Scum Scum Go Away, Come Again Another Day (Or Not!)

By Bex, Supplements Buyer and The Naturalist Contributor

After an uncharacteristic drought in New England this year, the skies have parted and graced us with some splash-worthy puddles.  When you think of all of that rainfall accumulating (yes, we need more of it) hopefully you envision glistening lakes, cascading rivers and serene beaches. Mmmmmmm, water… Perhaps, if you are like me, you think of your Lifefactory Water Bottle, which you carry around with you wherever you go, like Linus with his blanket. Mmmmmmmm, blanket…

Vital for our health and oh-so refreshing, water is at its best when it’s crystal clear and pure; the murky news is that it can easily become contaminated. So if our water becomes contaminated, it makes sense that our bodies may very well also become contaminated over time. Oh no! A seemingly unlikely culprit, water can actually be quite dangerous when it isn’t properly purified.

Gift Guide: Lady Friends

Whether it's your mother, sister, friend or romantic leading lady, we all know a special woman who deserves some extra love and support this holiday season. Below, some of our favorite items for the powerful ladies in your lives:

1. Thorn & Bloom Perfume
Made by certified natural perfumer Jennifer Botto right in Somerville, these scents are delicate and enchanting and are small enough to stuff in a stocking! Made with only plant-based ingredients, they are the perfect gift for the clean beauty gal in your life.

2. OBC Java Jolt Body Scrub
Locally-made scrubs are the best scrubs! We love Organic Bath Co.’s coffee scrub for all over gentle exfoliation - made with all organic ingredients including certified fair-trade coffee grounds and sugar, it's the perfect shower treatment to wake you up on these cold, dark mornings.

3. Ginger Chi Jade Roller
Used for centuries to refine and enhance skin elasticty, the jade roller by Ginger Chi stimulates the meridians in your face and neck. It’s an easy way to give your face a massage morning or night. Bonus tip: keep it in the fridge and swipe around your eyes to cool down any puffiness. Makes a great gift for a hard working woman who could use some self-care!

4. Herbalogic Peacekeeper Tincture
Keep the peace all month long with this botanical blend from Herbalogic! This tincture is a lady's moon cycle best friend, helpful for restoring hormonal balance and promoting a healthy emotional response*. We could all use a little more peacekeeping in our lives, no?

5. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This beautiful little book from the talented Nigerian writer and public speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Achidie is the perfect gift for all of the powerful women (and the men!) in your lives. It was inspired by her TEDx talk on the same subject, and speaks to a new wave of feminism that necessarily includes everyone - whether you love bras and makeup, or not.


*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Saving face this season!

Oh JOY! That time of year for blustery cold winds, forced air heat, and crackly dry skin. Our glowing, plump summer skin says, "see ya" and turns into a red, raw, peeling, angry version of its former glorious self. But fear not, there is a solution! Below, our top five picks for making it through the winter with skin like a baby's butt.

Photo by Diane Arbus via Pinterest

Photo by Diane Arbus via Pinterest

1. Start your day with Rose Vetiver Day Moisturizer by evanhealy

For years, this has been our absolute go-to for an intensely moisturizing day cream. Full of rich and restorative shea butter, antioxidant seabuckthorn & carrot seed oils, and softening argan oil (all sourced sustainably from Evan's partners around the world), this cream is deeply moisturizing and yet won't leave your skin feeling greasy or sticky. We suggest pairing with one of evanhealy's Hydrosouls - the woodsy, uplifting smells of the Doug Fir Hydrosoul will remind you of why winter is still pretty magical. For extra deep nourishment, apply one of Evan's serums along with the Hydrosoul before using the Day Moisturizer. Your face will thank you!

2. End your evening with Nourish Nightbalm by Organic Bath Co

The ingredients in this deeply protective balm read like a recipe: organic shea butter, mango butter, organic jojoba oil, organic rosehip oil, organic prickly pear seed oil, organic tamanu oil, green coffee oil. It's perfect for soothing and restoring chapped winter skin while you sleep - the ingredients literally melt onto your skin as you apply! Formulated by locals Gianne and Jay Doherty, the Nourish Nightbalm has quickly become a staff favorite - a nighttime ritual we truly crave! Pair with Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator for deeply hydrated skin.

3. Exfoliate once a week with Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator

This is a dual action exfoliator that our staff are absolutely obsessed with - seriously, it will make your skin feel like a baby's butt! Powerful organic & wild crafted fruit and herbal enzymes and tiny walnut shell particles (no nasty plastic beads here!) work to gently slough off dead skin cells, leaving beautifully renewed, refreshed skin ready to absorb the moisture it deeply needs.

