The Eco-Herbalistas are continually amazed by the inspirational people we meet every day in Santa Cruz. This is a community filled with progressive, eco-conscious, creative people. Some of our favorite green programs, books and products were created in Santa Cruz, and we want to introduce you to some of the minds behind the magic here.
Jill here, I’d like to introduce you to Katy Thompson from Copper Moon Apothecary, creator of lovely lotions, skin care products, soaps crafted from 100% natural and sustainable ingredients infused with essential oils and organic botanicals made in Santa Cruz California.
J~ Katie, Tell us about how you first got involved with using herbs?
K~ I can’t remember not using herbs or having them in my life in some sort of capacity.
I think it really started when I was a kid and my folks used to take us on camping trips and we would go up North Coast, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and we were just in and around trees, plants constantly from the get go.
I think I thought of necessity. I started turning toward herbs in my early twenty’s. I couldn’t afford to buy care products when I was in college so I would rinse my hair with rosemary to make it shiny and things like that, so from the get go.
J~ Did you ever study with any particular herbalist or were there any special mentors in your life?
K~ Yes, my first mentor was Christopher Hobbs and I was so fortunate to study with him and learn all about western herbs and herbalism and everything up here in our community, and get down and dirty, get the hands in the dirt and see what’s really growing there and identify and understand what’s in our own backyards.
Then I got to apprentice with Leslie Tierra at the East West Clinic, super cool folks, and study energetics and Eastern philosophy as it applies to different herbs. And, the cool thing is, you can blend them, you can crossover and see the energetics of the western herbs that we have growing here.
J~ What is your ultimate motivation for working with herbs, what turns you on about that?
K ~ Oh, with herbs, it is on so many levels. First of all, with just the necessity of wanting a product myself I would go out and look at things in the store and say that looks good but there is only a tiny percentage of that herb in there.
And, there is a bunch of funky stuff and I don’t even know what it is. So it’s basically wanting something better for myself and also wanting something better for the environment.
Just knowing what was going down the drain or being flushed or were the stuff is coming from or how it was being grown and just necessity for something better.
J~ So you are saying that most of your products are organic and sustainably harvested?
K~ They are. Everything’s organic and it is sustainably harvested. I’m still wild crafting a lot of the herbs. They are up here in the mountains. They are all around us.
J~ And what kind of wild crafting are you doing? What are some herbs? Tell us some names!
K~ It’s amazing right now. It’s spring. It’s been raining like crazy so the Elder is just singing. So, Elder and Elderflower are just going off right now and it’s everywhere.
What else? We’ve got all kinds of nettle and lemon balm is everywhere! We’ve got comfrey and lots of calendula. If you hike up Fall Creek or any of those areas way out there, you’re going to find all kinds of gorgeous mushrooms like Turkey Tail. There is so much happening right now. It’s a buffet! (laughter)
J~ I love that! That is so exciting! Then do you also use and get herbs from local farms?
K~ I do. I have an amazing grower, Amanda Seally and her husband Paul McGill.
They own Laughin’ Gal Floral. Their farm is out in Aromas and they are growing the most amazing medicinal herbs right now.
There are a lot of things that are not sustainable and I don’t want to be taking too much when I am out wild crafting. It is very important to respect an area and not over harvest so they are growing a lot of comfrey for me right now and calendula, yarrow, all kinds of beautiful things.
I’m also getting cucumbers for my serums from Laguna Farms. They are lovely folks. The honey is coming from Aptos Apiary, and that’s Anthony, and he is just the coolest guy. There are so many people here producing so many amazing things.
J~ We are lucky to live in this area.
K~ Oh yeah!
J~ Do you ever take people out? How can your customers get their own hands dirty? Do you take them on walks, classes, or hikes?
K~ I’ve done it before. I generally don’t do it. It’s something… I don’t want to say “it’s a personal experience” but I’m very serious about it. It’s intense and there is a lot of passion that goes in to it. So, I go alone most of the time. But, I’ve done walks before.
I suppose it’s something I can explore in the future, doing walks with people. Even if it is for just the basic fun stuff. Going out in the back yard. Yeah, it’s definitely something I can explore.
J~ I’m thinking me! Take me! (laughter )
K~ You’re on. Any time!
J~ OK, I’d love that!
J~ It sounds like you have done so many amazing things. Created so many wonderful products. What are some of your favorite products that you make?
K~ I’ll say hands down the Olive oil, Comfrey and Calendula Lotion. It’s the first product I ever started making and it is still my favorite to make and it is actually the number one seller. It thrills me.
Comfrey is phenomenal. It’s so high in allantoin and healing properties. And, calendula, same. It grows so well in our area. It’s antiseptic, and antibacterial. It’s just perfect for skin care.
And of course olive oil! I cannot say enough about olive oil! I could drink gallons of it! It is just so high in anti-oxidants. We are growing such good olive oil here in California in the Corning and Redding area so it’s cool local ingredients that you can put together and people are really like that.
J~ All of these things are so good for our skin, not only topically, but internally as well?
K~ They are. But, it is different. It’s a fine line and difficult to direct people on what to take internally.
My philosophy is if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. It’s your biggest organ and it breathes and it moves so anything you put on your skin you are going to absorb so nourish it and take care of it like you would the rest of your body. Eat real food. Put on real products that are nourishing.
To me it is like cooking, making these products, it’s so much fun. I get to go out and go shopping. So I’ll go to the markets and with intent and look for these ingredients and meet the people who are growing them and who are making them and I get to bring them home, put on some good music and prepare these ingredients and use them with passion and just go crazy. And like a meal, you sit down with people you love, and nourish them. So at the end of my day I get to share these products with people in my community, I get to give something back. It feels so good.
J~ It sounds like a holistic experience.
K~ It is!
J~ You’re engaging all of your senses.
K~ That’s exactly it.
J~ Katy, tell us what’s next for Copper Moon Apothecary?
K~ It’s really kind of a funny place for me now. I am really comfortable with the level of growth. It feels like home to me still. I have control of what’s going into the products and I don’t want to lose that, my personal touch and everything that is going in. I am really comfortable with where I am right now.
I have something written in lipstick on my bathroom mirror so I see it every morning and it says “Keep It Crunchy”. It just reminds me to keep it homegrown, to keep it local, to keep it in the community, and to keep it honest and real.
So, I’m just going to stay at the level I am at and continue the farmers markets because I love to see everybody and to talk to the people who are getting the products and keep it in the community and keep it affordable.
But we do have some new products coming out. I’m going to experiment with some new scrubs, coffee scrubs, and different kinds of citrus scrubs. And I have some herbs that are just calling out to me right now for some different products. Helycrisum, more rosehips. I have ideas!
J~ We’re all thrilled and feel so blessed to have you in our community to share all your wonderful goodness and healing and it is so wonderful to have had this time to talk with you.
K~ Thank you. I couldn’t have done it without the community and people being so responsive as they are to local handcrafted products. It’s my pleasure to be able to contribute.
J ~ I hope we can keep growing cottage businesses like yours.
K~ It is so much fun. At the end of the day, you go to sleep knowing you have done something really good.
For more information visit the Copper Moon website.