Monthly Muse

Monthly Muse: Evan Healy

By Emily, CN Second Generation Co-Owner

When I first came back into the business three years ago, my focus at the store was our body care section. There was a big learning curve with understanding the intricacies of buying: getting to know each brand's particular ethos and story, how to order the products, and how to communicate the value of each individual line to our customers. One of the first brands I worked with was evanhealy, a line we'd carried for over a decade. I was fairly familiar with the products, but I didn't know that much about their back story, the ingredients, and what truly sets evanhealy skin care apart.

Evan and her husband David launched their skin care company in 1999. Evan had been a natural skin care aesthetician for over 10 years, and had studied Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy and aromatherapy in the US, Europe and India. She brought core tenants of these philosophies into her new skin care brand - as well as her own unwavering passion for authentic beauty and truth. What makes the evanhealy line so special is not just that their ingredients are impeccably sourced - they build deep relationships with women's cooperatives and small family farms around the world to ethically source the majority of their high quality, organic ingredients - but also that their plant-based products are formulated to highlight and embrace your skin. Rather than correcting "problems" or "challenges", Evan's products heal and harmonize with your skin's natural beauty. On every one of their shipping boxes is a sticker with the message "Who you are is enough." Using Evan's products feels like taking a deep breath of fresh air, drawn down into your belly, and exhaled slowly. The mixing of oil, water (and sometimes clay) is one of my absolute favorite daily rituals now.

We were lucky to learn more about Evan's own rituals, her quest for authenticity, and her passion for running evanhealy alongside David and their wonderful team. Read on for our interview:

All photos courtesy of Evan Healy.

Evan in a field of Sacred Tulsi in Trivandrum, India, 2009. Photo by Niika Quistgard.

Evan in a field of Sacred Tulsi in Trivandrum, India, 2009. Photo by Niika Quistgard.

Partnerships are very important to the evanhealy brand - when you source an ingredient like organic shea butter or fair trade argan oil, you're working closely with the communities that grow and harvest the raw material and you support their livelihood in deep ways. Can you tell us a little bit about why these relationships matter to you and to the company, and one particular partnership story that inspires your work?

Evan: Partnerships are the foundation of our business. Our relationships are what matter most. I prefer to deal with people I know and have met. We are very fortunate in our business that we work with families and folks devoted to the shared values of hand made and artisan, organic and holistic. We source from all over the global garden. We also value the profound knowledge of indigenous cultures. Traditional cultures and their regional remedies are often overlooked sources of wisdom. Traditional cultural remedies represent many generations of experience and knowledge of the natural world. This ancient knowledge is imbued with both simplicity and meaning, and I love learning about their historical context. I enjoy connecting with women who know the deep truths of the land on which they live. They exhibit such a generosity of spirit when they share their knowledge of their ancestors. This is true whether it’s the women of Kperisi in Ghana or the Berber Amazigh women of Tiznit, in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. These women radiate the power, integrity and well-being of Place.

Meeting Urias in Mexico, 2007 - maker of evanhealy's clay bowls for the Clay Mask Kit. His sons and grandsons now work with him.

Meeting Urias in Mexico, 2007 - maker of evanhealy's clay bowls for the Clay Mask Kit. His sons and grandsons now work with him.

What does a typical day in the world of evanhealy skin care look like? What are your favorite daily aspects about what you do for a living?

I’m a creative person. I like variety. I don’t like to get up and do the same thing everyday. I'm not a nine-to-five person. I follow my energy cycles. In the morning I like to go outside almost immediately.

I do enjoy getting in to the office and talking to people. I enjoy their energy. More than anything else I appreciate the opportunity to exercise my creativity. I am our company’s Creative Director, so I am always scanning the horizon for new ideas, partnerships, products. Ultimately, it is the natural world from which I draw the most inspiration and value. In all settings, I work best in the moment, and often better alone. Those moments can often stretch out for months, or years! I like to take something that I’ve been tinkering with and give it life, take it to the next level. This takes time, and conversely, the process is also rather spontaneous. For me working with our nutritive oils, our various infused oils, nut and seed butters, sun dried clays, emulsions and hydrosols is an almost meditative experience. It deepens the connection to what I feel is best about myself. It both grounds me and expands me. I have been very fortunate in my life’s work.

I find the way ‘beauty’ is portrayed in the mainstream media rather shallow, and too perfectionistic. I have learned that, pared down to its essence, beauty lies in the cracks and crevices of our lives every minute of every day.

I love collaborating with our design and media team. I get inspiration from all avenues: photography, food and home-style blogs. I love picking up the camera myself. With or without a camera, I am constantly framing what I see, recording it, or making a mental note. I look for harmony, magical light and natural, unfussy beauty. I find it no matter where I am: in my backyard, on a trail, in a remote village, on the street, and of course, in the faces I see. During the years I spent in my skin care practice, I learned the valuable lesson of looking, observing and watching. All three of these actions convey the need to both soften the vision - while sharpening the focus. Attention to detail has always been my specialty!

Evan doing a summertime facial. 2016.

Evan doing a summertime facial. 2016.

Skin is constantly changing and evolving, reflecting thoughts and emotions, I find that fascinating. I am constantly looking to communicate a more authentic expression of beauty, in both word and image. I find the way ‘beauty’ is portrayed in the mainstream media rather shallow, and too perfectionistic. I have learned that, pared down to its essence, beauty lies in the cracks and crevices of our lives every minute of every day. The challenge these days is to slow down long enough to look and really see what’s there. When done right, it becomes a meditation. I love the idea that natural beauty is transitory and messy. Nature is not perfect, but it is enlightened. We place too high a value on perfection, and our nervous systems can’t handle this constant striving for perfection. All things are impermanent. The inherent lesson of our life is: learn to let go! Take a nap. Go for a walk. Take time to relax. Your adrenals will thank you. Expressed by the relative simplicity of our product range, we want to raise the conversation from one of a hyper focus on 'anti-aging' - to the appreciation of imperfection. The deeper truth behind our message is the fact that - who you are is enough.

