Samara Botane in the Press

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Meet the Biz: Samara Botane - September 21, 2010

Meet Marcia Elston and her business Samara Botane this week!

1. Please tell us about Samara Botane and how you got started.

The endeavor is borne of my lifelong fascination with growing plants for medicinal preparation and the study of their similar or contradictory uses across cultural and ethnic lines. As a folklorist and administrator of cross cultural public programs for 20 plus years, I had opportunity to develop original studies of plant usage involving over 25 ethnic or indigenous populations. My long time love for wildcrafting and gardening led me to discover for myself extraction methods for medicinal plant applications and I have prepared plant medicinals in various extracted forms throughout my journey, along with natural botanical perfumes and blends for personal care products. Our primary business is sourcing quality essential oils and other plant aromatics from around the world; we have now garnered a respected reputation in the marketplace for quality, integrity and knowledge of aromatic plants, ecology, sustainability and the current market.

I hold advanced certificates in Therapeutic Herbalism with David Hoffmann, I.A.P.M. Aromatherapy studies with Philippe Mailhebiau and SPE Phyto-Essencing studies with Dr. Bruce Berkowsky. I have also extensively studied horticulture and botany and belongs to numerous professional societies and organizations involved in the science, research, chemistry and pharmacy of aromatic plants. I and my partner-husband, Rob Stitt, host and contribute to the aromaconnection blog, a non-commercial group blog covering contemporary issues in the aromatic industry from worldwide authors.

In addition to serving clinics and alternative wellness schools wholesale, we have had a retail online shop since the mid-90’s. We have also operated two retail apothecary brick and mortar shops/learning centers over the span of Samara Botane’s existence, the first on upper Queen Anne in Seattle and the second in historic downtown Snohomish. Like many other indie businesses, Samara Botane was birthed in a basement and now has grown to occupy a moderate sized office and warehouse on a five-acre tract where we are creating aromatic demonstration gardens and doing further aromatic extraction research.

2. How long have you been in business?

Samara Botane/Nature Intelligence germinated in the late 1980’s when I began creating aromatic and herbal products for family and friends, gradually becoming a serious business and formally incorporated in 1997. We were among the first to build a website and offer our products online in the early-90’s.

aromatherapy products

3. You sell very natural products. What are your feelings about the importance of what we put on our bodies?

I believe in the simplicity of Nature, but I also understand the mitigating effects when using natural ingredients. Plants themselves are very complex, and while any single plant will contain strong medicinal components that could be overused, that same plant also contain ameliorative components that will buffer and mitigate adverse effects that might occur when using those active constituents. Like many traditional herbalists, I am a proponent of “whole plant medicines” and rarely work with isolated chemicals or constituents.

There is a lot of fear and hype out there now claiming toxic chemicals penetrate your skin and get immediately into the bloodstream. The fact is, your skin is a functioning organ, not just a pretty covering, and it plays a vital primary role as a barrier. I recently blogged about the skin’s barrier function.

I do not mean to discount the rising concern regarding toxic chemicals in the environment – our drinking water, foods, air pollution, etc. Certainly this concern can be cause to make better choices and be involved in ecological issues that underpin our health, including the health of our skin. However, I believe the over-zealous focus on cosmetics is creating an unnecessary fervor.

My personal philosophy is that beautiful skin comes from deep within and reflects an individual’s diet, stress level, emotional state, and other factors of life. Again, simplicity is what I follow, taking care to maintain clean and moisturized skin with gentle, natural soaps and cleansers, healing hydrosol misters and simple aromatherapy lotions and creams. Even though our skin constantly rebuilds itself, as you age, the skin regeneration process slows and your skin gradually will get thinner. I don’t think it’s a good idea to use strong exfoliates, especially as you age. I prefer herbal steams, natural clay and herb masks which are far more gentle. I rarely use makeup, but when I do it is simple and mineral-based.

ultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser and two synergy blends

4. What are some of your favorite items that you sell?

Of course, my favorite items are the wide range of essential oils, absolutes and CO2 aromatics that are our primary offering, and foundational to any other product we make. We carry some of the most exotic natural perfume ingredients, and offer them in 10% dilutions for study and formulation. This art is growing exponentially and it’s wonderful to see so many natural perfumes coming on the market.

Some of my favorite items include the different aromatherapy diffusers and related essential oil blends which can provide such a wide range of natural support – help addressing colds/flu, help to calm and promote sleep, etc. Stress is a huge factor in human illness in the modern day, I feel good when I can help guide someone to taking care of themselves using aromatics.

5. What inspires you in your business?

Customer/client enthusiasm provide constant inspiration; the joy of discovery when it comes to re-awakening a sometimes forgotten sense of smell. It re-infects me and keeps me joyful in what we do. My inspiration is also grounded in early childhood, spending time in the woods and forests surrounding the lake in North Idaho where I grew up, and spending hours of fascination with my grandmother’s neighbor, an English gardener-herbalist who would let me ride her St. Bernard around her expansive hillside garden while she popped things in my mouth, teaching me the proper Latin and uses for what seemed then to be an endless list of plants. This grounding in the natural world has always been my touchstone, solace and comfort when times were difficult, and the passion that drew me to further study and finding others with like-minded interests and passions.

6. Any new products for fall and holiday shoppers?

I have created several alcohol-based natural parfum mist compositions, a very spiritual anointing oil for meditation and a sweet vanilla roll-on for young girls. Natural parfum mists can be found here.

Our fabulous Renew Milk & Honey Bath Set is a lovely skin softening and healing therapy for the bath combined with a complementary aromatherapy synergy for aromatherapy treatment and finished with a lovely aromatherapy lotion formulated with healing Blue Cypress and Mandarin. It comes in a little reusable suitcase box and is a thoughtful gift. You can order the Renew Bath Set here.

I might also mention our growing collection of aromatic room sprays. These are useful, portable aromatic fine misters to help remove dust from the air and freshen home or office with natural, uplifting fragrance. They are also fabulous in the car, providing gentle aromatherapy to help stressful traffic situations and cranky kids. Aromatic room sprays can be found here.


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