The term “natural” has been flying around the skincare and wellness community with nearly reckless abandon, but what it natural anyway? In the United States the term can really be used by just about anyone as part of their labeling and marketing. There aren’t a lot of clear rules or regulation around this term, so what constitutes natural and what is natural to YOU?

I’ll tell you what is natural to me and what I’m committed to creating for you at Joyful Roots, but first let’s chat about why it is so important to choose wisely what you put on your skin.

Me at our gorgeous San Pedro River

It’s indisputable that the rate of chronic illness has risen drastically in the last 50 years, to the point where it is no longer just impacting adults and elderly, but our youth as well. Many of us are concerned about what we eat, but we should be just as concerned with what we put on our skin. Why? Our skin is porous and our largest organism. A large majority of what we put on our skin eventually enters our body and bloodstream, bypassing our digestive system (which is a natural filter) altogether and often ends up being stored in our organs and fatty tissue. With the incredible amount of synthetic chemicals and fragrances in the bath and beauty product industry these days, it’s no wonder that it’s wreaking havoc on our health!

What’s more, so many of our body products are literally designed to stop our body from performing its natural processes! Think deodorant, sunscreen, mouthwash, and tampons…plug it up and block it off. Did you know that in doing this we are also plugging up our elimination pathways, the very mechanisms our bodies have created to eliminate toxins and waste?

With the clear lack of chemical regulation and drastic oversight within the skincare industry, it’s up to each of us to decide what we want to put on our bodies and read labels. We need to educate ourselves and make a conscious decision to use products that benefit our health. Can skincare be helpful instead of harmful? Oh yes!! Read on.

To me, the term “natural” means that ingredients are derived directly from plants or animals and have not been adulterated beyond a normal process of cold pressing oils, grinding herbs, a little heat now and then, and possibly fermenting (think apple cider vinegar), or distilling (think essential oils). The product should not contain any petroleum products or synthetic chemicals, even during the extraction process. The ingredient should not be processed beyond its recognizable form. The ingredient should be pure. Think, was it something my great-great-grandmother could have acquired or created? Were people 200 years ago able to make this ingredient with their current technology? There are possibly a few exceptions to this, like CO2 extraction methods for essential oils, but those examples are very few and far between.

Here’s the thing, if you want to have truly natural products that are shelf stable and safe, there are only a few ways to accomplish this. If you don’t have one or all of these criteria, then the product is NOT shelf stable and/or NOT SAFE meaning it could contain harmful bacteria, mold, or yeasts.

None of these natural products will last forever, but in my opinion that’s a good thing. Does anything natural last forever? Joyful Roots makes our products as fresh as possible, sometimes coming directly from our garden to your face. The products may not last for years because they aren’t intended to! You can be sure though that they also haven’t sat in a warehouse somewhere for years before they arrive in your hands, and because of that, we don’t need to formulate for long-term storage (read: lots of preservatives and stabilizers).

The first way to be preservative-free is to be waterless. Waterless products can be oil based or non-oil based. Oil based products are things like massage oil, face oils, salves and balms. They do not need preservatives because harmful bacteria will not grow without moisture. Spores may land on the surface but they cannot germinate…water is life. Non-oil based products are things like glycerin extractions, dried powdered herbs and clays, salts, etc. These products require that the mixture stay completely dry to prevent any unwanted microbes from entering. Take our Sea Goddess Mask for instance. You add your own liquid to a small amount of the powder in a separate container for each use, to keep the rest of it dry and safe.

Sea Goddess Nutritive Face Mask Kelp and Chlorella

Another option is pH controlled formulas – think Apple Cider Vinegar. High levels of salt and sugar can also help to preserve a product, as can alcohol. This is what we use to prevent microbes from brewing in Mystic Mist, along with a closed spray container that helps to prevent contamination.

Most of Joyful Roots products are waterless and there are many good reasons for this. The first is obvious based on this conversation – we haven’t found a preservative we are comfortable using in our products. Bacteria need water to live, and we don’t want to sell you a product that contains harmful bacteria or harmful chemicals – simple as that.

