From The Farm To Your Hands: Maximizing Plant Synergy Through Formulation
- Published on: 04 September, 2020
- Last update: 03 November, 2020
I really do think of each and every one of my formulations as my babies, purely because of how much focus and intention goes into creating them. From finding and sourcing herbs in their most potent wild forms (aka wildcrafting—learn more here) to thoughtfully extracting their medicine, to pairing and partnering the plants, to testing and re-testing and testing again…it’s a whole thing. And I love every bit of it.
All of these pieces are an essential part of the herbalist’s creative process, but understanding the personality, energetics (temperature) + phytochemical makeup of the herbs — and how they can complement and balance each other — is the key to formulating the most potent elixirs that really allow the herbs to live up to their full potential.
Just like people, herbs work better when they’re in community, supported and balanced by others that offset what they may be lacking.
I see people in plants and plants in people. I know it sounds weird, but plants 100% have personalities, and once you become familiar with them, you’ll start recognizing how their characteristics align with people you know.
Curating Plant Synergy
Okay, let’s keep going with this people-plant analogy for a sec. You could take two amazing, creative, hard-working employees and assign them to work on a project together. They’ll get the job done, but you can sense the tension along the way or the lack of compatibility in their finished work. Some people just don’t vibe well together. But substitute in another employee, and what you get is pure, unified teamwork (the perfect formula, if you will).
This is exactly how I think about herbs when formulating. We don’t just want to get the job done—we want everyone to be happy working together, thus producing the best possible result. For example: There are hundreds of herbs that can support digestion, some may be warming, while others are cooling, some help with gas, while others help you break down the healthy fats you eat. It’s important to pair a drying herb with a moistening herb so that the overall formulation helps you reach your goals, but is neutral in its effect on your individual state of homeostasis. See what I mean? We want efficacy and balance—and no one herb can give you that on its own.
So, How Does Formulation Work?
Formulation is the process by which herbalists mix plants together to create something even more powerful than each herb alone, for a specific purpose or client. This might start with an herb you want to experiment with, an ailment/condition you want to treat, or pure intuition (which usually comes into play anyway).
We often use something called organoleptics (aka utilizing all of our senses, especially taste and feeling into our bodies) to understand not only the effects and affinities of the individual plants we’re working with, but the balance that’s required in the final product. If I taste a finished formula and it’s too astringent for a client who is already dry and constipated, I know I need to change some ratios around to make it sweeter and moistening. Reminder: Combining herbs that complement and balance each other creates synergy, meaning the final product is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
And where does that get us? Usually to a capsule or a tincture. We all know capsules—this is the form most supplements come in. They’re easy to take because you don’t have to taste them. Tinctures, on the other hand, might be less familiar. A tincture is made up of potent, super-concentrated plant extracts in a base of alcohol (long-lasting preservative) or glycerin (tastes better, doesn’t last as long). Our bodies absorb this liquid form of plant medicine quickly, so these are gonna be your fast-acting treatments when you need relief like, right now. You can bet I’m taking allll this into consideration when formulating my line.
My Herbal Melting Pot
Because my training includes Western/Eclectic, Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic herbal traditions, I have a wide range of herbal allies that I turn to within my materia medica. Rather than only using Western herbs that grow in North America, or only using Traditional Chinese Herbs that grow in Asia, I look at each plant through the lens of its unique energetics, specific indications, history, and available research (not to mention — my own intuition and experience!). I choose the herbs that offer maximum benefit and balance for whole body, mind, and spirit homeostasis.
Unlike the pioneers of the past who paved the way for herbal medicine since the beginning of time, we aren’t limited to what’s in our backyard (though, that’s a great place to start). My line is all about blending traditions and utilizing plant medicine that works, PERIOD. This is why I offer tried-and-true formulations based on experience and tradition rather than single herb extracts.
We believe in using whole plants in their natural form instead of standardized extracts — meaning we utilize the whole plants that our grandparents (and many before them) used, rather than processing and extracting a single popular compound.
For example: Believe it or not, turmeric offers a lot more than just curcumin! You miss out on the countless undiscovered, synergistic phytochemicals by viewing a plant in this reductionist lens. Studies have shown that even if you take the fancy, expensive, isolated curcumin compounds out of turmeric, it still has massive anti-inflammatory benefits. Our mission is to tap into all the goodness that a plant has to offer instead of just choosing one benefit from one part and ignoring the rest.
Why My Standards are HIGH
I am meticulous about the products I take. I go out of my way to avoid products made with fillers because, in most cases, they’re irritating and unnecessary. My plant medicine philosophy is that every ingredient should be intentional and have a purpose. Because my family, friends and I use my formulas religiously, and because the entire goal of my line was to create the products I wished were available when I first started healing, this standard applies to everything I create. I have a responsibility to myself and the people who trust me.
When I first started searching for suppliers and manufacturers to work with in the early phases of my company, I found out that most supplement companies use filler not only because it’s cheaper, but because filler is easier to work with when you’re producing high quantities and want to minimize machinery maintenance. It’s so important that we continue to make all of our products in small batches with love and care… so our beloved manufacturer (who took ages to find and means the world to us) spends the time and money to meticulously and frequently maintain all the tools we use to process, extract, and bottle the formulas that end up on your counter. Yes, there’s a cost… and sometimes this means it takes longer for us to restock than others—but it’s 100% worth it for filler-free, potent plant goodness.
You are worthy of the best nature has to offer.. and I love playing a part in helping you tap into all of it.
XOXO, Olivia ❀