rituals

Ritual: Take a deep breath this holiday season

By Heather, Lifestyle Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

I have come to understand that breath is one our most powerful tools - to soothe, to decompress, to process, to shift. When my full capacity to breathe is deeply compromised, I feel disarmed; my musical career and my role here at the store (great customer service means lots of conversations!) both depend on my lungs being in tip-top shape.

Below is a tea blend, a playlist to listen to while sipping, and a simple ritual to support the hard work your lungs do every day. Many of the herbs in this blend are gently sedating or relaxing, making this a great tea to drink before bed, especially if you find that a cough is keeping you awake at night.

 

Deep Breath Tea Blend

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  • Mullein - an expectorant with an affinity for the upper respiratory system

  • Thyme - Agatha Noveille, Associate Educator at the Herbal Academy writes, thyme “...is useful for acute or chronic respiratory problems including coughs and bronchitis.” Thyme is also a nervine (an herb that aids the nervous system) and has a warming effect.

  • Honey Gardens’ Wild Cherry Bark Honey Syrup - a wonderful, tasty blend of several different herbs that are supportive of respiratory health. The blend includes:

    • Wild Cherry Bark - a bronchodilator (an herb that assists in widening of the bronchi, which opens the airways of the lungs) that can help ease the cough reflex, calm irritation, and assist in healing of the respiratory system. Because it is naturally astringent, it assists the body in drying out mucus.

    • Elecampagne - an expectorant traditionally used to combat coughs, chest mucus, and phlegm

    • Raw honey - besides being delicious, honey is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiseptic (preventing growth of harmful microorganisms)

Mix equal parts of each herb (I estimate about 2-3 teaspoons of dried leaf per 8 oz of hot water), cover and steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain the herbs and add the Wild Cherry Bark Honey Syrup, stirring to combine, and enjoy your elixir!

 

Ritual: Burning Frankincense Resin

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Steph Zabel, MSc, local herbalist and botanical educator explains the magic of frankincense: “The astringent action of this plant can also help eliminate phlegm and congestion in the lungs. For mucous-y situations that seem to hang around in the respiratory system or sinuses, try frankincense as it will not only help to dry up mucous but will also act as an anti-inflammatory in the nasal passages, making breathing easier.” You can find frankincense resin in our bulk section!

References:

http://www.flowerfolkherbs.com/blog

https://www.mountainroseherbs.com

https://theherbalacademy.com

 

CN Late Autumn TEA Ritual Playlist

 

This blog series — Rituals — 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.

Ritual: Tea, Breath, and Song for the Autumn Transition

By Heather, CN Lifestyle Buyer + The Naturalist Contributor

As late September ushers in the Autumn season, our bodies’ ancestral instincts kick into gear, slowing us down as we prepare for colder months. Paradoxically, our schedules speed up: school beginning, work goals and projects, change-of-season shifts, different routines... in my experience, it can feel overwhelming to have such opposing actions occurring in our internal and external environments. The answer? Tea. When in doubt, always begin with tea.

I have learned that for my personal well-being, I need to make sure I have time to slow down in the face of the momentum and frenzy. Whether it be at the beginning or the end of the day (or better yet, both!), I find that taking even just 5 minutes to breathe, drink tea, and have my own little ritual is monumentally helpful for my peace of mind.

Below I have listed a tea to sip, a simple calming ritual, and a Cambridge Naturals Autumn Tea Ritual playlist. If you can, take an hour to yourself to brew this tea, sit and sip, and enjoy the relaxing music. Focus on letting go of the daily and global stressors that surround us all and build up in our bodies. This blend is naturally cooling, and put together with the aim to aid in relief of physical tension. I find it to helpful to sip during my busy day when I crave quiet moments. It can be put on ice or kept hot; a delicious, nutritive drink no matter what temperature fluctuations that September’s transitional weather brings.

Tea blend:

  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) - an adaptogen supportive for the body's response to stress
  • Lemon Balm - uplifting and aromatic
  • Milky Oat Tops - nourishing and trophorestorative (aid nervous tissue function and vitality)
  • Skullcap - comforting and tension-relieving
  • Red Raspberry Leaf - Steph Zabel, MSc, local herbalist and botanical educator says: "Beyond being a gentle, nourishing herb raspberry has been used for centuries to support respiratory, digestive and reproductive health. In Ayurvedic medicine raspberry leaves are considered to be a cooling herb that is good for reducing heat and inflammation in the body, especially throughout the digestive tract.”
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Equal parts of each herb, but follow your intuition - if one herb feels particularly helpful or smells wonderful to you, add more of it!

Short steep: Steep 2-3 teaspoons of dried leaf per cup of hot water for 10-20 minutes.

Long steep: To make a more nutritive infusion with a high content of minerals, steep 4 tablespoons dried herb in a quart of hot water for 6 to 8 hours.

