Category: Health & Wellness

Lotions & Potions

By Fern Gavelek
Photography by Mieko Horikoshi

Made-in-Hawai‘i skin care products boast ingredients from near and far. The use of some, like ‘alaea (iron-oxide red clay), are steeped in the practices of the traditional Hawaiian physician, the kahuna la‘au lapa‘au. Others are botanicals and products known for their healing and fragrant attributes, often grown in the islands or imported from around the world.

Coldwater Tea Farm

By way of Japan, a Minnesota native is growing tea, milking goats and creating soap on the North end of Kaua‘i. Michelle Rose combines her 100 percent estate-grown tea, goat milk and carefully sourced ingredients to fashion bars of creamy White Tea-Infused Goat Milk Soap.

Michelle got introduced to the world of tea as a food science college student studying in Japan. “I was enveloped in it,” she describes. Tea filled the fields around her—and she got to drink lots of it.

After visiting Hawai‘i, Michelle “made a promise” she’d live here. With a lifelong passion for agriculture, she came to Kaua‘i in 1998 and bought a 10-acre parcel so dense with vegetation that she couldn’t walk through it. Michelle harvested Cloudwater Farm’s first commercial tea in 2009— producing 5 percent of the state’s crop.

It was serendipity that got Michelle into soap making. She was gifted with a goat—she now has a herd of 27—and enjoyed using a friend’s homemade goat milk soap. With the encouragement of her husband, Michelle went into the soap making business.

“I wanted to make an honest bar of soap with the highest quality ingredients,” shares the Midwestern native.

The oils and butters used in Cloudwater Tea Farm’s soaps are chosen “from growers with integrity.” Her current formulation includes cold-pressed sunflower oil from Minnesota, coconut oil and cocoa butter from the Philippines, sweet almond oil from Italy, shea butter from Africa and kukui nut oil from Indonesia.

“This soap is food for your skin,” Michelle emphasizes. “The tea has a cleansing quality and the other ingredients maintain your skin mantle.” An imperceptible viscous fluid, the skin’s acid mantle maintains and protects skin’s overall health.

Michelle has used bamboo charcoal—she grows bamboo, too—to add a decorative element to the soap but it’s basically available in unscented and lavender-scented. Order online and find a list of retailers at

Queen Bee Productions


Queen Bee Productions of Maui combines honey with the medicinal value of herbs to create body products. At the helm are two gals who rely on the benefits of wild-crafted honey: Tiare Rietow, herbalist and Kether Quinlan, aesthetician/beekeeper.

Certified by the California School of Herbal Studies, Rietow harvests and dries the herbs used in QB products. Quinlan is a graduate of Spa Luna Holistic Aesthetics School and is a licensed holistic aesthetician on Maui. A beekeeper-in-training, Kether also has a background in growing plants and herbs.

“At Queen Bee we believe less is more and to keep it simple by pulling nature into skin care,” shares Quinlan.

The Maui residents formulate all their products using raw honey, beeswax and other organic ingredients; no synthetic fillers, parabens or petroleums are used.

Honey, which is naturally antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and has antibiotic properties, is at the heart of Queen Bee’s line of cleansers, body butters, oils, exfoliants and scrubs. The company operates an apiary to produce a third of its own liquid gold and purchases the rest from other Maui beekeepers. Green papaya powder, noni, lokelani rose petals, lavender, lemon balm and chamomile are also found on-island.

Other ingredients are obtained from Mainland distributors, like the alkanet root, which is used to naturally tint the Cherry Bomb lip balm a pretty magenta hue. The popular rose varieties of creams, cleansers and toners are crafted using authentic Bulgarian rose otto—the oil is the essence of rose and has the plant’s soothing and healing capabilities. Client testimonials at rave about the fragrance and effectiveness of the rose products.

“Rose is so soothing and healing,” notes Quinlan, who adds the bloom is good for the heart—both physically and emotionally. “It constricts the skin’s capillaries to keep down redness and helps with hot flashes.”

Kona Natural Soap Company


Created on the leeward mountain slopes of Hualalai on the Big Island, Kona Natural Soap blends natural oils and exfoliants with essential oils and filtered Hawaiian rainwater to create individually hand-cut bars. Local ingredients like cacao, coffee and kukui nut oil are used; there are no artificial or synthetic materials.

“Or philosophy is simple,” states co-owner Greg Colden. “We create the best quality product with reasonable cost considerations and make certain customers feel our soaps are a necessary indulgence.”