Evan & David

Evan & David

You and your husband David work closely together to run evanhealy. As a (multi-generational) family-owned business ourselves, we'd love to learn how you balance the demands (and joys) of work life with your family life.

Oh yes! I struggle with balance every day. However, at this point, David and I have been collaborating for most of our twenty years together. It’s pretty seamless, it’s always rewarding, but yes, it’s not always easy. We like to remind each other of that analogy about stones in a tumbler, softening each other’s sharp edges. We’re pretty comfortable together, and with our business. It’s our life. It’s our child. And we are perfectly suited to it. We each exhibit the complimentary, but polar opposite of the other’s talent and skill. He’s organized and financial. I’m artistic and spontaneous. He works on Excel spread sheets. I scribble on thousands of post-its. We have taken the Yin and Yang thing to a whole new level. We have boundaries – day and night, work week and weekend – but they’re not strict. Neither of us are that good with boundaries. Ultimately, he is my most important relationship.

The never-ending barrage of internet ‘noise’ is so disruptive to our delicately balanced nervous system. It impedes access to the inner quiet life of our true self. To counter this we say: Slow down. Simplify.

Your products have a devoted following among our staff and customers - and not just because they are well-formulated and made with beautiful ingredients, but because they inspire a deeper sense of self-care. The word "ritual" always comes to mind: The daily ritual of slowing down, taking time for your skin, and therefore yourself. What are some of your favorite self-care rituals?

Evan:  Yes, I love the word ritual as it pertains to care of the skin. I like to ease into my morning. I get up and immediately go outside with bare feet on the grass, stretching or yoga, with a cup of hot lemon water, tea or coffee. I’m an introvert, so being quiet is my touchstone. I can only regenerate when I am alone and early morning is my time. I go from a sleep state to a slow, calm, natural state via our backyard. By standing under our ancient apple tree, I go within. And while I don’t mind getting up early, I don’t like to have to be somewhere, or for that matter, leave my house at all. I prefer to glide slowly into my day. As I get older, I notice my rhythms change. The stability of daily rituals matter more. They become deeper, slower and more infused with meaning.

A shell Evan uses for scooping clay, found on the beach of her childhood summer home in Scituate, MA, a place she feels a deep connection to. Her hands are also one of the main ways she connects with the world around her - both as an esthetician and as a healer.

A shell Evan uses for scooping clay, found on the beach of her childhood summer home in Scituate, MA, a place she feels a deep connection to. Her hands are also one of the main ways she connects with the world around her - both as an esthetician and as a healer.

Out of necessity, I’m driven to find what calms and relaxes me. I struggle, frankly, to get away from the internet. I do a lot of the writing, planning, and I find inspiration by scanning social media, but I don’t find it healthy to know what’s going on every minute of every day! You certainly don’t need to know I’ve just flossed my teeth, boiled an egg or blinked my eyes, for instance. A distortion of our natural rhythms results in an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system and all its attendant symptoms, such as higher cortisol. Adrenal depletion can often been seen in the area around the eyes. The never-ending barrage of internet ‘noise’ is so disruptive to our delicately balanced nervous system. It impedes access to the inner quiet life of our true self. To counter this we say: Slow down. Simplify.

I use our copper distilled plant Hydrosols and Facial Serums as remedies, not just for the skin but also to send a message to my spirit. Healers have to remain grounded in nature. It’s what connects us to our own inner physician. I love saturating my face with our Hydrosols, followed by massaging a few droplets of our Oil Serum (Blue Cactus Beauty Elixir is my idea of heaven these days!) into my skin. I use our Whipped Shea Butter, made with our own infused oils, to cure any and all skin ills.

Copper stills used in making the evanhealy Hydrosouls

Copper stills used in making the evanhealy Hydrosouls

The world has seemingly become more chaotic and our political scene ever more divisive. What people, books, media, or movements are inspiring you to keep going these days?

In my earlier years, and out of a need for answers, I spent years reading classics, philosophy and books about eastern religion. Books that encouraged my flights of imagination were often about women explorers such as Alexandra David-Neel, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark. I was looking for answers to the age-old question of how do I live an authentic life? And for that matter, what is an authentic life? I was truly on a journey of self-discovery. My path took me to mystics and teachers like Joseph Campbell and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. My list of teachers and mentors is long and varied! There are so many sources of inspiration, and the search is always a deeply personal one.

Stepping outdoors for an afternoon walk in Big Sur.

Stepping outdoors for an afternoon walk in Big Sur.

These days, I am inspired by topics and books such as Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan. I loved the book In Praise of Shadows, by author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. I have read and reread Leonard Koren’s books: Wabi Sabi – Further Thoughts, and his earlier book, Wabi Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.

The books on Wabi Sabi share the profound and ultimate wisdom of finding true beauty in imperfection. Embracing the cycles and profundity of nature. It’s a beauty that is simple, slow and uncluttered. This is what makes the most sense to me.

Monthly Muse: Cam + Al of Vital Fit

By Mary, The Naturalist Contributor & CN Body Care Buyer

When it comes to working out, I’m more of a yogi and occasional (rare) runner. I rely on busy days running around the shop and climbing up the mountainous Porter Square stairs to keep my body active and healthy. But with warmer temperatures arriving, a slightly more revealing wardrobe becomes more of a necessity than a statement and I find myself, like many, spending extra time squeezing in ab work and extra squats to the beat of a Beyonce song wherever I can. My muscles are feeling and responding to that extra attention in a way that isn’t exactly comfortable, or motivating.

