BATH THERAPY: DIY HERBAL TUB TEA

BATH THERAPY: DIY HERBAL TUB TEA

Herbal bath therapy is a warming, relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful aroma and therapeutic properties of medicinal herbs. A long luxurious bath filled with the aroma and nourishing properties of medicinal plants is also an invitation to slow down and engage in an act of self-care. During fall and winter months, I love to end my day with this soothing DIY herbal tub tea. I also turn to this luxurious medicine whenever I feel the slightest possibility that I may be coming down with a cold or flu.

HERBS FOR MAKING BATH TUB TEA

There are so many soothing herbs for the bath. The blend you see here contains Lavender, Rose Petals, Chamomile and Lemon Balm and helps promote sleep and relaxation. For more about herbs for sleep, including Lavender and Chamomile, check out this recent post, 5 Herbs & Essential Oils for Sleep. You can choose from a number of different herbs to create a bath tub tea specific to your needs and desires. Some are calming and relaxing, others are soothing to irritated, itchy skin, and others help to prevent or relieve a cold or flu. If you can’t choose from among the many herbal options, I’ve also included some therapeutic combinations below.

CALENDULA | A sunny golden flower soothing to inflamed, irritated, or itchy skin

CHAMOMILE | A sweet smelling, relaxing flower to ease tension and irritability, soothe tight painful muscles, cool sun burn, and provide relieve for inflamed, irritated, and itchy skin

COMFREY LEAF | A dark green leafy herb that helps speed the healing of wounds and broken bones

EUCALYPTUS | An aromatic, sage-colored leaf used to relieve sinus and respiratory congestion that is also stimulating and uplifting to mood

GOTU KOLA | A dark green leafy plant that soothes inflamed skin, speeds wound healing, and calms body, mind, and spirit

LAVENDER| A beautiful, aromatic herb that is relaxing to nervous tension and tight muscles, promotes a good night’s sleep, and soothes inflamed, irritated, and itchy skin

MUGWORT | A fluffy green aromatic herb that is relaxing and detoxifying, helpful for menstrual cramps, and beneficial in the early stages of colds or flu

PEPPERMINT | A rich green aromatic herb that is stimulating and uplifting to mood and also useful for sore, painful muscles and headaches

PLANTAIN | A green, weedy plant with the ability to soothe inflamed, irritated, or itching skin and promote healing of wounds

ROSE PETALS | A beautiful, aromatic flower, soothing to skin that also helps to relieve grief, promote emotional balance, and soothe and open the heart

HERBAL BATH TUB TEA COMBINATIONS

Calming & Relaxing to relieve occasional insomnia
Lavender, Chamomile, Rose Petals, and Gotu Kola

Morning Bath to stimulate & awaken
Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Rose Petals, and Gotu Kola

Itch Relief to calm dry, inflamed or irritated skin
Lavender, Chamomile, Plantain, and Calendula

Muscle Melt to relieve sore or tense muscles
Peppermint, Lavender, Chamomile, and Comfrey Leaf

Colds or Flu to relieve congestion and inflammation
Eucalyptus, Mugwort, Peppermint, and Chamomile

DIY HERBAL TUB TEA BATHING INSTRUCTIONS

1. Choose four herbs from the list above or choose one of the combinations.
2. Combine 1 cup of each herb in a large bowl and mix well.
3. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use. (Makes 4-6 baths)

Spoon 3/4 cup of your herbal bath tub tea blend into a muslin bag or a large square of unbleached cotton muslin. Bring 6—8 cups of water to boil on the stove. Turn off the heat, drop in the herb filled muslin bag, cover, and allow to steep for 20-30 minutes. While the bath blend is steeping, fill the tub. After the herbs have steeped, pour the bath tub tea along with the muslin bag of herbs into the bath. Turn down the lights, light a candle and get in to the bath. Relax, let go, and absorb the aroma and herbal goodness. You can massage your body with the herb-filled bag to release more of the therapeutic compounds in the herb and as a gentle skin exfoliant.

I hope you will allow time in your busy life for some nourishing bath therapy. Which tub tea blends do you look forward to trying? Leave a comment below and tell us or show us your favorites on Instagram with #NectarDIY.

wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

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Simple & Luxurious DIY Essential Oil Solid Perfume

Simple & Luxurious DIY Essential Oil Solid Perfume

These easy DIY essential oil perfumes are a simple and luxurious way to free your body from the synthetic fragrances found in most conventional perfumes and colognes. Made from carrier oils, beeswax and essential oils, these solid perfumes are fun and easy to make. If you’ve been focused on the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, solid perfume making will expand your olfactory skills and give you the opportunity to try your hand and nose in the ancient art of perfuming.

Solid perfumes can be poured into different types of containers, from simple lip balm tubes to small glass jars. My favorite are small vintage jars and compacts you can find at your local thrift stores and antique shops; using these makes them feel that much more personal and special. There is also a large selection online at Etsy.

A (Very) Brief Guide to Perfuming with Essential Oils

Perfuming is both an art and science with a long history. Traditionally, perfumes were made from pure essential oils and plant resins. While some of the most expensive perfumes still are, today many well know perfumes and colognes are made with synthetic fragrances. Whether natural or synthetic, most perfumes are a blend of fragrances with a range of characteristics that come together in a unique, synergistic way. Perfumers typically combine fragrances to create a balance of top notes, middle notes and base notes, which refer to how the scents will behave in the blend and interact with your sense of smell. Theses characteristic and some of the corresponding essential oils are described in this brief guide.

TOP NOTES

CHARACTERISTICS:
✧ 5-20% of blend (1-8 drops in a one ounce container)
✧ light, fresh, sharp, or penetrating the first scent you smell and they evaporate quickly also called head notes or peak notes

ESSENTIAL OILS:
Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemongrass, Palmarosa*, Peppermint*, Pink Grapefruit, Siberian Fir*, Sweet Orange

MIDDLE NOTES

CHARACTERISTICS:
✧ 50-80 % of blend (10-30 drops in a one ounce container)
✧ the main body of the blend, harmonizing, balancing scents that round out the blend adding soothing, soft tones
✧ Unfold within a few moments up to 3 hours after application
✧ also called bouquets or heart notes

ESSENTIAL OILS:
Cardamom, Clary Sage, German Chamomile, Holy Basil, Lavender, Siberian Fir*, Rosemary, Peppermint*, Palmarosa*, Jasmine**, Marjoram, Thyme, Rose Geranium, Ylang Ylang

BASE NOTES

CHARACTERISTICS:
✧ Use sparingly, ~5% of blend (1-2 drops in a one ounce container)
✧ deep, warm and sensuous; provides depth and intensity
✧ be cautious; base notes can be overpowering and unpleasant if used in too high a proportion. More pleasant base notes like Cedarwood, Frankincense and Jasmine can be used in higher amounts.

ESSENTIAL OILS:
Cedarwood, Frankincense, Jasmine**, Patchouli, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

You can find all of the essential oils here. When choosing the essential oils for your solid perfume, keep these guidelines in mind, but most importantly, trust your nose. Scents are intimate and personal. These solid perfumes usually improve with age and it may take days or weeks for a blend to reveal its full beauty and complexity. If you’re not feeling adventurous, this guide, How to Create 5 Iconic Fragrances for Less , offers olfactory insight into the key fragrance notes in some of the most popular perfumes. 

Choosing Essential Oils for your Solid Perfume

1. If you’re a beginner in the art of perfuming, keep it simple and elegant. Consider using three to five essential oils.
2. Experiment with a few drops on the thick paper to test various combinations, until you’re satisfied.
3. For a one ounce container, use a total of 20 – 40 drops of essential oils. You can use a simple form like this to record your perfume formula.

TOP NOTES
(1-8 drops)

Essential Oil:

MIDDLE NOTES
(10-30 drops)

Essential Oil:

BASE NOTES
(1-2 drops)

Essential Oil:

DIY Solid Perfume Recipe

Yields ~ 4 ounces perfume (or 4 one ounce containers)

Ingredients:
¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) Jojoba Oil
¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) Apricot Kernel Oil
½ ounce (by weight) beeswax
Essential oils of your choice;
20-40 drops ounce of perfume or 80-1600 drops for the entire batch.

Instructions:
Before you begin, set aside a small amount of the jojoba oil and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary. Place the oil in a steel, enamel, or glass container with the beeswax and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted. To test the finished consistency of your product, remove the mixture from the heat source; dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result. At this point, if you are using essential oils, there are two options: 1) if you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir your essentials into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool; or 2) add your essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/beeswax mixture into each container to cool. Label and enjoy!

These solid perfumes are a delightful way to enjoy your favorite essential oils. They also make treasured gifts especially when paired with a charming vintage container. I’d love to see your finished perfumes and hear about your favorite blends. Leave a comment below or post a picture on Instagram and tag it #nectarDIY.

Happy perfuming,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

DIY: Upcycled Lavender Pillow Diffusers

DIY: Upcycled Lavender Pillow Diffusers

I call these little gems upcycled lavender Pillow Diffusers. I call them Pillow Diffusers because you put them on your pillow at night to diffuse the soothing aroma of essential oils while you’re sleeping. These simple diffusers were the solution to the challenge I encountered when I started using essential oils for better sleep. But more about that later. With these diffusers I also found another use for my collection of vintage felted wool and cashmere. I pick them up secondhand and at thrift shops whenever I can. I also save all the tiny felted sweaters my husband creates on the rare occasion when he does the laundry. My tiny shrunken sweaters get a new life with these diffusers! Not only are these Pillow Diffusers crazy cute, they bring together my passion for essential oils and obsession for upcycling. They also make a unique and thoughtful gift paired with a bottle of the recipient’s favorite essential oil!

So, this is how I came to make these Pillow Diffusers and solve the problem I was having. As you may know, Lavender essential oil  can help you achieve a deeper more restful sleep. Lavender is also one of the few essential oils that can be used “neat,”–directly on the skin undiluted. But after using a drop of pure, organic Lavender essential oil under my nose every night before bed for a few weeks with good results I noticed that the delicate skin there had become red and flaky. When I stopped using the Lavender, my skin cleared up, but every time I went back to using the Lavender it started again, almost immediately. In the meantime, I was meeting more and more people with red, flaky patches on their skin where they had been regularly applying essential oils—in some cases even properly diluted. That’s when I started experimenting with other ways of using Lavender essential oil at night and came up with this idea. Some people apply their nighttime essential oil directly to the pillow case, but using one of these feels like a special ritual filled with intention for tranquil sleep and it won’t damage your pillowcase either.

Upcycled Pillow Diffuser Instructions:

FELTING:
After you’ve got your hands on one or two wool or cashmere sweaters, you’ll need to felt them. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Once the sweaters have been felted, you can cut them and they won’t unravel. In my experience, cashmere does not felt as well as wool, but it felts enough to prevent unraveling. It is also a lot softer than wool and I like the way it feels on my skin. Felting happens when you (or your partner) put your favorite wool sweater in the washing machine with hot water and then throw it in the dryer. This is all it takes to felt most wool. In short, felting requires hot water, agitation, pressure and more heat. You can find detailed felting instructions here. For cashmere, I add a few tennis balls to the washer and dryer cycle to increase the agitation and pressure required for felting.

CUTTING:
Once your wool and cashmere is felted, you’re going to start dreaming of all the cute things you can make. I’ve made hats, scarves, and neck warmers, and even reconstructed whole new sweaters. Today, pillow diffusers! I recommend drawing a pattern on paper and tracing it onto your wool before you begin cutting. I use the felted wool (rather than the felted cashmere) for the base or bottom layer of the diffuser, because it has a little more structure. The base layer for the diffusers you see here is roughly 5” x 5”. Cut out three to five layers for each diffuser, with each layer a little smaller than the layer below. This will allow the diffuser to absorb several drops of essential oil without the oil seeping all the way through. Simple shapes like squares and circles are just as cute as more complex shapes, especially when you add some stitching detail. While you’re at it, you may as well cut out a bunch, because these Pillow Diffusers make a super sweet gift for just about anyone on your list, especially when paired with a bottle of Lavender essential oil or other relaxing essential oil like Sweet Orange or Marjoram.

STITCHING:
You don’t need any sewing experience to do this. However, I do recommend embroidery thread and an embroidery needle. You can find these at any fabric store and in most craft supply stores. Thread the needle, knot the thread and stitch a small ‘X’ right through the center of all the assembled layers. Clip the thread, knot the end and you’re finished! Now if you like to embroider you can get really creative here, but it’s not necessary. The top stitching you see on some of the Pillow Diffusers here is called a blanket stitch. It’s pretty easy. You can find detailed instruction for the blanket stitch, here.

At bedtime, I drop a couple of drops of Lavender essential oil on my Pillow Diffuser and set it on my pillow close to my nose. A few deep breaths and I start to relax and my mind gets quiet. Before I know it I’m fast asleep dreaming of lavender fields.

I hope you enjoy making these upcycled Pillow Diffusers and that they induce sweet dreams to anyone whose nose they meet! I’d love to see your finished diffusers! Share them on Instagram and tag us and #NectarDIY.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

An Herbal Craft Project for Paper Lovers: DIY Tea-Dyed Botanical Note Cards

An Herbal Craft Project for Paper Lovers: DIY Tea-Dyed Botanical Note Cards

You don’t need to be an artist to create these beautiful DIY tea-dyed botanical note cards. If you do enjoy getting creative, you’ll love mixing the colors and textures of the unique tea-dyed papers and the vintage botanical images.

The supplies you need are simple and affordable. If you don’t won’t to purchase rubber stamps, print your vintage plant images from this amazing royalty-free resource, created by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. A warning before you dive in—this collection contains millions of vintage botanical and wildlife illustrations that can draw you in for days. Hand-making these stunning cards is also fun and it’s easy to innovate as you go.

Supplies You Will Need:

Herbal Teas (Rooibos Tea and Turmeric Powder were used for the cards you see here)
Small Muslin Bags (at least one for each tea)
Small Bowl (at least one for each tea)
Blank Note Cards (like these)
Scrap paper (reclaimed packing and tissue paper, old news print, etc.)
White or cream paper
Botanical Rubber Stamps or Vintage Botanical Prints
Ink Pad if using rubber stamps
Glue Stick
Parchment Paper
Iron

DIY Tea-Dyed Vintage Botanical Note Cards Instructions:

  1. Spoon approximately two tablespoons of each tea or herb into a muslin bag. Place the bag in a small bowl and cover muslin bags with boiling water. Allow to steep for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Lay out your cards and scrap paper on a protected surface.
  3. Gently wring out the muslin bag and begin to blot the cards and paper with your plant dye. Experiment with different strokes and movements to vary the texture. To dry, lay flat, hang on hangers or place in a dehydrator. When the tea-dyed cards and paper are completely dry, place them between two sheets of parchment paper and iron to flatten. You may choose not to iron some of the dyed scrap paper if you like the final texture when dried.
  4. Meanwhile, download and print the vintage botanical images. A color printer will give you the vintage look and colors. Cut the images to size. You can also use rubber stamps.
  5. After your paper materials are ready, assemble your cards. Use the glue stick to attach the dyed paper and vintage prints to the cards. Tearing the edges of the paper to fit the card adds texture and interest. Let your creativity run wild.
  6. To finish the cards, cut a rectangle of white or cream paper to go inside the card leaving a ¼”- ½” margin. Glue the paper inside the card. This creates a smooth writing surface on the inside of the note card.
  7. Now, appreciate your artwork! Send a sweet note to a friend, or give as an extra-special handmade  gift.

Keep a supply of these cards on hand for personal notes or stack several together with envelopes and gift them to your friends who still love the personal touch of a handwritten note.

We had so much fun creating the cards you see here, and I know you will too. I’d love to see your creativity at work. Snap a picture of your tea-dyed note cards, post it on Instagram and tag it #NectarDIY.

Have fun,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Nate Peltier

NECTAR APOTHECARY CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT | NATE PELTIER

At Nectar Apothecary, we have been blessed with the most warm, delightful customers imaginable—and Nate Peltier is one of them. Nate is a charming, grounded artist and musician with a background in environmental geology and a deep love for community. Everyone who works at Nectar has felt an almost immediate kinship with him. From environmental design, to ceramics, to cooking and tea, Nate always has an interesting experience or insight to share. Here’s your chance to learn a little more about what makes this unique individual so special. You can also find his wonderful illustrations on social media under the handle @blockhead_art.

Would you share a little bit about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?

Well! My name is Nate Peltier, I am 24 years old and I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s hard to say where I’m from because I feel that every place I have lived has influenced me so much that no longer do I strictly identify with one geographic location. When I turned 18, I moved up to Ashland, Wisconsin (right on the South Shore of Lake Superior) to study Environmental Geology at Northland College. I fell in love with the area by the tail end of my schooling (better late than never, I suppose), but ultimately decided I needed to situate myself somewhere that had longer periods of sunshine! So after I finished my degree, I moved to Prescott to pursue a new life in the sun. I’ve been here for almost two years now and it feels better and better each day. I am really into all kinds of creation such as drawing, painting, printmaking, jewelry crafting, tattoo, and music. I have been playing guitar for 13 years and it plays a large role in my life! I always enjoy hiking, running, backpacking, rock climbing, biking and really anything that can prolong my stay in the outdoors.

How have natural remedies such as herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

When I first started working with herbs, one of the biggest things I noticed was that simply the routine of seeking out different herbs (with certain intentions) and taking time to prepare them, whether in a tea, decoction or tincture, was enough to make me feel as if my quality of life was improving. It was perhaps the first benefit I received - and it was because I was trying to find ways to optimize my health and work with my body in an unfamiliar (but yet oh so familiar) way. Other than that, I feel as if the herbs I rely on a weekly or daily basis have made a difference in my life by boosting my immune system, upping my average mental clarity, regulating my energy levels and helping cope with the stress of a busy life.As far as essential oils go, I I haven’t taken the time to learn about aromatherapy and the likes, but I have been experimenting with essential oils regardless for about 5 years now! Longer than herbs. Most likely because they have greater curb appeal than, say, a bag of Mugwort. All the different smells and experiences are so stimulating and it is a fun outlet for fine-tuning one’s intuition - the intuition of what experience your body may want work with in a certain moment.

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?

I work with a handful of herbal tinctures on the daily, all for different reasons. And for the most part, I really don’t know what I’m doing by taking these certain tinctures, but that is more than half the reason why I work with tinctures on a regular basis - in hopes to gain first-hand experience with a specific plant’s wisdom. On top of this, I will make herbal teas (mostly at night) because they are very soothing to me! Also, I will add herbs to just about every cup of tea I make throughout the day. Rose and lavender being my favorites! As for essential oils, I have a diffuser at home that I run consistently nowadays. I have really been digging on geranium, vetiver and pine oils lately!

What else do you do to take care of yourself and the people around you?

I try to make good wholesome meals that are worth sharing as frequently as possible! I try to play music and explore new outlets of creativity as much as I can. I try to move my body in different ways, some being purely for exercise and to get out in the woods. I try to keep things interesting, laugh a lot, break routines and surprise myself. Really though, I just try to listen to my heart to find a balance within myself and in my external life experience because I believe that no matter what you do to take care of yourself, it could all be for not if you aren’t listening to your inner voice and finding ways to follow your feet.

Why do you like to shop at Nectar Apothecary?

I like to shop at Nectar Apothecary because I love the people who work there! I swear I’m not brown-nosing. I genuinely appreciate the atmosphere that has been crafted by these fine individuals who care so much about creating a space focused on health and harmony. As individuals, each and every one of them has a lot to share with the world - including a LOT of herbal wisdom between the group (that they are more than willing to share to great extents). It truly feels like a safe space located right in the heart of downtown Prescott. It goes without saying, but their herbs and teas are of supreme quality and come at a good price - so really there is nothing to lose, and only stuff to gain by shopping locally at Nectar.

What is your favorite herb, essential oil or tea, what do you like about it and why do you use it?

If I have to choose just one, I would say that my favorite herb historically has been Eleuthero, also known as Siberian Ginseng. It is the first adaptogen I started experimenting with, and also perhaps the herb that has stuck with me the longest, and most consistently. At first, what I really liked about it was that it gave me a good 30-minute forced break in all of my days. It became a routine to decoct Eleuthero in the morning, and drink it throughout the day. What I noticed at first was that my insomnia dissipated into thin air. I was having so much trouble falling asleep for YEARS and years - to the point where I had accepted my general lack of sleep as part of my reality. To this day, I use Eleuthero less frequently and at lower doses, but my sleep cycle remains unimpeded by insomnia. These days I like to use it more for the stimulating effects it can have, thinking that maybe it gives me a cutting edge while rock-climbing or performing physically demanding activities.

If you were a medicinal plant, what plant would you be and why?

I think I would be Creosote, partly because it is so versatile and useful but MOSTLY because then I would make so many other creatures smile when it rains. That would be such a sweet thing. And not to mention, I would probably be more self-indulgent due to the fact that I would enjoy my own smell.

What else would you like to share?

I am grateful to be a part of the community of Prescott! I am grateful for places like Nectar Apothecary for caring more about connection and their role in the community than making a sale - and I am happy to have this chance to express my gratitude for these people, on showcase to all who care to look! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! And many hopes that this place we all call home for the time being can continue to refine its’ ways - finding better paths to stimulate the economy and whatnot by creating relationships and sharing knowledge just for the sake of sharing knowledge!

We are grateful for you too Nate. Thanks so much for all the kind words and for participating in our Customer Spotlight. We are so fortunate to have you as a part of our community. Hopefully the rest of you will have the opportunity to meet Nate out on the trails or creating art around town. Thank you again, and cheers to you Nate!

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

5 Simple and Transformative Tips for Mastering Mindset and Reaching Goals

5 Simple and Transformative Tips for Mastering Mindset and Reaching Goals

Rachel Peters is a professional health coach who inspires her clients and students to live their best lives and achieve their goals through proven habit-changing techniques that involve optimizing daily routines. I can tell you from my own experience in Rachel’s Embody Ease program that the techniques are realistic and doable. Rachel is our guest writer in this inspiring blog where she offers her transformative tips to help you master mindset and reach  your health and wellness goals. Visit Rachel’s website for more about her programs to embody ease and come alive with new habits to achieve your dreams. 

Master your mindset

Your mindset is a powerful tool. It can be used in your favor and unconsciously against you. Your personal behaviors and daily actions have a deep cause and effect on your daily lifestyle and on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Today we are living out the ripple effect of decisions we made months, even years ago.

Your daily rhythms and choice points are like an inner compass, constantly making subtle and sometimes not so subtle shifts in the direction of your future and the unfolding of your life and ultimately your health.

Given the cultural norms of western society and the emphasis on body and image, most of us are likely limiting our health and wellness potential by comparison, questioning value, worth or some undercurrent of ‘I’m not good enough.’

  • Have you ever struggled to reach a goal you desired so badly or knew would completely change your life?

  • Do you tend to procrastinate things that are important to you because it’s not the “right” time? Or you tell yourself you don’t have enough time?

  • Have you ever stopped setting specific and measurable goals around your health and your life because in the past you haven’t reached them?

  • Do you put off projects (for example: a writing project, a creative project, a garden, taking up pilates or yoga, etc.) because you are afraid you will be judged or criticized by others?

  • Do you avoid investing in yourself and your own growth and health, because deep down there is a question of your value and real worth?

If you answered yes to any of the above you may be limiting yourself and your potential by the systems you are using to reach your goals. Ayurveda, “the science of everyday living” is  rooted in following the lead of nature. Nature’s fundamental role is to change, pulse and evolve. We are constantly being asked to play the edge, evolve and change if we are in the flow with nature.

Have you heard about Neuroplasticity? It is the proven principle that we can change the structure and function of our brain throughout our lives. Your thoughts, emotions, and behavior are the primary means of making change. Don’t underestimate the power of what you say and think about yourself. Your health depends on it.

5 Simple Tips To Reach Your Goals

If your mindset is getting in the way of reaching your goals, consider practicing and applying these five simple tips and tools to your current health or wellness challenge and  bloom into your potential:

1. Engage Your Edge

It’s scary to change and try new things. But did you know fear and excitement have the same physical sensation in the body? With this in mind, reframe how you define and relate to fear, take a step in the direction of your goals and dreams, and prioritize your growth. What matters most to you and why?

2. Start before you’re ready.

You’ll learn along the way. If there is a desire, hunger or craving for change in your career or health and wellness, begin now. Invest in yourself. You are worth the investment. What do you have to lose?

3. Do the one small thing.

Small steps towards your goal is how you make big change over time. When any part of you freezes up, or you find yourself in overwhelm, you know you’ve taken on too much. Small bites are easier to digest, assimilate and nourish. Make a list of all the things you want to do. Pick one.

4. Your Self Talk Matters.

Practice self-compassion and speak to yourself as you would to your best friend. What you think about yourself and how you describe yourself to others has a ripple effect. Be positive. Create an anchor statement for yourself for when you feel stuck to move you back into the flow of your potential.

5. Embrace the process.

There is no finish line. There are only points on the map. Enjoy the scenery. Life is a laboratory. Let yourself experiment. When we embrace the unexpected twists and turns and see them as teachers along the way, life becomes more fun and playful.

When you look at your health as more than a metric of weight or size and see it more as a state of being established in who you are, there is less room for critique and judgment and more room for experimentation and success. It’s the stuff we do every day (or don’t do) that dramatically determines how we end up feeling. I’m talking super basic stuff like getting enough sleep, how we feed ourselves, how we use our bodies, and how much stimulation we give our minds. When we’ve got these dialed in, we get off the exhausting treadmill of busyness and open up to greater ease, flow and potential.

I’d love to hear about your health and wellness goals and the different  things you do to help achieve them. Leave a comment below to share.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Herbal Remedies for Digestive Health Part 3: Demulcents

Herbal Remedies for Digestive Health Part 3: Herbal Demulcents

Part one in this series explored herbal bitters that stimulate digestive function. Part two reviewed the use of carminative herbs that relax the digestive system and help ease gas and bloating. Herbal bitters and carminatives combine well together to relieve slow, weak digestion, often characterized by a feeling of heaviness in the gut after eating, gas, bloating, and constipation. In contrast, the herbal demulcents described here in part three are more often used to cool excessive digestive fire—soothing and restoring tissue health rather than stimulating.

Herbal Demulcents

The final installment in this three-part series on herbal remedies for digestive health features herbal demulcents—cooling, moistening, soothing herbs that relieve heat, irritation, and inflammation in the digestive tract. These symptoms are characteristic of conditions like acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcerations in the gut or peptic ulcers, leaky gut, Ulcerative Colitis, and Crohn’s Disease. Demulcents are rich in mucilaginous compounds which become thick and sticky when wet. They also have an indirect, reflexive mucus-generating (mucogenic) effect on mucus membranes throughout the body. Demulcents provide a soothing coating to hot, inflamed tissue and especially to mucus membranes in the gut, respiratory system, and urinary tract, and tend to have a localized anti-inflammatory effect.

Licorice Root | Glycyrrhiza glabra

Licorice root is a very sweet, moistening, restorative herb with a wide range of therapeutic properties. In addition to its therapeutic role in the digestive tract, Licorice root is also used to strengthen adrenal glands depleted by chronic stress, enhance immune function, and combat viral and bacterial infections in the respiratory system and urinary tract. Licorice root is harmonizing in almost any herbal formula, improving the flavor of harsh tasting herbs and promoting absorption.

Licorice root and its active constituents have been the subject of numerous pharmacological and clinical studies for digestive complaints. Most notably, a special form of Licorice known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) has been shown to promote healing of peptic ulcers. In this form of Licorice, a compound in the root that can increase blood pressure has been removed. DGL has been shown to stimulate the body’s natural defense against the formation of ulcers in the stomach and small intestine, improving the health of the protective lining of the intestinal tract and increasing blood supply to this vital area. Several head-to-head studies have found DGL more effective in the treatment of peptic ulcers than commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.

Licorice root is also soothing to hot, inflamed tissue in conditions like acid reflux where it combines well with Marshmallow root to ease discomfort.

Licorice root should be decocted to prepare a tea and can also be used as a liquid extract or as DGL. Individuals with high blood pressure, heart conditions, and kidney disease should avoid the use of licorice root or use it only under the guidance of their healthcare practitioner.

Marshmallow Root | Althea officinalis

Marshmallow root is a cooling, moistening herbal demulcent. Its use as an herbal remedy can be traced back to at least the ninth century B.C. Thought not as sweet as Licorice root, it is a simple and effective herb to soothe the excessive heat, irritation, and inflammation associated with GERD, gastritis, peptic ulcers, and hyperacidity. Marshmallow root is also soothing to mucus membranes of the respiratory system and urinary tract, and can be used topically for burns, wounds, bites, aches, and sprains.

For digestion, Marshmallow root is best prepared as a cold infusion tea, steeped for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator to allow for extraction of more of the mucilaginous compounds. It also works well to relieve both diarrhea and constipation taken as a powder combined with Slippery Elm bark. To prepare, use one tablespoon in a cup of warm water, shaken to create a gruel (a thin liquid food) and ingested on an empty stomach.

Marshmallow root can even be used to make a healthier version those sweet, childish confections we know as marshmallows! Note that Marshmallow’s mucilage content may delay or inhibit the absorption of other herbs or medications.

Slippery Elm Bark | Ulmus fulva

The native people of North America knew the therapeutic properties of Slippery elm bark long before Europeans arrived. Like Marshmallow root, it is a sweet, moist, cooling demulcent used to relieve excessive heat and irritability in the gastric mucosa. Though often used interchangeably or in combination with Marshmallow root, Slippery elm is more nutritious and is even considered a survival food. As a nutritive herb, Slippery elm bark is an excellent choice for convalescence, debility, and weight loss associated with impaired nutrient absorption. It is highly nutritious for infants and children, especially when they are under weight or experiencing loose stools.

Like Marshmallow root, Slippery elm bark should be prepared as a cold infusion or steeped for 30-60 minutes in hot water. For individuals with weak digestion, combining Slippery elm bark with a gently stimulating carminative like Fennel or Ginger will help balance the cooling, moistening effects. The powdered form also works well as a gruel or combined with other soft, cooling foods and ingested.

Approaching digestive health holistically, and with the help of herbal bitters, carminatives, and demulcents to increase digestive function, ease gas and bloating, and soothe irritation and inflammation is key to optimal health and vitality. Understanding the herbal actions described in this series will help you choose the right remedies for your individual needs. Now that you’ve learned a bit about herbal options for digestive health, what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below.

To your health!
suzanne

References:

The Energetics of Western Herbs, A Materia Medica Integrating Western & Chinese Herbal Therapeutics, 4th Ed., Holmes, Peter, Snow Lotus Press, Cotati, CA, 2007.

The Healing Power of Herbs, 2nd Ed., Murray, Michael, Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 1995.

Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, 2nd Ed., Tilgner, Sharol, Wise Acres LLC, Pleasant Hill, OR, 2009.

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Herbal Remedies for Healthy Digestion – Part 1: Herbal Bitters

HERBAL REMEDIES FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH PART 1: HERBAL BITTERS

Herbs have a tremendously important role to play in promoting the health of your digestive system. When the digestive system is weak or sluggish, herbal bitters stimulate digestion and increase digestive fire. Herbs like Peppermint and Spearmint ease gas, bloating and occasional indigestion. Other herbs relieve irritation and inflammation and promote tissue health. In this three part series we’ll explore three types of herbal remedies for digestive health and the unique actions each herb helps to address:

Part 1: Herbal Bitters to stimulate digestion
Part 2: Herbal Carminatives to ease gas and bloating
Part 3: Herbal Demulcents to soothe irritation and inflammation

Understanding herbal actions helps you approach your health holistically and enables you to make a more informed choice when it comes to using digestive herbs. Keep in mind that herbalism is a holistic practice. This approach includes examining how diet and lifestyle may be impacting your digestion. In addition to addressing the root cause of imbalance, we also want to look at the unique needs of the individual. Herbal remedies aren’t as effective when we take a “one size fits all” approach. For example, a commonly used herb for digestion like peppermint may help someone with gas and bloating because it is a carminative. On the other hand, it may make matters worse for a person experiencing a burning sensation in the gut because it is also an antispasmodic that may relax a weak esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to move upward from the stomach in to the esophagus.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of healthy digestion when it comes to optimal wellness and vitality. At its most basic level, your digestive system is responsible for your ability to assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste. Your digestive system also plays a key role in immunity, brain health, and emotional health.

When your digestive system is weak and lacking in the compounds responsible for the breakdown of food (like bile, digestive enzymes, and hydrochloric acid) you may experience gas, bloating, indigestion, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation. These symptoms can also be caused by overeating, poor food choices, food allergies and sensitivities, and other conditions. Other complaints may involve irritation and inflammation of the tissue that lines the walls of your digestive tract, including heartburn (GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), leaky gut syndrome, ulcerations, and auto immune-related conditions like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

The good news is herbal bitters, carminatives, and demulcents help restore healthy structure and function to your digestive system.

HERBAL BITTERS

Herbal bitters stimulate the digestive system when it is weak or sluggish. They help to ensure that your digestive tract is able to break down the food you eat so the nutrients can be absorbed. More specifically, bitters stimulate the secretion of digestive juices, including hydrochloric acid in the stomach, bile from the liver, and digestive enzymes from the pancreas. As you might’ve guessed, herbal bitters do have a bitter taste, which is often lacking in the standard American diet.

How do you know if your digestive system is weak or sluggish? The first step is listening to your body. Do you often feel full for hours after a meal? Do you experience frequent gas or bloating no matter what you eat? Do you experience discomfort or pain when you ingest fats, oils, or proteins? Do you have multiple food sensitivities? Do you suffer from constipation or diarrhea? If you answered yes to any of these questions there’s a good chance your digestive fire is weak and bitters may be a good choice for you.

Typically bitters are ingested 15-20 minutes before a meal. The bitter taste receptors on the tongue and throughout the digestive tract receive the signal that food is on its way and it’s time for the digestive organs to get to work. Because of their bitter taste, I prefer to use herbal bitters as a liquid extract rather than a tea. You might be inclined to avoid the bitter taste altogether by encapsulating your bitters, but in order to stimulate the bitter receptors on the tongue you’ve got to taste it! Or, you might be like me and actually enjoy the taste of bitters (especially when combined with some of the tasty carminative herbs!) A word of caution: because of their stimulating action, bitters are not appropriate in pregnancy. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite herbal bitters for digestive health:

Burdock Root | Arctium lappa

This dark, fleshly root is also called Gobo in Japanse cooking and it’s botanical name is Arctium lappa. Burdock root stimulates digestion and promotes liver, gall bladder, kidney, and lymphatic system function. It acts on the liver to produce more bile, which helps your body digest fats, and promotes the flow of bile from the gall bladder where bile is stored until needed. Burdock can have a mild laxative effect due to its stimulating action. Burdock is also rich in a compound called inulin, which is considered a “prebiotic,” that feeds and helps your healthy gut flora thrive. This nourishing, well-rounded bitter root is an excellent choice for chronic gas and bloating caused by weakened digestive fire. I also like it as part of a whole body cleanse and to help the gut recover from food poisoning or stomach flu. Energetically, Burdock Root is cooling, slightly sweet, and of course, bitter. Hot tempered, irritable people tend to benefit from this cooling root. Burdock can be prepared as a decoction, another name for a tea prepared by simmering the root, or taken as an herbal extract.

Dandelion Root | Taraxacum officinalis

Despite a lawn and gardening industry aimed at eradicating the lowly Dandelion, it is a nourishing plant ally with a wide range of actions that benefit the entire body. Formally known as Taraxacum officinalis, both the leaves and roots of Dandelion are used medicinally, though the root has a more pronounced effect on digestion. Like Burdock Root, Dandelion Root stimulates digestion and promotes liver, gall bladder, kidney, and lymphatic system function and it has a high inulin content. It also promotes the pancreas’ production of digestive enzymes. It combines well with Milk Thistle Seed and Turmeric Root to prevent gall stone formation. Like Burdock Root, Dandelion Root is also cooling and a good choice for anger and irritability associated with a sluggish liver. I prefer Dandelion prepared as a decoction. It has a somewhat milder, sweeter taste than Burdock Root. It can also be taken as an herbal extract, called a tincture.

Gentian | Gentiana lutea

The botanical name for this VERY bitter root is Gentiana lutea. Like all bitters, Gentian stimulates the liver and other digestive organs. In small doses before a meal it helps with sluggish digestion, promoting the secretion of gastric juices and improving nutrient absorption. I recommend using Gentian as a liquid extract. I like to combine this potent bitter with other milder bitters like Dandelion as well as carminatives with a pleasing taste. This is the herbal Mary Poppins’ version of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Yarrow | Achillea millefolium

This lovely, delicate flower known as Achillea millefolium is an effective bitter that acts on relaxed, atonic tissue in the digestive tract and throughout the body. Its astringent and anti-inflammatory actions also make it a good choice for inflamed, irritated tissue in the digestive tract. At the first sign of a cold or flu, Yarrow will help the body cast out the offending organism with its diaphoretic action and relieve discomfort. Energetically, it is considered cooling and drying. Yarrow makes a lovely tea prepared as an infusion and it can also be taken as a liquid extract.

There are many useful herbs for the digestive tract, including herbal bitters. Understanding their actions will help you know which ones are likely to be most helpful for you. A healthy digestive system is critical to optimal health. If you’re experiencing imbalance or discomfort in your digestive system, do not delay in seeking a solution. You’ll be glad you did. Do you have questions about using herbal bitters for digestive health? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

To your health,
suzanne

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HERBAL REMEDIES FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH PART 2: HERBAL CARMINATIVES

HERBAL REMEDIES FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH PART 2: HERBAL CARMINATIVES

In part two of this three-part series we’ll delve into the world of carminative herbs which relieve gas, bloating, and occasional indigestion. In part one  we looked at herbal bitters that stimulate digestive function, increasing the secretion of digestive juices and promoting the motility of the digestive tract. Part three examines herbal demulcents. While herbal bitters are helpful to restore healthy function to your digestive tract, and demulcents soothe irritation and inflammation, carminatives help ease the gas and bloating caused by weak or sluggish digestion.

Let’s take a closer look at herbal carminatives and how they might be used alone or in conjunction with herbal bitters.

CARMINATIVE HERBS

Remember when restaurants used to serve after dinner mints? That’s because peppermint is a carminative herb. Carminatives help to reduce and prevent the formation of gas in the digestive tract and relieve bloating. Most carminative herbs are also antispasmodics that help relieve digestive cramps. Carminative herbs can also help relieve nausea and vomiting caused by a stomach flu and in pregnancy. They will also help relieve nausea associated with motion sickness, especially when taken in advance.

Carminative herbs are most often used for occasional indigestion with gas and bloating. You might experience occasional indigestion if you’ve eaten too fast or too much, combined certain foods, or if you were eating on the run or when you were feeling upset or angry. Being mindful of when, where, what, and how much you eat is so important to healthy digestion and can make a big difference in how often you suffer from indigestion. If despite mindful attention to your meals, you still experience a lot of gas and bloating, feelings of fullness, constipation or diarrhea, your digestive system may be weak and sluggish. Sluggish digestion benefits from a combination of herbal bitters (discussed in Part 1 [link]) to stimulate function, and carminative herbs to relieve gas and bloating.

You’ll be pleased to know that most carminative herbs taste really good!Many of them are even culinary spices. There are many herbs to choose from in this category, but my favorites include Cardamom, Chamomile, Fennel, Ginger, and Peppermint.

You may even be able to create a quick and delicious carminative tea from culinary spices you already have in your kitchen cupboard. This Kitchen Remedy Tea [https://nectarapothecary.com/kitchen-remedy-tea/] is just one such combination made with herbs and spices you probably have on hand.

Essential oils, properly diluted and applied topically, are also an effective way to make use of carminative herbs for gas, bloating, and cramps. Add one to five drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of unscented lotion or carrier oil and massage on your belly in a clockwise direction. Relief is typically rapid. My favorite essential oils for this purpose include Peppermint, Cardamom, Fennel, and Ginger.

Cardamom | Elettaria cardamomum

You might be more familiar with this rich aromatic spice from its appearance in baked goods or in Indian Chai tea. Its subtle, complex flavor makes it one of my favorite carminatives to add depth and complexity to any tea blend. In addition to its ability to ease digestive discomfort, Cardamom is a gently warming and mildly stimulating stomachic, meaning it promotes healthy stomach function. It is also used for bad breath, heart burn, and nausea. To prepare a tea with Cardamom, steep one teaspoon of the seeds in one cup of hot water for about 15 minutes.

As an essential oil it has a pleasing spicy aroma that can be easily overshadowed by other oils. However, I like it for its subtle aroma. Whereas Peppermint essential oil is bold and overpowering, Cardamon essential oil, diluted and rubbed on the belly or just below the sternum doesn’t announce it presence to everyone in the room. This exotic spice is also considered an aphrodisiac and the essential oil can be used as a gentle stimulant to uplift and comfort the heart and mind.

Chamomile | Matricaria recutita

This charming little flower is a rich source of plant medicine. Often referred to as German Chamomile, its botanical name is Matricaria recutita. When it comes to digestion, it’s not only a carminative herb used to ease gas and bloating, its also a mild bitter that gently stimulates digestive function, an anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory. Chamomile, is perhaps better known for its relaxing effects helping to relieve nervous tension and promote a good night’s sleep; it’s also often used topically for inflammation and sore muscles. But, used for digestive health, its relaxing action coupled with its effects on the digestive system make Chamomile a shining choice for people who experience digestive discomfort when they’re nervous or stressed. This herb works best for digestion when prepared as lovely and fragrant tea even little ones can enjoy. Steep 1 heaping teaspoon in one cup hot water for about 15 minutes.

Fennel | Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel seeds are sweet and aromatic. They have a more robust flavor than the bulbous Fennel root you may have enjoyed as a vegetable. The botanical name for this pleasing carminative is Foeniculum vulgare. The seeds can be chewed after a meal to promote digestion and freshen the breathe. Consider keeping a small container of Fennel seeds in your bag or pocket in lieu of mints or other sugary breathe fresheners. To ease indigestion or gas, steep up to one tablespoon of crushed seeds in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes and sip.

Nursing mothers may find Fennel seeds help increase breast milk and soothe babies with colic or indigestion.. Fennel essential oil, properly diluted can also be used as a carminative to promote circulation, relieve edema, reduce cellulitis, and for menopausal problems.

Ginger | Zingiber officinalis

This spicy, aromatic root is a warming carminative. The botanical name for Ginger is Zingiber officinalis. In addition to relief for gas and bloating, Ginger is especially helpful for nausea and vomiting. It can be used for nausea or vomiting caused by flu or in pregnancy. Sipping on a cup of Ginger tea can also quell nausea and vomiting, and help you stay hydrated during a bout with the flu. In addition, Ginger’s diaphoretic (induces sweating), antipyretic (reduces fever), anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties offer welcome relief for the fever, body aches, and headaches that often accompany the flu.

Dried Ginger Root is considered hotter and somewhat more stimulating than the fresh root, though overall the plant is gentle and appropriate for both children and the elderly. Prepare a tea with the dried root by steeping one teaspoon in one cup of water for at least 15 minutes. If you’re making tea with the fresh root, chop up a piece about ¾-1½ inches in length and steep for at least 15 minutes. When you don’t feel up to making tea, the liquid extract of Ginger is a quick and easy alternative.

Peppermint | Mentha piperta

Peppermint is perhaps the most well-known carminative. Though it is easily recognizable from its bright fragrance, its botanical name is Mentha piperta. Whether as a tea or a diluted essential oil, Peppermint relieves indigestion, flatulence, nausea, and vomiting. It is considered a specific remedy for irritable bowel syndrome. It is gently stimulating and makes a nice afternoon pick-me-up.

A healthy digestive system doesn’t just promote your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and get rid of waste, it plays a key role in vitality, immunity, brain health, and emotional health. I’d love to hear about your experiences using herbs, including these carminatives for digestion health. Drop me a comment below to share.

To your health,
suzanne

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Easy Stress-Busting, Immune-Boosting Herbal Adaptogen Broth PLUS: Our Favorite Green Soup Recipe

Easy Stress-Busting, Immune-Boosting Herbal Adaptogen Broth PLUS: Our Favorite Green Soup Recipe

The most nourishing soups you love to make can be made even healthier with the immune-boosting, stress-busting power of this herbal adaptogen broth. If you’re not familiar with herbal adaptogens, you can read more in Herbal Wisdon: 8 Benefits of Adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stress, improve stamina, and increase resilience. Herbal adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors. They will also strengthen a weakened immune system reducing the chances of you catching the common cold or flu bug. Historically, adaptogens were used to increase longevity and promote healthy aging.