4. Nourish your whole body with Little Seed Farm's Body Oils

Our skin CRAVES oils - those water-based lotions just don't do the trick! This non-greasy, organic hemp seed body oil (available in four light and delightful essential oil-based scents) will easily penetrate your skin's surface layer, allowing it to seal moisture and nutrients within! We suggest applying right after a shower while your skin is still damp (and can more easily absorb the oils). For an extra deep dose of moisture, massage Organic Bath Company's Drenched Body Butter into those super dry, rough patches of skin.

5. Save your skin from deep within!

Especially in wintertime, we take a lot of supplements to support our skin. Megafood's Hair Skin & Nails Multi is designed with all of the necessary vitamin building blocks for hair skin and nails, and also contains a supportive herbal blend. Making your own skin-supportive herbal infusions at home is also easy and inexpensive! Check out our bulk herbs section for ideas - we recommend nettles and oatstraw steeped overnight for the minerals your skin deeply craves. And, last but certainly not least, drink water!! 8-10 cups a day of room temperature or even warm water (a splash of lemon adds a dose of alkalinity) goes a long way towards keeping your skin glowing, plump, and gorgeous even as the winter winds whistle on by. Springtime is just around the corner! Right?

It will be cold. It will be gloomy. It will be RESTORATIVE.

By Bex, Supplements Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

Over the past several weeks, we've heard so many of our customers describe feeling inundated with physical, emotional, or political toxicity. The state of the world can take a deep toll on one's body and mind - immune health, stress response, sleep, you name it. While you're preparing to take meaningful action to clean up our planet and our society, it's also so important to also 'clean house' on a personal level and prepare yourself for dark times ahead.

Now, I’m not being fatalistic here, talking about dark times... rather, we’re shifting into the barren, frigged, overcast months when some lucky animals get to hibernate. It will be cold. It will be gloomy. It will be RESTORATIVE. Remember that, ok? While it's so tempting to linger in our beds, we suggest taking action and choosing to feel better! Healthy bodies, healthy minds = can't lose. So, what are some of our favorite self-care tips for tough times?

SNOWBALL FIGHTS! (Just kidding, sort of… actually, running through snowy woods is one of my favorite winter remedies.)

The real answer though: bid good riddance to toxicity! Purify, detoxify, rejuvenate and usher in the most life affirming foods, supplements, lifestyle and body care products. If the word detox conjures up gnarly images of cold-pressed veggie juices that make you shiver at this time of year, don’t fret. There are plenty of warming ways to fuel the body and release all that toxic gunk (think: nourishing soups and teas.) In the next few blog posts, we’ll share some ideas with you on how to purify your phenomenal vessel from the inside out and the outside in, but for now, here are some quick and simple ways to get started!

A pot of Pu-erh tea - one of our favorite restorative rituals. Photo via Rishi Tea.

A pot of Pu-erh tea - one of our favorite restorative rituals. Photo via Rishi Tea.


  1. To start (and this one won’t cost you any money,) we encourage you to take three slow deep breaths every time it is all feeling like too much. Just three mindful inhalations and exhalations. See how good that feels?

  2. Make yourself a pot of tea and DRINK IT slowly. Here are some tea suggestions from a few of our brew-loving staff members: Caleb, Rishi Pu-erh; Brenden, Guayusa tea; Jess, Organic India Tulsi tea; Caitlin, Traditional Medicinals Nettle tea with 1tbsp South River Dandelion, Leek Miso; Vicki, Mugwort tea from the bulk section; Bex (that’s me!) Four Sigmatic Reishi Tea. Stop in and ask us why we love these particular teas and brews!

  3. For a little something more, gift yourself one of the beautiful journals or notebooks from our lifestyle department and write down all the toxic, difficult feelings and actions you want to release this season. Then make a list of the nourishing feelings and actions you want to invite into your life, and the steps you can take to help manifest those dreams.

  4. Next level: Pick up a bottle of Cleanse and Fortify by Maine Medicinals, a surprisingly tasty tonic that “supports the gentle elimination of toxins.” With cleansing and restorative herbs as well as adaptogenic balancing herbs, this is a pleasant way to ease into detox.

  5. Keep reading the blog for ideas on how to filter out the crud and replace it with things that support your well being. We're here for you!

Gift Guide: That Vegan Friend

By Mary, Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

At this point we have all gone through a vegan phase or have a close personal friend who has ("I love vegans! Some of my best friends are vegan!"). Maybe you really need to buy this person a gift, but your love for animal products has blinded you to what would be appropriate for them. We have tons of vegan-friendly beauty products and snacks that the vegan you know and love will be grateful to receive. This gift guide is for you!