Soreness and inflammation are to be expected from any workout, even seasoned athletes and runners training for a new marathon are bound to run into discomfort when pushing their bodies to the extreme. Some supplement with ibuprofen for pain relief which is problematic when used to excess, while others focus on post-workout recovery supplements like BCAAs that may not necessarily target the root cause of the discomfort. But local entrepreneurs Cam and Al of Vital Fit offer something much simpler, more effective, and more approachable than anything else I’ve encountered.

Tart cherries are packed to the brim with anthocyanins, giving them their strong antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory effect, in a bioavailable form (meaning our bodies can recognize and use it instantly). The tart cherry formula that Vital Fit offers in capsule form means you get all these benefits without the calories and inconvenience of drinking a bunch of juice.

You’ve probably seen Cam & Al demonstrating their product in store every week, and below they share their story. Learn more about how tart cherry works and why Vital Fit could help you while training for that marathon or pushing through to that next Soul Cycle class.

Do either of you have personal experience in the fitness realm looking for good workout recovery supplementation that led you to this tart cherry formula?

I first started getting into fitness my freshman year of college.  At the time, I was just going with my friends.  We’d go to the gym every day but rarely took the time to truly understand what we were doing—how our bodies responded to each workout.  Of course, that also meant we didn’t really pay much attention to recovery either.

For a long time, recovery meant drinking a protein shake and branch chain amino acids (BCAAs). Granted, I didn’t start really taking recovery serious until a few years later, I always wondered why protein and BCAAs never truly helped me feel less sore.  There were also plenty of days where I didn’t feel like drinking heavy shake or taking a handful supplements right after my workout to help me recover.

Fast forward to July 2016, Alfred and I were playing a game of 3 on 3 at the basketball court around the corner from our house.  At one point I went for the ball and immediately felt a shooting pain in my back down through my leg—at the ripe age of 24, I’d herniated a disc.  All of a sudden, I couldn’t lift weights anymore, I couldn’t run on the treadmill, I could hardly stand up without wincing.  Protein shakes and BCAAs certainly weren’t going to help me recover—neither were the handfuls of ibuprofen I was taking every day.

Tart cherry became my go to for recovery. I was not only recovering faster; I was moving better during each workout.

I asked my parents, who run a preventive health medicine practice in New York, if they had any ideas of what I could take to help me with the pain, besides ibuprofen, while I recovered.  That was the first time I heard of tart cherries and their benefits.  I started drinking 8 oz of juice in the morning and couldn’t believe how well it was working—of course, I still experienced discomfort, but my ability to get up and move around improved ten-fold.  There was a while where I thought I might not be able to get back into my routine again, but the tart cherry gave me some reassurance that that wouldn’t be the case.

The only downside to the juice was its sugar and calorie content, which we found was an issue for the fitness community we initially tested the juice with too.  Of course, we solved that issue a few months later with an extract made from dehydrated tart cherry skins, a sugar, and calorie-free alternative.

When I was finally able to start working out again, I completely changed my approach to make sure I wouldn’t hurt myself again.  Rather than lifting weights and running on a treadmill, I started using my own body weight and circuit training—staples of a functional fitness routine.  While I felt stronger and more balanced than ever, I was also much more sore on a day to day basis.  Tart cherry became my go to for recovery.  I was not only recovering faster; I was moving better during each workout.

The tart cherry content in Vital Fit is a potent anti-inflammatory, how does it differ from other inflammation support supplements?

We’ve been trying to perfect our answer to this question for months now.  We were recently demoing our product, here at Cambridge Naturals, when I think we finally nailed it.  In short, tart cherries have a super high anti-inflammatory profile that’s easier for our bodies to process than something like turmeric and has way fewer side effects than something like ibuprofen—well actually no side effects.

What’s especially great about our tart cherry extract is that it’s made from dehydrated tart cherry skins, not the whole cherry.  Like most other fruits, the skin is the most nutrient dense part of each cherry.  This means each capsule delivers a lot more antioxidants and a much greater anti-inflammatory effect per serving, than other products on the market.  In fact, a single capsule (480 mg), one serving, is the equivalent of 17oz of tart cherry juice.  However, because we’re only using the dehydrated skins, each serving is calorie and sugar free.  To put that in perspective, the average 8oz serving of tart cherry juice has roughly 134 calories and 24 grams of sugar. Compared to other tart cherry supplements on the market, a lot come in tablet form, which typically means they’re made with fillers and for those that are also in powder form, they generally use the whole cherry so you’re taking more and getting less.

From a recovery point of view, the extract in our capsules is the only tart cherry extract on the market clinically studied.  Researchers at Texas A&M studied the extract’s effect on inflammation and muscle soreness with endurance trained athletes.  The athletes took one capsule a day for ten days before completing a ½ marathon endurance challenge.  Results revealed the athlete’s inflammatory markers were down by 47%, their perceived muscle soreness was down by 34%, and their run times improved by 13% because of the cherry’s ability to combat inflammation and oxidative stress so efficiently.

Who knew these little fruits packed such a punch?!

Who knew these little fruits packed such a punch?!

The last cool feature we want to mention about our tart cherry product is its versatility.  For those who don’t like swallowing pills, you can open up the capsule and mix it into water, tea, or recovery drink.  We’ve been experimenting with the powder ourselves, a few weeks ago we handed out tart cherry spritzers made from seltzer, our tart cherry extract, and a dash of cranberry juice—based on the response, we’d say they came out pretty good.

We could see business owners and members of the fitness community who were initially very skeptical put their guards down and open up to us. It was incredibly rewarding to earn their trust and eventually the chance to earn their business.

What are some of the highlights of being young entrepreneurs in this field? Did you imagine a grad school project taking off the way this has so far?

