Gabrielle Mirkin is the founder and CEO of Activist Manuka; a raw mānuka honey line that is full of antibacterial properties and active enzymes straight from Mother Nature. Gabrielle and her husband Luke, founded the line after Gabrielle had some health issues and they generally realized that the fast-paced life of New York City was creating too much imbalance. Now, the couple and their two kids split their time between Topanga Canyon and New Zealand (the birthplace of Activist). As you can imagine, travel, motherhood, and launching a business means Gabrielle needs some consistency and flexibility in her routines and rituals — read on for the way she finds her rhythm.
Q: Can you share a little bit about Activist Mānuka?
A: I was living and working in New York City as an Art Director at Vogue magazine. Shortly after my 30th birthday, I became very sick literally overnight. I had many scary neurological symptoms and was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. The disease I experienced was from more than just the tick bite which causes Lyme disease; my body and mind were so toxic from living a life completely out of balance, that my glass just overflowed. I was constantly overstimulated and depleted. My mind loved the idea of a big city, but my physical body did not.
After a month spent in Switzerland at a Biological Medicine Clinic, I returned to New Zealand, where my husband Luke and I spent a year living quietly on our piece of land in the Coromandel. Some beekeeping friends asked if they could place some hives on our land and we happily agreed. It was a transformative year. As my health began to improve, I became deeply interested in natural foods, preparing all our food from scratch, including nut milks, bread, granola, green juices, chocolates, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. I really believe in the human body’s innate capacity to heal itself if provided with the right tools — one of these being nourishing foods from the earth and mānuka honey. Luke and I felt a pull towards creating a business that reflected our interest in the natural world and Luke’s life-long passion for surfing. We began noticing the activity of the local bees as we walked through the thick native bush to get to the ocean. We became so aware of the bees’ activity, that we learned to tell the time by their movements and began to understand their key role as environmental indicators. That was a magical moment for us. We felt the need to build a business that was in tune with our lifestyle and passions. We felt like we had kind of lost that, and that year in the Coromandel brought that back.
At the time, we talked about creating a honey brand as ‘a romantic idea,’ but we didn’t take the possibility seriously until we returned to the United States and started to look at the way mānuka honey was presented on the world stage.
A lot of the time, there’s this amazing resource made by bees and the beekeepers are doing a passionate and labor-intensive job, but it ends up being sold offshore and being diluted by mass distributors who dump it into chain stores and label it with whatever numbers they want (mānuka honey is graded and scientifically tested for its potency). We saw an opportunity to do something really beautiful — to work with the beekeepers to tell a transparent story while elevating mānuka. And so, ACTIVIST Mānuka was born.
ACTIVIST® Raw Mānuka Honey is wildcrafted in Aotearoa, New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native mānuka bush during a short seasonal window in the spring and summer. Our mānuka honey is a beautiful and rare resource with considerably higher levels of enzymes and antibacterial properties than found in other honey. ACTIVIST is a leading global mānuka brand in health and wellness and clean beauty categories. We are currently positioned in the world’s top clean beauty and wellness stores as having a very unique and elevated point of difference. Our staple pot honey: The Ultimate Ingestible and Topical Mānuka Products for Cellular Health and Beauty can be found in many different categories from skincare to high-end immune support function. It’s all courtesy of our high-quality mānuka resources and other interesting natural botanicals and bio-actives.
Q: Do you have a consistent daily AM and/or PM routine? Or do you mix it up?
A: When we are at home in Topanga Canyon, we have a pretty consistent daily routine as we have two small children who thrive on this, as do I! We do travel a bit as a family, especially to New Zealand (our home country and the birthplace of ACTIVIST). We go to New Zealand for long periods of time and move around a lot between our families, friends, and different beach spots.
At home in Topanga, our mornings consist of early rising, making an oat milk flat white with Canyon Coffee (or a green juice on the weekends). Breakfast is usually granola or grain-free pancakes with lots of Activist Mānuka Honey. I make school lunches during the week and both our kiddies, Cisco River (five years old) and Tallulah Blue (two years old), head off to their Waldorf preschool.
