A Chat with Gabrielle Mirkin, co-founder of Activist Mānuka

Activist is a Mānuka Honey company founded by wife and husband, Gabrielle Mirkin and Luke Harwood. Their shared passion for the earth and natural products can be traced to their childhoods in New Zealand. 

Based between California and New Zealand, they’ve built a natural and transparent company as an extension of their lifestyle.
Activist is a family owned and operated company. Their involvement is far-reaching: from establishing relationships with our bee-keepers (they even go surfing together) to product innovation, while building direct relationships with customers and global retailers. They believe it’s important that New Zealand and its resources are represented authentically on a global scale, rather than sold off to international companies to be rebranded and diluted. If that means building a slower growing, sustainable business. 
 Gabrielle’s time in New York City working as a senior Art Director at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar led to a slowdown, and the pursuit of new interests outside of the fast-paced world of fashion publications. Gabrielle’s love for radiant health, natural healing therapies and food from the earth was a central driver for the development of Activist.
What motivated and inspired you to launch Activist?
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 dis-ease 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 from my stressful lifestyle and work environment. I was constantly over-stimulated 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 bee-keeping 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 as the earth warmed with the sun that we learned to tell the time by their activity, 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.
Although we talked at the time about creating a honey brand as ‘a romantic idea’, 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 bee-keepers to tell a transparent story while elevating Mānuka. And so, Activist Mānuka was born.
Tell us a bit about you and your background in wellness?
I have always been a pretty clean, healthy eater but I have often lived a high-stress lifestyle. It wasn’t until I experienced severe dis-ease in my body, mind and spirit, that I started learning and experimenting with different healing modalities. 
I spent four weeks in the mountains in Switzerland at Paracelsus Klinic – a Biological Medicine Clinic that uses plant-based therapies for restoring the body to optimal health so that it can heal itself. Treatments included hi-dose vitamin and mineral infusions, heavy metal detoxification, colonics, heat treatments and diet rich in plants.
I returned to New Zealand after my time in Switzerland and lived on our piece of land in the Coromandel for one year. I continued with my treatments and spent a lot of time in solitude and nature. I made everything from scratch and would drink litres of cold-pressed green juice daily, along with Mānuka Honey. I spent a lot of time meditating, walking at the ocean and implementing brain rewiring neuroplasticity techniques that I had learnt. 
After a year in New Zealand, I then returned to the USA, this time to California. I settled in the Santa Monica Mountains in Topanga Canyon as I wanted to be living in nature by the beach, yet close to the city. I continued treatments here, this time with a Chinese doctor who treated me with acupuncture and herbs.
Mānuka Honey has always been an integral part of my healing journey and wellbeing. I am rarely sick now, have great digestion and skin; I put this all down to a really healthy plant heavy diet and daily Mānuka Honey.
I have traveled around the world and experimented with many different healing modalities. A month spent studying yoga, meditation and Ayurveda in Kerala, India was a most rewarding one.
What are the key benefits of Activist Raw Manuka Honey?
Mānuka Honey is one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey in the world with considerably higher level of enzymes than regular honey. Mānuka’s active agent is methylglyoxal (MGO)—the measured concentration that determines the potency of the honey the jar. Overall, Mānuka is highly anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, making it a great addition to any wellness and beauty routine and health apothecary. Mānuka Honey is used internally and topically and helps many ailments including:
Acne, eczema and dermatitis
Skin repair
Burns and wounds
Oral Health
In your research for Activist have you come across anything that surprised you?
Yes! The longer you keep a jar of Mānuka Honey, the better it gets! Aged Mānuka Honey is like a beautiful aged wine; it gets better with time; the color, the taste and the MGO level rises, meaning it is even better for you. I often put aside jars from batches that I really love and open them as year or two later; the outcome is magical.
How and when do you integrate Manuka honey to your daily routine?
I use Activist Mānuka religiously everyday. I start with a teaspoon of 1000+MGO first thing in the morning with my warm lemon water for immunity. I add Mānuka to smoothies, tonics, teas and granola. I use it topically daily if my little boy gets a cut or scrape, an insect bite or sunburn. I use the 850+MGO every night as a face cleanser and natural face mask. I will eat a teaspoon in the afternoon when I am tired and need an energy boost. At the first sign of a sore throat, I double-dose Mānuka Honey.
Tell us your favorite DIY Face Mask recipe?
A face mask is one of the best ways to use our Activist 850+ Mānuka Honey. This potent honey mask has powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties that can beautify, protect, and balance your skin. It helps mitigate acne, dryness, and scarring.

