Herbal Medicine is one of several disciplines that we take inspiration from when developing our products. For insights into the traditions and science surrounding herbs, we turn to Sarah Buscho, Certified Clinical Herbalist and CEO of botanical skincare company, Earth Tu Face. As a member of our Medical Advisory Board, Sarah has guided us in incorporating herbal wisdom into our products and personal lives.
Sarah was raised around plant medicine and gardening. Her extremely sensitive skin prompted her parents to search out the purest, gentlest, non-toxic alternatives in clothing. Sarah started her education in Natural Medicine at The University of California, Santa Cruz, and she continued her studies in a field study program in Southern Mexico gaining invaluable hands on experience alongside a native Mayan healers and indigenous doctors working to preserve their healing traditions for their communities.
We sat down with Sarah to talk more about Herbal Medicine and how Sarah incorporates herbs into her own life. We hope you find these learnings as valuable as we have.
When did you first become interested in herbs?
I was never really NOT interested in herbs. My entire play world growing up was outside. I think that’s a common thread with people who go into herbalism — the magic of nature was always present in my life. Sometimes I look at us as society and feel we need to reconnect with nature. That wasn’t ever missing for me. I felt most comfortable with nature and would play games in my backyard that involved foraging and making things out of things in the gardens and “gift” them to each other.
In a way Earth tu Face is me doing the same thing.
I’ve always been obsessed with using dried flowers and thinking about how nature can solve what we need. Swiss family Robinson style living is my dream — without giving up creature comforts.
Is there anything you wish the general population knew about herbs that is not common knowledge?
We’re oddly fundamentalist in our society — we’re either into western medicine and science OR alternative and holistic medicine. But being truly holistic means taking into account things that herbs do really really well: prevention, long term health, boosting the body’s functions, alleviating symptoms of postpartum recovery, menstruation, colds. Herbs can do things that western medicine isn’t great at — like offering gentle “normalizers”, which can address both extremes in an imbalance. Take Valerian Root, for an example. Whether someone is sleeping too much or not at all, it can help address either and alleviate insomnia or narcolepsy.
Normalizers are less common than adaptogens, which more and more people know about these days. 5 years ago no one knew what an adaptogen was. Normalizers are awesome.
I want people to know that plants are our allies. We can be relying on them a lot more and connecting with them a lot more.
Can you define normalizer and adaptogen?
Adaptogens help humans manage stress. They are long term immune system boosters and system boosters. Different adaptogens will support different systems — lymph, adrenal system, digestive system, etc. Adaptogens help us in times of constant stress. They are nontoxic and safe to take on a daily basis.
A normalizer is for one condition. There are normalizers for skin — e.g. palmarosa will work with skin that is over producing OR underproducing oils. It will boost the system.
Because of the way we’ve been conditioned to approach medicine, many people struggle with the concept that an herb can help two seemingly opposite issues. Actually, this makes a lot of sense. If we think about the fact that oil production for the skin, for example, is controlled by the same glands and hormones, it would make sense that providing nourishment for this system would help it to normalize from whatever imbalance the body was experiencing.
It is also worth pointing out that even if we don’t know how to explain the effects with the language of chemistry or microbiology yet, it can still work. If the herb produces the desired effect, that is the most important thing. The science and language to explain it further will catch up.
Do you see a path to Western adoption of herbs? If so, from where? Who is on the cutting edge of this?
Of course functional foods are one beneficial path of the future. To me, being so busy, having things that I can incorporate into my life is huge. I don’t even work a traditional desk job but having things that are packaged and convenient is a way that we need to be interacting with herbs. It makes it doable to incorporate these beneficial plants into our lives.
One of the reasons I got into doing what I do is because I thought how weird it is that we are buying these toxic solutions — like lotions and gels — that are holding 1-2 really cool ingredients. Why isn’t the WHOLE THING good for us!?
If we apply that to food and medicine: why isn’t the whole thing we’re eating good for us and delicious and lovely to be eating.
Things that can support our bodies should be IN the stew we’re eating or the treat we’re having or the coffee we’re drinking. I know some people are starting to put adaptogens in their coffee and that is fabulous. It should be more!
Do you have a favorite herbal concoction — topical or otherwise — that you use in your own life?
This is such a good question. In my late teens and 20s I was so into supplements and health food. I took healthy eating and supplements to the extreme. Then I had a bit of a course correction and for a while just said I’m not going to take anything because it was so easy to think I needed everything based on it’s description.
I do have some favorites I’ve reincorporated. I take magnesium and melatonin every night and I take a Banyan formulation called calm mind.
Also in heavy rotation are adaptogens, zinc and herbal infusions I make for myself. I love astragalus and ashwagandha, I love reishi (and a lot of lesser known mushrooms like cordyceps). I love mushroom hunting — I’m an avid mushroom hunter. I met my ex-husband at a hugely dorky mushroom hunting thing — like a camp for adults. Pretty much the best way to spend a winter weekend.
Umm can we come with you?
Yes! Let’s take our kids :) I know some GREAT spots.
What do you usually do with the mushrooms?
I dehydrate them and make strong stocks out of them. I cook with them fresh and also freeze some.
To finish answering the question, my favorite herbal concoctions are for skin, hence Earth tu Face, which is a living breathing collection of my favorite topical herb blends.
Do you have a formulation you’re most proud of for Earth tu Face?
The face balm. The face wash and balm are things I made in my twenties for specific clients in my practice and never changed them. They came naturally.
I often feel like I want to go back and change the formula because it’s been 10-12 years since I created many of them, but I would not change the face wash, face balm, or skin stick.
How long did it take you to formulate these?
It was quick. Back in the day I didn’t even use recipes — just formulated with intuition. Now I’m meticulous about formulations and get everything by weight and percentage so they can scale.
You already mentioned Banyan and Gaia, are there other brands or products out in the world people should check out if they don’t know about them already?
I love Herb Pharm, Captain Blankenship for hair care, and Agni, of course!
What else is a part of your formulation process? Where do you derive inspiration?
Nature is my constant muse.
Ecosystems are so efficient in that there isn’t any waste … everything has multiple uses and lifecycles. It’s so beautiful the way everything thrives together.
When I’m trying to figure out parts of a formula even a base needs to serve a function for the formula. There’s nothing that’s in there just for taste or feel. What’s in there for texture should serve a function and positively impact the skin. Ingredients need to be produced by our planet and readily available in a sustainable way.
I also look at price which is less sexy but an important part of the story. It alls needs to fit together.
Walking through the forest after the rain has some of the best smells ever and I try to replicate that.
Why did you agree to join Agni’s Medical Advisory Board?
I FULLY resonate with the mission and you. Functional foods are the wave of the future. We need to support the populations we’re talking about. Postpartum and menstrual and menopause are still places where we are too hush hush. We need more support. We deserve better and this will be providing better.
When my sister had her baby and you sent her a new mom box she was so impressed. Nothing exists like this. Everyone needs a line to this information … information about our own bodies!
Pregnancy opened my eyes to these taboo areas in ways I thought my eyes were already open.
I think of myself as a somewhat crunchy person, but being postpartum actually turned me off from some crunchy postpartum culture. We had a hard breastfeeding journey. Some holistic practitioners were militant that breastfeeding is the only way and I think a lot of pain and suffering could have been avoided if I wasn’t counseled by them or if they didn’t subscribe to such binary thinking. The issues weren’t solved because they weren’t seen in my case. It really made me more holistic in my thinking — meaning that I want to access both western and alternative or “crunchy” solutions. So, I love that you are working with western doctors and herbalists alike. There is beauty and truth in both systems.