In the Medicine Chest: Woodland Essence’s Birch Velvet

I was a senior in college and I had been a member of the North Eastern Herbal Association (NEHA) for a couple of months, when word got out they were having a gathering at a cabin in the woods to discuss grassroots efforts between herbalists around the nation.  I jumped on the chance to go and found myself exposed to a strong network of people, who walked lightly on the Earth and found medicine in everything.  It was amazing, to say the least.  There was an organized swap and that’s where I was blessed with the Birch Velvet Face & Body Creme from Kate Gilday of Woodland Essence.  I swapped her some organic seeds for it.

I replaced my nameless lotion with the Birch Velvet and quickly realized the name said it all.  Imagine the beauty of the Birch, whose skin peels off neatly and always stands radiant in any season.  Then imagine the soft touch of velvet growing like moss and softening every peel of every layer.  That’s what your legs could feel like!  Or any other body part that craves attention.

image borrowed from

Kate uses the bark of the Sweet Birch ( Betula lenta ).  Also known as the Black Birch because of its darker hue, the Sweet Birch smells like wintergreen when you snap the twigs.  This oil has infection fighting properties and can therefore be used to purify the skin.  Amongst its many other medicinal properties, Sweet Birch contains salicylic acid.  Our synthetic version (acetaminophen) is the main ingredient in pain relieving & anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aspirin and Tylenol.

image borrowed from

Sweet Birch is native to North America and grows in the Forests of the North East.  Kate gathers her medicine from the Adirondack Mountains in New York.  She has been listening to the Earth for a long time – made apparent in her vast array of products.  It is fascinating how much medicine she creates from right out side of her door, where the plants are thriving in their native habitat.  Kate nurtures her space with restorative gardens for those plants which have become endangered.  Deforestation and a past wildcrafting uproar has left several native species on the brink of extinction.  Thanks to Kate’s efforts, and the development of the United Plant Savers, native medicinal plants are reclaiming their native habitats.

My skin gets very dry in the winter and shaving only makes the matter worse.  All winter my warm layers suck the moisture right out of my epidermis.  It’s easy in the summer to have healthy, glowing, moisturized skin.  The sunshine and multiple dips in the lake, and the common lack of clothing, lets my body-clay live like I’m back in time and roaming the Earth as a nude piece of Nature.  But Humans have lost a lot of hair since that age of our existence, and when the weather outside is frightful, the layers of clothing we wear quadruples.  So much friction, such dry heat, all the water is frozen…the only thing I can use to restore my skin’s moisture is oil.

Kate’s Birch Velvet contains “Sweet birch bark in a base of olive, almond and coconut oils, cocoa butter, distilled water, aloe vera, beeswax and vitamin E”.   This blend creates the ‘salve effect’.  Dr. Casey Ellison recently explained to me that using a creme or salve instead of lotion would create a thicker layer over my skin and help retain moisture for several hours, thus reducing friction between my skin and winter clothing.  The perfect solution.


As you can see, Woodland Essence’s Birch Velvet Face & Body Cream has rightfully earned its place in my Medicine Chest.  I use it during the winter months to keep my legs smooth.  It works well on both shaven and unshaven legs.  It also makes its way to some other high friction areas – the back of the arms, the bra-line, and the hips.  And the best part is, a little goes a long way!  I believe Birch Velvet is a wise investment!

To buy Woodland Essence’s Birch Velvet, to view Kate Gilday’s other products, and to get the story, visit:

You can find the Birch Velvet under the heading ‘cremes’ on the Salves & Cremes page.


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