I am passionate about studying and working with the healing properties of plants and so it was kind of a no brainer that I would one day use my herbal medicine knowledge to create products that could be used safely on the skin. I started out by making my own creams, salves and all sorts of creations and then started giving them to friends and family. This is quite a familiar story for many skin care businesses!
When I lived in London, I remember craving for some sort of product that I could put on my skin and feel a visceral sense of connection to nature. I never found anything that did that so I decided I would try to create it myself. I think though that there is a difference between using beauty as a starting point for formulations and using the idea of starting with the healing power of plants and their botanical extracts. I certainly fell into the latter camp. I've never really been one for complicated beauty regimes. Maybe that is something to do with growing up on farms in England and in New Zealand - fussing with face care and makeup and things just didn't really matter to me. What I preferred was simplicity and I liked to keep things as natural as possible.
Herbal medicine is as old as time. I am inspired by a number of healers and herbalists through history, including the 16th Century physician and alchemist Paracelsus, the renaissance ‘physician of the soul’ Marsilio Ficino, and the extraordinary 12th century Abbess and healer Hildegard of Bingen. Incidentally, the word Archeus was made up by Paracelsus who said, “to heal and to do alchemy one must work with the ‘Archeus’, which is the vital force that flows through us, Nature and the Universe.”
Herbal medicine is as old as time. Healers, physicians and wise women through the ages have passed down knowledge of the healing properties of different plants, how to extract them and how to use them.
Healers, physicians and wise women through the ages have passed down knowledge of the healing properties of different plants, how to extract them and how to use them. In today's world I love researching and drawing on those ancient traditions. When I worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, I used to spend hours in the extraordinary reference library in the Herbarium looking through old manuscripts and herbals to find how people worked with and wrote about the uses of plants through the ages. And then I’d go to the team over at the Jodrell laboratory in another part of the gardens to see what groundbreaking research they were doing too.
When I approach the formulation of a product, I start off making sure I understand the problem that we hope to alleviate. Then I identify plants that may provide the beneficial properties to help, and I consider how their different ingredients work together. I also turn to contemporary research: medical, scientific and ecological, to gain a clear picture of both the problem and the things that may help it. Over the years I have also collaborated with cosmetic chemists, biochemists and physicians which I have to say I love doing!!!Another love is using traditional processes to prepare the base ingredients for my products. This includes slowly infusing dried herbal material into oils over many days. Gradually the beneficial properties of the herbs are extracted and infused into the oils. When ready, these oils are filtered and the herbal material known as the marc is added to our garden compost or sent to the local green waste facility.
All the Archeus plant essences I make are made from plants growing in the organic gardens I’ve planted around the Archeus apothecary, or in local reserves and places that are special to me. I harvest for plant essences according to season and planetary transits just as they would have 800 years ago. Plant essences require very small amounts of plant material and so they are incredibly sustainable and eco-friendly which I think is another added dimension to their energetic properties.
The ingredients that I purchase to make Archeus products, such as NatFem Super-Soothing Balm are all carefully selected and I avoid seeking out the exotic, in favour of using simple common plants, particularly those aligned with my European heritage. Wherever possible I try to obtain certified organic and or biodynamically grown ingredients. I make sure the essential oils I use are therapeutic grade. And for oils such as sandalwood, I only use essential oils that have been made from sustainably grown plantations.
Every pot and every bottle of NatFem or other Archeus products are poured, sealed and labelled by hand in the Archeus Apothecary. This is a small, one-woman, artisanal enterprise and so it is also me that fills your orders for you and sends them on their way.
Over the years I have been delighted to have number of my products selected as finalists in international awards. Most recently NatFem Super-Soothing Balm was shortlisted for Best New Intimate and Sexual Care Product in the 2022 UK Pure Beauty awards.Nature gives us so much, and so I believe it is only right to give something back. A portion of every purchase of Archeus and NatFem products is put into a little piggy bank so I can donate to conservation and women's initiatives. This has included contributing to the Kew Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, donating funds and time to the Argyll East primary school so the children can work on their ecological restoration projects around the school; giving to NZ national treasure Rob McGowan's Tiwaiwaka project, and donating to women's refuge. Thank you so much for your part in making this happen.
And finally, I believe that stepping into the lineage of healers and plant whisperers through time comes with a responsibility to pass knowledge on. Over the years I have run many workshops in-person and online. Topics have included making your own natural skincare, plants for skincare, natural perfumery and aromatics, ecotherapy, sustainable business and nature-oriented end of life care. I am currently working on books and courses to help do my bit to honour that tradition.
Finalist – Best New Intimate and Sexual Care Product – 2022 Pure Beauty Awards, UK
Finalist – Best New Premium Skincare Product – 2018 Pure Beauty Global Awards
Winner – 2018 Good Magazine Award (for my work helping people through life transitions)
Finalist – Best New Natural Product – 2015 Pure Beauty Awards, UK
Finalist – Sustainability Champion – 2015 NZ Sustainable Business Network
Winner – Start Up Star Dominion Award – 2013 Wellington Gold Awards