Marching into Wellness: The Clay Chronicles

By Caitlin, CN Body Care Lead

When I think about a product that has changed my life, I think about evanhealy’s Clay Mask Kit. A tasting of masking products and shimmering gold paper, it’s as if you’re getting a glimpse of the glowing skin you’re about to call your own. For me, nothing has beat the blend of Evan’s clays with a hydrosoul and the dedicated time to preparing and painting on a mask. This is truly basking in the art of self-care.

Before I began masking with pure clays, there were the days of mint julep masking. A squeeze tube of unnecessary ingredients that would somehow “refresh” my face. Thinking back, how could I possibly be restoring life to my skin if I was simply smearing on a paste of preservatives? I did not want to preserve the state of my skin, I wanted to purify it!

Flash forward past unconscious consumerism and wrecking my skin with the college lifestyle and to a curious time where I relentlessly researched ingredients and products. That time is now.

With countless options available for facial care, I find it incredibly important to listen to our bodies and find what works best for us. If you’re looking for the right clay to add to your skin regime, consider these clay options for masking:

Pascalite Clay

Pascalite Clay was accidentally discovered in the 1930s by Emile Pascale. After Pascale’s chapped hands became covered in a white substance, he cleaned his hands, realizing the chapped condition improved after a single application.

Pascalite Clay is a bentonite/montmorillonite clay that does not swell when mixed with a liquid, unlike other bentonite clays. Pascalite has yet to be discovered in any other area of the world and is exclusive to the high vortex area of the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. This clay has a strong energy level that is powerful, yet gentle for all skin types. Pascalite Clay is hand-mined in the summer and then solar-dried throughout the winter.

Fuller’s Earth Clay

Fuller’s Earth Clay is best known for its skin-lightening properties and its ability to absorb oils. Commercially, this clay has been most commonly used to clean up oil spills in auto shops, to clean sheep's wool before sale and used in cat litters. Because of its wild success commercially, cosmetically, Fuller’s Earth Clay is the way to go for those with oily skin! Mountain Rose Herbs suggests combining Bentonite Clay and Fuller’s Earth Clay for best results. Fuller’s Earth Clay is quarry-mined from naturally occurring deposits and is untreated.

Rhassoul Clay

Our Rhassoul Clay is composed of deposits from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Rhassoul blends beautifully with water for easy preparation and application. At first, Rhassoul appears to be a soap-like rock before it becomes a powder. To achieve the powdered state, the clay is sundried and untreated. After micronization, Rhassoul becomes extremely soft to the touch. Rhassoul is higher in silica and magnesium than other clays, which makes this clay a great option for any skin type!

French Green Clay

French Green Clay is an extremely absorbent clay composed of small molecules that lovingly absorb oils and impurities from the skin. French Green Clay is a great spot treatment mask for the occasional breakout or the perfect option for a weekly full facial masking experience. French Green Clay has a stunning, earthy green tone that is the result of decomposed plant matter and iron oxides. Mountain Rose Herbs’ French Green Clay is untreated and quarry-mined from naturally occurring deposits in France.

Kaolin Clay

Kaolin Clay is also known as White Cosmetic Clay. Kaolin is an extremely lightweight clay with natural absorbing properties and is the most common clay additive among skincare products. Kaolin Clay is the best clay for those with sensitive skin because of its ability to gently cleanse and exfoliate while stimulating circulation. While some clays absorb oils from the skin, Kaolin does not, which makes this the ideal clay for those with drier skin. Our Kaolin Clay is quarry-mined from naturally occurring deposits, water-washed and unrefined with an off-white appearance while dry, and a brown tone when wet.

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite Clay is also known as Montmorillonite Clay and is a naturally occurring, weathered and aged volcanic ash from the United States. If you’re in need of a serious clay mask that you can really feel, Bentonite is the way to go. As Bentonite dries, you can feel your face tighten and pulsate. Bentonite is great as a full body pack if you’re really looking to heavily detox your skin. Once mined from the earth, Bentonite must be dried of any moisture and is baked in the sun. After drying, the clay is pulverized by hydraulic crushers. Bentonite Clay becomes activated when mixed with liquid, producing an electric charge. When mixing a mask, you’ll notice Bentonite Clay particles clinging to the liquid, swelling spreading across the surface. This powerful, electrically-charged mixture makes for a powerful detoxifying clay mask!

**Clay Mask Kit along with evanhealy’s other products sold in store.
** All clays mentioned can be purchased in the Bulk Section!

Clean Swaps

By Mary, Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

We’re two months into the new year and those resolutions of cleaning up diets and skincare regimens may begin to waiver. It’s hard to resist the pull of something you’re familiar with and invest in something new. As someone that has successfully cleaned up her makeup and skincare products, I assure you that the initial discomfort and uncertainty of change quickly dissipates. Similarly, you’ll discover new snack options that you’ll become devoted to, that fill you with nutrients instead of high fructose corn syrup. Don’t worry, they’ll still satisfying those cravings!

We’ve put together a collection of clean swaps to help those in need of recommendations for simple replacements from Cambridge Naturals brands that are just as good (if not better) than their conventional counterparts.

MyChelle Sugar Cleanser <-- St. Ives Apricot Scrub

When we talk about exfoliating, we’re talking about gently sloughing off those dead skin cells and clearing clogged pores. This reveals smooth, clean skin that will readily absorb the nutrients from the other skincare products you’re using.  But most commercial exfoliants will actually leave small scratches on your skin, doing more harm than good. The MyChelle Refining Sugar Cleanser gently exfoliates with naturally moisturizing sugar and smells like birthday cake.

 

Acure Spot Treatment <-- Clean & Clear Persa Gel 10

Despite what you’ve been told, blemishes are a common occurrence well into your 20s (maybe even your 30s!) and it’s not a bad idea to have a secret weapon in your bag for when one of them sneaks up on you. The Acure Spot Treatment Gel contains 2% salicylic acid naturally derived from white willow bark, along with a slew of other plant extracts that support healthy skin without redness or irritation associated with harsh conventional treatments. I’ve seen this work overnight and happily replaced my trusted CVS brand with this one.