Treeline Cheese
My personal favorite non-dairy cheese is this cashew-based french-style soft cheese from Treeline. I use it as dip, a spread on toast, and sometimes even on pasta. With a variety of flavors, each cup of cashew goodness is sure to delight even the pickiest eaters.

Primal Strips Jerky
Hidden on a wall of meat jerky lies a secretly delicious vegan friendly jerky treat. Primal Strips Jerky is a customer favorite and an easy stocking stuffer for those with the vegan munchies.

Hurraw Lip Balm
One of the few lip balms we sell with zero bee ingredients whatsoever! These lip balms moisturize and protect during the cold New England winter to come. They also offer one with SPF to protect sensitive lips from the sun all year round.

Coconut Bacon Bits by Phoney Baloney
Bored with salad? Need a little crunch in that sandwich? Want to spice up that baked potato? Love pigs and don’t want to eat them? Add some fake bacon bits to your life! These are handmade in California with just seven ingredients blended to give you the satisfaction of #bacon, and no animals were harmed.

Brianna’s Soap
Made down the street in Arlington, these soaps are 100% vegan and local! Every scent in her growing bar soap collection is available in store. Brianna was also our October Monthly Muse - read up on the inspiration for starting her company here.

Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Powder
This protein powder mix is a CN staff all-time favorite. The chocolate peanut butter variety is so delicious, easy to use, and doesn’t have that grainy texture that is often associated with protein powders. Not only are you getting a plant-based protein boost, but it’s filled with a nutrient-rich fruit and veggie blend while tasting like a dessert.

Surviving Thanksgiving Dinner (and beyond!)

By Bex, Supplements Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

Some of you count down the days to Thanksgiving all year long, and are excited to gobble up a meal that brings together family, friends and tantalizingly decadent dishes. Others dread the massive feast and that heavy, sluggish feeling that follows it - particularly, when you have to undo that top button of the pants you wore specifically because they were loose. Ugh!

Regardless of which Thanksgiving camp you fall into, the day can be loaded with foods that make you feel, well, loaded. Sugar. Alcohol. Starches. Fat. Oh my! How do you avoid ending the night feeling like a stuffed turkey?

Now, some Thanksgiving survivalists suggest feasting with your eyes, rather than your mouth, but what if you are a Thanksgiving enthusiast (and pragmatist) who wants to indulge a little? How about enjoying the meal in a mindful way that supports your digestion, your taste buds and your waistline? Here are five Thanksgiving dinner survival tips to get you and your belly through the day! (And not to mention, the rest of the holiday season.)

1. Digestive bitters, digestive bitters, digestive bitters - and digestive enzymes.

The typical western diet is lacking in bitter foods, which help to jumpstart the production of digestive enzymes, bile and other digestive juices. Bitter tastes literally tell your entire digestive system, "Food is coming! Get working!". "Digestive Bitters" like those made by Urban Moonshine are traditionally used to support indigestion, nausea, gas, bloating, and balanced blood sugar levels. They encourage everything along the track - from our salivary glands to our intestines - to get the digestive party started. Consider grabbing a spray bottle of Urban Moonshine Bitters to stash in your purse or pocket Thanksgiving night. Take them about ten minutes before the big meal - and consider taking more after your meal if your gut needs a little extra love.

For those of you who need something that packs a little more punch, you may want to give digestive enzymes a whirl. Digestive enzymes support the process of breaking down food into smaller, more absorbable and digestible molecules. On Thanksgiving Day, we tend to eat more food in general, and often consume more fat, sugar, dairy, gluten and alcohol than usual. Enzymedica’s Digest Spectrum is specifically formulated to support those who suffer from food intolerances. Digest Gold is a high-potency enzyme formula, great for supporting your body in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, protein and fiber. Lypo Gold is a fantastic choice for those who aren’t used to consuming the richer foods on the Thanksgiving table and could use a substantial dose of lipase to support efficient fat digestion. Digestive enzymes are most often taken right before or during a meal, but many people find them to be effective within 30 minutes of a meal.

2. Eat a wholesome breakfast and drink lots of water!

It may seem counterintuitive to start your day with food when you know there will be so much more of it on your plate later. However, fueling your body in the morning can help you stave off some of the hunger pangs and low blood sugar crashes that can lead to overeating. Drinking enough water throughout the day can also support normal hunger levels and help your body process the high amount of salt that often comes with a heavy Thanksgiving meal.

