunscreens claiming 50+ do not provide greater protection than a 30 and are much more toxic to you and yours.

Avoid sunscreen containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, or retinol. These ingredients have been shown in federal studies to speed the development of skin tumors and lesions. Not exactly healthy skin care!

Europeans have safer options. Much like food regulation, the European Union is way ahead of the US. They’ve banned over 1300 chemicals, whereas the FDA has only banned 11. European sunscreen offers safer and superior protection.

Some sunscreen ingredients disrupt hormones and can cause skin allergies. In fact, the most popular ingredient in chemical sunscreens, oxybenzone, is a hormone-disrupting chemical. It only blocks UVB anyway. It does not protect against UVA at all! Many sunblocks are petroleum based and have petroleum based fragrances which can cause allergies, among other issues.

Mineral-based sunscreen provides more protection. We need to protect against both UVA and UVB. UVA is complicated, but zinc and titanium offer broad spectrum protection against it. Chemical sunscreens only block a portion of the UVA spectrum. Due to the new FDA rules mentioned above, labels will be very misleading, promising "broad spectrum" where there isn’t any.

Even some mineral-based sunscreens have risks. Most commercial titanium and zinc based sunscreens contain nano particles. We don’t know enough about nano particles, but they can easily enter the body through the skin or lungs.

How do you choose a safe sunscreen?

Look for titanium dioxide and zinc based sunscreens.
Choose non-nano products (the label should say what the nm of the particle is).
Look for unscented or scented only with essential oils.
Choose lotion or cream based sunscreens (not liquids or solids).
Choose broad spectrum that protect against both UVA and UVB.
Make sure the EWG rating is between 0-2.

How does Boline Apothecary make their sunscreen, and how does it compare?

We use non-­nano zinc oxide as the active sunscreen ingredient. It’s the safest, most effective sunscreen filter. This means it is white when you apply it and it gradually turns clear as you rub it in. All safe sunscreens do that. If they don't, they are using something other than minerals to block UVA and UVB and it is not safe.

All of the ingredients in Boline's sunscreen were selected for their safety for you and the environment; we use no harmful chemical sunscreens, no hidden fragrances, or preservatives (as with all our products).

No make no outlandish claims about being waterproof (This is the most common concern I have gotten from the public. Any company that can beat water and sweat is using something fishy. You must reapply a suncreen.)

We formulate our suncreen with a specific percentage of non-nano zinc oxide to make it 30 SPF. We label our sunscreen 30+ SPF because we also use coconut oil and some essential oils that add an unquantifiable amount of additional SPF to the formula as well. Hence, "30 plus": both our formulas are 30 plus!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Why don't you carry doTerra (or Young Living) Essential Oils?

This is Part One in our essential oil series. Part Two is available here, where I talk specifically about the oils we do carry (Tisserand and Oshadhi) and why we chose them.

Since opening the store and getting to meet so many folks interested in essential oils, I have noticed a trend. Here in Columbus (and perhaps to a greater extent, smaller cities and towns throughout the USA), the companies of doTerra and Young Living (YL), who sell essential oils through an unfortunate multi-level marketing (MLM, or pyramid) scheme have a very strong foothold.

When I talk to people in the store about oils, they often reply with, "Oh I 'do' (emphasis theirs) doTerra." I try and be gracious, but as a shopkeeper whose mission is to educate and inform as much as it is to sell, I feel the need to explain why these companies are NOT the be-all and end-all in aromatherapy.

In fact, there are much higher quality oils that are more sustainably grown, ethically cultivated, sustainably harvested, and their manufacture is highly overseen every step of the way. You see, to use essential oils to is run through in incredible amount of plant material- and often this is done in a less than sustainable way. You need to be sure the company that you get them from isn't violating the planet in the name of (faux) healing.

I have noticed that some people get very defensive around their choice of oils. It is perplexing to me, as it is just another consumer choice and should not have identity or ego tied into it. Does the oil have legitimate therapeutic value? Is it cultivated and harvested in a way that is good for the planet? It is tested and does it list its constituents on the label? These are questions one should be asking, not necessarily "brand".

There's that bogus CPTG claim again!
And what is infuriating about doTerra in particular has been misleading the public that their oils are "so pure you can ingest them". No trained aromatherapist would advocate for ingestion without the regular supervision of a practitioner. Simply buying "On Guard" from their product line and taking them is reckless and irresponsible. The other day at the farmer's market, I had someone ask me, "Oh the oils you carry- can you ingest them?" And I had to reply, "I would never suggest anyone ingest essential oils." This person left before I had a chance to explain that she had been misled by shifty marketing (doTerra trying to distinguish itself from Young Living) to think that doTerra is the best because they claim you can ingest them. She assumed I meant the oils I carry aren't "pure enough". It was frustrating that this person had been so misled.

There has been very little choice available for therapeutic oils in Columbus until now (with the opening of my store). I know, because I personally looked for them. Most of the oils widely available are low quality, to be used for fragrance, if at all (These brands include Aura Cacia and Now). Others in retail purport to have high quality, but are not anywhere near the quality of the two brands that I deliberately selected, Tisserand and Oshadhi. (For the record, I almost picked FloraCopeia, but did not for business reasons rather than quality ones. They are wonderful, too).