 

GoMacro Bars <-- Clif Bars

Between work, kids, class, errands, and appointments, sometimes it’s just not possible to sit down and enjoy a proper lunch. And that’s okay! We proudly support snacking. But we do want you to get the most out of it. Clif bars tend to be the go to but GoMacro Bars are giving them some serious competition. In addition, they don't contain soy protein isolates, which can act like estrogen in the body. If you’re looking for a bar that will fill and satisfy you, the go macros come in a variety of flavors that are entirely organic, non-gmo, vegan, gluten free, soy free, and kosher.

 

 Dandy Blend <-- Coffee

Quitting coffee is easily one of the top resolutions, and also one of the hardest. We live in a world with a coffee shop on every corner, where mindless consumption of caffeine is the norm. But if quitting entirely or even lessening the amount you drink is something you desire, Dandy Blend is an incredible alternative. The taste is great and it allows you to enjoy the ritual of coffee making and drinking without any caffeine withdrawal symptoms. If you haven’t given this a try yet I urge you to. They even offer small single serving packets if you want to try before jumping into the full size.

 

Ultima Replenisher <-- Gatorade

Electrolytes without the simple sugars and flame retardants! These Ultima packets can be a life saver when it’s hot and humid, after a late night, or one two many coffees. The packets offer an easy travel option that can be added to any cup of water rather than a bulky plastic bottle. They keep you hydrated with essential salts and minerals! 

 

Gaia Quick Defense <-- Airborne

Working in a high contact environment such as retail, we at Cambridge Naturals take our immune support seriously. Gaia’s Quick Defense is loaded with immune boosting herbs including Elderberry, Echinacea, and Ginger. Take this at the onset of symptoms (aka that first sneeze) for powerful support! And unlike its commercial counterparts, this Gaia supplement has no unnecessary additives and is made with organic ingredients.

Marching into Wellness: Bitters and How They Make Us Better!

By Elizabeth, CN Co-Owner & Certified Nutritionist

There are many reasons for us to use bitters to “make ourselves better” on a regular daily basis (see the list below). 

At Cambridge Naturals, we offer an eclectic collection sure to please your palate for both cocktails and for good digestive health.

Bitters’ complex flavors do more than make your mouth pucker, or add “life” to a cocktail.  Bitters help us balance our appetite and our digestive processes by increasing the secretion of our digestive enzymes. And bitters are also known to help detoxify the liver. 

Made from the roots, barks, and flowers of many herb plants, bitters stimulate the production of saliva, gastric juices and bile.  

Where did this concept of using bitter plants for cocktails come from?  Bitters have a rich history in all the major civilizations of the ancient and modern world extending all the way from the ancient Egyptians to the 16th century prescriptions of the physician Paracelsus to the 19th century British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine …. all the way to today when we mostly think of them for cocktails with names like orange bitters, celery bitters, lemon bitters, Creole bitters, grapefruit bitters, chocolate bitters, peach bitters, and more.

Here are 2 new bitters from Urban Moonshine™ to please your palette:

Cider Vinegar Bitters (alcohol free), which “Supports Digestion” and is “Fast Acting Heartburn Relief.” It is both “Earthy and Sour!”

Healthy Liver Bitters, noted as “Sweet & Herbaceous” and it “Supports Digestion, Normal Detox & Healthy Cholesterol”

 
 

What Bitters Can Do For You:

  • Curb sugar cravings*
  • Soothe gas and bloating and relieve occasional heartburn*
  • Encourage production of bile & digestive enzymes*
  • Calm upset stomachs*
  • Increase absorption of vitamins A, D, E, K*
  • Help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels*
  • Balance appetite*
  • Ease constipation and regulate bowel movements*
  • Support liver function and healthy skin*

Ask our staff for some of our favorite bitters!

*This blog post — Bitters and How They Make Us Better! — is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.

The Buttery Goodness of Full Moon Ghee

By Vicki, Local Grocery Brands Coordinator

You may have been hearing the words “clarified butter” or ghee a lot recently. Since there has been an interest in more alternative medicine approaches other than our western way, people have started to look at Ayurveda for a way to feel better in life. Ayurveda is one of the most ancient healing systems in the world, developed by the sages of India thousands of years ago. Ayur means life, and veda means science or knowledge. So Ayurveda means the science or knowledge of life… who wouldn’t want to study the science of life?

Ghee is used in Ayurveda for balancing all constitutions in a person’s body. It is made from cooking butter at a very low heat for about 20 minutes or so, which removes the water in butter, and separates the milk solids and the fat from each other. Since the milk solids are removed, ghee is also safe for lactose intolerant individuals! YAY GHEE! There are numerous benefits to using ghee; improved digestion, better immune system, support for healthy levels of inflammation and just feeling like you are an awesome human being!

We'd like to introduce you to one of our favorite Ghee's in town -  Full Moon Ghee. We want to emphasize how important sourcing is, and how mindfulness is important when you are a creator AND a consumer. Full Moon Ghee is made as “an act of service to our community, our ancestors, and ourselves.” The butter comes from extremely happy cows in Lee, Massachusetts, and the ghee is made ONLY on the Full Moon (hence, the name!). Why? Read the interview to find out!

Introducing Hannah Jacobson, one of the founders of Full Moon Ghee - sharing her knowledge of life with us below.

When and how did you get the idea for Full Moon Ghee? What caused you to start making ghee? Were there any major events that led to the creation?

While studying yoga and Ayurveda at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA, I began using lots of ghee in my meals. For my 28th birthday, a dear friend gave me a home made jar of ghee and I devoured it with the awareness that it was pure medicine for the body, mind, and spirit. It wasn't until a couple of years later, when Daniel Rainwater moved to the area that we began making ghee for our friends. I attended a farmer's market for my herbal company, Sweet Birch Herbals, and had a feeling customers would eat it up! The dozen or so jars were gone within the first few hours and we knew people were hungry for healthy, local, delicious ghee. Full Moon Ghee was brought into the world in 2015 with the intention of producing the highest quality ghee made from local butter on the full moon. We infuse each batch of ghee with prayers for health, vitality, expansion, creativity, and peace.