One of the most rewarding things for us has been seeing people’s response to us and our product over time.  In the beginning, everyone had their guard up.  We were just starting out, two kids’ fresh out of grad school with a lot of ideas and no track record to back them up.  While some people were willing to listen to us, there were many more who weren’t—at least not yet.  We understood why, we’d be skeptical too if we were business owners and two guys they’d never seen before said: “Hi, we’re starting a supplement company, want to do business with us?”  That realization forced to us to leave our comfort zone, start meeting people, and begin building relationships with people all throughout Boston’s health, wellness, and fitness scene—from the ground up.  As our network grew, we could show people our intent and explain our vision.  Over the course of a few months, we could see business owners and members of the fitness community who were initially very skeptical put their guards down and open up to us.  It was incredibly rewarding to earn their trust and eventually the chance to earn their business.

We had no idea that this grad school project would turn into a full-time job.  The initial idea was very different and admittedly not so good.  However, after a few months of tweaking and fine tuning the concept it got to a point where we thought the idea “had some legs.”  About halfway through our last semester we looked at each other and said, “Let’s run with it, we can make it work.”

What can we look forward to in Vital Fit’s future? Are you crafting any other products you can tell us about?

We're working on products two and three right now.  We’re almost finished fine-tuning our protein product.  It’s a plant-based protein made from organic cold-pressed pumpkin seeds.  It tastes better than any plant-protein we’ve ever had and is super easy on the stomach.  We’ve also added ten essential vitamins and minerals that are typically missing from a modern diet and a full serving of BCAA’s.  It’s a balanced meal replacement and a functional recovery drink.  It’s 134 calories and gluten, grain, sugar, wheat, soy, and dairy free—we’re very excited to release it.  The second product we’re working on is a beetroot based nitric oxide booster to help combat oxidative stress and increase blood flow.  It’s the perfect way to prepare for your next run, class, or workout.

Lastly, what are your top 3 Cambridge Naturals products you can’t leave the store without?

An arm full of Runa Teas, a hand full of Elemental Superfood Seed bars and Zen’s Zen Calm.

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Cam and Al! To keep updated on new products and demos, follow them on instagram @vitalfitnutrition


This blog post is for general health information only. This web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.

March Monthly Muse: Dr. Eva Zasloff

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

We’ve been marching our way into wellness all month long, and encouraging you, our wonderful readers and customers, to do the same. As important as it is to nurture health throughout our entire lifetime, there’s no more important time than when we first arrive here. We at Cambridge Naturals are not doctors or pharmacists, and although we all carry a wealth of knowledge on our products, most of us don’t have the kind of experience and education needed to help ensure the best care for those precious days of pre and post-natal care.

Eva Zasloff, M.D. is a Cambridge based doctor offering in-home medical care for newborns and new mothers and has helped so many get the support and healthcare they need during this time. The term “fourth trimester” was not a term I was familiar with prior to speaking with Dr. Zasloff and I don’t think I’m alone. It refers to the moment of birth to three months after, and is a time of great change and adjustment for both the baby and parents.

At a time when the percentage of postpartum depression is up to 75% in the US, Eva’s model of care is an important one to know about. She offers pediatric check-ins as well as support for mothers for anything from lactation support to navigating postpartum blues. Her practice focuses on in-home visits allowing patients to be treated in the environment they’re most comfortable in. Read on to learn more about Eva and her work, including her top recommendations for new moms!

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

I love the pick-your-own-flowers CSA at Lex Farm. It is a local community-run farm located next to the Arlington reservoir.  Every week in the summertime, I head to the farm to hand pick flowers from the fields for my home. I look forward to it every year.

Do you have a life changing book you’ve read that you can recommend?

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. I have been interested in the microbiome and probiotics for a long time, but about 5 years ago I discovered this book. I love Katz's style and approach to fermenting foods- super informative but also laid back. This is my go-to book for homemade sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt recipes. My three boys have grown accustomed to many glass jars with strange foods fermenting on our kitchen counter or patio...

What initially drew you to working with postpartum moms and babies when you entered the medical field?

I have always been struck by the beauty, power, and vulnerability during this time for both the newborn and the family. The physiology of the mother and baby is so fascinating. Newborns have to figure out how to exist breathing and living outside of womb which was filled with amniotic fluid - like figuring about how to transform from being an amphibian into a mammal! The postpartum mother is healing from the birth experience and having dramatic shifts in hormonal and regulatory mechanisms in order for lactation to be established. Another amazing aspect is how connected the mother-baby unit is, both emotionally and physically. How the baby is feeding, how the mother is feeling, these things affect one another. Also, so much attention is put into the pregnancy and birth experience- which is great- but so often, the baby is born and the support falls. As a practicing family doctor, I over and over again had felt like I could be caring for this population in a better way.

What have some of the highlights been since you founded your own practice, Tova Health?

So many! First, it is an honor to be a part of this transformative time for a family and to be welcomed into their home. It is also so energizing to have a vision of something good and important, and then to actually make it happen. It really is a creative process for me. Doctors and midwives from all over the country are reaching out and excited about this new model of care. So thrilling to watch this grow.   

I also love the multicultural richness of the postpartum time - there are many ancient traditions and rituals surrounding this time. After one my newborn home visits, the grandmother brought me to the kitchen to teach me how to make a traditional Indian postpartum drink. It is delicious and made with dill seed and ghee. Now I bring the ingredients and recipe of this tea as a welcome gift to new families.

Home births and in-home care for mothers and newborns is still a foreign concept for some in this country. Your patients have found the care you offer invaluable. In what ways is your service different?

For the first 3 months of life, I visit the family in their home, caring for the mother and baby in an integrative way. I provide comprehensive newborn care for the baby. The family can rest and heal. I walk through this time with them and meet them where they are. I listen to their birth stories- the beautiful parts and the hard parts. Sometimes there are tears. We talk about postpartum blues, breastfeeding concerns, diaper rash, all of it! It is remarkable how much recovery, learning, and grown can happen when supported.

