A Decade of Indigo Elixirs
2020 is here, and amongst a sea of meanings it marks a full decade that I’ve dedicated to Indigo Elixirs. My earliest explorations with botanical materials were incited by a quest to find a beauty routine that worked for my body: specifically for my eternally dry skin and exceptionally thick Armenian hair. While spending a semester in Europe during my sophomore year of college, I became inspired by the desire for products that were not only effective but also versatile — to easily fit into the backpack I was living out of while traveling — and healthy — as I began questioning ingredient labels with increased scrutiny.
And so I began researching natural ingredients and DIY recipes that incorporated them, quickly gaining a new vocabulary of essential oils and carriers and herbs. Researching turned into experiementing and then fine tuning different formulas as I synchronized scents and harmonized textures. I created a serum for my hair, then realized many of those oils were good for my body as well so I made a body butter and a massage bar. I used ingredients from our kitchen to whip up a scrub and a face mask, and in no time I fell in love with the craft. It wasn’t long before friends and family asked for me to share what I was making, and the wheels of potential opportunity began turning.
After spending two years playing with recipes, I launched Indigo Elixirs in October of 2009 as a senior in college. The very first little collection was packaged in all cobalt blue glass (which I no longer use for ethical reasons, but still love dearly) wrapped in tracing paper labels with a logo I had drawn by hand.
When I first started selling at local farmers markets, I again and again was asked if I had any products for pain or for eczema. Realizing that these needs were clearly not being met by what was available, I began researching but was quickly overwhelmed by the results. I knew that herbs were the answer, but had no idea where to begin. And so, I enrolled in an herbal apprenticeship at Misty Meadows on a beautiful farm in New Hampshire.
This apprenticeship opened my eyes to the enchanting world of herbalism, and it was here that I learned all the practical and witchy skills necessary of being an herbalist. I learned how to identify plants in the wild, harvest them, and turn them into medicines. I became fascinated by botanical compounds and properties, how they interact with one another and augment eachother. One of our many projects was to create our own Materia Medica consisting of over 100 plants, all of which we found and identified ourselves, and then pressed and made mini monographs for. The ephemeral green that had always surrounded me took on new meaning, as the each species gained a distinct identity in my senses. I had grown up helping my parents in the gardens of my family’s Massachusetts home, and suddenly I was able to forge a deeper connection with the all the new friends growing in our backyard. For my final project of the apprenticeship, I re-created my entire line to incorporate local herbs into all of my creations.
The fire within me was sparked: I wanted to learn all that I could about the art and science of herbal medicine. With an intention to continue my studies and explore a new environment both culturally and botanically, I made a move across the country and settled into a new home on an old steamship in the houseboat community of Sausalito, California. Here I was able to brew potions on a vintage stove that needed to be lit with a match inside a creaky kitchen that swayed ever so faintly over the water. In those days you could find me slinging elixirs occasionally at the local farmers market but most often perched on a bench with my paintbox full of magic at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
After a year living a quiet Bay Area houseboat life, I was again moved to further pursue my herbal education in a new environment. With a total leap of faith and fate, I packed up my life and arrived in Honolulu with the intention of obtaining a Masters degree in ethnobotany. I had planned to put my business on hold while in grad school, but I soon realized that I deeply missed creating. At the time I was also honestly surprised that I was unable to find products that were incorporating Hawaii grown ingredients. I slowly began surveying what was available — I knew that if I was going to continue Indigo Elixirs in Hawaii, it would be a different kind of work.
I wanted to offer formulas were infused with island flora, and that gave back to Hawaii’s agicultural community. I wanted my production to have minimal impact, so sourcing locally and packaging sustainably were top priorities. Slowly, product by product, I reinvented my entire line one at a time. Some of the first products I created on Oahu were the Solve All Salve — using all local herbs — and Chocolate Balm — with local cacao shells that were a byproduct from a friend’s chocolate making business.
That was seven years ago. While no part of this journey was easy or clear, I am humbled by where it is today. Over the past several years, I’ve been able connect with an ever-expanding network of farmers and growers to source materials from. I have played with some of Hawaii’s dreamiest botanicals, and been able to incorporate them into Elixirs or infuse them into Limited Batch formulas. While the Ethnobotany degree turned out to not be what I was looking for, I was lucky enough to land in the last graduating class of the World Medicine Institute for my Masters in Herbology and Acupuncture.
As I set my mind to the new year and next decade, I have no idea quite how it will unfold — but I have lots of ideas for the future of Indigo Elixirs. I look forward to continue sharing my creations in all the ways that will best serve you. Thank you for being here, and a part of my journey!