3. Joy Tonic by Urban Moonshine

For those of you who are terrified about your crazy in-laws imposing their political beliefs upon everyone at the dinner table, we understand. For those who feel uneasy when there is enough food on your table to feed your family for a week and there are people starving in this world, we understand. For those who feel conflicted about the very origins of this 'Thanksgiving' tradition, we understand. Whatever may be causing your Thanksgiving Day anxieties, Urban Moonshine’s Joy Tonic could be the stress support that turns your day around. Formulated with uplifting herbs that promote peacefulness, inspiration and positivity, just a teaspoon of Joy Tonic can help provide that gentle emotional boost necessary to make it through the feast with a smile.

4. Plant Sterols

If you are at all concerned about the high cholesterol in turkey, not to mention other heavy foods weighing down your plates (and stomachs) this Thanksgiving, taking plant sterols might be a worthwhile investment in your health. Since plant sterols have a similar structure to cholesterol, they support the absorption and metabolism of cholesterol so that it is eliminated through your stool. As you have probably heard us say, we are not doctors or pharmacists, but clinical studies and customer experiences demonstrate that plant sterols can lower total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. We recommend Plant Sterols 500 mg by Blue Bonnet

5. GIVE THANKS! And, start those New Years Resolutions early. 

Get into the spirit of the holiday and express your gratitude for the people, experiences and transformations that have positively impacted your year. Alternatively, make some proactive commitments for how you will support your community (global or local) and honor your values in the year ahead. Share these with the table - positive affirmations can ease anxiety and bring joy to those around you in difficult times. 

As a thank you for reading this entire article, here are some extra credit tips: 

  • Probiotics can be a great way to support the optimal environment for your gut. Cambridge Naturals Brand (including our line of Probiotics) is still on sale 20% off through the month of November!
  • If you end up feeling bloated or gassy, Gaia makes a great formula called (seriously): Gas and Bloating. It includes some pretty remarkable digestive herbs.
  • Get outside! A Thanksgiving hike will help burn those calories and get your digestive system humming along. Plus, you can avoid the crazy in-laws for another hour or so. 
  • And of course… come by the store or give us a call if you have any other nutritional questions!

This blog post 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.

Soups for Days with Five Way!

It’s that time of year again. We’re turning back the clocks, it’s getting dark early, and we’re all settling in for another long, cold New England winter. But it doesn’t have to be all gloom: this is an opportunity to get comfy and cozy. Cuddle up with a good book, a warm blanket, and a nice, hot soup!

Of course, the most important component of any soup is the broth. Here at Cambridge Naturals we have several excellent broth brands, but my personal favorite is Five Way Foods. They’re a not just a locally-based company, they also locally source the ingredients for their chicken, fish, and veggie broths. So when you buy their products from us, you’re supporting the local economy at least three times over! How cool is THAT?!

I’ve come up with a simple recipe suggestion for each of their three broths, using lots of ingredients you can find here at Cambridge Naturals. With any luck, they’ll leave you imagining hundreds of other ways to warm up your winter with Five Way. The possibilities are limitless!

First up is an option that is both vegan and gluten-free. Simmer some carrots, peas, and onion in 16 ounces of Five Way Ginger Veggie Broth until the veggies are soft. Add a packet of Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice Ramen and cook for another four to five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the ramen’s miso packet. If you’re looking for a little extra heat, add some of our Kitchen Garden Brand sriracha to taste.

If you’d rather sample the tastes of the sea, simmer 16 ounces of Five Way Foods fish bone broth with our Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Alaria (Wakame) seaweed. Stir in South River Garlic Red Pepper Miso and finish with some of our ready-to-eat Gold Mine Kelp Noodles. The Atlantic may be frigid right now, but its bounty is as comforting as a warm, fishy hug!

Finally, a true winter comfort food: chicken and rice soup! Cook up some of our Tru Roots Organic Sprouted Rice Trio. Add to 16 ounces of Five Ways chicken bone broth along with celery, carrots, and some chopped, dried shiitakes from our bulk section. Season with a few pinches of Curio Spice Company's Kozani Spice Blend. You'll be radiating a deep inner warmth in no time!

If you want to level up your textures, try crumbling some Jovial Sea Salt Einkorn Crackers over any of these soups. Or simmer in any number of the healing herbs from our bulk section for a delicious wellness boost. There are a million scrumptious ways to enjoy Five Ways broth! Come on into Cambridge Naturals and talk to any of our brilliant and beautiful grocery staff for additional suggestions.

Beauty Uniform: Maura McGovern

By Mary, The Naturalist Contributor

The frenzy of October seemed to end just as quickly as it began, and November’s beginnings have left many of us feeling somber and exhausted in a way we didn’t think possible. It seems now, more than ever, we need a reminder of self care. Years ago, when I frequented yoga workshops, my teacher shared a valuable lesson that remains universal. She taught me that neglecting to care for ourselves will only allow us to give to others from an empty place. When we need to unite and hold each other up, we must be able to give fully and honestly so our energy is doubled, not depleted.

