contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.


Pittsburgh, PA
US

412-889-9746

Una Biologicals is an independent company proud to bring you Organic Beauty & Wellness products. All of our products are hand-crafted just for you.  

Because we believe that your body deserves the best that nature has to offer, we use only premium organic oils to nourish your skin and never include harsh chemicals, additives, or artificial fragrances.  Our goal is keep you Healthy & Gorgeous!

shutterstock_85769212.jpg

Health & Beauty Blog

This is where we can expand a little on the ideas of health & wellness.  All information is shared in the spirit of education and fun.  We hope you find a little inspiration, perhaps a new recipe, or even a new way of looking your day.  Thanks for spending a little time with an open mind.

~Namaste, Jessica

Herbal Update: Raspberry Leaf

Jessica Graves

Rubus idaeus (cultivated variety), R. strigosus (wild variety)

Ahhh. Is there anything better than eating fresh raspberries off the vine? However, there is more to this fine plant than just its fetching fruit. Did you know that raspberry leaf is also an amazing herb? Many people don’t realize that we can do so much more with this plant than simply trying not to prick our fingers while pilfering its fruit. In fact, the plant as whole has been used throughout history and across cultures for its superb tonic and nutritive qualities.

Raspberry Leaf is most often recognized as a pregnancy herb.  And though it is great for expecting and new mamas, its usefulness is far more wide reaching.  The leaves of the plant are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and iron as well as potassium and vitamins B, E, and C.  A tonic tea can be enjoyed by anyone in need of a vitamin boost, including men and children.  Raspberry also has a high concentration of tannins, resulting in its traditional use as a remedy for diarrhea.  Traditionally a tea of the leaves has also been used to reduce fevers and curb excessive bleeding.

As a woman’s herb, Raspberry Leaf is considered the safe and effective go-to tonic herb throughout life.  The leaf contains fragrine, an alkaloid which is responsible for the muscle-toning, uterine muscle to be exact, attributes of this little plant.  An adoptogenic herb, raspberry has the ability to act as both uterine relaxant and stimulant.  During pregnancy this creates a regulating action in the uterus - which is further enhanced by the overall uterine tone thanks to the fragrine.  The leaf is also said to help relieve morning sickness and promote the flow of breast milk.  Outside of pregnancy Raspberry’s toning quality is considered helpful both for in increasing fertility as well as assisting menopausal women.  An astringent herb, Raspberry Leaf is recommended for those with excessive menstruation and can be added to a tonic tea that helps to regulate women’s cycles.  And of course the high calcium levels are an asset for women as we age and work to maintain bone density.

You may have picked up on the fact that this herb is primarily enjoyed as tea.  It can be enjoyed on its own or blended with other useful and tasty herbs based on your personal needs.  At Una we use Raspberry Leaf as the base for our Mama Maintenance Tea and enhance it with peppermint, ginger, chamomile, and hibiscus.

The best way to enjoy this lovely herb, is to grow the plant yourself.  Raspberry plants grow wonderfully in the Northeast and require sun and decent soil. They prefer well drained soil as they are prone to root-rot otherwise.  If you have heavy clay, like most of western PA, you will need to add some serious organic matter to your soil.  Raspberries are generally started from shoots and should be planted early in the spring.  The plants will take a year or two to fully establish but of course you can still enjoy the fruits, and leaves, of your labor during that time.  Raspberries like water and do not like weeds (like most plants) so be sure to pay a bit of attention to them.  Naturally, you should also avoid chemical fertilizers and insecticides on your new plants, especially if you want to eat them!

Raspberry Leaf is considered safe and has no reported side effects.  Happy Planting and enjoy your tea!

**THIS INFORMATION IS SHARED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  UNA BIOLOGICALS DOES NOT DISTRUBUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING HEBRS!***

Ritual Smudging

Jessica Graves

Smudging, or the burning of sacred plants for purification, is practiced traditionally in cultures throughout the world. Plants are chosen based on their spiritual power and their ability to affect the energy of a person or space--whether to move, clear, purify, protect, or enhance.

It has been said that Spirits like the aroma of the burned herbs, thus evoking their presence in our lives. The smoke itself is believed to carry our prayers and intentions to a higher power. The scent may inspire memories within us, awaken quiet voices in our souls, and direct us on our paths. As a purification ritual, smudging is a powerful tool to move stagnant energy and create sacred space. The scent of some herbs enhances our psychic energy and intuition, and can be used to deepen meditation practices or dream states.

