It seems as though in the past few years natural remedies have made a huge comeback among women of color. Once upon a time, many of us flocked to brands from Noxema for skincare to Midol to help fight off period cramps. But today, many more of us are beginning to look at the behaviors of our mothers, grandmothers, and all of the women in our lives who understood how to care for their bodies in simpler times.
The sale of crystals and oils have surged in recent years — Google alone has seen a 40% uptick in searches for “crystal healing.” And perhaps, it is no coincidence that many women of color are growing large communities of self-care rooted in earth healing, oils, and more.
So what’s behind this newfound reliance on things that come from the earth’s core to remedy our woes? We spoke to a few women who have formed such communities to understand that more clearly.
Some of these community leaders suggest that it’s that women of color are now truly acknowledging and feeling past trauma and pain and leaning into the things our mothers and grandmothers did to get by. After all, they’ve fought similar battles against the anxiety, depression, and stress that comes from coming of age in a racist, patriarchal society.
“We are just getting back to our roots,” Jaquí Rodriguez, founder of Wave of Healing suggests. “A lot of us are holding trauma in our bodies, and things have gotten stuck there. Energy isn’t following.”
Rodriguez specifically works with essential oils and chakra work to help women release trauma and pain through natural remedies. One of her favorites comes directly from her mother.
“My family is Dominican and my mother relied on many recipes for healing.” For a headache, she made tea with boiling water of a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and honey, and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. For the common cold, she would blend water half a red onion, aloe, three garlic cloves, eight limes, three oils, and a spoon of castor oil to be taken two to three times daily.
On her own clients, Rodriguez deals with much heavier pains — including sexual trauma, anxiety, and more. She relies on oils and chakra healing to shift bad energy out of our bodies.
“I may use orange oil (called ylang-ylang) on the sacral chakra, and then a lavender oil on someone’s throat chakra. Or, I’ll use a vetiver grass oil for balancing.”
Elsie Lopez of Gold Water Alchemy relies more on herbs to heal and transform her clients and believes that women of color are simply realizing that their natural remedies work better than any other source out there.
“Gold Water Alchemy’s foundation is set in earth-based medicine and healing services. A part of my focus is on making herbal medicines which I release as magical tools, so these medicines work on a vibrational level, healing the subtle body, and thus relieving us of the manifestations of disharmony on various levels, from physical to spiritual,” Lopez explains about her business.
When asked why women of color are going back to these types of natural practices, she believes we are simply realizing what truly works for us.
“There’s certainly a remembrance of sorts happening,” she suggests when explaining why women of color are refocusing on natural remedies. “What is in the genes cannot be denied, so women are really remembering our past during a time when the earth and the resources found in the earth were the primary tools for maintaining balance in an ever-changing society. We have [also] found [that] modern pharmaceutical ‘remedies”’are mere band-aids for our wounds and that we need something more thorough and holistic to really aid us in our healing journeys so that we can undo some of the patterns that have also been inherited.”
Personally, Lopez is relying on herbal remedies like nettle due to its healing properties and ability to detoxify and nourish us simultaneously. She also relies on a Taino remedy known as Mamajuana (yes, the one with alcohol in it!). She takes a shot of that regularly to stay in good health and high spirits. Lopez recommends most women take herbs for the nervous system in between meals, half an hour to several hours after eating for maximum effect.
Outside of crystal, herbal, and oil-based healing, some women of color have also returned to food-based healing for skincare. Serena Poon, a wellness chef, nutritionist, energy healer and the founder of Just Add Water, Inc, explains why using food products on your skin — a practice that is huge among women of color based on what their mothers and grandmothers have done for years — really works.
“We tend to forget that the skin is our biggest organ,” Poon says. “It’s the first defense to external factors like UV rays and pollution. It’s equally important to feed our skin topically as it is to feed it internally. Nutrients found in food like antioxidants, chlorophyll, collagen, hyaluronic acid, essential vitamins, and essential minerals enhance the overall health of our skin, and in some cases, help speed up healing.”
Poon believes that when it comes to nutrition for healing, it’s critical to “eat the rainbow.” “You want to eat a diet that’s full of bright colors, like green vegetables for its chlorophyll, bright berries for its antioxidants, and orange carrots its beta-carotene,” she says. “Also, look for food that is high in probiotics, prebiotics, and anti-inflammatory properties. As long as you keep your inside healthy, your skin will glow.”
Her five favorite foods for healing may surprise you, as they sound more delicious than anything.
“Look for foods that are rich in Vitamin C to brighten, Vitamin A to increase cell turnover, antioxidants to protect, essential fatty acids to nourish and hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin.”
“These include carrots, which help stimulate collagen production, increase cell turnover, and smooth the skin; pumpkins, which are packed with natural fruit enzymes and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to exfoliate the skin for a radiant glow; manuka honey for its naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and its Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and live enzymes; raspberry for UVA and UVB protection as well as loads of antioxidant properties that work in conjunction with SPF to protect your skin from UV damage; and dark chocolate for its flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that protects the skin from free radical damage.”
From food to oils and herbs, the resounding reality is that these tools are all things women of color have had in their arsenals for centuries. Yet now, more than ever, they’re relying on their generational strength to get by.
“Sooner or later,” Elsie Lopez suggested, “we began to reject notions of life and living that are incongruent with the ways of those seeking to be further in alignment with themselves. A lot of us are coming from lineages where our great-grandmothers, or their mothers, or their mother’s mother were people who dealt with nature to get shit done. We seek to heal ourselves so we can heal our families because we are tired of being broken by coming from broken spaces. Cycles are being re-made, so there is something new but still ancient on the way.”