Gifts from Trees

Gifts from Trees

They house us, feed us, and help us breathe, yet what we tend to forget is the healing aspect of trees. Leaves, bark, and buds have long been used in rituals and medicines, and now some of these ancient remedies are reappearing in modern products.

The Argan Tree
The argan grows in Morocco and produces a hard nut that houses small seeds valued for their oil. The oil contains high levels of skin-rejuvenating essential fatty acids. One of the purest products we’ve found it in is Aura Cacia’s USDA-certified organic Argan Skin Care Oil. This company offers other oils derived from trees, including baobab, macadamia, and tamanu.

The Baobab Tree
Native to Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Australia, and Madagascar, these gargantuan trees can live to be thousands of years old. “The fruit of the tree,” explains Michele Gilfoil, who sources ingredients for Planet Botanicals, “is loaded with antioxidants and plant sterols and has eight to ten times more vitamin C than an orange.” She uses the dry fruit powder in the company’s Baobab Micro Face Polish, as well as in the African Baobab Body Scrub with Citrus Limon.

The Rustic Tree
Los Angeles artist Kathy Bransfield creates unique pieces of inspirational jewelry from recycled silver and nature-inspired shapes, many of which reveal hand-stamped quotations. One of her newest necklace designs features a silver pendant with the image of a rustic tree on one side and the words “Remember what is important to you” stamped on the other side.

The Cedar Tree
The oil from this conifer has been used for a variety of purposes: as an antiseptic and antifungal agent; as a natural pest control; as a sedative; and more. We like it for its pleasant woodsy aroma. Juniper Ridge’s Cedar Incense sticks are pure and crafted from Siskiyou cedar — the only incense made with authentic cedar from the Pacific Northwest. 10 percent of profits are donated to defending western wilderness.

The Beech Tree
A natural anti-aging ingredient, beech tree bud extract contains high-energy actives, peptides, and flavonoids that help strengthen the epidermal structure of the skin, making it firmer and reducing facial lines. “The beech tree is often called the ‘ever-lasting youth tree,’ ” says Irene Schnell, chief chemist at the Rocky Mountain Soap Company, creators of Beech Tree Bud Eye Cream.

The Katafray Tree
Indigenous to Madagascar, where it’s used in local building as well as in traditional Madagascan medicine (a popular use is a tonic prepared from the bark that is taken to soothe stomachs), the essential oil has been shown to both fortify and soothe skin. Clarins counts katafray bark extract as a core ingredient in its HydraQuench line. The company is a longtime supporter of fair trade and combines its purchase of raw materials with helping local communities. 5 percent of sales helps finance community products.

The Pine Tree
We could wax poetic about the majestic pine, but instead we’ll zero right in on a new product that counts antioxidant-rich organic pine bark extract among its natural ingredients. Eyelight Serum from Scientific Organics is a lightweight formula that comes in a handy roll-on and nicely hydrates the delicate eye area. In addition to pine bark, it also includes kombucha, yerba mate, and mallow. The company plants a tree for certain purchases like this one.

The Thorn Tree
The gift from this African tree is shade and a gathering place — which along with a blackboard propped against its trunk in northern Kenya, became a preschool ten years ago. The Thorn Tree Project is dedicated to helping the nomadic Samburu tribe educate their children. The project began with 130 kids and two preschools — today it supports more than 1,500 kids in 14 preschools. A a beautiful bracelet crafted by the Samburu mothers in their tribal style is made from recycled tires and tiny colorful beads. The purchase of one bracelet ($20) can feed a child for a full school year.

The Thorn Tree Project started ten years ago when a blackboard propped against this tree’s trunk became a preschool. Today it supports more than 1,500 kids in 14 preschools. ABOVE: Kathy Brandsfield’s necklace reminds us what is important.

Mary Bemis, founding editor of Organic Spa magazine, is a respected authority on natural beauty, spas, and green living.

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