I noticed Maura McGovern shortly after I began working at Cambridge Naturals during one of her weekly shopping trips. Her glowing skin, calm demeanor, and shining brown hair covered by that signature hat were proof enough that she was someone I could learn a thing or two from. Everyone else seemed to know Maura and enjoy her company and inviting conversation. I was eager to learn more about who she was and she did to emanate such confidence in her own beauty and knowledge. Read on for an interview with Maura to learn about her life, her work, and her self care rituals.

All photos courtesy of Maura McGovern. Follow her on Instagram at: @mauramcgovern

When did you first become interested in natural beauty and self care?

Natural beauty is part of my daily self-care practice; a practice that’s rooted in family lessons, and a reverence for bath time. I was born with gills. 

Soaking in the tub is great way to honor the body in its most natural and beautiful state. There are definitely times when I don’t appreciate the way my body looks, but a good soak — even on those less than beautiful days — always feels like comfort food.

Along those lines, self-care is (or at least it should be) a recognized food group. The body craves this kind of nourishment; it send clues when too many hours or days pass without proper care. When I ignore signs to take better care of myself, my body demands a Full Stop in the form of Depression. Depression, for me, is rooted in regret. Wishing things happened differently then, so I can feel better now. 

Self-care is a return to Now; it’s a homecoming. Because when I focus on the breath; when I consume foods or use products prepared close the earth; when I soak my feet in a basin filled with salty water; when I fill a roasting pan with local root vegetables — I know what Now feels like. It feels good and honest. Self-care is about showing up and believing, instead of saying I don’t have time (for myself).

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
— Pema Chödrön

Before moving on to the next question, I would love to share a few family lessons collected during my growing up years.

I was a quiet and curious child; constantly experimenting in the kitchen, and taking note of how others moved through their lives. This is how I learned. Observation —  instead of running up and down a field — was my preferred sport. The guidance to trust a slower pace came from my Nana (Helen), my mother, my father. Their lessons were rooted in all things whole and wholesome.

Helen (pictured above) was a bright lipstick all the time kind of woman. That was her daily beauty indulgence. Her favorite color clothing was red, which she reserved for special occasions. Even if sad, it was certainly a special occasion to deliver her eulogy while wearing red in her honor. But no lipstick for me because I am not that kind of woman. We’re all similar but not the same. 

Helen and my mother showed me that beauty can be simple. It took a few decades to embrace my love for simple, instead of chasing Shoulds (should wear red lipstick, should wear heels). My father always encouraged me to do things differently. They all showed me that posture and attitude matter; stand tall and have Faith.

I see you every day wanting to be beautiful to impress others. Be beautiful to impress yourself.
— Yogi Bhajan

My first paying job included pulling weeds from Helen’s garden, kneading dough for handmade tortellini, and perfecting the art of brownie-making without a measuring cup. She taught me to work (with) the land, to lean in when things get stuck (in pasta maker), and to trust my hands to say a little more or that’s enough.

Every night after supper my mother would retreat to the bathroom to wash before bedtime. She was a Clinique 3-step devotee and I was often the lucky recipient of the gift with purchase. Such magic in those small zip pouches. Her approach to her evening routine was methodical and her bare face was beautiful to me; it was simple. This routine was her version of self-care and now a legacy shared between us.

When it came to mealtime, my father insisted on things like brown rice and lentil stew. Nothing refined or processed was allowed. His approach was considered progressive because when he became a father, he was only 19 years old; a child himself. I often complained about his choices because all I wanted was a package of Oreos instead of fruit leather (gross). This is laughable now because I visit three farmers markets every week.

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

My skincare routine is mostly simple and enjoyable; it shifts weekly and seasonally depending on hormones and weather. Below is an ideal day, but I don’t get overly excited about missing some of the steps and sometimes I add a few more. The only rule is No Rules.


When lived slowly, the morning hours are my favorite. Since I live on the top floor with a mostly sky view, I like to watch the sunrise. It’s such a good feeling to witness the new day waking up. It’s faith in action.

And I thought how the sun blazes for everyone just so joyfully as it rises under the lashes of my own eyes.
— Mary Oliver

The first thing I reach for is a bottle of Evan Healy HydroSoul* — the smell is such a sweet beginning. After a few sprays, while standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to warm, I move through a tapping ritual to get the energy flowing. It’s a self-created hybrid of Qi Gong Tapping and Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine. I also love jade rolling!

