A Sit Down with Anya Messina of Anya’s Herbals

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Q. Your passion for creating natural, organic skin care products developed after years of healing your own skin issues. Can you tell us a little about this journey? 

Absolutely. I struggled with deep cystic acne from the age of 14 until about 22.. I tried so many products, saw multiple dermatologists, was on many rounds of medicines, internal and external, and nothing truly made a lasting difference. Finally, it was working with an holistic doctor, and the herbs she recommended, that helped stop the breakouts. I began creating my own skin care products to heal the scars on my skin, and she began offering them to her clients. These were simple ayurvedic oil blends, but powerful enough to do what other products weren’t.  I was hooked, and signed up for night classes in cosmetic chemistry, microbiology, and began my herbal studies. This was over 20 years ago, and I’m still discovering- it’s very joyful work! 

Q. Your background and studies of herbs and wild medicine is extensive. Tell us a little about your background. 

Yes! I grew up on an organic herb farm here in MA, on the north shore, so I’ve been immersed in the plants from a young age. I’ve always been fascinated with the intersection of food and health, and herbs are a natural extension of this as they’re really just specialized foods. I studied psychology and theater in undergrad, but continued reading every book I could about the plants, and attending conferences. Finally, this led to advanced studies with Michael Tierra, the founder of the American Herbalists Guild, for three years in California. He taught me Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicinal approaches to diagnostics, and how to evaluate local herbs for use within that system. He’s brilliant! I also studied with Michael Moore and Rosemary Gladstar, their advanced programs, to fill in the gaps. Also, the plants themselves are wonderful teachers!

Q. Tell us a little bit about your product line. What it is you create and a little about your process to make these gorgeous products. 

Anya’s Herbals are true food for your skin. The products offer enhanced beauty, in that they’re uniquely effective blends to deeply nourish & revitalize the skin. But I hope the products also offer empowerment, and joy, in that they nurture health, the senses, the spirit, so clients can go out and live their best lives!

I hand press and extract 95% of the botanicals right here in the studio, and the quality and freshness make all the difference. Fresh botanicals to standard ingredients are like a vibrant ripe summer tomato, vs the winter supermarket tomatoes!  I call myself a botanical conductress: I arrange, but the ingredients are the stars of the show. Creating synergistic blends is the most effective way to deliver skin nutrition, and I adore coaxing the best out of each ingredient! 

No parabens, phtalates, fragrance oils, toxic junk etc. obviously, but really they’re more about what is inside, than what’s not.  Also, 10% of profits are donated to environmental preservation, because beauty truly is what beauty does.

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Q. Nature is your inspiration for what you create. How does this inspiration influence your products? 

Nature is the best inventor, architect, creator, artist. This of course includes ourselves! She is more mysterious and elegant than our minds can really grasp. There’s still so much we don’t know. Leonardo Da  Vinci believed nature is the source of all knowledge, and I heartily agree. My ingredients all come from nature, so there’s the obvious connection, but I also get inspiration for products and scent blends in nature. I try to straddle science and art with my work, and nature ,in my view, is the great creator of both.

Q. Every single one of your products contains 8 local, healing herbs and botanicals. Can you tell us about this blend and it's properties? Yes! They’re gorgeous local plants that work together to rebalance, nourish, revitalize, and brighten the skin. Bear berry and rosa rugosa were the first ones I tinkered with, and the blend almost pulled itself together, in my long walks across the marshes when my first daughter was a baby. There’s bearberry, cinquefoil, common mallow, cranberry, usnea lichen, soapwort, ground ivy in there as well. It’s a deeply nourishing blend for all skin types.

Q. Your distribution is growing all over the Cape. How does someone get their hands on these gorgeous products?

Curious & Curiouser, Wellfleet, MA

Honey Candle, Orleans, MA

ARTichoke, Eastham, MA

Therapeutic Bodywork, Cotuit, MA

Live Local Studio, Hyannis, MA

& online: www.anyasherbals.etsy.com

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Anya Messina is an herbalist and owner of Anya's Herbals. Her gorgeous hand-blended products can be found at various markets throughout the Cape and on her Etsy shop: http://www.anyasherbals.shop.etsy.com