SantaLena Groves began her journey with plants at an early age. It wasn’t until she went to school in Western North Carolina that she truly began her connection and presence to the outdoors- finding solace on a remote mountain top, sitting in front of a cascading waterfall, or wading over river rocks.
As a social worker, this practice helped her to stay grounded and open. During her career in Social Work, she became passionate about helping others find alternative therapies and practices outside of a pharmaceutical pill, often incorporating movement and connection to the outdoors while serving others.
Following her 200 hour yoga teacher training at Back Bay Yoga in Boston, MA- she attended an event in Somerville, MA called Herbstalk. Inspired by this community of nature lovers and healers- She reached out to members of the Herbal Academy. The director, graciously offered an opportunity to write for them- and it was at this time that she took their herbal course online.
While writing blog posts for their website it was requested that she write up a holiday gift box. She crafted her very first batch of all natural, herbal, skincare products. The mindful, self-care practice of a hot bath, a face mask, or a scrub with plants felt so grounding and therapeutic. Creating beautiful skin rituals with the plants became habitual.
This was the seed, and Heart Grown Wild grew from there. After completion of her Herbal Apprenticeship at The Gaia School of Healing in Vermont, diving deeper into the world of plant spirits she was inspired to create based off of her connection to the plants. Following her completion of this deeply moving course, SantaLena made a radical leap to devote the majority of her time to the plants and making Heart Grown Wild a full time reality.
How did you first come to herbalism?
I think my path to herbalism started with a love for nature. There is a comfort I have always felt among the plants. The door for me swung wide open when years ago, I attended an event called Herbstalk in Somerville, MA. I was inspired by the accessibility herbalism offered in a way that Western forms of healing did not. My world changed. On my daily runs outside, I wasn’t just paying attention to the concrete jungle anymore. My view of the world shifted, instead, to plants sprouting through the cracks in sidewalks and calling to me from rural Massachusetts meadows. It was a time in my life where I had recently left a long time love affair with the beautiful rolling mountains of Appalachia and was thrown into a metropolitan world of traffic patterns and fewer opportunities to come into contact with quiet places in nature. It was at that time that I connected with an organization called the Herbal Academy and was given an opportunity to write/learn. I was hooked, and haven’t looked back. My studies have involved courses, apprenticeships and a great deal of self study scouring books in our library written by beloved authors and herbalists.
What inspired you to create Heart Grown Wild?
Heart Grown Wild was created to help foster an intrinsic connection to nature and the body through the beauty and art of self-care rituals. My dynamic background in mental health, specializing in trauma, made me especially passionate about teaching grounding practices. Through the work with the people I served, we often incorporated morning and evening rituals that involved deep self-care as a means to ground the body in times of emotional stress by engaging the one or several of the five senses. When my world opened to the healing connection with plants, I was able to take practices of self-care to a whole different level. To me, it made sense to not only engage the senses, but also evoke a place in nature to help shift our perspective from our current reality that may be causing distress. That way, at least for a moment, each bottle can act as a portal to a place where you feel a sense of home. Working with conifer infused oils evoked lush green forests; flowers in the tub are reminiscent of magic summer meadows. For many, the definition of home is a complicated one. Nature serves a sense of home for many that feels safe. It is a place where our hearts can grow wild.
How do you source the materials you use?
I work with a variety of sourcing. It’s really important that I ask myself: “in what ways can I make the smallest impact?” Therefore, working with local farms, native//seasonal ingredients and making things by hand is of utmost importance. We love growing our own plants, but it takes a village, and I am happy to support herbal makers who specialize in growing botanicals. We work with Vermont farmers from our local markets, and look to Foster Farm Botanicals and Zack Woods Herb Farm further north. In regards to wild harvesting, while my husband and I share a deep knowledge of what it means to ethically forage and source materials from the wild, we recognize a growing trend that could inadvertently cause harmful impact to pristine places in nature. In order to think of creative ways of sourcing botanical materials from the wild and hopefully inspire other businesses to look to alternative means, we have partnered with LongView Forestry and private landowners in the state of Vermont. With commercial timber use, typically evergreen needles, resins and barks are not utilized. It’s the practice of working with the whole tree that lends itself to warming many homes and building shelters in the state of Vermont. For us, it means a level of sustainability that often goes unpracticed.
Do you have a favorite plant to work with? How do you recommend people deepen their relationship with plants?
That is a tough question to answer, they are all so lovable! I think consistently trees are for sure my medicine, and I am constantly in awe of their spirit. I recognize their resiliency and beauty through all the seasons here in Vermont. Sometimes I just love sitting in quiet woods, looking up into the trees, and being held in the roots. My recommendation for anyone wanting to connect deeper to plants is to start simple. Go outside, and just notice what plants are calling to you. Then take time to connect with that plant and learn about it. It is interesting what information lies on the other side. I think we also have to remember that our connection with plants is not only about receiving. We must give back. Appreciation of plants, spending time with them, caring for and nurturing them is a great way to foster the connection, especially our plant friends in cities. I often wonder how much they go unnoticed. It has become a practice to send them lots of love and appreciation.