For whatever reason, on its own, I don’t enjoy drinking water. But I crave mineral-rich teas, especially Just Herbals Women’s Blend*. Taking various tinctures diluted in a few ounces of water is a swear-by part of the morning. A few favorites: Herbal Moonshine Bitters* before breakfast, Gaia Nettle Leaf* for grounding throughout the day, Good Mood feels for Fall/Winter, and I’m wild about Host Defense extracts*. Because mushrooms; so smart. 

This next step doesn’t happen daily; however, on overly anxious mornings, sesame oil-pulling is a mood-changer, among other things.

What happens daily without fail is this: a run or a walk to a park for morning prayer aka yoga shapes. Sure, I love the glow of flushed cheeks. But more than that, the lymphatic system needs to be moved. The lymphatic system is tasked with removing toxins and waste from the body; unlike blood, the lymphatic system does not have a built-in pump. So, by moving our bodies, we help to remove unwanted matter. A two-for-one: radiant skin and a cleaner body. Yes, please.

Save for the shower water, I don’t wash my face in the morning. Post shower, I massage a few drops Evan Healy Blue Cactus Elixir* into my face. Once the elixir is absorbed, it’s all about Mother Dirt from head to toe. Mother Dirt has changed the texture and tone of my skin for the better and an added bonus, I stopped using deodorant. Do you know about Mother Dirt? The AO+ mist* will convince you Rethink Clean, as they say.

My nighttime routine is similar but not the same as the morning; in addition to tea and tinctures, it’s the time of day for cleansing and sometimes a mask or a foot soak. I am totally hooked on Marie Veronique Replenishing Oil Cleanser and and once a week I use May Lindstrom Clean Dirt or a homemade mask. The mask is often a spoonful of honey mixed with chlorella and rose essential oil. A friend recently gifted me a sample of Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Serum — wow, baby soft skin. But when I make time for a guided meditation with Tara Brach, it’s definitely a good night. Tara’s Living Presence with Body Scan is definitely a loyal companion.

Do you wear makeup?

I really love the idea of makeup, especially blush, but when it comes down to it, my routine is simple and applied in a barely-there kind of way. Friends and acquaintances often ask: Do you wear makeup? Sometimes it sounds like a compliment but sometimes I wonder, wait, was that a suggestion?!

My entire collection of makeup fits inside of a small canvas zip pouch: RMS “un” cover-up truly does cover-up night owl tendencies, w3ll Narcissist Foundation Stick because the cult following is on to something, Tata Harper Lip & Cheek Tint is cheerful and easy to apply, Mineral Fusion Blush doubles as a cheek color and bronzer, Tarte Eyeliner is foolproof thank goodness, Hurraw SPF 15 Sun* and Moon balms* are also stashed in every coat pocket, and Plant Makeup Unicorn Balm because when all else fails — unicorns.

How do you typically style your hair?

A secret to most, my hair is thick and curly but I prefer to wear it straight so I straighten it with a wooden paddle brush, a hearty squeeze of Living Proof Nourish Cream, and a hair dryer. It’s a morning meditation of sorts. 

During the workweek, I like to get my entire head wet in the shower; it’s the official wake-up call. I don’t use shampoo daily but I always use conditioner. For both, I like John Masters* and recently Josh Rosebrook* (the hair mask especially, wow). A few times a month I massage homemade nettle infused oil into my scalp, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. 

How do your self care and beauty rituals change while traveling?

Not much, actually. Thankfully most of my favorite products are packaged in small glass containers and I try remember to blend a single serving mask with raw honey or chickpea flour as the base. As much as I love to travel and take photos, it’s often overstimulating in a way that’s not so beautiful. Slowing down at the end of the day with a cup of tea and a mask feels like home.

What has inspired or continues to inspire your beauty uniform?

I am inspired by the spirited women in my life, walking everywhere because I don’t have a car, sitting in sunny spots while watching passersby, but most of all — the intelligence of the land. The land offers everything we need to take care of our bodies. I can imagine, it only asks or hopes that we listen for the clues, follow our instincts, and tread lightly. 

Plants know how to make food and medicine from light and water, and then they give it away.
— Braiding Sweetgrass

What are your top three Cambridge Naturals products?

Even though I cheated by adding an asterisk* next to all products found on the shelves at Cambridge Naturals, it’s worth noting three more just in case you’re hungry: Full Moon Ghee* because it’s pure gold on everything these days — especially Dan’s Brick Oven Bread.* Pro tip: grab a fresh loaf on Saturday mornings because it always sells out. And then wash it down with tea made with Mountain Valley Spring Water; it tastes better, no contest.

But it’s not just the products, it’s the staff and the shoppers. The community is a nourishing one. Some days I move through life as quietly as possible. This is definitely a version of self-care. Some days it’s comforting to have a place to go to talk about products and self-care practices. I’ve been shopping at Cambridge Naturals for 17 years. A home away from home.