What are your favorite health benefits of ghee? Why do you use ghee?

I use ghee because there are countless health benefits including aiding the digestive tract, increasing assimilation of nutrients, therefore boosting energy levels, lubricating the joints internally, cleansing the colon, cooling irritated mucous membranes, strengthening to the hair, skin, eyes, and it contributes to a healthy immune system. Ghee contains omega-3 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, along with vitamins A, D, E and K. Ghee made from the butter of pastured cows is one of the highest natural sources of CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid. It also has 9 phenolic antioxidants, as well as numerous other minerals. When I eat ghee daily, I generally feel more sustained energy throughout the day.

Why is it important to you to buy locally sourced organic products? Is organic important to you?

It is important to support the local food economy not only as a consumer, but also as a producer. The core value of Full Moon Ghee is to support local dairy farms by sourcing butter from them. I try to purchase mostly local and organic products as a consumer, however organic dairy can be challenging for small farms in New England when prices of feed are more than double for organic. The organic certification process can be cost prohibitive for small dairy farms, even if they are already following organic practices. That is why we source all of our butter from High Lawn Farm in Lee, MA, a farm we trust after visiting and speaking with the farmers. High Lawn Farm grows the hay and silage for their well cared for cows. The feeling I get when I'm at the farm is pure delight. We want that uplifting energy in our ghee.

How did you have the idea to only make the ghee on the Full Moon?

Ghee is traditionally made on the waxing moon according to ancient Ayurvedic texts. While traveling in India, I asked ghee producers, grandmothers, and farmers what the significance of the moon is on the ghee. They explained that when the moon is waxing, the grass is reaching upward toward the sky. The cows eat the grass full of minerals and waters of the Earth pulled by the moon, which inevitably transfers into the milk. This theory is similar the biodynamic methods of organic agriculture drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner in 1924. To make ghee from the butter of the cow on the waxing moon is special because it infuses that expansive energy into the holy oil, which we then consume, becoming part of our bodies. When I asked, "What if it's made on the full moon?" I always got the same answer: "Making ghee on the full moon is very auspicious."

Since you are making a product that is “energetic” in nature, what do you do when the energy in you, or around you, isn’t positive at the moment?

This is a great question because it raises even another question: "What is positive vs. negative?" In my attempts to raise the vibrations around me, I try to let go of the limiting dichotomies of "good" and bad." Instead, I welcome all the sensations, no part left out. As I learned in India, before making ghee, it is important to bathe and offering gratitude to the cows, the moon, the sun, the water, the fields, the farmers, and all the elements in nature which sustain us on Earth. The time around the Full Moon can often be emotionally challenging and we wonder why we chose this time to make ghee. However, I believe the moon chose us. She is our teacher. Every time we make ghee, even when we begin from a place of suffering, our moods shift because we are remembering that the transformation that takes place while making ghee is sacred. Rituals deepen our acceptance of ourselves. Our commitment to making ghee on the full moon is an act of service to our community, our ancestors, and ourselves.

In what other ways is the moon important to us? 

The Moon mirrors how the cycles of nature are within and around us all the time. We are not separate from nature. Healing takes root when we remember our innate connection to the source of all the elements: fire, water, earth, air, and wood.

Who has influenced you the most in your life?

My Mother and Father, for their steadfast commitment to unity, equality, and justice.

In what ways do you want to influence the world?

I want to reflect how deeply lovable each person is by simply being here on Earth. My offering is nourishing medicine made with intentions of healing, harmony, and peace.

Thank you Hannah for sharing your story and passion for mindfully made ghee with us! You can find Full Moon Ghee on our shelves in our healthy fats section. Just ask someone on staff to point you in the right direction!

 

This blog post — The Buttery Goodness of Full Moon Ghee — is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.

Marching Into Wellness: Jenn on Navigating Your Monthly Flow

This month some of our beloved team members at Cambridge Naturals will be sharing their own personal wellness stories - from navigating a menstrual cycle to finding a life changing skin care regimen to discovering supplements they can’t live without. March may have arrived sooner than we were ready for, but we will be marching our way into wellness nonetheless.

First, Jenn shares how she found peace with her period. We are truly living in the early days of the 'Golden Age of Menstruation' - now more then ever we have open dialogue around periods and clean, effective products to support us during that time. From cramps and mood swings, to cravings and fatigue, read on for expert tips and learn what she does throughout her cycle to find balance in the throws of sometimes drastic hormonal change.

Via pinterest.com from 1952. Luckily a few things have changed!

Via pinterest.com from 1952. Luckily a few things have changed!

Getting your period can be a beautiful and magical thing, at least that’s what most tampon commercials would lead you to believe. But for some, like me, it can seem more like that scene from Carrie (you know the one).

I get all the typical PMS symptoms to what seems like a monstrous degree: bloating, cramps, I eat everything around me, I cry, and I can get a tad mean. I know I’m not alone so I thought I’d share some tips and tricks on how to make that time of the month a little more bearable.

I’m vegetarian and very iron deficient, so bleeding for 5-7 days per month can take a large toll on my energy levels. To combat this loss of iron I do a few extra things. First, I take MegaFood Blood Builder and drink an iron rich tea blend (recipe included at the end). I do both of these things (almost) everyday.  On the days leading up to my period I tend to be very achy and crampy. At home I pretty much live with my heated Grandpa's Garden Bunny Wrap attached to me. But when I have to be in public, walking around with a small heated bunny isn’t exactly “socially acceptable” so I take Herbalist and Alchemist Full Moon tincture. It’s a great blend of anti-spasmodic herbs that quell my cramps, and the only thing I found that really works.

