I spent my childhood behind the Iron Curtain in communist Poland, where life was slower and a bit more earth-bound; but access to many things were limited, information scarce and controlled by the government, and travel outside the country difficult if not impossible. What was widely available though was the wisdom of the old and the access to bountiful nature.
Grandma and Her Witchy Ways
As a child and adolescent, I would spend every summer at my grandmother’s house in a sleepy hamlet bordering the ancient forest in Eastern Poland. My fondest memories are of my Grandma – Babcia – and me venturing into that forest, foraging for mushrooms, picking super sweet wild strawberries and blueberries and collecting wild herbs and flowers.
Once we got back, the real show would begin and I got to watch Babcia perform her herbal rituals: cleaning the herbs; selecting only the best buds, leaves or roots; tying them up for drying in her pantry or infusing them either in oil or pre-boiled well water and submerging them in strong Polish vodka to make tinctures and extracts which she used for every possible ailment of body and soul.
Then, when she wanted to relax, she’d crush some freshly picked herbs, mix them up with honey and the aloe plant juice from her cottage garden, and put that concoction on her own and my face, before handing me two cucumber slices.
Off to the porch we went, masks on our faces, cucumbers on our eyes, and the relaxing began. I was ten years old and my love of natural skin care began. The passing-by villagers, if they caught a glimpse of us, were murmuring something of “witchy ways” and we laughed, or maybe I just imagined it…
The New World
Since the 1990s, I have been living in the United States, most recently in sunny and beautiful Southern California. Moving here from the old country was a shock of sorts to say the least. So much color, so much choice, shiny, colorful packaging, everything for sale, every new food item or cosmetic product supposedly better than the one from a week, a month, or a year ago. I was mesmerized, I wanted to try it all, at least what I was able to afford. I rarely looked at the list of ingredients, and I was a sucker for grand promises and glossy advertisement tricks.
Cancer and Beyond
It all came to a screeching halt in 2014. Now a wife to a great husband and mom to a 12-year old and a 3-year old, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, stage 3. It was out of the blue, but that is how cancer usually appears – unexpected, often unexplained, out of the blue. For a year and some, I battled the disease with all that mainstream and complementary medicine had to offer: surgeries, chemo- and radiotherapy, supplementation, and change of diet.
I was lucky. I was and still am blessed with remission… and left with lots of questions. Why me? Why did I get it? Could I have prevented it? Could I have eaten better, slept more, exercised harder? And what now? Go back to the old ways: eat less than optimally good, apply synthetic skin and body care, pollute my life with stress and negative thinking? No way!
My wake-up moment taught me to go back to the basics: live to the fullest, love more, practice gratitude and de-stress, exercise, clean up my diet, and go back to skincare basics by ditching store-bought, expensive, and chemically-overburdened products in favor of natural, gentle and far more effective creations. I realized that in order to stay healthy I needed to change things for good, starting with everything that comes in contact with my body, be it internally or externally.
Memories of my Babcia’s “witchy ways” started flooding in, and I knew in my gut that the secret to health lies in nature, not in the “franken-foods” and toxic fillers and preservatives in cleaning products and cosmetics. And so, I started detoxing and simplifying my life, including my skincare routine and food choices. Whenever I traveled back to the old country, I would scout for herbalists I could trust to help me find the purest herbs in Poland. I found, studied, and brought them back to infuse carrier oils and aloe juice with them, and I made tinctures according to my Babcia’s recipes.
I wanted to use only what came from a known source and what I myself put in that jar or bottle: nourishing oils, wild-crafted herbal infusions, and therapeutic grade essential oils sourced directly from nature and extracted through sustainable and non-polluting production processes. When people started complimenting me on my skin and asked what I was using, I would gift them samples of my facial oil and moisturizing serum, and they wanted more and more.
Now, four years later, I am healthy, strong, and thriving, and ready to bring all I know and continue to learn to you. I’ll share with you how I keep my home non-toxic, my body strong, my belly content with good food from my garden, and my skin and hair naturally beautiful. In the process, I’m committed to making the world a cleaner, healthier, and better-nourished place for everyone. WELCOME to my Oko-Logic Blog! So happy to see you here!