Note: If you’re crunched for time, you can always put water on to boil as soon as you get home so that it is ready for you by the time you settle in and pick your herbs!

Ritual:

Nadi Shodhan pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Here is an approachable video for this technique, taught by Adriene Louise, curator of the wonderful Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. Adriene says, “This breath technique has so many benefits! It is a great way to calm the nervous system and relieve tension and anxiety. It is great for concentration, cleansing, and is a fantastic headache cure!”

CN Autumn Tea Ritual Playlist:

 
 

This blog series — Ritual — is for general health information only. This website 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.

Monthly Muse: Evan Healy

By Emily, CN Second Generation Co-Owner

When I first came back into the business three years ago, my focus at the store was our body care section. There was a big learning curve with understanding the intricacies of buying: getting to know each brand's particular ethos and story, how to order the products, and how to communicate the value of each individual line to our customers. One of the first brands I worked with was evanhealy, a line we'd carried for over a decade. I was fairly familiar with the products, but I didn't know that much about their back story, the ingredients, and what truly sets evanhealy skin care apart.

Evan and her husband David launched their skin care company in 1999. Evan had been a natural skin care aesthetician for over 10 years, and had studied Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy and aromatherapy in the US, Europe and India. She brought core tenants of these philosophies into her new skin care brand - as well as her own unwavering passion for authentic beauty and truth. What makes the evanhealy line so special is not just that their ingredients are impeccably sourced - they build deep relationships with women's cooperatives and small family farms around the world to ethically source the majority of their high quality, organic ingredients - but also that their plant-based products are formulated to highlight and embrace your skin. Rather than correcting "problems" or "challenges", Evan's products heal and harmonize with your skin's natural beauty. On every one of their shipping boxes is a sticker with the message "Who you are is enough." Using Evan's products feels like taking a deep breath of fresh air, drawn down into your belly, and exhaled slowly. The mixing of oil, water (and sometimes clay) is one of my absolute favorite daily rituals now.

We were lucky to learn more about Evan's own rituals, her quest for authenticity, and her passion for running evanhealy alongside David and their wonderful team. Read on for our interview:

All photos courtesy of Evan Healy.

Evan in a field of Sacred Tulsi in Trivandrum, India, 2009. Photo by Niika Quistgard.

Evan in a field of Sacred Tulsi in Trivandrum, India, 2009. Photo by Niika Quistgard.

Partnerships are very important to the evanhealy brand - when you source an ingredient like organic shea butter or fair trade argan oil, you're working closely with the communities that grow and harvest the raw material and you support their livelihood in deep ways. Can you tell us a little bit about why these relationships matter to you and to the company, and one particular partnership story that inspires your work?

Evan: Partnerships are the foundation of our business. Our relationships are what matter most. I prefer to deal with people I know and have met. We are very fortunate in our business that we work with families and folks devoted to the shared values of hand made and artisan, organic and holistic. We source from all over the global garden. We also value the profound knowledge of indigenous cultures. Traditional cultures and their regional remedies are often overlooked sources of wisdom. Traditional cultural remedies represent many generations of experience and knowledge of the natural world. This ancient knowledge is imbued with both simplicity and meaning, and I love learning about their historical context. I enjoy connecting with women who know the deep truths of the land on which they live. They exhibit such a generosity of spirit when they share their knowledge of their ancestors. This is true whether it’s the women of Kperisi in Ghana or the Berber Amazigh women of Tiznit, in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. These women radiate the power, integrity and well-being of Place.

Meeting Urias in Mexico, 2007 - maker of evanhealy's clay bowls for the Clay Mask Kit. His sons and grandsons now work with him.

Meeting Urias in Mexico, 2007 - maker of evanhealy's clay bowls for the Clay Mask Kit. His sons and grandsons now work with him.

What does a typical day in the world of evanhealy skin care look like? What are your favorite daily aspects about what you do for a living?

I’m a creative person. I like variety. I don’t like to get up and do the same thing everyday. I'm not a nine-to-five person. I follow my energy cycles. In the morning I like to go outside almost immediately.

I do enjoy getting in to the office and talking to people. I enjoy their energy. More than anything else I appreciate the opportunity to exercise my creativity. I am our company’s Creative Director, so I am always scanning the horizon for new ideas, partnerships, products. Ultimately, it is the natural world from which I draw the most inspiration and value. In all settings, I work best in the moment, and often better alone. Those moments can often stretch out for months, or years! I like to take something that I’ve been tinkering with and give it life, take it to the next level. This takes time, and conversely, the process is also rather spontaneous. For me working with our nutritive oils, our various infused oils, nut and seed butters, sun dried clays, emulsions and hydrosols is an almost meditative experience. It deepens the connection to what I feel is best about myself. It both grounds me and expands me. I have been very fortunate in my life’s work.

