“Witch Parking Only. All Others Will Be Toad Away”. Greeted by such a sign I realise I’d come to somewhere very special. I’m visiting Beverly Gray, a herbalist, aromatherapist, natural health practitioner and award-winning health-product formulator. She’s also the founter of the popular Aroma Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse, which is the place to buy locally made aromatherapy products.
Her stunning six thousand acre property in the mountains overlooking Rat Lake near Whitehorse is a geodesic dome full of jars and hanging herbs drying in aromatic bunches. I imagine this pristine place would also be an amazing spot to see the Yukon Northern Lights.
Beverly is the author of The Boreal Herbal, a guide to harvesting, preserving and preparing herbs and flowers which I’ve bought at the Aroma Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse.
Aroma Borealis in Whitehorse is a a fantastic herb shop that has a range of body care and herbal skincare products inspired by the boreal forest of northern Canada.
Visiting Aroma Borealis is one of the highly recommended things to do in Whitehorse. It’s the place to buy something lcoal, such as Fireweed lip balm and other salves to herbal teas.
The products at Aroma Borealis incorporate wild plants from the Yukon with organic natural herbs and essential oils to create unique health and aromatherapy products that harness the healing powers of the boreal forest.
The boreal forest is extends around the northern pole and radiates a powerful healing energy.
It’s home to a huge number of plants, such as rosehip, Labrador tea, fireweed, balsam fir, wild mint, and horsetail, which are used as ingredients to create produts sold at Aroma Borealis such as the all-purpose Green Aid Ointment and Arnica Ease cream.
Beverly describes herself as a modern day ‘witch’ but Bev doesn’t quite fit the fairy-tale stereotype: she is tall, wholesome looking and has a great sense of humour.
It’s a crisp, chilly morning but we follow Bev to the back of the house where she has lit a campfire in front of a magnificent mountain view.
A group of women – who have come from around the world to learn about herbs and its applications- sit around the fire sipping herbal concoctions from recycled jam-jars.
We join them and soon after we are all following Bev along a mountain trail to pick spruce buds for our afternoon salve-making session.
Along the trail we gather plants under Bev’s supervision while she explains their medicinal properties.
As I begin to wonder what practical use this knowledge might have, I trip and fall down the mountainside into thick undergrowth.
A sharp branch punctures my calf deeply and I begin to bleed profusely.
In an instant Bev reaches for some plant, gathers the leaves, puts them in her mouth and chews vigorously. She applies the poultice to the wound and secures it with a scarf.
The bleeding stops instantaneously. This is bush medicine at its best.
Back at the house she says she wouldn’t normally chew the leaves to make a poultice but given that we were far from processed salves it was the thing to do and proceeds to disinfect and apply a salve of her making to the wound.
Healing power of nature
At the Aroma Borealis Herb Shop in Whitehorse, I spot local artist Joyce Majiski with whom I went hiking in the Yukon, around Carcross and Bennett Lake the day before.
Joyce is another living example of the strong Boreal women of the Yukon.
She says ‘I go out hiking for inspiration.
Being out there is as important to me as a person as it is to being an artist’.
With Joyce, the stark landscape comes alive.
Later on at her studio we try different ideas, reflecting what we took in from nature that morning.
The banks of the Yukon River beckon for a canoe trip and hike.
The beauty is overwhelming.
Guided by the Kanoe People we retrace the original prospectors’ steps just before the Whitehorse rapids and find the remnants of a makeshift log tram built to transport their provisions.
At the bottom of the wooded area, dozens of school children learn the art of kayaking in the wilderness.