There are numerous adaptogens to choose from but, not all are so tasty that you’d want them in your soup. The herbs in this healthy adaptogen broth were chosen because they impart a rich, earthy flavor. The stress-relieving, immune enhancing herbs in this broth are Astragalus, Eleuthero and Ashwagandha roots, and Reishi and Shiitake mushroom.

Stress-Busting, Immune-Boosting Herbal Adaptogen Broth

Make this broth to enjoy on its own or substitute it for the broth in any of your soup recipes. It can also be used as the base for a simple miso soup.

Ingredients:

6 cups filtered water
½ ounce dried Astragalus Root
½ ounce dried Eleuthero Root
½ ounce dried Ashwagandha Root
½ ounce dried Reishi Mushroom
½ ounce dried Shiitake Mushroom
½ cup Carrots, chopped
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp dried Rosemary
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Thyme
1 tsp Turmeric powder
Salt + Pepper

Instructions:

Combine the Astragalus, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Reishi , Shiitake, salt and pepper with the water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer one hour. Turn off the heat and add the Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, and Turmeric powder. Cover and allow to steep 30 minutes. Strain and use within 3 days.

Our Favorite Green Adaptogen Soup Recipe

I have been making a Green Soup inspired by Splendid Table for years. It’s a favorite at my house and we enjoy it all year long, varying the greens with those in season. I recently started using the Adaptogen Broth instead of my regular vegetable broth and my family loves it just as much. The truth is, I vary the recipe so often in small ways, no one would know I had changed the broth unless I told them. While I do not advocate administrating medicinal herbs to your loved ones without their knowledge, this adaptogen broth is more like food than medicine. It’s a great way to help the whole family stay strong and healthy all year long.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 large Onions, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp water
1 cup Cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
3-4 cups Herbal Adaptogen Broth
1 large bunch of Kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
1 cup fresh Basil or Cilantro, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt + Pepper

Instructions:

In a heavy pan, sauté the onions on medium-high heat for 4-7 minutes until they begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and sauté until the garlic and onions are translucent. Lower the heat even further, add water, cover. Stirring occasionally, allow the onions to caramelize. This will take 30-40 minutes. Transfer the onions and garlic to a large soup pot. Add cauliflower and herbal adaptogen broth and bring to a gentle boil. When the cauliflower is tender (5-10 minutes) reduce the heat. Add kale and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the kale is bright green and tender. Turn off the heat. Stir in basil or cilantro and cayenne. Using an immersion blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in apple cider vinegar just before serving.

I hope this herbal adaptogen broth becomes a favorite at your house and I hope you enjoy the Green Soup, too. I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave a comment below or snap a picture of your adaptogen-based soup, tag it #NectarDIY and post it on Instagram.

Health and happiness,
suzanne

 

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Herbal Wisdom: 8 Benefits of Adaptogens

Herbal Wisdom: 8 Benefits of Adaptogens

Herbalists use the term adaptogen to describe herbs that help the body adapt to stress, improve stamina, and increase resilience. Adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors. They will also strengthen a weakened immune system reducing the chances of you catching the common cold or flu bug. Adaptogens have been used by athletes to increase stamina and reduce recovery time after strenuous exercise. Many adaptogens improve mental focus and clarity. Some adapotgens have an affinity for specific body systems, including the cardiovascular system and the male and female and reproductive systems. Historically, adaptogens were used to increase longevity and promote healthy aging.

How Do Adaptogens Work?

People have been enjoying the therapeutic benefits of adaptogenic herbs for eons. Much of our understanding of these potent plants comes to us from the ancient wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Resting on the shoulders of this ancient wisdom, modern science and clinical research has helped us better understand how these plants work to increase stamina and improve health.

Though research is ongoing, we do know that adaptogenic herbs are loaded with a complex range of phytochemicals (naturally occurring compounds found in plants), including compounds known as terpenes, polyphenols, and polysaccharides. They act throughout the body to promote balance and have a pronounced effect on the body’s central stress response system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). Of these phytochemicals, terpenes have a strengthening effect on the adrenal glands which help the body respond to stress, and also show anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating and liver protectant properties. Many of the polyphenol compounds have antioxidant properties which combat aging and age-related degenerative conditions. Polysaccharide-containing adaptogens stimulate the immune system, improve resistance to disease, and increase energy and vitality.

8 Benefits of Adaptogens + Why We Should All Be Taking Them

In our complex, fast paced world most people will benefit from the use of adaptogens. These are the eight reasons we should all be taking herbal adaptogens every day.

Stress Relief

Acute and chronic stress can wreak havoc on our lives and on our bodies. Stress may show up in common symptoms like anxiety, irritability and insomnia while it drives illness and diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. Cortisol, sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone” is often elevated, leading to immune suppression, rapid aging, and increased deposits of inflammatory belly fat. When cortisol becomes depleted and unavailable in normal amounts to moderate stress, the lack of cortisol allows inflammation to go unchecked.

While diet and lifestyle modifications are critical in reducing stress, herbal adaptogens can play an important role. Adaptogens help normalize excess cortisol levels and assist the body in maintaining a balanced stress response. If you work long hours or feel tense and stressed trying to juggle home, family, and work demands, adaptogens are an excellent way to support your body and a good way to start your day. Some of the best adaptogens for the complexities and stress of modern life are Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Eleuthero, Maca, Panax and American Ginseng, and Rhodiola. If you tend to feel anxious and worried when you’re experiencing stress, Ashwagandha may be an especially good choice. Unlike many adaptogens like Ginseng, Maca and Rhodiola, that are stimulating, Ashwagandha calms the mind and relieves anxiety. It can also be used to promote more restful sleep, especially when stress and worry make sleep a challenge.

Increased Energy & Enhanced Athletic Performance

Stimulating adaptogens are the best choice for individuals who want more energy without the draining effects of caffeine. Herbal adaptogens are also helpful in individuals whose lack of energy is driven by chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue (a reduction in adrenal gland function). For chronic fatigue and adrenal support, consider adaptogens like Panax and American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Cordyceps, Eleuthero, Holy Basil or Rhodiola.

Adaptogens can also be used to enhance athletic performance and have enjoyed a long history of use by Olympic athletes. Specifically, adaptogens have been shown to increase endurance and strength, help build muscle mass, improve the use of fuel by the muscles during physical activity, and shorten recovery time. For enhanced physical performance choose adaptogens like Panax Ginseng, Cordyceps, Eleuthero, Holy Basil, and Rhodiola.

Immune Strength

Healthy functioning of the immune system is critical to our health, resistance to infection, and defense against certain diseases. Chronic stress suppresses the immune system’s ability to do its job and increases our susceptibility to disease. Frequent colds and flus may be an indication that the immune system is depleted and that herbal adaptogens are in order. Adaptogens act to stimulate the immune system, increasing resistance to many viral, bacterial and fungal infections. To strengthen immunity, choose adaptogens like Astragalus, Panax or American Ginseng, Cordyceps, Eleuthero, Reishi, Rhodiola, and Schisandra.

Research on Eleuthero shows that regular use may reduce the incidence of colds and other common infectious diseases, and for athletes, prevent the immune-depletion caused by excessive training. Astragalus root is a good choice for people who are run-down and need an overall immune boost. Used for long term strengthening of the immune system, its antimicrobial activity may improve resistance to colds, flus, and bronchitis. In Chinese medicine, Astragalus is said to strengthen the Lung qi, which is a protective energy that helps prevent illness caused by external forces.

If you are taking adaptogens to enhance immune strength and do get a cold or flu, Traditional Chinese Medicine principles dictate suspending use of the adaptogenic herbs during an acute viral or bacterial infection typically associated with a cold or flu.

Healthy Aging & Longevity

Rich in antioxidants that combat age-related degenerative conditions, the daily use of adaptogens is a therapeutic routine for anyone wanting to live with energy and vitality. In parts of the world where herbal medicine is practiced by everyone, adaptogens are used daily, without any symptom of disease and long before the signs of aging. Astragalus and Panax Ginseng are two adaptogens used to promote and long, healthy life.

Modern scientific research has shown that Astragalus, long used in Chinese medicine as an adaptogen to promote longevity, works at the level of human DNA to combat aging. Astragalus contains compounds that boost production of an enzyme, telomerase, that plays a critical role in cellular health and anti-aging at the level of our DNA, the genetic material that contains the instructions all organisms need to develop, live, and reproduce. Specifically, telomerase controls the short bits of DNA known as telomeres, which ensure accurate cell division and replication. Telomeres are sometimes likened to the plastic tips that protect the ends of shoelaces to prevent them from unraveling. As telomeres shorten, errors in cell replication accumulate, causing a wide range of age-related conditions including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease including stroke and vascular dementia, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

Panax Ginseng, another highly esteemed adaptogen in Chinese medicine is another excellent daily adaptogen. One of the most heavily researched herbs, Ginseng’s legendary status as a longevity tonic has been validated by modern scientific research and clinical studies. Like Astragalus, Ginseng is an adaptogen and antioxidant. Considered the most stimulating of adaptogens, Panax ginseng can be used at any age to promote stamina and endurance, and improve cognitive function and memory. Panax Ginseng helps relieve adrenal burnout and exhaustion and reduce cortisol levels elevated by stress. For more about herbs for healthy aging, visit this blog, 7 Herbs for Your Holistic Aging Practice.

Better Sleep

While it might seem paradoxical that herbs to increase energy and enhance athletic performance can improve sleep, adaptogenic plant’s ability to balance the nervous system and reduce the effects of stress also improves sleep. Stress, accompanying anxiety, and elevated cortisol levels can make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult. Adaptogens that balance excess cortisol and calm the nervous system are best for stress-related sleep problems. Ashwagandha before bedtime is especially useful where stress and anxiety go together to make sleep difficult. Eleuthero is also a good choice to improve sleep quality or nighttime wakefulness. American Ginseng is a good choice for sleep problems related to chronic fatigue syndrome. For other natural approaches to better sleep, visit this blog, 5 Herbs & Essential Oils for Better Sleep.

Brain Health, Memory, Focus & Concentration

Adaptogens can support brain health and improve memory, focus, and concentration for people of all ages. Elevated cortisol and its inflammatory effects have a direct impact on brain health and appear to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Stress and mental fatigue also impact our ability to focus and learn.

For brain health, improved memory, mental clarity, better concentration and focus consider adaptogens like Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Ginseng, Rhodiola, and Schisandra. Rhodiola has been subjected to more than 180 published pharmacological, phytochemical, and clinical studies. A stimulating adaptogen, Rhodiola promotes brain function and memory and is used to relieve mental fatigue, reduce depressive syndromes, and ameliorate memory loss and cognitive dysfunction from a variety of causes, including brain injuries. It has been shown to have a positive effect on parts of the brain responsible for memory, perception and information processing, especially in healthy individuals working long hours in fields requiring complex analysis and critical decision-making.

Schisandra is a unique adaptogen with calming and stimulating properties. It calms the mind at the same time as it enhances reflexes, work performance and mental clarity. This combination is especially effective for individuals seeking relief from nervous tensions and anxiety who still need a high level of mental clarity and focus in their work. For other herbs for brain health and mental clarity that combine well with adapotgens see Brain Supplies: 5 Herbs to Remember.

Enhanced Mood and Relief for Anxiety & Depression

Stress-relieving adaptogens like Schisandra help elevate mood and relieve anxiety. Ashwagandha is another good choice to consider especially when stress, anxiety, or elevated cortisol levels disrupt sleep. Unlike most other adaptogens that are stimulating, Ashwagandha calms the mind and relieves anxiety. It helps to nourish and rebuild a nervous system depleted by long-term stress or illness and reduces cortisol levels elevated by chronic stress. It promotes thyroid function and is beneficial for people with hypothyroidism, or a low functioning thyroid. Ashwagandha can also be helpful for mild to moderate depression as are Ginseng, Holy Basil, Maca, Rhodiola, and Schisandra. For more about other herbs that combine well with herbal adaptogens to calm the nervous system, see Natural Relief: 7 Safe and Effective Herbs for Anxiety.

Cancer Prevention

Adaptogens’ stress-relieving, immune-strengthening, and anti-oxidant properties all help prevent cancer. While there are many factors that lead to the develop of abnormal, cancerous cells and the growth of cancerous tumors, stress is a contributing factor. Adaptogens ability to alleviate the effects of stress to prevent cancer offer yet another reason to incorporate adaptogenic herbs into your daily routine. Adaptogens’ ability to strengthen the immune system also helps the body defend against cancer. The body’s immune system can clean up abnormal cells before they become cancerous and form malignant tumors. Oxidative damage to cell DNA can also lead to cancer causing cell mutations. The antioxidant power of adaptogens helps inhibit this type of damage. Adaptogens with stress-relieving, immune enhancing, and antioxidant properties include Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Eleuthero, Ginseng, Holy Basil, Schisandra, and Rhodiola. Many of these herbs are also used to support individuals undergoing radiation and chemotherapy to treat cancer. Astragalus, for example, is also used to counter the immunosuppressive effects of chemotherapy treatment and possesses tumor inhibiting activity.

If you are new to the wonderous world of adaptogens, it all may seem too good to be true. But, humans have continued to use adaptogens for thousands of years, because they work!

There is a wide array of adaptogens to choose from with similar and different properties. They can be combined for a synergistic effect or used alone. To choose, consider your own body, how you respond to stress, and your family-history-driven health risks. Of course, you can always ask an herbalist or another herbal practitioner to help you choose. As always, use common sense (more is not necessarily better) and consult with your healthcare practitioner if you are being treated for a medical condition.

Do you have questions about adaptogens or how to use them? Leave them in the comments below.

Wishing you health and vitality,
suzanne

References

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Winston, D and Maimes, S, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, 2007.

Beneficial Effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on Psychological Symptoms and Measures of Sexual dysfunction in Postmenopausal Women are Not Related to Estrogen or Androgen Content. Brooks NA, et al., Menopause, 2008 Nov-Dec, 15:1157-62.

A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs, Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient, Boone, Kerry, 2003.

Comparison of the pharmacological effects of Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolium, Chen CF, Chiou WF, et al., Acta Pharmacol Sin, 2008, 29(9): 1103-1108.

A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial of Maca Root as Treatment for Antidepressant-induced Sexual Dysfunction in Women, Dording C, Schettler P, Dalton E, et al. Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine, 2015; Article ID 949036.

Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer, Ornish D, Lin J, Chan J, et al., The Lancet Oncology, 2013, 14(11): 1112-1120.

Effects of Panax ginseng extract on exercise-induced oxidative stress, Kim SH, Park KS, et al., J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2005, 45(2): 178-82.

Effect of Rhodiola Rosea extract on Ovarian Function, Proceedings of the Scientific Conference on Endocrinology and Gynecology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 1970 Sept 15-16; 46-48.

Effects of Red Ginseng Supplementation on Menopausal Symptoms and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Postmenopausal Women: A Double-blind Randomized Controlled Trial, Young Kim S., et al. Menopause 2012; 19(4) 461-466.

The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd Ed., Murray M, Pizzorno J, Atria, 2012.

Functional assessment of Pharmacological Telomerase Activators in Human T Cells, Molgora, B, Bateman, E, Sweeney, G, at al., Cells 2013, 2(1): 57-66

Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, 2d Ed., Tilgner, Sharon, Wise Acres, LLC, Pleasant Hill, Oregon, 2009.

A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults, Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62.

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Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Zach Dominguez

NECTAR APOTHECARY CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT | ZACH DOMINGUEZ

Zach and his sweet dog Rowan have been popping into the shop to share tea and stories for years. Whether we’re catching up on astrology, our favorite herbs or natural pet care, it’s always a treat when this duo makes an appearance. Zach is kind, calm, and grounded. He’s often asking about herbs to help a friend or family member. His calm, steady presence are perfectly suited to his chosen career as a dog trainer. Since Zach went to work with our next door neighbors, Whiskers Barkery, we have gotten to know him even better. We hope you’ll enjoy learning about Zach, too!

Would you share a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?

My name is Zach Dominguez, and I work in pet retail and as an apprentice dog trainer. I moved to Prescott five years ago from San Francisco, but I have been visiting the area since I was young due to family here. Though working with dogs is my profession and a passion, I fill my time with various hobbies I’ve collected over my 25 years. I’m a piano player, a mountain biker, a reader, and an avid fan of watching downtown Prescott’s family of ravens.

How have natural remedies like herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

It’s no exaggeration to say that meeting the people at Nectar and learning about all of these wonderful plants has changed my life for the better. I have more independence when it comes to my health, a deeper understanding of how the body functions naturally (and how to listen to mine), and overall a greater appreciation of our planet.

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?

I usually incorporate herbs into my day through tea and tinctures. I have a personal tincture blend of Eleuthero and Saw Palmetto that I take daily, and I usually make time around the end of the day to relax with some kind of sleepy blend of tea. Beyond that, I’m always thinking up different batches of tea based on what herbs might help me in that moment. I keep a wide variety of bulk herbs at my home. I don’t use essential oils very much, but I do try to remember to use my diffuser every now and then while I sleep–especially during allergy season.

What else do you do to take care of yourself and the people around you?

I find myself often suggesting to friends and family certain herbs to look into for their ailments, especially given the fact that many people I know either don’t have medical insurance, or a doctor, or the money for a prescription. I also incorporate my love for herbal medicine into my work. More often than not, customers whose dogs are having health issues are told by their vets that they need a certain drug. I’m by no means as knowledgeable as a veterinarian, but I am a believer that most mild ailments dogs experience don’t warrant the usage of a heavy prescription that taxes the body in other ways. I think many people would agree, but they don’t have the knowledge themselves to make any other decision than what their vet tells them. When I’m explaining to a customer exactly how the herbs function in the natural supplements we carry at Whiskers Barkery, they are better equipped to make an educated decision.

Why do you like to shop at Nectar Apothecary?

In general, I just love being in the space! There’s always a sweet scent of some essential oil and a cup of tea to welcome you. I’m lucky enough to work right next door, so I often pop in to utilize the library in the back corner, just to look up some herb I’ve been thinking about. I appreciate that I can either help myself to all the bulk herbs and form a relationship with herbal medicine of my own, or trust in the blends and products that Nectar has created.

What’s your favorite herb, essential oil or tea, what do you like about it, and why do you use it?

I guess I’m one of the weirdos who loves the smell and taste of Valerian. Sleep has always been a struggle for me. I can lie awake for hours with endless brain chatter. One day I met this volatile herb and it was love at first sip. Well, maybe third cup. I’ve spent so many late nights relaxing and stretching before bed with a cup of Valerian filling the room with its funky gym socks smell. I read somewhere that it smells like “bubblegum from Jupiter.” Lovely! It is, of course a sedative, but also an antispasmodic and a carminative. I think it’s a great herb to keep on hand for any kind of late-night restlessness, whether it be body or mind. As a tea, I enjoy mixing it with Chamomile or St. John’s Wort, but I have also seen Valerian suggested with Cramp Bark and Wild Yam for pain and cramping.

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?

Pick just a few herbs and learn them inside and out. The 101 class at Nectar is perfect for this. I think the way I got started was by learning the herbal actions that would most benefit my body, and then learning the herbs in those categories.

What else would you like to share?

A pivotal moment in my acceptance and belief in the power of herbs came when my dog Rowan was having some kind of digestive disorder. She vomited bile three times in twenty minutes her abdomen was bloated and hot, and she wouldn’t let me touch her—very unusual for her. Of course, I’m panicking, looking up my vet’s phone number. I remembered reading about rubbing lavender essential oil down the spine to calm a dog. After a few minutes of doing so, she went from nipping at me when I tried to touch her belly, to laying sideways with her head on my lap. From there, I held an acupressure point suggested by a wonderful book Four Paws, Five Directions, and she quickly woke up, made a contented sigh, stood up and gracefully walked to the water bowl. No vet call needed. I guess I’m sharing this because I always held onto the fear of, “What if these herbs don’t work when I really need them?”, and I was so relieved and thankful when the Lavender made a real difference on my dog. Animals don’t experience the placebo effect.

What a great story about the healing power of plants! Thanks so much Zach, for sharing your time and energy with us, for participating in our Customer Spotlight and for being part of our community. It is an honor to serve and support you in your herbal journey. Hopefully the rest of our community will have the opportunity to meet Zach in person. You’ll likely run into him next door at Whiskers Barkery, riding his bike on the trails or sipping tea at Nectar. Here’s to you, Zach!

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Janet Wilson

NECTAR APOTHECARY CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT | JANET WILSON

This month’s Nectar Spotlight belongs to Janet Wilson, an herbalist-in-training and professional gardener with a deep connection to plants and the natural world. When I met Janet, I felt an immediate connection. From new gardening projects, fermenting in her kitchen, growing new plants, or brewing up new potions, Janet always has something new and interesting to share. We love having her vibrant and genuine soul as a part of our community at Nectar. Here’s more about Janet in her own words.

Would you share a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?

I grew up in Vermont and moved here in 2008 to attend Prescott College. There I explored my interests in education, environmental studies, and adventure education. Over time, I was drawn toward deepening my plant studies and last year I enrolled in Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s Immersion Program and started a gardening business.

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?

We had a conventional family doctor. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals were commonly used. We had teas and some natural remedies around but were often encouraged to use “the stuff that really works.”

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?

I drink lots of tea! Every morning I start with 1-2 cups of jasmine green tea, and often I will brew up something to drink throughout the day. Chaga mushroom, reishi mushroom, hibiscus, and CCF (cumin, coriander, fennel) are some of my favorites. These are all good base teas to add other herbs to. Recently I have been making big batches of hibiscus tea, then adding some mint and storing it in a pitcher in the fridge—very  refreshing in this heat! And even though it’s hot these days, I’ll still bring a thermos of hot CCF tea with me to work to sip on throughout the day; it’s a great gentle, detoxifying beverage.

What else do you do to take care of yourself and the people around you?

Cooking and gardening are both very therapeutic for me. I love cooking meals for friends and family, even more so as I learn to cook nourishing meals with locally grown, fresh ingredients.

Why do you like to shop at Nectar Apothecary?

We are so fortunate to have Nectar in our town. Suzanne and the staff at Nectar are very knowledgeable and approachable. All the herbs and products are of the highest quality. You can really tell how fresh everything is. The bulk herbs have vibrant color and the tinctures really taste like the plants. Whenever I’m traveling, I make a point to visit local herbal apothecaries; I still have yet to find one that offers all that Nectar does. Shopping at Nectar inspires me to deepen my herb studies, and is a wonderful resource for anyone learning about herbal medicine.

Have you taken classes at Nectar? What was your class experience?

I have been taking the Materia Medica classes as often as I can. They are a great addition to my medicinal plant studies. The downside of the online program I am enrolled in is not interacting with all of the herbs I’m studying. The Materia Medica series is thorough and informative, and gives me the chance to interact more with these herbs. Suzanne has created easy to read packets with charts and information on the herbs most useful for all of the major body systems. She passes around dried herbs, tinctures, and tea to taste and smell, which helps us familiarize and connect more with the specific herbs we are discussing.

What type of DIY herbal projects do you have in the works?

I have a lot of tea blends I have been trying out. Many recipes are from Rosemary Gladstar’s books, which you can find at Nectar, and some are my own creations. I’m also growing more medicinal herbs each year. Some new ones in the garden this year are hops, Echinacea, four varieties of tulsi, lemongrass, hibiscus, gotu kola and comfrey.

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?

Connect with others who are dabbling with herbs! It’s fun to hear about what other people are learning about and creating. Spend time in Nectar and chat with any of the staff. Classes are a great way to create new connections with other budding herbalists! Also, make sure you’re using credible, up to date resources. Casually researching on Google can lead to misinformation. Nectar offers a great selection of books, and ask about Suzanne’s resources recommendation list!

What else would you like to share?

It is empowering to delve into herbal medicine and learn how to take care of yourself. A holistic approach to health and healing will have much greater results than a purely pharmaceutical health plan. Take your time, connect with your local herbalist community, and be open to what the plant world has to offer.

Thanks so much Janet, for participating in our Customer Spotlight and for being such a radical part of the Nectar community. Hopefully you get the opportunity to meet Janet yourself. You’ll likely run into Janet at the Prescott Farmer’s Market, in a class at the shop or getting her hands dirty in garden beds around town. She is truly a great friend and resource in our brilliant herbal network.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

7 Essentials for Your DIY Wildcrafting Tool Kit

7 Essentials for Your DIY Wildcrafting Tool Kit

Your mother, father and common sense probably taught you the importance of having the right tool for the job. This is just as true for foraging and wildcrafting as it is for cooking or woodworking. When I go into the forest or desert to harvest edible and medicinal plants I carry these seven essential items in my wildcrafting tool kit.

But first, is it Foraging or Wildcrafting? That depends on who you ask. Herbalist’s have long used the term “wildcrafting” to refer to the practice of harvesting medicinal plants in the wild where they are found, rather than cultivated. The term “foraging” is more often associated with the practice of gathering wild food stuff like wild greens, berries and mushrooms. Regardless what term you choose, gathering wild plants ethically and sustainably requires, knowledge, sensitivity and respect. You can read more about the practice of ethical wildcrafting at Independence and Interdependence: What to Know About Foraging Medicinal Plants.

DIY Wildcrafting Tool Kit

PLANT IDENTIFICATION BOOKS
Experienced herbalists and foragers know the importance of correct plant identification. There’s no better way to learn to identify medicinal and edible plants in your bioregion than from someone who already knows them well. A good plant identification book is the next best option. Here’s a list of my favorite books for identifying and harvesting wild and medicinal plants.

SCISSORS & CLIPPERS
Scissors and clippers are the tools I use most frequently. From tender green herbs like mint and plantain to hardier stems and branches on plants like chaparral and willow, these simple tools will serve you well. If you are a beginner herbalist, I recommend investing in a good quality pair of garden clippers. I bought my first clippers more than twenty years ago when I started herb school and I am still using them. Your clippers are also an important medicine-making tool for chopping fresh roots, like Echinacea and Dandelion in the process of making an herbal extract.

GLOVES
I love to get my hands in the soil and I love to smell the fragrant oils and plant resins on my skin. So, though I often wildcraft without gloves, I always keep a pair of gloves in my backpack. There are lots of prickly, thorny plants that demand thick sturdy gloves, especially in the desert.

TROWEL & FOLDING SHOVEL
You’ll need these to harvest most roots. The trowel is adequate for small or shallow roots in soft soil. For large, deeper roots you’ll want a larger shovel. I like the folding shovel because it can easily be strapped to my backpack. In some places, were the soil is hard and rocky, harvesting roots is easier with a small pick axe to break up the soil and free the roots.

PAPER BAGS
Brown paper bags are my preferred method for collecting and transporting most freshly harvested plants from field to home. Paper bags absorb excess moisture and allow the plant to begin drying. Avoid plastic bags (which are the worst possible bags for the environment) that trap moisture and invite mold to form on your plants. Plants very high in moisture, berries and fruits for example, are an exception. I usually gather these in a bucket.

Having the right tools in your pack will ensure that the plants are harvested with the least harm and that they are in the best possible condition for drying, medicine-making, or your dinner plate.

I hope your wildcrafting and foraging adventures are fun and fruitful! What other essentials are in your wildcrafting toolkit? You can share your experiences with us below or snap a photo of your wildcrafting adventures with us on Instagram using #nectarDIY.

Blessings,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Independence and Interdependence: What to Know About Wildcrafting Medicinal Plants

Independence and Interdependence: What to Know About wildcrafting Medicinal Plants

Wild crafting medicinal plants is both art and science. It is also a celebration of independence and paradoxically, a celebration of interdependence. Wild crafting medicinal plants and using locally grown and prepared herbal medicine becomes an act of independence in our modern world, when almost everything we need is produced in a distant city by giant corporations that care little about our health or the health of our community. My teacher, James Green, described herbal medicine-making as the “technology of independence”—medicine by the people, for the people.

Independence requires knowledge of the plants in your bioregion, the skills to create your own herbal medicine, and the wisdom to use it safely. Done with care and respect, wild crafting is an also act of interdependence. It recognizes that our health, the health of our communities, the health of our air, water, and ecosystems, and the health of the medicinal plant communities are all interwoven. People taking responsibility for their health, growing food and medicine, making medicine, and providing basic healthcare for their family and community all begins with the wild crafting of medicinal plants.

Start small. Harvest what grows in your own backyard. Plant and grow native medicinal plants. Before you wild craft a single medicinal plant, recognize and acknowledge your own interdependence. Whether harvesting herbs in your garden or gathering medicinal roots in the wild, always offer wholehearted gratitude in recognition of life supporting life. Honor and offer respect for the plant, the plant community, and the other creatures that may depend on it. Slow down, listen, ask permission with gratitude, and make an offering. Meditate, offer a prayer, a song, or native seeds. You can do this in your own way, according to your own traditions or you can create a new tradition for this purpose. Only then is it appropriate to harvest.

The Art & Science of Ethical Wild Crafting

Plant Identification, Status, and Respect

The science of wild crafting (or harvesting in your own backyard) requires correct plant identification. Many plants have lookalikes and some plants even have poisonous look alikes. Learn from a botanist or herbalist, your local community college, or organizations like your local Native Plant Society. There are also excellent medicinal plant books. I recently reviewed some of my favorites in  my post, 6 of the Best Wild Crafting Books for Identifying and Harvesting Wild Medicinal & Edible Plants.

In addition to correct plant identification, you need to know the status of the plant. Is it rare, threatened, or endangered ? United Plant Savers  is an excellent source on the status of rare, threatened, and endangered medicinal plants. Never pick rare, threatened, or endangered plants. Take only a picture and a loving memory.

In addition to an offering of gratitude before you begin, ethical wild crafting also demands that you proceed with sensitivity and respect. Leave the ecosystem healthy, walk softly, replant rootlets and seeds where possible, and restore disturbed ground. Harvest only where the plant is abundant. Even if the plant is abundant in your bioregion and the stands you have encountered are large, take only a small portion, no more than you will use that year; never more than 10%; and less if you are harvesting medicinal roots. Make certain that neither the plant nor its water source have been contaminated by human activities—mining, farm fertilizers and pesticides, urban runoff, and the like. Do not harvest near roads even though some medicinal plants love these disturbed areas.

Horsetail (Equisetum spp.) grows in wet, wild places, but will pick-up any toxins present in its water supply. When wildcrafting be certain that the area is clean and free of pollutants.

When to Forage Medicinal Plants

You can enhance the potency of your herbal medicine by harvesting at the right time of day and in the correct season, when the plant is in the optimal stage of its growth. You may also align the harvest with the stage of the moon if you feel guided by lunar phases. In general, the optimal harvesting time corresponds to the time when the energy of the plant is at its peak in the part of the plant you intend to use as medicine. This will vary depending upon whether you are harvesting flowers, leaves, or aerial parts, seeds, berries, bark, rhizomes, or roots. Of course, knowing which part of the plant to harvest is part of the knowledge base you will acquire as you get to know the plant and before you venture out

Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) is found both as an ornamental landscape plant and in drainages in the southwest. Its medicine is most potent when in flower.

 

If you are picking flowers or flowers and leaves, harvest just before the flower reaches full bloom—when the color and fragrance are most attractive to pollinators. If only the leaves are to be gathered, do so when they are fully developed, but before the blossoms develop and the energy of the plant moves in to flower production. In either case, if you are harvesting the aerial parts of a plant, the best time of day is late morning after the dew has dried and before the heat of the day, which can temporarily wilt the leaves. On or near the full moon is considered the best time to harvest the aerial parts of plants. For highly aromatic plants which are rich in essential oils, optimal harvest time is during the hottest part of the year when the medicinal oils are most prominent. This includes many of the culinary herbs you may have in your garden like Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Mint, and Lavender.

Prickly Poppy (Argemone spp.), native to the southwest US, is harvested when in flower. All the aerial parts of the plant are used as medicine.

If you plan to make medicine with the entire plant, flowers, leaves and roots, harvest when the plant has freshly flowered. In general, rhizomes and roots are best harvested in the fall, when the aerial parts of the plant have begun to die back or very early in the spring before new growth begins. If you are harvesting the rhizome or roots of a perennial allow two to three years of growth, and in some cases longer. On or near the new moon is considered the best time to harvest roots.

Use heavy kitchen shears or garden clippers to harvest aerial parts of plants. You can usually get by with a good strong trowel to harvest roots. Collect the plants in a basket or brown paper bag, which allows the plants to begin to dry. Avoid collecting in a plastic bag which will trap moisture and invite your newly cut plants to mold.

How to Dry & Process wild crafted Plants

Herbal medicine of superior quality is made with plants that have been harvested at the right time, handled with respect and delicacy, and carefully dried or processed while fresh. Whenever you harvest, be sure to allow time for immediate processing of the plants. Allowing the cut plants to sit around for days is not only disrespectful, it invites mold and decay.

Roots and rhizomes need to be washed, scrubbed clean and chop into thin pieces for drying. Aerial parts of medicinal plants that grow close to the ground (Mullein for example) tend to collect dirt and need to be washed in cool water. The upper leaves and flowers often do not need to be rinsed, but you will need to make this judgment call each time you harvest. Once cleaned the plants are prepared for drying unless you plan to make a fresh plant extract.

These fresh roots of Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica), another southwest native, have been washed, scrubbed clean and ready to be made into a medicinal extract.

Plants that have been dried well resemble the fresh plant in color, aroma, taste, and texture. To dry leaves and flowers on stems, bundled them together with a rubber band and hang to dry. Attention to detail is very important. As you prepare the bundles carefully inspect the plant and discard anything that does not look healthy or that fails to meet your standards of excellence in medicine-making. Strip off leaves at the end of the stem so that no leaves are trapped under the rubber band where they will mold. Your banded bundles should allow circulation among the leaves. If they are too large and dry too slowly, the possibility of mold and decay increases. Hang bundles in a warm dry place with good circulation. I often use a small closet dedicated to that purpose and leave the door ajar. A drying screen or dehydrator is useful for drying roots, flowers, leaves, or berries. I do not recommend trying to use the oven (too hot) or a microwave (too damaging).

Wild Mint (Mentha spp.) has been bundled using rubber bands and is ready for the drying rack.

Your medicinal plants are ready for the next stage of processing when all the parts feel somewhat crisp to the touch. The timing varies widely; some plants take only a couple of days to dry thoroughly, others can take a week or more. After the plant is dry, its ready for garbling! Garbling is a term unique to the herb world and refers to the process of carefully separating the best and most medicinal parts of the plants from those parts that are not going to be used as medicine. Attention to detail is paramount. Carefully inspect the dried plant and compost any parts that are discolored or show other damage. Gently strip dried leaves and flowers from stems if the stems are not typically used medicinally. Your dried herbs should be stored in jars out of direct sunlight.

When you next venture out to wild craft, make it a celebration of independence and interdependence. Reflect on the ways we can take back control of our health and the health of our communities—and take action. Make your own herbal medicine and teach this “technology of independence” to your children and grandchildren, to your friends and neighbors. And, remember our interdependence—the reality of our dependence on each other and on the Earth.

I’d love to see and hear about the plants you’re working with in your bioregion. You can share in the comments section below or snap a picture and tag us on Instagram with #nectarDIY.

For the Earth,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

6 of the Best Books for Identifying & Harvesting Wild Medicinal & Edible Plants

6 of the Best wild crafting Books for Identifying and Harvesting Wild Medicinal & Edible Plants

For plant geeks, whether herbalist, wild crafter, or nature lover, books are an important resource. Though not a substitute for getting up close and personal with the plants and trees in your bioregion, they can be tremendously helpful in identifying new plants and understanding those you already know. When it comes to identification and harvesting of wild medicinal and edible plants, these six wild crafting books are my best company on ventures into the wild.

A Side Note About Buying Books
Before you purchase any of these books, please consider who your purchase supports—the author, a small business, your local community, or a global corporate online book seller? We sell all but one of the books mentioned here in the shop. If you have an independent bookstore in your community, an herbal apothecary, a locally owned outdoor shop, or a local nursery and you want to keep them in your community, please buy plant books from these sellers. And even if they don’t carry the book you want, there’s a good chance they’d be happy to order it for you.

1. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds – 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair

In The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Katrina Blair dives deep into thirteen edible plants common around the globe wherever human settlements are found. There’s a good chance you have some of these plants growing in your backyard. Blair is an author, holistic health educator and expert in sustainable living practices. She is the founder of Turtle Lake Refuge, a nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate the connection between personal health and wild lands. From the wide world of wild edible plants, Blair identified this distinguished group of wild weeds because they are common around the world, provide both food and medicine, and adapt well to a diverse range climates and conditions. From Dandelion to Mustad, Plantain and Thistle, each chapter provides a comprehensive look at another wild weed including its history and current use, food and medicinal uses, and lots of unique recipes. In this book, Blair offers a unique and practical perspective on the use of wild weeds to nourish our bodies and help us align with the wisdom of nature.

2. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory Tilford

Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West is a beautiful, practical book by respected herbalist and naturalist, Gregory Tilford. Despite the reference to the “West” in the title of this book, the author notes that the many of the plants described in the book can be found throughout much of the United States—from the Midwest and Southeast and from the west coast of Canada to southern Alaska. Tilford’s description of more than 130 commonly used medicinal plants includes the detail to help you identify the plant, including bloom time, habitat and range, and how to distinguish it from “look-alike” plants. In addition to Tilfords’s expertise on the medicinal properties, what I love most about this book are the glossy plant photos. If you are more of a visual learner, this book will provide you with endless enjoyment whether you’re studying at home or wild crafting in the wild

3. Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West by Michael Moore

Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West by Michael Moore is one of three must-have books for herbalists, wildcrafters, and plant geeks of all stripes who live in the western United States. The late Michael Moore was a renowned and beloved herbalist and founder of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. His writing about medicinal plants is as humorous and irreverent as it is informative and insightful. His book includes detailed descriptions and botanical drawings to help you accurately identify plants, as week as instructions for collecting, drying, and preparing the plant as medicine.

4. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore

Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West is another of the must-own books by Michael Moore. In general, this book describes higher altitude plants of the west (compared to Medicinal Plants of the Desert & Canyon West), specifically medicinal plants common to mountains, foothills, and upland areas. In the Arizona Highlands where I live, a transition zone between the Sonoran Desert and Colorado Plateau, I find both books very useful.

5. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

I have loved Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West since I went to herb school in California more than twenty years ago. Like Moore’s other books, this is a classic for beginning and experienced herbalists and wildcrafters. In his entertaining, relatable prose, Moore weaves his intimate knowledge of the plants, their appearance, habitat and chemistry with his practical experience working with these plants as an herbalist and medicine-maker. From a geographical perspective, this book overlaps somewhat with the plants in Moore’s books, but is more focused on California and the temperate regions of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

6. Southwest Foraging – 117 Wild & Flavorful Edibles by John Slattery

Southwest Foraging – 117 Wild & Flavorful Edibles is the latest offering by John Slattery, the founder of Desert Tortoise Botanicals, herbalist, educator, and expert on food and medicine of the Sonoran Desert. In this book, Slattery covers offers a unique blend of food plants and native medicinals commonly found in the diverse habitats of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and southern Utah. The beautiful images in this book, coupled with the detailed descriptions, simplify plant identification. In addition to instructions on when, where, and how to harvest, Slattery emphasizes the importance of sustainable harvesting and respect for the earth, with a section on “Future Harvests” for each of the featured plants. This book is an informative and delightful guide to deepen your connection to place and grace your plate with nature’s abundance.

When it comes to  wildcrafting, be safe, know your plants, and above all respect the plants and the communities in which they thrive. All these authors share a deep love and respect for the plants they write about. I hope that you will too. You can read more about harvesting and ethical wild crafting in Independence, Inter-dependence & Herbal Medicine-Making.

Whether you want to wild craft  plants or simply get to know the plants in your bioregion, you will find something to nourish body, mind, and spirit in these six books. We sell most of these books in our Prescott, Arizona shop or look for them at a small local business in your community. Do you have a wild crafting book you’d add to this list? Share in the comments below or take a picture of it and tag with #NectarApothecary on Instagram.

Blessings,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nectar Apothecary Team Member Spotlight | Tiara Leitzman

Nectar Apothecary Team Member Spotlight | Tiara Leitzman

Its been almost three years since Tiara arrived in Prescott, crossed the threshold at Nectar and changed our lives forever. She was drawn to learning about herbs, oils, and natural skincare, but she brought a wealth of knowledge and creativity all her own. You won’t hear her bragging about it, but Tiara has completely transformed our presence on Instagram and Facebook and now plays a major role in all our marketing endeavors, from idea generation, to photoshoots and photo editing, ad content and development.

During her transformational time at Nectar, Tiara has been studying herbal medicine and learning to support people in need. While her herbal skill and knowledge are considerable, her kindness and caring come naturally and will be the root of her success as an herbalist.

Here’s Tiara in her own words.

Would you share a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?

Hi there, I’m Tiara! My fiancé and I moved to Arizona three years ago from Indiana to build our tiny house on wheels. We now live in Prescott with our chicken nugget of a dog named Fiona.

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?

I didn’t even know natural remedies existed until I was an adult. I was raised on a steady rotation of over-the-counter drugs and antibiotics. There was a pill for every symptom and our family doctor “knew all.”

How have natural remedies like herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

Herbs and essential oils have completely enhanced my life and well-being. Using plant medicine teaches you to be in-tune with your mind, body, and spirit in a way that modern medicine can not. Knowing that I can reach into my little apothecary to maintain balance in my daily rhythm instills a confidence in me that I never knew I had.

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?

My daily rotation of plant medicine includes a lung tonic tincture, to strengthen and restore balance to my respiratory system, an adaptogen blend, to ground and calm my nervous system, and an essential oil blend called Calm Balm, to relieve tension and stress throughout the day. I get excited when I meet a new plant ally so my daily routine always has something new sprinkled in.

Why do you like working at Nectar Apothecary?

Working a Nectar Apothecary has been such a gift, it honestly doesn’t even feel like work! My favorite part of Nectar Apothecary is learning from my great friends and herbal mentors, Suzanne Teachey and Cathie Devore. Without their guidance it would have taken me A LOT longer to discover my true passion. I’m eternally grateful for their love and wisdom. Aside from meeting some of my greatest friends, Nectar Apothecary allows me to guide and learn from others on their wellness journey. Each day I get to have incredible conversations with like-minded individuals who inspire me constantly.

What’s your favorite herb, essential oil or tea, what do you like about it, and why do you use it?

ELECAMPANE. Meeting Elecampane for the first time was such a magical experience and I have been infatuated with her ever since. Elecampane is such a unique plant that works on many levels. It is an expectorant that helps clear the lungs. It’s an alterative, meaning it helps the body cleanse and detoxify. It’s also a bitter and carminative that stimulates digestion and helps ease gas and bloating. Elecampane is also used energetically to help break-up stagnant energy and expel negative energy. I often rely on elecampane to protect my energy through grounding when I’m feeling over-extended and/or depleted. Not to mention, the aroma of elecampane is so intoxicating to me– so much to love!

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?

As soon as I discovered plant medicine I wanted to know everything, right then. Patience is key! Make sure you find a credible resource for your information. Create or join a local herb-nerd community, attend herbal classes (like the ones we offer here at Nectar!), go to the library to stock up on books from different herbalists, seek a mentor, or give The Herbal Academy a visit online. (Suzanne’s blogs are also a GREAT resource!) There are so many ways to get started and everyone has their own path. Get creative, enjoy every bit of the process and make it your own!

If you were a medicinal plant, what plant would you be and why?

I would love to say Elecampane because I think it is such a magical plant. However, I have always identified with Dandelion. It was the first plant I remember playing with as a child, popping off their golden tops or making a wish on their fluffy seeds. Dandelions are such light and playful little weeds, yet they pack a resilient punch- always managing to pop right back up after hardships. We all have a little dandelion power in us.

What else would you like to share?

Have fun, be patient, and respect our precious mother! You will never stop learning about the many gifts that plants have to offer us. Take care of this gorgeous planet so she can continue to offer us these incredible resources. Harvest responsibly and educate yourself on endangered plants through resources like United Plant Savers.

Tiara is a bright, shining light. We are so very happy that she has found her passion and we are very grateful for her work, her friendship and her beautiful presence in our lives. Thank you SO much, Tiara!

Do you have a favorite moment with or anecdote to share about Tiara? Drop us a comment below to share.

With love,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

All-Purpose and Adventure Ready DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve

All-Purpose and Adventure Ready DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve

This DIY herbal first-aid salve is an excellent remedy to have on hand for small, everyday accidents or caught-in-the-wild mishaps that call for a little TLC. Salve is a medicinal ointment used topically to promote healing and typically made with herb-infused oils and beeswax. This recipe also incorporates essential oils to boost its antiseptic, soothing and pain-relieving properties. Use this homemade all-purpose first-aid salve for minor cuts, scrapes, and other small insults to the skin, for dry cracked skin, bug bites and stings, and minor aches and pains. Stock this versatile salve in your home medicine chest and in your travel first-aid kit. This recipe also makes enough for lots of small containers to share with family and friends.