Lastly, what are your top 3 Cambridge Naturals product recommendations you can make for new mothers?

  1. Organic Fenugreek seeds in the bulk section. Fenugreek is thought to promote milk supply. swallow 1/2 teaspoon of seeds each day postpartum if milk supply is low or needs a boost.

  2. Silverette Nipple Caps. These are a great gift! They can be really helpful and soothing during the first few weeks of  breastfeeding.

  3. The First Forty Days. Such a beautiful book- full of postpartum wisdoms, cultural traditions and recipes. great to read during the end of pregnancy or during those long postpartum nights.

Eva Zasloff MD  is a board certified family doctor with a focus on pediatric & women’s health. She has created a new model of care called Tova Health: Integrative Newborn & Maternal Care at Home serving the greater Cambridge area. info@tovahealth.com / www.tovahealth.com

Monthly Muse: SantaLena Groves

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

We’re celebrating love this month and the many forms it may take: self love, romantic love, platonic love, familial love. And then there’s the love that many have for what they do or create, for something outside themselves that causes them to look and learn with a childlike wonder felt by few.

The love that the founders of Heart Grown Wild have for the plant world is emulated by each one of their products. Working in natural skincare, I have smelled nearly all of the wonderful things our growing Body Care department has to offer. But the scent of the In The Trees body oil can transport me right out of the city and back to the woods I spent summers camping in, unlike anything else. And no wonder: it’s made with wildcrafted spruce and balsam fir.

At the heart of the line is a passion for plants and our deep connection to them. Lena, with some help from her husband Tom (recently featured in this month’s Beauty Uniform), has created a line using an herbalist’s approach to skincare with safety and sustainability always at the forefront. Below, I interview Lena to learn more about who she is and how she got started.
 

What is the last book you couldn’t put down? (Blogs and magazines count too!)

If I am not creating in my studio, I’m buried in a book researching information about plants and ingredients. As far as books go, the two that are my go-to right now are Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide To Holistic Self Care by Maria Noel Groves and The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by David Hoffman. We have a huge botanical library in our home and apothecary. Books for me are more enjoyable because they’re tangible and accessible. Turning pages in a book for me is a visceral and cathartic experience much different than scrolling through my iphone. I also really love reading newsletters from fellow herbalists, some of my favorites are One Willow Apothecary and La Abeja Herbs.
 

There’s a strong outdoors influence to the line, is this influenced by any outdoor hobbies or your homebase of Vermont?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild is influenced by our outdoor hobbies and our location in Vermont. I found a strong connection to the outdoors in early adulthood. The outdoors is where I felt most at home. I love being outside, whether it be hiking, exploring, climbing over big river rocks, running my hands in ice cold river water or sitting in the comfort of big tree. Being in nature has always given me a sense of warmth and comfort very similar to a mother’s love or spending time with a dear friend.

When I opened the doorway to the world of herbalism, my love for the outdoors greatly expanded. Seeing and continuing to build the connection with the plants on a plant-spirit and medicinal level connected the dots for me as to why I had such an affinity for particular plants. I truly believe there is a strong connection between humans and the plants. If humans are willing to pay attention and listen- there is strong plant medicine accessible for everyone.

Vermont is the ideal location for Heart Grown Wild as it has vast areas of pristine wilderness and land to explore. Living in Vermont, I feel like I have a huge botanical canvas to work with. One of the reasons I wanted to incorporate plants into my self-care routine was so to continue to have the connection to nature - even when I lived in what felt to be a concrete jungle. The Heart Grown Wild line is influenced by the direct connection I’ve had with the plants on mist covered trails covered in vibrant green moss or sitting in a field of wildflowers under a painted sky. Often during these experiences plant combinations come to me - and I trust these intuitive moments. I am often pleasantly surprised to find that these divine, intuitive combinations magically go together. My time outside is highly influential in what Heart Grown Wild creates. In order to maintain our connection to the outdoors, we strive to create our products in small batches to produce ecologically sustainable, quality skin care products.

How did you initially start making the beautiful plant based products that grew into Heart Grown Wild?

There are two parts to this story. The first is that I have had my own skin experiences which molded how I treated my skin. When I was in my mid 20's I had a year-long, severe hormonal breakout that resulted in painful cystic acne along my jaw and on my neck. I went to a dermatologist, and was prescribed medication that was effective against the acne, however, the medication caused sun sensitivity, and my skin began peeling. I also began to notice some pretty intense wrinkles around my mouth and on my forehead that were very premature. Medication didn’t seem to be a solution for my problem. It was either, I can have acne, or I can have wrinkles and peeling skin. We live in a society, where problems of any kind are treated with medication that solves one problem but creates another. My need to find a better solution came at a time when I was starting to shed all the things in my life that were toxic. I became obsessed with reading labels on all types of products, from food to skin care products. I especially paid close attention to skin care products. At this point, I tried to find the most natural products possible, and fell in love with Lush. They were the first product I found that I could understand what the ingredients were.  At the time I was a social worker, so unfortunately it didn’t quite work with my budget. I began writing as a contributor for an online herbal school called the Herbal Academy in Bedford, Massachusetts. One of the first articles that I wrote for them was a DIY Gift Box tutorial for the holidays. I showed readers how to create a sugar scrub, a facial scrub, and a bath soak, all of which were completely natural, and plant-based. This was the start, and from this point forward I was hooked. I continued to tear our kitchen apart creating and formulating mostly for myself, when I had time away from my previous full time job. On any given Saturday or Sunday Tom, my husband, would be plucking away on his guitar, and would graciously would allow me to interrupt him MANY times to smell things.  We moved to Vermont in 2014 and I enrolled in two courses at the Gaia School of Healing, this experience took Heart Grown Wild to a whole new level. My final project included some of the products we carry to this day. For this final project, I created a plant beauty product for every chakra. I use a traditional herbalist approach to the crafting of the line. Our products are created by infusing solvents entirely with the plants versus relying on essential oils. The market right now feels very saturated with this process. Essential oils have high potency and they require a lot of plant material to create just a few drops. Tom and I know about this first hand because we distill our own essential oils and hydrosols when possible.  On a sustainability and safety level, it was important for me to stick to using a slower process that requires less plant material as the base of many of our products. There is also something very ancestral about sticking to traditional herbal roots and this was important to what Tom and I wanted Heart Grown Wild to be.

