As a holistic skin care company, our fundamental responsibility is to extract therapeutic nutrients from organic plant material in a way that keeps them pure and undamaged. Why is this important? Because these vital, healing phyto-chemicals can transform your skin by providing the necessary micro-nutrients that keep your complexion healthy and radiant. (Unfortunately, the processing methods common to most commercial skin care products -- such as using chemical solvents like hexane and butane -- destroy the life force of an extraction. So even if a product is marketed as herbal or botanical, the ingredients have become sterile and are of no value.)
Our first task is to know and understand the plant, and learn how to coax these vital, healing substances from her. Due to the differing qualities of the various structural attributes of root, seed, leaf, flower or resin and the mysterious phytochemical molecular organization, we must, through time and experience, come to understand which of the two types of liquid (lipid/oil or aqueous/water) works best. In other words, some plants just want to give up their goodies into a watery medium but other phytochemicals dissolve best into an oil base.
For extractions requiring the Lipid Phase, we use a wide variety of botanical oils. We choose our oils based on their nutritive content and their density. Our regular extraction oils include: sesame, coconut, jojoba, extra-virgin olive, avocado, walnut and black cumin seed. These oils are organic, unrefined and cold-pressed. Usually, sage, rosemary and oregano are added to prevent oxidation. An extraction of roots might be 'put-up' for months whereas a flower extraction will be ready in hours. Our plant material is always prepped by hand; we never use blenders or food processors. Primarily we use the mortar and pestle but certain herbs need chopping up with a cleaver. Garden shears are used for denser roots, kitchen scissors for finer ones. After the extraction period, the finer, more subtle oils (such as the rose hip seed, borage, pumpkin seed or evening primrose oils found in our Serums) are carefully blended into the mix depending on the desired result.
Shannon and Mary examining some Rehmannia while
grinding Gooseberry with a mortar and pestle.
About three-quarters of our extractions are Aqueous/water-phase. Most of these we classify as infusions and tinctures. Infusions are almost always water but for certain products we use vegetable juices like chard, spinach and daikon radish. Water infusions are used for the most delicate of extractions - the flower essence. But on the other hand, water infusions are also used when a hardy root or bark must be vigorously boiled for a time. Our tinctures are set-up in accordance to certain moon cycles and almost always use organic grape alcohol or organic apple cider vinegar (ACV). We make sure that our ACV includes the essential mother, an opaque mix of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria. For instance, for our Phytonics, we make a red shiso (Perilla frutescens) tincture using ACV that is wonderful for the skin. They also include gum resins like copaiba, guggal and copal - wildcrafted right off the tree - which are tinctured using organic witch hazel hydrosol, himalayan salts and raw ginger root juice. We also add gemstone tinctures (aquamarine, dendritic agate, rutilated quartz or garnet). Our most enigmatic tincture, found in Rosacea Gold, is st. johnswort flowers (Hypericum perforatum) tinctured in the thick blood-red sangre de grado sap (Croton lechleri) and yarrow hydrosol (Achillea millefolium). Our Extra Gentle products include a tincture using the gel scrapped from the aloe vera leaf. Strictly speaking, our hydrosol distillations would be considered a water-phase extraction but these are usually the attendant result of essential oil distillation.
Of course, all these different extractions are time, material and labor intensive. But they are also fascinating and fun . . . and ultimately, give so much. We are grateful to be able to work with them! Next Tutorial: Choosing Ingredients
[In Grateful Body Tutorial - Part 1, we discussed using the three Liquid Phases (Aqueous/watery, Lipid/oily and a blend of the two) to create different types of skin care products.] Click Here to Read Part 1