An antiseptic describes a substance that helps inhibit disease and infection causing organisms. In this salve recipe the antiseptic properties come from the chaparral (Larrea tridentata), and lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and tea tree (Melaluca alternifolia) essential oils. When applied to the skin, chaparral (whether in the form of a tea, tincture, oil or salve) inhibits bacterial growth and exerts antimicrobial activity. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that promotes healthy skin. Lavender essential oil, in addition to its antiseptic properties, helps relieve itchy bug bites and minor aches and pains. Tea Tree essential oil is a potent antimicrobial, with antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. This DIY herbal first-aid salve also incorporates calendula (Calendula officinalis) infused oil for its ability to promote healing and soothe irritation. You can read more about the properties of Calendula in Radiant Skin: Herbs for Topical Skincare.

DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve Recipe

This salve is made in two steps. First, make the infused chaparral and calendula oils, then use the infused oils to create the finished salve. The infused oils can also be used on their own or in combination with essential oils, rather than in a salve. You can also skip step one by purchasing chaparral oil and calendula oil.

Ingredients:
1 ounce dried chaparral leaves
1 ounce dried Calendula flowers, ground
1.5 cups (12 ounces) olive oil
1-1.5 ounces beeswax
½ tsp lavender essential oil
½ tsp tea tree oil

Instructions:

Step 1 – Infused Herbal Oil

Place the whole chaparral leaves and powdered calendula flowers in separate jars with tight-fitting lids, add half the olive oil to each jar and mix well. Note: though I usually recommend grinding the herb to a powder before mixing it with the oil, I don’t recommend this for chaparral because the feisty resins in this herb will forever permeate your grinder.

Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.
Warm and allow the herbs to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming:

Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.

Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day for 7 - 10 days.

After 7 - 10 days, strain the oils. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. (You can purchase unbleached cotton muslin at any fabric store. Be sure to wash it before using.) Pour in all of the herb-oil mixture. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express as much of the infused oil as possible.

Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil for use in Step 2.

Step 2 – Herbal First-Aid Salve

Set aside a small amount of your infused oils and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.

Place the oils and beeswax in a steel, enamel or glass container and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.
To test the consistency of your finished product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oils into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result.
Remove from the heat source and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Gently stir in the essential oils and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.

Allow salves to cool and harden for 24 hours. If you notice cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance. Label your salve containers.

While I hope your needs for a first-aid salve are few and far between, I know you and your family will be glad to have this salve on hand for adventures and everyday accidents alike. I always enjoying seeing your finished products—snap a picture of your DIY herbal first-aid salve, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram and we might reshare it!

Wishing you good health and happiness,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Traveling Companions: Assembling a DIY Herbal First Aid Kit for Your Next Adventure

Traveling Companions: Assembling a DIY Herbal First Aid Kit for Your Next Adventure

Whether you’re heading out on a road trip, hopping on a plane, spending the day at a music festival or sending your firstborn off to college, you can never be too prepared! This DIY herbal first aid kit is specific to the size of the adventure and your family’s needs. To assemble your custom first aid kit, consider what needs are most likely to arise when you’re away from home. For example, when you travel and try new foods, do you suffer from indigestion? How will you adjust to the change in time zones? Do you need to be prepared for mosquitoes, bug bites or sunburn? Constipation is common for some people when they are away from home. Does getting on an airplane or skipping your daily routine cause anxiety? Do you have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms or in the great outdoors?

Even if you’re not going anywhere, this is also a wonderful approach if you want to rid your home medicine chest of over-the-counter drugs and replace them with healthy herbal alternatives. You can find more about Everyday Alternatives to Over-the-Counter Drugs, here.

Assembling a DIY herbal first aid kit for traveling doesn’t require an entire herbal pharmacy, but you’ll be glad you’re prepared for the small misadventures that might otherwise derail your plans. Consider these herbal traveling companions for your next adventure.

 

DIY Herbal First Aid Kit Essentials

 

ANXIETY, STRESS & INSOMNIA

Lavender Essential Oil: This is one of the best first aid remedies for any size adventure. For travel related anxiety, nervous tension, stress or insomnia a simple inhalation can work wonders. Simply place a drop or two of the pure essential oil on a tissue, hold it over your nose and breathe for several minutes. You can also add a drop or two of the essential oil to a teaspoon of unscented lotion or any available carrier oil and massage it into your skin. Lavender essential is also an excellent first aid remedy for itchy bug bites, sun burn, muscle aches and pains and headaches.

Valerian Root: If you usually have trouble sleeping when you travel and plan to be away from home for more than a night or two, consider taking valerian root in capsules or in a liquid extract. Valerian root promotes deep restful sleep and can also be used in time of acute stress or anxiety. It’s also an option for muscle pain and menstrual cramps.

 

INDIGESTION, NAUSEA, CONSTIPATION & DIARRHEA

Peppermint Essential Oil: This essential oil is an excellent first aid remedy for nausea and motion sickness. Like lavender or tea tree essential oils, peppermint can be used as a simple inhalation. Diluted in an unscented lotion or carrier oil, it can also be rubbed on the belly to relieve nausea, gas and bloating. Properly diluted peppermint essential oil is also an excellent choice for pain, muscle aches and itchy bug bites. A simple inhalation is also helpful for sinus congestion. Always properly dilute your peppermint essential oil if you are applying it topically; one to two drops in a teaspoon of lotion or carrier oil is a good, quick dilution for most purposes.

Ginger: Chewing on crystallized ginger can help ease nausea and motion sickness. If you often experience motion sickness when you travel, be sure to start using ginger before you board that boat or start down that winding mountain road. Ginger is also help for gas, bloating and digestive cramps. Instead of the sweet and spicy pleasure of crystalized ginger, your herbal first aid kit could include ginger in a tincture or in capsules. Ginger can also be used as a first aid remedy for colds or flu with lots of mucus, coughing, fevers, body aches, pain and menstrual cramps.

Digestive Bitters: These make a great travel companion if you’ll be eating exotic foods or something other than what you eat at home. Digestive bitters like this Better Bitters blend promote your body’s secretion of digestive enzymes and healthy digestive function. They can be especially helpful for indigestion, gas, bloating and the breakdown of heavy, fatty foods. They also have a mild laxative effect. Digestive bitters are usually taken as a tincture or liquid extract and work best if taken about 15 minutes before each meal.

Marshmallow Root Powder: This is an excellent digestive remedy if you’re traveling with children, though it works just as well for adults. Marshmallow root powder mixed in water, yogurt or other soft food can soothe stomach ache and irritable digestion and slow diarrhea. Taken with lots of water it can help relieve constipation.

Tea Tree Essential Oil: Small bottles of essential oils make great travel companions, especially when size and weight are considerations. Like lavender, tea tree essential oil is an important and versatile first aid remedy. When it comes to digestive complaints, dilute, tea tree essential oil in an unscented lotion or carrier oil and rub it on the belly for food poisoning (combined with Peppermint) or traveler’s diarrhea.

Echinacea-Goldenseal: This herbal combination works for a wide range of issues. Whether in capsules or an extract, this combination is an excellent remedy to help the body recover from food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea. It’s also helpful for colds, flu and general immune support.

 

COLDS, COUGHS & IMMUNE SUPPORT

Tea Tree Essential Oil: At the first sign of a cold, cough or other respiratory infection, put one drop of tea tree essential oil in a glass of hot salty water and gargle several times per day. A simple inhalation of the essential oil may also be helpful. A drop of tea tree may also be applied to small cuts or scrapes to inhibit infection. If your trip includes air travel, a simple inhalation of immune stimulating, anti-microbial essential oils like Essential Immunity, before, during and after the flight will help protect you from infectious bugs circulating in the aircraft. This blend includes tea tree and lavender essential oil.

Echinacea-Goldenseal: If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period and will not have easy access to herbal remedies, take along something for general immune support. The echinacea- goldenseal combination used for digestive complaints is also helpful for colds, flu, and other infectious conditions.

Ginger: This is another versatile remedy for your travel first aid kit or home medicine chest. Discussed in more detail above, ginger is a useful first aid remedy for colds, coughs, flu and fever, as well as digestive issues.

 

PAIN, SPRAINS & MUSCLE STRAINS

Arnica: If you’re going to be carrying a heavy backpack, walking long distances, or otherwise likely to develop sore muscles while you’re traveling, include Arnica in your first aid kit. In addition to relieving muscle aches and pains, Arnica is an excellent first aid remedy for a twisted ankle, stiff neck, bruising or any other sprain or strain. Pack an arnica cream or oil for topical use as well as the tiny vial of homeopathic arnica pellets for internal use. Use arnica as soon as possible after an injury or even before you put on your backpack or head out for a long hike.

Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oils: These two multi-purpose first aid oils can be combined in a carrier oil or lotion and applied topically to relieve pain. Roman Chamomile and Frankincense essential oils are two other good choices for pain and sprains that make versatile first aid remedies. If you like to make your own herbal products, this Herbal Pain Relief Salve is another excellent travel companion.

 

TOPICAL REMEDIES FOR CUTS, SCRAPES, BITES & BURNS

All-Purpose Antiseptic Salve: Every herbal first aid kit should include an all-purpose antiseptic salve that can be applied to small cuts, scrapes and other small wounds. The salve should help inhibit infection and promote healing. My favorite antiseptic salve is made with chaparral infused oil and lavender and tea tree essential oils. Keep your eyes out for the recipe later this month or try this all purpose calendula salve  which is a great carrier for the essential oil of your choice.

Lavender Essential Oil: This multiuse essential oil can also be diluted and applied topically to relieve itchy bug bites and burns, including sunburn. It will also help keep a small wound from becoming infected and promote wound healing.

Tea Tree Essential Oil: This versatile first aid remedy can be applied topically to inhibit infection. Diluting the oil first is best to avoid irritating the skin.

Yarrow: Dried yarrow or yarrow tincture can be applied topically to stop bleeding. If you know this fragrant flower, you might find it near your campsite or along the trail. The fresh plant can be mulched and applied to a wound. This remedy is not necessary in every first aid kit, but it is a wise addition when medical assistance is far away. Yarrow can also be helpful for sinus congestion, colds, flu and fever.

 

First Aid Accessories

In addition to herbal remedies and depending on the type of travel, be sure to include first aid accessories like band-aids, gauze pads and adhesive tape, cotton balls, antiseptic wipes and a small bottle of unscented lotion or carrier oil for the dilution of essential oils. Cold and hot packs, tweezers, a small pair of scissors and other accessories might also be helpful.

 

Assembling Your DIY Herbal First Aid Kit

Allow the circumstances of your adventure, your most common needs and the needs of your fellow travelers to dictate the contents of your herbal first aid kit. For example, if you’re only going to be away from home for the day picnicking or dancing your feet off at a music festival, take along a small kit with essential oils. If you’re hopping on an airplane or taking a long road trip, consider adding immune support and sleep aids to your essential oil kit. If you’re traveling in areas where food and water borne illness are a concern, be sure to include immune and digestive remedies. If you will be traveling in areas far from medical assistance be as complete as you can, given space and weight limitations. If you’re traveling with a group, it helps to collaborate on an herbal first aid kit that can be shared by everyone. A water proof container or zippered bag is ideal for most kits. As with the contents, choose a container or bag specific to your travel.

An herbal first aid kit for your weekend car-camping trip might look like this:

Lavender essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
Peppermint essential oil
All-purpose antiseptic salve
Arnica Cream
Band-aids

A first aid kit for your trip to the Galapagos or a trek to Manchu Pichu might look like this:

Lavender essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
Peppermint essential oil
A small bottle of unscented lotion
All-purpose antiseptic salve
Arnica Cream
Ginger capsules
Echinacea-Goldenseal capsules
Valerian root capsules
Band-aids, gauze and adhesive tape

Taking along an herbal first aid kit will help ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected. However, when and wherever you travel, use common sense and seek medical attention when necessary. In the best of circumstances, you’ll feel prepared and confident that you have the herbal companions you need, but you’ll never have to use them.

I’d love to hear about your travels and the herbal first aid remedies you’ve used along the way. You can share your stories in the comments below or on Instagram along with a photo of your herbal first aid kit and #NectarDIY.

To happy, healthy and safe adventures,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Diane Harvey

NECTAR APOTHECARY CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT | DIANE HARVEY

This month’s Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight belongs to Diane Harvey. I haven’t know Diane very long, but her open heart and ready affection make me feel like I’ve known her a lifetime. She is a radiant, kind and light-filled soul. Every time she stops in the shop she brings a hug and a charge of positive energy with her. I love having Diane in class. As a former research librarian, I can count on her to ask pointed, clarifying questions that get right to the heart of the issue. Here’s more about Diane in her own words.

Would you share a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?

I grew up on the east coast and lived there until my husband Dave and I relocated to Prescott last year. After spending my working life as an academic research librarian, I am delighted to be retired and doing yoga, hiking the amazing trails around Prescott, and learning about herbs at Nectar.

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?

We always had a medicine cabinet filled with over the counter remedies — something for every condition. If we had an ache or pain, my mother would say, “Take something for it” and reach in the cabinet. I’ve tended to go in the opposite direction and resist taking medication. Herbs are something I feel much more comfortable with.

What are the biggest challenges you face in taking good care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle?

Simply paying attention to how I feel, both physically and emotionally, is an ongoing challenge for me. As my mindfulness and awareness have grown through practices such as yoga and meditation, I’m better able to understand how I’m feeling and seek healthy solutions.

How have natural remedies like herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

For years I’ve wanted to know more about herbs and essential oils. Now I have resources, like the lovely folks at Nectar, who can help me. By using tinctures, teas, and skin lotions, I have been able to balance body and mind and establish daily and long term practices that work for me.

What else do you do to take care of yourself and the people around you?

My committed meditation and yoga practices are an excellent fit with incorporating more herbal solutions into my daily life. I love to cook and enjoy the variety of fresh ingredients I’m able to find locally. I venture out for hikes as often as I can — Arizona sunshine is a remarkable tonic.

Why do you like to shop at Nectar Apothecary?

Nectar was one of the first places I discovered when I moved to Prescott — right along with a yoga studio and coffee shops! It is a beautiful space where the products are invitingly and carefully displayed. But of course it is the staff that makes the store special. I’ve learned so much from them and they’ve become friends. Whenever I’m out for a walk downtown, I stop by to say hello and see what’s new.

What’s your favorite herb, essential oil or tea, what do you like about it, and why do you use it?

Suzanne blended a tincture for me that I use every day. I enjoyed the consultation conversation that we had beforehand. My favorite tea is Belly Calm Chai, and I am also a fan of the Green Goddess/Green Tea lotion that we made in class. It works perfectly for my skin.

Have you taken classes at Nectar? What was your class experience?

The classes are amazing! I can’t say enough about how helpful and congenial they are. In my work I did a lot of teaching and training, so I particularly appreciate the careful preparation that Suzanne and her staff put into each class. They are well organized, full of information, and have great hands on participation.

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?

Seek out good teachers and good products. There’s a lot of information out there on the internet but it’s hard to know what is reliable. I would rather rely on conversations with people I trust.

If you were a medicinal plant, what plant would you be and why?

Lavender grows easily, has many uses, and smells so good.

We’re lucky to have Diane as a part of our Nectar Apothecary family. I hope you get to meet her; perhaps in one of our up-coming classes, on the yoga mat, or out on the trails on a beautiful day. Thanks so much Diane, for showing up for our Customer Spotlight and for being such a radiant part of the Nectar Community.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Cycle Support: How Chaste Tree Promotes Reproductive Health

Cycle Support: How Chaste Tree Promotes Reproductive Health

If you are looking for support for your monthly hormonal cycle, your new best friend might be the herb, Chaste Tree. Also known as Vitex agnus-castus or just Vitex, Chaste Tree is one of the most important herbs to enhance reproductive health and regulate the menstrual cycle. It helps normalize a wide range of menstrual and reproductive issues from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and irregular cycles to infertility and perimenopausal symptoms, which we’ll discuss below.

First, to understand how and why Chaste Tree works, its helpful to have a basic understanding of the menstrual cycle and the hormones responsible. This explanation is simplified but should give you enough information to understand how Chaste Tree helps normalize menstrual irregularities and enhance reproductive health.

Understanding Your Monthly Cycle

The monthly hormonal cycle starts in the brain. A small part of the brain known as the hypothalamus is constantly sending messages to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland responds to certain messages by sending Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) to the ovaries. FSH tells the ovaries to begin creating a follicle near the surface that will enable an egg (or ovum) to develop to maturity. The follicle is home for the maturing egg and secretes the hormone estrogen. Rising levels of estrogen cause thickening of the lining of the uterus. Eventually, the follicle bursts releasing the egg to travel down the fallopian tubes toward the uterus.

All the activity up to this point in the cycle is referred to as the follicular phase. After the follicle bursts, it forms what is known as the corpus lutem. The corpus lutem then begins to secrete the hormone progesterone. Rising progesterone levels help maintain the thickening walls of the uterus and would eventually help maintain a pregnancy should one occur. If the mature egg making its way to the uterus encounters sperm and is fertilized, an embryo is formed. The embryo then implants into the thickened wall of the uterus. Or if the egg is not fertilized, eventually progesterone and estrogen levels decrease, and the wall of the uterus begin to shed. This is menstruation. The activities from the formation of the corpus lutem to menstruation are known as the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.

As we age, fertility declines and there are fewer and fewer eggs available to ripen to maturity. In some months, no egg matures, the corpus lutem never forms and progesterone levels begin to drop as a result. This is common in perimenopause and often results in estrogen levels that are high in relation to progesterone. This is described as estrogen dominance. Eventually, the decline in fertility and ripening eggs leads to a decrease in estrogen, too. The lining of the uterus does not thicken, and menstruation comes to an end. Twelve months after the last episode of menstruation is considered menopause. After that, a person is considered post-menopausal.

Tracking your monthly cycle is an important way to attune to your body and its needs. It will also help you track changes, whether positive or negative. Consider using a calendar or smart phone app to record your cycle. Day 1 is the first day of menstruation. In a regular cycle, ovulation typically occurs around Day 14, though it can vary from month to month and from person to person. Some people may experience minor discomfort when they ovulate. If a pregnancy has not occurred, menstruation typically begins around Day 28.

This exquisite dance of hormones can easily be thrown out of balance. Our hormonal cycles are influenced by the moon and tides, who we live and work with, culture, diet, stress, exercise, weight, emotions, family history and genetic predisposition. Restoring balance requires a holistic approach that takes all the relevant factors in to consideration. Chaste Tree may be one of the most important herbs for reproductive health, but like all herbal remedies, it is best used in a holistic context.

Chaste Tree and Reproductive Health

Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is a large shrub or small deciduous tree native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia. The tree bears beautiful columns of purple-blue flowers that produce the spicy berries used by herbalists to regulate the hormonal cycle. The tree is often planted as an ornamental in warm regions throughout the world and is much loved by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Chaste Tree berry is considered warming and drying. It’s flavor is bitter, pungent and somewhat astringent. The berries can be prepared as a tea or taken as a liquid extract or tincture or in capsules. For a tea, steep 1-2 teaspoons in a cup of boiled water for 20-30 minutes and drink 2-3 cups per day. The tincture will yield a more complete profile of the active ingredients. For the tincture take ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) 2 -3 times per day. Chaste Tree also takes time to work. If you decide to use Chaste Tree, commit to a minimum of three months and expect to see optimal results at about six months.

Chaste Tree’s ability to balance menstrual cycle irregularities is indirect, but profound. It appears to act on dopamine receptors in the brain through the hypothalamus and in the pituitary gland to inhibit follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and promote luteinizing hormone. The overall effect is a shift in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, in favor of progesterone. This “progesterone-like” effect is beneficial for the full scope of menstrual disorders and life cycle changes. Chaste Tree also appears to inhibit a pituitary hormone called prolactin. One of the most important roles for prolactin is supporting milk production in breastfeeding. However, prolactin levels can become elevated in people who are not breastfeeding. Elevated prolactin can inhibit ovulation leading to infrequent or irregular cycles, low progesterone and a uterine lining that cannot support an embryo and infertility. Elevated prolactin levels are also implicated in PMS.

Though it may seem paradoxical, Chaste Tree has long been used to promote breast milk and its effects as a galactgogue have been scientifically validated. Like many of our plant allies, Chaste Tree appears to have a normalizing or amphoteric effect, lowering prolactin levels that are abnormally high and supporting prolactin levels associated with normal lactation. So, yes, Chaste Tree is safe during breast feeding and is even beneficial.

Chaste Tree works well on its own, but also combines well with other herbs that help balance hormones, regulate liver function and tone the reproductive organs. For other herb that support hormonal balance visit this blog, Three Herbs to Unleash Feminine Power. A holistic approach may also include diet and lifestyle changes.

Chaste Tree for PMS & Menstrual Irregularity

During the reproductive years, Chaste Tree can help relieve the varied emotional and physical symptoms of PMS. These symptoms can range from mood swings with anxiety, irritability and anger, to bloating, breast tenderness, food cravings, headaches and low back pain. Several studies have shown Chaste Tree to be especially effective in relieving PMS accompanied by breast tenderness, as well as fibrocystic breast disease, which may be an indication of elevated prolactin levels. Irregular cycles, both infrequent and too frequent can benefit from Chaste Tree, whether caused by elevated prolactin levels and the lack of ovulation or inadequate progesterone leading to frequent menstruation. Chaste Tree can also help reduce excessive menstrual bleeding, which can be related to excess estrogen and excessive thickening of the uterine lining. Chaste Tree has also been used in conjunction with other herbs for endometriosis, a common but complex condition that is often difficult to treat. It’s effect on endometriosis may be due to its ability to reduce the estrogen available to stimulate endometrial tissue.

Chaste Tree for Infertility

Many of these menstrual irregularities can also lead to infertility, including elevated prolactin levels that inhibit ovulation. In one study, the use of a Chaste Tree extract significantly reduced prolactin levels, and normalized progesterone and luteal phase deficits that cause irregular cycles leading to infertility. While Chaste Tree is not recommended during pregnancy, Dr. Tori Hudson, ND advises that there is no need for worry for someone who becomes pregnant while taking Chaste Tree in the first trimester.

Chaste Tree for Perimenopause and Estrogen Dominance

During the approach to menopause when progesterone levels begin to decline, Chaste Tree can be especially helpful in easing the symptoms caused by estrogen dominance. These symptoms can include reduced libido, mood swings, including irritability and depression, irregular or abnormal menstruation, bloating, fatigue, insomnia and mental fog. Keep in mind that though menopause results in estrogen deficiency, progesterone deficiency normally occurs first. Some people can suffer from estrogen dominance for 10 – 15 years before menopause. Before looking for ways to increase estrogen levels, if you are approaching menopause and experiencing mood swings, irritability, or menstrual irregularities, it may be the result of decreased progesterone.

Have you had success with Chaste Tree or other herbs or other strategies for menstrual irregularities? Share your insights in the comments — I’d love to hear your story and I’m sure other readers would too. And, if you have questions about Chaste Tree or other herbs for hormone balancing or reproductive health, stop in and see us or leave a comment below.

Blessings,
suzanne

References

Atmaca M, Kumru S, et al., Fluoxetine versus Vitex agnus castus extract in the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, Hum Psychopharmacol 2003;18:191-195.

Berger D, Schaffner W, et al., Efficacy of Vitex agnus castus L. extract Ze 440 in patients with pre-menstrual syndrome, Arch Gynecol Obstet 2000; 264:150-153.

Decapite L, Histology, anatomy and antibiotic properties of vitex agnus castus, Ann Fac Agr Univ Studi Perugi 1967; 22:109-26.
Halaska M, Beles P, et al., Treatment of cyclical mastalgia with a solution containing a Vitex agnus castus extract: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study, Breast 1000; 8:175-181.

He Z, Chen R, Zhou Y, et al. Treatment for premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus: A prospective, randomized, multi-center placebo-controlled study in China. Maturitas 2009; 63:99-103.

Hudson T, Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Alternative Therapies and Integrative Medicine for Total Health and Wellness, 2008, McGraw Hill, New York, New York.
Holmes P, The Energetics of Western Herbs, A Materia Medica Integrating Western & Chinese Herbs, 4th Ed., 2007, Snow Lotus Press, Cotati, California.

Loch E, Selle H, et al., Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus, J Womens Health Gend Based Med 2000; 9:315-320.

Milewicz A, Gehdel E, et al., Vitex agnus castus extract in the treatment of luteal phase defects due to hyperprolactinemia: results of a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study, Arzneim-Forsch Drug Res 1993; 43: 752-56.
Schellenberg R., Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study, Br Med J 2001; 322:134-137.

Van Die M, Bone K, et al., Effects of a combination of Hypericum perforatum and Vitex agnus-castus on PMS-like symptoms in late-perimenopausal women: Findings from a subpopulation analysis. J Altern Compl Med 2009; 15(9):1045-1048.

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DIY Floral Hydrosol: Make This Surprisingly Easy Flower Water at Home

DIY Floral Hydrosol: Make This Surprisingly Easy Flower Water at Home

What is a Floral Hydrosol?

Hydrosols are fragrant waters infused with the subtle aroma of flowers and other aromatic plants. Hydrosols are created during the steam distillation of an essential oil. Though mild and delicate in comparison, hydrosols have many of the same therapeutic properties as essential oils and can be used safely on the skin and even ingested.

Hydrosols are sometimes referred to as flower waters, but not all flower waters are true hydrosols. If you purchase a “flower water,” read the label carefully to make certain it’s not just water with a synthetic fragrance added. Better yet, the recipe below uses rose, chamomile and lavender to make a refreshing and rejuvenating DIY Floral Hydrosol at home.

Hydrosols have a myriad of uses from skincare to the kitchen – they make a hydrating toner for your skin or a lovely cooling spritzer on a hot day. You can also enjoy the therapeutic properties of a hydrosol on your skin by incorporating it in your DIY creams and lotions. This Green Goddess Green Tea lotion  includes a helichrysum hydrosol to soothe inflammation and rejuvenate mature, sun-damaged skin. Pure organic hydrosols can be used in any recipe calling for a floral water. This delicate Rose Syrup is made with rose hydrosol and honey. Drizzled over fruit or ice cream, its unforgettably delicious. Up the ante on your cocktails with this Rose hydrosol infused dreamy Damiana Rose Cordial recipe.

DIY Floral Hydrosol Recipe

Step 1: A Homemade Still for Making Hydrosols

You will need:

Enamel 21.5 Quart Canning Pot with a Lid
Two small heat resistant glass bowls
A bag of ice

To set up the still, place the canning pot on the stove, with about 12 cups of pure filtered or distilled water. Invert one of the small bowls and set it in the pot. Place the other glass bowl on top of the inverted  bowl. The lid of the canning pot placed upside down on the pot will be used as a “condenser” allowing the aromatic vapors to condense and drain into the bowl. Once the distillation process begins (see below), a bag of ice cubes placed on top of the inverted lid will help cool and condense the aromatic steam. Putting the ice cubes in a plastic bag makes it easier to remove the melted ice (i.e., the bag of water) and add more fresh ice to the top of the pot as needed.

Step 2: Floral Hydrosol

This floral hydrosol with rose, lavender and chamomile is a sweet-smelling and revitalizing  toner for all skin types and a refreshing facial mist on a warm summer day.

4 ounces dried rose buds
4 ounces dried lavender flowers
4 ounces dried chamomile flowers
12 cups pure filtered or distilled water

Add the dried flowers and water to the canning pot and allow to steep for at several hours. Place the canning pot on the stove top, add the inverted glass bowl and the set the other glass bowl on top as described above. Place the lid on the pot and bring the contents to a low boil. Turn down the heat to a very low simmer. The heat should be just enough to keep the contents steaming. Invert the lid on the canning pot and set a bag of ice inside the inverted lid. Inside the pot the aromatic vapors will condense on the inverted lid and drip in to the bowl. This is your hydrosol! With the quantities used in this recipe, you can expect to get 10 to 12 ounces of hydrosol.

Pay close attention to your steaming pot and turn off the heat once most of the water has evaporated. Allow the hydrosol to cool. Next, pour the hydrosol through an unbleached coffee filter that has first been rinsed with hot water. Filtering will remove any plant matter or volatile oils that have collected in the hydrosol. Bottle, label and enjoy! Use within six months and store in any excess in the refrigerator when not in use.

Once you’ve made this hydrosol you’re going to want to make hydrosols with all the other aromatic plants you love. Consider orange or lemon peel, lemongrass, pine, peppermint, rosemary or yarrow. The possibilities are almost endless. I’d love to see what you come up with and how you decide to use your hydrosol. Be sure to snap a picture of your hydrosol in action, post it on Instagram or Facebook with #nectarDIY.

Blessings,
suzanne

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Ultra Warming DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve

Ultra Warming DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve

This homemade herbal pain relief salve is an easy to make topical remedy for stiff joints, sore muscles, back pain and nerve pain. Salve (pronounced /sav/) is a medicinal ointment used topically to promote healing and typically made with herb-infused oils and beeswax. This recipe makes enough to stock your medicine chest or gym bag and share with friends and family who are looking to reduce their reliance on over-the-counter pain killers.

Medicinal herbs can be used both topically and internally to reduce pain. And, unlike most over-the-counter and prescription pain drugs that possess a single action, herbs can be combined to relieve pain in multiple ways. This herbal pain relief salve is applied topically and contains herbs that relax tense muscles (antispasmodics), reduce inflammation, ease nerve pain (anodynes) and promote healthy circulation to stiff joints and injuries. In this recipe you’ll find cayenne pepper and ginger, two warming circulatory stimulants that help reduce pain by depleting a neurotransmitter called Substance P, which transmits the pain signal from peripheral nerves to the brain. Without Substance P, the pain signal cannot be sent. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. White willow bark also helps reduce inflammation and its active compound, salicin, converts to salicylic acid in the body, which is what we more commonly refer to as aspirin. California poppy is a powerful antispasmodic and nerve anodyne. The optional essential oils in this salve offer the same wide range of pain-relieving properties. For more about herbal pain-relieving properties and herbs for pain relief, check out this article, Natural Relief: Herbs for Pain Management.

If you choose to use herbs for pain relief, keep in mind that pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong. Understanding the cause of pain and taking a holistic approach to bring your body back to optimal health is key. Within this holistic context, herbs can help relieve pain and aid in recovery.

DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve Recipe

This salve is made in two steps. First, make the infused herbal oil, then use the infused oil to create the finished salve. The infused oil can also be used on its own or in combination with essential oils, rather than in a salve.

 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp (~1/2 ounce) cayenne pepper, ground
2 tbsp (~1/2 ounce) dried ginger, ground
1 ounce white willow bark, ground
1 ounce dried California poppy, ground
1.5 cups (12 ounces) olive oil
1.5 ounces beeswax [Adjust to amount of finished oil]

Optional Essential Oils:

Up to 3 tsp total of German Chamomile or Roman Chamomile, Helichrysum, Lemongrass, Marjoram, or Rosemary ct. cineole for the entire batch. If essential oils are added to individual salve containers rather than the entire batch, use 10-20 drops of essential oil per fluid ounce of salve.

 

Instructions:

Step 1 – Infused Herbal Oil

If they are not already powders, grind the cayenne, ginger, willow and California poppy to a powder using a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle or Vitamix.

Place the powdered herbs in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil and mix well.

Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.

Warm and allow the herbs to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming:

Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.

Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day for 7 -10 days..

After 7 - 10 days, strain the oil. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. (You can purchase unbleached cotton muslin at any fabric store. Be sure to wash it before using.) Pour in all the herb-oil mixture. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express the as much of the infused oil as possible.

Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil for use in Step 2 or bottle and use as a pain-relieving body oil.

Step 2 – DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve

Set aside a small amount of your infused oil and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.

Place the oil and beeswax in a steel, enamel or glass container and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.

To test the consistency of your finished product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result.

If you are using essential oils, there are two options at this stage:

If you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir up to 3 tsp of essential oils into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.

If you want salves with different essential oils, add 10-20 drops of essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/bees wax mixture into each container to cool.

Allow salves to cool and harden for 24 hours. If you notice cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance. Label your salve containers.

After applying your salve, be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes. Any cayenne pepper remaining on your hands can cause a temporary burning sensation in the eyes or on sensitive mucus membranes.

While of course my wish is that you are mostly pain-free, I hope you and your loved ones find relief with this salve when needed. I’d love to know how this works for you and always enjoying seeing your finished products. To share, snap a picture of your DIY herbal pain relief salve, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram.

Wishing your good health and happiness,
suzanne

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Natural Relief: Herbs for Pain Management

Natural Relief: Herbs for Pain Management

Aching, burning, throbbing, sharp, dull, tingling, hot—because the individual experience of pain and what drives pain is so unique, herbs for pain management are best when they are specific and personal to the individual.

It was once thought that pain was caused by damaged tissue; tissue that could be identified, surgically removed or treated with medication until healing occurred. Our modern understanding of pain is more sophisticated and continues to evolve. We know there is rarely a simple, direct relationship between the extent of tissue damage and the amount of pain some individuals feel. In painful and chronic conditions like Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome damaged tissue usually cannot be identified.

Fortunately, nature has provided us with many pain-relieving herbs that possess a wide range of actions. Unlike pain medication that tends to target one cause of pain, herbal pain formulas can target many and help address the emotional toll often associated with chronic pain. The many pain-relieving herbs described below possess actions that are anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxing, , nerve pain-relieving, circulatory stimulants and analgesic. In most cases, they are best used in combination to address the unique experience of the individual. As always, if you are being treated for a medical condition or taking medication, discuss the use of these herbs for pain management with your healthcare practitioner, first.

A Holistic Approach to Pain Management

While herbs can help relieve both acute and chronic pain, as with most herbal remedies, they are best used as part of a multifaceted approach. There are many therapeutic options for pain relief and chronic pain management beyond western medicine and pharmaceuticals–herbs, acupuncture, body work, chiropractic adjustments, dietary changes, yoga and other movement modalities, and psycho-therapy, to name just a few. The choice is personal, and results will vary, but a focus on your individual experience is key. The Academy for Integrative Pain Management sums it up this way: “[t]he path to pain reduction lies in the power of applying many different healing therapies in a way that complements the patient’s needs, beliefs and personality. While each of these therapies offer healing, the patient remains the key component to pain reduction. Pain patients must believe and affirm that they can reduce their pain and then select those therapies that will assist in doing so.”

Whether you are looking for new solutions for chronic pain or alternatives to the over-the-counter pain-killers in your medicine chest, these herbal alternatives for pain relief have much to offer.

 

Herbs for Pain Management

 

Herbal Anti-inflammatories

Herbal anti-inflammatories modulate or damp down excessive inflammation. They are useful in most herbal pain formulas, and especially for joint pain, osteoarthritis, back pain, headaches including migraines, and fibromyalgia. Herbal anti-inflammatories are also helpful in autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus or Hashimoto’s. Some of the most effective herbal anti-inflammatories are: Boswellia (Boswellia spp.) also known as Frankincense, Cannabis (Cannabis spp.), Devil’s Claw Harpagophytum procumbens, Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Turmeric (Curucma longa), and White Willow Bark (Salix alba).

Herbal Anti-spasmodics

Herbal antispasmodics help to relieve muscle pain, relax tight muscles and relieve excess tension in the body. They help soothe muscle spasm in both skeletal muscles and in smooth muscles like those of the digestive tract or the uterus in cases of menstrual cramps. Like herbal anti-inflammatories, anti-spasmodic herbs are helpful in most pain formulas. Even when the primary cause of pain is not muscular, muscles around the painful area often become sore and stiff in their efforts to avoid pain with movement. Some of the best herbal anti-spasmodics for pain also calm the nervous system and help ease nervous tension. This calming effect can have a significant impact on the brain’s perception of pain and improve one’s ability to cope with discomfort. Good anti-spasmodic herbs include: Cramp Bark Viburnum opulus), Kava (Piper methysticum), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis or stichensis), and Wild Yam (Discorea villosa). Among these, Skullcap, Kava and Valerian also help relieve nervous tension and irritability.

 

Herbal Sedatives and Anodynes for Nerve Pain

Some herbs help relieve nerve pain or neurogenic pain, which may be caused by damage to the peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself. While the cause of nerve pain is sometimes hard to identify or explain, it may manifest as burning or tingling sensations or sharp, shooting pain. Some herbs that help relieve nerve pain are strong sedatives that help numb pain. A nerve anodyne describes other herbs that seem to have a direct effect on nerve pain, though the mechanism of action is not fully understood. Herbal sedatives and nerve anodynes for nerve pain include: California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Kava (Piper methysticum), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis or stichensis), and Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa). Of these, California Poppy, Valerian and Wild Lettuce are sedative and anti-spasmodic.

Circulatory Stimulants

Good blood circulation to stiff joints, aching muscles and other areas with localized pain helps relieve congestion in tissue and promote recovery. To promote circulation add one or more of these herbs to your pain formula: Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Ginger is also an effective anti-inflammatory.

Topical Analgesics

An analgesic simply refers to a substance that relieves pain. Herbs can also be used topically to relieve pain in a variety of ways. Anti-spasmodic herbs used topically can have a direct effect on sore muscles and herbal anti-inflammatories can reduce localized inflammation as in the case of joint pain. Some herbs used topically for pain work by depleting a neurotransmitter, called Substance P, which is used to transmit the pain signal from peripheral nerves to the brain. Without Substance P, the pain signal cannot be sent. Herbs that deplete Substance P include Cayenne (Capsicum annuum), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), and Turmeric (Curucma longa).

There is a wide range of possibilities when it comes to choosing herbs for pain management or creating a personalized formula. Consider both the mechanism causing pain and your personal experience. Are you using any of these herbs or utilizing other holistic strategies for pain relief? What has or hasn’t worked for you? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

Blessings,
suzanne

 

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The Informed Consumer’s Guide to Buying Quality Herbs & Teas

The Informed Consumer’s Guide to Buying Quality Herbs & Teas

If you are concerned about the health and nutritional content of the food you purchase, you probably choose organic over non-organic, read labels diligently, and carefully choose the brightest, best-looking fruits and vegetables available at your local market. Do you apply the same scrutiny when buying bulk herbs or loose-leaf tea? Do you know how to tell the difference between an herb rich in health and nutrients and one that lacks energy and vitality? In many ways it’s common sense and relies on skills you already have. However, I have discovered that many consumers who are otherwise careful about the health and quality of the food they purchased do not apply the same level of care when it comes to buying bulk herbs and loose-leaf tea. I created this informed consumer’s guide to buying quality herbs and teas so you can make the best buying decisions when it comes to stocking your herbal medicine cabinet.

 

How to Buy Quality Herbs and Teas

Choose Organic

First, is it certified organic or not? Just like your produce, if it’s not labeled organic, it’s fair to assume its “conventional,” which means it has probably been grown using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and may still carry that potentially harmful residue. You may also encounter dried herbs that are “wildcrafted” or “wild-harvested.” This means the plant was harvested wherever nature allowed it to grow, rather than cultivated by people. Herbs ethically wildcrafted in clean environments may be of excellent quality and potency. If you are curious about wildcrafting or foraging, you can learn more about ethical principles in this article, Independence, Interdependence & Herbal Medicine-Making.

Get to Know the Herb

Next, when buying loose or bulk herbs, bring a bit of prior knowledge about the herb. First, know the botanical or scientific name of the herb and expect to find that name on the bulk herb jar or package. This is simply reading the label, something you’re probably already doing when you buy food. All herbs have both common names and botanical names. Knowing the botanical name ensures that you’re buying the right plant. It’s also important to know which part of the herb is used medicinally. Different parts sometimes have different therapeutic properties.  So, know if you are looking for the flowers, the leaves, the bark or seeds. This is common sense, but you can learn more about why this is so important in this article, Capsule, Tea, Oil or Extract: A Guide to the Many Forms of Herbal Medicine.

Trust Your Senses

Now the fun part! The most valuable tools you have to evaluate the quality of bulk herbs and loose-leaf tea are your senses—use your eyes, your nose, and your tastes buds. High quality loose or bulk herbs, whether single herbs or blended to make a tea, should closely resemble the fresh plant in color, texture, fragrance and taste. If you don’t know what the plant looks like fresh, Google it or purchase a medicinal herb guide or local plant book. Although they have been dried, buying quality herbs and teas is no different than choosing a banana or head of lettuce. You probably already do this when you buy fresh fruits and vegetables. You skip over the brown, bruised bananas, you choose a head of lettuce that is green and crisp, not wilted, and you hold the melon to your nose to find one that smells rich and sweet. It’s even better when you can sample a bright, crisp apple or juicy plum at the farmer’s market. So, what does this mean for bulk herbs and loose-leaf tea? Let’s look at some examples.

Chamomile | Matricaria recutita

Chamomile, also known as German Chamomile, grows as a small sweet flower, with a large yellow center, petite white petals and a fine green feathery foliage. The flowers, used to make tea, are rich in fragrant oils that relax the nervous system, aid digestion and promote a healthy inflammatory response.

Chamomile tea in a white cup on a wooden backfround with chamomile flowers sprinkled around

A high-quality bulk or loose chamomile rich in therapeutic compounds, should contain the yellow flower centers, a little light green foliage, and a sweet, earthy fragrance. Consider these samples—all purchased in the small town where I live.

The sample on the left shows all of qualities of a vibrant, properly harvested, carefully dried herb. Note the flowers, colors and texture. In the middle sample, the entire herb is a brown monotone color. This is either very old (even though I purchased it a month before this article was written) or it was poorly dried, allowing for oxidation and decay in the drying process, or it was this sad dead color when it was harvested. The last sample on the right, is also a monotone color and does not appear to contain any of the oil-rich flowers. Imagine you’re choosing the most vibrant produce you can find. Imagine you can smell these samples. Which one would you choose?

three neat piles of dried chamomile each one less fresh looking than the last

 

Yarrow | Achillea millefolium

Here’s another example using yarrow. Yarrow produces a small, irregular umbrella of fragrant white to cream colored flowers on tall stems. Its foliage is sage green with feathery leaves at the base and along the stalk.

fresh yarrow bundle held by a young woman with a turqoise ring

The entire above ground parts of the plant are used medicinally, but it is considered most potent when in flower. Yarrow has a wide range of therapeutic properties from reproductive tonic to cold, flu and first aid remedy.

Now consider these dried yarrow samples. The sample on the left is wildcrafted. I recently purchased the sample on the right. In the high-quality sample on the left the creamy flowers and sage green foliage are visible. Contrast that with the brown, monotone colored sample on the right. Like the chamomile sample above, we can surmise that it was dried poorly or was already dead when it was harvested. We can also surmise that it lacks the therapeutic potency of the sample on the left.

a neat pile of freshly dried yarrow leaves and stems next to a neat pile of dull looking finely ground yarrow

Mullein | Verbascum thapsus

two images of a budle of fresh mullein leaves in nature

Here’s a similar set of samples of mullein, a common herb used for respiratory support. The furry, sage colored leaves of the fresh plant are obvious in the wildcrafted sample on the leftt. The dark brown, almost black sample on the rightt, purchased recently, bears no resemblance to the live plant and may even have molded in the drying process. Yikes!

a neat pile of fresh coursely ground mullein next to a neat pile of dull looking finely ground mullein

So, you’re probably getting an idea what to look for. The more you know about the plant, the more you know what to look for in the dried herb. When it comes to taste, don’t be afraid to ask! The herb shop or market should welcome your assessment of their quality and be willing to let you taste a small sample of the herb.

Loose-Leaf Tea vs. Tea Bags

Evaluating the quality of a loose-leaf tea blend is really no different than evaluating the quality of individual herbs. Look for the individual plant parts shown on the label or jar. Look for vibrant colors and robust fragrance. Unfortunately, if you’re purchasing tea in tea bags sold in boxes, you can’t use your senses to evaluate quality and freshness. If you could, I suspect you would soon switch to loose-leaf tea. So, I recommend that you do a little investigation comparing what’s in the tea bag with the loose herb listed on the ingredient label. You may find something like this.

The fine powder on the right came from a tea bag labeled Chamomile. There may be actual chamomile flowers in the tea bag, but it’s really impossible to tell. You can have much more confidence in the chamomile flowers shown on the left. Here’s another example using a tea blend from a tea bag:

a pile of fresh dried chamomile next to a tea bag torn open with dull looking dried chamomile spilling out

In the example below, the fine powder on the right comes from a tea bag said to contain cinnamon bark, chamomile flowers and lavender flowers. The sample on the left is also made from dried cinnamon bark, chamomile flowers and lavender flowers. Which one do you think would make the best cup of a relaxing herbal tea? If you do this experiment at home, be sure to notice the difference in fragrance and taste, too.

a neat pile of vibrantly colored herbal tea next to a tea bag torn open with dull looking finely ground herbs spilling out

In general, what you’re getting in the tea bag are herbs that have been ground to a consistent size powder. The grinding or processing causes the herbs to lose their freshness and potency more quickly.  Some tea companies make their tea bags with organic herbs, which are healthier than non-organic herbs. However, they may still be overly processed and it is almost impossible to know what condition the herb was in before the tea bags were manufactured.