On the days of my actual period, I use a menstrual cup, which has changed my life. If you’ve been wanting to try one but are hesitant - just do it, you will not regret it! We carry a few different brands - Diva Cup, Lunette and Glad Rags. I use to dread finding a bathroom during the day to take out my tampon or change my pad wrapping it in endless toilet paper before throwing into the trash. Now I just have to take out the cup twice a day, once when I wake up and again before I go to sleep. On the last couple days (when it’s more of a light spotting rather than a full on flow) I like to use a cloth pad from Glad Rags. I choose to use reusable items because I saw how much waste my monthly cycle was creating and wanted to do something about it - but I understand that getting that up close and personal with your blood isn’t for everyone. Cloth rags are easy to wash and save you cash in the long run!

Once my period finishes I’m able to put all these things in a little bag and stick it in my sock drawer until next month. I hope in talking about this I can help bring a normalization to talking about periods, since half the adult population gets one every month!

Iron Rich Tea Blend

In a bowl mix equal parts:

  • Nettle
  • Rosehips
  • Holy Basil Vanna
  • Red Clover
  • Red Raspberry Leaf

Steep in boiled water for 15 minutes, filter and serve.

Thank you so much for sharing your wellness story with us, Jenn! All of the products mentioned in the posts are sold at Cambridge Naturals and, as always, we’re happy to help anyone navigate their female health needs in the store and answer any further questions you may have. Feel free to leave a comment below with any of your own tips and tricks!


This blog post — Marching Into Wellness: Jenn on Navigating Your Monthly Flow — is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.

Use Your Noodle!

By John B, CN Grocery Buyer & Blog Contributor

Ever since centuries back, way before Marco Polo could even conceive of his famous visit to China, the noodle has existed in an endless array of delicious flavors and textures and varieties. From crunchy to slippery, from blindingly spicy to fragrant and floral, a person could probably enjoy a different noodle dish every night for a year without exhausting their options or succumbing to boredom. Our grocery department has a couple of excellent new noodle products in stock, so I figured it would be a great time to share some suggestions with you on how to make them sparkle! Just remember: the three recipes I'm sharing with you today are but a few shades of a few colors of the rainbow of noodly delights, and I hope you'll come into Cambridge Naturals sometime, find me in person and tell me all the creative ways you're using our products to create that perfect slurp!

Let's start with Italian: Our Semolina Artisan Pastas are a delicious and high-end treat, and put any 99-cent-a-box grocery store macaroni to shame. Paired with some of our seafood and vegetable options, they make for a heck of a meal. Cook 3/4 pound of the Semolina noodle of your choosing. Roughly chop a cup of our Matiz Artichoke Hearts, 3/4 cup parsley, and 1/2 cup our Cambridge Naturals Brand Organic Almonds. Add them to the pasta along with half a cup of our Wild Planet Sardines in Olive Oil, some pecorino cheese, our Salt & Olive Olive Oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Now dig in! It's like a Mediterranean flavor explosion, contained entirely within your kitchen!

Another delicious recent addition to the store are a pair of wonderful gluten-free noodle options from King Soba. They come in two flavors. much love to the Pumpkin, Ginger & Rice, but it is my opinion that this recipe works better with the Sweet Potato & Buckwheat. First, make a marinade of soy sauce, our Bragg's Apple Vinegar, garlic, and some of the ginger powder and chili flakes from our bulk section. Marinate two packages of our delicious Fungi Ally Shiitake Mushrooms for at least a half an hour. Cook the mushrooms (along with all the marinade) with a cup or two of spinach and the cooking oil of your choosing. We always have many excellent options in stock. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packaging, drain them. and add them to the pan with the mushrooms, spinach, and perhaps a splash of soy sauce. Let those flavors meld for a few minutes and you've got a yummy vegan meal without too much effort!

Another popular noodle here at Cambridge Naturals are the Lotus Foods Gluten Free Ramen. I've blogged some recipes using these in the past, so let's do something a bit different here today: Ramen burger buns! Looking for a new and delicious gluten-free way to enjoy your burger (or veggie burger)? Simmer 2 packages of Lotus Foods ramen, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Rinse them with cold water. Beat two of our Handsome Farm Pasture Raised Eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper and stir the noodles in until evenly coated. Divide the noodles into six small bowls, place a sheet of plastic directly over the noodles and stack another bowl on top to flatten them, then refrigerate about 20 minutes. Heat up a skillet with some oil. Invert each bowl, careful to preserve the ramen's "bun" shape. Fry them without moving the noodles for about three minutes, flip them, and fry and additional three minutes. Should be crispy on one side and slightly softer on the other. Plate crispy side up and pile high with your sandwich fillings. You'll never look at ramen the same way again!

So there you have it, a few ways (outside of our cognitive supplements) in which Cambridge Naturals can help you use your noodle! Bon apetit!

Three Herbs for City Folks

Photo by  Shashidhara Halady via Wikicommons

Photo by  Shashidhara Halady via Wikicommons

By Steph Zabel,
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator

As an urban dwelling herbalist I like to focus on the issues and challenges that city folks face in their day-to-day lives. Obviously for many people high stress levels due to the demands of modern, fast-paced, caffeine-fueled living are on ongoing problem. Many of us have nervous systems that are depleted and/or over-stimulated which makes us prone to overwhelm, anxiety, and just plain exhaustion.

Of course there are many factors that should be addressed when you are feeling stressed and frazzled, involving adequate sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, and making sure you have enough joy and connection in your life.

So how do herbs fit into all of this?

Can drinking a cup of herbal tea or taking a tincture really make any difference in the midst of a hectic day?

Definitely.

Here are three of my favorite herbs for worn out, highly-strung city dwellers whose nervous systems are in need of some love:

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

This common garden plant is known more for its culinary uses than its medicinal properties, but little do most people know what a treasure trove this herb is. There’s an old saying, “Why should a man die when sage grows in his garden?”…referring to the belief that sage promotes a long and healthy life.

