Tell us about yourself.
My name is Christian Toscano and I am a 31 year old practicing Western Herbalist and Doula. I grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut in New England. It was a lovely place to grow up as it was very safe. I was always outside playing in the woods, building forts in trees (that would soon crumble due to shotty construction and swimming in brooks. Once I turned 18, I was terribly bored and headed to the city streets of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn to study Fine Art and Art Therapy. After completing my degree I traveled and moved around all around the world working on farms, learning about medicinal plants and native herbal plant lore. It wasn’t until I returned from a personal plant tour of the medicinal plants of Central America that I felt destined to further my knowledge of herbal medicine. I then moved upstate New York to apprentice and study herbal medicine while working in a free community health care clinic. After completing my studies I moved to Los Angeles, like many New Yorkers, to escape the winter and have a year round growing season. I now live on a property that has fruit trees, raised veggie beds and beds for growing many of the medicinals used in the formulas.
What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
True beauty is natural and wild. I think this is when we are in alignment with our true nature and feel grounded. Consider the nourishment of your daily impressions. How does it make you feel when you read the news, be online or go for a walk in the woods. To connect to your inner beauty, notice how your thoughts affect your self esteem, ego and mood. Try to be easier on yourself and be aware of the things that you expose yourself to and how they make you feel. We are way too hard on ourselves! Focus on eating seasonally. Not only is it the cheaper way to eat, you are also getting the right nutrients your body need for that season. There is a reason citrus is abundant in winter in California; that is a time you need to boost your intake of Vitamin C, which helps to support your immune system. I am constantly asked what are the secrets to preventing wrinkles and weight loss. Sorry, but there are no secrets, magic herbs, pills, supplements. It is simply eating healthy, drinking water and moderate exercise. Also, go for a walk without your phone and notice something in the natural world. Even in NYC you can go to the ocean or find mugwort and ragweed growing in the city cracks. Beauty is everywhere and abundant, we just need to look for it to connect with it.
How did you get interested in herbalism?
Herbalism is empowering! It is extremely liberating to be able to heal yourself as well as teach and help your friends and family to heal. Ask your grandmothers or great-grandmothers what they were given as children to aide a cold or flu. Chances are those were teas or foods that probably had anti-viral or anti-microbial constituents. People should know, and have always known prior to modern conveniences, how to cure a common cold or flu. However herbalism is much more than looking up a symptom on the Internet and taking whatever a random source has suggested. If you are seeking an herbal remedy make sure you ask a trained person. Dose, form and frequency are three important factors for the efficacy of herbal medicine. Also using the right plant for the ailment! I am not suggesting you start with taking on a serious illness- you should seek out someone who is trained for that. Do experiment with non-life threatening illnesses with whole plants or extracts. There is too much rhetoric and marketing about the latest enzyme or supplement. These things are expensive and not always effective. Why take something that is synthesized out of a plant when you can grow or wildcraft that plant? Keep things simple and as close to the original plant source as possible, also trust yourself when something is working or not. I believe strongly that we all have inner healers inside us that guide us to choose the right meal for nourishment or tea blend. We ourselves know best what works for us and what doesn’t. Herbalism empowers you to listen to your inner healer and trust what one needs to do for themselves.
What’s the story behind the name, “Roots Rose Radish”?
Roots: for the medicine derived from them. Rose: for medicinal scent and beauty. Radish: for food is medicine.
RRR prides itself in using organic ingredients and encouraging radiance in skin care. In what ways is RRR an eco-friendly company?
Setting us apart from other mass produced skin care products, we are ecologically conscious in our work by growing our plants and hand-distilling our essential oils when possible, as well as utilizing local certified organic farmers, while implementing sustainable organic gardening and wild-crafting practices, using only the finest ingredients every time. We never use endangered plant species and only wild-craft in ecosystems which will support regeneration. Wildcrafting is the process of harvesting or gathering plants in the wild. I travel all over the US gathering this way. Being that you are gathering from self sustaining ecosystems there are ethics to this. I never gather any medicine if the species is not abundant or thriving, no matter how valuable the plant is to me. Also, I only harvest in a way to encourage more growth and regeneration. I wildcraft with my friends who are herbalists but mostly I go it alone, as you have to be ready when you stumble across a large stand of something. Being in California, Calendula grows everywhere! I wildcraft this when I can as well as grow it in our gardens in LA. The rest of it I source from local farmers. I grow a lot of medicinals for my apothecary: St Johns Wort,lobelia, feverfew, wild oats, sage, chamomile, lavender, parsley, mint and my favorite- loofa sponges; while not medicinal I like to scrub my dishes and body with it. I also wildcraft the rose petals and rose hips, but because I need consistent volume to fill orders I also buy from local growers. We want our products to be as healthy for our customers as they are for the planet. As a small company, our footprint is very small, and we are dedicated to being an environmentally safe and sustainable company. Everything in our packaging is reusable and recyclable. We are opposed to dangerous synthetics of any kind and prefer the safety of glass packaging to plastic. Using natural cotton bags, glass and tin containers; we pride ourselves on containers good for repurposing. Our favorite object for this is the line of solid perfumes, which come in handmade sea shell clasping containers. These can be reused to store jewelry, seeds, favorite little tokens or send it back and we can refill it with your favorite scent!
