Business in Focus

Meet the Makers – Kaja from Herbae Thylacini

Since launching the Meet the Makers series, the weeks seem to be flying by! I can hardly believe it’s Saturday night and time for another interview! I also can’t believe we are nearly in August, where on earth is the year going!

Tonight we chat with a Tasmanian based local Maker, Dr Karolina (Kaja) Skraskova from Herbae Thylacini. Kaja has a world of knowledge under her belt, including a PhD!

For readers not familiar with my blog I actually was lucky to review 3 products, the Calendula & Lemon Balm Facial Oil, Chamomile & Leatherwood Honey Salve and the Wattle Seeds, Lavender & Tea Tree Scrub back in March of this year. You can find that review here.

Kaja enjoying some time outdoors

R. I always like to start the interview by thanking the Makers, so thank you! I know it takes some time to put together responses. Let’s start with the all important questions, what lead you to starting Herbae Thylacini?

K. You may be expecting a variation of a story of how I’d had enough of putting chemicals-laden cosmetics on my body and so went on and developed my own skin-care range. But I have to disappoint you. The fact that all our products are made exclusively from all-natural ingredients was more of a matter-of-course for me rather than the main motivation behind starting Herbae Thylacini. What I was truly aiming to do was to introduce a range of herbal remedies for skin and dental care which is based on local, and now I mean native, Australian medicinal plants. Hence also our name: “Herbae Thylacini” is Latin for “Herbs of Tasmanian Tiger”.

When I moved to Tasmania a few years ago, I was all pumped up to broaden my knowledge of pharmacy and medicinal plants by learning about Australian phytotherapy. I was surprised how heavily is Australian herbal medicine based on European traditions. I decided to change that and that’s why I founded Herbae Thylacini. While our products do draw on the European phytotherapeutic knowledge (which is an intricate part of my pharmaceutical background), they honour Australian nature and local medicinal plants.

Next to my Pharmacy degree I also happen to hold a PhD in Analytical Chemistry and that has enabled me to start researching local plants from a very practical perspective. I have been collaborating with the local university in Tasmania and have found some pretty cool things about local plants. And there will be more, I am sure!

Herbae Thylacini is a very unique project that connects my life-long passions and expertise in pharmacy, medicinal plants and chemistry-oriented research. All with one aim: to shift Australian phytotherapy into using more of locally available medicine. It may be a long-distance run, but I am super excited about the journey!

R. With your extensive knowledge of plants and how they react with the body, how important is the use of organic/natural ingredients to you and Herbae Thylacini?

K. Organic and natural are both qualities that play key roles in our herbal products. And so do local ingredients, which we source primarily from Australia or (even better) from Tasmania. They are not always available this close to home, but generally, this is our ethos.

Originally, I was growing a number of medicinal plants for our herbal range myself. But that proved to be just too time-consuming. These days Herbae Thylacini supports local growers of medicinal herbs. Rather than buying certified-organic herbs imported from overseas, it is often better to buy medicinal plants from a local grower who uses organic practices although (s)he perhaps did not have the funds to invest into a “certified-organic” accreditation. It is often difficult, if impossible, to trace the path of imported medicinal plants: Who grew them? When? How were they stored before and during the transport? And many other questions, that should concern every user of herbal medicine.

Furthermore, as I have already suggested, our herbal range takes advantage of the abundance of native Australian plants. Why? Well, because we live in Australia! There is all the talk about local and organic and sustainable in the natural skincare world. But why using exotic ingredients imported from all over the world, when I can reach out to our own local herbal medicine?! I think that honouring local medicinal sources and knowledge is incredibly important for sustainability.

R. I absolutely love you are using Australian botanicals, we are very blessed to have some beautiful herbs/plants. A little like Kakadu Plum that has more vitamin C than an orange!

Whats next for Herbae Thylacini, are you working on anything new or exciting?

K. Herbae Thylacini started by releasing a relatively modest range of herbal products. We are currently offering four herbal remedies for skin and dental care. But our vision is big! I am always working on new formulations, trying to re-discover or discover local medicine. I am pretty close to finishing a brand-new product, which I plan to introduce in Spring. Keep an eye on our Website or Instagram page if you want to know what is brewing.

Apart from that, I am preparing a poster presentation of my recent research of Tasmanian plants, which I would like to share with the scientific community later this year. I share snippets of my progress through our social media channels, so that the information gets to as many people as possible.

R. A new product how exciting, another reason for me to continue to wish away winter! It’s been so cold here in Melbourne!
Outside of Herbae Thylacini, how do you enjoy some downtime?

K. After I had mentioned to my friend recently that my days consist mostly of work, work and more work, she asked: “Do you at least have any hobbies that would compensate for all the work-load?” That made me pause – “Of course I have hobbies!”, I thought, only to realize that my top hobbies are science & medicinal plants – the actual objects of my work. And to top it all off, everything else I love to do is connected to them in one form or another: I love a good bushwalk in a forest, I enjoy reading books about plants and herbal healing, and I never miss an opportunity to engage in a science discussion with my partner. What is perhaps as far from science and plants as it gets amongst my hobbies is Exercise. I started racing in athletics when I was 14 and over the years moved to long-distance race-walking and later to triathlon. Since starting my business I refrained from competitive sports, but I still enjoy a good run, bike ride or a swimming session in a pool in Hobart.

R. I love hearing how that passion, that your downtime revolves around your work. Where do you draw inspiration from each day?

K. Each day when I can learn something new is a reward for me! My work of a research scientist is surely often full of surprises. (Some of them less pleasant than others.) But the days when I realize I have discovered something new pay for all the frustration research necessarily brings with it sometimes. I also love my pharmacy-related work. Knowing that my knowledge helped someone to fight off a health issue is one of the most rewarding feelings I have ever experienced!

R. Perhaps my all time favourite question, what does your beauty routine look like?

K. This may be quite funny, but I really do not use very many skincare products – I do not find there is the need. Having said that, recently I became obsessed with natural soaps and always like to try out a new formulation from some of the Tasmanian soap-makers. I also enjoy using our Wattle Seeds, Lavender & Tea Tree Scrub to exfoliate my face and whole body. I do this usually twice or three times a week. Then I moisturize my face with Herbae Thylacini Calendula & Lemon Balm Facial Oil – a great combination of medicinal plants and botanical oils that deeply nourish the skin without making it greasy. All grown in Tasmania or Australia, of course 😊 I sometimes complement our own skin-remedies with products from other reputable natural skincare makers. Being so influenced by scientific approach, my demands on other makers’ products are usually pretty high. Luckily, there are some local makers, whose work I really respect!

Apart from my modest use of skin-care products, I sleep a lot, eat fresh food and spend every day at least an hour outside, preferably doing sports.

R. That sounds amazing. I’ve recently been making an effort to spend my lunch break outside. It may only be 30 minutes but it’s so nice to clear the mind and step away from the desk. What is your Favourite place in the world, where you can relax

K. This must be any forest in the world! 😊

R. We have some beautiful places here in Victoria, you will need to pop over and we can go exploring together!

Thank you Kaja for your time, and your in-depth responses! I especially loved hearing where you draw inspiration from. That’s inspired me!

Happy reading all,

Renee
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