Being an informed consumer of bulk herbs and loose-leaf teas is not difficult. In fact, with a little knowledge and your senses, it can be rather enjoyable to see the rich, vibrant colors, notice the flowers, berries or barks, and inhale the fragrant aromas. At Nectar, we take herb quality very seriously. I welcome you to come in, use your senses, and be sure to ask for a sample of whatever piques your interest – we’re always here to help.

Well Wishes,
suzanne

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Herbs for Detoxification: A Holistic Approach to a Whole Body Cleanse

HERBS FOR DETOXIFICATION: A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO A WHOLE-BODY CLEANSE

Why take a holistic approach?

The human body has a complex and elaborate system for cleansing and detoxification. The skin, lungs, kidneys, lymphatic system, the gut, including the bowels, and liver all play a part in neutralizing toxins and eliminating waste. However, during a cleanse many people make the mistake of focusing only on the bowels. Indeed, the bowels need to work well for the body to eliminate waste, but a holistic approach will promote all the body’s pathways of detoxification. Along with other holistic practices, herbs for detoxification help to ensure that all the body’s natural systems are optimized to support a thorough, balanced cleanse.

But First, Do I Even Need to Do a Cleanse?

Even people who do their best to eat clean, use clean body care products and maintain a toxin-free home are exposed to harmful chemicals that persist in our soil, water and air. Almost everyone carries some level of toxic body burden. The Center for Disease Control has systematically tested people living in the United States to see which environmental chemicals are present in their blood and urine. The CDC first published results in 2009, with an update in 2017; the study showed widespread exposure to environmental chemicals. Most people tested had been exposed to chemicals commonly found in consumer products including personal care products, plastics, flame retardants and non-stick cookware. A chemical known as perchlorate, used to manufacture things like explosives and rocket fuel and to release static in food packaging was found in every person tested! The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that perchlorate is common now in public drinking systems with a frequency and at levels that present a public health concern. A study by the Environmental Working Group found the same chemicals (an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants) in the cord blood of newborn babies in the United States.

Many of the toxins we are exposed to are transformed or neutralized by the body or safely eliminated. However, when the body is overwhelmed with environmental chemicals or its detoxification systems are under performing, toxins accumulate in fat and other body tissue. Physical signs and symptoms of this bioaccumulation may include body odor, constipation, fatigue, weight gain and chronic inflammation. More harmful effects include suppressed immune function, endocrine and reproductive system dysfunction, including decreased male fertility, increased risk for cardiovascular and liver disease, and diabetes. Parabens found in most personal care products (deodorants, moisturizers, shampoos, etc.) mimic estrogen, interfere with other hormones, accumulate in breast tissue and can stimulate proliferation of human breast cancer cells.

So, do I need to do a cleanse? In short, yes, probably. If you are on medication or being treated for a specific condition, be sure to discuss detoxification with your healthcare practitioner first. Also, if you have reason to believe that you may be carrying a high level of accumulated toxins, obtaining the support and guidance of a skilled practitioner is best and safest for you.

 

When is the Best Time to Cleanse?

While you may choose to cleanse or detox any time of year, the science of Ayurveda (which translates as “the knowledge of life”), emphasizes a life in harmony with nature which includes cleansing in the spring and fall. In nature, spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. If we live in harmony with the rhythms of nature, spring is an auspicious time to awaken new energy and vitality with a whole-body cleanse. A  spring cleanse will help your body release the heaviness of winter and attune to the fertile energies of spring. A fall cleanse helps reduce heat and the effects of over-stimulation that tend to accumulate in the body during the summer months. It also helps us slow down and restore balance as we head into cold, blustery weather.

The herbs for detoxification discussed below will help to ensure that all the body’s natural systems for cleansing are working well.

Herbs for Detoxification

Milk Thistle Seed | Silybum marianum

I believe Milk Thistle seed is in THE most important herb to support a cleanse. Though considered a weed in many parts of the world, Milk Thistle’s little brown seeds pack big benefits and have been used medicinally for liver conditions for over 2,000 years. With an estimated 50 clinical trials, modern research has confirmed Milk Thistle’s role in promoting liver function and restoration, assimilation, and detoxification.

When it comes to a cleanse, Milk Thistle could not be more perfect for its support of the liver’s role in whole-body detoxification. Specifically, Milk Thistle increases and helps maintain liver activity critical to  the neutralization of metabolic waste coming from the digestive system, including unwanted chemical compounds from drugs, pesticides and herbicides, toxins produced in the gut (enterotoxins), and exogenous microbial compounds. A natural side effect of your liver’s neutralization of these toxins is the production of free-radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can cause cell damage. Here too, Milk Thistle plays a role by stimulating the liver’s production of glutathione, a potent anti-oxidant that neutralizes these free-radicals. Glutathione is also necessary to convert fat-soluble toxins to water soluble compounds which are more easily excreted from the body. In addition to increasing glutathione levels, Milk Thistle itself contains powerful anti-oxidant compounds (ten times more effective than Vitamin E) that help protect the body from free-radical damage.

As for its role in liver conditions, Milk Thistle is used for hepatitis, particularly as a liver protectant and for liver damage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) including abnormal liver function and fatty liver. People who have been exposed to chemical pollutants and pharmaceutical drugs have been shown to benefit from the use of Milk Thistle as do people with skin conditions related to liver dysfunction. Milk Thistle is also helpful for occasional indigestion (dyspepsia) with gas, bloating or heartburn and for gall bladder complaints including the prevention of gall stones.

To incorporate Milk Thistle seeds into a cleanse, I recommend using the powdered seeds (12 - 15 g per day) mixed with soft foods or a good quality capsule. It is important to note that most of the therapeutic compounds in Milk Thistle seeds are not readily soluble water in water; as such, I do not recommend making a tea with Milk Thistle seeds.

Burdock Root | Arctium lappa

This dark fleshy root can sometimes be found in the produce section of your local market and is often used in Japanese cooking, where it is known as Gobo. Burdock root offers a wide range of properties that promote multiple pathways of elimination making it especially useful for herbal detoxification. Many people undertake a cleanse to improve digestive function and promote gut health, areas in which Burdock root excels. Burdock root promotes digestive function, improving the breakdown of food, assimilation of nutrients and elimination through the bowels. It can even have a mild laxative effect due to its ability to stimulate digestive function. During a cleanse, at least one effortless bowel movement per day is required to reduce the potential for toxins to be reabsorbed back into circulation. Burdock root is also rich in a compound called inulin, which is considered a “prebiotic,” that feeds and helps healthy gut flora thrive. Burdock acts on the liver to produce more bile and promotes the flow of bile from the gall bladder, which helps your body digest fats. Burdock also promotes kidney function, an important route for the elimination of water-soluble toxins as well as lymphatic function, which is necessary for the removal of cellular waste. Like Milk Thistle, Burdock root is also an anti-oxidant and helps prevent abnormal cell mutations that can lead to cancer. Even if you’re not doing a cleanse, this nourishing, well rounded bitter root is an excellent choice for chronic gas and bloating caused by weakened digestive fire. Energetically, Burdock Root is cooling, slightly sweet, and of course, bitter. Hot tempered, irritable people tend to benefit from this cooling root.

If you’re using Burdock root to support a cleanse, I recommend preparing it as a decoction  (a simmered tea). Use one tablespoon per cup and drink 2-3 cups per day throughout your cleanse.

Nettle Leaf | Urtica spp.

Nettle leaf, also known as Stinging Nettles is a nourishing spring tonic that supports detoxification and benefits the entire body. It helps improve elimination of metabolic waste and is rich in vitamins (A, C, E, K) and minerals (calcium, magnesium, silica, and iron). Nettle leaf promotes detoxification by improving kidney function and urine output and is considered a urinary tract tonic. It is also alkalizing, meaning it helps promote balanced pH in the body. Balanced pH is important because the opposite, heightened acidity, places excess stress on the body, may negatively impact bone health and is associated with an increased cancer risk.

Nettle leaf is especially helpful for toxicity that manifests as rheumatic conditions like arthritis and gout, helping to eliminate uric acid build-up in the joints. It is also used for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis that can be aggravated by poor liver function and heightened levels of toxicity within.

Nettle leaf is best prepared as a cold infusion to extract more vitamins and minerals. To prepare a cold infusion, cover the loose herb with cold water and allow to soak overnight at room temperature. In the morning strain and enjoy. Use one heaping tablespoon per cup and drink up to four cups per day during your cleanse.

Ashwagandha Root | Withania somnifera

Some might be surprised to find a plant like Ashwagandha that supports the nervous system on a list of herbs for detoxification. While it’s true that Ashwagandha Root is not specific to the body’s various pathways of elimination, when you undertake a whole-body cleanse, I believe it is also an opportunity to reset the nervous system, reduce the effects of stress on the body, and release negative emotional patterns. This is where Ashwagandha root fits in. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which is a shorthand way of describing an herb that helps the body adapt to and respond to stress more favorably. Unlike most other adaptogens that are stimulating, Ashwagandha calms the mind and relieves anxiety. It helps to nourish and rebuild a nervous system depleted by long-term stress or illness and reduces cortisol levels elevated by chronic stress. It promotes thyroid function and is beneficial for people with hypothyroidism or a low functioning thyroid. When it comes to insomnia or restlessness, ashwagandha promotes more restful sleep. Ashwagandha is also used to reduce cravings, especially sugar cravings, which can be aggravated in the early stages of a cleanse.

Ashwagandha can be prepared as a decoction, (1 -2 teaspoons per cup, up to 4 cups per day) or used as a powder (1/2 – 1 tsp, up to 4 times per day).

Beyond the Herbs: Cleansing Holistically

In addition to these herbs for detoxification, adequate hydration, sweating, exercise, deep breathing practices, meditation, journaling and rest are other important components of a holistic approach to a whole-body cleanse. Water—about eight, 8 ounce glasses per day helps both the liver and kidneys flush toxins from the body. Sweating, whether from exercise or a sauna, helps release toxins through the skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ of elimination and aids detoxification  through the release of sweat and oil, including the release of fat-soluble toxins such as pesticides and heavy metals. Exercise is a good choice to make you sweat, but the movement will also stimulate lymphatic uptake of waste.

Deep breathing (known as diaphragmatic breathing) promotes balanced pH  and the elimination of waste through the lungs. So, during your cleanse, breathe and breathe deeply! Plan to take brisk walks or other exercise that promotes deep breathing or learn a deep breathing practice you can do at home. Meditation can be helpful during a cleanse to calm the nervous system and reduce the agitation and cravings some people experience in the first few days of a cleanse. Regular meditation is a good way to release toxic emotions and transform negative thought patterns. When you undertake a cleanse it is also helpful to slow down, do less and notice how your body feels. Journaling is a good tool to help you reflect on the changes you may be experiencing as well as cravings or other thoughts patterns you want to release. Your body needs plenty of good quality rest to repair and restore and especially during a detox.  So, along with slowing down and doing less, plan on going to bed earlier during the duration of your cleanse.

What About Food?

Yes, what you eat (and don’t eat) during a cleanse will have a profound impact. There are many theories, books and programs about what to eat and not eat to help your body detoxify. Some approaches are primarily plant based and some allow organic chicken or turkey, some allow grains, while others are grain free. Choose a plan that seems right for you.

I have had the most success following an elimination diet for 2 - 3 weeks, but there are other approaches. By success, I mean my energy levels increased, my digestion felt balanced and there was greater equanimity in my thoughts and emotions. An elimination diet involves avoiding common food allergens or other foods suspected of causing digestive problems during the course of the cleanse. In general what’s left are simple, whole,  unprocessed foods.  You can find good “elimination diet” guides online. There is a simple printable guide here on the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine website (click the link for Elimination Diet Guidelines). You can also find more resources and downloads at the Whole30 website. In addition to these online resources, at Nectar we offer a handful of books that I trust to support you in a whole-body cleanse, including two of my favorites, Clean and Clean Gut, by Alejandro Junger, M.D. Another approach I like is the one discussed in The Prime, by integrative neurologist, Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D.

In evaluating and choosing a program, avoid any approach that sounds dramatic, extreme or promises results that seem unrealistic. Choose one that will allow you to feel balanced and in control. A good  cleanse program will be reasonable and safe and will help you develop a healthier lifestyle.

While a cleanse may seem daunting, the rewards are worth the effort. Increased energy and vitality, healthier-more conscious eating habits, fewer cravings, improved digestion, fewer allergies and sensitivities and less swelling and inflammation are just some of the signs of a successful whole-body cleanse.

I’d love to hear about your approach to cleansing—what’s been most challenging, what herbs for detoxification have worked for you, and how has cleansing improved your health? If you’re considering your first-ever detox, please let us know if you have questions. Come chat with us in the shop or leave us a message in the comments section below.

To your health,
suzanne

References:

Body Burden: The Pollution in New Borns, Environmental Working Group, https://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns/detailed-findings#.WpNGB66nGM8, accessed February 6, 2018.

Chaudhary, Kulreet , The Prime, Harmony Books, 2012, New York , New York.

Junger, Alejandro, Clean, Harper Collins, 2012, New York, New York.

Junger, Alejandro, Clean Gut, Harper Collins, 2013, New York, New York.

Murray M, Pizzorno J, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd Ed. Atria, 2012.

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/index.html, accessed February 6, 2018.

Perchlorate in Drinking Water, US Environmental; Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/perchlorate-drinking-water, accessed February 6, 2018.

Tilgner, Sharol, Herbal Medcine From the Heart of the Earth, 2d Ed., 2009, Wise Acres, LLC, Pleasant Hill, Oregon.

Vargas-Mendoza N, Madrigal-Santillan E, et al., Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin, World J Hepatol, Published online 2014 Mar 27, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959115/.

Winston, David, Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, 2007, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Capsule, Tea, Oil or Extract: A Guide to the Many Forms of Herbal Medicine

Capsule, Tea, Oil or Extract: A Guide to the Many Forms of Herbal Medicine

Understanding the forms of herbal medicine is crucial for helping you make informed decisions when choosing herbal products. Almost daily someone comes into Nectar Apothecary and gazes with awe and wonder at the extensive array of bottles and jars. Many people think that all the little bottles contain essential oils, but that’s only one type of herbal medicine you have to choose from. There are also bulk herbs and tea, liquid herbal extracts (called tinctures or glycerites), and herbal capsules. You can also choose herb-infused oils and salves or flower essences. Each incarnation of plant medicine has unique advantages and disadvantages. Which form is best for you depends on a variety of factors.

Learning how to evaluate herb QUALITY deserves our full attention too, so I’m going to leave that important issue for another day and another post. That said, I do recommend choosing the highest quality organically grown herbs you can find. Old herbs and poorly dried or poorly processed and prepared herbs will not yield the results you are looking for.

 

Which Form of Herbal Medicine is Best?

First, know that an individual herb can be used in many different forms. Take German Chamomile for example. You could use it in a “loose leaf” or “bulk herb” form, as a liquid extract from a small eyedropper bottle, or as an essential oil. Consider another common medicinal plant like Milk Thistle and you’ll find whole seeds and powdered seeds in bulk, liquid extracts and capsules. When faced with this array of choices, I am frequently asked, “which form is best?” Well, it depends. Different forms of an herb are suitable for different people and different circumstances. To make an informed decision, you need to know the herb and know yourself. By simply acknowledging your likes and dislikes, preferences and predilections, you can choose the form of herbal medicine that is right for you. This is how it works.

First, Read the Label

You’re probably already accustomed to reading labels on food products. Herb and supplement labels require the same careful scrutiny. First and foremost, the label should tell you what’s actually in the bottle. And, whether you eventually decide on a bulk herb, liquid extract, capsule or other form, make sure what’s in the bottle or jar is really the herb you’re seeking. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to know which part of the plant you want to use. Different parts of a plant may have different medicinal properties. Dandelion is a good example. Both the root and leaf are used medicinally, but they offer somewhat different properties. An experienced herbalist or a good herb book can help you identify the correct plant part. You should also know the botanical or scientific name of the herb and look for that on the bottle, since common names can be misleading and confusing.

Let’s take German Chamomile again as an example. Most people refer to this common herb simply as “Chamomile.” The sweet, delicate flowers of this plant relax the nervous system, calm digestive imbalances, and possess anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. Its scientific name is Matricaria recutita. So, if you’re looking for German Chamomile , look to find this scientific name somewhere on the jar or bottle. If the scientific name reads Anthemis nobilis, guess what? It’s Roman Chamomile, not German Chamomile. You might even encounter a lesser known Chamomile relative, Ormenis multicaulis, commonly referred to as Moroccan Chamomile. Sometimes herbalists use different species of a plant interchangeably if their medicinal properties are very, very similar. While German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile share many of the same properties, each has a unique composition of medicinal compounds. You can read more about the similarities and differences, here. Common names also vary among different countries and cultures. So, even though the common name of the plant may appear front and center on the jar or label, keep reading until you find the scientific name. There’s other important information to be gleaned from herb and supplement labels discussed below, but it all starts with the correct name of the plant and the correct plant part.

Now, once you’ve found the correct plant and realized you could purchase it in many different forms, how do you choose? Let’s look at the different forms, their advantages and disadvantages, and how your plant knowledge and self-knowledge come in to play.

Bulk Herbs, Powders + Teas

In most apothecaries, you’ll find dried herbs in large jars. The plant parts, whether roots, leaves, flowers or some other part, are typically cut up into small pieces sometimes even powdered. Again, make sure the jar label describes the correct plant part and confirm the scientific name. If the herb is available in bulk, you have the option of preparing it as an herbal tea. Most herbs can be prepared as a medicinal tea, though it’s important to prepare the tea correctly in order to optimize the therapeutic benefits. If you’re new to herbal teas, check out this post to learn how to prepare loose leaf herbal tea. If you like to drink tea and the herb makes a pleasant tasting tea, this may be an excellent choice. Dried powdered herbs can also be incorporated into smoothies or stirred into other soft foods like yogurt or applesauce.

Don’t let the simplicity of an herbal tea dissuade you. Herbal teas have been a mainstay in herbal medicine for thousands of years and offer profound health benefits. Making tea does require a greater time commitment than some other forms of plant medicine. But most people, myself included, benefit from slowing down and allowing time in their day for the soothing self-care ritual of making tea. When it comes to preparing bulk herbs as tea or incorporating powdered herbs in smoothies or other foods, know yourself. If you’re finicky about new flavors or unlikely to allow time in your day to brew tea or make a smoothie, choose another form.

In general, while most herbs can be prepared as a tea, there are some exceptions. Let’s look at our Milk Thistle example again. First, the seed is the part used medicinally and the botanical name is Silybum marianum. Milk Thistle seed is a potent liver protectant and restorative, especially useful as part of an occasional cleanse or detox or for various liver conditions. The seed is often sold whole or powdered, in liquid extract and in capsules. Unfortunately, for tea drinkers, the potent medicinal compounds in this little seed do not extract well in water. In fact less than 10% of a key compound known as silymarin is extracted in tea. If you want the benefits of Milk Thistle seeds, you’ll do well buying in bulk, but you’ll need to incorporate the ground seeds in food or smoothies to get the therapeutic effects. You can also choose Milk Thistle in capsules or liquid extract.

When it comes to knowing the plant and preparing it as a tea, water solubility is only one issue. It is also important to understand the difference between the dried plant and a fresh plant preparation. Some plants lose much of their medicinal potency when dried. Milk Oats (Avena sativa), Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum performatum) are good examples. While these plants are often available dried, tea prepared from plants like this will not be as potent as a fresh plant preparation. Fresh plant preparations are available in liquid extracts and sometimes in capsules. Again, know your plant.

Liquid Herbal Extracts

In general, liquid herbal extracts come in two forms—tincture and glycerite. By definition a tincture (pronounced, ˈtiNG(k)(t)SHər) is an extract created using alcohol and water. I recommend using tinctures made with organic alcohol. A glycerite is an extraction made with glycerin and water. Glycerin is a sweet, thick substance typically derived from vegetable oil. Though sweet tasting, it has very little impact on blood sugar. You’ll find tinctures and glycerites in small amber bottles with eyedroppers. They can be ingested under the tongue or added to a small amount of water, tea or other beverage. The dose is of course specific to the herb and individual, but may range from a few drops to upwards of a teaspoon. Like the water used to make a tea, alcohol and glycerin both have unique solvent properties, meaning that they differ in their ability to draw the medicinal compound out of a plant and into solution. Like herbal teas, tincture and glycerites also have unique advantages and disadvantages. For a more in-depth discussion about why you might choose a tincture, check out this post.

Liquid herbal extracts are quick and easy to use. They may be a very convenient choice for you if you’re loathe to prepare several cups of tea per day. The alcohol and glycerin also act as preservatives in the finished product. As such, tinctures and glycerites have a much longer shelf life (2-5 years) than dried herbs. So, if you want to keep herbs on hand that are only used occasionally, like herbs for colds and flu, stocking a cold-curbing tincture or glycerite in your medicine chest may be a better choice than a bulk tea blend. As discussed above, if the plant you desire does not hold its therapeutic properties when dried, a tincture made with the fresh plant is desirable. Likewise, herbs like Milk Thistle seed, with compounds that are more alcohol-soluble than water-soluble, are better prepared and taken in tincture form. The sweet taste of glycerites makes them a natural choice for kids or anyone else with a very sensitive palate. There are also disadvantages to liquid extracts, like the alcohol. Though the alcohol in a standard tincture dose is not enough to be inebriating, for people who abstain from alcohol entirely (whether for health, social, or religious reasons) tinctures are not an option. Herbal teas, glycerites or capsules may be a better choice.

Herb Capsules

When you pick up a bottle of encapsulated herb, read it carefully. Of course, you’re going to confirm the botanical name, but you need to look further. What’s inside those little capsules may be dried powdered herb or a dried, concentrated extract of the dried or fresh plant. Or, it might not be an herb at all. It may be asingle compound that has been extacted from the herb, but not the whole herb. Turmeric is a good example here. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a popular spice and medicinal herb used to promote a healthy inflammatory response. It contains more than two dozen compounds that promote a healthy inflammatory response , but one compound in particular, called curcumin tends to get top billing. If you’re looking for Turmeric, someone might try to sell you curcumin, the single isolated compound rather than the whole herb we call Turmeric. There are advantages and disadvantages to isolated compounds. However, as an herbalist, I prefer the whole plant with all its therapeutic compounds and the beautiful complexities provided by nature, which we have yet to fully understand or duplicate. This can get confusing, so read carefully and ask an herbalist if you’re unsure.

Some herbalists do not recommend encapsulated herbs. Not only is it hard to assess quality and freshness (unless you grindand encapsulate the herbs yourself), the pills contribute to a greater disconnect between us and the medicinal plants that support us. Nevertheless, I do believe herbs in capsules have a place in our apothecaries. Assuming a quality preparation, encapsulated herbs are simple and easy to use. If you’re not likely to become a tea drinker and cannot ingest the alcohol in a tincture, capsules may be your best choice and the only way you are likely to be consistent in taking your herbs. For people with sensitive palates, or if you travel a lot, capsules may also be a good choice. If you’re taking herbs to address a long-standing imbalance in your body, consistency is critical.

More Tiny Bottles – Herb Infused Oils, Essential Oils & Flower Essences

If you’re still wandering curiously through an apothecary or supplement store, you’ll likely encounter small bottles that are neither tinctures nor glycerites. What are all those tiny bottles? They might be herb infused oils, essential oils or flower essences. Look closely.

An herb infused oil is somewhat similar to a tincture or glycerite. However, to create an infused oil, a fixed oil (like Olive or Almond oil) is used to extract the therapeutic compounds from an herb, instead of alcohol or glycerin. Infused oils are typically prepared with plants used topically for skin conditions and musculoskeletal issues. Herb infused oils are often the base for herbal salves—ointments and thick creams for topical application.

Essential oils are yet another category of tiny bottles filled with plant medicine. Also referred to as “volatile oils,” essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic extracts, most often obtained through a process of steam distillation. Like other forms of plant medicine, essential oils have a wide range of therapeutic properties, from relaxing the nervous system to promoting immune function. Because they are so very potent, essential oils should not be ingested unless you are guided by a professional aromatherapist or other practitioner trained in ingestion. Even used topically, most essential oils should be diluted with a fixed oil. Essential oils can also be used through simple inhalation or environmentally, using a diffuser. As always, know the botanical name of the plant you’re seeking and expect to see that information on the essential oil bottle.

Flower Essences occur at the opposite end of the plant medicine spectrum from essential oils. Flower essences are subtle, vibrational and extremely safe. Flower essences also come in tiny eyedropper bottles and are most often used to address emotional and spiritual imbalances like fear and anxiety, anger, resentment, insecurity and low self-esteem. The typical dosage is four drops four times per day. Though they contain a small amount of alcohol as a preservative, they are extremely safe and can be used by very young children, elderly people, and even dogs, cats and other pets.

Next time you’re faced with rows and rows of little bottles, pick one up. Study the label. What’s inside? How was it prepared? Maybe you can even smell it, taste it, observe the color and texture. The closer you look with all your senses and consider your individual needs, the more you’ll learn and the better decision you’ll make.

When you have questions about which forms of herbal medicine are best for you, we are always here to help. Drop in to see us or leave a comment below, or on our Facebook or Instagram pages.

Blessings,
suzanne

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Nectar of Love ~ Community Appreciation Event

YOUR INVITED! 
The Nectar of Love Party ~ Customer Appreciation Event
Valentine’s Day ~ Wed, Feb 14th, 11am - 5pm! 
Join us for our annual community appreciation event this Valentine’s Day! Enjoy herbal treats + libations, create your own solid perfume at our complimentary DIY bar, and enter a contest to win Nectar gift cerificates. It’s also our best sale of the year!

Reap the Health Benefits of Cacao with Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffles

Reap the Health Benefits of Cacao with Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffles

These herbal chocolate truffles are dark, rich, coated with herbs and so delicious. If you choose the best chocolate, your truffles will also be organic, vegan, fair trade, gluten-free and loaded with the health benefits of cacao! The herbal coating on these dark chocolate truffles gives them an extra boost! How’s that for a guilt-free indulgence?

Health Benefits of Cacao

Used for millennia as food, medicine, and even currency, chocolate comes from the seed of a tropical evergreen tree known as Theobroma cacao. Theo or theo means “god” and broma means “food.”  Chocolate, the common name of this “food of the gods,” comes from the Aztec name, chócolatl. Scientific analysis of ancient pottery shows that chocolate or cacao beverages were being consumed in the Americas before 1000 B.C. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs combined chili peppers and other spices with cacao to make a beverage to improve stamina on long journeys. They also considered this dark rich food a “love tonic.” When cacao was introduced to Europe in the 1500’s sugar and vanilla were added to create what is more often referred to today, as chocolate. Those ancient peoples were on to something; today we have a better understanding of the health benefits of cacao.

Before I say more, keep in mind that to optimize the health benefits of cacao your chocolate should be dark, ideally with a cacao content of 80% or more and low in sugar. Cacao is an antioxidant, heart and cardiovascular tonic and nervous system stimulant. It is also rich in vitamins (B complex and E), trace elements and beneficial amino acids.

As for its effects on the cardiovascular system and heart health, clinical trials and epidemiological studies show that consuming dark chocolate may improve the health of the lining of blood vessels and heart, balance blood pressure, and have a beneficial effect on cholesterol and glucose/insulin. One recent study showed that dark chocolate consumption has a positive effect on brain function and cognition in elderly people with vascular risks.

Cacao’s stimulating effects on the nervous system and it’s mood-lifting effects are due in part to its caffeine content. However, it also contains other stimulants, including one very interesting compound called phenylethylamine or PEA. This compound is also found in the human brain where it acts as a neurotransmitter, releasing the feel-good hormone dopamine and endorphins to produce an anti-depressant effect. Often referred to as the “love-drug,” some scientists believe that PEA is responsible for the euphoric, intoxicated feeling we have when we fall in love. It seems our brains may be hard-wired for a love affair with chocolate!

Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffle Recipe

In this recipe for the optimum in dark chocolate goodness, I used Pascha’s Organic Dark Chocolate Chips, which are 85% cacao, vegan, kosher, paleo-certified, and Non-GMO project certified!

Ingredients:

17 – 18 ounces dark chocolate chips
¾ cup + 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Herbal Coating:
Dried rose petals, lavender flowers, dried raspberries, dried blueberries, and one of my favorite aromatic tea blends, White Tea Rose Mélange.

Instructions:
Place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the coconut milk in a small sauce pan until tiny bubbles form. Remove from the heat before it boils and pour over the chocolate chips. Cover the mixing bowl and allow the chocolate and coconut milk to sit undisturbed for approximately 5 minutes. The chocolate will soften and melt from the heat of the coconut milk. Stir gently until with a spoon until the chocolate is fully melted. If any small chunks of chocolate remain, set the mixing bowl in the microwave for short bursts, 15-20 seconds, and stir until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 1-1.5 hours. To test for readiness, a knife stuck in the middle of the bowl should go in easily but come out clean.

While the chocolate is firming up, prepare your coating. With the truffles you see here, I used three different coatings, dried rose petals crumbled with freeze-dried raspberries, dried lavender flowers crumbled with freeze-dried blueberries, and White Tea Rose Mélange crumbled into small pieces. Place each of your toppings in a small bowl.

Once the chocolate is reasonably firm, scoop out rounded mounds using a one tablespoon cookie scoop or a tablespoon. Dipping the spoon in hot water makes it easier to scoop the firm chocolate. Use your hands to roll the mounds into even balls and place each ball in one of the small bowls. Gently swirl the chocolate ball in the crumbled coating until it is fully covered. Admire your beautiful herbal chocolate truffle.

Store your truffles in an air-tight container in the fridge and remove 10 – 15 minutes before serving so they have time to soften slightly.

These herbal chocolate truffles are outrageously rich and delicious – and because of the health benefits of cacao, they’re good for you too. I highly recommend you share them with your besties and beloveds. Next time you whip up a batch, be sure to snap a picture, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram. We love seeing your herbaceous creations.

With love,
suzanne

 

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

4 Simple Yet Luxurious Homemade Herbal Gifts

4 Simple Yet Luxurious Homemade Herbal Gifts

Whether it’s a special occasion or just because, handcrafted gifts infused with your love speak right to the heart. These homemade herbal gifts are not only special because you’ll have made them, but because they’re chock full of herbal benefits. And don’t’ forget your own precious self. These herbalicious recipes are a great way to help you remember that you too are special and deserving of your own loving care.

Homemade Herbal Gifts

1. INFINITE LOVE ROSE SYRUP

Exquisite, euphoric, sensual are just some of the words you might use to describe Infinite Love Rose Syrup. But for all its sensuous complexity, this syrup is so simple to make, using three potent and delicious ingredients to open the heart and promote feelings of unconditional love. Drizzle this delicious syrup over fruit or ice cream for a heavenly desert or serve it over pancakes or waffles. If you’re gifting this love-inspired concoction, pour it into a pretty bottle or mason jar with a fancy label and be sure to include the recipe.

2. RAW CHOCOLATE BLISS BALLS

These Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls are an outrageous, luxurious treat made with herbs, chocolate, and coconut. I like to blend in Maca powder, a popular “super-food” that increases energy and stamina. Though Maca is stimulating to men and women, you can read more about the properties of Maca in this post, Three Herbs to Unleash Your Feminine Power.

3. COCONUT LOVE BALM

Whether you’re creating a delight-filled day for your beloved, gifting it to a friend who could use a little extra TLC, or planning for some self-care, this Coconut Oil Love Balm is sure to please. Made with skin loving coconut oil and your choice of aromatic essential oils, this balm makes an excellent massage, bath or body oil and does double-duty as an all-natural lubricant.

4. DAMIANA ROSE CORDIAL

Warming and sensuous, this adults-only gift, is a unique herbal infused brandy  for those who enjoy a cocktail or after dinner liquor. Put it in an attractive bottle and it looks especially intriguing on a bar cart or in your liquor cabinet.

I hope these homemade herbal gifts delight the people you love or inspire you to practice some self-care. I’d love to see how you wrap and package these goodies! Snap a picture and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram to share.

With love,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nectar Apothecary Team Member Spotlight: Cathie Devore

Nectar Apothecary Team Member Spotlight | Cathie Devore

Cathie has been an essential part of the team at Nectar since before we even opened the doors in September 2014. Her ready smile and commitment to serving others seem to endear her to everyone she meets. In addition to working as an herbalist, Cathie is a yoga teacher with a healthy, active lifestyle. You might find her out on the trails with her dog, Zack, or mountain biking with her husband, Bill.

In 2008, in the midst of a professional career, Cathie began studying herbal medicine when she moved to Boulder, Colorado, taking classes at the local herb shop, Rebecca’s Apothecary. Her time at Rebecca’s inspired her to become a life-long student again—reading, studying, and formulating with herbs. After she moved to Prescott in 2013, Cathie enrolled in the Foundations of Herbal Medicine course offered by Mike Masek at Forager’s Path two hours away in Flagstaff. Shortly before finishing that 9-month course, Cathie came to work at Nectar Apothecary.

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?

My parents took the traditional western medicine route to care for us while we were growing up. We had a pediatrician named Dr. Buckley, and he actually made house calls when needed! I can still remember the three of us being pretty sick, my parents leaving the front door unlocked, and Dr. Buckley coming in during the night to check on us.

Oftentimes, if she thought what we had was mild, my Mom would take us to the pharmacist first before consulting Dr. Buckley. She trusted the pharmacist too, and it was a more cost-efficient route.

How have natural remedies like herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

Natural remedies like herbs and essential oils have had a HUGE positive impact on my life! The list includes (and is not limited to!) the quality of my digestive system (Bitters, Chamomile, Licorice, Wild Yam), the calm of my nervous system (Ashwagandha, Passionflower, Skullcap, Lemon Balm), the strength of my immune system (Echinacea, Osha, Elder Berry, Thyme), the beating of my heart (Hawthorn Berry, Motherwort, Rose), the balance of my inflammatory response (Turmeric, Ginger, Green Tea), the health of my skin (Calendula, quality oils, Shea Butter, essential oils of Frankincense, Helichrysum, and Lavender). I am so grateful to these many plants for being my dear allies!

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?

I start my day with green tea (after 3 large cups of hot water), and it goes from there. I routinely take Zyflamend for inflammation (I have a dislocated toe joint), Lion’s Mane (brain health and immune health), Milk Thistle (liver health), and Ashwagandha (nervous system) and then whatever I feel I need. This might include herbs at bedtime (Passionflower and Skullcap) or digestive herbs at mealtime (Chamomile and Ginger). I have a little apothecary at home, and that helps!

What else do you do to take care of yourself and the people around you?

Mostly, I prepare meals with healthy organic whole foods. I have a daily prayerful meditation practice and exercise just about every day (hike with my husband and our dog, practice yoga, bike ride, ski when possible). I also journal daily, usually as a gratitude practice.

Why do you like working at Nectar Apothecary?

I LOVE working at Nectar for a whole host of reasons. We have an especially loving, caring, knowledgeable team and I feel so fortunate to be a member. I love the culture that we have developed, one of a holistic health approach and deeply thoughtful listening. I love talking with customers, hearing their health concerns and stories, trouble-shooting together and formulating ideas to help them. That is truly an honor! I am so grateful that so many have trusted me, taught me, and provided helpful feedback. I also love teaching classes at Nectar and joining so many of our customers on their herbal journey! What a gift!

What’s your favorite herb, essential oil or tea, what do you like about it, and why do you use it?

My favorite herb is Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). It is a calming and restorative adaptogen, immunomodulating, and antispasmodic. As such, it helps the body adapt to stress, strengthens the nervous system, relieves anxiety, stress and exhaustion, supports a balanced immune function, and promotes vitality. I typically use it as a tincture.

My favorite essential oil is Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). It is such a beautiful oil and so multi-purpose. Lavender is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, a calming nervine and wound-healing, to name a few of its actions. I add it to most of my skin care products (salves, lotions, creams, body butters, etc.) and often rub some (diluted) onto the soles of my feet before bed. I love its calming effect!

My favorite tea is Matcha. As a green tea (Camellia sinensis), it is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and has a pronounced effect on the cardiovascular system. Green tea contains L-theanine which both helps stimulate alpha brain waves responsible for mental clarity and focus, and promotes feelings of tranquility and calm. I make a latte with it most mornings! Delicious!

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?

For folks embarking upon their herbal journey, I have some suggestions. Enroll in herb and essential classes at your local apothecary (Nectar offers great classes!). Learn from herbalists and aromatherapists. Buy a book written by a respected herbalist and/or aromatherapist and read it from cover to cover. Become a student! Start experimenting with just one herb: find the one that calls to you and incorporate it into your life. Then add another! Keep an herb/essential oil journal so that you can record your formulations and experiences! Have fun! Ask lots of questions. Herbalists like Suzanne, Tiara, and me are so happy to talk with you and share your journey!

If you were a medicinal plant, what plant would you be and why?

This was a really fun question to answer! I would be Osha (Ligusticum porteri). Osha is also known as “Bear Root” or ” Bear Medicine”, because the bears dig it up when they come out of hibernation to help boost their immune systems and protect them after their long sleep!  I love the smell of Osha root, its many herbal actions, and where it grows in the Rocky Mountains. Additionally, I have a strong connection to the spirit of the Bear. I was a single mom when my children were young and my daughter called me “Mama Bear.” If I were Osha, I might be able to see a bear now and then, and perhaps I could help the plant somehow. It has unfortunately been over-harvested over the years.

Herbalists come from all backgrounds and perspectives, but none with a heart as big as Cathie’s. We are so grateful for her work at Nectar Apothecary, for her expertise and inspiration, and for the deep connections she has created in our community. Her presence is a gift to all who have the opportunity to know her. A deep bow, heart-to-heart hug, and many blessing to you, Cathie.

With love,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Three Herbal Anti-Aging Tonic Recipes for Health & Vitality

Three Herbal Anti-Aging Tonic Recipes for Health & Vitality

Taking herbs is not just something to do when you’re sick. Taken regularly, herbs can enhance well-being, increase energy and vitality, and reduce the risk of age-related conditions. These three herbal anti-aging tonic recipes are all formulated to support radiant health, and contain herbs to strengthen the body and improve resistance to stress and disease. They differ in their concentration of herbs for overall health, cardiovascular function, and brain health.

Herbal tonics are defined in various ways. The American Botanical Council defines tonics as herbs that “increase strength and tone.” Herbalist David Winston, in his book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, describes tonic herbs as those that enhance energy and well-being, alleviate conditions of weakness in the body, and can be taken every day, usually without side effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one of the most ancient and highly evolved systems of herbal medicine, deserves much of the credit for our knowledge of these highly specialized herbs and for laying the foundation for modern pharmacological and clinical research to understand how they work. In TCM, herbal tonics are said to aid in the attainment of a long life, balance mind and emotions, and have broad and profound health-promoting actions. They have no negative side effects when used appropriately and can therefore be taken over a long period of time yielding cumulative long-term benefits. They must also be readily digestible and taste good enough to be consumed easily.

Herbal tonics may sound like some sort of remedy from a bygone era, but their efficacy is validated by modern science. You can read more about many of the herbs in these recipes in this post, 7 Herbs for Your Holistic Anti-Aging Practice.

Total Vitality Anti-Aging Tonic

 

This tonic is especially useful for improving energy and vitality, and increasing resistance to disease. Astragalus and Panax Ginseng are two herbal adaptogens and oxidants that strengthen the body and promote healthy immune function. Turmeric is also an antioxidant and an important anti-inflammatory with compounds that have been shown to have therapeutic benefit in a wide range of age-related conditions from cardiovascular disease and cancer, to osteoarthritis and dementia. In this tonic, Milk Thistle and Burdock Root support the liver, detoxification, assimilation, and elimination. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid that promotes circulation and adds flavor to this tonic.

Ingredients:

3 parts (3 ounces) Astragalus
2 parts (2 ounces) Panax Ginseng
1 parts (1 ounce) Turmeric Root
1 part (1 ounce) Milk Thistle Seed
½ part (½ ounce) Burdock Root
½ part (½ ounce) Ginger

Instructions:

This tonic is best prepared and taken as a liquid extract (also know as a tincture) or as a powder blend added to your daily smoothie. If you are preparing this tonic as a tincture, parts are by fluid volume (e.g., one part equals one fluid ounce). If you are preparing this tonic as a powder, parts are by weight (e.g., one part equals one ounce by weight). Take 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract 2 times per day or 2 tablespoons of the powder per day. Because most of the therapeutic compounds in Milk Thistle are not water soluble, I do not recommend preparing this tonic as a tea.

Healthy Heart Anti-Aging Tonic

 

The anti-aging tonic is formulated for people who want to improve their cardiovascular and heart health, which may include people with a close family history of cardiovascular disease. A heart-healthy diet and lifestyle are critical, but herbal tonics are useful, too. This tonic incorporates two potent antioxidants that promote cardiovascular health. Hawthorn berries, leaf, and flower protect against heart disease, inhibit the build-up of plaque in the arteries, and help maintain healthy blood pressure. Green tea helps protect and maintain the health of blood vessels, inhibiting inflammation and other risk factors that can lead to stroke or heart attack. Green tea also has a positive impact on cholesterol levels, helps lower blood pressure, and reduces the risk of abnormal blood clots. You can find out more about the myriad health benefits of Green tea, here. Schisandra berries are an herbal adaptogen that strengthen the body promote a relaxed, focused calm. Rosemary is an excellent circulatory stimulant that also promotes brain health. Elecampane is a digestive bitter that helps kick this tonic in to high gear by improving absorption in the body.

Ingredients:

3 parts (3 ounces) Hawthorn Berries
1 part (1 ounce) Hawthorn Leaf & Flower
1 part (1 ounce) Green Tea
1 part (1 ounce) Schisandra Berries
1 part (1 ounce) Rosemary
1 part (1 ounce) Elecampane

Instructions:

This tonic can be prepared and taken as a liquid extract (also known as a tincture) or tea. If you are preparing this tonic as a tincture, parts are by fluid volume (e.g., one part equals one fluid ounce). If you are preparing this tonic as a tea, parts are by weight (e.g., one part equals one ounce by weight). Take 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract 2 times per day or prepare tea with 2 tablespoons of the herbal blend steeped for 20-30 minutes in 2-4 cups of boiled water.

Beautiful Mind Anti-Aging Tonic

 

This tonic is focused on brain health, but with herbs like Panax Ginseng and Schisandra berries described above, it is also great for energy and overall vitality. Bacopa, Ginkgo, Gotu Kola, and Rosemary are all considered nootropics—a term that describes herbs that promote cerebral function, memory, focus, and concentration. Ginkgo and Rosemary also promote cerebral circulation.

Ingredients:

2 parts (2 ounces) Panax Ginseng
2 parts (2 ounces) Schisandra
1 part (1 ounce) Bacopa
1 part (1 ounce) Ginkgo
1 part (1 ounce) Gotu Kola
1 part (1 ounce) Rosemary

Instructions:

This tonic can be prepared and taken as a liquid extract (also known as a tincture) or tea. If you are preparing this tonic as a tincture, parts are by fluid volume (e.g., one part equals one fluid ounce). If you are preparing this tonic as a tea, parts are by weight (e.g., one part equals one ounce by weight). Take 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract 2 times per day or prepare tea with 2 tablespoons of the herbal blend steeped for 20-30 minutes in 2-4 cups of boiled.

I’d love to hear about other things you’re doing as part of your healthy aging routine. Is it yoga, meditation, or exercise? A healthy diet, perhaps? Please share your ideas and practices in the comments section below. If you’d like to add one of these tonics to your anti-aging routine, we are happy to blend them for you in the shop or help you formulate a tonic specific to your needs.

to a long and vibrant life,
suzanne

 

References

American Botanical Council, Terminology Page, http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Terminology, accessed 12.27.17.

Winston, D and Maimes, S, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, 2007.

Teegarden R., The Ancient Wisdom of Chinese Tonics Herbs, Warner Books, Inc., New York, New York, 1998.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

7 Herbs for Your Holistic Anti-Aging Practice

7 Herbs for Your Holistic Anti-Aging Practice

 

Why take a Holistic Approach?

Whether you’re 25 or 55, it’s never too early to begin an anti-aging regime. Though creams and serums are all the rage, their approach is mostly superficial. Do you just want to look good when you’re 75 or do you want to feel good, too? A more holistic approach to aging provides support for the entire body, with specific attention to energy and vitality, brain health, and heart health. Along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, herbs have an important role to play in healthy aging. Modern research has shown us that many medicinal herbs long revered for their ability to promote longevity do in fact support healthy aging. Adding some or all of these herbs for holistic anti-aging to your daily self-care routine is key.

