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Sea Siren: Love Affair With Seaweed

Elsa ReushleHurricane Sandy once again reminded me of the power of the sea. Its fierce nature. Its intensity. In praying for the safety of my friends and colleagues in New York and along the Jersey shore, I was transported back in time, to the sea town of my mother’s childhood – Beechhurst, New York. And the amazing woman who taught me to respect the sea, its power, and its amazing ability to heal: my grandmother, Elsa Reushle.

One of the first female chiropractors in the world (in the 1920s), my grandmother believed (literally) in the benefits of salt-water therapy. In her 50s, to heal an injured leg, she began swimming every day (summer, fall, winter and spring) in the Long Island Sound.

Elsa ReushleSeaweed, as a source of healing, predates my grandmother of course. Pliny the Elder described using seaweed for treating joint disease. The Victorians used it for skin infections, sprains and bruises. While in Brittany France, fishermen, as result of physically handling kelp, were first to note the unknown benefits of seaweed – soft hands.

Elsa ReushleThirty years ago, when I first became a spa director – at Murrieta Hot Springs, then Southern California’s premier holistic spa destination – I began searching for an organic skincare line to complement the revolutionary treatments I’d designed: Ayurvedic body wraps, detox baths for smoking cessation, herb-based aromatherapy salt glows, underwater lymphatic massage and body wraps based on flower essences. When I started reading the ingredient decks on the products available at that time, I was appalled.

Most of the ‘designer’ skin care products used cheap, dangerous synthetic chemical ingredients – substances I’d never use on my own body and certainly not on my spa clients.

Once again, my grandmother came to mind and her mantra to “always read the label.” At that moment, I resolved to create an organic skin care line, made from pure, active naturally derived ingredients from the sea. I launched my vegan skincare line, OSEA 15 years ago, using French algae from Brittany. Then seven years ago, while on a pleasure trip to Buenos Aires, serendipitously discovered Patagonian seaweed.

In Buenos Aires, I booked into a boutique hotel with a tiny spa. After a 12-hour flight, I was pretty jet-lagged and headed to the spa for a fresh algae bath. It was amazing. I just couldn’t believe how great I felt. By the time I headed back upstairs to get ready for dinner, my skin was glowing and I felt incredibly relaxed and recharged.

I had to find out more about this algae and became obsessed with tracking it back to its source.

I learned it was the Gigartina species, renowned for a really high vitamin, mineral, amino acid and enzyme content. Soon after, I began sourcing my algae from a desolate beach off the Sea of Patagonia, the most pristine water in the world…

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