It was really the cannabis plant that first brought us together. Paul and I met in San Francisco in 2013. I’m originally from Utah and was living in Salt Lake City at the time, working as an artist and printmaking contractor after graduating from the University of Utah with a BA. I had been going to California regularly to learn more about this intriguing plant I read about and here we are, 6 years later with this company we call GARA.
It has taken on many forms before its current iteration, from extracts to tinctures, topicals to suppositories, GARA is the abbreviation for Grass & Root Apothecary. It is simply a study of plants, in all of their forms and functions. I happen to be partial to cannabis as I have had my own healing experience with this plant, but also because it is one of the many medicinal plants that holds potent healing potential for many species on the planet. The pure existence of the Endocannabinoid system tells us that we have a long history of use of cannabis, by some accounts dating back 10,000 years. It’s no coincidence in my view, that we have such a close and conflicted relationship with this plant. It holds the potential to clothe you, to feed and nourish you, as well as heal internal body and environmental systems alike. It is a carbon sequestering plant, drought tolerant and naturally pest resistant. It grows quickly and efficiently, giving back more than it takes. I’ve watched over the years as studies have been published, and seen first-hand, the tides of opinion shifting in a very positive direction. With a little education and a positive experience, one can feel the healing benefits of cannabis for themselves.
Cannabis infused topicals prove to be very reliable in their results. With topical application, you can achieve a localized effect, targeting specific problematic areas for pain and inflammation. There is also a growing body of research about the benefits of topical cannabis preparations for skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis and some forms of dermatitis. Though the research is new, we can look back to historical use of this plant for reference, all of which were treated with cannabis.
We host educational events about cannabis, sharing information from the top researchers in the industry about the role of full-spectrum extracts. In the cannabis world, this is known as the “entourage effect.” This concept can be understood in a simple sentence; as Aristotle so eloquently states, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” When you have cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds found in cannabis in a single full spectrum extract, the effect is much more wholistic in the body. This term doesn’t just apply to cannabis, but to many other medicinal plants as well. Nearly all of the plant extracts we work with are full spectrum, meaning we extract as many compounds from the plant as possible, either with water, alcohol or oil.
Working closely with cannabis opened the door to a world of medicinal plants for me and helped me to realize that so many plants hold this potential. Our ancestors understood the plant kingdom with much more depth than we understand today and what we call modern pharmacology, stems from the traditional studies of the natural world. Much of this ancestral knowledge has been lost, yet some of it survives. It is our duty to preserve the ancient wisdom of our ancestors and learn how to integrate that information into our modern world. This is one reason why both Paul and I are drawn to the art of distillation. It is a process that has been practiced for nearly 5,000 years, on every continent and in almost every culture. It’s an intimate way to learn about a plant, to grow it, observe its changes in form and to finally distill the plant into its watery essence called a hydrosol. Spending an entire year with just one plant can be transformational on many levels.
We distill fresh plant material in a traditional copper alembic still from Portugal. The process yields a hydrosol – distilled herbal water which contains cellular water, micro-particles of essential oil (terpenes), plant acids and other water-soluble compounds found in the plant. These healing waters are naturally acidic which help to balance the pH of the skin and regulate oil production. Hydrosols are versatile and can be used as a skin toner, aromatherapy mist, scalp and hair treatment, natural deodorizer and much more. They are safe for all ages, pets and plants too. Hydrosols are gentle in their application but potent in their function.
In learning more about hydrosols and essential oils, I’ve come to value cannabis even more. This aromatic plant contains several terpenes that have been shown to improve overall health and wellness. Studies in aromatherapy have shown that terpenes like limonene are uplifting and energetic, while terpenes like alpha-Pinene and caryophyllene are relaxing and soothing. Both of these terpenes are found in different strains of cannabis and can be extracted into a hydrosol. Though the hydrosol does not contain any cannabinoids, it does contain the terpenes, plant acids and life force essence of the plant. It’s a different way to experience cannabis.
GARA, for me, is a way to bridge the gap between science and spirit. An exercise in practicing sustainability from the ground up. We grow most of the plants that we distill and work closely with cultivars as locally as possible for other herbs and oils. Each ingredient is meticulously vetted to meet the highest quality organic or biodynamic standards. We distill hydrosols seasonally, when the plant is at its peak. We batch test our CBD infused products for potency and purity and package our formulations in Miron violet glass for extended preservation.
Written By: Emilee Dziuk, Cofounder, Gara Skincare