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The iris – also called the sword lily – was named after the Greek rainbow-goddess Iris, bringer of water and messenger of the gods. The rainbow colors of the striking flowers and the plant’s ability to store water for long periods in fleshy roots confirm its connection with its mythological namesake.
Iris root extracts are long-established ingredients in Weleda personal care products, supporting the moisture balance of the skin and providing a valuable essential extract. The iris thrives in inaccessible regions of Morocco's Atlas Mountains, where close cooperation between Weleda and our French partner companies ensures a stable income to about 300 farming families.
Even today, a high percentage of the rural population in Morocco relies on small-scale farming as their main source of income. The harvest can make up to 50 percent of some families’ earnings, but this is only possible when sustainable partnerships are set up, such as the relationship between Weleda and those who cultivate iris germanica in the Tirdouime region of the Atlas Mountains.
The climate of the Atlas Mountains, above sea level, is cold in the winter and very hot in summer, with thin, dry air and poor soil. Practically all work in the fields, from planting to harvest, is done by hand, perhaps helped by mule-power. In these small establishments machinery would be too expensive and its use impractical.
The farmers work on approximately 8 square miles of land, made up of small, stony fields. On these terraced fields, reclaimed with painstaking effort from the mountain, the farmers cultivate the iris root and other vegetables. Cultivation of iris roots ideally complements the traditional vegetable crops and brings in a regular income for the farmers, who have joined together as a cooperative. The spring harvest of each of the 300 families brings up to 880 lbs. of fresh iris rhizomes, full of valuable essential oils highly sought after for like Weleda’s NATRUE-certified natural personal care, and fragrances.
Before the essential oil can be extracted, the entire harvest – hundreds of
thousands of potato-sized tuberous roots – must be peeled by hand and dried in
the mountain air and sun. This process can take up to a week, during which the
roots lose about 80 percent of their weight. Only then are the hard, dried roots
brought into the valley by mule for further processing to extract the precious
oil. Setting up small farmer’s cooperatives, which are regularly inspected by
Weleda and our French partner companies, has led to more local economic
activity, sustainable improvement in the income of small farmers and a rise in
general living conditions.
Extracts of Iris rootstock regulate the moisture level of the skin. The rootstock of Iris consists in large part of starch and contains mucilaginous substances, tannins as well as essential oil, which is responsible for the violet-type odor of the dried Iris rhizome.
(from essential oils)
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