Last week I made a post to my Facebook page about what to look for in a natural healing company. This one specific post reached well over 5000 people and so I thought it was important to put it in this space where it can be easily accessed by all and with a touch more information than was found in the original post.
Heal thyself but make sure to educate yourself before you do and if nothing else then please ask your local natural-healing-crafter as many questions as you can to understand the products you are interested in.
About My Own Journey
Starting this business didn't come quickly. or without massive amounts of time, effort, trial and error and too many amazing stories to share.
It's taken me almost 5 years now to get to where I am today. Taking my time and learning this plant and so many others has humbled me and taught me so very much.
While looking through old journals and photo albums I got to have a chuckle at myself. In June of 2013, almost 5 Summers ago, I didn't even know what plantain was called, calling it 'planteen, or plantain, or I'm not sure but wow does get rid of mosquito bites'.
Less than a month later I created a mixed herbal salve for rashes, bites, and wounds. This was after reading up on everything I could for the entire time while being taught by a lovely and knowledgeable woman in the campground we were camped out at. She was so loving, encouraging and fun. If it were not for her support, well, I don't want to know where I would be today without it.
When I started making my salve, I would share my learnings with my camping neighbours along with some of the newly made salves or oils I had created and next thing I knew, these awesome people who we shared Friday pot-luck dinner parties with, were all encouraging me to sell to them and anyone else, my salve. They were my first customer, stuffing $5 and $10 bills into spaces I wasn't watching for because back then, I refused to let anyone pay for it.
At one point I walked around the campground with a basket filled with jars of plantain salve to sell to other campers. Dread-locked, many necklaced, hippy girl, skipping along the campground path with a big old basket on my arm, selling plantain salve to the weekenders and seasonal campers. I can't tell you how much fun those firsts were for me but I will tell you that my excitement about this craft and life has never faded in the slightest. This, for me, was never a fly-by-night experience. Without even my realization back then, I dedicated myself to this way and this calling imprinted directly upon me, my soul, maybe only reactivating what was already there.
5 years ago this all began. Itchy feet from grass fleas and mosquito bites and I never looked back. If someone would have told me that I would be where I am today, I don't think I would have believed them. I am truly so very grateful.
I had no idea the true potential and power of plantain but I was mesmerized and in that Summer of 2013 I dedicated my life to learning, and of knowing the plants I was working with intimately. Every single stride I have made, lead me to an Elder to teach me, a book to guide me and a wound that needed healing, all so that I could better learn and understand how it is that I can best serve in my craft.
I was at the end of a time in my life of great confusion and rebellion. I had worn out my own welcome in the work I was doing and began destroying that work from the roots up. It's what I would do once I was done with things no longer serving me that are of my own creation. I burn them down. I was lost and plantain and the plant world saved me, or more aptly, I saved myself and had these lush green guides to help me.
I keep saying, I dedicated my life to this way, this path, this knowledge. I didn't just start half-cocked and without a clue. I was nervous about this new way, I took my time and for the first year I was selling large jars for very little money or giving it away for free. For me the joy in the work I was learning was in the satisfaction I would get from seeing what this wonderful salve could do. It was the best test study I could have ever conducted in spending those first 2 years having friends and family come to me with astounding claims of what this wild little salve was healing for them. Everyone had a different story and all of the stories did nothing but encourage me to keep going.
I began with 3 books and now have an entire library filled with plant healing books. Some as old as the 18th century. I have found some amazing treasures and have been taught by some of the most knowledgeable Elders.
I was a lost woman in my 30's, trying to find my way. Not lost in marriage, family or motherhood as those things fit me like a glove but in the idea of a greater purpose in this life. Plantain and the plant world brought it all back to me. This path has given me knowledge and experience that no classroom or course plan could ever teach. Experience will always trump schooling. I've taken heaps of courses on plant medicine and nothing has come close to teaching me like my own personal experience, diligent study and especially not the valuable lessons taught by knowledgeable Elders in a workshop environment. Hours of books and field work, trials and errors. There were bad batches of salve and really amazing discoveries that came from them all. Once I even had plantain tea at the bottom of every single jar that I poured, because I had not dried out my leaves before I'd begun my infusion. They all went moldy and had to be thrown out. Valuable lessons! Those were the days!
