Anyone who has ever worked with a loved one will tell you it can be the most rewarding experience in the world … as long as you don’t kill each other first. Manuel Davila and Beto De León are a local couple that have navigated that process with a level of success we can all learn from. Working through their creative differences has strengthened their relationship and allowed them new ways of supporting each other’s hopes and dreams as small business owners — while nerding out about the curative properties of plants and a shared passion for returning to the holistic, medicinal practices of our grandmothers.
While many of us have dabbled in crafting bath and body products at summer camp or in a misguided effort to save money on holiday gifts, Sol y Luna Soaps is operating on a whole other level, blending indigenous herbal practices with sustainable ingredients and local sourcing to build the business they have today. De León grew up in a family where plant-based medicine lore was a respected pursuit, and Davila applied his Western medicine pharmaceutical training to herbalism. Their studies overlapped in their commitment to natural remedies and ways of interacting more gently with the world — a path walked by their own families and local, indigenous spiritual communities. To an outside observer, it seems that what happened next was preordained.
They started sharing what they knew about making their own herbal tinctures, teas and experimenting with different recipes for soaps and salves. When they started sharing and trading with friends, the response was enthusiastic, which eventually led them to vending at various artisan markets and pop-up shops around San Antonio.
The guys cheerfully confess that their typical customer base is not the crowd that hits up the drugstore body-care aisle. The people attracted to their products are the people who are just as passionate about learning more about the traditional uses of plants as they are.
Each of our product’s ingredients has a story to share and we share as much information as we can when talking with customers. We try to create dialogue about plants because everyone has at least one story about an herbal remedy in their life. In doing so we build community around traditional wisdom that many often take for granted as something from the old days. We learned much by talking to family and elders locally which helps us utilize many plants and minerals in the area.
They either grow or locally source their ingredients … not just the herbs, but the clays, salts and minerals that they incorporate in their concoctions. This connection to the Earth and their community has reinforced their environmental justice work and commitment to preserving natural areas in our communities. Their hope is that the products they have developed inspire people in the same way.
Often we see the spark of interest in gardening and medicine-making when we talk with community at our table. Our biggest dream is that one day, people will reclaim natural medicines and continue sharing to make a larger network of community healers who promote a conscious view of the world and the environmental impact that the average day-to-day person makes. Promoting knowledge of your own health and well-being empowers you to make simple changes that can enrich your life and body. Like all small business owners, we hope to make choices and products that promote sustainability to our vision and that promote herbal health.
What’s next? The couple continue to set up at many local markets and are looking for a permanent home to sell their products and host workshops. Fall and winter are their busiest times, not just because of the holidays — they’re able to produce more products after having time to grow and process their raw ingredients cultivated through the warmer months.
Some of their biggest sellers are their lemongrass facial soap bar, which helps clean oils and tones the skin, as well as their blue corn and lavender soap bar, which contains a gently exfoliating blue cornmeal they grind in their kitchen. They also have clay masks made with the aforementioned red and yellow clay they harvest themselves, as well as salt scrubs mixed with relaxing strands of rosemary or eucalyptus for sore muscles. They are also known for their healing salves, like the magical-sounding squash blossom calendula salve made with pumpkin flowers, which is designed to help restore vitamins and heal skin cells.
Where can you find our hometown herbal healers? At many of our local holiday markets, including the San Antonio Queer Collective’s annual Queer the Cheer. Why shop at the mall, when you can support an amazing local business like this one?