What are some of the highlights of founding a company as a couple? Any unforeseen or humorous struggles to this venture?

The love for plants Tom and I have has evolved together. When we first met he and I were doing very different things with our life. We both went through the process of shedding things that we didn’t feel fulfilled our lives. At these crossroads, we both became very curious about plants from two different perspectives. I came from a traditional herbal medicine perspective, and Tom came in from a botany/conservation perspective. Reminiscing on our walks in the woods together, they were fairly comical. I would be sitting with a plant, leaving offerings enamored by the plant’s magical spirit and Tom would note as a matter of fact, “It’s not Native” and continue trudging along the trail with his plant identification book. My plant dreams were crushed, but it was a learning experience, and relationships would be boring if partners didn’t challenge each other. Since then, we both have learned a lot from each other's botanical background and perspective. In many ways our plant worlds have collided and have since created a beautiful symbiosis. I think some of our highlights together would be our time spent together in the woods or at the ocean this past summer creating a traveling apothecary of sorts. We love exploring together and it’s really exciting when a product is birthed out of our communal experience. It’s like a photograph of that moment but with smell-o-vision. When I open a jar of our Stars of the Ocean face mask I immediately return to our trip to the Cape Cod National Sea Shore walking barefoot on a misty beach, looking ahead sweetly to Tom and our dog Cici’s silhouettes. When I open the Prism of the Sun body oil, no matter how cold it is outside, it evokes mid-morning moments spent in Green Mountain National Forest looking up at the sun’s rays sparkling through the trees.

I am a huge fan of the Nature’s Nectar body oil! How do you choose which plants and/or oils to blend together to make a new product?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild’s products are intuitive and inspired by that direct connection to the outdoors. Nature’s Nectar was part of my final project at the Gaia School of Healing for the Sacral Chakra. The Spruce Resin felt appropriate due to this deep, sweet, earthy energy that comes through every time I work with it. It combines perfectly with vanilla giving it a sensuous base. I paired it with floral earthy notes that are associated with the Sacral Chakra. With Sacral work, much of it is trusting your intuition and this emergence of creative passion that is flowing just beneath the surface. Nature’s Nectar encapsulates this sweet, earthy, deep rooted energy that is just below the surface, similar to the Spruce Resin of the tree. When I first came into contact with the raw, golden, infused oil it was like liquid gold! When I work with the Spruce Resin it’s like sparkling gemstones, so it felt appropriate that the oil have a natural shimmering quality to it.
 

Do you have a favorite Heart Grown Wild product? If so, what is so special about it to you?

This is a tough question! I have such a personal connection to them all. I guess I would have to answer that with my favorite combination of products. Hot baths are one of my favorite indulgences. I love combining making an evening of my ritual. I start by cleansing with Azul Face Serum, applying the Tree Song Toner, and then putting on the Release Face Mask while the bath water is running. When the tub is almost full, I pour the Root Soak under the running bath water. I love how it turns the water an earthy red hue. During my soak in the tub, I love to meditate or dream up new plant combinations. Once the mask is dry, I remove it with the warm bath water. When I get out of the tub, the Prism of the Sun Body Oil compliments the Root Soak bath ritual perfectly. The Root Soak has Balsam Fir and smoky, earthy notes to it. It is truly lovely with each of the tree associated body oils. Typically, I massage the oil into my skin and allow it to soak in while I practice restorative yoga. I highly suggest legs up on the wall, and Supta Baddha Konasana.

Many of the products described above conjure up a sweet memory of the plants or landscapes associated with them. I think what makes them special is the hand crafted piece. We know where these plants are coming from and what our relationship is to them. Our intention from the beginning has and always will be, to bring the connection of the outside world into your skin.

 

Thank you so much Lena! Come see and feel the Heart Grown Wild line in store for yourselves. We’re happy to make you a sample of a mask or two for you to take home and try. Be sure to stay in touch and watch for new products on their instagram @heartgrownwild

 

Monthly Muse: Tripp & Emily Nichols

Photo courtesy Emily Nichols  .

Photo courtesy Emily Nichols.

Since we left you to find your own muses throughout the holiday season, we decided to bring readers a double hitter this month! What better way to celebrate the start of a new year than by celebrating a power couple that shares small, local products every day? Tripp and Emily Nichols are the creators of Small Batch Daily, an Instagram account sharing a curated collection of American made artisanal food products. From salad dressing and jam to coffee and chocolate, it’s easy to find a new favorite or three by simply scrolling their feed and commenting “sold!” But their love of food and involvement in the industry began long before Instagram started. Read on to learn more about out January Muses!

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area (together or apart)?

There are many but a favorite go-to activity when friends are visiting is hitting up Sofra Bakery and strolling through Mt. Auburn Cemetery. The food at Sofra is unlike anything around and so, so good. Get the mezze plate with crick cracks no matter what you do. And Mt. Auburn is the perfect place to work up an appetite or walk it off. Sometimes people think it's odd when you suggest visiting a cemetery but it's wonderful. There are miles of walking trails, the landscaping is gorgeous, and from Washington tower there are phenomenal views of the city.

White + Navy Everyday Napkin by The Everyday Co. Photo courtesy  Small Batch Foods .

White + Navy Everyday Napkin by The Everyday Co. Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

What is the last book you couldn’t put down?