Photo by David Monniaux via Wikicommons

Photo by David Monniaux via Wikicommons

Personally I find sage to be one of the best plants to help me immediately feel calm if I am nervous or anxious. The tea is highly aromatic and comforting, soothing to both the mind and the digestive organs (much of the nervous system is housed in the gut). Sage essential oil can be used (diluted) to calm an over-active or overwhelmed mind, or inhaled before meditation to help you stay centered and focused. Traditionally sage was believed to have the ability to enhance inner wisdom and insight, thus one who is wise is called a “sage.”

Besides being a wonderfully calming cup of tea, sage can also be used in cases of stress-induced headaches, and may also be useful for some people who have sleep issues due to anxiety.

To make a strong cup of sage tea use 1/2 to 1 Tblsp. of the dried herb per cup of hot water. Let steep for 10 minutes. Add a spoonful of honey if you wish. The essential oil of sage can be diluted in a liquid spray and spritzed to impart its calmative properties.

Sage should be avoided during pregnancy, but soon-to-be mamas can benefit from our next herb…

MILKY OAT (Avena sativa)

Oats are incredibly nourishing. You probably know them as the hot morning cereal that has been an important staple crop of Northern European peoples for centuries. But besides being a nourishing food for the whole body they are specifically nourishing for the nervous system. Oats are a trophorestorative herb, which simply means that they feed nerve tissue and help to restore normal nerve function and vitality.

A tea or tincture of milky oats helps people to come back from nervous exhaustion and over-work. Oats help calm frayed or shattered nerves, and ease anxiety and emotional instability. Truly, this is one of my absolute favorite herbs because it is so gentle but so powerful at the same time and makes a noticeable difference for anyone who is stressed, constantly upset, overly sensitive or depleted and worn out. Herbalists have also used oats successfully to help calm the agitation from coffee or cigarette withdrawal.

If using the tincture, be sure to look for Milky Oat tincture, which means that the oats where harvested at a time when the seed yields a milky substance when crushed – this is where much of its nutritional and medicinal value lies.

If making a tea, use one big handful of the dried oat tops per quart of water. Pour boiled water over the herb and let steep overnight to extract as much of the medicinal qualities as possible.

One word of caution about oat – while it is one of the safest and most gentle of herbs, it may not be suitable for people who have severe gluten intolerance due to cross-contamination from gluten-containing grains.

TULSI or HOLY BASIL (Ocimum sanctum and O. tenuiflorum)

Recently tulsi has become the darling of many Western herbalists, and for good reason – in Ayurvedic tradition it has been a revered herb for thousands of years, called the “elixir of life” and used for everything from respiratory problems to beautifying the complexion to keeping evil influences away from the home. Western herbalists now know and love this herb (a close cousin of culinary basil) for its use as an adaptogen, which is a technical way of saying that it helps us adapt to and overcome everyday stress.

Like sage, tulsi is great for anxiety and overwhelm and will help you to RELAX. Used over time it can also increase energy and endurance. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that tulsi will move an individual towards whole health and vitality, protect against disease and gladden the heart. Overall it is a wonderful (and delicious!) herb that will gently reduce feelings of stress and is a delicious addition to your tea stash.

To make a strong cup of tulsi use up to 1 Tblsp. of dried herb per cup of water. Let steep for at least 10 minutes. Tulsi also makes a wonderful iced tea during the summer months – keep a pitcher in the fridge to drink throughout the day.

Try your hand at incorporating one or all three of these herbs into your life, and see how they support you during busy, stressful times. I’d love to know how they work for you – feel free to let me know in the comments below!

REFERENCES:

Methow Valley Herbs
CSHS
Blessed Maine Herbs
Herbal Remedies Advice

Steph Zabel, MSc, is an herbalist and educator who helps urban dwellers connect with the plant world.  She teaches herbal classes, is available for individual wellness consultations, and is also the founder of HERBSTALK, Boston’s community herbal conference.  Learn more about her work at: www.flowerfolkherbs.com and www.herbstalk.org.

Monthly Muse: SantaLena Groves

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

We’re celebrating love this month and the many forms it may take: self love, romantic love, platonic love, familial love. And then there’s the love that many have for what they do or create, for something outside themselves that causes them to look and learn with a childlike wonder felt by few.

The love that the founders of Heart Grown Wild have for the plant world is emulated by each one of their products. Working in natural skincare, I have smelled nearly all of the wonderful things our growing Body Care department has to offer. But the scent of the In The Trees body oil can transport me right out of the city and back to the woods I spent summers camping in, unlike anything else. And no wonder: it’s made with wildcrafted spruce and balsam fir.

At the heart of the line is a passion for plants and our deep connection to them. Lena, with some help from her husband Tom (recently featured in this month’s Beauty Uniform), has created a line using an herbalist’s approach to skincare with safety and sustainability always at the forefront. Below, I interview Lena to learn more about who she is and how she got started.
 

What is the last book you couldn’t put down? (Blogs and magazines count too!)

If I am not creating in my studio, I’m buried in a book researching information about plants and ingredients. As far as books go, the two that are my go-to right now are Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide To Holistic Self Care by Maria Noel Groves and The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by David Hoffman. We have a huge botanical library in our home and apothecary. Books for me are more enjoyable because they’re tangible and accessible. Turning pages in a book for me is a visceral and cathartic experience much different than scrolling through my iphone. I also really love reading newsletters from fellow herbalists, some of my favorites are One Willow Apothecary and La Abeja Herbs.
 

There’s a strong outdoors influence to the line, is this influenced by any outdoor hobbies or your homebase of Vermont?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild is influenced by our outdoor hobbies and our location in Vermont. I found a strong connection to the outdoors in early adulthood. The outdoors is where I felt most at home. I love being outside, whether it be hiking, exploring, climbing over big river rocks, running my hands in ice cold river water or sitting in the comfort of big tree. Being in nature has always given me a sense of warmth and comfort very similar to a mother’s love or spending time with a dear friend.