These seven vital herbs have some things in common. All are antioxidants. Most are adaptogens, and many possess anti-inflammatory properties. Understanding these properties is important to choosing an herbal approach to anti-aging best for you. Antioxidants inhibit free-radical damage, which is responsible for aging at a cellular level. Free-radicals are also responsible for the onset of many diseases, including two major killers—heart disease and cancer. In short, antioxidants are thought to slow the aging process. In addition to a diet rich in high quality, organic fruits and vegetables, using antioxidant-rich herbs is a good way to boost your antioxidant intake. Herbal adaptogens have a strengthening and energizing effect on the body, promote immune function, and help alleviate the effects of stress. When it comes to aging, adaptogens promote energy and vitality, and help ward off disease. Herbal anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation in the body, including chronic inflammation sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.” Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor in the onset of many common and deadly conditions from cardiovascular disease and diabetes, to cancer and dementia. Herbs, along with diet and lifestyle, can reduce chronic inflammation and decrease the risk of these life-limiting ailments.

A healthy aging approach that includes a combination of antioxidant, adaptogenic, and anti-inflammatory herbs is best and considers your body’s specific needs. Among the many herbal options discussed here, you’ll notice that some herbs are especially effective at inhibiting certain age-related conditions. Let that be your inspiration. For example, if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or certain cancers, design your herbal protocol to optimize resistance to these conditions. Finally, while the herbs on this list are generally safe for long term use, if you are on medication or being treated for a specific condition, be sure to discuss taking them with your healthcare practitioner first.

Holistic Anti-Aging Herb List

Astragalus | Astragalus membranaceus

Astragalus is a superstar in the anti-aging field. Like many of the herbs on this list, it is an adaptogen and antioxidant. Astragalus is also considered a heart and lung tonic and is used to prevent immune suppression caused by chemotherapy.

Esteemed in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, Astragalus’s superstar status was cemented by modern scientific research. Among other things, this research has demonstrated that Astragalus contains compounds that boost production of an enzyme, telomerase, that plays a critical role in cellular health and anti-aging at the level of our DNA, the genetic material that contains the instructions all organisms need to develop, live, and reproduce. Specifically, telomerase controls the short bits of DNA known as telomeres, which ensure accurate cell division and replication. Telomeres are sometimes likened to the plastic tips that protect the ends of shoelaces to prevent them from unraveling. As telomeres shorten, errors in cell replication accumulate, causing a wide range of age-related conditions including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease including stroke and vascular dementia, osteoporosis, and diabetes

As part of your holistic anti-aging protocol, combine Astragalus with a plant-based diet, regular exercise, stress-reduction techniques like yoga or meditation, and a supportive social network. Why? A 2013 pilot study published in a distinguished medical journal, The Lancet Oncology, showed that these diet and lifestyle practices may also result in longer, anti-aging telomeres.

Ginseng | Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius

One of the most heavily researched herbs, Ginseng’s legendary status as a longevity tonic has been validated by modern scientific research and clinical studies. Like Astragalus, Ginseng is an adaptogen and antioxidant. Considered the most stimulating of adpatogens, Panax ginseng can be used at any age to promote stamina and endurance and improve cognitive function and memory. Ginseng helps relieve adrenal burnout and exhaustion and reduce cortisol levels elevated by stress. Like Astragalus, it is also used to support the immune system during chemotherapy treatment. Ginseng also supports blood sugar balance and healthy cholesterol levels, helping to combat two common age and diet related conditions. Ginseng is considered a fertility and sexual tonic for both men and women, and provides relief for women experiencing menopause related symptoms. For more about Ginseng’s role in menopause visit my blog, Three Herbs to Unleash Your Feminine PowerPanax ginseng sometimes called Asian, Koran, or Chinese Ginseng is and Panax quinefolius, or American Ginseng, possess similar properties, but Panax Ginesng is considered more stimulating.  Individuals sensitive to stimulants may prefer American Ginseng.

young woman holidng a white mug filed with hot green tea wearing a blue shirt and gray cotton shortsGreen Tea | Camellia sinensis

Drinking two or three cups of organic green tea every day is a great way to practice healthy aging. Green tea helps combat a wide range of age-related conditions from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure to osteoporosis, memory loss, and cancer. You can read more about the benefits of green tea here.

Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, green tea’s wide range of benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system make it a top choice for those who want to age well. Its ability to promote cardiovascular health is derived from important compounds known as catechins. Tea catechins exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-thrombotic, and hypo-cholesterolemic effects. In other words, these compounds in green tea help protect and maintain the health of our blood vessels, inhibiting inflammation and other risk factors that can lead to stroke or heart attack. They have a positive impact on cholesterol levels, help lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of abnormal blood clots.

Green tea also helps improve memory and parts of the brain that shrink as we age. Compounds in green tea increase a protein in the body called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a critical role in brain health and brain growth, or neurogenesis. Research also shows that green tea enhances memory by improving connectivity within the brain and increasing brain cell production.

Like many of the other herbs for healthy aging on this list, green tea is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. While antioxidants help us maintain healthy skin as we age, their importance is more significant. Antioxidants like green tea also help protect us from cancer. When it comes to specific cancers, research shows that green tea has a positive effect on breast, cervical, prostate, and stomach cancer. Population studies suggest that green tea consumption may be one of the reasons cancer rates are lower in Japan where people typically drink about three cups of green tea per day.

Drinking green tea may also offer significant protection against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone” and is associated with an increased risk of bone fractures and falls. This danger is significant given that fractures due to osteoporosis are associated with premature death in people 45 and older and hip fracture in the elderly increases the risk of dying within one or two years. Women are most at risk for osteoporosis after menopause. Tea catechins as well as vitamin K1 in green tea may account for this protective effect. Vitamin K1 assists the transport of calcium through the body, improves bone density, reduces bone loss, and decreases the risk of fractures.

a clear glass serving jar on a wooden table filled with dried hawthorn leaf and flower with a silver metal serving scoop on top of jarHawthorn | Crataegus spp.

The dark red berries of the Hawthorn tree are sometimes referred to as “food for the heart.” They are used along with the leaves and flowers of Hawthorn as a cardiovascular tonic, hypotensive, and antioxidant. Hawthorn is particularly rich in antioxidant compounds called flavonoids, in particular a group of flavonoids known as proanthocyanidins. These powerful antioxidants are responsible for the dark red and blue colors found in blueberries, blackberries, and of course, Hawthorn berries and are especially useful in protecting against heart disease. Hawthorn has also been shown to inhibit the build up of plague in the arteries and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hawthorn is considered a nervous system relaxant and is used energetically to open and protect the heart, and for recovery from grief, loss, and sadness.

Milk Thistle | Silybum marianum

Milk Thistle seed is another potent antioxidant, but possesses a unique ability to protect the liver and enhance detoxification. The fact is, we live in a toxic world. From heavy metals in our air and drinking water, to chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides in our food, our bodies–especially the liver–can become overwhelmed and damaged by this toxic load. Warning signals may include skin problems, chronic headaches, chronic fatigue, and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Heavy metal toxicity is also associated with impaired brain function, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer, among other things. Milk Thistle, used regularly and in conjunction with periodic cleansing, improves liver function and helps eliminate this toxic load.

Rhodiola | Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola has been used for centuries in northern Europe and Russia, where it has been subjected to more than 180 published pharmacological, phytochemical, and clinical studies. As these studies have been translated into other languages, Rhodiola has gained popularity with practitioners across North America and elsewhere. Rhodiola is an antioxidant and adaptogen that promotes memory and brain function and has also been shown to possess anti-tumor and anti-mutagenic properties. As a stimulating adaptogen, Rhodiola is used to relieve mental and physical fatigue, increase endurance, and decrease recovery time after intense exercise. It also helps reduce depressive syndromes and ameliorate memory loss and cognitive dysfunction from a variety of causes, including brain injuries. It has been shown to have a positive effect on parts of the brain responsible for memory, perception and information processing, especially in healthy individuals working long hours in fields requiring complex analysis and critical decision making.

hand sifting turmeric powder into large glass bowl on a wooden backgroundTurmeric | Curcuma longa

This spicy member of the ginger family has been used as a culinary spice for thousands of years. However, in modern times its well-deserved reputation as a potent anti-inflammatory has outpaced its reputation in the kitchen. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, Turmeric is also an oxidant that contains compounds showing therapeutic potential in a wide range of conditions commonly associated with aging including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical studies show that compounds in Turmeric may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of many types of cancer, including breast, colon, gastrointestinal, urinary tract, lung, leukemia, lymphoma, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and skin cancers.

Curcumin, one of over 24 unique anti-inflammatory compounds in Turmeric is being studied for its ability to block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaque characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease that forms in the brain and obstructs cerebral function. Parts of India where people eat Turmeric at almost every meal have the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the world. Among people 70-79 years old, the rate is less than one-quarter the rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Epidemiologists hypothesize that the daily ingestion of Turmeric as part of the Indian diet may be partly responsible for this result.

As for its role in cardiovascular health, in addition to its effects as an anti-inflammatory, Turmeric acts as a blood thinner, reducing blood platelet aggregation, which is linked to an increased risk for atherosclerosis and stroke. It also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels (elevated cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease) and is considered cardioprotective.

We all hear the cultural drum beat that seems to value youthful appearance over a more holistic approach to aging. Herbs can help us look more youthful (more about that here), but I encourage you to look beyond the surface. I hope this list of herbs for holistic anti-aging inspires you to focus on the things that will help you maintain vibrant energy, a healthy heart, and an active mind. Have you discovered ways to navigate the cultural miasma of aging with grace or grit? Are you proactive when it comes to your approach to anti-aging? I’d love to hear your insights, wisdom, or worries in the comments section below.

Blessings,

suzanne

 

 

References:

Winston, D and Maimes, S, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, 2007.

Molgora, B, Bateman, E, Sweeney, G, at al., Functional assessment of Pharmacological Telomerase Activators in Human T Cells. Cells 2013, 2(1): 57-66

Ornish D, Lin J, Chan J, et al., Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer, The Lancet Oncology, 2013, 14(11): 1112-1120.

Chen CF, Chiou WF, et al., Comparison of the pharmacological effects of Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolium, Acta Pharmacol Sin, 2008, 29(9): 1103-1108.

Kim SH, Park KS, et al., Effects of Panax ginseng extract on exercise-induced oxidative stress, J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2005, 45(2): 178-82.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Heart Disease, Facts, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm, accessed Dec 19, 2017.

Chwan-Li Shen, et al., Green Tea and Bone Metabolism, Nutrition Research, 2009, 29 (7): 437-456.

Velayutham P, et al., Green Tea Catechins and Cardiovascular Health: An Update, Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2008, 15(18): 1840–1850.

Ogunleye AA, et al., Green Tea Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk or Recurrence: A Meta-Analysis. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Jan 2010, 119(2): 477-484.

Kuriyama S, et al., Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan: the Ohsaki Study, JAMA, Sep 13 2006, 296(10): 1255-1265.

Wang Y, et al., Green Tea Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) Promotes Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation and Sonic Hedgehog Pathway Activation During Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2012 Aug 56(8):1292-1303.

Schmidt A, et al., Green Tea Extract Enhances Parieto-frontal Connectivity During Working Memory Processing, Psychopharmacology, October 2014, 231(19): 3879–3888.

Nobre AC, et al., L-theanine, a Natural Constituent in Tea, and its Effect on Mental State, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008, 17 Suppl 1:167-168.

Stallings A, MD, et al., Practical Uses of Botanicals in Skin Care, Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Jan 2009, 2(1):36–40.

Setiwan VW, et al., Protective Effect of Green Tea on the Risks of Chronic Gastritis and Stomach Cancer, International Journal of Cancer, 2001, 92:600-604.

Tribout H, et al., Protective Mechanisms of Green Tea Polyphenols in Skin, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2012:560682.

Ahn WS, et al., Protective Effects of Green Tea Extracts on Human Cervical Lesions, European Journal of Cancer, Oct 2003, 12(5):383-390.

Inoue M, et al., Regular Consumption of Green Tea and the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence: Follow-up Study from the Hospital-based Epidemiologic Research Program at Aichi Cancer Center, Japan, Cancer Letters, 2001, 167:175-182.

Khan N, et al., Review: Green Tea Polyphenols in Chemoprevention of Prostate Cancer: Preclinical and Clinical Studies, Nutrition and Cancer, 2009, 621(6):836-841.

American College of Rheumatology (ACR), “Fractures Can Lead to Premature Death in Older People,” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2015, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151108084919.htm, accessed Dec 19, 2017.

Vavsteen BH, The biochemistry and medical significance of the flavonoids, Pharmacol Ther, 2002, 96(2-3) 67-202.

Wang J, Xiong X, Effect of Crataegus Usage in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: An Evidence-Based Approach, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, Published online 2013 Dec 29, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891531.

Murray M, Pizzorno J, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd Ed. Atria, 2012.

Vargas-Mendoza N, Madrigal-Santillan E, et al., Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin, World J Hepatol, Published online 2014 Mar 27, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959115/.

Brown R, Gerbarg P, et al., Rhodiola Rosea, A Phytomedicinal Overview, American Botanical Council, HerbalGram, 2002; 56:40-52.

Engels G, Turmeric, American Botanical Council, HerbalGram, 2009: 84:1-3.

Mishra S, Palanivelu K, The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview, Ann Indian Acad Neurol, 2008 Jan-Mar; 11(1):13-19.

Aggarwal BB, Sundaram C, et al., Curcumin: the Indian solid gold, Adv Exp Med Biol, 2007, 595:1-75.

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Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Heather Mead

Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Heather Mead

This month’s Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight belongs to Heather Mead, a Prescott native who embodies everything I love about this small town. The first time we met she was making an herbal concoction for her family and I had the most enjoyable experience talking with her about recipes and ingredients. More recently Heather brought me a handwritten copy of the shaving cream recipe she created for her husband. Heather radiates warmth and kindness. She’s real, down to earth, and always has helpful advice.

Would you share a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?
My name is Heather and I was born and raised in Prescott. I am married to Garrett and we have eight year old twins, Trace and Ruby. I attended Northern Arizona University and have a BA in Interior design. We are all passionate about learning new things, design, art, cooking, creating, and being in nature. I am most comfortable being a doer, cleaning, and making whatever space I am in more calming, organized, and balanced.

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?
My little brother and I were raised by our Mom who worked hard to provide for us. She put herself through beauty school when we were young, so we spent a lot of time with our grandparents. The two of them had many alternative remedies in their bag of tricks as they grew up during the depression, so we became used to that. Our grandmother also had a bottle of Merthiolate and she used to swab our sore throats with that…let’s just say, no one ever faked having a sore throat!

What are the biggest challenges you face in taking good care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle?
The most challenging thing for me is time. I am trying to be more mindful about giving myself a little time each day, even if just to wash my face or reflect on my day. I’m good at taking care of other people, and I enjoy doing that, but it is also important to take care of myself. Having young children and other responsibilities means a full schedule most of the time. As they grow and become more self-sufficient there will be more time for other things!

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?
I love cooking and use culinary herbs in most all of our meals. I have also been making facial and body oils that we use daily. My husband uses homemade shaving lotion—when he feels like shaving! We have also been making elderberry syrup to keep our immunity strong.

What else do you do to take care of yourself and the other people around you?
I am very good at making sure my family gets plenty of rest and stays hydrated. We eat healthy, but also enjoy special treats in moderation—that is important for our wellbeing! We try to spend as much time as we can outside, usually riding our mountain bikes on the trails.

Why do you like to shop at Nectar Apothecary?
I love everything about Nectar! The moment I walk in, the smells lift my mood. Everyone who is part of the shop is so knowledgeable and kind. I feel like I still have SO much to learn and try and I love that.

What type of DIY herbal projects do you have in the works?
I am making rosewater with rose petals from my mother’s organic garden and also working on an herbal salt-water spritzer for our hair. I will be sure to let you know how it all goes!

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?
Explore Nectar, ask questions, and just go for it! It’s so amazing to be able to use nature and creativity to create incredible products for your health. It’s much more cost-effective to make things yourself, and you know exactly what you’re putting into your body.

If you were a medicinal plant, what plant would you be and why?
This is a great question, so challenging to answer! I think Rosemary is my best answer. Low maintenance and strong, Rosemary is an independent and simple plant. Rosemary doesn’t like much attention and thrives with very little maintenance. It can be used for so many things from food, to internal healing. Rosemary is an achiever, and so am I!

What a cool person, mom, wife and maker. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know Heather and look forward to more great conversations with her. Thanks so much Heather, for showing up for our Customer Spotlight and for being such a bright part of the Nectar Apothecary Community.
Blessings,

suzanne

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12 Homemade Herbal Gifts that Surprise and Delight

12 Homemade Herbal Gifts that Surprise and Delight

These homemade herbal gifts infused with love and your personal touch are perfect for the most special people in your life. For inspiration, we rounded up twelve of our favorites from the Nectar blog. From culinary treats to skincare, aromatherapy, cocktail mixers, and infused honey, there’s something for everyone on this gift list. Many of these homemade herbal gifts can be made quickly and easily in less than a day. Some require more lead time. All make beautiful, original handcrafted gifts that can be included in a basket of goodies, or stand out their own.

HOMEMADE HERBAL GIFT LIST

Upcycled Pillow Diffusers

These charming essential oil pillow diffusers are placed on the bed at night with a few drops of a relaxing essential oil. From little children and teens, to the elderly, these simple diffusers are the perfect gift for anyone in need of a good night’s sleep. Paired with a small bottle of essential oil, they can also be gifted as aromatic sachets for drawers, linen closets, and suitcases.

Natural Reed Diffuser

These beautiful reed diffusers made with essential oils are a natural alternative to the synthetic fragrances typically found in the store-bought variety. They’re super quick and easy to make, too.

Lavender Cookies

For the person who has everything, I like to give edibles, especially these lavender cookies. These vegan, gluten-free cookies with organic lavender will please even the most discerning palate. Package them in a cute tin or mason jar and be sure to gift them with a copy of the recipe.

Lavender Infused Honey

Lavender infused honey is a delicious gift for cooks, foodies, or anyone who wants to make mealtime a little bit more special. For the tea lover in your life, this makes a perfect gift paired with an herbal tea.

Bath Tub Tea

These flower-filled bath tub teas are gorgeous and so simple to make. Calming, muscle-soothing, or uplifting, these bath tub blends can be customized for each recipient of this sumptuous homemade herbal gift.

Homemade Herb & Spice Blends

These homemade herb and spice blends are as beautiful as they are tasty. Consider gifting a set of different blends, or pair a single blend with a pretty grinder or mortar and pestle. This is a great last-minute gift for anyone who cooks.

Calendula Skin Salve

Whip up a big batch of skin soothing salve  and pour it into a variety of tins and containers – it keeps well for year-round giving and you can save a few for yourself, too. Perfect for dry or weathered skin from lips to hands to feet, this salve is also a natural first aid remedy for small cuts, scrapes, and bug bites.

Skin Loving Body Lotion

Be advised—if you gift this luxurious lotion to friends or family, they will soon be asking for more. This makes a delightful gift on its own or paired with a DIY face mask, cleanser or toner for any skincare buff.

Essential Oil Inhalers for Rest & Relaxation

These essential oils inhalers can be made personal by customizing the oil combination and label affirmation. Choose essential oils to relieve stress, promote focus and concentration, or boost immunity.

Maca Ginseng Elixir

This is a delectable strengthening tonic for the modern-day warrior or athlete. It can be enjoyed on it’s own, as an extra boost in your best friend’s coffee, or used in place of bitters in your uncle’s favorite cocktail.

Damiana Rose Cordial

Warming and sensuous, this adults-only gift, is a unique herbal infused brandy for the those who enjoy a cocktail or after dinner liquor. Put it in an attractive bottle and it looks especially intriguing on a bar cart or in your liquor cabinet.

Lavender Bitters

These lavender bitters turn any beverage into a distinctive drink. This aromatic blend makes a welcome gift for anyone who likes to entertain or experiment with custom cocktails. It can even be added to plain sparkling water for a refreshing twist.

Whether you’re in a pinch for time and need an easy last-minute gift, or you spend a few days lovingly preparing gift baskets with several of these, I hope this list of homemade herbal gifts gives you the inspiration you’re looking for. I know your friends and family will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind them. I’d love to see how you wrap and package these goodies! Snap a picture and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram to share.

Blessings,
suzanne

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Nourishing DIY Self-Care Kit

Filled with easy-to-make herbal products, this DIY self-care kit is an invitation to nourish the body, mind and spirit. It makes a luxurious gift for that special person who’s always there for everyone else, but rarely allows time from themselves, or even better – as a simple pleasure for yourself. I’ve filled this box with herbal bath and body care creations, but it can easily be customized with your favorite DIY self-care products.

Here you’ll find all the recipes you need to create this thoughtful gift box. Add a candle or some incense for a spa-like bath experience, or any other self-care essentials you love. This kit says, “Close the door, turn down the lights, and enjoy a sumptuous soak with your precious self – you deserve it!”

Simple Scented Bath Salts

These bath salts look beautiful and smell divine. Choose essential oils like lavender, rose geranium or marjoram for deep relaxation, or citrus essential oils like bergamot or sweet orange to uplift the spirit. For self-love and a more sensuous, euphoric experience, consider essential oils like vanilla, jasmine, or ylang ylang. Dried flowers make these salts more beautiful and add to their therapeutic effects. If you choose to add dried flowers, gift these bath salts with a small muslin bag and instructions to place the salts in the bag before adding to the bath tub for easier cleanup afterward!

Ingredients:
16 ounces (by weight) of bath salts (Dead Sea salts, Himalayan pink salts, or Epsom salts)
1/8 – 1/2 tsp (12 – 40 drops) essential oils of your choice
Optional: 1/8 – 1/2 cup dried flowers (lavender, rose, calendula, chamomile)

Instructions:
Mix the bath salts in a mixing bowl. Add the essential oils and dried flowers and mix well. Place in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and label. To use the salts, spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the blend into a warm bath. If the blend contains dried flowers, spoon the salts into the muslin bag and place the bag into the bath. Relax, let go, and enjoy a luxurious soak.

Herbal Bathtub Tea

Encourage another round of self-care with an herbal bathtub tea. You can choose from many soothing herbs to customize the tea. Choose herbs like lavender and chamomile for relaxation, or calendula and gotu kola to soothe the skin. You could even create an herbal bath to ease cold or flu symptoms using eucalyptus, yarrow, mugwort, and peppermint. Hop over to Herbal Bath Therapy  for a list of ten different herbs for the bath and four unique herbal bathtub tea recipes to include in your DIY self-care kit.

Scented Body Oil

After the bath, complete the self-care ritual with this soothing, aromatic body oil. In the Ayurvedic healing tradition, daily self-massage with oil is considered an act of self-love. Once again, you can customize the oil blend by choosing different carrier oils and essential oils to promote relaxation, uplift the heart, or ease sore muscles.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup carrier oil (4 fluid ounces) (Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Jojoba, Olive, Sesame, or Sweet Almond)
1/2 – 1 tsp (50-100 drops) essential oils

Here are four essential oil blends for a four-ounce body oil. Feel free to experiment with your own combinations, too!

Relaxation
30 drops Lavender
10 drops Sweet Orange
10 drops Marjoram

Stimulating & Uplifting
25 drops Rosemary
15 drops Peppermint
10 drops Pink Grapefruit
5 drops Bergamot

Muscle Relaxing
20 drop Marjoram
15 drops Lavender
10 drops Rosemary
5 drop Clary Sage

Sensuous
20 drops Ylang Ylang
15 drops Sandalwood
10 drops Patchouli
5 drops Rose Geranium

Instructions:
Carefully drop the essential oils into a four-ounce bottle. Add the carrier oils, cap, and gently shake to blend. Label and enjoy!

When you’re creating these beautiful self-care goods for your friends and family, be sure to mix up extra for yourself. If you’re encouraging others to practice self-care, give yourself permission, too. Tiny Pleasures: 12 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care is a collection of other simple self-care rituals to bring more balance to a busy life.

I hope these DIY self-care kit recipes bring you ease, and provide peace to those you gift them to. Snap a picture of your self-care kit creations and tag it with #nectarapothecary on Instagram! Your friends and family will all be hoping it’s for them.

Blessings,
suzanne

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Homemade Herb & Spice Blends to Enrich Everyday Recipes

Homemade Herb & Spice Blends to Enrich Everyday Recipes

As an herbalist and wannabe chef, experimenting in the kitchen with new herb and spice blends is one of my favorite ways to infuse my culinary endeavors with my love of herbs. These homemade concoctions wind up in everything from coffee and cocktails to ice cream and cookies. Though I use these homemade herb and spice blends to flavor my dishes, most of the herbs in these recipes can also be used medicinally – so they’re not only delicious, but healthy too. These blends are easy to prepare and they make any meal feel extra special. I also love giving them as hostess and house warming gifts, or to young people learning to cook for themselves.

My 3 Favorite Herb & Spice Blend Recipes

HOMEMADE RED PEPPER SPICE BLEND

This blend works well to heighten the flavor and add a little heat to any savory dish. Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes for more or less heat. I grind this savory spice blend on everything from eggs to soup, even popcorn.

¼ cup dried rosemary
¼ cup dried thyme
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1-2 tbsp red pepper flakes or smoked red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds

Instructions: Simply combine all the herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Place the blend in a pepper or herb grinder and enjoy!

HOMEMADE HERB GARDEN BLEND

If you grow culinary herbs, you may be able to create this entire blend (or one like it) with dried herbs from your own garden. To me, it feels meaningful to use and gift herb blends from ingredients I grew myself. This one pairs well in dishes with Italian, Spanish, or Middle Eastern flavors.

¼ cup dried rosemary
¼ cup dried thyme
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tsp dried fennel seeds
1 tsp dried lavender flowers
Other Options: Basil, Marjoram, Mint, or Savory

Instructions: Simply combine all the herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Place the blend in a pepper or herb grinder and enjoy!

HOMEMADE INDIAN SPICE BLEND

This blend uses spices traditionally found in food and recipes from India. It elicits a sweetness not found in the other two blends, but works well on savory dishes. I love it on roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Some of the spices in this blend don’t grind well in a pepper grinder, so I recommend using powdered herbs and spices, or grinding them beforehand with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.

2 tbsp decorticated cardamom or ground cardamom
2 tbsp dried fennel seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon chips or powdered cinnamon
1 tbsp dried ginger or powdered ginger
1 tsp coriander seeds, dry roasted for 3-5 minutes in a heavy pan
1 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted for 3-5 minutes in a heavy pan

Instructions: If you are not using powdered herbs and spices, grind each ingredient with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (dedicated to your herbal endeavors). Combine all the powdered herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Place the blend in a small glass jar with a shaker top and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy the simple pleasures of these aromatic,flavor-enhancing homemade herb and spice blends. I’d love to see how you incorporate them into your own culinary adventures! Snap a picture of your favorite dish and tag it with #nectarapothecary to share and inspire.

Cheers,
suzanne

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Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight

Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Rhonda Johnson

Rhonda, an Arizona native, medicinal plant lover, and Nectar Apothecary regular, already led a clean and healthy lifestyle when we met. It has been a joy getting to know her as she deepens her wisdom of herbs. Rhonda has taken our Materia Medica classes and the herbal manual she created has been an inspiration to other students. I was really surprised to find out that Rhonda has two grown sons, 25 and 27 years. I suspect her positive outlook, healthy lifestyle, and the DIY skincare products she makes help her look so youthful.

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?

I was raised by a single mother who followed whatever the doctor or pediatrician recommended. I was a “healthy kid” for the most part. However, I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis in my 30’s and the doctor was pretty sure it had started in my teens based on my symptoms since that time. This diagnosis was a turning point for me, as this disease was heavily influenced by my diet (hormones in food to be exact) and up to this point I had no idea that diet was so important.

What are the biggest challenges you face in taking good care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle?

Learning more about diet and the herbs and medicinal plants that can complement our diet and replace over-the-counter medications and even prescription medications has been fascinating to me. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to change old patterns of thinking and old habits. I believe there are alternatives to every choice we make; I want to make the cleanest, purest choice when putting something both in and on my body.

How have natural remedies like herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

Making this lifestyle change has been huge for me. I not only feel better but my hair and skin look better. Eliminating hormones from my diet and chemicals from my shampoo, deodorant, and beauty products was pretty easy, but I’ve had a more difficult time finding good moisturizers that are chemical free. I now make my own body butters and facial oils that actually hydrate, heal, and nourish my skin.

Have you taken classes at Nectar? What was your class experience?

Yes, I’ve taken a lot of the classes offered at Nectar. I’ve learned how to identify plants in this area, what medicinal properties these plants have, and a variety of ways to use them. I’ve learned the art of wildcrafting to create teas, tinctures, and herb-infused body butters and salves. I’ve learned how to use herbs as a preventative, for healing, and for nourishing my body.

What type of DIY herbal projects do you have in the works?

I’m currently wildcrafting the fall plants in my area, specifically Yarrow and Mullein to dry and use in my own “winter wellness” tea. I’m also drying many of my herbs that will die off during the winter. And, I’m always whipping up a fresh batch of my body butter that is infused with Dandelion root.

If you were a medicinal plant, what plant would you be and why?

If I were a medicinal plant, I believe I would be a Lavender plant. I’m a little bit of a flower child anyway, and purple is my favorite color. People who know me tell me I’m a calming person and I have a gentle spirit about me. I would like to think I’m a “relaxing nervine” to others, making them feel relaxed and accepted, and free to be themselves around me.

We could not agree more, Rhonda. We love to be in your calming and joyful presence, and are grateful for your friendship and support.

Join us for an up-coming class and you might have the pleasure of meeting Rhonda, too.

With love,
suzanne

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Tiny Pleasures: 12 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care

Taking good care of ourselves should be a top priority, but because of never-ending “to-do” lists and packed schedules, it is easy to let self-care practices slip to the bottom of the list. Being consistent with  herbs and supplements every day is a good start, but our bodies, minds and spirits need more than that. That’s where these tiny pleasures come in—twelve easy-to-incorporate self-care practices to bring balance and well-being to busy lives.

Try weaving these simple rituals into your day to feel more nourished, grounded, and at ease.

1. Drink a cup of tea. Allow yourself the few minutes it takes to prepare a cup of tea, pausing to notice the aroma and savor each sip. Tich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Monk and meditation teacher said it best, “Tea is an act complete in its simplicity. When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea. The rest of the world dissolves. There are no worries about the future. No dwelling on past mistakes…. There is only the tea, and me, converging.”

2. Light a candle. On your desk or at the kitchen table, the burning flame provides a focal point, a reminder to be present in the moment. I find a burning candle especially helpful when I need to use the computer for long periods of time. It’s uplifting and helps me stay connected to something greater, something more important than the words and images on the screen.

3. Take a bath. This is my go to ritual after a long day. I add bath salts to ease muscle tension and essential oils, like lavender, marjoram, and frankincense to quiet my mind and lift my heart. A bath is the perfect reset when I’m feeling stressed, irritable, or fatigued. Turning down the lights and lighting a candle makes this tiny ritual extra special.

4. Burn incense. In many cultures and traditions, incense is burned to evoke the sacred. The gently burning ember, the smoke rising, and the fragrance cause me to pause, slow down, and appreciate the beauty of the moment. Palo Santo, Frankincense, and Sandalwood are some of my favorites.

5. Go for a walk. Get up, take a break from your routine and move your body, preferably in nature. It always surprises me how refreshed I feel after a walk, even if I’m feeling tired or sluggish beforehand. It’s a little counter intuitive, but it works. When you get out for a walk, even a short one, fresh air, sunlight, trees, and flowers nourish every cell in your body.

6. Drink water. Did you know that dehydration can cause fatigue, irritability, and food cravings, among other things? Drinking plenty of water is a simple way to take care of yourself. Adding fresh herbs like mint or rosemary, or a little fresh seasonal fruit to your water bottle makes this self-care practice feel luxurious.

7. Oil your body. I learned the transformative practice of self-massage with oil from my friend and colleague, Rachel Peters when I took her Embody Ease course. In the Ayurvedic healing tradition that Rachel teaches, daily self-massage with oil is considered an act of self-love. In fact, the Sanskrit word for oil, sneha, can also be translated as “love.” This daily self-care ritual has many health benefits. It reduces the effects of aging, increases stamina, improves detoxification, and calms the nerves, just to name a few. I find that this nourishing ritual also encourages me to slow down and notice how my body is feeling. Read more about the practice of daily self-massage with oil here.

8. Go to bed early. Sleep plays an important role in our mental and physical health. Going to bed early is one of the most delicious, and beneficial self-care practices I know. It’s hard to describe the simple pleasure of snuggling into bed, knowing you’re in for a quality night’s sleep.

9. Get up before the sun. Especially if you have a family or live with others, getting up before the sun and before everyone else begins to stir, allows quiet time and space for you. This is the best time to drink water, move your body, and meditate. I make the most of it by abstaining from my phone, computer, news, and email during this sacred, pre-dawn time.

10. Breathe. You can do this anytime and anywhere. Stop, pause (put down your phone and step away from the computer), take a long, slow inhalation followed by a gentle, slow exhalation. And repeat, as many times as you like. Deep breathing, called diaphragmatic breathing, invites the body to relax. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body’s ability to “rest and digest.” Slow, deep breathing slows the heart rate, relaxes muscles, and promotes digestive and glandular activity.

11. Do less. Have you noticed we live in a culture addicted to busyness? Ask almost anyone, a stranger or your best friend, how they’re doing and you’ll likely hear about how busy they are. Notice if that’s how you respond to the simple greeting. For a deeper understanding of what drives our addiction to being busy, I recommend this article, The Disease of Being Busy. So, do less. Learn to say, “no, thank you” without feeling guilty or talking about how busy you are, and relish in your newfound freedom.

12. Be grateful. Say a prayer. Pranam. Taking a moment to acknowledge what we are grateful for has a pronounced effect on our overall sense of well-being. It makes us happier and improves our health and relationships. Some people keep a gratitude journal to record their daily observances. It helps to be regular, intentional, and mindful in your gratitude practice, but it need not be elaborate. Consider a moment of gratitude before you get out of bed in the morning, before each meal, or when you climb into bed at the end of the day. I like to remember what I’m grateful for when I get on my yoga mat and bow close to the earth in child’s pose. To pranam is to bow in reverence. This practice always leaves me feeling grounded and receptive.

Regular self-care is a practice, a skill to be encouraged and cultivated over time. If you’ve been putting everyone and everything before your own self-care, I hope you’ll find something in these simple rituals that you can do every day to nourish your beautiful self. If you know someone who struggles with self-care, please share these tiny rituals with them, too. What self-care practices are most powerful for you? I’d love it if you would share them in the comment section below.

With love and gratitude,

suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

A Holistic Approach: 5 Practices for Natural Anxiety Relief

Whether you’re seeking relief for anxiety, the common cold, indigestion or any other health problem, consider a holistic approach. Holistic health takes into account the whole person, body, mind and spirit as well as environmental, social, and lifestyle factors. A holistic approach also means addressing the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. No two people suffering from anxiety or stress have the same experience, so the solutions can and should vary accordingly. When it comes to anxiety, there are many herbs that offer safe and effective relief for anxiety. However, because herbal medicine works best in a holistic context, I’d like to share with you five evidence-based practices for natural anxiety relief. In conjunction with the use of herbal medicine, these practices can be especially effective:

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine
  • Develop a yoga practice
  • Develop a mindfulness-based meditation practice
  • Exercise regularly
  • Improve your sleep

Evidence-based Practices for Natural Anxiety Relief

Reduce or Eliminate Caffeine

Consuming too much caffeine can mimic symptoms of anxiety, causing the heart to race or pound in the chest, sweating, shakiness and irritability. Caffeine also causes an elevation in blood lactic acid levels, a significant biochemical disturbance common in people with anxiety. Research shows that eliminating caffeine can have a significant improvement on anxiety. Also, studies show that some people with anxiety disorders are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, which may be due to a heightened sensitivity to lactic acid. Do you need to eliminate your morning coffee entirely? That depends. If you drink one or more cups of coffee a day, cut back, and see what happens. A holistic approach means listening to your body and doing what works for you.

Develop a Yoga Practice

The blissed out feeling some people get from yoga is real. Research shows that yoga increases levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA, that is associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety. A study conducted at the Boston University School of Medicine showed a positive correlation between yoga-induced increases in GABA and improvements in mood and anxiety scales.
In addition to being an herbalist, I also teach yoga and have been practicing for about 15 years. I mention this because I recommend yoga a lot, and I’ve heard every excuse imaginable about why someone can’t do yoga. I was almost forty before I went to my first yoga class and I understand why it can be intimidating. If you’ve developed a litany of reasons why you can’t do yoga, I recommend this article, 20 Reasons You Can’t Do Yoga…And Why None of Them Are True. If you seek out a yoga class, look for a yoga teacher and yoga space that feels friendly and supportive.

Exercise Regularly

If you’ve tried yoga and it isn’t right for you, consider other forms of regular physical exercise. Numerous studies reveal the positive effects of exercise on people with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Research methods and recommendations vary, but regular aerobic exercise involving the rhythmic use of large muscle groups (walking, jogging, swimming, cycling) shows significant reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements in self-esteem and an increased sense of well-being. The physiological mechanisms responsible for the anxiety-reducing effects of regular exercise are many, and the health benefits also include reduction in the risk of chronic disease and lower rates of age-related memory problems.

Develop a Mindfulness-based Meditation Practice

I have a well-established meditation practice and can attest to the profound effect meditation has on my mood and mental state. Numerous research studies affirm that meditation is a helpful strategy for people suffering from anxiety. Meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system which governs the body’s relaxation response. Repeatedly and intentionally activating the relaxation response through meditation counteracts activation of the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight, flight or freeze” system. Frequent and heightened arousal of the fight, flight or freeze response results in an overall feeling state of anxiety and fear. In short, meditation helps balance the nervous system shifting it toward a place of relaxation. In a recent study reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, participants who practiced mindfulness-based meditation over an 8-week period showed significant reductions in anxiety, improved responses to stress, and a greater increase in positive self-statements compared to the control group.

Among the many styles of meditation, mindfulness meditation has been subjected to the most research. The practice involves a process of intentionally bringing your attention, in a non-judgmental way, to what is arising in awareness in the present moment, both internally and externally. It may include awareness of thoughts and feelings, bodily sensations, and your environment. In addition to relief for anxiety, research shows that mindfulness practices have a positive impact on depression, pain management, and chronic illness.

Beginning a meditation practice is not complicated, but can seem foreign. Having a supportive teacher helps. Check out your local yoga studios, many of them also offer meditation classes. The Insight Meditation Society is one of the premier teachers of mindfulness-based practices in the US. Their website includes numerous free guided meditations you may find helpful. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is a great beginners guide book to meditation and includes many mindfulness-based practices.

Improve Your Sleep

Though anxiety and insomnia sometimes occur together, clinical research shows that sleep deprivation and poor sleep habits can increase anxiety and depression, even in healthy people. When we don’t get enough sleep, we react to challenging life events more negatively and have fewer positive reactions to pleasant events. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep habits are important strategies for anyone suffering from anxiety. When anxiety itself makes sleep more difficult, consider taking calming herbs at bedtime to relax the body and quiet the mind.

These simple tools can have a drastic affect on one’s quality of life. If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, I hope these holistic practices for natural anxiety relief are beneficial and deliver some much-needed peace and calm. Is there something I’ve left off this list? I’d love to hear about other practices that have helped you or your loved ones overcome anxiety – leave me a comment below to share.

Peace and happiness,
suzanne

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References:

Caffeine abstention in the management of anxiety disorders, Bruce MS, et al., Psychol Med,
1989 Feb;19(1):211-4.

Anxiety and caffeine consumption in people with anxiety disorders, Lee MA, et al., Psychiatry Res, 1985 Jul;15(3):211-7.

Caffeine and psychiatric symptoms: a review, Broderick P, et al., J Okla State Med Assoc, 2004 Dec;97(12):538-42.

Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study, Streeter CC, et al., J Altern Complement Med, 2007 May;13(4):419-26.

Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study, Streeter CC, et al., J Altern Complement Med, 2010 Nov;16(11): 1145–1152.

Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety, Anderson E, et al., Front Psychiatry. 2013; 4:27.

Exercise for anxiety disorders: systematic review, Jayakody K, et al., Br J Sports Med, 2014 Feb; 48(3):187-96.

Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood, Guszkowska M, Psychiatr Pol, 2004 Jul-Aug; 38(4):611-20.

Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity, Hoge E, et al, J Clin Psychiatry, 2013 Aug;74(8): 786–792.

An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression, Edenfield T, et al., Psychol Res Behav Manag, 2012;5:131–141.

A Test of the Effects of Acute Sleep Deprivation on General and Specific Self-Reported Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms: An Experimental Extension, Babson K, et al., J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2010 Sep; 41(3): 297–303.

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Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Tina Rose

Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight | Tina Rose

When I created Nectar Apothecary I envisioned a welcoming community, a sea of calm in a busy world, a place where people from all walks of life would feel at ease asking questions and discussing their needs, and where new relationships would be formed and nurtured. Since we opened in September 2014, these relationships with our customers and the connections that have been made between them have been the sustaining energy of the business. These warm and up-lifting relationships inspired me to create this Nectar Apothecary Customer Spotlight.

I want you to meet some of these beautiful souls that have become part of our community at Nectar. I am delighted to introduce you to Tina Rose! It seems like Tina, with her sunny personality and infectious smile, has been with us since the very beginning. Here’s what Tina had to say:

Would you share a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from, etc.?

I was raised in Goodyear, AZ. At the time it was a pretty small town and as kids my brother, sister and I would be outside from the time we woke up until sunset. It was a pretty beautiful way to live. In early college I met my husband. We knew each other about six weeks before we got engaged… we got married six months later. Last July we celebrated our 23rd anniversary, so I think it’s worked out well. ☺

I’m a career writer (I work for a digital marketing agency in Scottsdale, but work from home), an avid traveler, a lover of dogs AND cats, an enthusiastic cook, a mediocre gardener (though I do hope to improve my talent), a slow-ish runner who waves to everyone, a bawdy laughter, a semi-regular practicer of yoga, a novice climber, and an enjoyer of almost all workouts. I also stop to watch ants scurrying about the sidewalk – and if you ever pass someone sporting two ponytails who just happens to be staring up at an unkindness of ravens, well, that’s probably me – so give me a quick honk and a wave, and say hi!

What did your family do for healthcare when you were growing up?

Oh goodness. My mom had an arsenal of antibiotics and doctors in her address book who would call in more for us without anyone stepping foot in the office. Thinking back, it’s all pretty horrifying.

How have natural remedies like herbs and essential oils made a difference in your life?

I can’t even address this without talking about Nectar. Home remedies and keeping a home that’s healthy and natural has been a passion of mine for decades, but finding the information and finding the reliable resources necessary to make that happen were difficult. Then, a few years ago I popped into Nectar, and it was like discovering my tribe. Suzanne, Steve, and Cathie (and now Tiara – who wasn’t there in the beginning), are so warm, welcoming and knowledgeable, that I knew I’d found my place – my space – to learn and grow. And I have, and am continuing to do so. By allowing me to gain the education, and confidence to make my own home and self care products – and buy the quality supplies I need – I’m able to create a healthier home, and that’s about all I think I could ask for.

How do you fit herbs and essential oils into your daily routine?

Between my body lotion, lip balm and salves, shaving cream, and body spray, plus the essential oil diffuser, homemade laundry detergent, spray cleansers, teas, and general cooking, I don’t think there’s an area of our home where herbs and essential oils don’t make an impact.

Why do you like to shop at Nectar Apothecary?

It feels like a home away from home; a place where you have to be nothing more than that which you are. You can ask questions and really smart, kind, caring people will answer them. It’s a wonderful place – and I’m so grateful for it.

What’s your favorite herb, essential oil or tea, what do you like about it, and why do you use it?

Belly Calm Chai tea is easily the tea I drink most. I like that it takes 20 minutes to steep. It quietly builds anticipation – then it satisfies you with a warm mug of deliciousness that smacks of crisp fall days.

Have you taken classes at Nectar? What was your class experience?

So many (and there will be so many more). I love the interaction, the education, the laughter. The cocktails and mocktails class yielded an especially giddy crowd, and it was tons of fun, but every class I’ve taken has given me some new way to incorporate natural products into my life. Literally every class is worth it.

Do you have any advice for someone, just starting to explore natural remedies?

