Essence + Alchemy bring together traditional aromatherapy and ancient alchemy to create botanically scented salts, scrubs and scents for ritual and relaxation.
With a background in Environmental Science, Lesley Bramwell applied her technical knowledge with her deep-rooted interest in nature to first start Essence + Alchemy. Each batch of bottled sea salt is blended by hand by Lesley from her garden workshop in Sheffield.
We find a quiet moment to talk to Lesley about her values, the science of scent and how she brings wellness into her own day to day.
Tell us about Essence + Alchemy, how did it all begin?
The concept of Essence + Alchemy started quite a few years ago. I'd reached a certain point in my life; I had started working on a house renovation and a long career as an environmental consultant where I was always travelling. I felt it was time for a different path.
Aromatherapy has been part of my life for a long time. I've always been fascinated with how essential oils work, their wonderful scents and therapeutic properties, blending essential oil combinations for my own health and wellbeing with positive effects. With a strong interest in aromatherapy already and years of personal experience, I wanted to explore it further and create products that could bring the same benefits to others. I started experimenting by making essential oil candles and a few years later, Essence + Alchemy was born. With the range, I'm trying to bring together the natural scent and energy of plants (essence) with my scientific and environmental background (alchemy).
You started your journey as an Environmental Scientist, what did this teach you?
I've always had a strong connection with nature, I have so many childhood memories of being outside in the wild, gardening and cooking using the fruits we picked and leftovers, basically making do and reusing. Growing up, we weren't allowed to waste things, this was instilled in me from a very young age.
I went on to study environmental science at Bradford University, and this has taught me to consider the impact of all decisions I make, from the raw materials I use to the packaging I choose. Although small, I want to operate a business with as little impact on the Earth as I can. I'm still learning, but I believe that transparency is key. I strive to source locally where I can, I value collaborating with like minded brands, and I create in small batches to reduce waste and energy usage.
Can you tell us a little about the science of scent and the therapeutic properties a scent can have?
Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses, and the slightest trace of a familiar scent can trigger a special memory or moment in our life. Essential oils, in particular, are made up of a complex blend of volatile organic compounds. When we breathe in their aromas the molecules are carried via our olfactory nerve tracts straight into the limbic system of our brain, the parts which control emotion and memory. This means that scent can have an immediate and powerful effect on us.
How do you bring wellness into your daily life, are there certain rituals and routines that you follow?
Hot water, lemon and ginger is always a lovely way to start my day, helping to energise my mind and body. Walking the dog is routine but also a ritual for me. Being outside, breathing in fresh air and taking in the changing seasons is important after spending all day inside.
Can you tell us a little about the salts and scents you create for TOAST?
The Sol and Luna Bathing Salts were influenced by their planetary namesakes. The sea salt used in Sol is sourced from the crystal clear waters of the Isles of Scilly where it is hand harvested and then left to evaporate under the famous Scilly sunshine. It's scented with essential oils including orange and cedarwood, which are both associated with the sun. Orange for its joyful scent and cedar is traditionally burnt as an offering to the Sun Gods. Some believe that the name Scilly comes from Sulis', the Roman Sun God.
The Luna sea salt is sourced from France where it is harvested from clay-lined ponds during the ebb and flow of the lunar tides. The ionising action of the clay, combined with the artisan's skilful methods passed down through generations, enhance the salts unique array of trace elements. Infused with the aromatic properties of organic black spruce, fir balsam, black pepper and vetiver essential oils to create a relaxing soak to help de-stress body and mind. In Greek mythology the spruce tree was dedicated to Artemis, the Goddess of the moon.
Salt itself is naturally detoxifying, preserving, cleansing and healing. When used in bathing, both the salt and water helps our whole being to relax. Regular salt baths are believed to help flush out toxins and research also indicates they improve skin tone and texture. So, whether it's to have a more restful night's sleep, to have smoother skin or to ease aches and pains, a high quality salt bath can provide your body with amazing positive benefits.
Is there a specific oil, scent or botanical you particularly like to work with?
There are so many beautiful oils, but I would have to say rose geranium essential oil. I use it in a lot of formulations, it's very versatile and has many benefits. It's calming and grounding and can help to reduce feelings of stress and worry. It also has a balancing effect on the mind and body, making it an excellent oil to elevate the mood and promote feelings of wellbeing.
What advice have you been given that you could pass on?
Live each day as a new one, yesterday might not have gone the way you would have liked but that was yesterday. Time doesn't stand still, you haven't been in this moment before, new things can happen today.
Photography by Helena Dolby and Lesley Bramwell.