My mornings are busy making sure our kids are well nourished and set for the day ahead with their friends and teachers. We live in the Santa Monica Mountains, and in the evenings we go for a family hike together. We always cook and eat dinner together early as a family which is really important to us. My boy Cisco makes the salad every night and adds things that he picks from our garden such as wild fennel, herbs, and sour grass! In the summertime, we will have a swim together in the Pacific Ocean or the pool. Bath and shower time consists of a nightly Activist Mānuka Honey Mask ritual followed by a few drops of Activist Green Botanical Serum (my kids use both these products too!).
Q: How does the natural world support your modern life?
A: Growing up on an avocado farm in Aotearoa, New Zealand and spending my childhood at the ocean and in the native New Zealand bush, has without a doubt shaped the woman I am today and helped me to navigate modern life. After my time in New York City working in fast paced publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and being diagnosed with Lyme disease, I now realize Nature is my greatest healer. When I need recalibrating, a walk through the thick native bush in New Zealand or a swim in the salty Pacific Ocean, will always bring me back to myself.
My business is also supported by the natural world on so many levels. In essence we are letting Mother Nature, the seasonal cycles, symbiotic relationships with bees, and microclimates cultivate the basis of our products while presenting these to the world in their highest and unadulterated form with true science-backed benefits. All the products we conceptualize and put out into the world are direct from Mother Nature.
Q: Do you have any rituals that you practice daily, weekly, or monthly?
A: Daily I love to take a teaspoon of mānuka honey each morning. I love a mānuka honey mask each night after I dry brush and take a shower. Weekly we go to the farmers market for local produce and a swim in the ocean. Monthly we love to take a trip out of town, either camping in Big Sur or a drive up the coast to Ojai for the day.
Q: Are there any particular foods or botanicals that align with your beauty routine or self-care practice?
A: I have a few select botanicals as part of my beauty routine, and as far as foods go, I like to use anything that is local, organic, in season and fresh from one of the many wonderful farmer’s markets in Los Angeles.
I use mānuka honey as a daily face wash, weekly face mask, and as a spot treatment along with Activist Mānuka Oil. I use our Green Botanical Serum morning and night, which contains a potent infusion of land and sea botanicals including mānuka and kawakawa oils, wild-harvested algae, New Zealand avocado, kiwifruit seed oil, and blue tansy.
As far as pantry items for nourishment and self-care, I love cooking meals for my friends and family and having people over for dinner. Both my kids are really great eaters and pretty much eat fruit and vegetables. We use a lot of fresh herbs; cilantro is a favorite and gets added to our morning smoothies every day, along with wild blueberries, spirulina, barley grass powder, and mānuka honey. We make green juice on the weekends with celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, and herbs. I add some green apple, pineapple, or pear for the kids. We eat a variety of healing nourishing foods; leafy greens, sweet potatoes, chicken soup, broths, lentil soups, dahl, berries and all kinds of citrus, olive oil and avocado oil, fresh farm eggs from our neighbors chickens, sauerkraut, and pumpkin. We also love hemp and chia seeds and use them to make our homemade granola.
Q: How would you encourage people to bring mānuka honey into their own routines and rituals?
A: Invest in a jar of Activist 850+MGO Mānuka Honey and keep this in your apothecary cabinet, beauty shelf, or pantry. It has so many beneficial uses; both internally and topically and lasts forever! Every Kiwi has a jar of mānuka honey in their home (it’s the medicine of choice), and you only need a small amount to reap the benefits.
I incorporate our 850+MGO and 1000+MGO mānuka honey into so many different aspects of my family’s life. We take a teaspoon a day for immune support; or more for sore throats and when run down. We take teaspoons for any digestive issues and tummy troubles. When we have a cough, we mix our mānuka honey and Mānuka Immune Elixir together for the best tasting and most effective cough syrup you will ever use! We use our mānuka honey and Mānuka Oil daily for scratches and wounds from the playground at school or from doing gardening outside at our unruly Topanga property. We also wash our face with mānuka honey; it’s the most beautiful enzyme cleanser, we mask with our mānuka and also spot treat. If you ever have a blemish, apply our Mānuka Oil and your spot will dry up overnight!
Surfer’s Honey, 100+MGO or 300+MGO mānuka are a beautiful immune-boosting addition to your daily teas, tonics, smoothies, and meals. The benefits and rich abundance of vitamins and minerals found in raw mānuka honey, make it the perfect choice for something sweet. We also love to use Activist to make recipes.