Herbaria Makes Natural Soap, Shampoo, & Insect Repellent in St. Louis

In Ken Gilberg’s line of work, he gets on his soapbox daily. He loves to speak out about Herbaria, his St. Louis-based company’s all-natural, vegetable-based soaps, deodorants, bath bombs, bath salts, moisturizers, aftershaves, insect repellents, and gifts.

Ken’s wife, LaRee DeFreece, started experimenting with Castile-style soap recipes in the couple’s kitchen during 2001. When friends sampled her creations and wanted more, her soap-making hobby blossomed into a small business within a year. Once the fledging company was accepted to the 2002 Best of Missouri market at the Missouri Botanical Garden, it was impossible to keep the soapsuds under a bushel basket anymore.

Now Ken and LaRee own a shop located in “The Hill” neighborhood of St. Louis and market a product line that includes 60-plus moisturizing soaps. Mainstay ingredients include lavender, patchouli, eucalyptus, and mint. They recently released a line of shampoo bars.

“All of our scents come from essential oils,” Ken says. “We’re different than soaps sold in grocery stores because those contain animal products, synthetic fragrances, preservatives, and elements that assault our skin with chemicals.”

When customers told Ken they were rubbing their bodies with Herbaria’s insect repellent soap bar, the shop crew created a spray that now is sold in national park areas.

A Catahoula leopard dog showed up on the shop’s doorstep one day, so Ken and LaRee adopted her, naming her Soapy. In her honor, they developed a dedicated dog-care line for which Soapy became the mascot.

“We host shop tours so everybody can see how we make our products,” Ken says. “We welcome Scouts, homeschoolers, Red Hatters, garden club members, you name it. Scientists, young and old, get into soap chemistry, and Soapy eagerly greets each one.”

Find Herbaria products online at HerbariaSoap.com and in Whole Foods Markets.

Learn about soap made in Springfield and a few other stops to make while in town here.

Article originally published in the January/February issue of Missouri Life.