Water is a cheap ingredient. Sure, it may be necessary for certain products, like sprays and mists, but beyond that it’s really not necessary. Waterless skincare means you are getting more concentrated products and more of the active ingredients that your skin and body love!! It’s definitely more bang for your buck.

Of course, we love playing around with botanicals and formulas to create products that you will adore. There are no hard-fast rules here other than that we are committed to providing you with the purest, most natural, most nourishing products we can, while always being transparent about what is in them and how they are created. That is the Joyful Roots commitment to you!



Elderberry syrup is becoming more well known as a natural way to fight cold and flu, and for good reason! In our household, it’s a go-to throughout the winter. In fact, when my son was three, it was such a constant topic and request from him, our friends thought it was so funny and slightly impressive. Budding herbalist maybe? Haha. You can find my favorite elderberry syrup recipe and more about why we love it at this post.

Elder is a well-loved herb, that has been used for thousands of years and probably longer. The name dates back to the Greco-Roman period, with the latin name Sambucus stemming from the Greek word Sambuca, which referred to an ancient musical instrument – elderberry branches were made into shrill pipes and the wood possibly turned into small harps.

The tree was considered sacred to the Anglo-Saxons, who believed it to be inhabited by the Elder Mother, Hylde Moer, who was the Goddess of vegetation, life, and death. For this reason, it was necessary to ask the Goddess for permission before using the wood and offer chants and prayers. Once Christianity was introduced, the associations with Elder morphed into other stories, one being that the cross on which Christ was crucified was made of Elder. During the Middle Ages people believed that witches and evil spirits could be repulsed by pinning elder leaves around the home.

In 1656, William Coles wrote about Elder that: “There is hardly a disease from the head to the foot but it cures. It is profitable for headache, for Ravings and Wakings, Hypocondriak and Mellancholly, the Falling-Sickness, Catarrhes, Deafness, Faintnesse and Feacours.” And there are many, many more folkloric and medicinal tales about Elder from around the world. It has been an extremely familiar and important tree to many cultures worldwide.

A search for Sambucus in PubMed brings up 1091 results today. It is a well studied plant, with interest in it continuing to grow. In fact, for the past two years it has been hard to find Elderberries in stock online from various herbal suppliers. Today we know, Elderberries contain shikimic acid, an intermediary in the production of Tamiflu, an anti-flu pharmaceutical. Bioflavinoids in the extracts of Elderberry may prevent viruses from entering cells. In the Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Elderberry, James A Duke, Ph. D. writes “In the case of elderberry, as evidenced in my research, there are over fifty beneficial chemicals from which the body can select and use if they are needed. Elderberry is one of the most important medicinal species to be featured as an ‘Herb of the year.'”

make your own elderberry oxymel, honey and vinegar herb blend, herbalism, medicine, natural living, elderberris

Elderberry syrup is seriously tasty, but when you do start feeling something coming on, it may not be the most convenient option to take every hour or two (the recommendation when experiencing illness), since it needs to be refrigerated. The great thing is, you can actually use the same blend of herbs from my syrup recipe, or from my DIY kits, to make an Elderberry Oxymel!

What’s any oxymel, you ask? It’s a combination of herbs infused in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and honey. Sweet and sour yumminess. And the great thing is that it’s shelf stable so you can carry it in a dropper bottle and bring it with you when you are at work or out of the house. It’s easy to add a couple droppers full to a small amount of water or squirt it right into your mouth.

Adding local honey to the oxymel preparation

And you know what’s really tasty? Adding the oxymel to sparkling water for a sparkling elderberry soda! Or how about adding it as a delicious addition to homemade Salad dressing? There are oh so many possibilities for relishing in some delicious herbs.

So, with all of that in mind, I’ve laid out instructions on how to make your own elderberry oxymel at home! Enjoy!

Make an Elderberry Oxymel of your own

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and no state regulatory board licenses herbalists. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, please remember that using remedies is a personal decision. You are in charge of your own health. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others.