We are a people of the Sun, the Land and the Sea.
We have long since known and understood the curative powers of the “bush”. As Caribbean people, it has been part of our culture to go to the bush first when we are in need of Mother Nature’s special healing. Everything that is needed for good health, and beauty, is provided to us by Nature. Our plants have come to us through the passage of the Native Peoples of South and Central America as they have made their way up the land chain through the Caribbean and also when the Africans were brought to the “New World” as slaves. Many were able to able to hold on to some of the seeds and plants of their Homeland, not knowing what lay ahead for them after that frightful and terrible journey. It would be something of an ease to at least have something familiar for them as they were taken so brutally from their own homes to this new land.
For generations we have lived from the land and we have lived in tune with what has been given to us from the Earth. Our culture and our food is deeply connected to traditions that show our reverence to the bounty that is all around us. There is a deep respect for each of the plants knowing that from these plants and fruits comes good health and beauty.
In the Caribbean, we each have that special bond to the Earth, some more than others. But we can all tell the tale of, as a child, having to swallow a slimy, bitter tasting fleshy plant (Aloe Vera) to flush out any stomach toxins. Or use this very same fleshy, slimy plant to soothe the burn of the sun or ease the sting of a scrape. Or when we were in bed, the bed sheets drenched with sweat, a high fever raging through you, and your mother makes you a cooking and refreshing cup of Fever grass tea (lemongrass) to help cool you down while also putting fresh, young green sour sip leaves between the bed sheets and the blanket to help absorb the heat and break the fever. By morning, the fever has broken, the soursop leaves having “magically” soaked out the fever and the lemongrass helping to cool you as well.
As a child during the summer months, waiting for the mangoes to ripen and climbing the trees to get at the golden or red/orange, tangy sweetness of the fruit as you play away the hot, summer day with your friends in the tree tops. The plants we used to tell if he/she really loved you by writing their name on the green succulent leaves and waiting to see if it shoots roots, thereby signifying your intendeds true feelings for you.
As a people, we have always had a very special and close relationship to Nature. A respect and fondness for our natural environment. It is with this understanding and these foundational beliefs that I decided to create a skincare line rooted in that knowledge.
I took the time to look more closely at the herbs and plants and fruits that I took for granted as a young girl growing up here on St. Croix and looked at how what I used for a bruised or scraped knee how can I now use this in a lotion or a bar of soap. Aloe Vera is a Caribbean staple. We call it “Simple Ivy”. Why I’m not sure other than it is in the lily family. But the elders in the community noticed how the “problem” plants and the “helpful” plants grew side by side. For instance, we have a plant here we call Stinging Nettle. It’s a green vine that grows wild and if you get to close to the vine it will “bite” you. It’s actually a sting from the hairs that grow on the leaf, but the sting is so sharp and severe it feels like a bite. Usually, where you find nettle growing, you’ll find wild aloes or the “Love” plant growing near. Both are fleshy, green plants and when you break and squeeze the juice or gel from the plant on the irritated area it offers a cooling relief. Even in nature you have your opposites living next to each other in harmony. A balance. Well of course, Aloes are used for so many reasons in a traditional sense locally, so why not use it as a base for lotions?! The soothing, calming attributes of aloes that make it ideal for when you have a sunburn, a scarped knee or bruise makes it an easy excellent choice for a skincare product.
A “Fever Grass” tea was always one I loved as a child. I knew it would be a refreshing tea, even when it was freshly brewed. Fever grass, aka Lemongrass, helps to cool the body and would never be given, at least in my household, after dark or when the sun was setting. It was said you could make your cold worse if drank at that time. Never understood why until older, but held on to that teaching. When I started this journey into Caribbean based skincare, I learned it was because Lemongrass can make the pores open wider when ingested or used on the skin. Hence why it was used for fevers and when the body was too hot. But Lemongrass also helped to keep away mosquitoes and helped with keeping the skin clear. Combine that with our local limes and you have something so powerful that works well with cooking and soothing the skin, keeps away mosquitoes helps keep the skin clear and reduced dirt. Corn and cornmeal is a popular food item here on St. Croix. Take drive on a weekend and you’ll find a few farmers near the roadside roasting corn. The sweet, sticky corn with just the right amount of char…delicious! And a popular spot to catch up with friends not seen for a while! I grew up not only eating roasted corn, but also eating cornmeal pop and Fungee (similar to southern grits but thicker and stiffer). The cornmeal pop made with milk or just water and sugar and a little spice like cinnamon and or nutmeg. Given to babies to not only satisfy their hunger, but also to help with keeping their beautiful skin clear…according to the elders. Not only that, they would say, but rubbing the dry cornmeal on your skin, like a scrub, helps to keep the skin clear and blemish free.
I am a child of the Sun, the Land and the Sea. Being “natural” is not something that I take lightly. My history and cultural traditions are centered around our plants, our land and our waters and what we reap from both the water and the land. Using products that help to bring an awareness to our close relationship with the Earth is important. Natural and plant based skincare should help us each to remember that we are all stewards of this glorious and amazing planet. It should make us, as we are in the Caribbean, more mindful and grateful for the bounties and the fruits borne to us from our co-existence with Nature.