There are a number of plants that are used traditionally in smudging, and you can explore to find the ones that speak most clearly to you and your needs.

  • White Sage  II   Drives away negative energy and influences. Releases what is troubling the mind. Prepare for ceremonies and teachings. Useful for cleansing homes and sacred items.
  • Cedar   II   Purify space. Calls the attention of the Spirits as an offering and carries prayers upward. Guardian spirit that chases away negative energies.
  • Sweetgrass   II   Awakens gentleness and has a calming effect. Attracts positive energy. Known as the "Hair of Mother Earth". The three braids represent love, kindness, and honesty.
  • Juniper   II   Fortifies our spiritual will and expands consciousness. Release stagnant thought patterns of anger, frustration, irritability, and anxiety. Opens the heart chakra. Protective energy, and can break hexes and curses.
  • Palo Santo   II   Known as Holy Wood, this South and Central American tree is known for its mysticism.  The tree lives for up to 90 years, and then lies dead for at least 4 years, when it transforms and gains its sacred properties. Cleansing, grounding, enhances creativity. Relieves stress, eases emotional trauma, and raises vibrations in preparation for meditation. Can inspire a deep connection to the source of all being.

Other herbs can be added to smudges as well, such as mugwort, roses, calendula, sweet annie....really, whatever plant is speaking to you!

Fresh in the shop you'll find bundles of sage, cedar, juniper, and braids of sweetgrass, as well as uniquely handcrafted bundles (made right here!) of a combination of herbs. These beauties make great gifts for friends or family in need of a powerful energetic shift!

 

 

Fun in the Sun Picnic Recipes

Jessica Graves

It's hot, sunny, thunderstormy, and absolutely GORGEOUS in Pittsburgh right now. All I want to do is play in the sun-soaked woods, swim in whatever body of water I can find, and daydream in wildflower fields. Summer's got my brain on permanent vacation :-)

But, life & its responsibilities keeps us busy, and I find myself savoring those random moments of joyful peace in this vibrant green world. And what's a better way to fully enjoy the abundance of summer than with a fresh & yummy picnic? Here's a round-up of mouth-watering picnic recipes to share with your friends & family this holiday weekend. Cheers to sunshine, long days, and full bellies!

Herby Picnic Potato Salad with Kale, Apples, & Chickpeas

Recipe from Green Kitchen Stories

Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Bowl+Spoon by Sara & Hugh Forte. We usually make an extra large (almost double) batch of the vinaigrette because it’s so good. If your white wine vinegar is very sweet, you can add some lemon juice for extra zing.

2 pounds/1 kg small new potatoes

Coarse Herb Vinaigrette
3 tbsp pickled capers
2 spring onions or green onions
2 cups loosely packed herbs (a mix of chives, parsley, basil and top greens from the celery)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup cold pressed oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 apples, diced
3 celery stalks (save the top greens for the vinaigrette), finely diced
2 leaves kale, chard or spinach, chopped
1 can (14 oz/400 g) cooked chickpeas, rinsed

Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover them with water and bring the water to a boil. Boil for 12-15 minutes until they are cooked through but not falling apart – just until you can easily pierce a sharp knife through the center. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a food processor, blitz capers and their brine, onions, basil, parsley, chives, celery greens, vinegar, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper until you get a coarse vinaigrette. Quarter the potatoes and collect them in a larger mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the just-cooled potatoes and gently toss to coat. It will look like a lot of dressing, but the potatoes soak it up as they sit. Stir celery, apples, kale and chickpeas into the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Iced Herb Gazpacho

Recipe from Mother Earth Living

6 large tomatoes
• 4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
• 1/2 cucumber
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 2 scallions, chopped
• 3 sprigs basil leaves
• 3 sprigs cilantro leaves
• 3 sprigs parsley leaves
• Salt and pepper

1. In a food-processor bowl, roughly purée the tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, red pepper flakes, vinegar and oil. Add scallions and herbs, then pulse just until they’re chopped. (If you let the machine run, you’ll end up with a brownish mess.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. If possible, chill overnight before serving so the flavors can blend. Serves 4 to 6

Cold Brew Jamaica

Recipe from The Kitchn. Check the blog post linked in the recipe title for lots of great info and recipe tips!

