The work you do with plants and flowers is so fascinating! When someone asks you what your "job" is, what do you tell them? How would you describe your work to someone who has never heard of Alexis Smart Flower Remedies?
I still struggle with this question and have a kind of three tiered response haha. I usually start by saying “I am a homeopath.” If they know what I am talking about, I then say " I am a Bach flower remedy practitioner too and have a product line of flower remedy formulas. When they ask “What are flower remedies?” I tell them it’s a system of natural medicine that was invented by a British doctor in the 30’s. They are natural extracts of flowers that have a positive effect on the mood by lessening stress. I help people with anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, mental focus etc.
On your website you talk about being raised with a "respect for the healing power of plants". What a lovely way to grow up! Can you tell us more about that, starting with where you grew up, and who instilled that appreciation of plants in you?
I was born in Canada, we lived in Mexico for a year, age 3-4, then I grew up in Los Angeles. My mom was an herbalist, astrologer and follower of Rudolf Steiner (and other esoteric teachings). She cooked macrobiotic and treated our childhood illnesses with herbs. I could tell even then, “Hey this stuff works” and I would be curious about what she was using. As a kid, you love anything that sounds like a magic potion and the names “Irish moss,” "slippery elm,” and “goldenseal" conjured fairy tales and all things exciting. She also explained simple principles (like when the doctor wanted to take my tonsils out) that the body needs the tonsils because they are the first line of defense when you have an infection. If we remove your tonsils, the illness will go deeper into the body and appear somewhere else. The body is intelligent, she told me, fevers happen for a reason, we want to help the body do its job, not try to stop it from doing what it does best. In my 20’s I strayed from that philosophy. I was overprescribed antibiotics and cortisone and my health suffered greatly from that.
Which segues into the question, how did you get involved in this work? On your website you also mention having had a quite serious illness that you were able to cure yourself of; can you share as much as you're comfortable with about that experience?
Interestingly, most of the healers I know experienced a terrible illness which led them to learn what they needed to know to become a gifted practitioner. It’s a long story, but it’s really so important to hear what happened to me because it is quite common, especially with women. I was pretty healthy in my 20’s but a bad facial started my health decline! The facialist used a very strong acid on my skin and it caused bad dermatitis. I was modelling at the time and I couldn’t have a big chin rash, so I went to a dermatologist. He prescribed antibiotics and insisted I stay on them for months. He said the rash would come back if I didn’t stay on them (which makes no sense because it wasn’t an infection). After this, I started getting asthma and allergies. I went to an allergy doctor and he prescribed cortisone inhalers and allergy shots. After that I became more and more fragile, environmentally sensitive and started getting anxiety attacks . My immune system got weaker and I started getting strep throat all the time. I took six rounds of antibiotics in one year for it. So, when I took a trip to Egypt in my late 20’s, I had a very compromised immune system. I was traveling in a remote oasis in the Libyan desert and one day I woke up with the worst headache of my life, shaking chills and a high fever. I felt like I was dying and I would hallucinate. It lasted a few days and then I would be ok. I thought it was a flu. Then I got home to the States and it kept happening in this cyclical way, every few months. It went on for about five years! I went to regular doctors and had lots of tests, even parasite tests and they said nothing was wrong with me (though I looked emaciated, had cystic acne and couldn’t tolerate any foods or alcohol, on top of the recurrent fevers). I was clearly suffering physically but I had also become depressed from the illness stealing my life force. Then I was hit with a series of terrible losses. My first love died of cancer and his mother wouldn’t let me see him when he was in the hospital. In homeopathy we call the life force that animates you and dictates your overall health, your “vital force.” Well, my vital force took such a blow that, overnight, I became a shell of my former self. I was so grief stricken I was like a ghost, barely present in my daily life. I sought every healer for my emotional stuff, conventional talk therapy, bodywork, reiki and shamans. Nothing worked. One day, I met an Egyptian woman and I told her about my illness. She said casually “It sounds like you have malaria. It’s quite common in Egypt.” No doctor had ever asked me if I had traveled to a foreign country when I got sick! (Now that I treat people I can’t believe this oversight). I tried to get tested and it was a whole other wild goose chase and bunch of arrogant older male doctors treating me like I was their typical, hypochondriac woman. Finally, I met a homeopath who had worked in Africa and India and he said it definitely sounded like malaria, but it didn’t matter if I had the blood test to confirm it. I was so relieved. He spoke to me for over two hours, asked me so many interesting, detailed questions. He actually wanted to know how I felt! What foods did I crave, was I afraid of animals, what dreams I had. He then gave me one dose of a remedy. The results were so swift. Within six hours, all my symptoms of the worst day in Egypt came back. By the next day I was better and I never got a fever again! This was even more impressive than herbal medicine. It was a miracle and I knew that I must learn everything I could and become a homeopath. My body started slowly getting stronger, but emotionally I was still quite fragile. By pure chance, one day I met a flower remedy practitioner at a little shop. I asked for something for anxiety and she made me a flower remedy and said that in three weeks I would be a new person. All I wanted was to be a new person! I did as she said, despite the niggling doubt after so many failures, and three weeks later I was a new person. Or the old person I used to be, but with so much wisdom about healing, so much compassion for those who are suffering. I knew I had found my calling and started on my path as flower remedy practitioner.
