Insider's Guide to Spas
Photography: Jean-Raphael Guillaumin


3 Healing Botanicals from the Swiss Alps

Nick James


Edelweiss is a botanical best friend. Though we may not all be able to recall what this pretty white plant looks like, its name is synonymous with the Swiss Alps and the movie The Sound of Music. Picked to the point of extinction by young men to give to their sweethearts as symbols of dedication and fidelity, this plant has a remarkable ability to thrive at altitudes where drought and constant exposure to extreme levels of UV radiation make life nearly impossible.

More recently, edelweiss has drawn the attention of researchers looking for novel cosmetic ingredients. The tannins, flavonoids, and hydrocarbons that edelweiss produces offer anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Especially of interest is chlorogenic acid—a powerful anti-oxidant with exciting anti-cancer properties—and leontopodic acid which stimulates key proteins in the skin. These acids are tasked with protection and regeneration, preventing the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid.

Swiss Pine

This most hardy of tree characterizes the high slopes of the Alps like no other. The essential oil extracted from its needle-like leaves is a clear liquid with a warm, sweet, resinous bouquet. Just one whiff, and you sense the goodness and healing it offers.

One research institute in Europe claims that sleeping in a room made from Swiss pine panels can have extraordinary effects, with tests indicating that the heart rate is moderated to such a degree that 3,500 heartbeats are saved in a 24-hour period— the equivalent of one hour of heart work every day!

“One research institute in Europe claims that sleeping in a room made from Swiss pine panels can have extraordinary effects . . . “

Swiss pine is indicated for respiratory issues, easing congestion, sinusitis, bronchitis, and coughs. Used in a vaporizer or diffuser, it brings relief and refreshes the atmosphere of any room. (Try a few drops mixed with lemon and eucalyptus or myrtle oil.) Applied in the form of a muscle rub or massage oil, it will work wonders for muscle fatigue, joint pain, or gout. It is also my go-to essential oil for the effect it has on the psyche—relieving fatigue, and instilling feelings of strength, perseverance, and courage.


Mountain arnica, the species of arnica most frequently used in herbal healing, loves to frequent high alpine meadows. It is endemic to Switzerland and other mountainous areas of Europe. What I love about this herb is that it is so efficacious that many people who know of no other herbal remedies will have heard of arnica. Easily applied locally to places of need in the form of oil, salve, or cream, arnica should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet.

Arnica’s cheerful, yellow flowers are full of compounds such as sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, and other plant metabolites that have a range of benefits. The oil is powerfully anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Useful in speeding soft-tissue repair, it eases swelling, allows fresh blood to flow into areas of damage, and helps relieve pain. Arnica has also been shown to ease the discomfort of arthritis and rheumatic pain, and to speed recovery time after muscle exertion. Note of caution: Arnica should not be applied to open wounds or taken internally (except for the homeopathic version), and can cause a skin reaction in some individuals.



Nick James

Nick James

British-born Nick James was raised in a botanical dynasty. His early years were spent following his grandfather and uncles in search of rare plants and absorbing his grandfather's enthusiasm and knowledge of the plant world. After graduating with a Master's Degree in Botanical Science from Oxford University, Nick spent a decade traveling and working in Asia. His intense interest in natural healing was inspired by his mother's practice of vibrational medicine and fueled by a personal health crisis precipitated by his time in Asia. Nick's healing journey introduced him to Ayurveda, color therapy, energy work, and medicinal aromatherapy. He is the CEO of Sedona, Arizona-based Body Bliss, a leading formulator of natural and therapeutic spa products.