Traditional African medicine has roots as deep as the thousands of medicinal plants found on the continent, and it was these that Elisabeth Brandt tapped into when she arrived in South Africa at the end of the 1990s. ‘I’d studied local healing techniques in Bali, India and Thailand, and had seen first-hand how effective indigenous treatments could be, but to the best of my knowledge no one in the spa industry had really explored African healing traditions and I was interested to see how much potential there was,’ she recalls.
Almost immediately, this took on personal significance in her life, when her young daughter was diagnosed with serious neurodermatitis. After doing the usual rounds of doctors and specialists, with little result, Elisabeth consulted Medicinal Plants of South Africa by Nigel Gericke, Ben-Erik van Wyk and Bosch van Oudtshoorn, and treated her daughter’s condition with African star grass (also known as African potato). ‘Her condition improved dramatically,’ she says, ‘so I decided to come up with a concept that would draw on Africa’s healing ingredients and traditions.’
This was the genesis of Healing Earth, although it would take several more years before Elisabeth launched her signature range. Elisabeth was born close to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, and studied law and tourism at the university there. As a young adult, she travelled widely in the East, observing and studying traditional medicines and therapies in their native environments. Later, she entered the hospitality industry in Europe, and in the late 1990s moved to South Africa to open one of the country’s first five- star spas, the Sérénité Wellness Centre in Cape Town.
‘We took a very holistic approach, offering yoga, meditation, detox and life coaching, which was new in South Africa at the time,’ Elisabeth says.
The success of the Sérénité Wellness Centre led to Elisabeth’s involvement in the establishment of the Santé Wellness Centre in the Stellenbosch winelands, and this in turn opened new doors for her. ‘It didn’t make sense to me that we were offering fantastic organic foods and detox programmes, while the products used in our spa treatments were full of parabens and other synthetic ingredients,’ she says. ‘So I started researching alternatives, and came up with a pinotage grapeseed oil, using ingredients sourced from local farmers.’ This, Elisabeth developed into a range of pinotage vinotherapy products, which became one of Healing Earth’s two flagship ranges.
Pinotage is a facial and body range that leverages the strong antioxidant qualities of vitamin C, vitamin E and free-radical fighter proanthocyanidins found in the seeds, skin and leaves of South Africa’s signature red wine grape. The body range, Earth Soul, harnesses the medicinal powers of South Africa’s native plants, flowers and herbs, and includes oils, creams, butters, polishes, wraps and bath salts.
The science behind the ranges is sound: the products have been developed in close consultation with John Knowlton, an internationally renowned cosmetics-industry scientist, and tested by Dr John Hopkins, another leading scientist, to ensure they’re 100% toxin-free. ‘We don’t only use the well- established African ingredients of rooibos, marula and aloe ferox,’ says Elisabeth. ‘Every one of our products contains active ingredients that have been carefully researched and selected with a specific goal in mind – so, for example, we use Kalahari melon for its excellent moisturising properties, African ginger for firming and slimming, mongongo nut for detox, and coffee, orange and cinnamon for cellulite.’
The luxury natural and sustainable Healing Earth spa brand, which was launched in 2007, combines premium products and therapies with international training protocols and consultancy. It has quickly found its way into several top spas in South Africa and Namibia, and is being distributed in various countries around the world. G
Healing Earth prides itself on its holistic approach: not only do none of the products contain any potentially harmful, synthetic chemicals or artificial enhancers, dyes or fragrances, all the ingredients have either been organically grown on local farms or wild-harvested in a sustainable way. The packaging is as environmentally friendly as possible, using only biodegradable or recyclable materials.