I find the way ‘beauty’ is portrayed in the mainstream media rather shallow, and too perfectionistic. I have learned that, pared down to its essence, beauty lies in the cracks and crevices of our lives every minute of every day.

I love collaborating with our design and media team. I get inspiration from all avenues: photography, food and home-style blogs. I love picking up the camera myself. With or without a camera, I am constantly framing what I see, recording it, or making a mental note. I look for harmony, magical light and natural, unfussy beauty. I find it no matter where I am: in my backyard, on a trail, in a remote village, on the street, and of course, in the faces I see. During the years I spent in my skin care practice, I learned the valuable lesson of looking, observing and watching. All three of these actions convey the need to both soften the vision - while sharpening the focus. Attention to detail has always been my specialty!

Evan doing a summertime facial. 2016.

Evan doing a summertime facial. 2016.

Skin is constantly changing and evolving, reflecting thoughts and emotions, I find that fascinating. I am constantly looking to communicate a more authentic expression of beauty, in both word and image. I find the way ‘beauty’ is portrayed in the mainstream media rather shallow, and too perfectionistic. I have learned that, pared down to its essence, beauty lies in the cracks and crevices of our lives every minute of every day. The challenge these days is to slow down long enough to look and really see what’s there. When done right, it becomes a meditation. I love the idea that natural beauty is transitory and messy. Nature is not perfect, but it is enlightened. We place too high a value on perfection, and our nervous systems can’t handle this constant striving for perfection. All things are impermanent. The inherent lesson of our life is: learn to let go! Take a nap. Go for a walk. Take time to relax. Your adrenals will thank you. Expressed by the relative simplicity of our product range, we want to raise the conversation from one of a hyper focus on 'anti-aging' - to the appreciation of imperfection. The deeper truth behind our message is the fact that - who you are is enough.

Evan & David

Evan & David

You and your husband David work closely together to run evanhealy. As a (multi-generational) family-owned business ourselves, we'd love to learn how you balance the demands (and joys) of work life with your family life.

Oh yes! I struggle with balance every day. However, at this point, David and I have been collaborating for most of our twenty years together. It’s pretty seamless, it’s always rewarding, but yes, it’s not always easy. We like to remind each other of that analogy about stones in a tumbler, softening each other’s sharp edges. We’re pretty comfortable together, and with our business. It’s our life. It’s our child. And we are perfectly suited to it. We each exhibit the complimentary, but polar opposite of the other’s talent and skill. He’s organized and financial. I’m artistic and spontaneous. He works on Excel spread sheets. I scribble on thousands of post-its. We have taken the Yin and Yang thing to a whole new level. We have boundaries – day and night, work week and weekend – but they’re not strict. Neither of us are that good with boundaries. Ultimately, he is my most important relationship.

The never-ending barrage of internet ‘noise’ is so disruptive to our delicately balanced nervous system. It impedes access to the inner quiet life of our true self. To counter this we say: Slow down. Simplify.

Your products have a devoted following among our staff and customers - and not just because they are well-formulated and made with beautiful ingredients, but because they inspire a deeper sense of self-care. The word "ritual" always comes to mind: The daily ritual of slowing down, taking time for your skin, and therefore yourself. What are some of your favorite self-care rituals?

Evan:  Yes, I love the word ritual as it pertains to care of the skin. I like to ease into my morning. I get up and immediately go outside with bare feet on the grass, stretching or yoga, with a cup of hot lemon water, tea or coffee. I’m an introvert, so being quiet is my touchstone. I can only regenerate when I am alone and early morning is my time. I go from a sleep state to a slow, calm, natural state via our backyard. By standing under our ancient apple tree, I go within. And while I don’t mind getting up early, I don’t like to have to be somewhere, or for that matter, leave my house at all. I prefer to glide slowly into my day. As I get older, I notice my rhythms change. The stability of daily rituals matter more. They become deeper, slower and more infused with meaning.

A shell Evan uses for scooping clay, found on the beach of her childhood summer home in Scituate, MA, a place she feels a deep connection to. Her hands are also one of the main ways she connects with the world around her - both as an esthetician and as a healer.

A shell Evan uses for scooping clay, found on the beach of her childhood summer home in Scituate, MA, a place she feels a deep connection to. Her hands are also one of the main ways she connects with the world around her - both as an esthetician and as a healer.

Out of necessity, I’m driven to find what calms and relaxes me. I struggle, frankly, to get away from the internet. I do a lot of the writing, planning, and I find inspiration by scanning social media, but I don’t find it healthy to know what’s going on every minute of every day! You certainly don’t need to know I’ve just flossed my teeth, boiled an egg or blinked my eyes, for instance. A distortion of our natural rhythms results in an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system and all its attendant symptoms, such as higher cortisol. Adrenal depletion can often been seen in the area around the eyes. The never-ending barrage of internet ‘noise’ is so disruptive to our delicately balanced nervous system. It impedes access to the inner quiet life of our true self. To counter this we say: Slow down. Simplify.