Kona Natural Soap is the result of a dozen years of research that started with instruction by California soap maker and environmentalist Alyson Kipplinger. After learning the importance of using aromatherapy grade essential oils, Greg delved into the properties of fatty acids and vegan oils to find sustainable ingredients that are best for the body.

“After attempting to procure oils that had a smaller carbon footprint, we found an expeller who sells us first-pressed extra virgin olive oil; it makes a creamier, natural glycerin soap as the oil is denser,” details Colden. He says experimenting with farm- grown products has enabled Kona Natural to understand “what makes us unique.”

Farm finds include coffee, which is grown on site at Kokoleka Lani Farms and added to the exfoliant soaps, along with cacao— the chocolate bean— and lime and Calamondin seeds.

Colden and partner Marty Corrigan craft their soaps in a customized, solar-powered facility. There are nearly 25 different varieties—each sports its own hue and Hawaiian name. Po Hau, Greg’s fave, boasts the essence of rosemary, an antiseptic, and wintergreen, a coagulant. Marty likes to wake up to a scrub using Luakaha, as it contains invigorating orange and lemongrass. Find all the choices, with pictures, at


The Beauty of Whole Foods: Andaz Maui at Wailea’s ‘Awili Spa

In creating a concept for the spa at the new Andaz Maui at Wailea, the team looked no further than the kitchen.

Story by Sara Smith
Photos by Mieko Hoffman

Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea
Photo courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea

No sign, no registration barricade—just an open room centering around a large, welcoming island. Bar stools entice: sit, stay awhile. It is what’s on the countertop that intrigues one to do so, neat rows of apothecary jars full of colors and textures. What is this stuff? Where am I?

Hyatt’s boutique Andaz brand opened its twelfth location worldwide on Maui last September.

The contemporary 297-room resort was built from the ground up on 15 oceanfront acres in the luxury Wailea Resort. Conscientious of guest experience, environmental accountability, and innovation, volumes of consideration went into planning and constructing the LEED-certified resort, the first of its kind in Hawai‘i.

As a brand, Andaz acts as a sponge soaking up the cultures, textures, tastes and personality of its surroundings. They turn to their staff, whom they view and empower as hired professionals, to interpret these traits and accentuate their core values. For the signature ‘Awili spa on Maui, this meant transforming a loose “apothecary lounge” concept into a full-blown spa kitchen. And the menu changes daily.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary Lounge“It started with oil infusions and catapulted from there,” begins Katie Foster. She and Teresa Blackwell were hired months before opening to develop the concept at ‘Awili, which is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘to mix, blend, entwine.’ The two form the spa’s apothecary consultant team and are directly responsible for the contents of all those enticing jars on the counter.

Taking a tip from the resort chefs, the spa team immediately got out to meet their local farmers. Fresh-picked herbs were harvested in Kula and sent through the spa’s trusty dehydrator. When pulverized with mortar and pestle, these dried herbs released scents so vibrant, the women were compelled to experiment with a wider range of ingredients—all culinary grade, all locally sourced from the islands.

“It’s a little science, a little culinary, a little spa, a lot of fun,” summarizes Teresa. On one visit the team was giddy over a new collection of tinctures they’d created using tea concentrates suspended in local honey (a humectant and natural stabilizer, they tell me.) While traditional tinctures have an alcohol base, these are moisturizing—not to mention delicious.

Their excitement is infectious. Spa director Jackie Yulo, who has opened six spas for the company, is astounded with the growth and development at ‘Awili. She says the concept is being adopted by two new Andaz properties in Costa Rica and Tokyo.

Yulo keeps providing more room for the women to experiment. Although plumeria proved confounding, the team is eager to begin working with different limu (seaweed) once a trusted source can be found.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeA collaboration with the resort’s kitchen catapulted their vision for a food-based apothecary. From the Bar Lab, a room hidden deep in the kitchen where all cocktail mixes, juices and syrups are hand concocted, the women picked up fresh cucumber juice and more fodder for their dehydrator: citrus peels, jalapeño lees and fresh ginger fibers. The pungency of the spa team’s house-made ground ginger powder inspired the chef, now the kitchen is drying and grinding many of their own herbs and spices. They’re all vying for time in the commercial-grade, large capacity food dehydrator.

The culinary team reciprocates trade secrets, introducing them, for instance, to xanthan gum. With this plant-derived emulsifier and thickener the spa can spontaneously whip up amazing treatment gels, which they now offer.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeDuring my interview, a pool attendant came to Katie for help, concerned for a guest with a severe sunburn. I watched as a beautiful relief gel was whisked together of fresh cucumber juice, peppermint oil, chamomile, glycerin and a touch of xanthan gum. The custom blend was provided gratis to the guest, a level of service indicative of Andaz.

