We caught up with Jenna Levine, the Founder of LINNÉ Botanicals, on a sunny afternoon in October. We sat on her cozy couch, surrounded by a huge collection of recipe books and plants scattered around her apartment. Jenna recently moved to Chelsea, New York from Brooklyn. It’s not too common you hear people moving from Brooklyn to the city, but she loves it! It’s very fitting for her personality too. She’s an energetic person…which we learned is (partially) due to the fact that she makes these superfood packed elixirs. Seriously though, Jenna is so knowledgeable about plants, we wanted to catch up with her to talk about all things plants — the ones we consume in our diet, and the same plants that we can use on our body, in our skincare. First things first, tea. She made us a magnificent cup of tea. Check out how to make this at home!
Rosehip & Hibiscus Tea
Ingredients: Makes 3 servings
- A generous handful of fresh ripe plump Rose Hips
- Enough water to cover the Rose Hip pulp
- ¼ cup of dried Hibiscus flowers
- A generous teaspoon of Dragon Herbs eeTee that contains Himalayan Snow Lotus, White Peony, Pearl Powder and Licorice Root
- 2 droppers of Goji and Schizandra Tincturem also from Dragon Herbs
- ½ teaspoon of Sun Potion’s Pine Pollen
- Manuka Honey (to taste)
Instructions: First, prepare the rose hips for the tea by removing the stems and the leafy tops. Mash them with a mortar and pestle until they are crushed. Add the crushed rose hips to a small pot, cover with water and bring to a simmer. After 15-20 minutes, the rose hips will have lent their viscous orange essence to the water. The rose hips may be steeped for up to 40 minutes to make a more concentrated brew. In the last moments of cooking, add the handful of hibiscus flowers and stir the brew with the heat off. Pour the tea through a strainer and into a vessel of your choice. Jenna used a 1000 ml beaker. Add the Snow Lotus, Goji Schizandra drops, Pine Pollen, and Manuka Honey. Mix together, pour into your favorite cups and enjoy!
The Moment: You’ve mentioned before your inspiration behind your brand, Linné Botanicals is Carl Von Linné. Can you tell me a bit about him?
Jenna: He was amazing. He was one of the most exuberant professors of botany. He taught at the university in Uppsala, Sweden and would invite the entire community into his classroom and out into nature to explore. He inspired people to connect with the natural world and botanize.
The Moment: How did you come up with the name of your brand?
Jenna: For me, everything I’ve done has been an incredible learning opportunity, whether it was farming, cooking, working with herbalists in Vermont, observing a healer in Tibet, or walking the Amazon jungle with an eccentric guide to learn about native plants. I have a few certificates, but I would not call myself a specialist. I am only an expert of my unique experiences, and I attribute this collective knowledge to my incredible teachers. It is with this curious attitude and hunger for knowledge that we embrace the name Linné, one of the most renowned teachers of modern biology. A pillar of our brand philosophy is to educate, share and empower people to make healthier choices. I want people to feel ownership over what they put in and on their bodies and confidence because they understand what it is, how it works and where it comes from. Discovering an ingredients’ history, geography and historical function really excites me. I believe I owe that to my native plant and farming experience which have encouraged my discovery of ingredient source.
The Moment: How do you decide on your ingredients in your products and where do you source them?
Jenna: I spend a lot of time doing research. I read a lot of books. The book, Formulating Natural Cosmetics, which is basically an encyclopedia of ingredients, was my initial source of inspiration. I read this book front to back in order to learn about available natural ingredients, the kind of nutrition they possessed, and what those compounds could do for our skin. Once I fell in love with the idea of an ingredient, I would then go down a total rabbit hole to find the best source for that ingredient. And that was not easy as there is a lack of transparency in the industry and great variability among naturals. I found that a lot of distributors have no clue what they are selling and that a lot of manufacturers extract their plants improperly and overly dilute and adulter the ingredient. Through this process, which lasted about 6 months, I came to discover some amazing manufacturers and suppliers. These gems of the industry have rigorous standards and put incredible time and energy into the growing, harvesting, manufacturing and distributing of ingredients. They go well beyond what is standard to ensure not only ingredient quality, but also respect for the planet and an improved quality of life for their farmers, foragers and chemists. We especially love the opportunity to work with manufacturers who are supporting native plants and people. It is extremely exciting and encouraging to be in a business that has the potential to support a healthier planet. If we can give economic viability to areas that would otherwise be clear cut for lumber, or give a small family farm the means to continue their century old practices, it makes this whole thing a lot more worthwhile.
The Moment: Yes, we couldn’t agree more. That’s a big part of The Moment’s mission as well. Now that we know how you make your products, how do you use them? What’s your daily beauty routine?
Jenna: Every morning, I wake up and rinse my face with cold water. I don’t wash my face. And then I will use my line, LINNÉ Botanicals, massage the RENEW Serum into my face and then depending on how my skin is feeling, I will use either the REPAIR or BALANCE Oil. In the evening, I will wash my face with the PURIFY Face Wash and then I follow with the RENEW Serum and either face oil. Once a week, I will use SCRUB to exfoliate. During the day, if I need a pick me up, I will use the REFRESH face mist to rejuvenate my skin. I wash my body with ACTIVATE a few days a week and use a homemade bar soap the rest of the time. I prevent psoriasis with my SMOOTH body balm, and use a body serum that I will revise and launch with our 1 year anniversary in April.
The Moment: What’s the connection between food and beauty for you?
Jenna: I guess it can be summarized quite simply by saying…You are what you eat. For me, the skin is so interesting not only because it’s our largest organ, but because it is this amazing space between our inner and outer world. It’s constantly negotiating between the two and it will reveal the imbalances in our body. Thus we should nurture our bodies with things that make our body thrive, and thus our skin radiate. What Hippocrates said in 400 BC still remains true today: let thy food be thy medicine. Good, clean, natural food and safe, natural skincare should be the only things we put in our bodies day after day. I recognize the importance of pharmaceuticals for dealing with severe and acute issues, but in our daily practices, we should be using biocompatible products. Whether it be food, cleaning products or even our furniture — the safer, cleaner and more natural the product, the less our body needs to stress in order to metabolize these substances and rid them from our bodies. To have beautiful, healthy skin, we need to feed our skin with whole foods that provide the whole body with vital nourishment. All of our lifestyle choices will be revealed by our skin — so all of our positive choices, whether they be eating well, using natural products, being kind to each other, reducing stress and even laughing – can make us more beautiful.
The Moment: Speaking of food choices, I see you own a lot of cookbooks. Can you tell us about some of your go-to recipe books?
Jenna: I love Tender by Nigel Slater. As you can see, it’s completely beat up with bookmarks and notes. He’s a great chef and each chapter, he goes into a particular plant ingredient and discusses how to prepare it in a variety of ways. I think this structure is helpful for new cooks to begin thinking about inventing their own recipes from tried and true flavor pairings. I really enjoy collecting and reading cookbooks for inspiration, to learn about new techniques and foreign ingredients, but I rarely cook directly from a recipe. Books like this one are filled with excellent recipes to mimic, but better than that, they help introduce new flavor profiles, heirloom varietals, preparation techniques, and menu curation. I love this book and others that teach cooks to approach their own cooking with curiosity and confidence.
The Moment: Alright, next time, we are coming back to learn more about these interesting food pairings!
Jenna: Sounds good to me!
Many thanks to Jenna Levine!
Check out LINNÉ Botanicals at our shop here!
Photography: Sally Griffiths