Not only do the brands we stock at Beautiful Because have to be organic, natural, eco-friendly and cruelty-free, but there is nothing we like more than a brand actively doing their part to support the communities who harvest the plants used to create their precious bio-active ingredients. One such company doing this, which has been since it was founded in 1921, is Weleda, with their own fair trade partners at farms across the globe harvesting their plants, flowers, fruits and nuts. They use sustainable farming and manufacturing processes to ensure minimal impact on the environment and help support local farmers. Here are some of our favourite ingredients used in Weleda products and the stories behind them.
It can take up to 2 weeks to peel hundreds of iris roots by hand to extract their valuable essential oil in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. Ideal conditions exist for the iris in the impassable regions of the mountain. It is known to the Greeks as the "goddess of rainbows", with its fine colours and the ability of its roots to self-regulate, balance and retain the moisture content in its roots, thriving in times of floods and droughts. The iris root extract supports the skin’s moisture balance and provides a valuable essential oil, this is why it is used in Weleda's Skin Balancing range.
Project: In the Moroccan Atlas Mountain, close cooperation exists between Weleda and a French partner company, who in turn help to secure a stable income for around 300 smaller farmers. At 1,600 metres above sea level, it’s cold and bitter in winter and very hot in summer – not ideal conditions! However the organic iris harvest in the Tirdouime region of the Atlas Mountains, can make up to 50 per cent of some families’ earnings. The farmers work on a 20 square kilometre stretch of land made up of small, partly stony fields of approximately 400 to 600 square metres each. On these terraced fields, the farmers also cultivate flax, lentils, onions and some other vegetable varieties. The entire iris harvest must be peeled by hand and dried in the open air under direct sunlight. Then, using mules, the dried harvest is taken to the valley for further processing.
Significance: The formation of the small farmers’ cooperative and the regular demand from Weleda and their French partner company has led to more public spirit, sustainable improvement in income and a general improvement in living conditions in the 20 Atlas Mountain villages that are taking part.
Graceful and delicate, the almond tree, referenced as a sacred plant in biblical times, has been revered for millennia. Today Weleda works together with the Manan cooperative in the Valencia region of Spain. From baby oil to soothing almond facial care, almond oil offers the best support for sensitive, dry or irritated skin. Almonds are used in Weleda's sensitive skin care range. Nestled inside its precious shell, the almond grows rich in Vitamin E, and essential fatty acids which moisturise and soothe sensitive skin.
Project: Manan, located in the hills of Alicante is one of the largest almond cultivation sites in Europe. Water is used sparingly over the 6,000 hectares. The cooperative's 100 almond farmers consciously choose not to intensively water the soil – in Spain water is a precious commodity and artificial irrigation leads to salinisation of the soil, erosion and to a reduction in soil fertility. It takes two experienced workers around ten minutes to harvest the fruit from one tree. The bulk of the harvest at the Manan cooperative is used as high quality organic almonds for eating; about a quarter of the crop is gently pressed and filtered to produce precious almond oil. From there, after further quality control checks, the sought-after oil is sent to Weleda in Switzerland, Germany and France.
Significance: Harvesting in the hilly regions of Alicante means lots of labour-intensive manual work, and the yield per hectare only amounts to around one tenth of what is achieved on Californian plantations. As a partner, Weleda ensures that the lower yield is offset by prices that are higher and fairer to the farmers.
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a thorny shrub that grows wild throughout China, Russia, Northern Europe and India. The plant was used as animal fodder, hence its botanical name which translates to “horse that shines” as it was thought to give horses shiny coats. The oil and juices from its bright berries, is today recognised for the rich cocktail of antioxidants it contains, and is used to help protect the skin against UV radiation, and to nourish extra dry and damaged skin. It is used in Weleda's age-defying skincare for mature skin types. Sea buckthorn berries soak up the energy of the sun and contain anti-inflammatory properties, namely the rare but essential omega 7 essential fatty acid.
