Ever heard of flower essences? We delve into nature’s healing and transformative powers with Katie Hess, founder of LotusWei.
Team Honeycombers recently discovered flower essences (or elixirs, whichever name you prefer), and we’re in love. Thanks to LotusWei, we now have a bottle of the Inner Peace mist sitting on our shared desk which we reach for whenever the stress bug (or the haze season) hits.
To introduce you to this new discovery, we sat down with Katie Hess, the founder herself, who went from combing through the forests in search of rare flowers, to travelling the world with her brand of wellness retreats and natural elixirs.
Hi, Katie! We’re so intrigued by what you do with LotusWei. How did you discover and fall into this line of work?
I learnt about flower essences while travelling. I was walking along this street in Madrid when I met this little indigenous lady. She was handing out flyers and I was the only one on the street. As I was walking and reading about flower essences, I thought, ‘Wow, this is so amazing’.
So I turned around to ask her about it, but she had just vanished. I took that chance encounter as a sign. When went back to the US, almost no one knew what flower essences were. It was a big uphill battle to educate people, but that was almost twenty years ago.
If you were to describe these flower essences to someone who’s never experienced them before, how would you explain their power and how they work?
You know when you walk in the park and you feel different after? It’s not just the oxygen that the plants give you, it’s also their life force or Qi energy. That’s one concept that in the East, is very well-understood, and maybe isn’t so in the U.S.
So for someone who’s never heard of flower essences, it would be like bottling up the life force, or the Qi of the flower. That’s where all the energy of the flower is stored.
Flower essences affect different states of mind, mood, emotion – in general, how you feel – while helping to dissolve things that we all experience when we live in megacities like irritation, feeling tired or exhausted. All those things will throw off your body, and the flowers will help bring you back to your natural balance.
Do you think there’s a place for a practice where Eastern and Western medicine go hand in hand?
Absolutely! I think both offer such a tremendous wealth of healing power. Flower essences don’t really fall under any particular category, although the practice has been done for thousands of years when doctors would instruct people to look for certain flowers in the wild and to drink the dew from them. Now, I think flower essences is a way to bring in a modern element natural medicine. And who doesn’t love flowers?
You were talking about going out in the wild and I know that you started hand-picking flowers yourself. What are some of the wildest places you’ve been to?
Iceland was amazing. You could find yourself in landscapes where there were no other human beings, it feels like you’re in a movie. And there were hot springs and places where the earth is steaming… you feel so much there that the earth is alive.
Another wild place was Costa Rica. In the jungle, with the howler monkeys, and some really wild orchids there.
In Canada, I felt like the animals helped to show me the way – from black bears to hummingbirds to snakes. In those moments I thought it was a little crazy, but I just went with it, and in those places turned out to be precisely the flowers that people needed the most in the next ten years.
Tell us about that cactus flower that blooms one night a year, which jumpstarted your practice.
I had been working with people one-on-one at that point, and I was seeing so many transformations occur with my client but I couldn’t figure out how to get this to the rest of the world.
So we started working with the Intercontinental spa and resort brand. The day that we solidified the agreement for us to make products for them, I walked out and saw this huge cactus flower and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to infuse this into all the products?’. Because whether or not people understood the concept of Qi, it would still benefit them.
I brought the flower home to make an essence and found out that this was a rare flower that only blooms one night a year.
I realised this was a powerful flower for helping people take a huge leap forward – I attribute my business and my life changing overnight to that particular flower. Just months later, we were making things for the president and my whole business was exploding.
That’s amazing! Tell us about the process of making a bespoke concoction for Obama.
It was very intuitive. He was on his way from the airport when they called us in, and we had to quickly set things up. I brought all of my flower essences and oils to make a natural cologne. It was very quick with lots of security but very exciting.
Could you reveal some secret ingredients in that cologne?
The scent is ylang-ylang, and one of the flower essences was the Night Blooming series flower. This dissolves any fears or self-limiting beliefs, which I thought was a good match since he was just sworn in and it was a big-time for him.
You’ve lived and worked in so many countries, from Spain to India to Singapore, what’s the journey been like?
It’s amazing and challenging. I think on Instagram we think it’s very glamorous and we forget the logistical side of moving and lugging things… there are all these other sides to travel!
But what I think is most amazing is connecting with people, plants and flowers in different places. I personally feel like each place has an essence to it. You’ll feel the difference when you land in New Deli, or Taipei, for instance. And a lot of that has to do with how the plants grow.
Singapore specifically is very interesting because things just grow and flourish here, you don’t even have to water them. So here I feel is a really good instruction on abundance and growth.
If you had to bottle up the essence of Singapore, what flowers would go into it?
There would be shell ginger, which we see a lot everywhere, and that flower is all about seeing your vision into reality, being really creative and thinking outside of the box.
We’ll also have red bird of paradise (or peacock flower) and that’s for drive, passion and getting things done – every Singaporean I know is always like, “let’s get it done now!”.
What are your favourite spots in Singapore to find peace?
I love Fort Canning, listening to the insects and admiring the lushness of it. This is going to sound strange but I also like HDB blocks, there are areas where I can sit under trees with the roots and leaves, that has been really peaceful.
I used to live in Balestier, where I would cross over to the Toa Payoh Park, where they had beautiful reflexology stones, and taking a break to walk through that park was just so nice.
I saw on your blog that you’ve been exploring Little India. Are there any other places in Singapore that you’ve enjoyed discovering?
One of the things I love the most is sitting around at hawker centres. I think one of Singapore’s greatest national treasures are folks that are 60 and above. I could sit and talk to people in that generation forever because I find it so fascinating how streetwise they are and how the island has changed.
And then, of course, there’s all the yummy food and the kopi. I got addicted to the goreng pisang at Balestier Hawker Centre, that was amazing!
(Psst: We got the name of the stall, it’s Boon Goreng Pisang.*Plans next hawker jaunt* )