To follow Maura on Instagram: @mauramcgovern

Put yourself in the way of beauty.
— Cheryl Strayed

Our letters to our staff, and a reaffirmation of our Core Values

As the results of the election were solidified early Wednesday morning, our thoughts as business owners and employers were especially with our staff and our local community. Our hearts ached thinking about the impact of the language used in the campaign and the likely policy changes will have on our diverse community, and the health and wellness of our planet.

Here’s are the notes we wrote to our staff, from two generations of owners:

From Emily & Caleb:

Many of you may be feeling as Caleb and I are feeling tonight. Disillusioned, fearful for the future... frankly, in disbelief. Whatever the final outcome, this election has brought to light a lot of painful truths about our country and how we understand each other as citizens and humans.

We don't know what the next days, weeks, months and years will bring. One thing that's giving us both hope right now is the work we're doing every day, along with you all. This small business that my parents started, over 42 years ago, is a beacon of hope and a microcosm of possibility for a better world.

One of our deeply held core values is to treat each other, and all of our stakeholders, with "dignity, respect, and appreciation." Now, maybe more than ever, that seems so critically important.

On behalf of the entire ownership team, thank you for working alongside us.

We're truly looking forward to seeing your faces tomorrow.

In gratitude,
Emily + Caleb

From Michael & Elizabeth:

Yes, echoing Emily's words!  I won't sugar coat the situation (even with organic, fair trade coconut sugar produced in a locally owned, solar powered women led factory). These are trying times. One of the advantages of getting older is experiencing and surviving many such times.

In mine and Elizabeth's minds, our shared goal is not just to survive but to thrive. Perhaps more important it is, as Emily said, to be a beacon and an oasis for others who are dealing with the same (or worse) challenges.

I am at the airport heading off to Denver for an Independent Natural Foods Retailers Association (INFRA) board meeting.  I can't say we slept much last night and we were both half hoping the meeting would get cancelled.  And yet, INFRA represents some of the best aspects and people of the organic and natural products industry.  As such we are important examples of businesses who are about much more than the "bottom line" and in fact keep striving to move the argument for organic and biodynamic, legitimate fair trade, ethical business practices and support and participation in community that much further.

On that aspect we will not waver!  And there are literally many, many millions of people and thousands of businesses and organizations like ours striving towards a healthier and more fair society. We will not be intimidated or stopped by any election or really by anything.

I really wish I was staying back and could have some "side discussions" with any and all of you and I'm envious that Elizabeth gets to be there.  And yet, I know I am speaking for both of us (and Emily and Caleb) to say how grateful and appreciative we are of our strong, dynamic and kind-hearted staff and how together we will carry on with conviction, dignity and yes, sincere optimism.

--Michael and Elizabeth

When thinking about what to write and how to write it, we immediately referred back to our core values. Our core values guide everything we do as a business. They allow us to serve our customers and our community, work alongside one another, and conduct business in a way that we believe is making the world a more just, equitable, and healthy place to live. They ensure that we’re on the path to actualizing our mission in the world. They are what make us, uniquely us. And, they make us extremely proud.

These eight values have guided us for over 42 years and we think that it’s the perfect time to share them with all of you, our community, so you know what we stand for and strive for.

Treat our customers, suppliers, delivery people, and each other with dignity, respect, and appreciation.

Make every person’s experience as meaningful and enjoyable as we would wish ours to be.

Seek out and research the finest products available.

Promote values of doing business ethically and grow in thoughtful and principled ways.

Strive to build a more fair, equitable, and kinder world and be a resource for health and happiness, both locally and globally.

Earn an honest profit and pay honest wages based on our success individually and collectively.

Keep our business beautiful, sparkling, clean, and organized at all times so that our our customers feel peaceful and energized in their experience.

Work hard, have fun, encourage laughter.


The Tree of Spice: Cinnamon

By Steph Zabel
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator

For many people, cinnamon evokes thoughts of the holiday season, of tasty desserts and of cozy kitchen aromas. And rightly so, for it is such a common and comforting culinary spice.

Despite being a staple of kitchens throughout the world, cinnamon is very much a plant of the tropics. True cinnamon is a small, evergreen tree that is originally native to Sri Lanka. The aromatic bark is the part that is harvested for use in food and herbal preparations. For ages it has been a highly regarded and often mysterious spice… The Greeks used it to flavor their wine and the ancient Egyptians used it in exotic blends for incense to perfume the air.

By Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen via Wikipedia

By Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen via Wikipedia

There is often some confusion surrounding the different types of cinnamon, since there are actually several species of trees which are sold on the market. True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, (also called Ceylon cinnamon) is grown in Sri Lanka. There is also Cinnamomum cassia, Chinese cinnamon or cassia, which tends to be more commonly sold in powdered form in the United States. To me, cassia cinnamon has a bolder, spicier taste to it, and true cinnamon is lighter and sweeter. Try both kinds to see which one you prefer.

The first time I ever had cinnamon as a tea — yes, it can be drunk as a tea! — I was on a very small island in the Caribbean. The local people there drink cinnamon for upset stomach and digestive issues. I remember feeling so surprised by the tea — how immediately delicious and sweet and warming it was. It was one of the best things I had tasted!

Several herbal traditions around the world also use cinnamon for digestion as it stimulates and supports weak or stagnant digestive organs. It can be especially useful for nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

By L. Shyamal via Wikipedia

By L. Shyamal via Wikipedia

I like to think of cinnamon as a more gentle substitute to ginger. We all know how spicy and warming ginger is, and all the great benefits it has for the digestive system… however, for some people dried ginger is just too hot. If you’re like me and ginger root makes you sweat and feel uncomfortable, you probably already have a warm constitution and don’t need something so strong. Try cinnamon bark instead.

Given the inherent warming properties of cinnamon, it has traditionally been used for “cold” conditions such as a weak digestion, cold extremities or poor circulation. It may also be quite helpful for reducing the uncomfortable symptoms of Reynaud's Syndrome. In women, it can be helpful in improving blood flow to the pelvic region, especially in cases of amenorrhea or fibroids.

Cinnamon also seems to play a role in regulating blood sugar and is often recommended for people with diabetes as it can improve insulin utilization. How interesting, then, that it is such a traditional ingredient in sweet, sugar-filled desserts around the world!

Finally, the bark of this wonderful tree possesses anti-inflammatory properties; as such it may help inhibit allergic reactions by reducing the histamine response caused by seasonal or environmental allergies. Blend a bit of cinnamon bark with nettles to help combat a dripping nose or itchy eyes during allergy season.


➤ To make a tea use up to 1 tablespoon of the dried bark per 2 cups of water. Let simmer for 20 minutes in a small saucepan on low heat. Then strain out the bark. You can use whole cinnamon sticks (crushed) or cinnamon chips.

➤ Use cinnamon bark as a more mild substitute for ginger in teas/chai blends if dried ginger is too warming and stimulating.

➤ Sprinkle powdered cinnamon on top of beverages, warmed milk, or desserts.

Note: It is believed that Cassia cinnamon — which is high in natural coumarins — can be damaging to the liver when used in large quantities over time, especially in sensitive individuals. If you use cassia cinnamon, use only in moderate does. Or, choose to use true cinnamon instead which does not contain the high level of coumarins that cassia does.

Photo by Steph Zabel

Photo by Steph Zabel


Here are a few fun cold-weather, holiday recipes below. One is for a cinnamon and apple cordial that will help you stay toasty warm in the winter months, and the other is one of my favorite recipes of all-time, my root chai blend. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Apple Cordial

  • 6 cups tart, local apples, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup raw honey (or more to taste)
  • 2 large cinnamon sticks, crushed
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod, sliced in half
  • brandy to cover

Combine all ingredients in a large glass jar. Shake often to help the honey dissolve. Let infuse for 4-6 weeks then strain through a cheesecloth and store in a clean, dark colored bottle.

Steph’s Root Chai Blend

  • 6 cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorn
  • 1-2 tsp. dried ginger root
  • 1 tsp. dried orange peel
  • 1/2 Tblsp. cinnamon bark (sweet or cassia)
  • 1 Tblsp. burdock root
  • 1 Tblsp. roasted dandelion root (roasted will yield a deeper, darker flavor)
  • 1 Tblsp. roasted chicory root
  • 1 Tblsp. astragalus root

First, grind together the cloves, cardamom and peppercorn in a mortar and pestle. This will help their flavor be dispersed throughout the whole tea. Combine these crushed pieces with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Store in a tightly capped glass jar. This will make about 5-6 servings of tea. 

To brew the tea, add up to 1 Tblsp. of the chai blend per two cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring everything to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer covered at for least 20 minutes. Just be sure to keep an eye on the water level and don't let it evaporate too much. When it is as dark and spicy tasting as you would like, strain out the roots and add milk and honey to taste.

University of Maryland Gazette
Herb Wisdom
Acupuncture Brooklyn  

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: and

*The next Herbstalk event is the Wintergreen Herbal Market taking place on November 26th at the Armory in Somerville! More details can be found here!

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.