Do cookbooks count? Tripp just got me the Nantucket Open-House Cookbook and that's what's currently on my bedside table. It was published in 1987 and definitely has an Ina Garten vibe. In the non-food department I'm absolutely loving Jessica Klein's 'You'll Grow Out of It'. She's a writer for Inside Amy Schumer.

You’re both very involved in food and nutrition, how did that passion grow?

We both grew up in central Massachusetts in apple country and always loved all the seasonal food traditions we have here in New England. After college we each made our way to food through different paths. Tripp did a few stints on Alaskan salmon and crab fishing boats before moving on to the gourmet cheese world at Formaggio Kitchen where he worked for 8 years. Most recently he's traded cheese for beer and now works as Outreach Director for Mystic Brewery. After college I went on to Tufts to do a master's in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition. Since completing that degree I've worked at Tufts in childhood obesity prevention.

We love following the Small Batch Daily instagram account! What inspired you to start this company?

It was absolutely inspired by all the makers we met through Tripp's work in the cheese world. We met dozens of folks who'd quit their 9-5 to make jams, honey, chocolate, cookies, cheese, butter, etc. Many of them became our friends and I began experimenting a bit with helping to promote their products on the food blog I was writing at the time. When that was successful we had the idea to try and more regularly showcase small-batch products and hopefully introduce them to a larger audience.

Photo courtesy   Small Batch Foods  .

Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

Photo courtesy   Small Batch Foods  .

Photo courtesy Small Batch Foods.

What are some of the highlights of running a company together from your home? Have there been any unforeseen or humorous struggles to that venture?

It has been so much fun! The biggest highlight has been all the new makers we've met and connections that have been forged as a result. Makers learn about us on Instagram or through other makers and reach out. Those are always the most exciting emails to get. As for unforeseen struggles, sure things always pop up. We rely on Instagram which is always changing its algorithm but it keeps us on our toes.

As a couple that works together, do you have any tips for balancing work and home?

It's nothing special but just carving out specific time for work and setting it down when that time runs out. Otherwise it just bleeds into every part of your day.

Last but not least, what are each of your top 3 favorite Cambridge Naturals products?

This is an easy one:

  1. Counter Culture coffee! I love that Cambridge Naturals carries such excellent coffee. It's my go-to spot to find new brews.
  2. Caleb introduced Tripp to the John Masters Hair Texturizer. It's awesome stuff and I admit I even use it once in awhile too.
  3. Palo Santo incense. Emily and Caleb first introduced us to this wood you can burn as incense and it's divine. I love burning it at home especially around this time of year as winter sets in.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Emily and Tripp! To see more, follow @smallbatchdaily on instagram!

October Monthly Muse: Brianna Klingensmith

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By Mary, Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

Just as our internal organs digest nutrients from the food and beverages we consume, our skin, the body's largest organ, absorbs the vitamins, minerals, chemicals, and toxins that are found in personal care products. However, the soaps, lotions, and scrubs on the market in the US are not nearly as regulated as the guacamole and hemp hearts we devour. At Cambridge Naturals, we strive to offer the cleanest and safest products for our customers throughout each of our departments. We’re especially excited when those safe products come from businesses right here in Massachusetts.

In the middle of our wall of soap sits a product that always catches my eye. The natural and distinct shape of Brianna’s Handmade Soap is just as pleasing and unique as its delectable smell. It inspires daydreams of having my own house with a beautiful guest bathroom prominently featuring a wooden soap dish on which I could strategically place Brianna's Oatmeal Agave soap... All that from a bar of soap, who knew?

Brianna’s soaps are handmade at her home in Arlington. Completely free of animal products, synthetic dyes and fragrances, they cleanse, moisturize, and soothe without stripping our skin of beneficial oils. An added bonus is that buying local allows our store to cut down enormously on excessive emissions from distant deliveries. Brianna even hand delivers her orders to the store!  Read on to learn more about this savvy soap maker who we have so enjoyed getting to know, and see why she’s our October Monthly Muse.

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

My husband and I live right on the Minuteman Bike Path in Arlington and on a sunny day I love taking my bike out and riding out to the end of the path where there is an adorable little park. I’ll bring a snack and just relax on a bench and people watch before turning around and riding home. The last time I trekked out there, there was a man singing old railroad songs and playing his guitar. It was lovely!

On nice Sunday afternoons, my husband, Martin, and I like to take long walks in the city.  We usually end up at one of the breweries in Cambridge or Somerville.

What is the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

It has actually been quite a long time since I found a book I couldn’t put down. In the past year I have been increasingly interested in reading blogs and there are two which I can’t stop reading. One is Frugalwoods  and the other is Cait Flanders. Both blogs talk about minimalism and conscious consumerism, among many other topics. The Frugalwoods actually used to live here in Cambridge and now own a homestead in Vermont. I find following them both to be very inspiring. The idea of simplicity in all aspects of life really resonates with me.

How did you first learn to make soap yourself?

My sister-in-law and very good friend, Liane, showed me how. She used to be a chemist working for a drug company and saw, first hand, how many ordinary chemicals found in most mass-produced bath and body products can affect us. For example, most “soap” that is sold is not actually soap, but a mixture of detergents, many which will strip the skin's natural oils. Soap is only allowed to be labeled as soap if it is made with some sort of fat or oil and lye. When other chemical detergents are added, it is no longer considered soap. 

Liane made me aware of labels and encouraged me to look up the products that I use on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website. This website contains a large database of just about any mass produced bath and body product you can find. It assigns a health safety grade to each product based on available scientific research data. This was very eye opening as well as disturbing! She taught me how to make my own soap and skin cream both of which contain only natural, healing ingredients. Once I started to make my own, I never went back.  

What inspired you to start your own company and sell handmade soap full time?