It's amazing to see how far I have come, how much this business I love so much has grown and I am so grateful for the people I have been able to help heal in the process.
Sound Advice: Buyer Beware
When looking to begin a natural healing way of life there are steps you must take and to ask questions and conduct personal research are two of the most important. There are a variety of questions you can ask someone who creates all-natural products and there is endless research one can do.
Pay attention to a crafter's consistency with their opinions and suggestions. One does not state that they refuse to use certain ingredients for erroneous reasons then suddenly have a change of heart without explanation. That's not a very balanced approach and I just wouldn't trust that crafter to be level-headed with their understandings.
Example: I don't use *insert ingredient* because I don't like how it (fill in the blank)'. Only to have them using said ingredient without explanation claiming to love it within a week. This is someone who is just 'winging it' with creating healing products or trying to undermine someone they sees as competition to try to discredit whatever product to promote something they want you, the customer to see as superior. Pay attention to consistency, true herbal healers absolutely make mistakes but they do not flip-flop on their knowledge in blatant displays of contradicting their own opinions or so-called 'facts' they want you to believe.
Truly conscientious crafters study their ingredients at length well before announcing their plans and definitely before they create them. I mean, it's just good sense to know before you speak out.
Also, pay attention to their direction and the knowledge you can research in tandem. Do they match up? If you research the products you are interested you must see consistency with the crafter's directions for use and actual studies held across the world for herbs, oils, and other natural ingredients.
Some crafters do not research their ingredients or their resulting wares up against studies and facts as one crafter recently claimed that a specific product could be applied up to six times a day without any breaks at all when scientists, herbalists, and doctors all agreed that usage should be 4 applications per day for ONLY 2 days and that two weeks should elapse before applying the specific product again to the same location to avoid risking severe sensitive nerve damage and horrid outbreaks of dermatitis! I can not imagine the ramifications of such an irresponsible claim!
No responsible crafter looks for that one study to exonerate them or give them permission to ignore the rest of the facts provided by the onslaught of studies available. We compare studies, several of them and as North America falls so far behind in the way of herbal healing (as Canada does not test herbal remedies as a rule) we usually have to rely on studies done in Europe. Things in North America are changing but they have a ways to go in order to catch up with the knowledge and wisdom from the 'Old Country' as my Baba would say.
A perfect example of this irresponsible push to sell a product is ignoring basic warnings by actual doctors, herbal therapists, and centuries of common knowledge is the thought that certain products can be used every day without there being a side-effect to be concerned about.
One of my friends and customers asked about cayenne pepper salve she's seen posted in some local groups. This is a product that can be found all over Pintrest, Instagram, Facebook and Etsy and recipes are plentiful much like they are for basic plantain salves. When I personally looked into creating this hot pepper salve I had considered adding ginger and turmeric to it but came across far too many warnings that I just couldn't be comfortable with.
Verbatim medical advice: (found in almost every study done on cayenne pepper cream/salve/tincture)
In Europe cayenne preparations in the form of a cream are commonly used for the treatment of muscular tension, arthritis, lumbago, neuralgia, and rheumatism. It is also useful for treating painful muscle spasms in areas of the shoulder, arm, and spine.
***However, extensive use on the skin can cause blistering and ulceration and damage to sensitive nerves. It should be limited to two days’ use. The cream should not be applied more than three to four times a day for any condition. Two weeks should elapse before applying the cream again to the same location.' ***
Winston J. Craig, Ph.D., R.D., is a professor of nutrition at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Now, when researching the ingredients to create my own pain salve, my goal was to have something that could be used daily, several times a day, with little to no side-effects and I fully succeeded. In fact the only warning is to not apply to open wounds because of the Arnica content. Funny thing is that there are mixed reviews on even my own warning of this plant on open wounds and so regardless I still have it as a warning. It's the responsible thing to do. Telling people to use a product six times a day every day without worry or caution, that could cause sensitive nerve damage is incredibly irresponsible. I won't create something I cannot use at will that has so many warnings and cautions. For me this hot pepper salve isn't something that can be used by a wide range of people and as such, doesn't benefit me or my customers.
