A moment with... Molly Helfend
of House of Citrine
Welcome to the first segment of our Gamechangers series, where we had the pleasure of speaking with Molly Helfend, Head Writer at House of Citrine.
Can you please explain to the Roots & Grains community a bit more about the mission of House of Citrine?
House of Citrine is a conscious publication inspired and uplifted by our holistic community through the sustainable living practices of mindful businesses, artists, musicians, doctors, chefs, activists, philanthropists, and innovators. We share intimate weekly articles to inspire and share transformational insights with our audience. Our journey is an adventure, to advocate for conscious artisans, creators, and world-leaders, and we want to reach out to everyone who wants to learn through this viridescent forest of holistic living. We promote alchemic education and environmental sustainability by following the strict motto that we do not believe in trends, we only present the truth in our beliefs. For example, we feature companies that live with the standards of transparency and authenticity, individualistic artists that shape the earth with creativity and influential vision, musicians, whose words and talent work to serenade and be instruments of peace or world leaders who are working to reform and improve the world by speaking for social, political and environmental rights.
How do you decide what to feature in your magazine?
This goes hand in hand with our mission. It’s about featuring true innovators and movers in the fields of health and wellness, but really those who are trying to improve the world in holistic and positive ways. I think the magazine has seen tremendous growth within the last year. We have not only grown in size and recognition, but truly what we feature. I think we are unlike other health magazines because we make direct connections with the companies and people we choose to feature. It’s about what is real and honest, not what is “in style” or “trendy”. We also try to keep complete cultural competency in mind when searching for what or who we want to feature in an article. I really think the openness of our editor in chief Sima Morrison comes through in the energy of our publication. She really looks past the LA lifestyle trends, believing in the power and beauty of world views and wants to dive into more intellectual subjects.
You’ve done quite a bit of study in the area of holistic health and living, what inspired you to follow this route?
I’ve had a quite a unique path that has evolved from my various environmental pursuits. Growing up in LA, I was always surrounded by health, but it seemed superficial to me. However, it was my godmother from the UK who really sparked my passion with health at a very young age. She is the most beautiful, accomplished woman I have ever met, inside and out. She translates this to her healthy lifestyle habits. I always wanted to be just like her, so I really listened to her advice, starting with eating a bag of greens a day and having complete compassion for those around me. But my own personal health path sparked as a late high schooler, being fascinated with alternative lifestyles of the counterculture movement. I decided that I wanted to run my own hemp farm and live off the grid in the forests of Humboldt county. I became extremely passionate about the healing effects of being outdoors, the marijuana industry and saving world forests, which led me to college at University of Vermont. From there, I bounced from environmental passions such as activism with Greenpeace, farming in rural countries and environmental education with kindergarteners, which eventually lead to a noticeable shift in my holistic lifestyle habits. I then became extremely passionate about herbalism after meeting an amazing professor in college, who became my mentor outside of school as well. But, in 2015, after traveling to the Cook Islands, I got extremely sick and was never the same afterwards, becoming riddled with digestive and autoimmune disorders for years. And after my health failed while trying to travel the Middle East, I came home and began to study health on a deeper level, where I applied for my position with House of Citrine. My life changed forever when I was hired. Sima is an amazing holistic nutritionist and really helped further my healing. From there, I made connections with hundreds of companies and wellness enthusiasts. I am beyond blessed. But, a major savior and blessing in my life was meeting Dr. Christine Surrago. Using her magic and advanced health technologies, she found I had been living with a gnarly parasite and saved my life. I have been healthier and able to live a completely normal travel lifestyle since.
California has traditionally been quite far ahead of London and the UK in terms of the health food scene, do you think the gap is starting to close and are there any key trends to look out for coming across the pond?
Good question! I have definitely noticed quite a few health movements that have not made it over here yet, and I did have some trouble adjusting when I first got to the UK. I think the number one movement would be living completely sugar-free. London does have restaurants and markets that offer REFINED sugar-free options like smoothies being sweetened by natural fruit, but many health enthusiasts have found sugar in any form to aggravate certain health conditions and still raise blood sugar. Using Lakanto Monk Fruit, Lucuma or simply adding functional ingredients like vanilla, rose or coconut are great alternatives. Another movement would be collagen. The health scene in America has gone nuts for collagen - and rightfully so! It not only enhances your hair, skin and nails, but can aide in the healing of digestive disorders. Companies like Vital Proteins, Neocell, Animamundi, and Beauty Chef are places to start looking. You can also consume collagen through medicinal bone broth! Since legalization has been sweeping the nation, CBD has become much more widely accepted. Many people do not realize that Cannabidiol is really just one of the naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant, creating non-psychoactive effects that won’t actually get you high. Instead, it is used for its anti-inflammatory, anxiety, depressive and cancer properties. And with Europe having impressive beauty and health regulation policies, it is definitely something that needs to be sold on more shelves over here.