For some who are firm believers in Western medicine and pharmaceuticals, they may find the concept of flower remedies to be a bit "hippie", or far-fetched. What would you say to them?
Well, first of all, I used to try to convert people to flower remedies but I don’t do that anymore. For those curious and open, I tell them the philosophy behind it and the history because in context it makes more sense. This system of healing was invented by a medical doctor who practiced conventional medicine. Not only that, he was a celebrated pioneer in the field of vaccines. He had become frustrated with the medical model he was taught. Why were they only treating the body and ignoring the mental/emotional state of the patient? If you cure someone of a physical malady, but they are still in emotional agony, is this a true cure? He also observed that his patients who were happy and hopeful would recover much more quickly of physical illness and saw how clearly the emotional state of the patient would influence the prognosis. He believed if you could restore someone to a positive emotional state, the body would follow and the innate, self-healing mechanism would kick in. He wanted to find a system to remove the emotional obstacles to cure and thereby prevent the illness from going deeper into the body. So he experimented with the extracts of flowers and discovered that they had a miraculous effect on the emotional state of his patients. He used them on his patients with physical illness and their symptoms improved, but more incredibly, they said they were happy for the first time in years.
How is what you do connected to clean beauty?
When I am stressed or depressed, I really see it in my skin and my eyes. I observed this in my clients too, over many years treating people one-on-one. When they returned after their first flower remedy, they would be absolutely glowing and looked years younger. Early on, maybe because I was a model and noticed this kind of thing, I saw the potential of flower remedies to affect the outer aspect. I wanted to create the clean beauty bridge between the inner emotions and the outer glow. That’s what led me to create my Beauty Formulas (I have No.8 as an alternative to Botox and filler, No.7 for acne and a rosacea formula coming out soon). I see them as an inner cosmetic. My flower remedies are organic, wild harvested in England and are so safe, gentle and benevolent, even for the most sensitive types.
How do you personally define clean beauty, and what does it mean to your own life?
Clean beauty is all about letting your natural beauty shine forth, not covering up or masking...but gently encouraging beauty from health and treating the inner as well as the outer. Clean beauty is definitely about removing toxins from your diet and skin-care, but to me it is also important to remove toxic relationships and emotional patterns. We are learning now how stress can cause inflammation, weight gain and really show up in our faces. When I was sick, seeing cystic acne and rapid aging in my face when I was so young, really made me see that beauty had to be an inside job. I made a decision that I would always look for the internal cause of any signs in my face and body, that it was the only way to live. So my definition is so much about healthy, whole food, juices, being around people who make me laugh, getting sun, getting in nature. Don’t get me wrong. I love beauty products! I am not just rubbing coconut oil on my face and calling it a day. More on that...
Take us through your beauty ritual, both inside and out.
When I wake up I try to drink a litre of water. It’s a lot, but I am in the desert and wake up dehydrated. I take four drops of my Beauty Formula No.8 then my supplements. I take colostrum, for immune and gut health but it also helps collagen production, primal defense probiotic or ION the Zach Bush thing. I take milk thistle for liver (and a clean liver means good skin and bright eyes), echinacea for lymph (great for puffiness/cellulite) and glutathione. I do a juice for breakfast. Usually carrot, green apple, lemon and celery as a base then add cucumber, romaine, parsley, ginger, whatever looks appealing. In the morning I don’t wash my face. I splash with cold water and then spray with a hydrosol (I am loving biodynamic Maison Made ones now). I do a serum (In Fiore Complex de Fleur or Vintners Daughter Treatment Essence) then Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum, Dr. Alkaitis Day Cream, Tata Harper eye cream and sunscreen. I like Elta MD. I take my Beauty Formula four times a day then at night wash my face with Wonder Valley or Tata Harper oil cleanser, Dr. Alkaitis night cream and eye cream. Weleda Skin Food on hands and heels. I take an infrared sauna about three times a week followed by a cold shower. This is so great for skin and health.
You seem to have such a lovely and zen outlook on life. How do you maintain that outlook when life gets hectic and stressful?
Ha, well not always. But thank you. I think it’s partly my nature. I am a bit dreamy and dreamy people don’t get their feathers ruffled so much. We have other issues, like getting off the couch. But honestly, my flower remedies keep me sane and balanced. If I didn’t have them I would definitely not be so zen.
Last but not least! What do you want the ONDA Beauty reader to take away from this conversation about the healing powers of nature?
I hope my ONDA friends hear my story and feel empowered to listen to their bodies and trust their intuition when it comes to their health. Also, always try the natural approach first. Then later, if you want to use big guns medications, you can. But to start with medication and try to go backwards to fix the damage they might cause is a much longer and more difficult road. I often think what if there had been places like ONDA when I was in my 20’s and got that damaging facial that started it all…my story would have been very different.