Benjamin Scott Neal Clark
Benjamin-Scott Neal Clark Founder / CEO of American Wilderness Botanicals & The Healing Barn.
Ben-Scott (owner and founder of American Wilderness Botanicals) was born and raised in the town of Wilson, Wyoming in the beautiful valley of Jackson Hole. My father’s family has been in the Jackson Hole valley since my great grandparents settled the old Elk Ranch (now part of Grand Teton National Park) in the early 1900s. My mother awakened my love for the beautiful botanicals of the valley when I was a child. She taught me the common names of many of the plants and trees that grow wild here. When we went on horseback rides she would quiz me on the common names of the wonderful flora that grew everywhere we went. I began to notice the smells of many of these plants and could Identify many of them even if I were hiking in the dark. Every botanical has it’s own special and unique scent and energy.
When I moved from the valley and lived in Southern California and later lived in New York City I longed for and missed my home. Every time I would come home for a visit it felt as though the trees and plants were welcoming me home. I always have felt at home with them. After finishing my degree at New York University I moved to Utah and it was there that I began my journey in the healing arts at the Utah College of Massage Therapy. I studied and experienced a plethora of various massage modalities and studied anatomy and physiology with a medical student at the University of Utah.
When I finally returned to Jackson Hole I fell in love with the spa industry. I was hired as the director at an amazing spa at a ranch in the northern part of the valley where guests from all over the world would gather to enjoy the beauty and outdoors of Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole. It was during this time that I was the spa director that I took careful notice as to all ingredients of any products that the spa therapists used on our clients. I also had the great opportunity to be taught by Elizabeth Van Buren (a leading aromatherapist) about the amazing world and use of essential oils in the spa industry. Elizabeth opened the door to a journey I began several years ago that led me to become an alchemist in the world of botanical distillation. I remember asking the pertinent questions about product purity and I began to understand that synthetic preservatives and additives were not only offensive to the pure botanical chemistry but are also not needed if products are used and cared for properly.
One day while working with Elizabeth and while looking westward out of the spa window at the grandeur of the Grand Teton Mountains, the thought occurred to me that I might somehow be able to use the native botanicals found in the valley of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Most of the botanicals used in high end spa’s found in various formula’s for facials, body wraps, body care, hair care, etc. contain botanicals native to areas other than North America. The vast majority of them (such as Rosemary, Salvia Sage, Frankincense, Sandalwood and others) are from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, India and Australia. It is relatively rare to ever see a native North American botanical used in any personal care products or in the spa industry. From the time I spent as a spa director forward I have educated myself about the use of native botanicals. Through this journey I have met some of the most wonderful people including some of the founding mother’s of an amazing native botanical herbal company now called Wind River Herbs.
Through subsequent years I continued to learn about wild and cultivated botanicals and along with two other individuals I established a small business based on native botanical plants. This was a temporary business that taught me a great deal about botany, running a business and about working closely with others. I took the knowledge and education I had received from building this business and looked forward to starting my own company. My dream was realized seven years later when I founded American Wilderness Botanicals. I have been doing business locally in Jackson Hole, Wyoming along with selling to customers as far away as Norway.
In 2011 I studied under the wonderful mentorship of Ann Barker Harman whom is one of the few top artisan distillers of hydrosols and essential oils using handmade copper Alembic stills in the United States. In 2013 American Wilderness Botanicals purchased two beautiful Copper Alembic stills, which we use on a regular basis throughout the harvest season from May through October.
It is my mission to bring people much closer to the healing power of the American Wilderness. That power rests in the botanical heritage that was enjoyed by Native Americans for thousands of years. The indigenous people of North America were one with the indigenous botanicals of this vast country for ages. They understood plant language, they used these incredible plants in every aspect of their lives. I have learned through deeply personal experience that you cannot study and learn about these amazing botanicals without connecting with the ancient earth keepers themselves, the Native tribes who know them well. American Wilderness Botanicals and the Healing Barn have been working hand in hand with local Native tribes in educating people about plant medicine and culture. From workshops to wonderful drumming ceremonies, celebrations and other events we connect people to the plants and to the earthkeepers who have known them for thousands of years.
Hydrosols/Plant Distillates – A rediscovered and growing trend in botanical use for personal care and wellness.
American Wilderness Botanicals also has some of the purest and most potent hydrosols and essential oils in the business. Virtually all of our hydrosols and essential oils are produced from wild harvested (wildcrafted) botanicals in Wyoming and the vast majority are harvested in Jackson Hole. Random samples of our hydrosols are tested at the Sagescript Institute in Longmont, Colorado. We make sure our customers are satisfied in knowing that they are getting pure hydrosols that are microbe and fungus free. This is why we ask that our customers do not open the atomizers (sprayers) that are screwed onto the bottles as this can introduce microbes and fungus to the botanical waters in the bottle. We use pure grain alcohol to sterilize the containers, atomizers and virtually all containers and passageways that the hydrosol touches in the copper alembic still during the distillation process and the glass funnel and into the gallon bottles where the hydrosols are stored. Our essential oils and hydrosols are unadulterated without any chemical preservatives or additives. No exceptions and no compromises.
American Wilderness Botanicals plans on expanding our product line to include a growing list of desert botanicals like Pinion Pine, Utah Juniper, Ponderosa Pine and Chaparral. These desert botanicals are harvested in Southwestern Utah by a wonderful couple who began their journey distilling at the Healing Barn. We also plan on bringing you some wonderful incense sticks, which will include essential oils from locally wildcrafted botanicals like Big Basin Sagebrush, Wyoming Sagebrush and Wild Goldenrod. We use science to explore new products. The leading way we do this is through the science of ethnobotany because ethnobotany treats the indigenous people of a region (in this case North America) with respectful and searching consideration in researching plants and their efficacy in healing and wellness. Native American tribes have a rich heritage of knowledge regarding the various biomes of plant life in North America.
Ethnobotany – “Ethnobotany is the study of a region's plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of local culture and people. An ethnobotanist thus strives to document the local customs involving the practical uses of local flora for many aspects of life, such as plants as medicines, foods, and clothing.” (Source: Ethnobotany - Wikipedia)
North American Ethnobotanical Heritage
Our mission includes expanding our plethora of wildcrafted plant sources to include other parts of North America including the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, the Western Deserts, the Mid-Western States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, New England and the Southern States. There is a tremendous and rich indigenous heritage. American Wilderness Botanicals is taking the ethnobotanical approach to the incredible botanical heritage of North America. “You can throw a dart at a map of North America and wherever it lands there’s going to be culture, history, food, people and flavor to play with right there and so many stories to tell. You can write a book.” (Chef Sean Sherman)
The Food Sovereignty Movement – We are getting involved in the Food Sovereignty Movement and striving to educate the public about this deeply important movement as the movement relates to indigenous plants and heritage.
“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” (Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007)
Indigenous Foods and Drinks – We are also expanding our work to include food and drinks. There is nobody who knows and understands indigenous plants as food sources than renowned James Beard Award Winning Chef Sean Sherman. Chef Sean will be a keynote speaker at our first annual Food Sovereignty Event this July 7th and 8th, 2019. We will have other speakers who are leaders movers and shakers in the Food Sovereignty Movement as well. This is an important aspect of our vision in bringing people to a knowledge and understanding of health and wellness through the healing powers found in wilderness.
This is my story, mission and vision. This is the expanding way in which I am striving to teach people about plants and about our own deep, historically rich and amazing botanical heritage. Please join me on this journey in connecting with your own ancient roots and the richness that is a core healing answer to the serious problems of disease and disconnection that plague our world. The healing answer that nature and most specifically the Wilderness provide in bounteous measure.