When I opened the doorway to the world of herbalism, my love for the outdoors greatly expanded. Seeing and continuing to build the connection with the plants on a plant-spirit and medicinal level connected the dots for me as to why I had such an affinity for particular plants. I truly believe there is a strong connection between humans and the plants. If humans are willing to pay attention and listen- there is strong plant medicine accessible for everyone.

Vermont is the ideal location for Heart Grown Wild as it has vast areas of pristine wilderness and land to explore. Living in Vermont, I feel like I have a huge botanical canvas to work with. One of the reasons I wanted to incorporate plants into my self-care routine was so to continue to have the connection to nature - even when I lived in what felt to be a concrete jungle. The Heart Grown Wild line is influenced by the direct connection I’ve had with the plants on mist covered trails covered in vibrant green moss or sitting in a field of wildflowers under a painted sky. Often during these experiences plant combinations come to me - and I trust these intuitive moments. I am often pleasantly surprised to find that these divine, intuitive combinations magically go together. My time outside is highly influential in what Heart Grown Wild creates. In order to maintain our connection to the outdoors, we strive to create our products in small batches to produce ecologically sustainable, quality skin care products.

How did you initially start making the beautiful plant based products that grew into Heart Grown Wild?

There are two parts to this story. The first is that I have had my own skin experiences which molded how I treated my skin. When I was in my mid 20's I had a year-long, severe hormonal breakout that resulted in painful cystic acne along my jaw and on my neck. I went to a dermatologist, and was prescribed medication that was effective against the acne, however, the medication caused sun sensitivity, and my skin began peeling. I also began to notice some pretty intense wrinkles around my mouth and on my forehead that were very premature. Medication didn’t seem to be a solution for my problem. It was either, I can have acne, or I can have wrinkles and peeling skin. We live in a society, where problems of any kind are treated with medication that solves one problem but creates another. My need to find a better solution came at a time when I was starting to shed all the things in my life that were toxic. I became obsessed with reading labels on all types of products, from food to skin care products. I especially paid close attention to skin care products. At this point, I tried to find the most natural products possible, and fell in love with Lush. They were the first product I found that I could understand what the ingredients were.  At the time I was a social worker, so unfortunately it didn’t quite work with my budget. I began writing as a contributor for an online herbal school called the Herbal Academy in Bedford, Massachusetts. One of the first articles that I wrote for them was a DIY Gift Box tutorial for the holidays. I showed readers how to create a sugar scrub, a facial scrub, and a bath soak, all of which were completely natural, and plant-based. This was the start, and from this point forward I was hooked. I continued to tear our kitchen apart creating and formulating mostly for myself, when I had time away from my previous full time job. On any given Saturday or Sunday Tom, my husband, would be plucking away on his guitar, and would graciously would allow me to interrupt him MANY times to smell things.  We moved to Vermont in 2014 and I enrolled in two courses at the Gaia School of Healing, this experience took Heart Grown Wild to a whole new level. My final project included some of the products we carry to this day. For this final project, I created a plant beauty product for every chakra. I use a traditional herbalist approach to the crafting of the line. Our products are created by infusing solvents entirely with the plants versus relying on essential oils. The market right now feels very saturated with this process. Essential oils have high potency and they require a lot of plant material to create just a few drops. Tom and I know about this first hand because we distill our own essential oils and hydrosols when possible.  On a sustainability and safety level, it was important for me to stick to using a slower process that requires less plant material as the base of many of our products. There is also something very ancestral about sticking to traditional herbal roots and this was important to what Tom and I wanted Heart Grown Wild to be.

What are some of the highlights of founding a company as a couple? Any unforeseen or humorous struggles to this venture?

The love for plants Tom and I have has evolved together. When we first met he and I were doing very different things with our life. We both went through the process of shedding things that we didn’t feel fulfilled our lives. At these crossroads, we both became very curious about plants from two different perspectives. I came from a traditional herbal medicine perspective, and Tom came in from a botany/conservation perspective. Reminiscing on our walks in the woods together, they were fairly comical. I would be sitting with a plant, leaving offerings enamored by the plant’s magical spirit and Tom would note as a matter of fact, “It’s not Native” and continue trudging along the trail with his plant identification book. My plant dreams were crushed, but it was a learning experience, and relationships would be boring if partners didn’t challenge each other. Since then, we both have learned a lot from each other's botanical background and perspective. In many ways our plant worlds have collided and have since created a beautiful symbiosis. I think some of our highlights together would be our time spent together in the woods or at the ocean this past summer creating a traveling apothecary of sorts. We love exploring together and it’s really exciting when a product is birthed out of our communal experience. It’s like a photograph of that moment but with smell-o-vision. When I open a jar of our Stars of the Ocean face mask I immediately return to our trip to the Cape Cod National Sea Shore walking barefoot on a misty beach, looking ahead sweetly to Tom and our dog Cici’s silhouettes. When I open the Prism of the Sun body oil, no matter how cold it is outside, it evokes mid-morning moments spent in Green Mountain National Forest looking up at the sun’s rays sparkling through the trees.

I am a huge fan of the Nature’s Nectar body oil! How do you choose which plants and/or oils to blend together to make a new product?

I would have to say that Heart Grown Wild’s products are intuitive and inspired by that direct connection to the outdoors. Nature’s Nectar was part of my final project at the Gaia School of Healing for the Sacral Chakra. The Spruce Resin felt appropriate due to this deep, sweet, earthy energy that comes through every time I work with it. It combines perfectly with vanilla giving it a sensuous base. I paired it with floral earthy notes that are associated with the Sacral Chakra. With Sacral work, much of it is trusting your intuition and this emergence of creative passion that is flowing just beneath the surface. Nature’s Nectar encapsulates this sweet, earthy, deep rooted energy that is just below the surface, similar to the Spruce Resin of the tree. When I first came into contact with the raw, golden, infused oil it was like liquid gold! When I work with the Spruce Resin it’s like sparkling gemstones, so it felt appropriate that the oil have a natural shimmering quality to it.
 