What is very strange indeed is how the devotees of YL and doTerra act when you question the companies or the products. They get hostile and mean- all from a few simple questions. This tells me a lot about the cult-like culture of what it is like to be a part of the "doTerra (or Young Living) family" (yes, I looked into being a distributor and firmly decided against it).

I dislike Young Living less than doTerra. YL has been around for 20 years and has a model of raising and manufacturing the oils that is commendable. They have their own land, grow their own botanicals, and see the process from start to finish. doTerra does not. doTerra is simply a re-bottler of essential oils- nothing more.  They don’t grow any of their own plants.  They don’t personally distill any of their own oils.  There are plenty of other companies that do that, for a much smaller price.

But both companies restrict how you can get their products in a creepy way. You must buy through a distributor or become one yourself. There are minimums that are required to continue getting discounted product and most reps only get their training from the company themselves. (Which may explain why doTerra reps think you can safely ingest essential oils without the supervision of a practitioner.) MLM is a pyramid scheme. Both YL and doTerra are sold using MLM. I am of the mindset that if you have a good product and people find out about it, you don't need to ensnare people in contracts with minimum sales, and they will not need to recruit others under them to make a decent living. I will not join a special club to get exclusive access to a product. It is shifty.

Another issue that I have with doTerra specifically is their fake certification. DoTerra trumpets how much their oils are tested. They claim that their oils are the only ones that are "Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade" (CPTG). This is true, would you like to know why? It is because it is a purely arbitrary phrase that doTerra invented (there is no external certification called CPTG that any other company uses) and they trademarked it so no one else could use that phrase. It's completely bogus. CPTG is an internal doTerra certification. Check the research link at the bottom and top of the article that links to their own site. Because of the trademark, that particular "certification" cannot be used by any other company regardless of the quality level they possess.

So, if these huge well-known companies are not who you should get your essential oils from, where should you get them? Part Two of this series will explain my research and reasoning for choosing the lines that I did for the store.

This is Part One in our essential oil series. Part Two will talk specifically about the oils we do carry, Tisserand and Oshadhi and why we chose them.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The seasonal gauntlet

The latest Marshmallow.
The thing about being an herbalist that is focused on bioregional cultivation and wildcrafting (that's a fancy way of saying using herbs that grow here, either through cultivation or in the wild) is that you have to be quick on your feet. When nature gives you a boon of a useful plant (hint, almost all of them are useful!) you need to be able to process them quickly so as not to lose your precious medicine. Case in point: in the last week, I was given 5 pound of Nettles, 20 pounds of Marshmallow root, 7 pounds of Violets, 12 pounds of Burdock root, 1 pound of Red Raspberry leaf, 1 pound of Comfrey leaf, 3 pounds of Dandelion root, and 8 pounds of Dandelion greens. These are all fresh, not dried and already processed. What's a one woman operation to do?

I got some glycerin, oil, and alcohol; fired up the dehydrators and started to WORK!

First, the Nettles. That was easy- we are in the throes of allergy season here in Ohio, and Nettles make up the base of my allergy tea. So I dried out the Nettles, lickety split and made a LOT of Allergy Tea. I am sampling it at each farmer's market and it is selling like hotcakes (because it is tasty and sorely needed).

Quite a bit of processed
bits in the steeping window.
Next, the Dandelion and Burdock root. I cleaned and chopped the roots and added them to local Hops, Gentian, Cardamom, Orange peel, and Cinnamon bark. (Anyone know what that blend, extracted in alcohol, is? Bitters!) I have been wanting to make another batch of bitters since opening the store, and my local boon has allowed me to get started on that project. It will be a regularly stocked item once this batch is ready.

I dried the Red Raspberry, Comfrey, and Dandelion greens. The Dandelion has already been used in tea blends, the Comfrey will wait and be steeped in oil with Comfrey root to make a salve and lotion base. The Red Raspberry has been made into Moontime Tea.

The Marshmallow. Oh the humanity- so much Marshmallow. I got this in two batches and thought myself "on top of it" when I processed the first three roots (about 4 pounds). I had just gotten my big cleaver sharpened, thank goodness. I got a blister on my pointer from processing the root, but managed to get it cut and dried out. It is now in the bulk bins, and will be made into tea or bought by the public. But the following week, the same farm brought in another 17 pounds. I had to buy it- I won't have to buy marshmallow again for quite some time, assuming that I process it quickly. So I begin today chopping even more. I may steep some in oil (for a facial serum), and then dry the rest for a season of teas.

And Violets. Such a delicate and seasonal offering! I had to take advantage of the opportunity or lose out on Violets for a whole year. So I tinctured some in glycerin, steeped some in oil, and and drying the rest.
Digestive Bitters

Chili, Arnica, and Turmeric Oil

Nasturtium and Violet Vinegar

Violet in glycerine.

Calendula oil.

Feverfew tincture

Plantain oil.

Violet oil.

Violets to dry out.