27.11.2019, jupiter

Frantsila’s Peat FAQ

Through our work at the farm and, especially, through our courses at Frantsila’s Wellness Centre, we have always received a regular stream of questions about various wellness topics, from favourite yoga positions to ease lower back pain to our favourite herbal remedy for upset stomach.

Recently, in addition to these practical wellness questions, we have also started to receive an increasing number of questions about our raw materials — the plants and other natural ingredients that go into our products — as people become ever more conscious about what goes into their beauty and wellness regimens.

One ingredient, in particular, has received increasing attention over the past year — Peat. Given the increased interest of our customers, as well as a growing global awareness of this ancient, wonder material, we thought it was a good time to answer some frequently asked Peat questions.

What is Peat?

Peat is created through the slow accumulation of partially decayed vegetation and other organic matter, including mosses, sedges, and shrubs, that collects naturally in various wetland areas, like fens, bogs, marshes, moors, and swamps.

Most modern peat bogs started forming around 12,000 years ago in high latitudes after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age. For this reason, most peat deposits are found at higher northern latitudes, including in Finland, whose natural climate, geography, and environment are especially ideal for peat bog formation.

Historically, peat has been harvested as an important source of fuel in various parts of the world for thousands of years. In fact, peat is classified as a “fossil fuel,” which, under the right conditions, is the first step in the geological formation of other fossil fuels, such as coal. In modern times, industrial peat farming involves heavy machinery that scrapes peat from the surface of the bog, which is formed into milled earthen bricks. These wet bricks are then pressed to force out the water, dried and used as a heating fuel for homes and businesses.

Why all the recent interest in Peat?

There are a number of reasons why you may have heard about peat recently.

Perhaps most importantly, there is an increasing awareness in the scientific community about the connection between peat bog ecosystems and our unfolding climate crisis. Specifically, scientists have come to understand that the peatland ecosystem is one of the most efficient carbon sinks on the planet, as peatland plants capture CO2 naturally released from the peat, maintaining a remarkable, natural equilibrium. Studying this natural process could provide considerable insight into our own efforts at carbon capture.

Meanwhile, archaeologists have also realised that these wetlands are a no less remarkable record of human history, with the discovery of the so-called “bog bodies,” 3000 year old mummified human remains that have been perfectly preserved in watery, wetland graves across Northern Europe. These beautifully preserved bodies are the result of the acidic, oxygen-poor conditions of peat bogs, which, combined with cool temperatures, help to preserve almost any organic material, including skin, hair, clothes, and even stomach contents of humans. We are only now starting to appreciate the archeological value of these wetlands and the insight they provides into our Stone Age and Iron Age predecessors.

Is Peat the New Swamp Fountain of Youth?

Finally, as you might have guessed, peat’s preservative powers have also been discovered by the skincare industry. If peat can keep a 3,000 year old body looking young, then just imagine what it can do for anyone under 100! Over the last couple years, peat has been hailed as the next must-have anti-aging ingredient, and has found its way into numerous skincare products, especially in Korean Beauty, or so-called K-beauty, practice.

While we don’t want to add to the hype, peat has been shown to contain various powerful, bioactive ingredients that, properly used, can have beneficial effects for a range of conditions. In particular, the fulvic acid and numerous humic substances found in peat shield the skin from free radicals and boost collagen production, which makes it an ideal ingredient for skin, hair and scalp treatments. Peat also helps to improve cell turnover, increasing skin elasticity and tightening pores. This powerful substance is, at the same time, also considered a gentle, mild astringent and an anti-inflammatory, which may be beneficial to those with psoriasis, eczema and otherwise dry or sensitive skin. In this sense, peat is considered a safe ingredient for almost all skin, hair and scalp types.

Peat also provides support and remedy for the inner cleansing and detoxifying of the body, and is ideal for whole body treatments, for example, in the sauna or as a peat bath. Peat boosts blood flow and enhances the metabolism, which is why it is important to drink lots of water during peat treatments and why these treatments are not recommended during pregnancy, due to their highly detoxing effects.

Where does Frantsila get its Peat?

We source all our peat from a small family farm located in the village of Salo, in Southern Ostrobothnia. The peat is farmed by Kaisla and Veikko Aho, who have owned their peatland farm since 1986.

The old men in the village have told Veikko that the local peat originates from very pure, fine humus that has eroded from the nearby rivers and treeless bogs and that is brought down to their farm by the naturally flowing water. As noted above, this natural process of peat formation began thousands of years ago, and has resulted in a very high quality peat, which is clean, smooth and soft, and is so deep in the ground that it never freezes.

Harvesting the peat happens twice a year, in spring and autumn, a harvesting process that is completely manual. Using a hand shovel, Kaisla’s and Veikko’s son, Tero, lifts up the peat directly from the deepest parts of the bog floor. By not using heavy machinery that only reaches the surface peat, the Aho’s are able to harvest only the oldest and highest quality peat, without disturbing the broader peat forming ecosystem above. Their sustainable approach to peat farming is a main reason why Frantsila sources all its peat from the Aho farm.

While Tero was busy bringing in the harvest, Kaisla’s and Veikko’s daughter, Kati, was thinking up all sorts of ways to use the peat, beyond just as a fuel source. In fact, when the farm first began, the Aho family did not know anything about therapeutical grade peat, or that this remarkable substance might have other applications beyond burning. Over time, however, and with the help of outside experts, including researchers from the University of Turku, the Aho’s have learned proper inspection and handling techniques that allow them to harvest and process some of the highest quality, therapeutic grade peat in the world.

This sustainably farmed, therapeutic grade peat is the only peat source that we use in our products.