Start with something that sets you up for success. Salves are so simple and settle beautifully into their tins – and they feel so good on the skin. They also don’t take much in the way of supplies, so they’re a pretty inexpensive way to test the waters. And because they set up so well, they make pretty impressive looking gifts.

At Nectar Apothecary, our lives and our work have been made better because of Tina. I can’t wait to introduce you all to others who started as customers and are now part of our community. If we haven’t met you yet, we look forward to getting to know you, too – stop in at the shop or say hi on social media.

much love,
suzanne

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DIY Essential Oil Inhaler Recipes to Ease Anxiety + Promote Health

With these easy to make essential oil inhalers the soothing effects of aromatherapy are just one deep breath away. These little nasal inhalers are perfect for your pocket, purse or backpack, safe and convenient for kids, and an easy, low-cost way to share your essential oils with friends and family.

When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, inhalation is the fastest way to experience the calming effect of essential oils. Essential oils don’t just smell good, they cause a measurable biological reaction in the body. The tiny molecules of essential oil travel up the nose to the olfactory bulb. From there, biochemical signals are sent to regions of the brain responsible for emotions, learning and memory, and regulation of many bodily functions. In response, the brain sends messages throughout the body that may impact mood, muscles, breathe, hormones, organ function and more, depending on the essential oil you’ve inhaled.

Here, I’ve put together three essential oil inhaler recipes for relief from stress and anxiety, support for focus & concentration, and an immune booster to help you fight off common cold and flu bugs.

How to Make an Essential Oil Inhaler

Making the inhalers is simple. If you can’t find the “blank” inhalers at a small, local business where you live, you can buy them here at Nectar.

In addition to the inhaler, you’ll also need a small glass bowl and a pair of tweezers. Your blank inhaler should have four parts:

  1. large outer cover
  2. small inner cylinder
  3. absorbent pad
  4. small plug

Place the absorbent pad in the small bowl and add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils, or use one of the essential oil inhaler recipes below. Using the tweezers, roll the absorbent pad in the essential oils until the oils are fully absorbed. You can also add a few drops of carrier oil (like jojoba or grapeseed oil) at this point, which will help the inhaler hold the scent longer. Place the large outer cylinder over the small inner cylinder and screw in tightly. Using the tweezers, insert the absorbent pad into the small inner cylinder. Insert the small plug in the end of the small inner cylinder and press firmly to achieve a tight fit. Be sure to label your inhaler. The therapeutic scent of your inhaler should last 3-6 months, depending on how often it is used.

When it comes to labeling your inhaler, in addition to listing the essential oils, consider including a positive affirmation on the label that will remind you why you are using the inhaler. Keep your inhaler in a convenient place and when you need it, simply unscrew the small cylinder and hold the tip of the inhaler close to your nose. Close your eyes, remember your affirmation and breathe slowly and deeply for 2-3 minutes or until you begin to feel the desired effects.

Essential Oil Inhaler Recipes

I Am Relaxed and Peaceful | To Ease Anxiety + Stress

9 drops Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
5 drops Mandarin (Citrus reticulate)
4 drops Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
2 drops Marjoram (Origanum maiorana)

My Mind is Clear & Focused | For Work, Study, Focus + Concentration

10 drops Rosemary (Rosmarnius officialis)
5 drops Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
3 drops Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
2 drops Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)

My Body is Healthy & Strong | For Immune Support

8 drops Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora ct. cineole)
6 drops Thyme (Thymus officinalis ct. linalool)
4 drops Rosewood (Aniba roseodora)
2 drops Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

These easy to make nasal inhalers also make thoughtful, inexpensive gifts. And because they are so easy to use, they are a simple and safe way to introduce your friends and loved ones to the many health benefits of essential oils.

If you have friends or family who are interested in exploring essential oils, this would be a fun introductory DIY project to do together! Share a picture of what you create and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram. I’d love to see the positive health affirmations you come up with!

with love,
suzanne

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References:

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, Green, Mindy and Keville, 2008.

Clinical Aromatherapy, Essential Oils in Healthcare, 3d Edition, Buckle, Jane, PhD, RN, 2015

Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism Health & Well-Being, Lawless, Julia, 2013.

Natural Relief: 7 Safe & Effective Herbs for Anxiety

If you or someone you love is one of the 40 million Americans plagued by anxiety, you know how debilitating anxiety disorders can be. Key to finding peace and emotional comfort is a holistic approach that rules out underlying medical issues, takes in to account the individual’s personal history and response to stress, and includes diet and lifestyle modifications. Within this holistic context, herbs for anxiety and stress related disorders offer safe, effective, and natural relief.

I’ve chosen these seven anxiety-relieving herbs because each one has special properties that may address an individual’s unique experience of anxiety. For some, anxiety goes hand in hand with depression. For others, excessive worry is punctuated by sudden and severe panic attacks. Other unwelcome companions of anxiety can include muscle tension and tension headaches, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, digestive discomfort, fatigue and poor sleep. In this short list of herbs to relieve anxiety you’ll find herbs that also help relieve these many anxiety-related symptoms.

7 Herbs for Anxiety

Lavender | Lavendula angustifolia

When it comes to relieving anxiety, Lavender is both gentle and effective. It is also helpful for nervous tension, irritability, and restlessness associated with stress. Lavender also helps ease symptoms of depression and promotes better sleep. Lavender is appropriate for all ages, from little children to the elderly, and even pregnant women. But don’t underestimate this lovely little flower. A study comparing a lavender preparation known as Silexan to the prescription drug Paxil showed that the lavender product was more effective than Paxil in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder and with fewer side effects. In another study involving pregnant women, participants showed significant improvements in stress, anxiety, and mild to moderate depression with the use of a topical lavender cream.

Lavender essential oil is one of the easiest ways to take advantage of the soothing properties. Consider a simple inhalation several times per day or topical application in an unscented lotion, salve, or carrier oil. Lavender flowers can also be prepared as a simple tea for an uplifting and calming drink.

Lemon Balm | Melissa officinalis

This citrus-scented plant in the mint family excels at alleviating anxiety, stress, irritability and stress-related heart palpitations. Lemon Balm’s ability to ease gas and bloating and calm the digestive system makes it an excellent choice for people who suffer from digestive problems when they are stressed or anxious. Lemon Balm may also be useful to moderate an over active thyroid, which can be an underlying cause of anxiety. Though generally safe, lemon balm should be avoided in hypothyroidism.

This herb for anxiety also makes a tasty, citrus-like tea. Lemon balm liquid extract or lemon balm in capsule are convenient alternatives for busy people.

Skullcap | Scutellaria lateriflora

Skullcap helps to calm the nervous system and restore a sense of emotional balance and perspective. It also helps to relax sore, tense or aching muscles and soothe tension headaches. It’s especially useful for people who become short-tempered and irritable when overwhelmed or stressed.

Dried skullcap can be used in tea, but a skullcap liquid extract made from the fresh plant is more effective.

Passion Flower | Passiflora incarnata

Passion flower is a stunning flower whose name seems to contradict its calming, sedative properties. It is especially useful to comfort a worried mind and quiet excessive mental chatter. Despite its sedative effect, passion flower may be used in the daytime during heightened anxiety or for people experiencing frequent panic attacks. Like skullcap, it is also an anti-spasmodic that helps ease muscle tension associated with stress or anxiety. Though generally safe, passion flower should not be combined with sedative medications or used in pregnancy.

Passion flower can be prepared as a tea or used as a liquid extract. For insomnia, it is often combined with more sedative herbs like hops and valerian.

California Poppy | Eschscholzia californica

This bright, sunny flower is calming to anxiety and can be used as a mild sedative for sleep disturbances associated with stress and nervous tension. California poppy also helps reduce the muscle tension and nerve pain suffered by many people with anxiety. California poppy should only be used with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner in pregnancy.

California poppy combines well with other anxiety relieving herbs like lavender and lemon balm for an aromatic, relaxing tea or can be used as a liquid extract.

Ashwagandha | Withania somnifera

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which is a shorthand way of describing an herb that helps the body adapt to and respond to stress more favorably. Unlike most other adaptogens that are stimulating, Ashwagandha calms the mind and relieves anxiety. It helps to nourish and rebuild a nervous system depleted by long-term stress or illness and reduces cortisol levels elevated by chronic stress. It promotes thyroid function and is beneficial for people with hypothyroidism, or a low functioning thyroid. When it comes to insomnia or restlessness, ashwagandha promotes more restful sleep. Though safe for children and the elderly, ashwagandha is generally avoided in pregnancy.

Ashwagandha can be prepared as a tea or the powder can be incorporated in smoothies or other soft foods. Ashwagandha liquid extract is also available, but capsules might be favored if you mind the herb’s somewhat earthy flavor.

Schisandra | Schisandra chinensis

Like ashwagandha, this tart, red berry is also an adaptogen that helps relieve anxiety. Schisandra is both calming and stimulating. It calms the mind at the same time as it enhances reflexes, work performance and mental clarity. This combination is especially effective for individuals seeking relief from anxiety who need a high level of mental clarity and focus. As an adaptogen, schisandra also helps strengthen an immune system depleted by chronic stress and is useful for stress-induced asthma. Schisandra should not be combined with barbiturates as it can increase their effects. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, adaptogenic remedies like schisandra are not taken during acute viral or bacterial infections typically associated with colds and flu.

Schisandra berries can be prepared as a tea, but should be allowed to simmer 20-40 minutes to extract their full potency. Schisandra can also be used in the form of a liquid extract.

I hope these herbs for anxiety relief bring you comfort and serenity. In choosing an herb or combination of them, consider when and where anxiety and stress show up for you and how your body is affected. If you have friends or family members suffering from anxiety or panic attacks, be sure to share this post with them – sometimes it’s easier to hear what our friends and family members have been telling us when we hear it from a third-party. Anxiety can be a deeply personal issue, but if you or a loved one has experienced success with natural approaches to anxiety relief, feel free to share about it in the comments below. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else to begin his or her path to a more stress-free lifestyle.

Peace and happiness,
suzanne

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References

Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Facts & Statistics, https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.

Lavender oil preparation Silexan is effective in generalized anxiety disorder–a randomized, double-blind comparison to placebo and paroxetine, Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Jun;17(6):859-69, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24456909.

Effect of lavender cream with or without foot-bath on anxiety, stress and depression in pregnancy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial, J Caring Sci. 2015 Mar; 4(1): 63–73, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363653/.

Heart palpitation relief with Melissa officinalis leaf extract: double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of efficacy and safety, J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;164:378-384, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25680840.

Phytochemical and biological analysis of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora L.): a medicinal plant with anxiolytic properties, Phytomedicine. 2003 Nov;10(8):640-9, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14692724.

Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: a review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence, CNS Drugs. 2013 Apr;27(4):301-19, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23653088.

Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam, J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001 Oct;26(5):363-7, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11679026.

A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults, Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798.

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, Winston, David, RH (AHG), 2007.

Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth, 2d Edition, Tilgner, Sharon, ND, 2009.

A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs, Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient, Boone, Kerry, 2003.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Anti-Aging, Antioxidant DIY Green Tea Face Mask

Give your skin a treat with this DIY matcha green tea face mask! Green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help to combat sun damage that causes premature aging of the skin. Poor diet and environmental toxins also play a role in premature aging of the skin, but the sun is the main culprit. Compounds in green tea have been shown to protect the skin from sun damage and inhibit skin cancer cells when applied topically and taken orally.

And if green tea is so good for your skin, I’m sure you can imagine what it does for your body!  Find out more about the health benefits of green tea, including the top five reasons I drink green tea every day, here.

In this DIY matcha green tea face mask, I’ve combined matcha powder with French green clay to help draw out toxins and tighten the pores. The silky, smooth powder is perfect for a mask. Be sure you’re using pure matcha green tea powder, and not a sugary matcha blend. If you have a favorite cosmetic clay for DIY masks, feel free to substitute it for the French green clay. Raw organic honey creates the paste and works as a humectant to draw moisture to the skin. In place of the honey, you can substitute water or a hydrosol. I prefer to use honey, because it makes the mask less drying.

Matcha Green Tea Face Mask Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tsp matcha green tea powder
1 tsp French green clay
raw honey

Instructions:

Combine the matcha green tea powder and French green clay in a small bowl. Slowly stir in enough honey to make a thick paste. Gently spread the paste on clean, freshly washed skin. This mask is great for your face, but can be used on your chest, back, or anywhere you want to maintain healthy younger looking skin. Relax and allow the mask to set for at least 15 minutes. Gently remove the mask with warm water and a wash cloth. Pat your skin dry and then apply a toner or hydrosol. For more green tea nourishment on your skin, try this DIY green tea lotion.

I’d love to see a picture of your beautiful face soaking up all the green goodness in this mask. Snap a picture and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram to share.

If you have questions, please post in the comment section below.

Wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

 

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Making Green Tea Taste Better: A Guide for Wannabee Green Tea Drinkers

I know–everyone keeps telling you to drink green tea. “It’s so good for you,” they say, “it’s the perfect alternative to coffee.”  The problem is, you’ve tried it and you simply don’t like the taste. Good news! These five hacks are easy to create and will make your green tea taste better. You won’t even know you’re drinking it while you’re enjoying all the health benefits!

Mix up a batch of one of these blends and store it in a jar to make your morning tea ritual quick and simple. Each recipe (except for the lemon and honey blend) makes enough for about 12 cups.

Green Tea Taste Hacks

1. Peppermint + Lavender

The bright taste of peppermint and the subtle, floral notes of lavender create the perfect mask for green tea’s bitter, earthy notes. And like green tea, lavender also has a wealth of health benefits.

½ cup green tea leaves
3 tbsp dried peppermint
1 tbsp dried lavender

Steep 1 tbsp of this blend in 1-1 ½cups hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes before straining. Makes approximately 12 cups.

2. Chamomile + Rose

Chamomile and rose petals provide a sweet, floral, sophisticated accent to compliment and cover green tea’s grassy flavors. This tea hack is especially lovely when you need to be both focused and calm because of the calming effect of chamomile and the emotionally balancing effect of rose petals.

¼ cup green tea leaves
¼ cup dried chamomile
¼ cup dried rose petals

Steep 1 tbsp of this blend in 1-1 ½ cups hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes before straining.
Makes approximately 12 cups.

3. Tulsi Basil + Rosemary

The sweet, rich taste of tulsi basil weaves seamlessly with the peppery, balsamic flavor of rosemary to hide the green tea taste in this stimulating blend. Like green tea, tulsi basil and rosemary are both uplifting to body and mind and rich in antioxidants.

½ cup green tea
3 tbsp dried tulsi basil
1 tbsp dried rosemary

Steep 1 tbsp in 1-1 ½cups of this blend in hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes before straining. Makes approximately 12 cups.

4. Ginger + Thyme

The pungent, spicy flavor of ginger unites with the subtle mint and pine-like aroma of thyme for a delightful warming, aromatic green tea cover. Delicious any day, the ginger and thyme in this blend also make it a good choice for coughs and sniffles.

½ cup green tea leaves
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried ginger

Steep 1 tbsp of the tea blend in 1-1½ cups of hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy! Makes approximately 12 cups.

5. Lemon & Honey

This is as sweet and simple as it gets. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice in a cup of hot green tea and sweeten to taste with raw local honey. Lemon juice is great way to wake up your digestion and combined with green tea, provides an energizing start to your day.

1 tbsp green tea
½ - 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Honey to taste

For one cup, steep 1 tbsp green tea in 1-1½ cups of hot water (185°F) for 3-4 minutes and strain. Add lemon juice and honey to taste.

If making up your own tea seems a bit too foreign for you, you can find some delicious green tea blends here, including Fit & Trim Green Tea, Green Energy, Green Tea Mint and Orange Blossom Green Tea.

I hope these recipes help you incorporate more green tea into your daily routine! Help spread wellness by sharing these green tea taste hacks with friends and family who’ve been avoiding green tea because of its taste. And don’t forget to take a picture of your green tea hack and tag it with #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing how you incorporate herbs into your healthy lifestyle.

Much Love,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Medicinal Matcha Recipe: Rosemary & Edamame Green Tea Dip

Matcha Green Tea Dip Recipe

This matcha recipe is one of my favorites. Accented with the peppery, sage-like flavor of fresh rosemary, this savory matcha green tea dip is vegan and gluten-free. It makes a delicious and nutritious dip for vegetables and crackers, or a spread for wraps and sandwiches.

When Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” he could have been referring to a dip like this. Matcha green tea powder and rosemary are both medicinal plants that enliven this herbalicious dip.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Matcha offers up all the health benefits of green tea. From improved memory and concentration, brain health, bone health, cancer and heart disease prevention, green tea is big medicine. Matcha is a special form of green tea prepared by stone-grinding the best shade-grown, green tea leaves to a fine powder. Rather than steeping the leaves in hot water to make a tea, matcha powder is whisked into hot water to create a frothy drink. Consuming the whole tea leaf makes for a higher concentration of therapeutic compounds than a simple tea, but estimates vary widely on how much more concentrated it really is.

The rich, green powder incorporates easily in food, too. Its unique umami flavor works well in both sweet and savory recipes. I use matcha in my green smoothie recipe and in my recipe for mental energy balls. Some commercial matcha powders have been sweetened. For this recipe, be sure to use the unsweetened, traditional matcha.

Health Benefits of Rosemary

Rosemary is better known as a culinary herb. But like most culinary herbs, it’s also good medicine. It supports circulation, including cerebral circulation and memory, promotes digestive health, and relieves gas and bloating. When it comes to your health and the health of the planet, it is beneficial to buy local, organic, and non-GMO, whenever possible. This is especially important for foods like edamame, another name for the soy beans you will find in this recipe. Soy beans, as a food crop, are heavily subjected to genetic modification and harmful herbicides. Better yet, grow your own! Rosemary is easy to grow in your windowsill or garden; perhaps you’ll plant some to use in recipes like this!

Matcha Green Tea Dip Ingredients

12 oz.  shelled organic edamame beans
2 tsp  fresh squeezed lemon juice
1½ tsp  sea salt
¼ cup  olive oil
2 tsp  matcha powder
2 tsp  lemon zest
1 tbsp  fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Directions:

Boil or steam the edamame beans for 4-5 minutes and drain. Place edamame, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor and blend. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil, continuing to blend until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Add more olive oil if needed to achieve a smooth consistency. Add matcha powder, lemon zest, and rosemary. Pulse several times to incorporate. Adjust salt, lemon, and rosemary to taste.

If you give this matcha recipe a try, let me know what you think! And don’t forget to snap a picture and tag it with #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I’d love to see what you pair it with!

blessings,

suzanne

P.S. This recipe was inspired and adapted from Matcha Mint Edamame Dip by Rishi Tea. I have a print out of this recipe, but can no longer find a link to it on the Rishi website.

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Top 5 Health Benefits of Green Tea

Top 5 Health Benefits Of Green Tea

People have been consuming green tea both for its delicious flavor, and positive effect on their health for eons. There are many different varieties of green tea, but all come from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a small evergreen tree or shrub native to Southeast Asia, including China, India, and Tibet. The distinctions in flavor, aroma, color and texture arise from different growing regions and farming techniques, harvest time, and production or crafting methods. Some of the most popular green teas include Bancha, Sencha, and Matcha, but all of them provide a host of health benefits.

These are the top five reasons I drink green tea every day.

  • Heart health and the prevention of heart disease
  • Improved memory, focused concentration and brain health
  • Cancer prevention
  • Bone health
  • Healthy skin

No wonder green tea is described as an “anti-aging” beverage. While I think the term “anti-aging,” is misleading, I do believe drinking green tea every day is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind if you want to be healthy and age well. Here’s what the research shows.

Green Tea for Heart + Cardiovascular Health

Green tea has a wide range of benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system. Its ability to promote cardiovascular health as we age is derived from important compounds in green tea known as catechins. Tea catechins exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-thrombotic and hypo-cholesterolemic effects. In other words, these compounds in green tea help protect and maintain the health of our blood vessels, inhibiting inflammation and other risk factors that can lead to stroke or heart attack. They have a positive impact on cholesterol levels, help lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of abnormal blood clots.

Some of the most interesting evidence on the heart healthy benefits of green tea comes from population studies in Japan. One study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the association between green tea consumption and causes of death in over 40,000 individuals over an eleven-year period. The study found that participants who consumed higher amounts of green tea had a lower risk of death due to all causes and a 26% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke.

Green Tea for Memory Loss, Focus + Brain Health

Think of green tea as brain food! Green tea contains compounds that promote focused concentration, and improve memory and brain health. Green tea contains an amino acid known as L-theanine, which stimulates alpha brain waves responsible for mental clarity and focus. L-theanine is also available as a supplement used to relieve anxiety and promote feelings of tranquility and calm. Japanese green tea like Sencha, and especially Matcha, have high concentrations of L-theanine. Compounds in green tea also increase a protein in the body called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a critical role in brain health and even brain growth, or neurogenesis. Research also shows that green tea enhances memory, both by improving connectivity within the brain and increased brain cell production. Green tea’s potential to combat degenerative brain diseases and memory loss continue to be the subject of much research. In the meantime, I’ll continue to drink green tea every day.

Green Tea for Cancer Prevention

Green tea acts as a potent antioxidant to help protect us from cancer. You may be familiar with the terms free radical and antioxidant. Free radicals are very unstable molecules that steal electrons from healthy cells causing cellular damage or cellular death. Free radical (or oxidative) damage is what makes us age. Antioxidants help protect against free radical damage. In addition to a diet rich in high quality, organic fruits and vegetables, drinking green tea every day is a good way to boost your antioxidant intake.

When it comes to specific cancers, research shows that green tea has a positive effect on breast, cervical, prostate and stomach cancer. Population studies suggest that green tea consumption may be one of the reasons cancer rates are lower in Japan where people typically drink about three cups of green tea per day.

Green Tea for Bone Health

Drinking green tea may also offer significant protection against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone” and is associated with an increased risk of bone fractures and falls. Women are most at risk for osteoporosis after menopause. Tea catechins as well as vitamin K1  in green tea may account for this protective effect.  Vitamin K1 assists the transport of calcium through the body, improves bone density, reduces bone loss, and decreases the risk of fractures.

Green Tea for Healthy Skin

Green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties provide the same protective effects for the skin as they do for the rest of the body. Skin damage occurs because of free radical damage. Sun is the worst culprit when it comes to skin damage, but poor diet and environmental toxins play a role too.

Green tea is a common ingredient in many skincare products for good reason! Compounds in green tea have been shown to protect the skin from sun damage and inhibit skin cancer cells when applied both topically and taken orally. You can incorporate green tea in your DIY skincare products and reap the rewards. In this recipe for Green Goddess Green Tea lotion, I incorporated a strong green tea. Matcha green tea powder works well combined with cosmetic clay for facial masks and scrubs.

Even if you drink green tea daily, it’s still important to keep your sun exposure to healthy levels and use protection when necessary. Still, it’s comforting to know you’re doing something good for your skin when you start your day with a delicious cup of green tea.

For Maximal Health Benefits, Drink Green Tea Everyday

For the many health benefits of green tea, at least three cups per day is optimal. If you’re not a fan of the flavor, keep at it. For some, it is an acquired taste. Green tea is also available in supplement form in which the therapeutic compounds are concentrated. These concentrated supplements may even be the best option for individuals using green tea to combat specific conditions.

I’d love to hear about your experience with green tea, whether you’re new to green tea or a tea aficionado. Take a picture of yourself with a cup of green tea and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram. I love seeing what you’re up to!

If you have questions, please post in the comment section below.

Wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

REFERENCES:

Boost Your Brain, The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance, Fotuhi M, MD, Ph.D, Harper Collins, 2013.

Green Tea and Bone Metabolism, Chwan-Li Shen, et al., Nutrition Research, 2009, 29 (7): 437-456.

Green Tea Catechins and Cardiovascular Health: An Update, Velayutham P, et al., Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2008, 15(18): 1840–1850.

Green Tea Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk or Recurrence: A Meta-Analysis. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Ogunleye AA, et al., Jan 2010, 119(2): 477-484.

Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan: the Ohsaki Study, Kuriyama S, et al., JAMA, Sep 13 2006, 296(10): 1255-1265.

Green Tea Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) Promotes Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation and Sonic Hedgehog Pathway Activation During Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis, Wang Y, et al., Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2012 Aug 56(8):1292-1303.

Green Tea Extract Enhances Parieto-frontal Connectivity During Working Memory Processing, Schmidt A, et al., Psychopharmacology, October 2014, 231(19): 3879–3888.

L-theanine, a Natural Constituent in Tea, and its Effect on Mental State, Nobre AC, et al., Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008, 17 Suppl 1:167-168.

Practical Uses of Botanicals in Skin Care, Stallings A, MD, et al., Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Jan 2009, 2(1):36–40.

Protective Effect of Green Tea on the Risks of Chronic Gastritis and Stomach Cancer, Setiwan VW, et al. International Journal of Cancer, 2001, 92:600-604.

Protective Mechanisms of Green Tea Polyphenols in Skin, Tribout H, et al., Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2012:560682.

Protective Effects of Green Tea Extracts on Human Cervical Lesions, Ahn WS, et al., European Journal of Cancer, Oct 2003, 12(5):383-390.

Regular Consumption of Green Tea and the Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence: Follow-up Study from the Hospital-based Epidemiologic Research Program at Aichi Cancer Center, Japan, Inoue M, et al., Cancer Letters, 2001, 167:175-182.

Review: Green Tea Polyphenols in Chemoprevention of Prostate Cancer: Preclinical and Clinical Studies, Khan N, et al., Nutrition and Cancer, 2009, 621(6):836-841.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Herbal Breakfast Bar Recipe

Herbal Breakfast Bar Recipe for Energy & Focus

This herbal breakfast bar recipe is the perfect solution to busy mornings and skipped meals. By adding herbs that provide energy, stamina, mental clarity and focus this breakfast bar will keep you going strong all morning long.

The medicinal herbs in this recipe are adaptogens which help the body adapt to stress.
Maca - energizing and mood-lifting.
Eleuthero - increases stamina and strengthens immune function.
Lion’s Mane - nootropic, which means it promotes cerebral function.
Cinnamon - warming carminative that supports digestion and blood sugar balance.

You will want to powder your herbs before incorporating them into the recipe. A coffee grinder or mortar and pestle works well or buy your herbs already ground.

Recipe

  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet noor or medjool)*
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (cashew, sesame, almond, peanut)
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped (see instructions for roasting nuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • ¼ cup powdered herbs. I used 2 tbsp Maca, 1 tbsp Lion’s Mane, 2 tsp Eleuthero and 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • optional: goji berries, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, etc.

Directions

  1.  Add pitted dates to a food processor and grind for about 1 min until finely chopped or ball forms.
  2. Optional + Highly Recommended: Toast your oats and nuts in a 350-degree F for 10-15. Check frequently!
  3. Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. Warm maple syrup and nut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
  5. Once combined lay the mixture between two pieces of parchment paper. Use a rolling-pin to flatten the bars from 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Transfer to baking sheet and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes until firm.
  7. Remove bars from pan and chop into even bars. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a five days!

* Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker.

vegan granola bar recipe
vegan breakfast bar

I hope you enjoy these delicious, nutritious, energizing herbal breakfast bars! Make them on the weekend and you’ll have breakfast ready for an entire week. No more skipping breakfast because you’re too stressed and too busy.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your breakfast bars and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing how you incorporate herbs into your busy schedule.

blessings,

suzanne

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Herb Infused Coffee Recipes To Boost Your Daily Routine

Herb Infused Coffee Recipes

These herb infused coffee recipes unite my love of herbs and spices with my long-standing affection for coffee. I was in herb school the first time I quit coffee or maybe I should say, “tried to quit” coffee. It’s an on-again, off-again affair for me. Like any other medicinal plant, coffee is not for everyone and too much of anything, especially a strong stimulant is rarely a good thing. These days I try to save my coffee indulgence for special occasions and insist on really, really good coffee. Infusing coffee with herbs and spices makes it that much more special, rich and complex. 

I typically prepare my coffee using the pour-over-method which will work for the recipes below. However, the cold brew method works best for herb infused coffee because the longer steep times allow for better extraction of the herbal constituents. Of course, it helps to start with the highest quality, organic, fair trade coffee beans you can buy and grind them just before brewing. It’s also important to me to buy from a local coffee roaster. 

For a better extraction, I recommend grinding the herbs in these recipes before mixing with your ground coffee beans. The exception is the cinnamon chips in the last recipe for Spiced Coffee. If you’re going to prepare Spiced Coffee using the pour-over method use cinnamon chips rather than ground cinnamon powder. The ground cinnamon slows down the drip time so significantly, your coffee will be cold long before the pour-over is finished filtering. 

Lavender Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

2 tsp ground Lavender Flowers
2 tsp ground Coriander
1 tsp ground Cardamom

Add one heaping teaspoon of herb blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

Mocha Mint Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

2 tbsp ground dried Peppermint
2 tsp Cacao Powder

Add two teaspoons of herb blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

Chocolate Chili Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

1 tbsp + 1 tsp Cacao Powder
¼ - ½ tsp Cayenne

Add one heaping teaspoon of spiced herb blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

Spiced Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

1 tbsp ground Cardamom
1 tsp Cinnamon Chips
½ tsp ground Black Pepper
¼ tsp ground Cloves

Add one heaping teaspoon of spice blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

If you give any of these recipes a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your herb infused coffee and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing how you incorporate herbs into your life. 

much love,

suzanne

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Radiant Morning Herbal Smoothie Recipes

Herbal Smoothie Recipes

Herbal Smoothie Boosters

These morning smoothie recipes use medicinal herbs to boost energy, focus and stamina all day long! You don’t have to sacrifice flavor either. These smoothies are rich, delicious and loaded with healthy ingredients. If you already have your favorite smoothie blend, simply add some of the powdered herbs I’ve used here. You can powder your herbs in a coffee grinder (preferably one dedicated to herbs) or mortal and pestle or buy them already ground.

These are some of my favorite herbal smoothie boosters:

ELEUTHERO (Eleuthero senticosus) | This root is an adaptogen which helps the body adapt to stress and strengthens the immune system. If you work long hours or feel tense and stressed trying to juggle home, family, and work demands, Eleuthero is an excellent choice for your morning smoothie. The flavor is mild and incorporates well with fruits or nuts.

LION’S MANE (Hericium erinaceus) | This medicinal mushroom is my daily brain booster. It’s considered a nootropic, meaning it supports cerebral function. In clinical studies it has been shown to be helpful for people with mild cognitive impairment. It may also help inhibit beta amyloid plaque, a biomarker associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Lion’s Mane is also considered a gourmet mushroom, which means as mushrooms go, the flavor is outstanding. If you’re hesitant about a mushroom spoiling the flavor of your smoothie, I promise this one will please your palate.

MACA (Lepidium meyenii) | This sweet, caramel-scented root is a stimulating adaptogen. It’s a great energy booster that also helps the body cope with the many demands of modern life. It also uplifts the mind and mood. Men and women can both benefit from Maca’s nourishing effect on the endocrine system and especially the adrenal glands. Women experiencing menopausal changes are reporting significant benefits with Maca.

MATCHA (Camellia sinensis) | This rich, powdered form of green tea provides a boost of balanced energy. Is is rich in L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes calm and focus. It’s also a potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. The rich umami flavor works especially well in green smoothies. If you’ve yet to acquire a taste for green tea, but want the therapeutic benefits, try adding Matcha to your smoothies.

NETTLE LEAF (Urtica dioica) | This green leafy plant is loaded with vitamins and minerals to nourish your entire body. It’s also gently cleansing and can help relieve seasonal allergies. It’s green, almost grassy flavor makes it a good fit for green smoothies.

PEPPERMINT (Mentha × piperita) | If you’ve got fresh mint growing in your garden, trying adding a few leaves to your next green smoothie. The herb is uplifting to the body and mind and helps ease indigestion. You can also use dried powdered peppermint for the same flavor and effect.

You’ll find these herbs in the Green Energy Smoothie and Golden Sun Smoothie Bowl recipes below.

Green Energy Smoothie

1.5 cups nut, rice or coconut milk
1 serving protein powder
2-3 tbsp chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
1 handful of greens (kale, spinach, chard)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp matcha powder
1 tsp nettle leaf powder
1 small bunch (5-8 leaves) of fresh mint or 1 tsp ground dried peppermint
fresh juice of ¼ lime

Golden Sun Smoothie Bowl

1 fresh or frozen mango (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup nut, rice or coconut milk
1 serving protein powder
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp lion’s mane powder
½ tsp eleuthero powder
Optional toppings: blueberries, raspberries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, nuts

If you give these recipes a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to snap a picture and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you’re doing with herbs!

blessings,

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Everyday Herbal Alternatives to Over-The-Counter Drugs

Herbal Alternatives to Over-the-Counter Drugs

Herbs offer a safe and effective alternative to many over-the-counter drugs. With mounting evidence about the adverse consequences of many common medications, think of this as a way to detoxify your medicine chest.

When you choose herbs for common complaints, it’s important not to self-diagnose and to see your medical practitioner when appropriate. Most of us are comfortable taking care of a cold, an occasional headache or simple indigestion on our own, without seeking medical attention. Let your body and common sense guide you.

 

If you do take prescription medications, always be sure to check out the possibility of interactions with over-the counter medications and with herbs. You can start with this online herb & drug interaction checker or talk to your pharmacist or practitioner.

If you happen to stroll the aisles of your local drug store you’ll find non-prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) medications for a seemingly endless variety of symptoms from allergies, to colds and flu, digestive complaints, and poor sleep. Itching, belching, sneezing, coughing, you name it and there’s probably an OTC drug for it.

These drugs may provide temporary relief, but in most cases they do very little to bring the body back in to balance. This is where herbs excel! Not only do they help you feel better, they can speed recovery and promote healthy function and tissue repair.

So, detox your medicine chest and fill it with these herbal alternatives. If you feel a cold coming on late at night or suffer an unexpected bout of indigestion after dinner, you’ll be glad you already have these remedies on hand.

HEARTBURN + INDIGESTION

If you’ve experienced heartburn (acid reflux or gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD)) you may have used an over-the-counter drug like Prilosec, Prevacid, or Nexium. These drugs are called proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) and are designed to suppress stomach acid. Even putting aside the fact that most people who suffer from heartburn don’t have excess stomach acid, these drugs have serious side effects. Keep in mind that stomach acid plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. It inhibits bacterial overgrowth in the gut and helps your body break down and absorb critical nutrients. Bacterial overgrowth in the gut can eventually lead to compromised immunity.

Long term use of these drugs can lead to calcium and magnesium imbalance in the body and put you at risk for osteoporosis. These drugs are also associated with an increased risk of kidney disease and may be cause or accelerate dementia. Need I say more?

Herbal alternatives to PPI’s help soothe hot, inflamed irritated tissue, improve tissue health and promote digestive function. Herbal carminatives act to ease gas and bloating without suppressing function. Bringing your body back into balance will also involve looking at your diet, food sensitivities and other lifestyle issues. While you’re making the needed changes consider these herbal allies.

ALLERGIES

Hay fever and seasonal allergy sufferers are likely to reach for over-the counter antihistamines and nasal decongestants. Antihistamines block histamines (produced in an allergic response) from binding to receptor sites. Most antihistamines cause drowsiness because the brain requires histamine function for mental alertness. Now researchers have found a link between long-term use of some antihistamines (those know as anticholinergic medications) and dementia. This includes common over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton. Some of the newer antihistamine drugs are less likely to cause drowsiness, but they still come with other common side effects like dry mouth, sore throat, hoarseness and nose bleeds, not to mention other more serious, but less common side effects like heart palpitations, jaundice and seizures.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, why not switch to something natural, nourishing to the body and without side harmful side effects? There are many herbal options to reduce the allergic response, dry up excess secretions and relieve itching. Look for products that contain the natural antihistamines like Nettles and Quercetin or consider a simple inhalation of German Chamomile essential oil.

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COLDS + FLU

Common over-the-counter remedies for colds and flu are usually some combination of antihistamines (see Allergies, above), decongestants, analgesics (like aspirin or Tylenol), and cough suppressants. Despite wide-spread use, many studies have demonstrated that they offer little beyond a placebo effect. Analgesics do reduce fever but in doing so, they suppress the body’s own healthy immune response. In the case of the common cold, immune suppression can lead to a more serious infection and increase the duration of the cold.

Herbs on the other hand can help the body fight back, offering anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties along with stimulation of the body’s own immune system. Keep these herbs in your home medicine chest if you want to be prepared for cold and flu season.

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PAIN

HEADACHES | JOINT + MUSCLE PAIN | MENSTRUAL CRAMPS

When it comes to pain, the most commonly used over-the-counter drugs are acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin and ibuprofen (i.e., Advil and Motrin). These pharmaceuticals are not only toxic, they can make worse many of the conditions they are used to treat. Tylenol alone is responsible for more emergency room visits than any other drug. Drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, are responsible for about 16,500 deaths in the US annually and more than 100,000 hospitalizations. They also damage the intestinal tract and are proven to accelerate osteoarthritis, a major cause of joint pain, and one of the reason doctors so often recommend NSAIDs to their patients. Tylenol is associated with frequent unintentional poisoning and Tylenol overdose is the leading cause of liver failure and a common cause of kidney failure in the US.

There are many good herbal alternatives for pain. It helps to focus on the cause of the pain, inflammation, muscular, or otherwise and choose the herbal remedies accordingly. As with any health issue, a holistic approach requires that you also look at and modify any diet and lifestyle factors causing or contributing to the problem.

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SLEEP

Common over-the-counter sleep aids like Unisom and Nytol are actually antihistamines. Remember from the discussion of allergies above, that these drugs cause drowsiness because the brain requires histamine function for mental alertness. This might seem like a good idea for occasional insomnia, but many people rely on these pharmaceutical drugs night after night, putting themselves at greater risk of dementia. These drugs also disrupt normal sleep patterns and the vital repair functions the body performs while we sleep.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of herbal products that promote a good night’s sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, be sure to look at underlying issues (diet and lifestyle) that may be disrupting your sleep. For a more in-depth discussion of good sleep habits and herbal remedies for sleep check out this article, 5 Herbs + Essential Oils for Better Sleep. For occasional sleep problems, stock these herbs in your medicine chest.

Click the image below to view.

Now you know the alternatives. Go take a good look through your medicine cabinet and see what needs to be replaced. If you wind up disposing of some of the over-the-counter drugs in your home, post a picture of the medicine chest detox or better still post a picture of your newly stocked herbal medicine chest and what you’re saying good-bye too, and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram. I love seeing what you’re up to!

If you have questions, please post in the comment section below.

Wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

References

The Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden, Beyzarov, Elena , PharmD,  http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2012/april2012/the-anticholinergic-cognitive-burden, April 8, 2012; accessed July 18, 2017

Association of Proton Pump Inhibitors With Risk of Dementia, A Pharmacoepidemiological Claims Data Analysis, Gomm, Willy, PhD, et al., AMA Neurol. 2016;73(4):410-416. See also http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2487379.

Common Anticholinergic Drugs Like Benadryl Linked to Increased Dementia Risk, Merz, Beverly, Harvard Women’s Health Watch, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/common-anticholinergic-drugs-like-benadryl-linked-increased-dementia-risk-201501287667; accessed July 18, 2017.

Is Your Medicine Making You Sick?, Murray, Michael, ND, http://doctormurray.com/is-your-medicine-making-you-sick/; accessed July 8, 2017.

Natural Alternative to Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drugs, Murray, Michael, ND, William Morrow and Company, 1994.

What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know: The Alternative Treatments That May Change Your Life–and the Prescriptions That Could Harm You, Murray, Michael, ND, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2009.

Why I Won’t Take These ‘Safe’ Drugs, Northrup, Christine, MD, http://www.drnorthrup.com/three-drugs-that-i-would-not-take/; accessed July 18, 2017.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Health Benefits of Lavender

Lavender has a wide range of medicinal properties, a long history of use in cosmetics and perfumes, and offers a distinctive floral note when used as a culinary herb. This post is focused on lavender’s medicinal properties, but you can explore other ways to enjoy lavender in these posts:

Medicinal Uses of Lavender

I recently harvested a beautiful bouquet of lavender. The sun was high and the temperature was approaching 100°F, but the lavender flowers were sweet and tranquil, untroubled by the searing heat. Perhaps this ability to thrive in intense heat gives rise to lavender’s cooling and calming properties. This is certainly where lavender shines.

As for its specific therapeutic properties, lavender’s effects are three-fold. It acts on the nervous system as a calming nervine, anti-depressant, anxiolytic (which means it reduces anxiety), and mild sedative. It supports the digestive system as a carminative, anti-spasmodic, and mild bitter. Lavender is also an important first aid remedy with antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The clinical research on lavender has focused on the essential oil, but you can also use lavender flowers in tea, a liquid extract of lavender (also called a tincture) or a lavender glycerite.

Lavender and Nervous Disorders

Lavender is a gentle yet highly effective remedy for nervous tension, stress and anxiety. I say gentle because it is safe for use with sensitive people—children, the elderly, and even during pregnancy. Numerous studies on the inhalation of lavender essential oil found that lavender alleviated anxiety, elicited feelings of “happiness,” produced a less depressed mood and increased feelings of relaxation. Lavender essential oil is also effective diluted in a cream or oil and applied topically.

A recent study in pregnant women experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and depression used a cream containing 1.25% lavender essential oil. The lavender group showed a significant improvement in stress, anxiety and depression compared to placebo.

Another studying compared a proprietary lavender essential oil product known as “Silexan” to the prescription drug paroxetine (aka Paxil) in people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The oral essential oil of lavender product was effective in treating GAD and more effective than the conventional drug, paroxetine. Adverse events were also lower in those taking lavender making it a much more appealing choice given the side effects associated with many prescription anti-depressants, anxiolytics and barbiturates.

Lavender as tea or an essential oil inhalation is also an excellent choice to promote restful sleep and reduce difficulty falling asleep. Bathing with lavender essential oil or an herbal bath with lavender is an especially comforting way to use lavender to promote sleep.

Lavender and Digestive Disorders

As a carminative, mild bitter and anti-spasmodic, lavender is an excellent choice for functional complaints like gas, belching, colic, and cramping. When nervous tension or anxiety disrupts digestive function, causing irritability, gas or bloating, lavender does double duty, easing tension in the mind/body and relieving the digestive discomfort. A simple cup of lavender tea or essential diluted and massaged on the belly work wonders.

To make a lavender tea, steep one teaspoon of dried lavender flowers in 1 cup boiled water, covered, for 15 minutes. A simple rule of thumb for dilution of lavender oil for topical use is 1 – 5 drops off essential oil per teaspoon of unscented lotion or carrier oil. This results in a 1% to 5% concentration of the essential oil.

Lavender and First Aid

When it comes to first aid remedies, lavender essential oil is extremely versatile. Topically, in proper dilution, lavender is a cooling anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, pain-reliever and antiseptic. Small cuts and scrapes respond well to lavender’s antiseptic and wound healing properties. Lavender essential oil combines well with peppermint essential oil in a carrier oil or spray to ease the itching of mosquito and spider bites. The pain of minor burns and sunburn can be relieved with a blend of lavender essential oil and aloe vera juice. This cooling combination will also speed healing and reduce scarring.

Tension headaches respond well to inhalation of lavender essential oil or a drop of the oil in a carrier, applied to the temples or nape of the neck. For ear aches, place one drop of lavender essential oil on small cotton ball and insert it gently into the outer ear.

Lavender, with it’s lovely, calming aroma is both gentle and effective. Its safety and versatility make it a “must have” for the home medicine chest.

blessings,

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References

Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Winston, D., et al. 2007, Healing Arts Press

Aromatherapy Positively Affects Mood, EEG Patterns of Alertness and Math Computations, Diego, M.A., et al., International Journal of Neuroscience, 1998; 96(3-4):217-224.

Basic Emotions Induced by Odorants: A New Approach Based on Autonomic Pattern Results,

Vernet-Maury, E., et al., Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System, 1999 Feb; 75(2-3): 176-183.

Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy, A Practical Approach to the Use of Essential Oils for Health and Well-Being, Lawless, J., 1997, Elements Books Limited.

Psychological Effects of Aromatherapy on Chronic Hemodialysis Patients, Itai, T. et al., Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences Journal, 2000; 54(4): 393-397.

Silexan is Effective in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, A Randomized Double-blind Comparison to Placebo and Paroxetine, Kasper, S., et al., International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2014 June; 17(6): 859-69.

Topical Lavender Cream Alleviates Anxiety, Stress and Depression in Pregnant Women, Effati-Daryani, F., et al., Journal of Caring Sciences 2015; 4(1): 63-73.

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Lavender Bitters

As an herbalist, I must confess, I put herbs in just about everything. Herbs in my coffee, herbs with chocolate, herbs in my salad, you name it and I probably put herbs in it! So, when it comes to cocktails, I add herbs. Herbs in the form of herbal bitters have been used in cocktails since at least the 1800’s. Bitters add depth, structure and complexity to any cocktail and give a boost to digestive function, too. Before we get into much into the cocktails, you may want to read about the medicinal benefits of herbal bitters, here.  

