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7 Desert Botanicals With Restorative Powers

by Organic Spa Magazine

For Katie Hess, founder of Lotus Wei flower remedies, a harsh landscape yields a healing garden


Photo credit: Rona Berg

The desert is generally considered harsh and unforgiving, but for Katie Hess, founder of Lotus Wei, it is fecund, fertile, a landscape in bloom. Hess is renowned for a special kind of alchemy: She extracts flower essences from plants around the world—including her native Arizona desert—and distills them into potent elixirs, aromatic mists, oils and serums that help rebalance mind, body and spirit.
“When you spend time in the desert, you realize that it’s not barren and empty; it’s actually teeming with life, just in a quieter way,” says Hess. “You have to pay more attention—it enhances your intuition and awakens a sharper level of clarity.”
The desert, according to Hess, grows some of the most powerful healing plants on earth: “Any plant that can survive temperatures up to 115 or 120 degrees has an amazing capacity to conserve energy and thrive, despite difficult conditions.”
On a recent visit to L’Auberge de Sedona, in Arizona, I hiked into the desert with Hess to learn about plants with amazing restorative properties for the skin and hair, the remedies she draws from their flowers and how these desert botanicals help stitch body and spirit together.

Photo credit: Rona Berg

Prickly Pear is rich in antioxidants, vitamins B and C, magnesium and other minerals. If you have a bruise, sunburn, bites or stings, slice the prickly pear pad and apply it directly to the area. Drinking the bright pink juice can make hair shiny. The oil from the seeds contains double the amount of proteins and fatty acids as argan oil, and has loads of vitamin E, making it excellent for damaged or mature skin and dry hair.
Prickly Pear Flower Remedy enhances self-confidence and self-sufficiency, and increases unity between partners (when compatible). It balances the feminine side of both women and men.
Globe Mallows have soft leaves, which is an indicator that the plants soften the skin. Globe mallow is cooling, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. A poultice made out of mallow can be applied to skin that is hot, for sunburn, irritation and rashes. It is very drawing and can be used to draw out splinters and blemishes, as well as swelling that occurs during injury.
Globe Mallow Flower Remedy is for recognizing your inner and outer beauty, gives a youthful glow to the skin, softens your character and helps you more deeply understand the value of staying in one place.
Juniper essential oil is detoxifying and expels pollutants in the body. It is stimulating: perfect for cellulite, sluggish digestion or overall fatigue. And it improves circulation and reduces swelling. Juniper resin mixed with oil makes a good massage oil and juniper is astringent and found in toners.
Juniper berries balance skin oils, and help with acne and dandruff. Juniper is a rubefacient, meaning it improves circulation below the skin and gives your skin some color. It helps you sweat, which removes toxins and cleanses the pores. (Not for use during pregnancy or for people with compromised kidneys.)
Manzanita was used by Native Americans to relieve skin irritations caused by poison oak and insect bites. It draws out toxins, soothes the skin, disinfects, relieves itching and speeds up healing.

Photo credit: Rona Berg

Agave is called “the century plant” because it takes 40 to 100 years for the plant to grow a stalk with flowers. And once it blooms, it dies, in a quick burst of beauty. Agave nectar is antimicrobial and was used mixed with salt by Native Americans to heal skin conditions.
Agave Flower Remedy stimulates patience, maturity and understanding. It enhances independence, courage and ability to confront difficult situations in life. It balances the masculine side in both men and women.
Soap Tree Yucca contains vitamin C and saponins; the juice from its roots lathers up and was traditionally used for soap and shampoo by indigenous people. It is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, removes toxins from the body, acts as an emollient for the skin and soothes and nourishes the scalp.
Banana Yucca Flower Remedy is for awakening hidden talents; it helps you make the impossible possible, and facilitates working with women to achieve the unimaginably great. It dissolves shyness around your capabilities or purpose in life.
Piñon pine is considered a sacred tree by Native Americans. Piñon pine resin is part of the tree’s immune system—it is what oozes out of wounds in the tree. It is antimicrobial, which means that it protects the tree from the same bacteria, fungus and viruses that attack us.
A healing salve can be made from melting the piñon pine resin with beeswax and a carrier oil such as jojoba. Aside from its exquisite aroma, piñon pine is warming and stimulating. It increases blood flow and can be used to soothe irritated skin. It draws out toxins, encourages re-growth of tissues and boosts the immune system.

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