1 tsp. Activist Mānuka Honey 850+MGO or 1000+MGO

Optional additions:
Cinnamon (helps boost circulation)
Spirulina (perfect for sensitive skin)
Matcha (packed with antioxidants and anti-aging benefits)
Rose water (anti-inflammatory)
  • Dampen your face lightly with lukewarm water to make the application easier.
  • Spread the Mānuka Honey all over your face with clean fingers.
  • Let it sit for a minimum of 20 minutes, up to 1 hour.
  • Rinse with warm water and pat dry. I even like to leave a little of the Mānuka Honey on my face to soak in overnight.
  • Apply this mask once or twice per week for best results (or even every day like I do!).

You can use Activist Mānuka Honey to replace your daily face wash. To do this, simply apply it and rinse the same way as a regular face cleanser.
What foods do you always have at home?
Fresh greens and herbs, good olive oil, berries, sweet potatoes, quinoa, eggs, avocados, lemons, smoked flaky sea salt, kombucha, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, oat milk and Mānuka Honey of course.
If you could design your ideal daily menu, what would you eat for breakfast / lunch / dinner / snack?
Breakfast: cold-pressed green juice and espresso with a dash of oat milk. My homemade granola which consists of oats, coconut, chia, almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds toasted with coconut oil and Mānuka Honey.
Lunch: Big salad with beautiful farmers market greens, herbs, avocado, seeds, some kind of protein and beautiful vinaigrette – crunchy sourdough rye bread and butter on the side.
Dinner: Fresh fish tacos with different homemade salsas, slaw, fresh mango and guacamole. Accompanied by a Californian Pét-Nat wine.
Snack: Fresh tropical fruits; melon, mango, pineapple, coconut; dark chocolate, dulse almonds, cashews, smoothies and juices.
What supplements or vitamins do you swear by?
Mānuka Honey; a spoonful everyday for immunity. I prefer to get all my vitamins and minerals from the food I eat but if I am feeling depleted: high dose vitamin C and zinc for immune support and skin health. Chinese herbs that my acupuncturist formulates for me. B vitamins for stress. Magnesium for calming and sleep. Sunshine (vitamin D) everyday. 
What is your daily beauty regimen? What is your weekly beauty regimen?
I wish I had more time for my beauty regime; but with a new born baby and my three-year-old, I don’t have much time for myself anymore! A Mānuka Honey face mask a few times a week is so hydrating and nourishing; I do this with our 850+MGO or 1000+ MGO Mānuka and leave it on for up to an hour. Green juice and lots of water. Sleep, which I definitely don’t get enough of. I dry brush everyday before I have a bath or shower. I love Fran Miller’s oil cleanser and Maryse Beauty’s Bio-Nutrient face oil. Sans Ceuticals for body. I love doing a gua sha facial in the evenings after I put the children to sleep. Breathing, meditation, yoga and walking all de-stress me. 
Tell us one of your personal best kept beauty secrets?
Mānuka Honey inside and out for cellular beauty.
You feel a cold coming. What`s your plan of action?

Mānuka Honey 1000+MGO, high dose vitamin C, lots of zinc, vitamin D and keep a pot of fresh boiled ginger tea on the stove at all times. Garlic and homemade chicken soup. Chinese herbs.

Where do you go for treatments in Los Angeles?
Carla Vidor at Elysia Life Care for acupuncture. And I would love to see Britta Plug for one of her dreamy facials whenever that may be possible again! 
What are your favorite healthy spots in Los Angeles?
Erewhon for everything healthy and delicious you could ever dream of! Gjusta for salads. Moon Juice for juice and tonics.
How would you spend a perfect day in Los Angeles?
We always wake up very early. Coffee on our deck overlooking the mountains and watching the sunrise, followed by a yoga class at Bhakti Yoga Shala. Breakfast at Gjusta. Stop by the Santa Monica farmer’s market to grab fresh produce for dinner. Straight to the ocean at Lechuza Beach for a dip in the sea and surf. Mexican for lunch. Afternoon hike down the road from my home at Tuna Canyon Park. Back home in Topanga with our friends and children for an evening dip in the pool, some delicious Californian Pét-Nat wine, and cooking farmer’s market vegetables and fish on the BBQ all together. One or all of these things would be bliss!
Your favorite holistic destination around the world?
Somatheeram Ayurvedic Resort in Kerala, India.
Last thing before bed?

Tuck my children in and kiss them goodnight.

Any bedside beauty essentials?
Bodha therapuetic eye pillow and ritual diffuser oil.
What is your personal mantra?
“Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.” Yogi Bhajan
Please share with us your most healing self love rituals?
Swimming in the ocean and being in nature.
Credits Ph: Activist