Do you have a favorite Heart Grown Wild product? If so, what is so special about it to you?

This is a tough question! I have such a personal connection to them all. I guess I would have to answer that with my favorite combination of products. Hot baths are one of my favorite indulgences. I love combining making an evening of my ritual. I start by cleansing with Azul Face Serum, applying the Tree Song Toner, and then putting on the Release Face Mask while the bath water is running. When the tub is almost full, I pour the Root Soak under the running bath water. I love how it turns the water an earthy red hue. During my soak in the tub, I love to meditate or dream up new plant combinations. Once the mask is dry, I remove it with the warm bath water. When I get out of the tub, the Prism of the Sun Body Oil compliments the Root Soak bath ritual perfectly. The Root Soak has Balsam Fir and smoky, earthy notes to it. It is truly lovely with each of the tree associated body oils. Typically, I massage the oil into my skin and allow it to soak in while I practice restorative yoga. I highly suggest legs up on the wall, and Supta Baddha Konasana.

Many of the products described above conjure up a sweet memory of the plants or landscapes associated with them. I think what makes them special is the hand crafted piece. We know where these plants are coming from and what our relationship is to them. Our intention from the beginning has and always will be, to bring the connection of the outside world into your skin.

 

Thank you so much Lena! Come see and feel the Heart Grown Wild line in store for yourselves. We’re happy to make you a sample of a mask or two for you to take home and try. Be sure to stay in touch and watch for new products on their instagram @heartgrownwild

 

Beauty Uniform: Tom Groves

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

I discovered the benefits of herbal medicine and green juice during a few formative years in Los Angeles, land of the macrobiotic diet and home to soul cycle devotees. My skin was glowing and my moods were balanced, all without harsh chemicals or prescriptions. It’s what led me all the way back to New England to work towards a degree in Nutrition. I didn’t expect a passion for food based medicine to lead to cleaning out my makeup bag and bathroom cabinet, but you can’t un-know all the things your skin is absorbing every day.

We live in a society that has unrealistic beauty standards and the skin care and cosmetic industry certainly targets women more than men. But we all have skin that needs love and attention regardless of gender. So this month I decided to get a different perspective on skin care.

Tom Groves, co-founder of Heart Grown Wild, had a similar indirect introduction to natural skincare. His background in wildlife biology and botany has given the line of organic, plant-based, skin and hair care products an edge on what often feels like a saturated market.

Below, Tom shares more about his background, his work with Heart Grown Wild, as well his own favorite skin care rituals.

 

You have a background in wildlife biology, has co-founding Heart Grown Wild and working with plants in the context of beauty and body care changed anything about the way you interact with or study plants in your research?

I was academically trained as a wildlife biologist. I was introduced to botany through a professor at Framingham State University and eventually through the conservation department of the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS). My work with NEWFS began as a volunteer experience and continued as a conservation fellow. Generally, we performed rare, threatened and endangered species surveys, seed collections, habitat restoration and educational offerings for the public. This work was taxonomically species based. It was common to be carrying around 3 or 4 books for species identification in the wild. The knowledge of botanical diversity I learned while with NEWFS has given Heart Grown Wild a unique perspective on product constituents, habitat conservation, and sustainability. Currently, I work for a forestry company which allows me to be out in the woods on a daily basis. For Heart Grown Wild to provide a quality product, it was invaluable to be able to knowingly select particular plants for wild harvesting and product inclusion.

When/how did you first become interested in using more natural beauty/body care products?

My wife Lena had the most impact on my interest in plants for skin care. Like most guys, I was reluctant to be anything but a “shower and go” guy. It began with the In the Trees body oil which originally was a beard oil Lena formulated for me that piqued my interest in using plants as products. The beard oil was liked so much we decided to change its categorization to body oil. The scent is really why it’s a best seller. The facial expression on people makes my day every time, when they inhale dank conifer base oil mixed with just a hint of orange and patchouli. It’s made with wild-harvested red spruce and balsam fir tips, and our own home distilled spruce/fir essential oil. It’s something special. This was the first product that I used on a regular basis. It clicked for me when I realized that I had a specialized set of skills for helping Lena to create skin, hair and body products that were honestly unique, creative and rooted in Vermont. (See what I did there?)

Herbal skin and hair care products also just made sense to me – why use products that artificially scented or chemically based when I could use products that I know are entirely plant based and have low levels of essential oils. Through the process of making our own essential oils and hydrosols, Lena and I learned the amount of plant material to make 10 drops of essential oil was quite a bit. We try to impart this knowledge to our customers that essential oils should be used in sparing quantities due to their potency and for sustainability reasons. In today’s market it’s difficult to really know where our products are coming from. Our skin is the largest organ, so making products that Lena, myself, and our customers could rely on to be good on so many levels was a big part of what we wanted our business to be.

What’s your daily skincare routine? Does this change with the seasons?

I use three products consistently at the moment. I begin my day with a shower and post-shower I start with a spritz of the Tree Song toner, which is another more masculine scented product, made with our own black birch infused witch hazel and black birch hydrosol – an invigorating way to begin the day. I use a dime sized amount of In The Trees around my shoulders, with a little on my beard, and a dime size amount of Sol Nectar hair serum I run through my hair before I comb it. I don’t use a mask on a regular basis, but I do try these products when Lena formulates them and they are quite the experience. I haven’t quite crossed into that level of skin care as part of my routine yet, but who knows…

How do your self care or body care rituals change while traveling?

Prior to my introduction into Heart Grown Wild and plant-based skin care I had no skin care routine. Since the beginning of my use of skin care/body care products, the biggest change to me when traveling is that I actually take skin care products on the plane. Lena and I recently traveled to North Carolina and we were able to take all of our individual products through the security checks in our carry-ons. I never check a bag and I like to travel light. This made continuing my daily routine, which I’ve come to love, easy to take with me.

What has inspired or continues to inspire your beauty uniform?

