Grantee Blog

Including Self Care in Health and Wellness

On February 22, I had the pleasure of attending “Sustainable Health and Beautiful Bodies”, a “Let’s Grow Montclair” grant workshop led by Lana Mustafa, Farm Manager at Montclair Community Farms. The setting, a basement classroom in the Crane House at Montclair History Center, lent a time honored ambiance to the holistic practices we were about to learn. The workshop was like a hands-on science experiment, where participants melted beeswax and plant oils together, then poured the concoction into a mold to cool slightly before adding fragrant and therapeutic essential oils. The result was a decadent body butter bar that can be used to sooth dry and chapped skin, and a hydrating lip balm with enough peppermint essential oil to leave the lips slightly tingly and minty.

What, you may ask, does all this have to do with healthy eating or active living, or community gardening, for that matter? Ancient civilizations used plant-based materials to heal illness and protect against disease. Many of today’s medications were formulated using knowledge of the medicinal properties of certain plants. Aromatherapy by definition, is “the practice of using plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.”

Lana, a self-proclaimed herbalist, has studied the effects of plants and their essential oils on health and wellness, and shared her knowledge and personal experience as she walked us through the process of how to extract essential oils and then use them to make body products. She noted that many herbs and plants were known to have medicinal properties and were used as antifungal or antimicrobial agents throughout history. Beeswax, also known for having microbial properties, effectively seals moisture in the skin while also letting it breathe. Lavender, a favorite essential oil for many, is known to promote calmness and enhance sleep, act as a disinfectant, repel insects and relieve pain. Certain essential oils such as carrot seed and red raspberry seed provide SPF values to protect against exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

Once again, I was reminded that mind and body wellness are closely tied together. People are more apt to practice healthy behaviors when they have a positive frame of mind. Self-care and a little pampering can help to alleviate stressors that affect one’s ability to manage daily challenges. There is a wealth of information available for people who are interested in learning more about using plants and essential oils for health and wellness.

Overall, this workshop, although not typically gardening related, was a huge success. The women who attended gained knowledge and went home with amazing smelling body products. I am psyched to jump in and start making my own body butters and lip balms. And I’m sure that the lingering aroma of essential oils in the Crane House basement pleased even the spirits of our ancestors who spent time in that room.

About the Grantee

Township of Montclair

Montclair Community Farm’s mission is to serve as a local hands-on resource that engages and educates the community through urban farming, affordable food access and healthy living. At the heart of Montclair Community Farms is its Coalition, partners, and community volunteers. The Montclair Health Department is a founding member of the Montclair Community Farms Coalition.