How about sustainable consumption in California? Do you think sustainable living is keeping up with the momentum of the health market?
One thing I was very surprised to find in the UK was the overconsumption of plastic. Everything is sold in plastic, including the fresh farmers market produce I buy! Sustainable lifestyles have really taken form and become a necessary addition to healthy behaviors in California and I hope this can translate over to the UK soon. How companies commit to sustainability is the number one question I ask when reaching out for possible features. And, I am impressed that many companies commit to completely recycled products, like herb companies using violet jars or biodegradable materials. Or people choosing to offset their own carbon footprint through personal carbon taxes or donating money to certain organizations. Californians are starting to invest time in zero waste initiatives as well, by buying in bulk, choosing to shop at farmers markets or coops for whole, real foods and even growing our own vegetables and fruits. We are also riddled with drought, so lessening water consumption is huge for us. We do this by drinking spring water from glass jars and limiting shower time, which helps us learn to adapt to our natural body oils. Lastly, companies are noticing an economic benefit from starting to shift towards selling reusable objects like cups, cutlery, grocery bags, towels, or mason jars. All of these coincide with natural holistic health lifestyle choices. But I will say, that through my academic studies, travels and activism work, I have found that one of the greatest ways we can actively work towards sustainability is by supporting our local community through environmental and economic means.
One of those areas is Ethnobotany, the study of using plants for medicinal purposes, learning through traditional and local knowledge. What is one of the most interesting case studies you looked at and where have you travelled to during your studies?
Tough question! I think the most interesting case studies are hard to pinpoint because it really depends on the context of the article and the ethnographic and ecological examples presented. I did just read a fascinating, yet bleak case study on the land grabbing, globalization and genocide issues going on near Gambella National Park in Ethiopia. I am also fascinated with reading case studies about the Hunza people of Northern Pakistan and their usage of local flora and fauna to contribute to their long livelihoods. From studying blue zone civilizations such as this one, I have noticed an interesting trend, in that almost all of the longest living cultures live at high altitudes, meaning specific plants grow in these areas. I am definitely interested in looking into this phenomenon in my future studies. I also think case studies relating to the ethnobotany of the Chumash people in California are enlightening.
One of the most spiritual and important places I ever traveled was New Zealand. The flora and vegetation truly responded to me and I always felt a connection to the land there. The plants spoke to me, telling me my work is unfinished there, so I have even decided to go back for my masters dissertation at the end of this year! I was invited to study in the Limpopo province of South Africa to live in a Venda village, but feel more drawn to return to New Zealand to answer some of my research questions surrounding the deeper concepts of ecopsychology. I am hoping to study the Maori concept of Kaitiakitanga, using this to study the indirect relationship between plants and humans for health beyond medicine.
I also feel that my home state of California has offered some of the most beautiful travel experiences to me. My father always said, “Why would I live anywhere else in the world? I can wake up at the beach, drive to the mountains and go skiing in the morning, take a hike in the forests in the afternoon and see the sunset over the desert in the evening?” There is so much beauty in California, offering almost every ecosystem and terrestrial landscape. I am so proud to be from such a beautiful place. I feel most at home in the foggy redwoods by the misty sea, foraging seaweed and edible greens and weeds. America is really getting a bad rap lately because of Trump, but people don’t realize how vastly stunning and untouched some of our landscapes are.
But, I am still very young in the field of Ethnobotany. I have so many more places to travel to and write about. I’m hoping my studies and adventures will next take me to Tasmania, Columbia, Papa New Guinea, Pakistan and the tea plantations of Northern India and Sri Lanka. Best yet, I am also lucky enough to have a partner that not only accepts this kind of lifestyle, but he also wants to live and experience it with me.
Top herbal remedy our readers should always have on hand?!
Nettle! As my fellow herbalists would say, when in doubt, use nettle. It is a safe, tonic herb that is packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients that will heal almost any condition. Here is a link to my article about nettle: http://houseofcitrine.com/journal/2017/nettle-urtica-dioica.
Read more here: http://houseofcitrine.com/
Thanks so much Molly for your time, you've truly inspired us! We are feeling a definite case of wanderlust coming on!
The R & G Team