Crafters need to be held accountable for their creations and their directions to their customers.
As well, customers need to be responsible for what they accept as 'sound advice'. I always suggest that my customers and clients research what I am sharing with them. Don't just take my word for it!
Questions to Ask:
When looking into all natural products, ask the makers questions about their products and processes
1. How long are you infusing your oils and what method are you using?
2. How long does your process take?
3. Where are you sourcing your ingredients from?
4. Do you test your products for bacteria?
5. What preservatives are you using and do they comply with organic and all natural standards?
6. Do you use therapeutic grade essential oils and pure scents and flavours?
7. Does anything you offer come as a premix that you pour and sell?
1. It takes at the very least 3 Moon cycles to infuse my oils.
2. Creating time depends on products but not one of my products take less than a few weeks from start to finish. Soap takes 24 hours plus 3 weeks curing time but that doesn't include 3 months of oil infusing time.
3. Whatever I am not picking myself is purchased from various companies that suit the specks I am looking for. Organic, natural from sustainably sourced companies and as many local purchases as possible.
4. Every single batch of product is tested to evaluate for bacteria, yeasts and molds.
5. No toxin or chemical is used to preserve products. The only preservative used (hand/body cream) is Leucidal® Liquid SF which is a probiotic-based ingredient created by the fermentation of Lactobacillus in a defined growth medium. The ability of Leucidal® Liquid SF to inhibit the growth of a variety of bacteria and fungi.
6. I only use the highest therapeutic grade of essential oils, scents, essences etc. Organic, all natural or bust.
7. Not a chance. I will never use premixed. There's nothing handmade about a premix. There's nothing creative in it.
In no way am I naming or shaming any other crafter in this blog and those who think I am are surely missing my point. I can remember buying a cream from a bazaar and being told that each ingredient was all-natural and organic only to come home to read the label and the fine print to find out that it was indeed, filled with chemical preservatives. This was small crafting table and the woman talked a good talk but in the end, she had misinformed me and obviously didn't know enough about her ingredients or didn't want me to know. Either way, this is not a crafter I would trust again with a purchase.
In polar opposite example, I was at a craft show once where a very knowledgeable woman was selling her wares and everything she told me, matched up with her ingredients and their healing properties once I went back home to look into it all more. She even told me that there could be certain side-effects that might deter my desire to use her products. This is what a responsible crafter does. They don't want to sell you whatever they have to offer no matter the cost. They're doing what they do to help heal and to compensate themselves for the hard work they do.
My Bottom Line For Recipe For Alchemy
If at any time you have any questions at all about my products please do not hesitate to ask me. It's my job to know and to share in kind. If there is ever a time that I cannot answer a question I will honestly tell you so because I do not know everything nor do I claim to. Then I'll hit the books and ask my own teachers, colleague and Elders for their opinions on the matter at hand. I have more self-respect and common sense than that and I would absolutely hate to have one of my oversights, or products cause damage to anyone.
While some crafters have the best of intentions you must be more attentive and less trusting to details being left unsaid. Ask questions, research for yourself and never, ever take anyone's word as law, not even mine.
Author: Cari-Lee Miller
Understand this, dear reader:
This blog space is like a diary to which consent for my writings/feelings/expressions, is never needed or asked for. This is my space and if it brings you uncomfortable feelings, feel free to look no further and keep to the spaces that do you no harm.
I am a seed burst forth from its shell. I have mingled and fought in the dirt. I am ready to kiss the Sun. *CLM
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Your medicine is in the woods.
Your pharmacy is in your kitchen.