This recipe for lavender bitters is my current favorite. I love to add a splash to margaritas for a lavender margarita. Try it in your favorite cocktail or add a dash to sparkling water for a quick and delicious aperitif.

Lavender Bitters Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce dried Lavender
  • 1 ounce dried Orange Peel
  • 1 tbsp dried Yarrow
  • 1 tsp dried Ginger
  • 2 fresh Vanilla Beans (Cut into ½”-1” pieces)
  • Vodka or Glycerin/Water to cover (approximately 2 cups)

Instructions:

  1. Grind dried herbs to a powder using a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle, or Vitamix.
  2. Place ground herbs and chopped vanilla beans into a jar so the jar is 1/3 to 1/2 full
  3. Pour vodka over the herbs. (If you want your bitter to be alcohol-free, use a blend of 50% food grade vegetable glycerin and 50% distilled water.) Add enough of the vodka (or glycerin/water mixture) to cover the herbs with at least 2 inches of fluid. Or, if the herb floats, add enough fluid so there is at least 2 inches of liquid below the herb. Cap the jar, date and label. 
  4. Store in a cool, dry place for at least 14 days, returning to shake the jar several times per day. For optimal flavor and complexity, store and shake for up to 6 weeks. Add more alcohol or glycerin/water mixture if the plant matter becomes exposed.
  5. After 14 days (or more) it is time to decant. Place a square of unbleached cotton muslin in a funnel or wire strainer and place it over a jar or bowl. Pour the wet herb  mixture into the funnel or strainer containing the of unbleached cotton muslin. Roll up the muslin and squeeze to recover as much of the liquid as possible.
  6. Optional: For a very clear, more refined looking bitter blend, filter the liquid once more using an unbleached coffee filter.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your creative cocktails and tag it  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you come up with.

Cheers!

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The Best Lavender Cookie [ Recipe ]

Lavender Cookies | Vegan + Gluten-Free

These lavender pecan cookies are the best! They’re vegan and gluten-free and so delicious, everyone loves them. Lavender is of course, a well-known medicinal plant used to relieve anxiety, promote sleep, and ease digestive complaints. You can find out more about the medicinal properties of lavender, here.  It’s less well-known as a culinary herb, but I’m ready to change that. Lavender adds a subtle, complex floral note that works in both sweet and savory recipes. After you’ve made these sumptuous cookies, check out these recipes for lavender honey and lavender bitters. 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp dried Lavender
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix almond flour, baking soda, and salt in medium size bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Fold in lavender and pecans. Form dough into 1 inch balls and gently press onto baking sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Cool on baking sheet. Enjoy with your favorite herbal tea.   

Makes 10-12 Cookies

Now, if you’re thinking this recipe looks familiar, that’s because I use the same basic recipe to make rosemary pecan cookies. Consider experimenting with some of your favorite herbs. I suspect rose petals, cardamom or thyme would be delicious here.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your cookies and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you come up with.

blessings,

 

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Simple Lavender Infused Honey [ Recipe ]

This lavender honey will please your body and melt your mind in the most luxurious way.  Lavender is uplifting to the heart and mind. It eases anxiety, relieves stress and promotes more restful sleep. When you combine lavender’s floral and balsamic aroma with the sweet, soothing  properties of raw honey you have a recipe for total relaxation and perfect peace. You can find more about lavender’s medicinal benefits, here

This delicious nectar is versatile and can be used in lots of ways. Add a spoonful to a cup of hot water for an instant cup of calming lavender tea. Drizzle on fruit, ice cream or other desserts for a subtle floral flavor. In fact, you can use this lavender honey in any recipe that calls for honey to lend a hint of lavender in the finished dish. Of course you can simply eat this honey by the spoonful. It’s that hard to resist. 

Ingredients // Materials

  • Raw honey
  • Dried lavender flowers ( Lavendula angustifolia)
  • Jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • Coffee grinder (optional)

 

Instructions

This recipe uses the folk method rather than precise measurements. It you are accustomed to recipes with exact measurements, take a deep breath, inhale some lavender and proceed into uncharted waters. You may even discover some freedom and more room for creativity using the folk method. If it makes you feel better, make a note of the amount of lavender and honey you use, and you’ll have exact measurements you prefer the next time around.  

  • Grind the dried lavender to a powder in the coffee grinder or using a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a grinder and the lavender blossoms are whole, use your hands to break them apart.
  • Fill the jar with the lavender.
  • Pour honey into the jar until the flowers are completely submerged and the jar is full. Gently stir with a small spoon or chopstick (the herbalist’s tool of choice) to remove air bubbles.
  • Cap the jar and label.
  • Allow the honey to sit undisturbed for 4-6 weeks. Thought not essential, low heat will encourage the extraction. For low heat, place the jar in a brown paper bag in a sunny place or in a dehydrator set to approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • After 4-6 weeks, strain the lavender flowers from the honey. Warming the honey first, makes it easier to  strain. 

The longer you allow the lavender to steep in the honey the richer the flavor. I like to taste the developing flavors every week or so, and may decide to strain the lavender early, depending on the flavor.  Let your senses guide you.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture and tag it  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you come up with.

blessings,

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3 Mouthwatering Tea Cocktails [ Recipe ]

If you’re an aspiring mixologist and serious about tea you’re going to love these tea cocktails! Adding tea to your favorite cocktail or using tea as the base for an entirely new cocktail creates a certain intrigue and adds layers of complexity to the drink. I like to use tea in cocktails in place of sugary sodas and other mixers.

In these recipes, I’ve chosen three of my favorite Nectar teas with unique flavors and energetics, Sweet Revival, made with Pu-erh tea, Green Energy, an up-lifting green tea blend, and Belly Calm Chai, a licorice and cinnamon infused herbal blend.

I recommend preparing the tea several hours in advance so it has time to cool before you blend the cocktail. In these recipes, you’ll see that I use “parts” as measurements. This is quite standard in herbal recipes. Here, “parts” refer to “fluid” measurements, like a fluid ounce, one fluid cup, or even a shot glass. If you choose one fluid ounce as your “part,” a single serving for these cocktails will be 4-5 ounce. So, decide how many people you want to serve and how many drinks you’ll need and set your “part” accordingly.

Let’s Make Some Tea Cocktails!

Sweet Revival Tea Cocktail

  • 2 parts Vokda
  • 4 parts Sweet Revival Tea, chilled
  • 1 part Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 dash bitters (Cardamom, Orange, Angelic, etc.)
  • Orange Slices
  • Ice

Green Tea & Lime Cocktail

  • 2 parts Vokda
  • 4 parts Green Energy Tea, chilled
  • 1 part Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/3 part Honey
  • Lime Slices
  • Ice

Red Hot Chai Cocktail

  • 2 parts Fireball Whiskey
  • 2 parts Belly Calm Chai, hot or chilled
  • 1 dash Cardamom Bitters
  • 2 parts Almond or Rice Milk, hot or chilled
  • Ice, if served cold

 

Instructions

Prepare the tea in advance and allow it to chill before mixing. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. (A mason jar with a lid will substitute in a pinch) Add ice and shake to aerate and chill. Strain out the ice as you pour into your favorite cocktail glass. Enjoy!

Please don’t drink and drive and if you do drink, please drink responsibly.

I hope you’ll share your creations in the comment section below. Leave me a message in the comments below if you have questions.

 Happy Mixing,

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Iced Tea + Cold Brews [ 2 Methods ]

Cold Brew Tea

Iced tea is a distinctly American phenomenon. It’s the first tea I was introduced to as a kid when we traveled from Ohio to North Carolina every summer to visit my grandparents and other southern relatives. After the hot, sunny days, evenings were punctuated by a tall glass of southern sweet tea, basically black tea laden with sugar and lemons, poured over ice.

At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the bitter and astringent taste of the black tea hiding behind all that sugar. Many years later, I discovered a recipe for southern sweet tea in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks. The discovery brought back fond memories of evenings spent outdoors with the adults talking into the wee hours and me and the other kids catching fireflies and engaging in other mischief. It also inspired me to create a modern, healthy version of southern sweet tea. I call it Sweet Revival, and it’s the only tea blend I’ve created with the specific intention of serving it over ice.

In the years since I was first introduced to southern sweet tea, I became an herbalist and started drinking tea and herbal tea on a daily basis. My love of tea has lead me to discover many teas and herbs that taste great chilled or served over ice. In my experience (and to my taste buds), tea blends that make the best iced teas are rich and full bodied in flavor, spicy, floral or fruity. In addition to Sweet Revival, Lemon Ginger Black Tea, Matcha Ginger Buzz, Spice Garden, Patagonia Super Berry and Patagonia Wild Guava all are scrumptious on ice. The many cooling herbs described in this recent post, Cooing Herbs for Hot Days, also make a lovely beverage served over ice. 

Let’s learn how to make Iced Tea + Cold Brew Tea.

Cold Brew Teas

There are essentially two ways to prepare an iced tea, the “hot brew” method and the “cold brew” method. Herbalists have long known that some herbs are best prepared in cold water as a cold infusion to extract specific therapeutic compounds. Now “cold brew” is the “hot” new trend in tea and coffee. Well, it’s not new, but it is a great way to prepare tea, especially during hot weather when you want something cooling to drink.

Hot Brew Method

This is the most widely used method for preparing iced tea. It is quick and effective, but the finished tea will likely be more astringent and somewhat more bitter that an iced tea prepared using the cold brew method, below.

  1. Measure loose leaf tea or herbal tea blend, generally 1 tablespoon per 8 ounce cup.
  2. Heat the water to the appropriate temperature for the tea or herbal blend (this can vary from 212°F for herbal and dark teas to 180°F for green tea). Pour half the recommended volume of water over the tea and allow to steep for the recommended time. This too will vary from as long as 15 or 20 minutes for herbal blends to 2-5 minutes for green, black, oolong and white teas.
  3. After steeping, strain the tea and add cold water equal to half the normal volume of water. This will cool the tea and dilute the concentration to regular strength.
  4. To serve, pour the tea into ice filled glasses. This is preferred over adding ice to the pitcher, as that will water down the tea.

Cold Brew Method

The cold brew or cold infusion method is not only easy, it results in a unique flavor profile that is typically smoother and less astringent and bitter than the hot brew method. It also tends to bring out more of the fresh, floral and fruity notes. Herbalists prefer the cold brew method for herbs that are rich in vitamins and minerals or rich in mucilage because cold brewing extracts more of these important nutrients and compounds. If you’re simply looking for a lovely summer iced tea, let your senses guide you.

  1. Measure loose leaf tea or herbal tea blend, generally 1 tablespoon per 8 ounce cup.
  2. Using chilled and filtered water, pour the recommended volume of water over the tea.
  3. Refrigerate and allow to infuse at least four hours or overnight. For green and white teas, 4-6 hours is recommended. Black, oolongs and herbal teas can easily steep 8 hours or overnight.
  4. After steeping, strain the tea and taste. The flavor can be adjusted by adding more cold filtered water.
  5. Chill until serving. To serve, pour the tea into ice filled glasses. This is preferred over adding ice to the pitcher, as that will water down the tea.

Have a great summer and enjoy some cold brew. If you have questions, please leave a comment below.

Cheers,

Suzanne

Cold Brew Teas

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Cooling Herbs for Hot Days [ Bonus Sun Tea Recipe ]

Cooling Herbs for Hot Days

I’d like to introduce you to cooling herbs for hot summer days. I love summer! I love the sun and I love summer time activities, swimming, hiking, outdoor parties, barbeques and picnics. When it’s hot, I use cooling herbs to extend the fun and stay hydrated.

Cooling herbs work in a number of different ways to cool the body and are sometimes referred to as refrigerants. Some cooling herbs also have what might be described as a cooling effect on the nervous system, helping to reduce anger or irritability. Others might be described as “cooling” to inflammation, helping soothe hot, irritated tissue. Some cooling herbs promote sweating, which is one of the body’s own mechanisms for regulating temperature and cooling off.

My favorite cooling herbs for hot days are Hibiscus, Lavender, Chamomile and Marshmallow. You can turn them into delicious, cooling herbal teas, herbal popsicles and other heat-beating treats!

Hibiscus | Hibiscus spp.

This beautiful, tropical flower makes the most stunning, ruby red tea. Its slightly sour taste combines well with citrus and other fruits. Hibiscus flower’s “cooling” effect extends to the cardiovascular system where it helps maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce other risks associated with cardiovascular disease. To make a cooling hibiscus tea, steep 1-2 tablespoons of dried hibiscus flowers in 4 cups of hot water. Strain, chill, pour over ice and enjoy!

Lavender | Lavendula angustifolia

When it comes to cooling the skin on a hot day or relieving sunburn pain, lavender is my first choice. It’s also a great first-aid remedy for itchy bug bites. For topical use, brew a simple tea with lavender flowers (about one teaspoon per cup, steeped 15 minutes), chill the tea, put it in a spray bottle and mist it on the skin. Lavender essential oil and lavender hydrosol also work well topically in an easy to make aromatherapy spritzer. When I’m going hiking on a hot summer day, attending an outdoor concert or art festival, I always take along a small misting bottle with cooling essential oils or hydrosol.  Lavender flowers also make lemonade more cooling and delicious. Check out this recipe for lavender mint lemonade. Lavender is also “cooling” to the nervous system, easing anxiety and irritability and promoting a good night’s sleep. The sweet floral scent of lavender just says “ahhh . . . relax, chill out.”

Chamomile | Matricaria recutita

This sweet little flower is cooling and calming. Like lavender, is can be used to soothe irritability and promote a good night’s sleep. Chamomile essential oil diluted in a spray bottle and Chamomile Hydrosol both work well to cool hot, red inflamed skin. A strong chamomile tea added to bath water is another way to get an “all over” skin cooling effect. How about creamy chamomile mint popsicles on a hot summer day? Chamomile also possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and analgesic properties making it useful for pain, menstrual cramps and fevers. A cup of Chamomile tea after dinner will also ease indigestion, gas and bloating. Prepare a cup of tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon of chamomile in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes.

Marshmallow | Althea officinalis

Marshmallow root is soothing, cooling and moistening to dry, hot inflamed tissue. The Ruby Red Tea Cooler recipe below, with marshmallow root and hibiscus, is a perfectly delightful way to stay cool and hydrated in the summer heat. Marshmallow root tea can also be used topically in the bath or as a cool compress to calm hot, irritated skin. Internally, marshmallow root tea can be used to soothe irritation in the digestive, respiratory, and urinary tract systems. Prepare a cup of tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon of marshmallow root in one cup of cold water for four hours or overnight.

Ruby Red Summer Cooler

A stunningly beautiful drink to keep you cool and hydrated on hot summer days.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce (30 gm) dried marshmallow root
  • 2/3 ounce (20 gm) dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/3 ounce (10 gm) rose petals
  • 4 vanilla beans, chopped in to ¼” pieces

Instructions:

Total Yield: 15-16 cups
Blend herbs until well mixed and store in a small jar. To prepare cooler, combine the herb blend with 16 cups filtered water in a large jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake gently to incorporate the herbs in the water. Allow to steep for at least four hours or overnight. Strain and enjoy this delicious hydrating cooler.

Have fun, keep cool and stay hydrated. If you have any questions about these herbs, please leave a message in the comments below.

with love,

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Herbal Popsicles for Hot Days [ Recipe ]

Celebrate Summer with Herbal Popsicles

Herbal popsicles just say “fun!” They’re great for kids, and grown-ups love them too. Herbal popsicles make the perfect refresher on a hot summer day or a light, pleasing dessert for summer barbecues and dinner parties.

In these two recipes, I’ve used herbs that are cooling to body, mind and spirit. You’ll find Hibiscus and Lavender in the first icy pop and Chamomile and Peppermint in the cold, creamy recipe that follows. You can read more about cooling herbs in this recent post, Cooling Herbs for Hot Days.

No popsicle molds? Don’t sweat it!  Here are a some inspiring DIY Popsicle Mold ideas.

Lavender Lemon Popsicle

These icy treats will chill out cranky kids and grown-ups alike. Lavender is not only cooling to the body, it also calms tension and cools fussy, anxious and irritable moods. Hibiscus is also cooling to the body and the heart and gives these pops their delightful pink color.

Lavender Lemon Herbal Popsicle

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups Water
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 3-4 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp Dried Lavender Flowers
  • 1 tsp Dried Hibiscus Flowers

Instructions:

Place the Lavender and Hibiscus in a mason jar or tea pot. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and then pour over the herbs. Cover the jar and allow the herbs to steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain the herbs. Combine the resulting tea with the lemon juice and maple syrup until well combined. Pour into molds and place in the freezer for several hours. To remove from molds, dip the molds briefly in hot water and the popsicles should quickly release. Enjoy!

Creamy Chamomile Mint Popsicles

These yogurt based pops are creamy, cooling and soothing. Sweet and calming Chamomile combines with belly-soothing Peppermint for a popsicle that will ease tensions as well as digestive discomfort.

Chamomile Mint Herbal Popsicles

Ingredients: 

 

  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Dried Chamomile
  • 1 tbsp Dried Peppermint
  • ¼ cup Maple Syrup
  • ½ cup Greek Yogurt

Instructions:

Place the Chamomile and Peppermint in a mason jar or tea pot. In a separate pot, bring the water to a boil and then pour over the herbs. Cover the jar and allow the herbs to steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain the herbs and allow the resulting tea to cool to room temperature. In a blender, combine the tea with the Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Blend until well combined. Pour into molds and place in the freezer for several hours. To remove from molds, dip the molds briefly in hot water and the popsicles should quickly release. Enjoy!

I encourage you to experiment with other herbs, bases and more. I am partial to the flavor of maple syrup, but you can also substitute honey or other sweeteners. Please do share your experience and herbal popsicle creations in the comments section, below. be dure to leave me a comment if you have questions.

Keep cool and have fun!

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Cool It with this DIY Calming + Cooling Mist

Make this cooling aromatherapy spray for a super quick and refreshing break on a long summer day. When the heat is high and the sun is shining, I always have an aromatherapy spray on hand for an instant cool down. This mist combines the calm, cooling properties of Lavender with the rejuvenating, uplifting aroma of Spearmint for the perfect heat-beating spray.

Cool It Mist Recipe

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Add the Lavender and Spearmint essential oils to the glass bottle, drop by drop. Fill the remainder of the bottle with Lavender Hydrosol. Or, if Lavender Hydrosol is unavailable, add the distilled water and vodka mixture instead. (The alcohol in the vodka helps the essential oils disburse in the fluid.) Cap and label. Always shake well before using. With eyes closed, gently mist above and around your face and shoulders. Spray on arms, legs or other exposed skin as desired.

aromatherapy diy
aromatherapy diy
cooling essential oil mist

Keep this cooling spray on hand for your next outing to the beach, summer music festivals, outdoor barbeques and picnics. And be sure your mist bottle is full when you leave home. Your friends and family will all what to enjoy this refreshing mist. 

Enjoy!

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Maca Ginseng Elixir for the Modern Warrior

This Maca Ginseng elixir is stimulating and energizing. Loaded with herbs to strengthen the body and promote health and vitality, it can be used in a multitude of creative ways. For people under mountains of stress, working long hours or engaged in strenuous physical exercise, take one teaspoon in the morning as a daily tonic. For coffee drinkers, a teaspoon added to a cup of coffee makes for a long-lasting boost.

Women experiencing menopausal symptoms may also enjoy this elixir as a daily tonic. For more on Maca and Ginseng for women, check out this article, Three Herbs to Unleash Feminine Power.  Lovers will delight in this elixir sipped from small cordial glasses. If you like to entertain, a dash or two of this elixir can take the place of bitters in your favorite cocktail for an exceptional drink and an unforgettably lively party!

maca ginseng elixir ingredients

Elixirs are sweet, aromatic medicinal beverages and a favorite of herbalists for the ingestion of tonic or strengthening herbs like Maca and Ginseng. This elixir also incorporates digestive bitters, Dandelion Root and Gentian Root to promote liver and digestive function. Herbal bitters stimulate digestive fire ensuring that you are getting all that you can from the food you eat and easily eliminating what your body can’t use. Along with a healthy nervous system and balanced response to stress, healthy digestion is also key to overall health and vitality. To learn more about the health benefits of digestive bitters check out this article, Herbal Remedies for Digestive Health Part One: Herbal Bitters.

I’ve added Cardamom to this elixir because I love the subtle, spicy complexity it offers. Feel free to experiment with other richly flavored or spicy herbs. I’m sure Anise, Cinnamon, Ginger, Fennel, Rose or Vanilla would all be lovely addition to this blend.

Maca Ginseng Elixir Recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 ounces (3 tbsp or 45 ml) Maca Tincture
1 ounce (2 tbsp or 30 ml) Panax Ginseng Tincture
1 ounce (2 tbsp or 30 ml) Dandelion Root Tincture
½ ounce (1 tbsp or 15 ml) Ashwagandha Root Tincture
½ ounce (1 tbsp or 15 ml) Cardamom Tincture
2 tsp (10 ml) Licorice Root Tincture
1 tsp (5 ml) Gentian Root Tincture
3 ounces Honey or Maple Syrup

Yields: Approximately 8 ounces

Instructions: Combine all of the ingredients in an 8 ounce glass bottle or jar. Shake well until the honey or maple syrup is full incorporated. Cap and store in the cupboard and use as needed.

 

Enjoy!

maca ginseng elixir

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3 Herbs to Unleash Feminine Power

unleash feminine power

 

Three Herbs to Unleash Your Feminine Power

In this post I’m going to introduce you to three herbs to unleash your feminine power. Feminine power is on the rise. Thank Goddess. Feminine power shows up as strength, endurance, fierce love and deep compassion, self-sacrifice, creativity, intelligence and intuition. After millennia of patriarchal systems, a shift in the balance of power and a revaluing of the fierce feminine is unfolding. We have a tremendous amount of work to do, within and without. We can and we will do this work. As women, we are not strangers to hard work, long hours, the pain of child birth, defending our families and communities, reclaiming our freedom and reinventing our lives in the face of illness and oppression. 

Some days I feel this feminine potency coursing within me like a great river. At other times the flow feels weak, anemic, barely a trickle. When my energy is low, I know more attention to self-care is in order. I also turn to herbal remedies that strengthen the nervous system and alleviate the effects of stress and hard work. These herbs are classified as adaptogens.

figures of feminine power

“Feminine power shows up as strength, endurance, fierce love and deep compassion, self-sacrifice, creativity, intelligence and intuition.”


Adaptogens help the body adapt to stress and restore balance. They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors. They will also strengthen a weakened immune system reducing the chances of you catching the common cold or flu bug. Adaptogens have been used by athletes to increase stamina and reduce recovery times after strenuous exercise. Many adaptogens improve mental focus and clarity. Some adapotgens have an affinity for specific body systems which includes those that promote fertility and reproductive health.

Are you starting to see how these medicinal plants might be the prefect remedy for a modern day feminine warrior, a single mom attending school at night or a grandmother working and raising her own grandchildren? Consider the energy needs of a busy executive or small business working long hours to prove her worth in a competitive environment. Adaptogens would support all of these women and others like them asserting their feminine power in every more powerful and creative ways. While there are many adaptogens in the modern herbal apothecary, in this post I’m going to introduce you to three powerful adaptogens uniquely suited for a woman’s health and vitality, Ginseng, Maca and Rhodiola

The roots of these plants are have been utilized as medicine for thousands of years. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it is the roots of Ginseng, Maca and Rhodiola that offer us their strength and nourishment at the deepest level. A plants roots reach down into Mother Earth providing the strength that anchors the plant in place. At the same time, the roots draw nourishment in the form or nutrients and water upward, giving life to the leaves, flowers and fruit. The process of unleashing our feminine power is like this. It often begins with going deep, turning within and discovering the anchor that is our most authentic self. This inner wisdom becomes the source place for the expression of our feminine power, the power to manifest change, to be strong, openhearted and vulnerable. It is the power to bring forth something that did not previously exist, whether that is a child, an idea, a book, a garden, a form of service or a work of art. The roots of these adaptogens assist us in this deep and challenging work, nourishing and sustaining us as we struggle and grow.  

Ginseng Root | Panax Ginseng

Panax Ginseng root has been used for thousands of years. It is one of the most studied herbs in the modern herbal apothecary with a significant body of modern scientific research confirms traditional uses. Panax Ginseng is available in different forms and varieties and is also sometimes called Asian Ginseng, Kirin Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Red Ginseng or White Ginseng, depending on the its origin, the age of the root and how it has been processed after harvesting.

panax ginseng for feminine power

For women of any age who are juggling family, work, self-care and the demands of living in a complex world, Ginseng improves stamina and helps reduce mental and physical fatigue. Considered the most stimulating of adapotgens, Ginseng is used for adrenal fatigue and depletion of the endocrine system, general weakness, to reduce cortisol levels elevated by stress and as an immune tonic. This power plant made the short list of herbs for feminine power because it also supports the female reproductive system at all stages of a woman’s life–maiden, mother and crone. In young women experiencing infertility of indeterminate cause, Ginseng can help by improving overall health and vitality. For women of all ages Ginseng is known as an aphrodisiac promoting sexual desire and response.

Ginseng is also a source of phytoestrogens which are naturally occurring plant nutrients that exert and an estrogen-like effect on the body. Ginseng’s phytoestrogens may assist a woman who is not menstruating due to low estrogen levels and can be especially helpful for low estrogen related to menopause. Ginseng can provide relief for many menopausal symptoms from mental fatigue to hot flashes, vaginal dryness and depression. In one randomized, controlled clinical trial using 3 grams of Red Panax Ginseng the Ginseng group had significant improvements in all menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, using two of the most common research tools for evaluating menopausal symptoms. Participants in the ginseng group also saw a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL levels compared to the placebo group. 

Energetically, Panax Ginseng is sweet, bitter, warm moist and stimulating. Some people may feel over stimulated by Ginseng. Others may feel a strong kindling of inner fire and drive. Choose accordingly and listen to your body. You may want to avoid Ginseng is you suffer from anxiety, insomnia, or hypertension. Ginseng can be used as a tea, liquid extract, or in capsules. 

maca for feminine power

Maca  Root | Lepidium peruvianum

High in the Andes mountains of Peru, Maca root has been used as a food for thousands of years. It’s popularity as a “super food” for energy, stamina and sexual health is much more recent. While pharmacological research and clinical trials are still few compared to Ginseng, the results are promising and support the historical and anecdotal record. We do know that Maca is a nutrient-dense root, rich in amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitmins and minerals. This alone would tend to explain its ability to increase energy, strength and stamina.

Maca appears to have important benefits for women in their reproductive years, reportedly relieving menstrural irregularities including moods swings, irritability and depression. Women of all ages also report improvements in libido and sexual responsiveness when using Maca. In a recent study with older, women, Maca relieved depression and sexual dysfunction in post-menopausal women. In another recent clinical trial Maca also helped relieve anti-depressant (SSRI) induced sexual dysfunction in post-menopausal women.

Like Ginseng, different varieties of Maca, red, black and yellow are reported to have slightly different properties. Energetically, Maca is warming and stimulating.  You can use Maca root in its powdered form in smoothies or in food, simmer the powdered root for tea, or as a liquid extract. Personally, I find Maca helpful for my busy life as a small business owner. I incorporate the powdered root in smoothies and I love to have these Maca-rich Mental Energy Balls for a quick pick-me-up. For you and your beloved, I highly recommend these Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls made with Maca, Chocolate and Coconut!

Rhodiola Root | Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola is native to the harsh, cold sub-arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia. Vikings reportedly used the root for strength and stamina before epic battles and long voyages. In parts of northern Europe recently married couples once received gifts of Rhodiola to promote fertility and the birth of healthy children. Today there exists a large body of published research on the medicinal properties of Rhodiola root that corroborates thousands of years of traditional use.

rhodiola for feminine power

For women who need to remain cool and collected under pressure, Rhodiola relieves fatigue and promotes mental clarity and alertness, even improving memory and the ability for prolonged concentration when used regularly.  Rhodiola supports muscle building and improves the energy available to muscles during strenuous activity. It also improves muscle strength and endurance.

Rhodiola is also a good choice for women with menstrual irregularities who are having trouble conceiving. In one clinical trial 40 women who had ceased menstruating were given Rhodiola. Normal menses were restored in over 60% of the women and 11 became pregnant. Physicians have also reported women becoming pregnant after using Rhodiola for several months where standard fertility drugs had failed. In post-menopausal women, Rhodiola can help relieve menopause related depression and brain fog.

Energetically Rhodiola is sweet, slightly bitter, spicy, cool and dry. It is consider more cooling than Ginseng and is less likely to cause anxiety or over-stimulation. The root can be prepared as tea by simmering the roots or taken as a liquid extract or in capsules.

Dear sisters, the time to cultivate your warrior heart is now. Feminine power is on the rise and the Goddess is calling you to offer your highest and best. The planet, the waters and all the living creature needs you to show up and lead. So, take good care brave ones, support one another and when the going gets tough, reach for the strong hands and hearts of your loved ones, and don’t forget your favorite adaptogen.

With love,

 

References:

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Winston D, Maimes S, Healing Art Press, 2007.

Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Alternative Therapies and Integrative Medicine for total Health and Wellness, Hudson T, McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Effects of Red Ginseng Supplementation on Menopausal Symptoms and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Postmenopausal Women: A Double-blind Randomized Controlled Trial, Young Kim S., et al. Menopause 2012; 19(4) 461-466.

Beneficial Effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on Psychological Symptoms and Measures of Sexual dysfunction in Postmenopausal Women are Not Related to Estrogen or Androgen Content.  Brooks NA, et al., Menopause, 2008 Nov-Dec, 15:1157-62.

A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial of Maca Root as Treatment for Antidepressant-induced Sexual Dysfunction in Women, Dording C, Schettler P, Dalton E, et al.  Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine, 2015; Article ID 949036.

Rhodiola Rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview, Brown R, et al., American Botanical Council,  HerbalGram, 2002, Issue 56:40-52.

Effect of Rhodiola Rosea extract on Ovarian Function, Proceedings of the Scientific Conference on Endocrinology and Gynecology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 1970 Sept 15-16; 46-48.

Infinite Love Rose Syrup [ Recipe ]

Infinite Love Rose Syrup

Infinite Love Rose Syrup

There are no words to describe this Infinite Love Rose Syrup. You simply must experience it yourself. Exquisite, euphoric, sensual are just some of the words you might use to describe the divine realm this syrup evokes. For all its sensuous complexity, this syrup is so simple to make, using three potent and delicious ingredients to open the heart and promote feelings of unconditional love. It’s lightly sweet and floral flavor allows it to pair well with almost anything from the sweet to the savory. Here, I’ve drizzled it over vegan vanilla bean coconut ice cream. Divine!

Infinite Love Rose Syrup ingredients

Rose Hydrosol
Rose Petals have been used as perfume, medicine and food for thousands of years. Rose is known for its ability to open the heart and promote feelings of love + devotion. This recipe calls for an Organic Rose Hydrosol, which is a pure steam-distilled Rose extract, sometimes referred to as a flower water. If you purchase flower water, read the label carefully to make certain it is a true hydrosol and not made from a synthetic rose fragrance.

Infinite Love Elixir by Lotus Wei
This delicious Flower Essence medley is infused with gem essence of Pink Tourmaline in a base of Blackberry Honey. It is ideal for creating an overall feeling of compassion, softness and unconditional love. Infinite Love Elixir also banishes feelings of resentment, anger, jealousy and irritation. To learn more about this product visit Lotus Wei or stop in the shop to experience their incredible line of Flower Essences first hand. If you don’t have this elixir, I recommend substituting Vanilla Bean extract.

Raw Honey
On the tongue, raw honey elicits the pure, erotic nectar of flowers. It is also highly nutritious and possesses potent healing properties of its own. Raw honey that has not been pasteurized or filtered maintains more of the beneficial nutrients and properties than processed honey. Therapeutically, it is an anti-oxidant (the darker the honey, the more so), energizing and useful for recovery from intense exercise, antiseptic, antibacterial, and an effective wound healer.

Lotus Wei's Infinite Love Elixir

Recipe:
¼ cup Raw Honey
1 Tbsp. Organic Rose Hydrosol
2 droppersful Infinite Love Elixir by Lotus Wei
(or alternatively 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract)

Directions:
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well combined. Use immediately or pour the syrup into small jar or bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. This delicious syrup is a great way to dress up your moring tea, oatmeal or other hot cereals. Drizzle it over yogurt, fruit, or even ice cream. Let your imagine and infinite love run wild!

infinite love rose syrup over icecream
vegan vanilla bean icecream
vegan vanilla bean icecream with infinite love rose syrup

Damiana Rose Cordial [ Recipe ]

DAMIANA ROSE CORDIAL

Damiana Rose Cordial is a delicious, libido-lifting beverage for you and your beloved. It is rich with heart opening, uplifting herbs that stimulate and tone the nervous system and reproductive organs. The term cordial refers to a mild, aromatic medicinal beverage or tonic that has been sweetened and is pleasant to drink. The word cordial is derived from the Latin word for Heart, “cor” or “cord-“ and old English “cordial” meaning of or belonging to the heart. This cordial is made to be sipped at room temperature from petite cordial glasses. Serve this luscious cordial with these Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls to really kick your evening into high gear!

If you plan to serve this cordial at you next party or as a warm-up for “Date Night,” you will need to plan ahead. Initially the Damiana needs to steep in Brandy for at least five days. I also find that beautiful and subtle flavors in this cordial improve with age. When they say that “the best things are worth waiting for,” this is one of those things!

damiana rose cordial pour

Herbal Aphrodisiacs

Let’s take a quick at the libido-lifting, heart-warming herbs in this recipe.

Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca or diffusa): Damiana is stimulating and uplifting to the nervous system. It can help alleviate shyness and inhibition, and relieve depression and anxiety. Native to South America, the Mayan and Aztec people used Damiana as a sexual tonic. Today, Damiana is still considered an energizing tonic for the nervous system and reproductive systems, used to address erectile dysfunction and low libido in men and women. It has a spicy, somewhat pungent flavor and can also be prepared as a tea or liquid extract.

Rose Petals (Rose damascena): People have cultivated Rose and enjoyed its exquisite fragrance in medicine, food and perfumery for at least 5,000 years. Though not technically an aphrodisiac, Rose has long been used to open the heart and promote feelings of love and devotion. Associated with Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, no formula for the heart is complete without this scent of this precious flower. This recipe calls for an Organic Rose Hydrosol, which is a pure steam-distilled Rose extract, sometime referred to as a flower water. If you purchase flower water, read the label carefully to make certain it is a true hydrosol and not made from a synthetic rose fragrance. You can also prepare Rose Petals in a simple tea or use Rose Absolute or Essential Oil in a diffuser or topically in proper dilution.

Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia): The sweet, exotic scent of pure vanilla is both soothing and euphoric. In an extract or essential oil, Vanilla is used to relieve anger and irritability and to promote feelings of arousal and satisfaction.

damiana rose cordial with a rose

Damiana Rose Cordial Recipe

Ingredients

1 ounce Damiana leaf (approx. 1 cup)
2 cups Brandy
1 ½ cups filtered water
1 cup Honey
1 tablespoon Organic Rose Hydrosol
1 tablespoon Organic Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. Place the Damiana in a glass jar and pour in the Brandy. Mix well, cover, and allow to soak for at least five days.
  2. After five days, strain the Brandy from the herb and store in a glass bottle or jar. Reserve the herb and place in a separate heat-tolerant jar.
  3. Bring water to a boil and pour it into the jar with the reserved herb. Mix well, cover, and allow the blend to steep for several hours or over-night. Strain the herb-infused water from the herb. Compost the herb.
  4. Place the Damiana-infused water in a small sauce pan and warm over low heat. Add the honey and stir occasionally until the honey is fully incorporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Combine the Damiana-infused Brandy and Damiana-infused water/honey blend. Add Rose Hydrosol and Vanilla Extract. Pour into a glass jar or bottle and shake well. Allow to sit for an additional week before serving.

We often serve this Rose Damiana Cordial at our monthly DIY, Sip & Socials and it is always a hit. After a few sips everyone begins to relax, smile more brightly and connect. I hope you enjoying sipping your this libido-lifting cordial with your friends and your beloved.

Please leave your question and comments, below.
with love,

References
Mars, Bridgette (2010), The Sexual Herbal, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont

Kitchen Remedy Tea [ Recipe ]

You can prepare this delicious, medicinal tea from common culinary spices that are probably already in your kitchen. That’s why I call it a “Kitchen Remedy” tea. It seems all of the culinary spices I keep in my kitchen possess important medicinal properties. In this delightful tasting tea I used Fennel, Aniseed, Thyme, and Ginger. Together these spices make an excellent remedy for coughing and chest congestion or an aid to digestion that provides relief for gas and bloating. For a tour of the medicine in your spice cupboard and more information about each of these herbs, check out my post, Kitchen Remedies: Herbs & Spices for Common Ailments.

Kitchen Remedy Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp Aniseed

  • 1/2 tsp Fennel

  • 1/2 tsp dried Ginger

  • 1/2 tsp Thyme

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and then place in your teapot or other tea infuser. Cover with 1-2 cups just boiled water and cover. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy! 

You can substitute a tablespoon of chopped fresh Ginger Root if that’s what you have on hand, or even a few sprigs of fresh Thyme from the garden.

 

Dried Ginger Going into Kitchen Rememdy Tea

Steeping Herbal Tea

Kitchen Remedy Tea

This is just one of the endless ways you might combine culinary herbs for a quick and effective remedy. I recently combined some of these same spices with Mullein, Marshmallow Root, and Elecampane to make a cough syrup. Here’s the recipe for Nectar Cough Care Syrup using Fennel, Ginger, and Thyme.

I encourage you to really get to know the medicinal properties of the herbs and spices in your spice cupboard. You’ll be amazed at all of herbal medicine you already have on hand. And, unlike some herbs we know, it’s all very tasty, too! Have fun getting to know these kitchen remedies and if you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Golden Milk Recipe [ Recipe ]

golden-milk-banner-1

GOLDEN MILK RECIPE

In this Golden Milk recipe you’re going to discover the most delicious way to make turmeric a regular part of your diet. By this time you have no doubt heard of the many health benefits of this pungent spice. Turmeric has become downright trendy! As an herbalist, I’m often a bit leery of these occasional trends, but no so when it comes to turmeric. This culinary spice, which gives curries their characteristic golden color has been used for thousands of years and has long been a staple of herbalist from varied traditions.

golden-milk-1

So, why should you make part of a healthy diet? The reasons are many. In short, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anticoagulant, hypolipidemic, hypotensive, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, liver stimulant and protectant, and cardioprotective. Whoa! Let’s unpack that a little. Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds. In a study published the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, turmeric extract worked as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. A key component in turmeric has been shown to exhibit therapeutic potential in many disease states where inflammation is a factor, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. When it comes to the heart and circulation, turmeric acts as a blood thinner and promotes healthy cholesterol and healthy blood pressure. It also supports a healthy liver and digestive function.

Unless you are using medications that might interact with turmeric (like prescription blood thinners), there’s just no reason not to incorporate turmeric into your healthy lifestyle. But for some of us, that may be easier said than done. Turmeric has a spicy, pungent flavor that is not to everyone’s liking. That’s where Golden Milk comes in. Make this delicious drink as a warming, nourishing conclusion to your day. The recipe calls for honey or maple syrup, but I find that unsweetened coconut milk and cinnamon are all the “sweetness” I need. You can also step up the flavor with powdered ginger, cardamom, or anise. For more about the medicine in these common spices, check out this recent post on Kitchen Remedies: Herbs & Spices for Common Ailments. You may be surprised by all the remedies in your spice drawer.

golden-milk-2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Milk (Almond, Coconut, Etc.)
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • Raw honey or maple syrup to taste
  • Optional: Powdered ginger, cardamom, anise

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a small sauce pan and heat for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently.  Allow to cool to a comfortable temperature. Drink daily and enjoy!

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Give it a try! If you still don’t find turmeric to your liking, you can take it as a supplement in capsules or liquid extract form. Here’s to your health and to your next cup of Golden Milk!

If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Kitchen Remedies: Herbs & Spices for Common Aliments

Kitchen Remedies: Herbs & Spices for Common Aliments

If you have a drawer or cupboard full of culinary herbs and spices, you also have an abundance of herbal medicine right under your nose. Did you know that almost all of the herbs and spices we use to make our food more delicious also have medicinal properties? In this post, I’m going to take you on a whirlwind tour through my spice drawer. I think you’ll be amazed at the many kitchen remedies for colds, flu, digestive complaints and other common aliments in those little spice bottles. And that’s not all!

In addition to adding flavor and complexity to our food and offering relief for common ailments, culinary herbs and spices can play a really important role in maintaining optimal health and vitality. So, spice it up! In addition to improving flavor, cooking with herbs and spices offers many collateral benefits. Using more herbs and spices is a good way to reduce salt in your food without sacrificing flavor. Excessive salt is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Eating food that is well seasoned with herbs and spices also expands the palate and increases satisfaction, that is to say, satiation, without the addition of more calories in the form of fat and sugar. And, when food is tastier and more satisfying to the palate, we tend to eat less, which helps maintain healthy weight.

My spice drawer is also loaded with herbs and spices that are protective against many of the common diseases of western culture—conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and dementia. And these are not exotic spices. If you like to cook even a little, I bet you have them in your kitchen too. Basil, Oregano, Rosemary and Turmeric all possess anti-oxidant properties. Turmeric and Ginger are effective anti-inflammatories. Cinnamon can help balance blood sugar. Basil, Garlic, and Turmeric all support a healthy cardiovascular system, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure.

Even a single serving of spice-rich curry can dilate your arteries and help prevent the negative cardiovascular effects associated with eating common foods. A study reported in Nutrition Journal compared consumption of a traditional curry dish made with Coriander, Cumin, Garlic, Ginger, Onion, Red pepper, and Turmeric with consumption of a spice-free control meal. Both meals included cooked rice and the same calorie count. The consumption of the curry meal improved blood flow through the blood vessels, whereas the control meal resulted in decreased blood flow. Specifically, spice-rich curry prevented the negative effects of the meal on post-meal ‘endothelial function,’ that is, it prevented the inner lining (endothelium) of the blood vessels from contracting and inhibiting normal blood flow through the cardiovascular system. The researchers concluded that the activity of the spices in the curry meal may be beneficial for preventing cardiovascular events and may help fight against lifestyle related diseases like atherosclerosis (aka hardening of the arteries) and type 2 diabetes (sometimes referred to as adult onset diabetes, though if occurs in young people as well).

So, in case you thought your grandmother was passing on “old wives tales,” think again. There is an ever growing body of research on the therapeutic benefits of herbs. There’s real wisdom in some of those so-called “wives’ tales,” and there’s good medicine in your kitchen!

Next time you feel a cold coming on, can’t sleep, or have a belly ache, take a look in your spice rack. I hope you discover some of these kitchen remedies.

Herbs & Spices for Common Ailments

Anise or Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum):

This sweet, aromatic seed is useful for simple indigestion with gas and bloating. It is also an excellent remedy for dry coughs or bronchitis. Steep the seeds in hot water for a simple tea, or use the crushed seeds in honey.

Actions: Carminative, expectorant, antispasmodic.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

This familiar culinary herb helps fight infection with its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-candida properties. It is also useful for colds, flu, and fevers. Uplifting to mood, it also improves memory, concentration, and metal clarity. Steep the dried herb in hot water to make a simple tea. A strong tea can also be added to a bath for colds, flu, and fever.

Actions: Antimicrobial, antispasmodic, carminative, anti-depressant, gentle stimulant.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

This delicious spice is relieves gas, bloating, cramping, and improves sluggish digestion. Steep the seeds in hot water for a simple tea, or use the crushed seeds in honey. I also love to grind the seeds with coffee beans for a more nuanced ‘cup of joe.’

Actions: Carminative, calming digestive bitter, antispasmodic, mucolytic, and aphrodisiac.  

Cayenne (Capsicum spp.)

In small doses, this hot spicy remedy aids digestion, improves appetite and supports circulation. (Be careful not to overdo it with Cayenne—large doses can have the opposite effect, causing stomach irritation and acidity.) It can be used topically (in oil or creams) for joint and nerve pain and to stop bleeding. If you have a cold and flu, a pinch of Cayenne in tea or food will help open congested nasal passages. I always include a bit of Cayenne in my Fire Cider to make this winter health tonic more warming. You can find my Fire Cider recipe, here. Use a pinch in tea or food. For topically use add a pinch to olive oil or coconut oil and massage in to the affected area, being careful not to touch your eyes or face.

