Health & Wellness

A Natural Skincare Routine - For Any Skin Type!

Did you miss our last workshop, A Natural Face & Neck - For You and Your Clients? Lucky for you, we've got a recipe from that workshop to try. At the end of this post you'll find our favorite recipe for a natural face toner.

Breath is Life: Why not Breathe Great?

Eucalyptus globulus, from Franz Eugen Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen 1887

Eucalyptus globulus, from Franz Eugen Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen 1887

What do tea tree, rosemary, ravensara, eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint have in common?

They're all potent allies for respiratory health, and just a few of the essential oils that we blend together to make Breathe Great!

We'd like to take a moment to showcase our celebrity essential oil blend in the Urban Therapeutic Apothecary, Breathe Great.

This is our only blend with an academic study (!!!) from University of California Irvine that proved its efficacy at treating staph, strep, pneumonia, MRSA and more. Seriously! Where modern antibiotics fail, nature's pharmacy picks up the slack. 

You can find this study here to learn more. 

Our EO blends were formulated by certified Aromatherapist Ann Vermilye for various ailments, and below you’ll find a video of Ann discussing why she formulated this blend and its effects. (Press the "CC" button for captions)

Thanks Ann! Isn't she adorable? Stay tuned for more videos with her to come.

Many of us have fond childhood memories of a caregiver applying vapor rub to our chests, opening up our sinus passages before and sending us off to a sickly sleep from which we awoke feeling worlds better.

Unfortunately, store bought brands of vapor rubs often contain special petrolatum (processed crude oil) and turpentine, which is typically used as a paint thinner. The new "greaseless" formulas are even worse - containing parabens, diazolidinyl urea (a formaldehyde releasing chemical that is toxic upon inhalation) and PEG-100 Stearate (which is often contaminated with cancer-causing dioxane).

We decided to create our own all-natural vapor rub, and here is the recipe!

Vapor Rub Recipe (1).png

Listen to your Elders

Franz Eugen Koehler,  Koehlers Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen Abbildungen und kurz erläuterndem Texte (1883-1914), Gera - Germany

Franz Eugen Koehler, Koehlers Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen Abbildungen und kurz erläuterndem Texte(1883-1914), Gera - Germany

My grandmother always used to say, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,". I didn't give her words much regard growing up, but as I get older, I am beginning to see the wisdom in this old adage.

Especially during cold and flu season.

Which, if you're nestled in the Willamette Valley like we are, is in full swing! Students of all ages are packed into small, poorly-ventilated classrooms where germs a-plenty replicate at alarming rates. Remember that meningitis outbreak at the U of O a couple years back? Yikes.  No thank you, please.

When I think about herbal allies to prevent picking up a winter bug, delicious elderberries come to mind. Ever-prolific on almost every continent, practitioners of folk medicine have been using them for hundreds (if not thousands) of years! We have them in our apothecary for just $1.47 per ounce. Certified organic, as always.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Nice try Monty Python, but that is hardly an insult. I mean, yeah, elderberries do smell a little funky, but if you can cook broccoli or eat fancy cheese, then you'll have no problem with elderberries. In the same way that garlic breath may be a smooch-deterrent for those who are ignorant of its amazing health benefits (garlic and onion paste straight up kills MRSA), the pungent scent of elderberry syrup simmering on the stove will grow on you faster than you can say Sambucus nigra!

Just in time for Halloween, here's a little of the witchy western folklore behind the use of elderberries. Call this festive superstition, call it white people's indigenous wisdom, but either way there is a plethora of old wives' tales from the British Isles, Europe, and Russia about the elder tree, with much of the focus on cultivating a reciprocal relationship with the plant.

Andersen's Fairytales, Hans Christian Andersen, Published by Grosset & Dunlap (1945), Illustrated by Arthur Szyk

Andersen's Fairytales, Hans Christian Andersen, Published by Grosset & Dunlap (1945), Illustrated by Arthur Szyk


"If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.

The Elder Mother is thought to be the guardian of the elder trees, and it was said, until recent times in various parts of England and Scandinavia that to take wood from the elder tree one would have to ask the Elder Mother first, or else ill luck would befall the woodsman.

The woodsman would have to ask the Elder Mother like so:

'Old girl, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when I grow into a tree.' "

- Burne, Charlotte Sophia (2003) Handbook of Folklore, Kessinger Publishing


A tale from Northamptonshire tells of man who cut a stick from an elder, and saw that the tree was bleeding. Later he meets the local witch and sees that she has a bloodied bandage on her arm.  Now that's taking "you are what you eat," to a whole other level. Want to learn more about the magic and folklore of elder? The Practical Herbalist has an awesome blog post titled Elderberry History, Folklore, Myth and Magic.

Below you'll find our recipe for elderberry syrup, just a spoonful each morning will help keep colds and flu's away. You can also experiment with elderberry jams, wines, and more!

Summer Skincare in the Urban Apothecary

Couldn’t make it to our Outdoor Skin: Build a Natural First Aid Kit workshop last week? No worries! Here are a few of the recipes we created together. All supplies are available in our apothecary.


Figure 14 from Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen, 1796

All-natural Sunscreen Oil

  • 1 oz Shea Butter
    (SPF 6)

  • 1 oz Fractionated Coconut Oil  
    (SPF 4-6)

  • 1 tsp Red Raspberry Seed Oil
    (SPF 30-45)

  • 1 or 2 drops Vitamin E

  • 2 oz Squeeze Bottle

 Put butter and oils in a heat proof glass container. Warm just until the Shea Butter is melted. Add the Vitamin E oil and blend. Pour into a 2 oz squeeze bottle and let cool. This will set up to a semi-opaque oil.





from Volume 3 of Franz Eugen Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen or Medicinal Plants, 1887

Anti-Bacterial Sanitizer

  • Witch Hazel

  • 6 drops Tea Tree Oil
    (antibacterial, anti-microbial, anti-septic)

  • 15ml bottle with reducer top

Fill the bottle with Witch Hazel, then add Tea Tree Essential Oil. So simple!

We do not recommend adding the essential oil first as most essential oils are extremely potent and will begin to break down whatever plastic container they are added to. Not a problem if you’re using glass, but it’s always good to establish best practices.

(other essential oils that could be used include Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Rosemary)




Thymus vulgaris - Köhler's Medizinal Pflanzen

Natural Insect Repellent  

  • 7.5 ml Distilled Water

  • 7.5 ml Witch Hazel

  • 15ml Spray bottle

  • 20  Drops of the following essential oils (5 drops each):

○ Citronella (insect repellent, antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal)
○ Thyme thymol (insect repellent, antibacterial, antiseptic; a study by the American Mosquito Control Association discovered thyme essential oil had a 91% protection rate against female mosquitoes)
 ○ Cedarwood (insect repellent, antiseptic, antifungal)
 ○ Lemongrass (insect repellent, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic) 

 (If you do not have all of these essential oils, use a combination of the ones that you do have)

Pour the water and Witch Hazel into the bottle. Add the essential oils. Place lid on bottle. Shake well before each use.



What else do you put in your all-natural First Aid Kit? Comment below!