Once I began making soap, I could not stop! I find it to be extremely creative and fun and with this new found hobby, I was producing lots and lots of soap. My husband one day told me that enough was enough and that we couldn’t have all these bars of soap all over the house! When we were out to dinner one night we saw an ad for a small artisan market that was looking for vendors. He urged me to apply to it hoping I’d get rid of some of my supply. At first I didn’t feel like I was ready and wasn’t sure others would like my soap as much as I did, but I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did!

How do you go about creating the different scents?

To be honest, I pick my favorite scents and I play with different combinations and see what I come up with. One of my favorite combos is orange and clove. It’s tricky to get the ratios of this blend correct without it being overpowering. I was very satisfied when I finally came up with one that was just right!

What are your top three Cambridge Naturals products?

I have been faithfully buying Rainbow Light vitamins and I can actually tell the difference with the energy boost these give me.

Last year my husband and I went on a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail where we hiked 400 miles through the mountains. We both discovered GoMacro Macrobars which gave us the nutrients needed to keep us going. Around 3pm each day we would inevitably hit a slump and need the pick me up. These worked like a charm.

My favorite chocolate ever is Taza chocolate! I absolutely love the taste and texture of this stone ground chocolate bar and they are my go-to gift for any occasion. 

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Brianna! We carry all four soaps from Brianna’s growing line including: Unscented, Oatmeal Agave, Green Tea Lemongrass, and Lavender Blossom. They’ll make the perfect stocking stuffer for this holiday season!

 

Monthly Muse: Gianne Doherty

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

By Mary, Body Care Buyer and Blog Contributor

You may have noticed some new things around the store lately. New faces, new sales, and most exciting of all: NEW PRODUCTS! We recently stocked some of the shelves in our body care department with a line we’ve been eager to share with our customers.

Organic Bath Co. is owned by Gianne Doherty, a Medford resident, natural skin care aficionado, and all around wonderful human being. We now carry the OBC body scrubs, body wash, and body butters in both full and travel size. Each product comes in a variety of scents, using only organic essential oils, to suit any preference. Not only are you supporting a local company with each OBC purchase, you’re also supporting a bigger cause. With each and every purchase, 1% is donated to charity. As Gianne says, “true beauty begins with giving back.” But Gianne’s accomplishments don’t stop there. She is also the founder of W.E.L.L. Summit, an annual event bringing together and empowering the wellness community. Read on to learn more about Gianne, her work, and how all of this got started.

CN: What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

GD: We just spent Sunday walking around and exploring different neighborhoods in Boston, sat on the Esplanade and I loved it! It doesn’t cost a thing, the people watching was great and I found myself seeing the same places with new eyes. The exercise I got from walking off and on for 3 hours was an added bonus! :-)

CN: What was the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?

GD: Ohh, I am a voracious reader and read a few books a week. The last book I read that I couldn’t put down was Natchez Burning by Greg Iles.  I love mysteries!

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN: Can you tell us about how Organic Bath Company got started?

GD: A  few years ago, when my skin began reacting (by way of hives!) to mainstream lotions I had been using, my boyfriend Jay and I ended up making a pure, unscented, shea butter-based body butter for me that my skin still loves to this day. As I learned more about the personal care industry and its lack of regulation, the more determined I was to make safe products for myself and family and friends. Organic Bath Co. began out of necessity with that shea butter-based body butter (now known as “Drenched”), and we’ve donated a portion of our proceeds to charity since day one!  

CN: What inspired you to found the W.E.L.L. Summit and where do you envision it going in the future?

GD: The W. E. L. L. Summit was created through conversations with our customers, friends & family. We are constantly asked for advice about questions that are often a bit outside of our scope such as: What natural deodorants should we use? Why should our products contain essential oils and not fragrance? Etc. Ultimately, we recognized that there was a need in our community and a larger community to bring the best of the wellness industry together in a space of empowerment and learning for all!  

CN: We love that OBC donates 1% of each purchase to those in need! Which organizations are you currently working with?

GD: We donate to Charity Water which we love because they build wells and provides access to clean water across the globe to others who may not have had it. What's amazing is that 100% of the donations go to funding the water projects.

Photos courtesy OBC

Photos courtesy OBC

CN:  What are your top three essential products from Cambridge Naturals?

GD: This is a hard question because I can and have spent hours browsing Cambridge Naturals shelves. I LOVE that there is something for everyone and all aspects of your life... from beauty, home, gifts & to your kitchen. We always pick up a few packets of 2 Dogs Treats for our dog Bruschi. The tea selection is fantastic and you carry my favorite, Rishi Tea. My sweet tooth demands that I pick up some bars of Taza Chocolate or some [Apotheker's] Mallows. YUM.

Thank you so much to Gianne for taking the time to share her story with us. W.E.L.L. Summit will be taking place next month in New York City on October 21-22. If you’re interested in learning more about this year’s speakers or attending, visit www.wellsummit.org. Let us know in the comments what your favorite Organic Bath Co. product is!

Monthly Muse: Steph Zabel

As part of an ever-growing community of individuals that continue to push the envelope in the natural health world, we’re happy to introduce this new monthly series highlighting locals who continually inspire us.

The bulk herb wall at Cambridge Naturals is often the most bustling section of the store. I love seeing and hearing the connections made between herbal enthusiasts, cooks, and DIY-beauty makers over the table. One of those frequent visitors is local herbalist Steph Zabel. She teaches classes on the art and science of herbal medicine practice and local plants. You may have noticed her very informative blog posts highlighting a different plant each month right here on our blog. Steph is also the founder of Herbstalk, an annual marketplace and herbal education event in Somerville, now going on its sixth year. Steph credits the help and support of fellow herbalists, friends, and neighborhood volunteers to getting Herbstalk started. As they say, it takes a village. And without her knowledge and grace bringing it all together, who knows how long we would have waited for such a brilliant idea to come to fruition! Read on for an interview to learn more about Steph and her work.