The plants we need to bring us health grow nearby in our ecosystem, says herbalist Cindy Stone. Through her business, Wild Earth Remedies, Stone uses the herbs she gathers in the mountains near Taos to create healing products that nurture and revitalize the skin. "My focus with my creams is to help people heal from common ailments in a natural way," said Stone. "What makes me unique from other companies is most of my herbs are wildcrafted in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Wild herbs heal in a different way than cultivated plants; they are formed purely by the elements and nature."
On a recent Saturday afternoon, many people stopped by her table at the John Dunn Shops, which was filled with creams, sprays and oils. They sampled creams and asked questions, often thanking her for the work she does. A woman who was just bitten by a dog asked for advice and got a sample of the Trementina Manna of the Mountains salve to treat it. Stone explained that this is a traditional remedy and contains osha to help fight infection and has drawing agents, such as chaparral and pinyon sap.
Summer skin care
When asked about special care for skin during the summer, Stone said, "I feel it is important to enjoy, protect and nourish. The sun should not be feared so. It gives life to all plants and beings on the planet. We do want to be out there; it is just important to protect and nourish our largest organ - the skin. A sun hat really helps when spending a few hours out there."
She recommends a good natural sunscreen, like the Keep on the Sunnyside of Life hemp cream with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30. "It nourishes and protects at the same time and we are at a high altitude here," Stone said.
The cream contains chaparral to help shield the skin and deter skin cancer. This plant has been used by Native American tribes in the Southwest for centuries. Calendula is included to treat heat rash, redness and severe dry skin. Stone grows her own calendula flowers. She said that it is hard to find a good natural sunscreen and people who buy it once frequently purchase it again.
To further nurture and replenish the skin, her customers like the Wild Rose Exquisite face cream. Used as a night treatment, it helps the skin retain moisture and repair collagen. The roses come from the foothills nearby; they have an astringent quality that helps tighten the skin. Stone said that this cream also contains the plant known as horsetail (Equisetum), which is the oldest plant known on earth, the sole survivor of a line of plants going back 300 million years. The cream contains silica, which strengthens the collagen in the skin and helps it retain more moisture. Other ingredients include elderflower to help make the skin more uniform in color and apricot kernel for dryness. The cream feels cooling with its light pink color and natural scent.
To repair damage from past sun exposure, Stone recommends the Sangre de Cristo wildflower mix. For more damaged skin, she suggests the Essence of Tranquility serum. For younger skin or more severe dryness and problem skin, like eczema, the Honey Calendula Cooling cream can be used.
In all seasons, the most popular product in her line is the Desert Sage arthritis cream, which uses six wildcrafted herbs for chronic pain and swelling. It is an anti-inflammatory cream with strong herbal drawing agents. "Once the inflammation is drawn out, it relieves the pain. The herbs work together in a symbiotic relationship, creating a stronger effect," she says. The arnica used in the cream grows in the mountains above 7,500 feet. "Getting these herbs locally in your area is about freshness and purity," she points out.
Her customers find Wild Earth Remedies when visiting the John Dunn Shops here. When they run out, they reorder from her website so that they can continue to receive the benefits of using natural products.
"My clients support me because my skin care line is about as natural as you can get," said Stone. "Products today can contain so many hash chemicals and additives that can harm. People are searching for products that have their well-being in mind in a holistic way. That's what Wild Earth Remedies is about: bringing nature and its purity and healing properties to the people."
Her clients are part of a movement toward natural products in response to an increasing concern about the synthetic products in commercially made skin products and cosmetics. The American Cancer Society says that there aren't enough long-term studies to know for sure if there is a connection between the chemicals used in skin products and cancer. However, other sources say that research is beginning to suggest that at certain exposure levels, some of these ingredients may contribute to the development of cancer in people. On breastcancer.org, there is a discussion of two chemicals that are being studied for their link to breast cancer: parabens, which are commonly used as a preservative, and phthalates, found in nail polish and hair spray. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has more information about what kinds of chemicals to avoid in beauty products: safecosmetics.org.
While all products labeled "natural" aren't guaranteed to be safe, the best way to ensure that what you are using contains natural ingredients is to buy products with locally gathered wild herbs.
Plants of Northern New Mexico
"We are so lucky in Northern New Mexico to live in such a beautiful place with all these diverse ecosystems of desert, mountains and canyons - all offering different wild medicine. Our acequias and the Río Grande bring in different plant life that thrive near our waters," Stone says. "What also makes plant life strong here is our unique geology, some of the oldest on the planet. Geology and plants work together. Wild plants heal in a different way. I think of it as God's farm."
She became interested in herbs 15 years ago while living in Dixon and spending time in the mountains with friends. "We would camp, hike the peaks, sometimes play music and experiment with making teas from the wild plants around us. It was fascinating to me - the healing qualities of these plants." Stone took a class with Lucy McCall through University of New Mexico - Taos. She was inspired by what she learned about using herbal remedies. She says, "The first time I made herbal creams for class, everyone wanted them." She began participating in the Dixon Studio Tour and continued her studies at Northern University and through Western Herbalism conferences that featured teachers like RoseMary Gladstar, who many consider to be the mother of Western herbalism.
Although she continues to work with teachers to learn more, she feels that nature provides the best classroom. "My favorite place of study is spending time in nature with the plants themselves. I have always been a mountain person," she said. "I only gather what is overly abundant, in an ethical way with gratitude."
For more information, visit Stone on Saturdays during the summer at the John Dunn Shops on Bent Street - near op. cit. Books - or online at wildearthcreams.com.