Project: For more than 10 years, Weleda has partnered with the San Mario farm and Kurt Künzi, the incredible pioneer in the cultivation of Biodynamic sea buckthorn. Out of careful analysis of 120 species, Mr. Künzi has selected the varieties of sea buckthorn that grow best in his 350-acre farm’s ecological conditions. To maintain superior juice and oil quality, the berries are harvested at the right time of maturation, processed quickly and carefully to prevent damage, then stored immediately in freezer facilities until they are ready to be pressed. Weleda use two different varieties of sea buckthorn: Gala 1 and Gala 7. Gala 1 is used to obtain the juice from the berries because of its high level of vitamin C. Gala 7 provides the best quality pulp and kernel oil and is best suited for obtaining sea buckthorn oil for skin care.
Significance: By developing long-term fair trade partnerships such as these, Weleda can guarantee supply of sea buckthorn berry, ensure biodynamic cultivation standards are met, and remain committed to its holistic approach of providing only the purest and most potent of products.
The birch tree takes in up to 500 litres a day of water so it is an excellent hydrating and detoxing ingredient. Weleda obtains the majority of its organic birch leaves from wild sources in South Bohemia as well as other Czech Republic regions and Poland. The birch a great need for water, which it continuously circulates through its system, by drawing water up from the roots and evaporating it from its leaves. This ‘flushing out’ effect is the same principle it works in the body, to stimulate the circulatory, lymphatic and detoxification systems. Birch leaves are known for their properties that tighten the top layer of skin, for a smoother appearance. This is why, Weleda use birch in their detoxifying body care range.
Project: Weleda has a close partnership with Leonard Taraba, who began collecting birch leaves from wild sources in the beginning of the 1990s and coordinates the harvests every year. Approximately 200 pickers are put to work from the middle of May until the beginning of July. In these nine weeks the birch undergoes its most intensive, vital development phase. Taraba has been producing birch elixir in his own plant in Soběslav, South Bohemia, since November 2002, the advantage being all of the working stages, from harvesting the leaves and drying and cleaning them to producing the prepared raw material for Weleda, are carried out in one place. The leaves are extracted for several hours, to release the active substances from the dried birch leaves. The extraction tank in which the elixir is produced was financed by a loan from Weleda.
Significance: The collection areas in South Bohemia were bio-certified in 1996 as per EU directives and organic-quality birch elixir and birch juice have been available since 1998. Each year Weleda partners collect about 220 tonnes of fresh organic birch leaves, which translates to 55 tonnes of dried birch leaves, from which the extract is made.
In June, summer begins with thousands of large, bright orange calendula flowers (marigold) covering the fields of the biodynamic medicinal plant garden at Schwäbisch Gmünd in Southern Germany. Calendula’s powerful healing properties serve as a basis for tinctures and oil extracts for nearly 30 Weleda pharmaceuticals and natural and organic cosmetic and baby care products.
Project: Weleda takes great care over the sustainable and biodynamic cultivation of calendula. Much of this work is carried out by hand, beginning with the collecting of organic seeds: the strongest and fullest flower heads are selected to ensure that only the plants that meet the requirements of pharmaceutical standards and active ingredients are harvested. It is important for the biodynamic soil to be managed carefully. This is done by repeatedly adding compost, using special plant extracts and regularly working the soil with a hoe to relax the soil structure – all of which helps the calendula to absorb the nutrients. Even the harvest of the flowers, as a final part of the field-working process, is done by hand as manual selection ensures a higher quality. The harvested plants can go into the production process without long transportation journeys – the processing plant is located next to the fields – a further guarantee of the highest quality.
Significance: New research shows that biodynamically cultivated soils play a key role in the neutralisation of carbon dioxide, which in turn benefits the environment.
These are just a few of the ingredients and products from this beautiful organic skin care brand. To find out more and shop their product range, visit our Weleda brand page.