My last interview a couple of weeks ago was with Liz Fulcher, The Fragrant Muse; previous to that I interviewed both Andrea Butje of the Aromahead Institute and Penny Price of Penny Price Aromatherapy. This week, I am happy to introduce you to Ann Harman of Morning Myst Botanics. Ann Harman not only operates a certified organic farm up in Washington state, but she has been invited to speak at the 2011 International Symposium of Aromatherapy and Medicinal Plants in Grasse, France and she has a book coming out later this year on hydrosols! So I was very grateful that Ann could spare a few moments of her time to take part in Aromatherapy Notes series of interviews with professional aromatherapists. I am sure that you will learn something from this interview! 🙂
AN: First of all, thank you Ann for agreeing to take some time out of your busy life to answer a few questions about your “aromatherapy” career! I wanted to ask you about your aromatherapy life as I understand that you have some exciting, new projects coming up in 2011, in addition to your very interesting life 🙂
AH: My pleasure, thank you for allowing me to share.
AN: You currently own Morning Myst Botanics which is located on 280 acres in eastern Washington state. Please tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you to this area of your life (as in career) and how plants became such a large part of your life.
AH: Plants have always been a part of my life. My father raised orchids in Wyoming of all places. We had a large greenhouse and I could always go an inhale the moist, fragrant air, even when there was 6 feet of snow on the ground! It was magical and put me on the path of plants from the beginning.
I started growing and studying medicinal herbs when I was still in high school. They have always been an important part of who I am. As for distilling, I was introduced to it at a United Plant Savers venue where I met James Green. He was demonstrating how to make a rose hydrosol. I was hooked. I went on to study with Jeanne Rose who continues to inspire me.
Love brought me to eastern Washington. I was living and distilling on the Olympic Peninsula when I met John. He was moving back to this property which is a perfect, pristine place to grow aromatics. I brought a truckload of my aromatics from the peninsula and they are thriving here, producing completely different hydrosols and essential oils.
AN: What services does Morning Myst Botanics offer?
AH: We are a certified organic farm and we contract with other local certified organic farms to grow the herbs for our stills. We distill Certified Organic Hydrosols and also make Certified Organic herbal products. All the products we sell are made here on the farm by us personally.
I am also teaching distillation and botanical workshops in the summer. If you want to learn how to make exquisite hydrosols at home, this is a great place to learn.
A new creative venture for me is my botanical art. I make pressed herbarium specimens suitable for framing. This is a fun way for me to be creative in the winter when I can’t work in the gardens.
AN: I understand that you have been invited to speak at the International Symposium of Aromatherapy and Medicinal Plants in Grasse, France in April. Please tell us a little bit about the event and where readers can go to learn more.
AH: Oh my what an exciting time this will be. I am still walking on clouds. This will be my first time to Grasse, I am very grateful to be able to travel around and visit the local distilleries. The theme this year is From Forest Wisdom to Sacred Plants. I will be speaking about Distilling Elder flowers, the sacred tree of the Druids. Last time I looked they had not updated their website for this year’s event yet, but it should be up soon.
AN: As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I also believe that you have a book scheduled for this year too on hydrosols. What inspired you to write the book and when will it be available?
AH: I enjoy writing as much as teaching and this book is an extension of my workshops. I do not have a publishing date as yet but am hoping to have it available this Fall. I am writing the book I wish had been available when I started distilling many years ago. It is called “From Harvest to Hydrosol, making exquisite hydrosols at home.” It is a step by step handbook on distillation with Alembic stills.
AN: What is the difference between certified organic and organic essential oils/botanicals?
AH: One of main differences between organic and certified organic is traceability. Essential oils are considered cosmetics and fall under the FDA to regulate. Neither the NOP (National Organic Program) nor FDA regulates the term organic when used in cosmetics.
Botanicals on the other hand fall under the USDA and are allowed to use the term organic only if they are certified organic by the NOP or one of its agencies.
Essential Oils may choose to be certified organic by NOP but must meet the standards. Only if the plants are grown by a certified grower (call a producer) and distilled & bottled by a certified distiller (call a processor/handler) and they be certified. Each step from harvest to the end product is regulated, traceable and accounted for.
If an essential oil says organic, (but not certified) then it may or may not have traceability. The plants may have been certified but the processing may not have been. In fact, many suppliers do not realize that buying certified organic products in bulk, the moment they are rebottled they are no longer certified organic unless the bottler is a certified processor/handler.
The bottom line is you have educate yourself, be a smart consumer and trust your supplier not marketing hype.
AN: What advice do you have for those considering learning about botanicals, essential oils and hydrosols, as in where to get started etc?
AH: What worked best for me was to study the plants first, beginning with herbal and gardening books then move on to Aromatherapy. I am often surprised when I meet Aromatherapists that have either lost or never had a connection to the plant world where all those wonderful oils come from. I teach my students about botany and getting to know the plants personally. I encourage them to grow at least some of the plants they use in their daily lives, to connect with them.
There are so many good books and teachers out there I would tell students to follow their instinct. For instance, there are many ways to study herbalism, from earth based venues to a more scientific approach. Find what resonates. Jeanne Rose, Rosemary Gladstar, Christopher Hobbs and Michael Moore, though he is no longer with us, left an incredible legacy of information. After learning about the plants, find one of the fabulous aromatherapy schools across the country. Again choose one that fits your interests, whether clinical, chemistry or products.
AN: Finally, where can people go to learn more about you?
AN: Thank you so much for your time, Ann! Good luck with your projects this year too! I hope that one day I will be able to get up and visit Ann in beautiful Washington state to see her botanical farm 🙂