13.3.2023, Kirsi Kallionimei
Plants together work wonders
Frantsila’s founder, Virpi Raipala-Cormier, has been studying herbal medicine for almost her entire life. She developed the iconic skin healing 11 Herb Salve back in 1980, the creation story of which is actually the whole story of Frantsila in miniature.
Virpi Raipala-Cormier bends down to pick some chickweed. Inside the greenhouse, it is humid and warm. Virpi lifts the green, bushy bundle she picked closer to her face and breathes deeply in the aromatic scent.
We are on the Frantsila Herb Farm in Hämeenkyrö, in the greenhouse that Virpi refers to as her research laboratory. Frantsila’s fields, where nearly 30,000 plants are planted by hand each spring, spread out around it. The phytotherapeutic compounds of these plants are key for the effectiveness of Frantsila’s well-being products. The recipes for the products are largely Virpi’s handiwork. “This is one of the ingredients in the 11 Herb Salve,” Virpi says, holding the chickweed bouquet closer.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson has written “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Virpi remarks.
That’s exactly the case with the 11 Herb Salve’s ingredients. The 11 Herb Salve has been part of Frantsila’s selection from the very beginning and enjoys almost cult status. The salve is a powerful aid for various skin problems.
In addition to chickweed, other herbs picked from Frantsila’s own organic fields that are used in the salve are: yarrow, plantain, calendula, comfrey, burdock, red clover, fireweed, creeping thistle, St. John’s wort, and meadow hops. However, to follow the story of the Salve’s creation, one must also travel across the Atlantic to the United States.
Virpi has, in a sense, been studying herbalism her whole life. As a child, she walked in forests and meadows and picked chamomile and nettle for her grandmother, which were used for humans as well as horses.
Virpi’s grandmother used chamomile to soothe her scalp and instructed Virpi to pick chickweed for the chickens. The local flora became familiar one plant at a time.
“We used plantain for wounds and blisters.” Virpi says.
At 14, Virpi already had her own herb garden and a lot of knowledge about the effects of different plants, which she learned from Professor Toivo Rautavaara’s radio broadcasts and books. Later, Virpi began studying agricultural sciences at university, where she also founded a natural farming study circle with a few other students.
“Toivo Rautavaara also lectured on herbs there.”
Virpi delved deeper and deeper into the effects of plants. She wanted to learn to understand the synergy that was created when plants were combined. She gained more herbal knowledge in both Germany and Sweden.
The year 1979 was a turning point.
Epithelializing and cleansing plants
In 1979, Virpi was studying in the United States as a student of Herbal Edi. The renowned herbalist taught her, among other things, how to make herbal salves.
From there, Virpi continued her journey to Canada, where she had an additional two herbalist teachers. She began to develop her own 11 herb salve recipe. The idea was to make a multi-purpose salve that would help with various skin problems.
“I combined 11 effective plants from the Finnish nature,” Virpi says.
“Some of the herbs have epithelializing effects, meaning they heal skin tissue, while others have a calming and cleansing effects.”
The recipe for the salve is secret, but Virpi reveals that yarrow, comfrey, marigold, and yarrow are the key players. Yarrow is one of the most important medicinal plants in Finnish healing traditions .
“Yarrow has the nickname ‘thousand healer’,” Virpi says.
Virpi made the first salves in her kitchen. She extracted active combounds of the herbs into oil and combined them with beeswax. She experimented and searched for the perfect combination.
Finally, she was satisfied with the result.
“The plants work together,” Virpi says. “Each plant has hundreds of different active compounds. Their synergy makes the salve so effective.”
Virpi gave the salve to her friends and acquaintances, and word of the effectiveness of the salve started to spread. It began to be called the miracle salve because people talked about how it works for such a wide variety of skin problems.
Plant power in small package
Virpi found her love in Canada, Virpi’s spouse – also an agronomist – James Cormier. Virpi and James moved to Finland and started cultivating Virpi’s family estate, Frantsila, located in Hämeenkyrö. The estate had been in the same family for ten generations. Together, they founded the Frantsila company and have developed it for over 40 years.
Over the years, Virpi has systematically gathered knowledge about medicinal plants from various written sources. Nowadays, the knowledge and skills she has accumulated over the years are documented in various books, such as “Frantsilan luonnon kotiapteekki” and “Luonnonkaunis “, as well as in Frantsila’s own products, of which the 11 Herb Salve is perhaps the most legendary.
There are now five different Salves available for various ailments, and they are among Frantsila’s most popular products. They are easy to carry around: a small jar packs a lot of potency.
Humans as part of nature thrive together
The sun has started shining outside. The greenhouse is bathed in light. You can almost see how the plants absorb it.
“We are of the same evolution as plants. Our DNA doesn’t differ much from theirs,” Virpi says.
“Plants do a great job of preserving a huge amount of active ingredients during Finland’s short summer and long winter,” Virpi says.
We just need to learn about the effects of plants.
Virpi has dedicated her whole life to this knowledge. She feels that when a person has a life mission, a greater power helps them.
“I feel deep gratitude towards the plant kingdom. And towards the earth itself, where plants are allowed to grow.”