The thing that has inspired me and continues to inspire me in regard to my beauty uniform is Heart Grown Wild products and the use of more and more Vermont grown herbaceous and woody plants, whether that be from a farm or the wild. I also am excited about the substitution of related non-native species of plants for sustainably, locally grown, or wild-harvested plant based products. In my free time I’m researching the evolutionary connection between related genera of evolutionarily divergent plants in an attempt to find comparable skin care compounds that could be present in Vermont’s native plants which could be used in skincare products. At the moment I’m looking into a substitution for the Mediterranean native, Helichrysum italicum, for a New England native, commonly called Pearly Everlasting or Anaphalis margaritacea. I’m also looking into using Populus grandidentata and Populus tremuloides extract, commonly known as big-tooth and quaking aspen, as a natural skin care product preservative. Very exciting!

Tree Song .png

When do you feel most yourself?

I feel the most like myself when I’m traipsing through the woods hunting for plants I’ve never seen in the wild.

Last but certainly not least, do you have a favorite Heart Grown Wild product?

This might be the most difficult question. I’d have to say for an overall score, where the criteria was simplicity, improvement to my life, and it’s botanical cool factor, is the Birch Wisdom body oil. Betula lenta was historically used by native and early settlers to treat headaches and fevers and eventually it was used to make salicylic acid for aspirin. Many New Englanders are familiar with chewing a twig as a child and the sweet, minty taste. What many New Englanders don’t know is that black birch can be tapped like maple trees and the sap can then be brewed into birch beer, although authentic birch beer is difficult to find these days. During the early 1900s this species was pushed to the brink of scarcity for the extraction of methyl salicylate for flavoring of soaps, chewing gum and sodas. When it was possible to create the compound synthetically, the harvesting of the species dropped off and the species rebounded. Black birch will likely be the tree of the future here in Vermont. It proves to not have sap as sweet as sugar maples, or to grow as tall and stout as a red oak, and it is surely not as straight grained as the white pine, but it does show resistance to disease, warming climate, and out competes thick, regeneration-killing fern. The Birch Wisdom body oil for me mixes resilient botanical qualities, native wisdom and childlike nostalgia together to create the feeling I love each time I put it on.

Thank you so much for sharing your beauty uniform with us, Tom! And look out for Tom’s wife, Lena, who will be featured as this month’s Muse! To learn more about Heart Grown Wild you can come visit us at Cambridge Naturals to try the line yourself in store, or follow them on instagram (@heartgrownwild)

 

CODONOPSIS (Campanulaceae Family): "Poor Man's Ginseng"

By Steph Zabel,
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator

Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula) is a sweet, nourishing root that comes to us from China where it is known as Dang Shen. You may also hear it called “Poor Man’s Ginseng” as it is often used as a substitute for the rarer, more expensive true ginseng, to which it has similar properties.

This plant is native to East Asia where it can be found growing wild, but it is also commonly cultivated for medicinal use. Once the roots are three years old, they are harvested. In Asia they are not only used for their healing properties, but also as a food; the tasty roots are used as in ingredient in soups and other dishes.

Codonopsis is becoming increasingly popular in western herbalism, where it is considered to be an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen is a plant that helps an individual be more resistant to stress and also supports the adrenal and immune systems. In Traditional Chinese medicine it is known as a yin tonic, because it supports and nourishes the yin energy of the body through its sweet, cooling and moistening properties.

Photo by Doronenko via WikiCommons

Photo by Doronenko via WikiCommons

As mentioned above this nourishing root is often used as a replacement for ginseng as a chi tonic — it gently increases one’s innate energy. It can be particularly healing for the spleen, blood, lungs, stomach and pancreas. Traditionally used for low energy, poor appetite, and debility after illness, codonopsis helps increase resistance to stress and builds strength in the body. It is often used in herbal blends for anyone who is low-energy and depleted, such as in cases of long-term disease, substantial blood loss, or after childbirth.

It is a wonderful remedy for anemic people to help them build up and nourish their blood. Research has shown that it increases hemoglobin and red blood cell levels, and lowers the blood pressure. If someone is showing signs of paleness, dizziness, fatigue and constant low-energy, think of supplementing with codonopsis root.

Photo by Badagnani via WikiCommons

Photo by Badagnani via WikiCommons

In Asia it is traditionally used for asthma, shortness of breath and deficiency in the lungs.  As an immune tonic it is also excellent for people who tend to come down with every cold that goes around, and especially for issues that settle in the lungs. Codonopsis is an expectorant herb that can help to expel excess mucous, while also having the amazing ability to also soothe irritated mucous membranes.

Finally, codonopsis can be a wonderful herb for children, who may naturally be drawn to its sweet and grounding taste.  As a nourishing tonic herb, it is safe for people of all ages and constitutions to use.

HOW TO USE:

Add a few pieces of the root into the pot while cooking rice, or into soups/broths. The dried or fresh root can also be nibbled on its own.

To make a decoction, add 1 tbsp. of the dried root to 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain and drink.

Photo by Steph Zabel

Photo by Steph Zabel

RECIPE: Sweet Root & Berry Tea

This is a perfectly nourishing, grounding and earthy-sweet tea. I hope this simple trio of berries and roots will warm your heart and spirit over the winter months.

Blend together:

3 Tblsp. codonopsis root
4 Tblsp. hawthorn berries (link to hawthorn article)
1 Tblsp. burdock root (link to burdock article)

Once blended, this will make enough for 3-4 servings.

To make a single serving, place 2 heaping tablespoons of this mixture in 1.5 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and drink.

REFERENCES:

Living Naturally
ITM Online

NIH.gov

Steph Zabel, MSc, is an herbalist and educator who helps urban dwellers connect with the plant world.  She teaches herbal classes, is available for individual wellness consultations, and is also the founder of HERBSTALK, Boston’s community herbal conference.  Learn more about her work at: www.flowerfolkherbs.com and www.herbstalk.org.


This blog series — Herbs and Botanicals— is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.