“Northern herbs are like warriors. They draw their might from the extreme conditions of the Arctic Circle, and are so hardy that not even the most freezing cold will overwhelm them,” says Katja Misikangas of Arctic Warriors.
The short, intensive growing season and the harshness of Lapland’s winter bring the best out of these northern superherbs. “Due to the harsh extreme conditions and the bright summer nights, the nutrient content of northern herbs has been found to be exceptionally high, and the flavors surprisingly strong.
For example, garden angelica grown in Hungary has about 2% of felladren, while in Lapland it contains almost 50%,” Misikangas says.
Ancient knowledge from Lapland to benefit the modern person
Misikangas is from a folk healer family, and was born in Narkaus, fifty kilometers from Rovaniemi. Growing up near the Arctic Circle, Misikangas has spent her entire life working with herbs and natural remedies. While studying in Tampere as a young woman, she realized that she knew many things about both plants and the human body that her peers hadn’t even heard of.
As a result of her studies, she developed a compelling vision of how the wisdom of old and the latest research results could be combined to benefit the Arctic region best. As she saw it, the plants of Lapland would have to be branded so that modern people would understand their value and various benefits in promoting health. Katja toured the country to train herbal knowledge, and was spreading the word of the “unbelievable power” of wild plants wherever she went. Misikangas also provides natural treatments, and one day, when Tuija Kauppinen lay on Misikangas’s treatment table, small miracles began to happen. After the cupping session, the two talked for hours and Katja’s idea of branding Lapland’s natural herbs began to take shape.
After a while, in early 2014 Arctic Warriors was founded by Katja Misikangas and Tuija and Ilkka Kauppinen. The first products were launched at the end of that year.
The power of community
Lapland provides a fruitful environment for entrepreneurs, the Arctic Warriors crew proudly says, praising the same great community spirit that is also present in the small village of Narkaus.
When Arctic Warriors recently participated in the Finnish version of the television program Shark Tank, most of the people from Narkaus gathered at the village center to support their own.
One of the goals of the Arctic Warriors is to keep the village of Narkaus alive and to employ as many locals as possible.
“Decisions can be made based purely on numbers or they can be made according to one’s own values,” Ilkka Kauppinen says. Even if the Estonian labor force is significantly cheaper, it is a matter of honor for Arctic Warriors to employ people from their own village.
“We help farmers in various ways, for example by training them in the cultivation of garden angelica and rose root. We have also grown rose root seedlings and given them to farmers for free.
This year the spruce tip harvest was abundant, and there were a total of fifty people working hard to collect the tips. Plenty of rose root and garden angelica will also be available from contract farmers this year.
Not all blue skies and sunshine – troubles are unavoidable
“The year 2020 was especially difficult for us, because most of the spruce tip harvest was wasted due to a freezing error made by a partner. We felt like we should just quit,” Ilkka Kauppinen recalls the difficult times. Instead of quitting, however, the herbal evangelists of Arctic Warriors became even more determined and pushed through the hard times as a unified team.
A long journey from seed to finished product
Grown from seed, it takes six full years before rose roots can be dug from the ground for use in products. Because it only takes three years to grow garden angelica, it is easier to get people to start growing it.
The Arctic Warriors’ main farm grows a robust row of rose root and garden angelica. This year, there are no full-grown plants to collect. Instead, the roots are bought from local contract farmers. In the winter, reindeer herds sometimes wander to the rose root buffet and wreak havoc when they dig up the mighty root for food.
“Then we call the neighbor’s reindeer farm and kindly ask them to get their animals out of the vegetable garden,” Katja says.
Cleaning Jerusalem artichoke is child’s play compared to cleaning rose root. Rose root is a lump with an impossibly multi-cavity structure – amazingly reminiscent of the human brain – and the soil must be meticulously washed out of the cavities.
Cleaning rose root and garden angelica is manual labor. Much of the functionally active substances in the roots are very close to the surface, and therefore machines cannot be used for the cleaning – at least, not for the time being. It is extremely important for Arctic Warriors that the active ingredients of the herbs are safely stored in the final products. This is why only the mighty herbs of the Arctic Circle are suitable for their products – those arctic warriors where these ingredients are at their strongest.
Washing one rose root plant to be ready for use takes one person several hours. Cleaning garden angelica is easier – even if it takes about thirty minutes.
Once the roots have been thoroughly washed, they are finely crushed with a shredder and then frozen. Freezing causes the plant cells in the roots to open and the active ingredients to be released more freely. The frozen root crumb is extracted in plant glycerol for optimal effect. The finished mixtures are dispensed into disposable shot packs or bottled in durable bottles.
Benefits of rose root
“For me personally, rose root, which promotes the balance of body and mind, is the most important plant,” says Misikangas.
“Rose root is an adaptogen that helps to keep going when feeling exhausted, and helps to calm people suffering from stress.”
“In Russia, rose root is still used in basic medicine as a supportive treatment for various psychological problems.”
In addition to the root part of the rose root, the leaves of the plant can also be used. They taste surprisingly good, Misikangas says. The leaves can be chewed as they are, tossed into salads or smoothies, or dried and chopped into a green powder.
The root part of the rose root plant itself is dug from the ground either in spring or fall, when all the valuable nutrients are concentrated in the roots. Naturally, the leaves are used in the summer.
Based on Indian Ayurveda natural medicine, rose root, as a balancing plant, is beneficial for those with pitta and vata body types.
The benefits of Angelica archangelica
Angelica archangelica takes care of respiratory health and heals the roughness of the throat in no time when chewed. It also contributes to body defences against external agents and supports the digestion and has hepatoprotective qualities.
According to Ayurveda, garden angelica and its digestion-boosting effect are especially suitable for the kapha body type.
And roilo, the word you use to describe your products in Finnish – what on earth does it mean?
“Roilo is a word from Rovaniemi with a huge variety of meanings. It may be easier to express what roilo does not mean,” Misikangas comments.
Roilo is the complete opposite of boring, dull and ordinary. Things that are roilo are remembered and stay with us. Just like the Arctic Warriors shots.
RECIPE: Spruce tip ‘latte’ for two
500 ml almond milk
• 2 tsp Kerkkä spruce sprout powder
• 3 tsp honey
• A pinch of vanilla powder
Heat the almond milk to steaming hot. Mix a drop of the milk with the spruce sprout powder. Pour the rest of the milk into the blender and add the spruce sprout mixture and honey. Stir until foamy. Pour into cups and finish the drinks with a touch of vanilla powder.
Health claims based on EFSA:
M-2008-1061 3877 - Rhodiola rosea (Common Name : Rhodiola) - Cognitive and mental
M-2008-1061 3225 - ANGELICA ARCHANGELICA L. - Contributes to body defences against external agents
M-2008-1061 3226 - ANGELICA ARCHANGELICA L. - Hepatoprotective
M-2008-1061 3227 - Angelica archangelica L. (Common name: Angelica) - Respiratory health
M-2008-1061 3732 - Angelica archangelica - common name : Angelica, European angelica - Digestion