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Natural Ingredients: Wildcrafting Takes Root in Denver

Brandy Monique is the founder of Fig+Yarrow.

A variety of products by Fig+Yarrow.

Apothecary Tincture carries a variety of natural toiletries.



As the art of wildcrafting -- or harvesting ingredients in the wild -- evolves and becomes more widely accepted, three standout companies help Denver understand the benefits of products made with locally foraged material. Fig + Yarrow, Reliquiae and Apothecary Tinctura are bringing the practice of foraging for wild herbal ingredients into the mainstream.
Locally and across the country, alternative medicine, including herbal medicine, is becoming a more widespread -- and sought after -- form of achieving wellness. 
 
This trend has been manifested in wildcrafting -- the art of harvesting plants from their natural or wild habitat as food or medicine. While wildcrafting isn't a new or original idea -- throughout the history of human civilization, people have relied on foraging for sustenance -- it's currently experiencing a revival in various forms.
 
In Denver, there are a host of schools, storefronts, and products that have built their philosophies on herbal medicine practice and wildcrafted materials. Apothecary Tinctura serves as a purveyor of herbs and herbal products, offering classes and workshops for those looking to dabble or hone their skill; Fig + Yarrow handcrafts organic health and vanity products made with botanicals and various earth elements; and Reliquiae blends a raw, organic body oil that sells in shops throughout Denver. 
 
Spirit-feeding bodycareA variety of products by Fig Yarrow.
 
For Brandy Monique, Founder of Fig + Yarrow, her product line was directly inspired by a love of nature play as a child, and an inherent fascination with the transformation of herbs and minerals. While studying herbalism in Boulder, she began creating medicines and products in class. 
 
"I had a nice first attempt at a whipped shea hand cream, and my lemongrass and geranium atmosphere mist is still part of the lineup today," explains Monique. In the beginning, Fig + Yarrow was more of a kitchen hobby, with Monique doling out her creations to friends. 
 
The original ingredients Monique used were wildcrafted or organic, purchased from Rebecca's, a staple apothecary in Boulder. "I kept funneling whatever funds I could into this spirit-feeding passion," recalls Monique. "I was able to invest in a pretty extensive essential oil library, bottles and jars by the case and bulk herbs from really excellent sources."
 
And the process has changed relatively little, even with so much growth. Fig + Yarrow products are still handcrafted fresh in small batches. "I've been able to maintain and even outdo my original quality and integrity standards when it comes to sourcing ingredients," explains Monique. "Today I have many suppliers for all of our many ingredients required for all of our many recipes. Since I use a lot of very particular ingredients with particular qualities, I do still search far and wide to acquire them. It's just a new form of foraging, and one appropriate for the level we're at."
 
As to the benefit of using products with foraged, organic and raw ingredients, Monique believes there are many. 
 
"I handcraft in small batches because the products are more fresh and vital for doing so. It reduces the need for unnecessary preservatives that are meant to extend shelf life for lines accustomed to having their products sitting in warehouses and on shelves for lengths of time. I specifically formulate in such a way as to avoid fillers, and I insist on organic, raw, wildcrafted ingredients as much as possible because they add to that overall vitality of the product that is key to its effectiveness and enjoyment."
 
"I approach my line as I do food because I'm actually making food for the exterior of the body," Monique adds. "If you appreciate and have experienced the benefits of fresh, organic, raw or naturally preserved food, then you totally understand the value of what I make and why."
 
Alchemy and oilApothecary Tincture carries a variety of natural toiletries.
 
Lisa Wells started Reliquiae as an extension of her alchemy, jewelry-making and wildcrafting hobbies. Today she makes a wide range of pendants and rings as well organic body oil.
 
"Reliquiae is Latin for any organic remains, mementos," says Wells. "It has a spiritual connotation, and I eventually wanted to add skincare." 
 
Wildcrafting is a good match for her philosophy, she adds. "It all is connected, and sacred -- from earth to plant. Flora and fauna are my inspirations." 
 
Wells started making skincare products for family and friends when she was young, and after being certified in aromatherapy, made an oil for the owner of Goldyn, a boutique in LoHi. "They loved it, and asked if I could sell it in their shop," explains Wells. "It 
 
A voracious reader, Wells has studied health and nutrition, and the Reliquiae body oil became a good way to blend her love of science and nature. "The body is sacred and skin is an organ. What you put on it absorbs and is cumulative. It's important to use organic and wildcrafted oils in aromatherapy which will affect every organ in the body." 
 
Wells' small-batch oil has eleven ingredients, like sea buckthorn berry oil and clove bud, each potent and with many individual healing qualities. It can be used as a unisex aromatic and for skin rejuvenation. 
 
Education and knowledge
 
Several Denver apothecaries offer herbal guidance and education in the form of hands-on classes, too. Apothecary Tinctura, for example, is a group of herbalists and holistic health care practitioners who teach about the innate healing power of the body, herbs, and plant medicine. 
 
"We try to spread the wisdom of herbal medicine, treating the cause versus masking the symptoms," explains Manager Amanda Wells. "We believe there are a lot of nutritional benefits to practicing herbal medicine for overall health -- passion flower, for example, is used for anxiety. It's been researched and shown to be equivalent or better than Prozac without side effects, and this is the case with many herbal remedies." 
 
Since opening 15 years ago, Apothecary Tinctura has gained a loyal following in Denver. "There are people who are really into learning about herbal medicine and wildcrafting here," says Amanda. "There are people have made their own stuff, people who have tried everything else and are looking for assistance in finding something different -- we serve a wide range of people, and everybody shares a desire for more knowledge on the subject." 
 
The classes at Tinctura change every season, but they always offer foundation classes like aromatherapy and medicine making. Seasonal, smaller classes can range from creating a botanical sanctuary to honey medicine.
 
Colorado is richly populated with open spaces for wildcrafting -- to get to the root of wildcrafting and understanding the benefits of plant medicine and wildcrafted products, Denver residents can also enroll in classes with the Center for Botanical Studies, which has several classes on identifying and using local plants for medicinal purposes. 

Read more articles by Samantha Alviani.

Samantha Alviani is a freelance writer and contributor to Confluence and Westword.
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