Spa treatments as nourishment, healing, relaxation and rejuvenation are rituals perfected over the ages. What ‘Awili does so well is draw upon the purity and simplicity of ancient wisdom. Vitamin C provides a natural sunscreen boost, so powdered citrus peels make for a smart addition to body treatments here in Hawai‘i. If a client comes in jet-lagged or hungover, a touch of jalapeño or cayenne powder may be recommended for the capsaicin, which is vaso-constricting and stimulates the lymphatic system. And the moisturizing properties of fresh, locally grown foods like kukui and macadamia nuts, coconut and avocado will beat any manufactured lotion, they’d bet. Katie nails it: “The treatments are actually feeding your skin.”

By sourcing the healing properties of whole foods, they’re able to nourish skin naturally without any pesky preservatives, parabens or other chemical additives. And, as drastic allergies become more prevalent, a program like this offers welcome transparency to the product used and the purity of its ingredients.

Not to mention, they can customize beyond expectation.

Back to all those glass jars on the counter. They are, as I discovered, a veritable mise en place for ‘Awili’s signature omakase spa experience, a Japanese concept meaning “faith in you.” The personalized experience begins with a consultation to discuss desired results, allergy concerns or specific ailments, a client’s intuition helps guide what their body needs and wants most. Teresa describes it as a time to touch and play. Out come tools like cutting boards, whisks, scoopers and more. Working together, custom treatment blends are created at the table—whole foods, purees, powders, oils and more adjusted until deemed perfect. It’s a long-proven fact that every party ends up in the kitchen, which could account for a large part of the fun at ‘Awili.

Andaz Maui at Wailea - Awili Spa Salon Apothecary LoungeThe type of massage dictates the viscosity of the blend they’ll make: a loose and slippery blend works best with the sweeping strokes of a lomilomi massage, while something that provides a little more grip is in order for deep-tissue work. Scrub textures can be soft (coconut flakes), medium (turbinado sugar), or coarse (sea salt). Scents and flavors (it’s all edible!) are chosen for desired effect or simply personal preference. Careful notes are taken for each client and for each recipe, so guests can request a repeat of a favorite treatment.

My omakase resulted in a scrub of both kosher and sea salt—used together for different textures—sage, basil and lavender powders, avocado oil and fresh avocado used as a binding agent. A dropper of essential oil was added, a blend of bergamot, basil, lemon, grapefruit and lavender. A special spot treatment was made for a small patch of eczema on my hand, a blend with calendula, chamomile mixed with one of the honey tinctures. I was sent home with extra to reapply later.

My massage blend consisted of ingredients I mostly had in my own kitchen: coconut milk, coconut oil and kukui and macadamia nut oils. To my delight, Teresa grabbed a nubby pink awapuhi flower (Hawaiian shampoo ginger) from the vase and squeezed its fresh, fragrant nectar into the blend. Instant bliss.

While each guest’s treatment may be deliciously different and each formulation unique, it’s clear that after experiencing the ‘Awili Spa, there is only one possible conclusion: Heaven.


Eat Well, Live Well: A Game Plan for Health with Chef Leslie Ashburn

O‘ahu-based macrobiotic chef and life coach, Leslie Ashburn, lays out a fail-safe game plan to live and feel better in the new year, one meal at a time.

Story by Leslie Ashburn
Photos and food styling by Ja Soon Kim

Now that the new year has arrived, it’s a perfect chance to set a healthful course for 2014 by reflecting on your diet and lifestyle. This year, “spring clean” early by focusing on the foods you eat and changing a few habits.

To undo the bad stuff (who didn’t splurge this past holiday season?), there are several gentle steps you can take to cleanse and detox. For the purposes of this article, this means aiding your body to release accumulated toxins and create the optimal conditions for your body’s organs to function most efficiently. The simple ways laid out for you here will naturally prepare your body and mind for success. My suggestions are meant for long-term, sustainable health — there are no magic bullets here. And, as you’ll see, cleansing can be gentle and actually quite delicious!

Diet Dos & Don’ts

First, DO take the middle path with your diet and DON’T go to extremes. Strict fasts (such as liquid-only diets) may produce short-term results. Their severity, however, often results in a yo-yo effect, sending people back and forth between overeating and not eating enough. If you greatly restrict your calories, it is inevitable that you’ll end up with a strong urge to binge. Situationally, a fast may be appropriate on a sojourn in the woods or while on a meditative yoga retreat, but for people who need to show up for a full-time job, parent, or who like to exercise, it is neither functional nor practical.

