Deep in the lush backroads of Manoa Valley, you'll find a mossy cottage where none other than Deanna Rose resides. Her company, Indigo Elixirs, focuses on bringing medicinal and beauty products made with "love and pure, local, healing, botanical ingredients." It's in this tiny cottage, that each product is hand-made.
This week we debut our new collaboration with Indigo Elixirs, 'Tantalus', a light room and body mist inspired by life in the Tantalus jungle above Honolulu (the neighborhood of Paiko founder Tamara Rigney). Locally sourced Hawaiian sandalwood and vetiver are the base of this fresh and intoxicating scent, available exclusively at Paiko.
Can you describe how you and Tamara came up with the Tantalus scent?
The idea for the spray was inspired by Tamara's lush jungle oasis of a home on the ridge. When we began brainstorming ideas for an elixir, she said that she wanted to create something that truly captured the essence of Tantalus - the eucalyptus trees with overtones of fresh flora and undertones of smoke lingering from a neighbor's house. We spent a day wandering around up there, first throughout the land surrounding her house and then along Round Top Drive. We got into the car of a friend who happened to be driving by, taking in the air and stopping to crush and inhale fallen eucalyptus leaves and other roadside flowers. After becoming significantly inspired, we headed back to her house and mixed up the scent, drop by drop of essential oil into a base of the vetiver essential hydrosol.
How did you get into herbal medicine?
In the beginning, I just wanted to create something that could cure my frizzy Armenian hair and dry Northeastern skin. Inspired to use ingredients that were already growing in our family's garden or stocked in our kitchen, I began concocting recipes just for myself, and then for family and friends. By the time I was a senior in college, I had developed a small line of products under the name Indigo Elixirs. I started selling at local farmers' markets, and customers were quick to ask for more healing items that could relieve topical ailments such as eczema and pain. This led me to sign up for my first herbal apprenticeship at a farm called Misty Meadows in New Hampshire, where I learned the fundamentals of making medicine. I immediately fell in love with the art, and have been studying herbalism ever since.
Why did you come to Hawaii?
I grew up in Massachusetts, and moved out to the West Coast to live on an old steamship when I was in my early twenties. After a year of living in the quiet, retired hippie houseboat community outside of San Francisco, I felt compelled to continue my herbal studies in a more tropical environment. I started searching for Ethnobotany graduate programs, and UH Manoa is what comes up first on the google search. I had made a few friends from O'ahu in the Bay, and while I had never been to Hawaii, I felt compelled to try it out. Not long after I moved here and was enrolled as a full-time student, I realized that the program was just not what I was looking for - but I kept getting signs telling me to stay, and quickly fell in love with the island. Eventually, I found a grad program that perfectly suited my interests, and I am currently getting my Masters in Acupuncture & Herbology from the World Medicine Institute in 'Aina Haina.
What are some things you have access to in Hawaii that you don’t find anywhere else?
Hawaii has a super unique set of flora - after moving here, my line went through a complete metamorphosis so that I could truly reflect what the islands have to offer. A few of my favorite materials include vetiver grass, which my friend Jason of Vetiver Farms Hawaii grows & distills on Big Island, to yield a beautiful green essential oil and bluish hydrosol that we used as a base for our Tantalus elixir. I also get a wonderful sandalwood essential oil from my friend Tyson of Malama distillations, which I also added to the blend. I love the Hawaiian cacao that I get from the folks at Madre Chocolate - I infuse their shells leftover from chocolate making into my Mocha Rose Stain, Chocolate Balm & Hot Mint Chocolate Bar. Achiote is another local favorite, whose colorful oily seeds give my Citrus Blossom Stain its vibrant orangey hue. And I of course am head over heels for all of the fragrant local flowers, particularly the champaka, pikake, plumeria & puakinikini, all of which I regularly rub on my wrists as a 'fresh' perfume.
What are some of the powers of fragrance? ( i.e. healing, emotional, recalling a time, person, place)
Fragrance is intensely powerful - processed through a separate part of the brain than the rest of our senses, it is deeply connected to both our instincts and emotions. A nostalgic scent can take us back in time... to our grandmother's living room, the summer after high school, a foreign city that we visited long ago. Sometimes we get a hint of something that we can't even quite trace, but it overwhelms us with a familiar feeling. The abilities of the aromatic transfers to medicine, as well: certain properties of herbs need only be inhaled to affect the body. Because essential oils are concentrated, this ability is greatly enhanced, and their scent alone can be used for healing. This is the reason I love to make custom perfumes; it allows me to create a blend that perfectly suits the wearer's aromatic palate. Making the Tantalus scent was a new kind of challenge in this realm, and I had a lot of fun experiencing and taking in that place with the intention of capturing it within a formulation. Now, whenever I immerse myself in the spray, I feel like I've traveled out of the valley and up to the top of the ridge.
Where’s your favorite place in Hawaii to recharge and get inspired?
My current home in the back of Manoa is a pretty magical space. I have an entire wall of windows that looks onto a little forest of beautiful ferns and wild gingers, and the Manoa stream runs about ten feet from my cottage - when we get a fair amount of rain, the sound of the water rushing by is so rejuvenating. Aside from the elements & animals, it's so quiet back here, and a wonderful space to create. Outside of my house, I love to recharge with a day of sunning & swimming, usually at Makapu'u beach. If I'm seeking inspiration, anywhere lush will do the trick - arboretums, botanical gardens, trails in the back of the valley....
Photos by Kenna Reed