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January 21, 2019

The East London social enterprise using herbs to improve community wellbeing

The Collective

Winter. It’s cold, dark, and all we want to do right now is curl up in a ball and hibernate. But rather than let that urge totally take over, we thought it would be a nice time to channel the cosy feels into something positive. Through this content series and set of member events called Self-Care Sundays, we’re exploring different ways of improving our health and wellbeing in the chilly months. 

Herbs have been used in health and skincare formulas since ancient times. But in today’s hyper-saturated world of beauty products and online information, working out which product is best for you – let alone which herbs could also be an option – feels like an exhausting task. That’s where Nat, the founder of Hackney Herbal, comes in. Witnessing a huge interest in learning about herbs, she launched her social enterprise in 2015.  Through workshops and events and a line of tea-blends, Hackney Herbal aims to help people use herbs to improve their health and wellbeing. This Wednesday, they will be running a workshop at The Collective Old Oak. Intrigued, we asked Nat a few questions about her area of expertise!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What you do and how you got here.

Nat: I’m Nat, the founder of Hackney Herbal, a social enterprise which uses herbs to promote wellbeing. Through my involvement with community gardening projects I saw that there was a great interest from people to learn about herbs and also that there was a wealth of knowledge relating to herbs from different countries and cultures. I also witnessed first hand the profound effects that urban gardening could have on people’s wellbeing.

I didn’t want the project to have to rely on funding and saw that there were abundant supplies of herbs in community gardens, public spaces and people’s homes that could be harvested, turned into herbal tea and sold to raise funds to run community activities.

We now grow and sell herbal teas and run workshops where the profits are reinvested into community wellbeing initiatives working in partnership with a number of mental health charities in Hackney.

Rosemary in flower. Photo courtesy Hackney Herbal
Rosemary in flower. Photo courtesy Hackney Herbal
Photo courtesy Hackney Herbal
Photo courtesy Hackney Herbal

How can we make our own skin products?

There are many simple herbal preparation you can easily make at home to nurture your skin. One of the easiest things to make is a herb infused oil where you use a carrier oil to extract the constituents from the herbs. You can then use the oil on your skin to moisturise, on your face to remove make-up or on the tips of your hair to smooth over dry and frizzy split ends.

What are your top three herbal ingredients and why? What healing properties do they have?

Marigold infused oil (Calendula officinalis). Marigolds (pictured below) are one of the best herbs you can use on your skin and they are also very easy to grow yourself. They contain antioxidants that are great for repairing skin damage and protecting the skin against the damage caused by free radicals.

Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia). It’s one of the only essential oils you can safely apply directly to your skin. It’s so versatile and can be used in lots of different ways but is commonly used for its calming and soothing properties. You can add a couple of drops to a bath to help you relax or simply carry a small bottle in your bag to smell if you are feeling stressed or anxious.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). I drink Rosemary tea nearly every day! It’s a wonderful circulatory stimulant and can also help to focus your mind when you need to concentrate so it’s a good one to have at work. You can also use an infusion of rosemary as a clarifying hair rinse after shampooing.

Marigolds. Photo courtesy Hackney Herbal
Marigolds. Photo courtesy Hackney Herbal

What’s a common misconception about herbal products? Do they really work?

I think it’s easy to assume that making your own products is really difficult and expensive but it doesn’t have to be. You can spend a lot of money on expensive ingredients but you don’t have to! Using herbs is a much more holistic approach to health and so it’s not so much about taking one herb to solve one problem and more about using a wide variety of herbs to support your body.

What can we expect from the workshop this weekend?

In the workshop you will learn about a selection of herbs that can be used to soothe, restore and protect your skin. We’ll be showing you how to make an infused oil which can act as the basis on many other skin care products. You’ll also learn about the properties of some essential oils and get to make your own skin balm and face oil to take home.

Courtesy Hackney Herbal

Hackney Herbal’s event ‘Make Your Own All Natural Skincare’ is at The Collective Old Oak on Wednesday 23rd January. Members head to the app to sign up. 

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