When Delhi native Lauren Raba began studying herbalism, something took root.
Raba, 42, launched Catskill Botanicals in 2014, after an ailment spurred her to seek healing from the ground up.
“I had just finished grad school and had my master’s … and couldn’t find a job,” Raba said. “I was working in the local health food store, Good Cheap Food, and, at the time, my son had a crazy rash. A local herbalist, Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower, was shopping in the store and I got talking about the rash and she gave me yarrow and Saint John’s wort cream … and, by the end of week, the rash was gone. I was amazed, so I caught her in the store again and asked about herbalism. She taught classes and I started apprenticing with her, working in the garden, and I learned really strong plant identification skills. I had probably 1,000 hours with her, I was teaching her classes for her, wild harvesting all these plants in the Catskills and making tinctures and oils and I remember looking in my cabinet, saying, ‘I need an outlet for this.’”
Raba’s husband, Jonah Shaw, owns the Quarter Moon Cafe in Delhi, where she used the commercial kitchen to refine her skill.
“I started making things with all the oil infusions I had made, and he had a walk-in cooler for all my oils, so I started selling my products on a small scale,” she said. “The Green Earth and the Village Apothecary were my first accounts, and of course Good Cheap Food, so clients just sort of trickled out of those stores. I rebranded in 2017 … and just started getting more accounts and doing markets.”
The result, Raba said, has been a “line of 17 skincare products, all utilizing plants from the Catskill region,” with Raba either harvesting ingredients or buying from local farmers.
Customer favorites, Raba said, include her calendula cream, her carrot seed eye cream and her birch daytime face cream.
“My most labor-intensive cream and one of my most popular is my birch daytime face cream,” she said. “I literally scrape the birch off the bark and … infuse and cook it down and mix it with a seven-day chaga extract — a medicinal mushroom that grows on the birch — so that’s the water portion of the cream, and it has salicylic …….