Greetings to our long-time faithful customers and to our yet-to-be customers. My name is Shannon and I am the Founder and Formulator for Grateful Body Skin Care. This is a personal letter from me to you. But first, please forgive a bit of nostalgic rambling. . . I remember my sixth-grade teacher letting us create a terrarium – it was a rather large glass case where we planted and tended lots of little enchanting plants. We were probably learning about botany. It was a magical little world and I would gaze into it, transfixed for long periods of time. I also remember being very fond of helping my Mom care for the many plants in our yard. Just two small experiences, but I guess from a very early age, I loved to get my hands in the soil and work with plants.
This love led to more than three decades of studying plants. I’ve tried to understand plants and healing through several different systems, including traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Old World medicine and most interesting to me, Native American approaches. My first business in this field was called Middle Path Herbals, created in Seattle in 1982. It was here that I learned the pleasure of being surrounded by powerful healing plants and using them to make effective, therapeutic products. At this time I saw it was necessary to make sure the plants were grown in such a way to keep their vitality and integrity. This concern is still one of my main priorities.
Grateful Body was created in 1998. The name of the company is a reflection of my desire to be more grateful. Over the years I had started to see what an incredible and mysterious thing this body was, and how many phenomenal things it could do. How it healed itself, how it was a part of gaia, how full of life it was. And I had one! I was grateful to have a body! To eat with, to travel with, to love with, to understand with, to serve with – I became a grateful body (and no, the name had nothing to do with the Grateful Dead, even if we are based in Berkeley!).
Why do I make skin care? Something in my personal life called me to the field, even though at the time the beauty industry seemed like such an empty, insubstantial field; permeated with fluff and wild claims. Two of my sisters, young and beautiful, had died of cancer within a year of each other while I was in college. It was after many years of musing on the possible causes of this that it occurred to me that everyday, every morning, millions of woman were applying dangerous chemicals to their faces! Skin care! It seemed that Darth Vader couldn’t have come up with a more effective method of spreading harm and suffering. But I knew that plants could help. Over the years I learned to make healing botanical preparations that were designed to be absorbed through the skin. Mushrooms, fruit, veggies from our garden, herbs in the meadows, finding lichens and roots in the forests, the possibilities were grand. The Grateful Body team found women who had small gardens to grow our comfrey, yarrow and sage; we found intrepid wayfarers to ethically wildcraft echinacea from Montana, chaparral from New Mexico, st. john’s wort from the wine country in Northern California and witch hazel beside the forest paths in Vermont. We considered ourselves plant ambassadors and emissaries, servants of the magical botanical realm.
The other day, I was holding a burdock root in my hand, studying it. It looked so exquisite, it smelled so exotic, it felt more magical than anything Harry Potter would come across. It was right then that I knew exactly why we’re a small company serving a small, select group of people. This root is special, it is incredible, but it does not lend itself to efficient, cost-effective mass production. You’ve got to love this root, grow it, nurture it, choose the right harvest time, then wash and chop it, gently tincture or infuse it – goodness, what a nightmare for a company looking for every avenue to cut costs in order to compete! And then, there are only so many people, so far, who really appreciate the efficacy of true burdock root!
Over the years, I have watched other companies that originated with the desire to offer effective, natural products. Many of them grew beyond a point that was sustainable for their original aim, beyond the point where they could actually use a real burdock root. I learned of the methods that were developed to help them solve the problems of large scale production. Technologies such as “folding,” where a small amount of a botanical becomes a much larger amount of a different substance with the same name. Technologies that copy the molecular structure of an active constituent of a botanical, and then synthetically manufacture it. And because of lack of meaningful regulation, these man-made ingredients can be called organic and natural.
Hopefully, as people learn the necessity of respecting Mother Nature, demand for truly botanical skin care will grow. Meanwhile, please know that even when mischief is afoot and companies misbehave, Grateful Body is there for you, and there is comfort in that. And if you know that products made with integrity and authenticity can truly help keep your skin healthy and radiant, there is a comfort in that also. We invest in vitality and healing, and let word-of-mouth do most of our marketing. So, I close with a sincere thank you to all of you who, like me, love the natural world, are grateful for your miraculous body, and cherish having access to vital botanical magic. Let’s keep in touch!