Around British Columbia, most people know Diane Bernard simply as the “Seaweed Lady”—fitting, since she spends most of her time knee deep in her waders along Vancouver Island’s Pacific coastline, harvesting bunches of the fresh green stuff. Though she boasts a master’s degree in criminology and a background in economic development, Bernard is living her passion as the founder of Seaflora, a certified organic line of seaweed-based bath and body products that are featured in spas and stores around the world. “Growing up in Eastern Canada, seaweed was just a part of our lives,” she remembers, explaining how fisherman would often use it to keep their catch cool, how her aunts would throw it into soups, and how it was used as insulation in many of the historic Acadian homes. Once Bernard settled on the West Coast, she found herself near one of the most fertile, mineral-rich seaweed areas in the world, and felt inspired to spread the word about the wild, sustainable, and very healthy resource.
“The notion of going to the sea for good health has been around for thousands of years,” Bernard explains, yet she was shocked to find that the majority of seaweed-based beauty products on the market were bleaching the leaves or diluting their therapeutic properties with dyes and perfumes. (“If a so-called seaweed product is white in color, it probably doesn’t have much seaweed in it,” she warns.) So first, she went to the experts, inviting 44 spa directors and therapists out to the coast learn about the various forms of sea plants and their benefits. Based on their feedback, Seaflora was launched in 2002, offering USDA-certified organic products that don’t strip the seaweed of their fiber, that use no synthetic colors or scents and that are mixed with as many local ingredients (like clays and oils) as possible. We caught up with Bernard as she finished the 2009 harvest—and prepared for a slew of new product launches—to find out how seaweed can best help us to relax.
What are some of the internal and external benefits of seaweed?
As the earliest plants on the planet, seaweed in general is full of nutrients, and boasts the highest levels of amino acids and healthy minerals. Each type of seaweed also has unique benefits; sea lettuce is a natural astringent and UV protector, for example, while rockweed is high in several vitamins and minerals. Kelp, and Bull Kelp in particular, is good for soaks and scrubs, as it’s hydrating and re-mineralizing, boosts circulation, relaxes the muscles and helps with insomnia. (We have a group of insomniacs who swear by our Sea Kelp Soak!) When eaten, seaweed can help to detoxify and lower blood pressure, and when used in products, it’s also a good carrier for other ingredients, helping them to penetrate deeper under the skin. Something in its makeup causes a slow, steady release of nutrients—a fact the medical community has caught on to, since seaweed is now often used in the base for medicine patches.
How can seaweed-novices best incorporate the leaves into their lives?
In addition to incorporating it more into your diet (try it in soups and salads), a seaweed spa treatment is a great first step, followed by the use of products at home. For relaxation, I recommend starting with a sea kelp bath soak, followed by our Rockweed Exfoliant and Alaria Body Wrap —use them all in the tub, so the seaweed stays around you for as long as possible. Finish with a hydrating lotion and some deeply calming seaweed tea. For more about the benefits of seaweed, visit www.sea-flora.com