While it’s not healthy to overly restrict your diet, it is important to limit certain foods. DO avoid consumption of antibiotic- and hormone-laden animal foods, refined sugar, too much coffee, alcohol and anything containing nitrates, food colorings, preservatives and additives. If your goal is to clean up a polluted ocean, river or lake, it makes little sense to continue to dump toxins into it. In general, your best bet is to avoid anything processed. If it has gone through a factory of some kind, is in a box, a can or is pre-made, then it’s processed!

DO eat wholesome, nutritious regular meals three times per day to keep your blood sugar levels even. Eat your last meal at least three hours before you go to bed. Your liver and kidneys work their detox magic at night and need all available energy to do so. Dealing with a full stomach zaps energy from other organs, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish when you wake up.

DO switch your thinking. Sometimes overly concentrating on avoiding certain foods makes them even more tempting — like that chocolate cake in the fridge that you absolutely “shouldn’t” eat. Instead, turn your focus to adding new, amazingly healthful things into your daily diet.

The best possible diet you can adopt in order to rebalance and cleanse your body is a whole-food, plant-based diet with ingredients grown as close to the source as possible with organic farming methods. Eat this way as often as possible. This diet is easy for your body to digest, freeing up energy that would otherwise be spent trying to clean and filter your organs. It is also fills your system with good stuff — valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals and more.

My suggestions for a whole-food, plant-based diet include: unrefined starches and whole grains, such as organic brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, sweet potatoes, taro and breadfruit; a wide variety of vegetables prepared in different ways, including root vegetables like burdock root (gobo), round vegetables like kabocha, and hardy, dark leafy greens like kale; beans and bean products; sea vegetables; naturally fermented vegetables like kimchee or sauerkraut; and lastly, fruits, nuts, and seeds. These foods are low in calories, high in fiber, and you can pretty much eat as much as you like.

You absolutely DON’T need to deprive yourself, ever! DON’T feel that you’re going to be eating sticks and rocks, either. There is a world of incredible food out there just waiting for you to discover! In fact, Forbes rated well-crafted vegan cuisine as one of the top trends of 2013.

Food is Medicine

While eating a variety of unrefined, plant-based foods is the most important thing you can do to give your system a rest and help it rebuild, it’s also important to know how foods affect your body. After all, food is medicine!

Easy first steps include adding the following items into your diet. First, homemade soups are an excellent way to fill up, not out (avoid adding too much sodium and fat). Soups are very gentle on your digestion, which can often be taxed due to overconsumption of the standard American diet. In particular, miso soup made from “unpasteurized” or “unrefined,” organic soybeans is an excellent way to build immunity, cleanse your blood and alkalinize your system.

Limu, or seaweed, is an often over-looked food that is rich in essential minerals. It helps your kidneys function well, and aids in removing heavy metals from your body. I highly recommend certified organic, in this case.

Sauerkraut and other fermented foods aid digestion and help your liver in assimilating oily foods and fat. These are especially important for us to eat in the spring. Sour flavors are also great for cleaning out the liver, such as umeboshi plums (without MSG), and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Other fat-dissolving foods include daikon radish and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Kale and other dark leafy greens are what I consider the secret fountain of youth. In fact, in Oriental medicine, they are associated with spring cleansing and liver purification.

Kukicha tea is a full-bodied and flavorful tea (available in your local health food store) that is alkalinizing and cleansing to the blood.

Eat, Breathe, Rest

While food is a critical component in cleansing and detoxing, it’s just one piece of the health puzzle. Just as important is gentle exercise. Activities like gardening, yoga, or going for a walk, hike, surf, SUP or swim enable you to breathe in fresh air and sweat out toxins.

Lastly, practice a daily body scrub so that your skin, the largest organ in your body, can more easily release toxins. Pamper yourself with massages. Practice meditation. Turn off the TV or close the newspaper while you’re eating your meals (your entire environment is “food”). Get ample rest to allow your body to heal from stress.

“What do I have to look forward to?” you ask. The list is long: getting along better with your loved ones, easier weight management, clearer skin, deeper sleep, better moods, more energy, reduced cravings, and protection and healing from a wide variety of lifestyle-related illnesses.

Here’s to YOUR healthful 2014!

Leslie Ashburn is an internationally trained personal chef, educator, blogger and life coach. She is a Level 3 graduate of the Kushi International Extension Program in Osaka, Japan, mastering in “Samurai Macrobiotics,” a holistic approach to well-being. She loves challenging stereotypes about what it means to eat healthy.