How do you incorporate your education with traditional medicine and Ayurveda, to name a few, into the RRR line?
This is a good question as there is a lot of terminology out there that gets intermingled or misunderstood, especially in an unregulated field such as herbalism. To start, herbalism is the process of extracting medicine or active constituents directly from whole plants to use in healing. This is different than homeopathy, which uses a lactose sugar pellets with a very minute amount of plant medicine, if not any. I was trained in Clinical Western Herbalism. I apprenticed under the Director of Holistic Medicine at a community health care clinic learning clinical skills, which includes diagnostics and formulation. Every culture has a history of herbalists and have their own ways of dealing with health and disease. In India there is Ayurvedic medicine. In China there is Traditional Chinese Medicine. In ancient China it was illegal to perform an autopsy. So the Chinese devised diagnostic techniques which rely mainly on observation. For the trained person, these diagnostic techniques are extremely accurate, such as tongue and pulse diagnosis. I like to draw from these techniques and use them in my diagnostic approach to healing. I draw from Ayurveda in my formulation process where I use building nourishing plant oils as the foundation of most of the formulas. I also formulated all the products with consideration to the different Dosas, or constitutions. Alcohol is considered to be a depleting element, so I wanted to leave it out entirely out of the whole line, which proposed it’s own complications. I then had to formulate in a way that the products would have a shelf life without preservatives or alcohol which evaporates ingredients before they can truly penetrate the skin. A Western Herbalist works mainly with plants that grow in the Western hemisphere. I do occasionally import herbs with unparalleled medicinal action from other hemispheres. However I like to focus on the medicine that grows in our direct environment for two reasons; one, it is how our ancestors always nourished and healed themselves and two, it is how we connect to our environment and to ourselves. Nature has designed itself to have medicine growing in all habitable areas.
Botanical illustrations and plants are some of your greatest inspirations. What are your favorite gardens and parks to visit? Where do you hope to go in the near future?
I am absolutely obsessed with William Morris’ illustrations during the Arts & Craft Movement of the early 20th Century. My arm is tattooed with one of his peony illustrations. In Victorian times, peonies were planted outside of homes for protection. They are also one of my favorite plant medicines for the female reproductive system. I have many favorite gardens and parks, one is Griffith Park in LA. It is so wild and always amazes me that I am still in a large sprawling metropolis. There are even mountain lions that live there! I like to gather a lot of sage, yerba buena and yerba santa there. Also, the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena are like walking through many different planets. I also love the structure and maintenance of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. Also, I just returned from one of my favorite places on Earth which is Point Reyes National Seashore which is just north of San Francisco. I used to live out there and find it such a healing a restorative place to be. The entire shore smells heavily of theeucalyptus and cypress that hold the cliffs together.
What are some ingredients that you would consider “miracle ingredients” for their therapeutic and healing qualities?
I wouldn’t say that I use “miracle ingredients”, rather, I use the highest quality medicinal strength ingredients to make up the formula. For this reason there are no fillers, like alcohol and water, which only dilute a product’s efficacy. Each product has been formulated so that each time you use it, the dose or amount taken, is made so that you are getting the proper amount of medicinal strength plant constituents to get the the desired benefits. Each product is named after the medicinal part of that formula. For example, Carrot Rose Face Cream is loaded with carrot seed oil and hand distilled rose hydrosol. On the website I broke down all the formulas itemizing each ingredient to explain why it is in there and what it does. I believe that people like myself, want to pay for quality, but don’t always know where to find it and how. I only want to make quality products full of only the good stuff to show people how powerful and nourishing plants are.
What are your favorite products from RRR?
Honestly, I developed the line entirely for myself and it is the only products I use, so they are all my favorites. I was tired of buying into a lot of rhetoric and products that I didn’t feel delivered me the results they promised and were not always nourishing, natural or medicinal. This is why I don’t have a dozen face creams or cleansers. I only make what I personally use everyday. But if I must pick some it would be the Blue Chamomile Face Cream- it is the most luxurious nourishing cream. It is not inexpensive but worth it because the quality ingredients are powerful and abundant. You can also use it as an eye and night cream. I think it is important to invest in a cream that will nourish the cells which will help one age gracefully. I also love the Honey Pecan Rose Face Cleanser, it is in a solid base of raw CA local honey. You can use it as a mask, leave it on to treat blemish overnight, or a daily cleanser. It is so natural you can actually eat it!
What are three things most people don’t know about you?
1. I am currently becoming certified as a Women’s Health Educator and plan to advocate for more Doula programs to be available in more hospitals. I am a huge proponent for natural childbirth and labor support.
2. I work for free as a Doula for low income women because all women deserve to have a powerful and fulfilling birth experience.
3. I plan on becoming a Certified Practicing Midwife (the person who delivers babies) and will start school next year!!
For more of Christian’s work, check out Roots Rose Radish.