For many natural mothers, Earth Mama is much more than a trusted brand of products. It’s a community – a place as safe as the arm of the angel-winged mother on their logo. We spoke with founder, “Mama” Melinda Olson about how she cultivated her passion for plant-based healing into a business that does the world so much good. – Green Child Magazine
GCM: Your background is nursing, yet you’ve created a line of organic, holistic products from plants. How did you balance the two?
Melinda: Yes, it’s a balance. The “first, do no harm” oath has stayed with me, and that’s the most important part of Earth Mama’s mission today. Our first concern is safety. That applies to everyone in our building, including someone driving a fork truck. And secondly, we’re concerned with effectiveness.
I never intended to start a business, but like many things in life, it evolved. When I was pregnant with first baby, I went to my OB about my morning sickness. At that time, you know, I knew everything because I had just graduated from nursing school. My OB prescribed a pill for morning sickness, but I refused to take it. I don’t exactly know why, but I didn’t see why anyone should have to medicate themselves when they have a baby growing inside of them.
Down the road when I was getting very sick and losing weight, he said, “You must take this pill.” Well, I still didn’t, and it turned out that pill was Bendectin, which was later taken off the market for causing birth defects.
GCM: How fortunate for you and your family that you trusted your instincts.
Melinda: Yes. Then I had that baby in the hospital, because that’s what you do. And as soon as my healthy, perfect child was born, they whisked him off to the nursery and took me to a room. I kept asking to see my child, but the nurses told me, “Oh no, you’ve been in labor for 24 hours. You really need some rest. We’ll bring him to you in the morning.”
So I lay awake all night sobbing because I couldn’t have my baby. I didn’t realize that I was empowered to say, “Bring me my baby!” I didn’t get that because I was young.
However, my second baby was born in my living room.
GCM: What a wonderful experience!
Melinda: My second baby was born surrounded by support and family and friends in the peaceful setting of our home, and it was perfect. I had somehow realized, “I’m not broken, I don’t have to go to the hospital.” I’m not saying people shouldn’t have babies in hospitals today. Today there are doulas, midwives in hospitals, birthing centers. There’s much greater consciousness for how it can be in a peaceful and safe manner.
Those were my early experiences. In the meantime I raised children. I worked. I’ve always been incredibly fascinated with gardening and plants. I was fortunate to have a period of time when my husband was working and my kids were safely out of the nest. I spent a solid 3 years immersing myself in studying plant medicine. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning. I grew my own herbs. I studied with herbal masters.
Over time, I started learning how to extract the medicine from herbs by infusing them in oil and using that oil to make salves or soaps. Infusing them in water to make medicinal tea. Extracting their medicine in alcohol and using it to make herbal tinctures. I wanted to learn how to put all of that together. My friends and people around me would come to me with issues like heartburn. I found resources like the American Botanical Council which has evidence-based research about using plants, and I learned with hands-on experience how to effectively combine plants so they work synergistically.
Everything I formulated was for someone I knew. Pregnant women would come to me, and that intensified my clarity on safety. When you give something to a pregnant woman, you’re giving it to the fetus. It better be safe! And I just believed that heartburn and morning sickness aren’t conditions that need to be drugged.
GCM: I’m actually drinking your Heartburn Tea now. It and your Third Trimester Tea really help my son’s and my allergies. Speaking of the teas, they were the first among your new non-GMO certification. Do you care to share more about that? I know there has been a bit of confusion since EMAB has always been organic.
(The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs in the all label categories “100% organic”, “organic”, and “made with organic ingredients.” )
Melinda: We have been certified organic forever, and we have always labeled our products with integrity. It’s hard to explain to people that when we say our tea is organic, it means every single herb has to be organic. If just one of the herbs in the tea is 95% organic, we can’t say that tea is 100% organic.
So we were already non-GMO, we just felt it was important to carry that verification on our products. Personally, if I’m buying corn chips, I don’t always have time to read every single ingredient. So when I see the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, I know they’ve done the homework for me.
From the beginning, it’s been my job to do that research for moms. They are busy taking care of their families, feeding babies, and trying to figure out who needs to go to soccer today. That’s why it’s helpful if publications like yours, which I love by the way, can help through cut through the maze a little bit.
But yes, our products have always been organic, and therefore non-GMO. Our Natural Nipple Butter is the only non-GMO project verified nipple cream – we think it’s really important because it’s going into a baby’s mouth!
GCM: You provide so much support to mothers through your products. There’s also such a warm, trusting, and welcoming feel to your community. How do you support and educate without overwhelming?
Melinda: I’m glad you feel that way. And you’re right. There’s a fine line between scare tactics and providing information. I can’t tell you how many times advise people to read labels and we try support programs like the Safe Chemicals Act without causing fear. We’re trying to give people information to empower them. And I’ve said all along, we’re asking you to read all labels, not just ours. There are buzz words like BPA and parabens, but we’re trying to broaden that awareness. Even if you don’t use EMAB products, please use something of quality, safe ingredients.
Fear mongering is immobilizing. One of the things we have known for a very long time is that when you say something causes cancer, many people couldn’t care less. But when a woman gets pregnant, that’s the turning point where these issues become real. We try to bring that community to social media. New moms need help, or someone to say, “I’ve been there.”
Surrounding people with a community that’s a safe place to ask questions. Giving mothers objective information they can use to make their own decisions. We really are a mission-based company, and that’s what makes us unique. We take our safety mission and mission to help educate the public very seriously.
GCM: Exactly. And we love that your products can be a gateway into natural living or even attachment parenting. A mom gives her new mom friend your bottom balm and tells her to check out your Facebook page for breastfeeding tips. The next thing you know, she’s exposed to cloth diapering or safe co-sleeping, or she learns more about the Non-GMO Project.
Melinda: You do what you know to do. And when you know better, you can do better. Support truly is everything.