Actions: Anodyne, warming stimulant, circulatory aid, antispasmodic, carminative.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

This is another delicious spice that useful for gas, bloating vomiting, and weak digestion. It acts as an astringent to mucus membranes throughout the body—making it helpful for diarrhea, sore throat and excessive bleeding. It will even inhibit bacterial growth and helps normalize blood sugar levels. For healthy blood sugar use 1.5 teaspoons per day in food. I prefer using chipped Cinnamon when making tea rather than powdered cinnamon which makes a clumpy mess. Steep chipped cinnamon in hot water up to 30 minutes to make a tea.

Actions: Astringent, warming carminative, antispasmodic, and antimicrobial, blood sugar balancing.

Clove (Eugenia caryophylus)

This winter spice is useful for toothache and can be used topically as a local anesthetic. It combines well with other carminative spices like anise and cardamom for gas, bloating, indigestion, and digestive cramps.  Chewing on a clove bud will help to clear mucus in colds and flus and relieve sore throat pain.

Actions: Warming carminative, analgesic, stimulant, antispasmodic, antiseptic.

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare)

Chewing these sweet, aromatic seeds after meals helps settle the stomach and ease digestion, gas and bloating. Fennel also promotes lactation, and nursing mothers and small children can drink the tea to relieve colic. Spasmodic coughs, chest congestion, and bronchitis are also relieved by fennel. Steep tea seeds to make a simple tea.

Actions: Cooling carminative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, galactagogue.

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic is powerful medicine! The health promoting compounds are absorbed into bloodstream from the digestive tract and excreted via the lungs, bowels, skin, and urinary system, acting as a disinfectant. Its antimicrobial properties make garlic an excellent remedy for colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Raw is best! Chop a couple cloves of raw garlic; add honey, and a squeeze of fresh lemon to make a potent cold buster. Garlic also features prominently in Fire Cider.

Actions: Antimicrobial (antiviral, antiseptic, anti-parasitic), antispasmodic, immune-enhancing, blood-vessel strengthening, antioxidant.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

There are so many spice cupboard remedies for common ailments. Like garlic, ginger also works well fresh, but dried ginger is good medicine, too. Ginger relieves coughs, congestion and fever during colds and flu. It is an effective remedy for motion-sickness and nausea as well as colic, gas, and indigestion. Promotes blood flow to the peripheries and as such has a warming effect. Steep fresh or dried ginger for tea. You can gargle with ginger tea for a sore throat. For fevers, steep 2–3 inches of chopped ginger root in 2 cups water for 15-20 minutes, add juice of one lemon, a spoonful of raw honey, and pinch of cayenne pepper; drink immediately. Topically ginger can be used for sore inflamed joints or sprains. Simply grate the fresh ginger root and apply as a warm compress. An infused oil of grated ginger (optional pinch of cayenne pepper; avoid contact with eyes/mucous membranes) can be used to massage sore muscles.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-emetic, antispasmodic, expectorant, circulatory stimulant, vasodilator, anti-coagulant.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

This common Italian herb is useful for indigestion, colds, flu, fever, and bronchitis. Externally it can be applied as a poultice for coughs, arthritic, and muscular pain. Gargle with oregano tea for inflammation and infection in the mouth and throat. The tea is also an excellent remedy for coughs and menstrual cramps. Steep the herb in hot water for a simple tea, add a strong tea to your bath, or use the herb in a steam inhalation.

Actions: Antimicrobial (antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic), antioxidant, antispasmodic, expectorant, carminative, hypoglycemic.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Another common Italian herb, sage is toning and calming to digestion and diarrhea. It acts to soothes and tone mucus membranes and reduce inflammation making it a specific for congested respiratory infections. Add sea salt to sage tea for an excellent gargle for strep and sore throat. The cool tea is a great mouthwash for inflamed and bleeding gums, tongue, or mouth ulcers. Sage can also be used to reduce sweating, making it helpful with hot flashes. When nursing mothers and their small children are ready to wean, sage can be used to reduce milk production. As its name implies, sage also promotes wisdom, mental calm and mental clarity.

Actions: Carminative, astringent, antimicrobial (antifungal and anti-bacterial), antioxidant

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

I have thyme in my spice drawer and I do use it in the kitchen, but I use it way more frequently as a medicinal herb. It is most helpful for bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma. The tea makes an excellent gargle for laryngitis, tonsillitis, sore throats, and irritable coughs. It is also helpful for any infectious condition including gastro-intestinal and urinary system infections. Steep the herb in hot water for a simple tea or add a strong tea to bath. It can also be use in a steam inhalation and combines well with oregano for this purpose.

Actions: Antimicrobial (antiviral and antibacterial), expectorant, bronchodilator, antispasmodic, carminative, antioxidant.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Volumes have been written about the many health benefits of turmeric, but let’s keep it short. Turmeric is useful for indigestion, gas, ulcerations of the digestive tract, and gall stones. It possesses potent anti-inflammatory compounds and is useful for chronic joint pain. Used regularly this pungent spice can help you stay healthy warding off conditions like cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancer.  Use turmeric liberally in your diet, at least one tablespoon per day. Golden Milk is a delicious warming drink and one of my favorite ways to get turmeric into the diet. You can find the recipe here.

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, digestive aid and liver stimulant, hypolipidemic, hypotensive, anticoagulant, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant.

Surprised by all the good medicine in my spice drawer? Go take a look at your own spice rack, now. What do you see? Next time you experience indigestion, feel a cold or flu coming on, or have a headache, reach for one of these simple effective remedies. Your body will thank you.

Stay well and be happy,
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

References:
A single consumption of curry improved postprandial endothelial function in healthy male subjects: a randomized, controlled crossover trial, Nutrition Journal 2014 13:67; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082484/

5 Herbs & Essential Oils for Better Sleep

5 Herbs & Essential Oils for Better Sleep

Fall arrived officially last week. The days are growing shorter and the nights longer. On these dark mornings, I sometimes find myself wanting to stay under the warm covers a little bit longer, especially if I didn’t sleep well. Sleepless nights are not a common occurrence for me. I’ve come to understand what gets in the way of a good night’s sleep and I do my best to avoid these things. I’ve also developed a hierarchy of herbs and essential oils I sometimes turn to for better sleep.

In this post I’d like to introduce you to my top five herbs and essential oils for a restful, restorative sleep. The cool, crisp days of fall are an invitation to turn inward, to reestablish healthy routines and a sense of stability and groundedness. If you’re not sleeping well, now is a very good time to reevaluate your sleep habits and consider herbal allies for better sleep.  

Ask another herbalist and they might offer up five different herbs or essential oils for sleep. That’s because herbalism offers a holistic perspective rather than a “one size fits all” approach. While there are many different relaxing herbs and herbal sedatives, some may be better suited to your needs than others. That’s also why I describe my top five as “hierarchy.” It begins with very gentle remedies and proceeds toward herbs that are stronger sedatives. Give attention to your body, your life experience and current circumstances, and come to know the herbs. If you’re still not sure where to start, talk to your local herbalist.

Who Needs Sleep?

You do. I do. We all do. Restful, restorative sleep is crucial to our overall health and sense of well-being. It gives the body time for repair and rejuvenation. Muscle growth and tissue repair occur primarily at night, including the repair of heart and blood vessels. Sleep is essential for healthy brain function; it improves learning, decision-making and creativity. Sleep is essential for healthy hormone regulation, including those responsible for feeling full, feeling hungry, and regulation of blood sugar. Ever notice that you feel hungrier and crave sweets when you don’t get enough sleep? Now you know why!

So,what can you do? First, look at the bigger picture of your life. If you’re drinking lots of coffee or energy drinks every day, start there. Cut back and see if that helps. If stress has you lying awake at night worrying, making lists, ruminating over the day’s events, consider adopting new tools and developing new habits to alleviate stress. If you’re waking up due to menopausal hot flashes, consider ways to address the hormonal transition you’re experiencing. These are just a few examples. The point is before you jump on the sedative bandwagon—even if you’re considering an herbal sedative, address underlying health and lifestyle issues that may be interfering with your sleep.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Next, look at your bedtime routines and habits and practice good sleep hygiene. That doesn’t mean you need to take a shower before bed. Rather, ask yourself, how clear, intentional and pristine are your bedtime practices and your bedroom? Good sleep hygiene includes:

  • Elimination of sleep inhibitors like caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bedtime
  • A regular sleep schedule
  • A relaxing bedtime routine
  • Maintaining a dark bedroom and adequate exposure to natural light during the day
  • Eliminating digital screens and other mind stimulating technology from the bedroom—no TV, radio, computers, tablets, or cell phones

Contrast these calming, sleep supportive practices to those nights when you watch an action movie until bedtime, spend a few minutes (or more) checking email, getting lost in your Facebook feed, or reading the news before jumping in bed because its suddenly well past a reasonable bedtime and you have an early meeting.

I know people who sleep next to their cell phone and check for new messages when they wake up and night. And wake up they do. If this sounds like you and you’re not sleeping well, please know that you have the power to take back your bedroom and make it a place of peace and tranquility.

5 Herbs & Essential Oils for Better Sleep

If you’re doing your best to address underlying health and lifestyle issues and you’re practicing good sleep hygiene, but still having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s time to consider herbs and essentials oils. Whatever your approach is, keep in mind that reestablishing healthy sleep may take some time and consistency, especially if the problem has been long standing.

I’ve listed these five remedies from gentle to most sedative. When it comes to natural remedies, more is not necessarily better, and stronger is not always appropriate.

1. Lavender

Lavender Essential Oil (Lavendula angustifolia) 

Lavender is calming to the nervous system and helps ease anxiety and depression. This sweet aromatic flower is used to relieve nervous tension and irritability associated with stress. For insomnia, it’s gentle enough for children and the elderly and my first choice after a stressful day or evening working in front of the computer.

You can make a simple tea with one teaspoon of Lavender steeped in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Drink the tea about 30 minutes before bedtime. I prefer to use a drop or two of Lavender Essential Oil on my pillow at bedtime. I recently created what I call a “pillow diffuser” to use with essential oils at bedtime. I’ll be posting the instructions to make your own later this month. Stay tuned.

At Nectar we offer two beautiful Lavender Essential Oils, Bulgarian Lavender and French Lavender. You can also find Lavender in our Free & Easy Tea.

2. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Comforting and familiar, Chamomile is another gentle sleep aid and mild sedative. Its calms the nervous system and is especially useful for highly sensitive, irritable, restless individuals. Like Lavender, it is gentle enough for children and the elderly.

A cup of Chamomile tea after dinner will also ease indigestion, gas and bloating. Chamomile also possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and analgesic properties making it useful for pain, menstrual cramps and fevers.

Prepare a cup of tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon of Chamomile in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Drink the tea about 30 minutes before bedtime. Chamomile also combines nicely with Lavender to make a soothing floral tea.

At Nectar we combine Lavender and Chamomile with other relaxing, worry-relieving herbs in our Free & Easy Tea. We also blend Chamomile in our Sleepy Zzzz Tea with some of the stronger sedatives herbs described below.

 3. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwaganda holds a special place on this list because it is not a true sedative. In fact it is strengthening to the nervous system helping to relieve nervous exhaustion and stress-induced insomnia. If you tend toward anxiety and often lay awake up at night thinking and worrying, Ashwaganda may be a good choice for you.

Ashwagandha is also used for deficient thyroid function, and weakened or over-active immune function. Ashwagandha can be consumed as a liquid extract (tincture) or tea. The suggested use is 30-40 drops of the tincture up to three times per day, with the last dose 30 minutes before bedtime. Prepare a tea with the one tablespoon of the cut root, simmered in 1.5 cup of water for at least 20 minutes. Powdered Ashwagandha Root, approximately one teaspoon serving can also be stirred into a smoothie, other beverage, yogurt or applesauce.

 At Nectar we prepare our own Ashwagandha Tincture from the fresh organic root. Ashwagandha also features prominently in our Steady Sleep Tincture and our Inner Calm Tea.

4. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

This wild and exotic flower is in fact a reliable and effective sedative and antispasmodic. It will ease muscle tension and elevated blood pressure associated with stress or anxiety and is a good choice for an overactive, monkey mind that interferes with relaxation and sleep. Passionflower is typically consumed as tea or tincture. Prepare a tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon of herb in one cup of water for at least 15 minutes and consume about 30 minutes before bedtime.   

You will find Passionflower in many of Nectar’s sleep blends including our Steady Sleep Tincture, Sleepy Zzzz Tincture, and Sleepy Zzzz Tea.

5. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian is a strong and reliable sedative and antispasmodic. The aromatic root is grounding and calming in states of heightened tension, irritability, and restlessness. As a nervous system relaxant, I reserve Valerian for more extreme nervous tension caused by sudden and unexpected events. It is an effective sleep aid helping induce a deeper sleep.

Valerian has an intense musky aroma that many people find offensive. If you don’t mind this aroma, Valerian can be prepared as a tea (1-2 teaspoons steeped in hot water for at least 15 minutes). I prefer the tincture or capsules.

That said, this fine root is not for everyone. Some people experience intense and uncomfortable dreams when they use Valerian and are better off with Passionflower or an even more gentle sleep aid like Chamomile or Lavender. A small percentage of people are stimulated by Valerian, though at this time we have no way to know in advance who will be so affected.

At Nectar we prepare our own Valerian Tincture and you will also find it in our Sleepy Zzzz Tincture and Sleepy Zzzz Tea.

It is impossible to over emphasize the importance of sound sleep. If you’re not waking up refreshed, addressing underlying health or lifestyle issues and good sleep hygiene are key. Herbs and essential oils are useful and comforting allies that can help bring your body and sleep cycle back into balances even as you are making the necessary health and lifestyle modifications. This range of natural remedies are also good to have on hand for occasional sleeplessness.  

Leave a comment below if you have questions. Or, better still come see us in person.

wishing you sweet dreams and deep sleep,
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nectar Cough Care Syrup [ Recipe ]

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Nectar Cough Care Syrup Recipe

This simple cough care syrup recipe is quick and easy requiring a few basic herbs, honey, and brandy. It will soothe a dry cough, help expel mucus from congested lungs and speed recovery. It is gentle enough (and tasty enough) for kids, but just as effective for adults. 

The four common herbs in this syrup provide support for coughs and congestion. Thyme (yes, the very same culinary herb you have in your spice cupboard) is one of my favorite herbs for lower respiratory problems. Warming and drying, Thyme is an expectorant, anti-spasmodic and bronchodilator. Herbalists consider it a specific for whooping cough, bronchitis and any infection causing congestion and restriction in the lungs. Thyme makes a lovely tea if you don’t have time to make the syrup. Thyme essential oil in proper dilution can also be used externally as a chest rub. Thyme makes for an excellent lung soothing steam inhalation, using either the dried herb or a couple drops of the essential oil in a small pot of steaming water. Though I most often reach for Thyme for lung related issues, it is also a calming herb for digestion, easing gas and bloating and its antibacterial properties make it useful for chronic urinary tract infections. 

Cough Care Tea

Next up is Elecampane–another warming expectorant, somewhat more stimulating than Thyme. This aromatic root is also considered a lung tonic, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulator. I use it for chronic, irritable coughs with lots of mucus. Elecampane is also a bitter and digestive tonic that supports healthy gut bacteria. 

Mullein is also an expectorant (but more relaxing that either Thyme or Elecampane) and in this cough syrup it also acts as a soothing demulcent. I consider it specific for dry harsh coughs. The Marshmallow Root is also a soothing demulcent for dry, irritated, inflamed tissue. Ginger was featured in my recent post, Five Herbs for Cold & Flu Season. It is an excellent all-round remedy for cold, congestive conditions of the respiratory tract and flu symptoms. Ginger also offers welcome relief for the fever, body aches and headaches that often accompany flu. Fennel seed is another culinary herb that does double duty in the medicine chest. This sweet aromatic seed is a mild expectorant, anti-spasmodic, and bronchodilator. Like many of the other herbs in this syrup, Fennel is also a carminative herb that will help ease gas and bloating. Indeed, this syrup itself will do double duty for use a both as a cough syrup and soothing digestive aid. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 ounce Thyme (~1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 ounce Elecampane (~2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 ounce Mullein (~1 cup)
  • 1/4 ounce Marshmallow Root (~2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 ounce Ginger (~2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 ounce Fennel (~1 tbsp)
  • 2 cups filtered Water
  • 1-1/4 cup Raw local honey
  • 3/4 cup Brandy

Directions: 

I prefer to measure herbs by weight to maintain consistency as volume can vary greatly. However if you don’t have a scale, you can use the approximate volume amount listed after each herb. Place the herbs in a large mason jar with a lid. Bring two cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and pour the hot water into the jar covering the herbs and gently stir until the herbs are entirely saturated. Carefully (it’s hot), put the lid on the jar and allow the herbs to steep for at least 30 minutes to create a strong tea. Strain the herbs and measure one cup of the strong tea. While the herbs are steeping, put the honey in a pot on the stove and very slowly warm, keeping the temperature below 105 degrees to preserve the therapeutic properties of your honey.  Stir one cup of tea into the honey until well combined. Add the brandy and mix well. Pour in a dark bottle, label, and refrigerate. Use as needed for coughs, approximately 1 tsp, every 3-4 hours.

Variations: You can also make this syrup without the brandy, but it will have a shorter shelf life. If you choose to omit the brandy, increase the honey as follows: one part (1 cup) tea to two parts (2 cups) honey. This should ensure that your syrup is good for about one year. I prefer to use the brandy for a less sweet (though still tasty) syrup with a longer shelf life. 

Cough Care Tea straining

Cough Care packaging

Cough Care Syrup

I hope that you and your loved ones all have a bright and healthy cold and flu season, but should that pesky cold or flu bug come to visit, you’ll be glad you have this cough care syrup on hand.

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Nectar Fire Cider Recipe for Winter Wellness

Nectar Fire Cider for Winter Wellness

Preparing fire cider is part of my annual ritual to welcome fall and prepare for a healthy winter. It is ideal to start your fire cider around September to ensure that your fall brew is ready by the time cold weather arrives. This spicy concoction, traditionally made with fresh garlic, onions, horseradish, ginger and hot peppers serves as an immune tonic, decongestant, and warming circulatory stimulant. You can take a spoonful every day to boost your immune system or step it up with a larger dose at the first sign of a cold, scratchy throat, chills, or even a fever.

Fire Cider is a traditional herbal remedy first concocted by Rosemary Gladstar in the kitchen at the California School in the early 1980’s. For more about the history (and politics) of this popular home brew, visit the Free Fire Cider Website

Nectar Fire Cider Ingredient Overview

Before you start chopping, let’s take a quick look at what makes fire cider such a winter powerhouse.

GARLIC + ONIONS
Both contain the infection fighting compound, allicin. Allicin has been shown to be effective not only against common infectious organisms that cause colds, flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast, but also powerful pathogens responsible for tuberculosis and botulism! These two pungent vegetables also provide protection against atherosclerosis and heart disease and decrease total blood cholesterol levels while increasing HDL-cholesterol (sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol) and decreasing LDL-cholesterol (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol). 

HORSERADISH
This spicy root has been used as a food and medicine as early as 1500 B.C.E. Greeks and Romans used it for tooth ache, back pain, achy joints, and as an expectorant for coughs. By the eighteenth century, it was listed in medicinal plant texts and used for respiratory congestion and coughing, as a digestive aid for food poisoning and colic, and for tuberculosis and joint pain. Modern research shows that this pungent member of the cabbage family helps protect against food-borne illness and bacterial pathogens like Listeria, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.  Horseradish also promotes bile secretions from the gall bladder, helping to maintain a healthy gall bladder and improve digestion.

GINGER
This warming, aromatic root is an excellent remedy for cold, congestive conditions of the respiratory tract and flu symptoms. Ginger also offers welcome relief for fever, body aches and headaches that often accompany flu. Sipping on a cup of Ginger tea can also quell nausea and vomiting and help you stay hydrated during a bout with the flu. Ginger is a warming circulatory stimulant and may be a good choice if you suffer from cold hands and feet. For more information on Ginger visit my post Five Herbs for Cold & Flu Season. 

CHILI PEPPERS + CAYENNE
The serious heat in fire cider comes from chilli peppers, cayenne powder, or both. Choose the peppers according to your tolerance or love for heat. If you’re making fire cider for kids, you’ll probably want to tone it down a bit. Cayenne has a stimulating effect on mucus membrane, especially in the sinuses. It helps thins sinus secretions, providing relief for a stuffy nose or sinus infection.

HERBS
In addition to these traditional ingredients, I like to add any fresh herbs I have in the garden that are warming and antimicrobial. In this batch I added fresh Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary. 

Nectar Fire Cider Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh horseradish root, grated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1-3 inches fresh turmeric root, grated or 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • a small bunch of fresh herbs (Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Peppercorns)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
  • 3-4 cups organic apple cider vinegar

Directions: 

Combine all of the prepared ingredients in a quart sized jar. Use a piece of natural parchment paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal or use a plastic lid if you have one. Shake well! Store in a dark, cool place for one month and shake daily. After one month, use unbleached cotton muslin to strain out the pulp, pouring the spicy fluid into a clean jar. Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add more honey if needed until you reach the desired sweetness.

Suggested Use: For prevention, 1 tablespoon daily, straight or added to your favorite juice; At the first sign of a cold of flu, up to 3 tablespoons every 3-4 hours.

 

Can’t wait until this new batch of fire cider is ready to strain. This spicy concoction will keep us warm and healthy all winter long!

If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.
wishing you health and happiness, 
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Mental Energy Balls [ Recipe ]

Mental Energy Balls

This recipe for Mental Energy Balls is loaded with some of my favorite herbs for mental focus and stamina. These Mental Energy Ball are not only delicious, they are also a vegan, gluten-free snack that will help you power through long hard days and your most challenging mental tasks like a superstar. The flavor is rich and lemony with a very subtle and satisfying sweetness.

You might have noticed that I’ve been focusing recently on herbs that support brain health. In this recipe I’ve incorporated Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceum), a nootropic herb, which describes herbs (and other substances that support brain function). For more about nootropic herbs check out this recent post, 5 Herbs to Remember. Research has shown that Lion’s Mane has a positive effect on adults with cognitive impairment and may inhibit the type of amlyoid plaque formation seen in Alzheimer’s disease. 

This recipe also contains Matcha Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) and Maca Root. Green Tea is a gentle stimulant that supports focus and mental clarity. Its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to stimulate production of a protein needed for formation of new brain cells (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), make it an excellent choice for mental energy and long-term brain health. Maca Root is a stimulating, adaptogenic herb that supports the body’s ability to adapt to stress. It can be very stimulating for some people, so be cautious about consuming too may of these Mental Energy Balls late at night. The cashews, coconut and sesame butter in these treats also provide plenty of protein and health fats for balanced, sustained energy.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup sesame seed butter (also called tahini)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 2 tbsp maca powder
  • 2 tbsp lion’s mane powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tblsp maple syrup or honey
  • Optional toppings: goji berries, shredded coconut, matcha powder, or ground pistachios

DIRECTIONS:

Using a food processor, grind the raw cashews and shredded coconut to a fine powder. In a large bowl combine the powdered cashews and coconut with all of the remaining ingredients and mix well to form a slightly sticky, green dough. With wet hands, roll in to one inch balls. Add additional toppings or coat with shredded coconut. Store in a closed contained in the refrigerator to three days.

Makes 18 - 24 balls. 

These tasty snacks are perfect with breakfast for sustained energy throughout the morning or as an afternoon pick-me up. Feel free to incorporate other powdered herbs, especially other nootropics like Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) or Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), but do keep flavor in mind. Other adaptogenic herbs to consider include Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Eleuthero (Eleutherccocus senticosus) and Panax Ginseng (Panax ginseng).   

I hope you enjoy this tasty, energizing treats. If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below. 

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

5 Herbs for Cold and Flu Season

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5 Herbs for Cold and Flu Season

In this post I’m going to introduce you to five herbs for cold and flu season. These herbs are a must for your herbal medicine chest, especially at this time of year.

Here in northern Arizona we’ve been having the most delicious cool nights and chilly mornings. I love the four seasons in this beautiful place, but no matter how much I’m enjoying the season of the moment, I’m always excited to feel a change in the air. Alas, I’m not the only one. Did you know that common cold and flu viruses thrive in cold dry weather? Yep! Now is the time to make sure your herbal medicine chest is stocked with herbs to defend yourself and your loved ones from colds and flu. Wondering what you should have on hand? In this post I’m going to introduce you to Five Herbs to Defend ‘You & Yours’ Against Colds & Flu. You might even have some of these herbs in your kitchen spice cupboard.

Maintaining a strong immune system is always the first and most important defense against colds and flu. A healthy diet (low in sugar and rich in vitamins and other nutrients), adequate rest and a balanced approach to stress all contribute to the health of your immune system. For people who still suffer from frequent colds or flu, immune strengthening herbs may be in order. If you seem to catch everything that’s going around, this article, Winter Health & Herbal Immune Tonics will help you evaluate and choose herbs to strengthen your immune system. Now is the time to get started.

Despite a healthy immune system our best efforts, sometimes our defenses fail. When that pesky cold or flu bug strikes, use these five herbs to fight back and return quickly to your normal state of vibrant health.

 

Echinacea | Echinacea purpurea or angustifolia

Native to North American, Echinacea was used by native people for a wide range of ailments from sore throat, swollen glands and toothache to snake bite, venomous stings and poisoning. The wisdom of Native American healers has been corroborated in a plethora of pharmacological research, scientific trials and the experience of clinical herbalists using Echinacea to combat the common colds, enhance immune activity and relieve glandular inflammation. Echinacea produces an unmistakable, hearty purple flower with a spiny orange center. Though the entire plant from root to flower can be use medicinally, the roots are somewhat stronger.

If you are preparing your herbal medicine chest for the coming cold and flu season, make Echinacea your first line of defense for the common cold and infectious conditions in general. Echinacea has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the severity and duration of acute upper respiratory infections so it is best to reach for Echinacea at the first sign of a cold—sneezing, sniffles, scratchy throat or that hot, full-sinus feeling. In addition to immune stimulating properties, compounds in Echinacea show anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal activity. To prepare an Echinacea tea, simmer one heaping teaspoon of dried root in 1-2 cups of water for at least 20 minutes. The liquid extract or tincture of Echinacea is a quick and easy way to take Echinacea and it will last for many years in your medicine chest. The dosage for any tincture is dependent on the strength of the extract and should always appear on the bottle.

 

Elder Berry | Sambucus nigra

elder berries

Also known as Black Elder Berry, this delicious dark blue berry is an immune stimulant with anti-viral properties traditionally used for cold and flu symptoms, including aches and pains, coughing, nasal congestion, mucous discharge and fever. Like Echinacea, consider Elder Berry in the front line of defense for on-coming colds or flu. Elder Berry can also be used in lower dose as a preventive during cold and flu season or when you are exposed to a higher risk of infection in air travel or large crowds. Dried Elder berries can be prepared as a tea by simmering one tablespoon in 1-2 cups of water for at least 15 minutes. You can also find Elder Berry as a tincture or alcohol-free glycerite. If you want to really feel empowered when it comes to care of yourself and your love ones, you can make our own Elder Berry Syrup with this simple recipe. Kids tend to be much more receptive to the sweet, rich berry flavor of this Elder Berry Syrup than they are to other cold remedies.

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Ginger Root

Ginger | Zingiber officianalis

This spicy, aromatic root is an excellent remedy for cold, congestive conditions of the respiratory tract and flu symptoms. Ginger’s diaphoretic (induces sweating), antipyretic (reduces fever), anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties offer welcome relief for the fever, body aches and headaches that often accompany flu. Sipping on a cup of Ginger tea can also quell nausea and vomiting and help you stay hydrated during a bout with the flu. Dried Ginger Root is considered hotter and somewhat more stimulating than the fresh root, though overall the plant is gentle and appropriate for both children and the elderly. Prepare a tea with the dried root by steeping one teaspoon in one cup of water for at least 15 minutes. If you’re making tea with the fresh root, chop up a piece about ¾-1½ inches in length and steep for at least 15 minutes. When you don’t feel up to making tea, the liquid extract of Ginger is a quick and easy alternative.

 

 

Oregon Grape Root

Oregon Grape Root | Berberis aquifolium

Oregon Grape Root is another North American native common throughout the forests and mountains of the western United States. The golden color of the root comes from berberine, a phyto-chemical with significant antibiotic and immune enhancing effects also found in Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), another familiar cold and flu remedy. Berberine’s primary immune enhancing action comes from the activation of white blood cells responsible for destroying bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. Its ability to defend against a broad range of organisms makes Oregon Grape Root an important remedy to have on hand when colds, flu, digestive complaints and even urinary tract infections make unexpected visits.

As a bitter, Oregon Grape Root also has a pronounced effect on the liver, promoting liver function and stimulating the production and flow of bile. Its ability to promote digestion and elimination make it useful for chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and as a restorative to an embattled digestive following stomach flu with vomiting and diarrhea. In the latter case, it combines well with Ginger Root. For colds and sinus infection, Oregon Grape Root also combines well with Echinacea Root. For tea, simmer 1 teaspoon of the root in 2 cups water for at least 15 minutes. The liquid extract of Oregon Grape Root is another good way to make use of this bitter remedy.

 

 

Thyme

Thyme | Thymus vulgaris

On this short list of 5 Herbal Defenders for Cold & Flu, Thyme is the most specific herb for lower respiratory congestion with bouts of coughing. This common culinary herb is an expectorant, bronchiodilator, mucolytic, antispasmodic, and anti-bacterial. These properties make it a specific for whooping cough, bronchitis and other infectious conditions that congest and constrict the lungs. Its anti-bacterial action also makes it an effective herb for many urinary tract infections. Thyme makes a lovely tea especially with a little honey and Ginger Root. Steep one teaspoon in one cup of hot water for at least 15 minutes. If you don’t have the herb in your medicine chest, don’t forget to check the spice rack in your kitchen. Thyme tincture is a quick and easy alternative to the tea.

Properly diluted, Thyme Essential Oil makes an effective chest rub. Simply add 1-2 drops to one teaspoon of unscented lotion, salve or carrier oil. You can also prepare a steam inhalation with the loose herb or the essential oil. To make a steam inhalation, simply add ¼ cup of dried Thyme or 2 drops of Thyme Essential Oil to a small pot of steaming hot water. Sit down at a table, cover your head and the steaming pot with a towel forming a tent. Gently inhale the medicinal vapors.

 

 

While there are many other herbs to reach for at the first sign of a cold or flu, these are some of my favorites that share a a long history of traditional use supported by modern clinical research. I hope you experience perfect health during the cold and flu season, but it is always a good idea to be prepared.

If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below. 

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Rosemary Pecan Cookie [ Recipe ]

This Rosemary Pecan Cookie recipe makes an extra special, sweet and savory cookie. It’s also vegan and gluten free, but even your non-vegan, gluten-eating friends will adore this cookie. What makes this cookie special is fresh Rosemary. I love to incorporate herbs in baked goods. They impart unique flavors and added health benefits. Here, Rosemary evokes a savory complexity.

I’ve been focusing all month on herbs like Rosemary that support brain health. These herbs are called nootropics. If you’re curious, this recent post, 5 Herbs to Remember is all about nootropics.  In addition to its effects on brain function, Rosemary, a common culinary herb, also promotes circulation and can be used to ease gas and bloating in the digestive tract.

When it comes to brain health, the Coconut Oil in this recipe is an added benefit. Though more research remains to be done, this article from Alzheimers.net describes the many health benefits of Coconut Oil,  including the positive effects on people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As an herbalist I can’t help looking at the health benefits (or lack thereof) of every recipe. But–many of you came here for this delicious cookie recipe not for a treatise on brain health. So, let’s get to that cookie! 

Rosemary Pecan Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tblsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix almond flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Fold in rosemary and pecans. Form dough into 1 inch balls and press onto baking sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Cool on baking sheet. Enjoy with your favorite herbal tea.

Makes 10-12 Cookies

These healthy cookies are a serious crowd pleaser. If you’re not a fan of Rosemary, substitute dried Lavender flowers for a complex floral note. Lavender too makes a delicious cookie. If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness,

suzanne

Brain Supplies: 5 Herbs to Remember

Brain Supplies: Five Herbs to Remember

I know it’s only August, but here in Prescott, Arizona some of the kids started school this week. It’s been a long time since I climbed on the bus, nervous for the first day of school, but I still remember those early fall days with fondness. Okay, I admit, I got excited about new shoes and new school supplies, but I also started school with a love for learning which continues to this day.

Now, when I think about learning, it’s not school supplies, but rather, brain supplies. What do I need to keep my brain healthy and sharp as I age? In this post I’m going to introduce you to five herbs for brain health—five herbs to remember!

Taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of the rest of your body. However, too often, we don’t start thinking about brain health until we begin to experience poor memory, difficulty concentrating or mental fog. Fortunately, there is much you can do to promote mental clarity and memory as you age. Medicinal herbs are an important strategy for optimal brain function and are best utilized in the holistic context of a brain-healthy lifestyle. This little infographic shows the key brain power strategies that make up a healthy lifestyle.

Keeping in mind this brain-healthy lifestyle, I’d like to introduce you to five herbs you can employ for optimal brain function. First, I have a new vocabulary word for you: NOOTROPIC (pronounced, noh-ə-TROP-ik). A combination of the Greek “nous” related to mind or intellect and “tropos” for turning, nootropics are substances that enhance cognitive function, including thinking, memory, creativity, and motivation. Though each one is unique, Herbalists consider all of these five herbs, nootropics.

1. BACOPA | Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa comes to us from the Ayurvedic system of India where it is was traditionally used for nervous disorders and as a brain tonic. Now readily available in the west, clinical research has demonstrated its nootropic, relaxant, anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant and anti-oxidant properties.

Bacopa is used to promote memory and focus, to relieve anxiety, and slow aged-related mental decline. It is also helpful for adults and children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and for recovery from head trauma. In one gold standard (randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled) clinical study involving healthy adults, participants receiving Bacopa for 12 weeks showed significantly better cognitive function than the placebo group, including faster information processing, verbal learning speed, and memory consolidation. Participants receiving Bacopa also experienced a highly significant reduction in anxiety.

Bacopa is traditionally used as a tea (though I find it quite bitter) or as liquid extract (tincture). Know that Bacopa is a water-loving plant that will absorb water-born pollutants, so be sure your source is organically grown. Nectar’s Bacopa Extract is made from pure fresh Bacopa organically grown here in the United States. We also offer dried organic Bacopa in the shop.

2. GINKGO | Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo, a popular herb for brain function, has been extensively studied for its effects on cognitive function, memory and dementia. Part of its action as a nootropic stems from it ability to increase blood flow to the limbs and brain. It also shows anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and helps reduce blood platelet aggregation that can lead to strokes.

In over forty clinical studies in patients with cerebral insufficiency (restricted cerebral blood flow), including dementia and senile memory decline, all but one showed positive results. Ginkgo’s effects on Alzheimer’s disease, reversing or delaying mental deterioration, are most pronounced in the early stages of the disease. In a recent placebo-controlled, randomized study in people with mild to moderate dementia, participants receiving Ginkgo showed significant improvements in mood, sleep and nighttime behavior.

Ginkgo’s memory and mood enhancing effects are not limited to persons with dementia. Ginkgo has also been shown to improve working and long-term memory, abstract reasoning and processing speed in healthy adults, and particularly in older adults. Adults and children with ADHD given Ginkgo show improvements in inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and socialization. In this study on children with ADHD, Ginkgo was combined with American Ginseng.

Ginkgo has also shown benefits in depression, menopause, PMS, and menstrual imbalances.  Though some individual may experience changes in less time, in general, Ginkgo must be taken consistently for at least 6-12 weeks before results can be expected. Many of the active compounds in Ginkgo are not water soluble, so it is best used as a tincture rather than a tea. For more significant cerebral deficits, the standardized extract which has been the subject of most clinical trials is preferred. At Nectar you can find Ginkgo in our Brain Boost Extract and as a single Ginkgo Extract.

3. Gotu Kola | Centella asiatica

Gotu kola is another medicinal herb from India and the Ayurvedic system now popular in the North America. When it comes to brain health, Gotu kola is useful for poor memory, mental fatigue and irritability, and recover from head injuries.  In addition to its nootropic properties, Gotu kola is a calming nervine helpful for anxiety and “mental chatter.”

Gotu kola is also an anti-inflammatory that can be used for red, irritated skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, and to accelerate wound healing. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated its benefits topically and internally for varicose veins and lower leg edema. This effect is likely due to Gotu kola’s ability to improve microcirculation and decrease capillary permeability. Internally, Gotu kola can be used as a tea or liquid extract and it is often used in combination with Ginkgo.

At Nectar you will find Gotu kola combined with Ginkgo and other nootropics in our Brain Boost Extract and as a single Gotu Kola Extract. We also blend Gotu kola into our Remember Tea. This delicious herbal tea combines organic Tulsi Basil, Gotu Kola, and Rosemary are all considered nootropics, and organic Hawthorn flower and leaf, and organic Schisandra berries help to relax and uplift an agitated mind. The bright taste of organic Peppermint compliments the rich green flavors in this beautiful tea.

4. Lion’s Mane | Hericium erinaceum

Lion’s Mane is gourmet mushroom coveted for its seafood like flavor  as well as its medicinal properties. In addition to its nootropic action, Lion’s Mane is an immune stimulant, anti-microbial, anti-mutagenic, and anti-depressant. Its nootropic action may be due in part to its neuroregenerative effect which has been confirmed in numerous studies.

In one recent clinical study participants receiving Lion’s Mane had significantly increased scores on cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. This furry, dramatic mushroom may also inhibit the beta amyloid plaque that is considered a primary biomarker associated for Alzheimer’s disease. Like Ginkgo, Lion’s Mane has also been shown to relieve depression and anxiety.

One of these days I hope to experience the gourmet flavor of this mushroom. Until then, I will continue using it in the encapsulated form. In the shop we offer Lion’s Mane products by Host Defense (always 20% below suggested retail).

5. Rosemary | Rosmarinus officinalis

This familiar aromatic, culinary herb, like Ginkgo improves circulation to the limbs and brain. It is stimulating to the mind, memory and to the senses.

In one clinical study using Rosemary essential oil, inhalation for three minutes produced brain wave patterns indicative of increased alertness. Participants also reported feeling more relaxed and alert and were faster (though not more accurate) at mathematical computations than at baseline (without inhalation of the essential oil).

Rosemary’s stimulating action also makes it useful in depressed states, cloudy thinking and menopausal “brain fog.” In addition to its effects on cerebral function and mood, this common herb is also antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and helps relieve digestive gas and bloating. Rosemary can be used as a simple tea, as a tincture, or as an inhalation of the essential oil. You can find Rosemary essential oil, here. At Nectar we combine Rosemary with other nootropics in our Brain Boost Extract and you can also enjoy it in our Remember Tea.

It is always a good time to take care of your brain, whether you’re headed off to school, want to improve focus and concentration or are focused on healthy aging. These five nootropics, alone or in combination, are a wise choice and important part of your brain-healthy lifestyle.

If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness,
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

How to Make Wild Mint Tincture

How to Make Wild Mint Tincture

In this post I’m going to tell you how to make Wild Mint tincture. Making your own herbal medicine is not just fun. It’s an excellent way to save money on healthcare costs and reduce your family’s dependence on large corporations and pharmaceutical products. It is also a beautiful way to appreciate our interdependence on the plant world.

Tinctures are medicinal herbal extracts made with alcohol. The alcohol acts as a natural “solvent” to draw the therapeutic compounds from the plant and later, once the tincture is done, it acts as an effective preservative. You can easily make a tincture with any dried herb using simple tools in your own kitchen. If you want to know more about tinctures, check out this post, What’s A Tincture and Why Would You Want One?

I recently harvested Wild Mint (Mentha spp.) and hung it to dry. It’s now ready for tincturing. If you don’t have Wild Mint or Peppermint in your garden, you can purchase dried Peppermint from your local apothecary or health food store.

diy wild mint tincture

Benefits of Wild Mint & Peppermint

Medicinally, Peppermint is a carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-emetic and topical analgesic. As a carminative and anti-spasmodic Mint is an excellent and tasty choice for digestive complaints. Carminatives ease gas and bloating, colic, and flatulence. The anti-spasmodic effects of Wild Mint relieve cramping associated with some digestive complaints. Peppermint is often used topically for pain and muscle cramps and to relieve itching from insect bites, stings, and poison oak or poison ivy. Peppermint essential oil is a good choice for topical use, but should always be diluted. (One to five drops per teaspoon of lotion or carrier oil is a good rule of thumb to achieve a 1%-5% dilution. Undiluted Peppermint essential oil can burn the skin.) Wild Mint is also a soothing anti-inflammatory and diaphoretic for colds and flu.

Folk Method and Weight to Volume Method

There are two basic methods for making a tincture. If you want a simple, no math, no measuring approach, use the Folk Method. If you like things to be exact and want to be able to replicate this tincture in the future, use the Weight to Volume Method.

Ingredients // Materials

  • Vodka (at least 80 proof)
  • Dried Wild Mint or Peppermint
  • Coffee Grinder or a Mortar & Pestle
  • Glass Measuring Cup
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Unbleached Cotton Muslin
  • Label
  • Jar with a tight-fitting lid

 

Folk Method Instructions

  • Grind the dried herb to a powder using a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle.
  • Fill the jar about two-thirds full with the powdered herb.
  • Pour in Vodka to over the herb and stir well to saturate the herb. Add more Vodka as needed until there is at least 1/4 inch of Vodka over the herb. Cap the jar tightly and label it with the name of the herb, a description of the Vodka (e.g. 80 proof) and the date.
  • The mixture may absorb more liquid the first day. After 24 hours, add more of Vodka as needed so there is again 1/4 inch of Vodka on top of the herb.
  • Store the jar in a cool, dry place. For the next 14 days (at least) shake the jar several times per day.
  •  After 14 days, allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for one day.  Pour the clear tincture off of the top. Pour the remaining wet herb into a large square of unbleached cotton muslin. Roll up and squeeze to recover as much of the tincture as possible. Combine the two liquids.
  • Filter if desired using an unbleached coffee filter or clean cotton muslin.
  • Bottle, label, and enjoy!

Suggested use for your finished tincture is 30 - 60 drops 2-4 times per day.

Weight to Volume Method

Follow the instructions above for the Folk Method, but use a measured amount of ground herb and Vodka corresponding to a 1:5 ratio of herb weight to Vodka volume. In this ratio 1 part is the powdered herb by weight and 5 parts is the Vodka by volume.  In a 1:1 ratio, 1 ounce of herb by weight corresponds to 1 ounce fluid volume of Vodka. So, for example, in a 1:5 ratio. if you were using 3 ounces (or ~90 gm) by weight of powdered herb, you would use 15 fluid ounces (or ~450 ml) of Vodka.  The ratio of 3 ounces by weight to 15 fluid ounces by volume is the equivalent of a 1:5 ratio. Get it?

Suggested use for your finished tincture is 30 - 60 drops 2-4 times per day.

tincture step 1-1

 

Pouring Vodka over the herb.

Add Vodka and mix well.

Strain the mixture through unbleached cotton muslin.

After 14 days it’s time to strain the mixture.

 

Bottle, label and enjoy.

You can make an effective Wild Mint or Peppermint tincture with either the Folk Method or Weight to Volume Method. Make good notes and label your bottles so you can recreate the same beautiful medicine in the future.

If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness,
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Bee Balm Infused Honey [ Recipe ]

This Bee Balm Honey recipe uses raw local honey to make a delicious remedy for a wide range of issues. I’ve fallen in love with Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) since moving to northern Arizona three years ago. Here in the highlands of northern Arizona you’ll find this flashy member of the mint family in moist canyons and drainages. There are myriad species and I’ve also seen nursery varieties with dramatic flowers planted as ornamentals. Bee Balm is also known as Wild Oregano and Oregano de la Sierra (Oregano of the Sierras) due its spicy taste and aroma. In cooking, the leaves can be substituted for Mexican or Italian Oregano.

Infused in raw local honey, Bee Balm makes a delicious remedy for a wide range of issues from sore throats, colds and flu to indigestion and menstrual cramps. The leaves and flowers can also be prepared as a simple tea (an infusion), or as a tincture or glycerite. (If you want to know more about tinctures,check out this post, What’s A Tincture and Why Would You Want One?

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Medicinal Properties

Medicinally, Bee Balm is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral, antiseptic, and diaphoretic (stimulates sweating). Its strong antimicrobial actions make it a good choice for respiratory infections (upper and lower), sore throats, and flu. Bee Balm is also an anesthetic, which make the infused honey in this post especially soothing to sore throats. I have found the tincture to be a good remedy for sinus congestion and swelling with a feeling of fullness