In our last blog, we took a brief look at some of the most common toxins found in modern industrialized self-care products. We also gave a list of some of the primary ingredients which we are committed to never using in our own products.
This time around, I would like us to dive a little deeper into the ingredients, sourcing, practices, and philosophies which make Deschampsia special.
Non-industrialized Self-Care is
"Nature Based Self Care"
One of the most powerful phrases I like to use to describe our products is "non-industrial" as opposed to (the trending, here-today-gone-tomorrow) language that marketers use such as, "clean" or "natural". These words have largely become meaningless through a process called, "greenwashing" --a topic we will explore in an upcoming post.
Cool, but what does "non-industrialized" actually mean?
The term, "non-industrialized" reflects several values that are key to how we move and groove in the big world of self-care, perfumery, and well, life in general. Here are some ideas that illustrate what we mean:
Deschampsia is not a corporation. We do not outsource our work (ie- private label companies). Our products are not mass-produced in a factory setting. We do not have a board of directors, investors, or a slick marketing team. We are directly accountable to our customers and ourselves. Our primary concerns are quality, authenticity, and the ethics of what we do.
Deschampsia is an independent artisanal maker. We craft our own products by hand in very small batches, carefully choosing each ingredient according to the purpose and season, which in turn, ensures that they are always fresh and of the highest quality.
Conceptually, the products we make today could have been crafted hundreds, if not thousands of years ago by traditional apothecaries, using the same basic techniques that Deschampsia uses today.
A Brief History of Plants and People
The archeological records document the human use of medicinal herbs as far back as 60,000 years ago. Although I suspect its origins are much older if we consider zoopharmacognosy (the observed behavior of wild animals to self medicate with herbs). We see this when black bears selectively eat Osha root (aka bear root or bear medicine) to cleanse their digestive systems after hibernation. Bears will also chew this same root, form a paste, and rub it into their fur to both sooth and prevent insect bites. In fact, early humans most likely increased their knowledge of medicinal herbs by watching the behaviors of other species.
The Chinese emperor Shen Nong, is credited with having the earliest written records on herbal medicinal infusions dating back to 2800BC. During the same time period the process of making soap with an alkali, as we do with lye today, was documented in ancient Babylon. Early descriptions of the use of distillation, as we do to make essential oils and hydrosols, can be found on Akkadian tablets describing the perfumery operation of Mesopotamia circa 1200BC. These are the same basic techniques that we use in-house to create the amazing Deschampsia self-care goodies you know and love today!Not only is the working structure of Deschampsia and the methodologies we use “non-industrial", but so are our underlying philosophies. We believe in an inclusive cosmology. While the modern world often views nature as separate from humans, or worse--something to be conquered, we see ourselves as allies and extensions of the same whole--a complex ecology or web of interdependence. We see nature as the source of wellness and the further we get away from the source the more disease and disfunction we find.
Each one of us can apply this to the practice of self-care in our daily lives simply by listening, not hearing, but listening in a deep way. When something is out of balance--it is important that we take a moment to listen to what the problem is telling us. Nature speaks through both the self (body, mind, heart, etc) and the environment. The solution doesn't always warrant the need for a product, as we are often taught, but it might instead require a change in behavior or perspective in order to restore equilibrium. We believe in integrating this practice of deep listening as a part of our holistic view of self-care.
We draw knowledge from the vast history of interrelations between humans and the natural world. We're informed by the practices of hermetic, folk, indigenous, and modern herbal traditions. The validity of which is based upon thousands of years of cultivated experience.
Contrasting this is modern industrialized self-care. This is a practice that is based upon a highly marketed, material-based, and homogenized vision of both the world and the self. A beauty ideal, which worships youth, conformity, and "innovation" at the expense of individuality, holistic wellness, tradition, and our direct relationship with nature/the self. It suggests that wellness is about "looking good" and anything that deviates from this vision, such as wrinkles, can be categorized as "symptoms" which will require treatment. These treatments usually mean going to war with nature and ultimately the self at large.
This practice of self-care has its origins in consumerism and the reductionist philosophy of science. Although valuable in many ways, this "way of seeing" ignores the complete picture and it separates phenomenon from one another, therefore ignoring interconnections. For example, when we simplify the brilliance of a Mozart concerto into wavelengths of vibrating air—the physical phenomenon—we get further away from explaining the beauty of the original composition. Without a holistic perspective, it becomes very difficult to solve problems, admire the ineffable beauty of the world, and create meaningful statements about what the world is. This philosophy has largely compartmentalized life into separate and opposing forces. Such as work from play, and self-care from everyday living.
Even though this philosophy has been around for longer, most of the chemistry, the ingredients themselves, and the practices of industrialized self-care have only been around for a few decades and have yet to prove their overall safety and benefits as compared to non-industrialized nature-based self-care traditions.
Whole Plants VS Industrial "Extracts"
We are committed to using whole plants versus industrial plant "extracts".
Historically, humans have always used plants in their whole form. They are safer to use and contain the original vitality of the herb, as well as, its complete and balanced synergistic phytochemistry. Whole herbs work intelligently with the human body and this decreases the likelihood that an individual will overreact to a certain chemical in the herb.
The negative side effects of modern medicine and industrial extracts are a reflection of the fact that the chemical ratio of these ingredients is out of balance with nature. These plant "extracts" only represent a few choice chemical compounds found within the whole plant. The original volatile compounds (i.e. -essential oils) from these herbs are lost, as they are torn apart with extreme heat, pressure, and chemical solvents before they are brought back together in a more concentrated and indefinitely shelf-stable form. Transforming herbs into "drugs".
These industrial powder extracts are made for the convenience of mass production and "formulators" in white lab coats. More recently, these "extracts" have invaded the kitchens of many small home-based "natural" and "clean" producers in search of easy ways to add plants to their products without requiring the need to form personal relationships with their herbs.
For similar reasons we also prefer to use virgin organic plant oils and butters versus refined and chemically altered plant oils. Rawer is better and in balance with nature.
We support the natural world by not supporting wasteful modern industrial farming practices. Our herbs are non-GMO and have never been sprayed with petrochemical herbicides or insecticides. We prefer to form personal relationships with not only plants we use but also the place from which they come from. This is a brief summary of how we source our herbs.
We wild harvest FRESH whole-herbs directly from nature using ethical wildcrafting practices.
We grow and harvest FRESH herbs directly from our small organic garden or from neighboring organic gardens (ie - our friends who grow herbs organically next door.)
We dry herbs ourselves in small batches, using better methods than commercial suppliers. We don't use heat to speed the process and we keep our herbs out of direct sunlight because the UV light can damage and decrease their potency. We also, avoid cutting/powdering our herbs until they are going to be used. This decreases the amount of oxidation and increases the stability of our herbs.
We source organically grown dry herbs from reputable supplier i.e.) Mountain Rose Herbs or Mountain Maus Remedies