By Sharon Letts
Foraging for Homeopathic Remedies
Ten years ago Colleen Bones relocated from San Luis Obispo, in Central California, to Humboldt County to be close to her husband’s family. They stayed in Northern California for the simple lifestyle – and the trees.
Soon after, Bones became pregnant with their first child. She also became interested in natural medicine.
“I started my introduction to herbs by drinking tea,” she recalled. “That was my first lesson on the healing benefits of plants, as I didn’t grow up eating healthy. No one in my family knew much about health, in general.”
Her first foray into herbs began when a friend asked if she’d like to take an herb class with noted Humboldt herbalist, Jane Bothwell in Arcata, California. She said she loved the class so much, that she went on to take Jane’s 10 month course at the Dandelion Herbal Center.
Bones was immediately impressed and simultaneously intrigued by all the healing plants that surrounded them in nature. “What I loved most about the class was making the herbal infused oils and salves from the garden,” she shared. “For my final project, I created a very small skin care line, and Witch in the Woods was born.”
To firm up her knowledge of plants, she next attended the Northwest School for Botanical Studies, located in Fieldbrook, California.
“I continued to learn about herbal medicine, plant identification, material medica, and how herbs affect the body,” she said. “From there I took all the online courses I could find, attended herbal symposiums, and traveled to the Bay Area for weekend courses.”
Today, Bones said she has an extensive personal apothecary collection, as plants are now her family’s first choice for remedies. Herbs have become a hobby, as well as a cottage industry business.
“My friends and I are herb nerds, we get together and wild craft,” she laughed. “We forage for seaweed, mushrooms, St. John’s Wort, yarrow, and any plants that grow in season. We make all kinds of medicine, including tinctures, bitters and bone broths. There is so much medicine in the Pacific Northwest; we love learning about new plants and how to use them.”
Bones said the strength of herbs should not be overlooked due to their gentle nature.
“We are so used to taking pills once or twice a day,” she explained. “Herbs are different. They don’t sit in our systems as long as antibiotics or other synthetic, prescription medications. You have to use herbs more frequently. I think that’s why most people think natural medicine doesn’t work. It’s a different mind-set, and you have to be proactive [about] your own care.”
Her knowledge of beneficial herbs has helped her to formulate Witch in the Woods’ skin care products according to needs, including what she refers to as balancing ingredients.
“I wanted to use plants that would work for all skin types,” she continued. “Whether you have oily skin or dry skin, that’s a balance challenge. Each flower, herb, oil, and hydrosol I use in my products, is there for a specific, beneficial reason.”
A favorite herb is the Rose Geranium. Bones said she likes it for its aromatherapy benefits, and its ability to uplift moods and soothe anxiety. It also has a variety of topical healing benefits, such as quelling inflammation, reducing hot flashes, minimizing redness and itching from eczema.
“I use Rose Geranium in my botanical facial toner, facial serum, hydrating face cream, and my honey rose lip balm,” she shared.
Bones is also a beekeeper, something she began after learning about the loss of bees around the world.
“I use my own honey and propolis extract in my products, but as the company grows, I’m finding I need to source from other beekeepers,” she said “Luckily, this region is blessed with lots of beekeepers.”
Having an herbal product line in the Pacific Northwest has its advantages. Aside from the constant supply of beneficial plants to forage, Humboldt is also the cannabis capital of the world; it’s just a matter of time until Bones crosses over to the county’s cash crop.
“I’d love to add a cannabis line,” she offered. “Cannabis has so many incredible healing benefits for the skin. I look forward to exploring the possibilities.”
For now, Bones can be found tabling Witch in the Woods products at local craft fairs in the Northwest, Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle.
For more information, visit WitchintheWoodsBotanicals.com