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Baths with Friends 001

Baths with Friends 001


Saralyn Bellmer, or Sari as friends call her, is the herbalist behind botanical brand Heilbron Herbs located just outside of Asheville in Western North Carolina. All of the ingredients in her hand-extracted, pressed, and blended herbal products are carefully sourced entirely from US farms, working mostly with fresh plants grown right down the road from her studio and shop. A rarity in today's product landscape. In fact, she even grew the marshmallow tops in the soothing essential-oil-free herbal Cloud soap we co-created together <3

Read on to learn about her intuitive understanding of medicinal plants from a young age, the original concept for her business and why that evolved, secret Japanese onsen passages, and the next iteration of Heilbron Herbs ~

How did your relationship with plants and Heilbron Herbs come to be?

I’ve been in love with plants for as long as I can remember. Actually there’s a cute story about me and plants from before I can remember...As a baby I had really bad eczema - it was itchy and uncomfortable and it made me a pretty fussy baby. When I was not quite one, I was playing outside on the lawn with my older brother and my mom, watching us from the kitchen window of the mobile home where we lived, noticed that I was repeatedly grabbing these broad-leaved plants from the lawn and rubbing them on my legs, where I had eczema. She wasn’t sure what they were so she called her friend and neighbor who was a landscape gardener. When her friend came down the road to look at it, she identified it as plantain, amazed that I had been rubbing it on my eczema because she knew it was good for skin issues.

My mom always used this story as ‘proof’ that I had some predetermined connection with plants and I’m not exactly sure what to make of that - but I do know that plants have always felt so easy for me to understand and so full of joy, comfort and possibility. I do believe that we’re all connected to the plant world on a really basic level, whether we have taught knowledge about plants or not. Humans have been interacting with, using and eating plants for as long as we’ve been a species - the fascinating field of epigenetics and how our DNA is impacted by the experiences of our ancestors is still emerging, but I don’t think it’s outlandish to hypothesize that we may have some kind of genetic memory of plants that goes beyond learned behavior

I started HH in 2018 in a transitional era of my life, and the business has evolved since it came to be: the concept was originally to work with small farms to grow herbs for other businesses, tea companies, herbal lines, soap makers, the like! I was drying all of these herbs in this large piece of equipment I built out of a 40’ shipping container but I quickly realized I would never be able to scale enough without a ton of money. In a way it’s lucky because then I ended up doing what I love most: making beautiful, sustainable, and effective products while still working with the farms I originally sourced from. It’s been amazing to be working with plants in this way - I never believed I could make a profession out of this thing I’ve always loved

What brings you balance?

I’m not the most routined person, I sort of need a little bit of this and a little bit of that to feel energized, but when I think about balance two things come to mind: sleep and having some contact with plants every day. I’m pretty strict about getting a good night’s sleep if at all possible - whether that means going to bed at 9 and waking at 6, or going to bed at 11 and sleeping until 8 and I really feel like this is key to dealing with the stress of life and finding joy within it all. As far as plants go - it could be as little as going out in my yard and looking at the things I have growing around, wild and planted. Or taking a tincture or making a cup of our Tulsi Trinity tea

Have you been to a public bath before? What was the experience like?

I’ve been to a handful of public baths but the ones that stand out the most in my memory were in Japan, where my partner and I traveled many years ago - 7 I think? There was this one onsen in a town way down on the Izu peninsula, it was quite large and built entirely of cedar. It had these gorgeous timber-framed vaulted ceilings that I couldn’t stop staring at and several baths of all temperatures. I remember thinking at this bath, like I had at others, how different the culture around nudity is because people are used to bathing in public with their families, friends, children, grandmothers. It’s very sweet.

Like most onsen in Japan, the men’s and a women’s spaces were separate from each other but the funny thing about this one was there was a sort of little door in the women’s dressing room with a key that accessed the men’s bath - the key was only accessible to the women. Our friend had told us about this so my partner and I decided I would join him after I had some time to bathe by myself. It was sort of thrilling because the rest of the trip we bathed separately and this access point was like a trap door into a forbidden land. Once I opened the door I was behind a wooden screen (so the bathers on the other side couldn’t see women step through the door) and I had to duck below it in the water to get through - it was all a very thoughtfully modest way to get naked women into the same bath as naked men without a body part ever seen

What are you looking forward to in your business?

We’ve barely told anyone this, but I’m formulating some new skincare products that will be released in the new year. They’re all going to be infused with amazing plants that offer the skin incredible benefits without any of the lab derived ingredients that are used in a lot of conventional (and even “natural”) skin lines. We’re moving away from most of our current skincare lineup (which is still amazing, btw) and I’m sad to say goodbye to some of my old favorites but these new formulations will be even better! I can’t wait to share them!

For herbal teachings and a behind the scenes look at running a botanical product business, follow @heilbronherbs, purchase our limited-run Cloud soap offering here, and browse Sari's beautiful line at



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