I use our copper distilled plant Hydrosols and Facial Serums as remedies, not just for the skin but also to send a message to my spirit. Healers have to remain grounded in nature. It’s what connects us to our own inner physician. I love saturating my face with our Hydrosols, followed by massaging a few droplets of our Oil Serum (Blue Cactus Beauty Elixir is my idea of heaven these days!) into my skin. I use our Whipped Shea Butter, made with our own infused oils, to cure any and all skin ills.

Copper stills used in making the evanhealy Hydrosouls

Copper stills used in making the evanhealy Hydrosouls

The world has seemingly become more chaotic and our political scene ever more divisive. What people, books, media, or movements are inspiring you to keep going these days?

In my earlier years, and out of a need for answers, I spent years reading classics, philosophy and books about eastern religion. Books that encouraged my flights of imagination were often about women explorers such as Alexandra David-Neel, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark. I was looking for answers to the age-old question of how do I live an authentic life? And for that matter, what is an authentic life? I was truly on a journey of self-discovery. My path took me to mystics and teachers like Joseph Campbell and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. My list of teachers and mentors is long and varied! There are so many sources of inspiration, and the search is always a deeply personal one.

Stepping outdoors for an afternoon walk in Big Sur.

Stepping outdoors for an afternoon walk in Big Sur.

These days, I am inspired by topics and books such as Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan. I loved the book In Praise of Shadows, by author Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. I have read and reread Leonard Koren’s books: Wabi Sabi – Further Thoughts, and his earlier book, Wabi Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.

The books on Wabi Sabi share the profound and ultimate wisdom of finding true beauty in imperfection. Embracing the cycles and profundity of nature. It’s a beauty that is simple, slow and uncluttered. This is what makes the most sense to me.

Learning From Plants Directly

By Steph Zabel,
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator

In this spring season the plants are quietly emerging and greenness is returning to the land. Perhaps you’ve spotted the violets popping up around town. Soon we will have an abundance of these indigo gems sprouting up... Hopefully you will take the time to pluck a few to adorn your spring salads, or to place in a small vase in your home.

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Now in early May, we may feel our restless hearts yearning for full-on warm weather and all of the blossoms it brings. We notice that things are changing very quickly and every day something new is emerging from the ground. So I send out this reminder: pay attention to the trees and weeds and bulbs that are sprouting at this very moment. You can learn so much from their growth and unfolding.

Perhaps this is a new idea for you -- Did you know that you can learn from plants directly, without a mediator (i.e. a teacher/herbalist) in the middle? You can! And it is likely much more simple than you ever expected.

In my practice I believe it is so important to taste, smell, observe and interact with herbs in order to more fully connect with them.

In honor of Spring's arrival, here are a few of my favorite ways to get to know plants one-on-one:

  • Observe. Consciously pay attention to the plant life that grows everywhere. Choose one plant -- you just need one -- that you will become deeply acquainted with, whether it's a tree, shrub, herb or weed that you pass in your daily routine. Notice what the plant looks like every day and how it changes throughout the year. Notice as it leafs out, opens it flowers, and creates seeds. Notice how it dies or goes dormant in the winter, and if it comes back the following spring. This is a slow practice that takes patience but it will give you so much insight into the growing patterns of your chosen plant.   
  • Be still and sip. Consciously sit with a cup of tea (made of one herb), and approach it as a sort of meditation. Appreciate and take in the color, scent, flavor and viscosity of the tea. Notice every single little detail. See how you feel about it, noticing its effects on your physical body and your emotions. After practicing with single herbs like this you may be surprised to discover you know exactly which herb will suit you best in the moment, and what herb to choose when you are unwell.
  • Use your imagination. Take a piece of paper and some colored pencils or pens. Go sit outside next to a plant that catches your attention. Start doodling as you look at the plant, just letting your pencil flow and not trying to draw the plant exactly as it looks. Add in colors. Be free and messy. Soften your gaze and allow yourself to play as your draw the plant. Pay attention to your intuitions about the plant; let your imagination use it as a starting point and see what artful expressions you create. What do these expressions tell you about the plant? What do they tell you about your relationship to the plant?

I encourage you to try out these simple methods. In my practice I believe it is so important to taste, smell, observe and interact with herbs in order to more fully connect with them. You can gain so much from these simple exercises.

If you would like more guidance in connecting with plants and learning how to use herbs in your daily life, perhaps you'd like to join me in one of my upcoming Herbs for Everyday Living series...

Warmest Spring wishes to you!


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.