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Herbal botanical soaps and salves--traditional Dine' (Navajo) wisdom and contemporary techniques blended in superb handmade soaps and salves

From Big Mountain, Black Mesa, Arizona

July 7, 2006: Because of the catastrophic drought on Black Mesa and throughout the region, Marykatherine cannot fill orders at this time--there isn't currently enough plant life to use for her botanical soaps and salves, nor water to sustain what there is.


Marykatherine's herb garden, where she grows the clary sage from which she extracts the wonderful oil that is the basis of her soaps and salves. Also grown here are wild basil (trifolia) and mullen (both used in Dine' ceremonies) and hops.




Purple-flowered clary sage.

Yellow-flowered mullen, also used in Dine' ceremony.

At Marykatherine's Big Mountain home, where HerbsWerk special soaps and salves are made.


Many of the same plants used ceremonially by the Dine' are also used as dyes for their wool. Katherine Smith, Marykatherine's mother, gave this recipe for preparing a basic wool dye:

Flower or herb (for color desired)
1 teaspoon salt
Hot water

Boil for one hour. The water changes color. Take out the plants and put in the wool to be dyed. Boil, stir, and check color until the desired shade is reached. When it's the right color, leave it overnight to cool.


Marykatherine's mother, Katherine Smith, taking out burrs and twigs from washed white churro fleece. Some of this fleece may be dyed with vegetal dyes from Marykatherine's herb garden and other indigenous plants and trees near her Big Mountain home.

You can order Churro fleece and handspun yarn from the wool for sale page Wool or click on "Wool" on the button bar at the top of this page).


Marykatherine says: "The base for HerbsWerk's skin care products is made only from natural oils--primarily clary sage. The aloe vera is fresh from its home in the temperate desert. The beeswax for the salves is from the fresh harvest of the spring honeycombs in our mountains. The products have been guided and overseen by the Holy People from Dzil ni'tsaa, Dine' Bikeyah" (Big Mountain, Navajoland).

Salvia (sage): The white sage of the mountains surrounding the Pacific coastline has been used by indigenous people to treat external inflammation long before the European settlers came to this continent. This is a purification herb often used in ceremonies. The oil extracted from Clary sage has a wonderful aroma.

Soap: HerbsWerk long-lasting and economical soap is made from all natural ingredients and has an emotionally soothing aroma. This herbal soap will not irritate and is excellent for sensitive skin. Each bar of soap is crafted and cut by hand, then wrapped in attractive hemp paper. The weight of each bar will vary slightly, but each is about 3.5 ozs.


Individual bar , 3.5 ozs. $5.50
Half-dozen (6) bars, 21 ozs. $35.00
Dozen (12) bars, 42 ozs, $60.00

Ingredients: Saponified olive oil, coconut oil, sage, distilled water, grapefruit seed extract, essential oils.

Salve: HerbsWerk herbal and natural salve does wonders for chapped and cracked skin. Most users feel the healing effects of these salves almost immediately. Salves are bottled in either plastic double-wall (1/4 oz. sizes) or glass jars (1 oz. sizes) in the following sizes:


Individual 1/4 oz. plastic jar: $3.00
Half-dozen (6) 1/4 oz/. plastic jars $15.00
One dozen (12) 1/4 oz. plastic jars: $24.00

Individual 1 oz. glass jar: $7.00
Half-dozen (6) glass jars (6 ozs. total): $36.00
One dozen (12) glass jars (12 ozs. total): $60.00

Plus shipping and insurance.

Here's some feedback on the salve from a friend in Maine to whom I gave a jar as a gift: That pinyon pitch healing salve is great stuff. How do I buy more? (No I didn't use it all up-- am using very sparingly, but am SO impressed, want to have a stock of it!)

HerbsWerk is an indigenous home-based enterprise that is part of the Dine' vision for a sustainable and balanced environment on Black Mesa. By cultivating and incorporating native plants that have been used by the Dine' for many generations for ceremonies, healing, and wool dyeing, HerbsWerk is contributing to the economic development and cultural sustenance of the region.The soaps and salves made by HerbsWerk offer a fine application of this Dine' indigenous history and knowledge to the public. These are really good products!

For more information, or to place an order, you can call Marykatherine on her cellphone at: 928-890-8058

write to her at:

P.O. Box 259
Kykotsmovi, AZ 86039

You can also send an email to Marykatherine via me directly from this page:

As an enterprise of Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land, we are pleased to host HerbsWerk products, which I am using and can happily recommend.

Write to: Migrations, P.O. Box 543, Newton, MA 02456
or email to: carol@migrations.com to place an order, or for more information.
Copyright © 2001-2006, Carol Snyder Halberstadt, Migrations. All rights reserved.

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