Makes 1 quart

1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (about 1/2 ounce or 15 grams)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup simple syrup
Lime wedges (optional, for serving)

Place the hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a large jar or bowl. Add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours). Add simple syrup to taste. Strain out the solids and serve over ice with a squeeze of lime, if desired.

Store the brewed jamaica covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Citrus Pistachio Salad

Recipe from The Coast Kitchen

Ingredients:
Mixed citrus, sliced
Pea shoots
Pistachios, toasted
Nice olive oil
Sea salt

Lightly toast the pistachios and set aside to cool. Layer the citrus as a foundation and sprinkle with the pea shoots and pistachios. Finish with olive oil and sea salt. My suggestion is to make this salad right before you are going to serve it and eat it quickly so the pistachios don't get soggy! 

Feta & Fresh Herb Quick Bread

Recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini

Ingredients

  • A pat of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 150 grams (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 large organic eggs
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) plain unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) sheep's milk feta cheese (substitute goat cheese)
  • 1 bunch fresh herb leaves (flat-leaf parsley, basil, chervil, chives, mint, preferably a mix), about 20 grams or 1 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Butter a 24-by-12-cm (9-by-5-inch) loaf pan and sprinkle half the sesame seeds onto the bottom and sides, shaking the pan to coat.
  3. Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Don’t overmix the batter, it’s okay if a few lumps remain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface with a spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.
  7. Put into the oven to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the loaf is golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for a few minutes and run a knife around the pan to loosen. Unmold and transfer to a rack to cool.
  9. Cut in slices or cubes just before serving, slightly warm or at room temperature.

No-Bake Almond Butter Cream Bars

Recipe from One Green Planet

For the Crust:

  • 8 dates 3/4 cup oatmeal (80 grams), 1 TB agave (optional)
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (optional)

For the Filling:

  • 1 15-ounce can of coconut cream or 2 full-fat coconut milk cans, cream only
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 6 tablespoons almond butter or any nut butter (feel free to use more)

For the Topping:

  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preparation

  1. Process dates and oats in food processor until mixture is sticky. Add agave if mixture is a little dry.
  2. Press crust into small container. Put in the refrigerator.
  3. Blend filling up and pour over crust. Put in refrigerator overnight or freezer for a few hours.
  4. Once filling is solid slice into bars and top with melted chocolate chips. To melt chips microwave in short 15 second bursts until smooth. Store in the refrigerator or freezer, depending how soft your filling is.

Get Out and Explore: Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve

Jessica Graves

Sometimes you can live in a place for years and overlook some of the most beautiful gems. Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve is one of those places! This gorgeous nature reserve, cared for by the Audubon Society of Western PA, is well worth a visit one of these long, sun-soaked summer days.

Located in Dorseyville Road right out of Pittsburgh in Fox Chapel, Beechwood Farms has 5 miles of trails to explore within its 134 acres of land sanctuary. The trails are open all year round, from dawn to dusk! There is a hawk rehabilitation center on site, an eco-friendly educational building, and the Audubon Center for Native Plants, where you can buy native species and enjoy the garden full of beautiful PA plants.

We had a great visit out there yesterday, as Jessica was speaking to the Piccadilly Herb Club. (They have a gorgeous herb garden, by the way!) We CANNOT wait to get back there and wander the trails, check out the wildlife, and work on our native plant identification ;-) Be sure to add this to your Pittsburgh bucket list!

Garden Healers: St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

Jessica Graves

St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

In sticking with my plan to educate you on plants that grows well in the North Eastern United States, St. John’s Wort, which is fabulous in the garden, is the topic of today’s Herbal Update.  The plant itself possess bright green leaves, small and slender, that are accented by star shaped yellow flowers that practically take over the plant in July and August.  The herb itself can grow into a small shrub 24 inches high if allowed.  A perennial, this sun loving herb is quite hardy and will tolerate partial shade as well.  Though it prefers light, moist soil this herb originated in forests, fields, and roadsides of Europe and has a survivor’s adaptability. Once started these plants need very little attention except in the poorest of soils where fertilizer will be a great aide, and water during long dry spells.  In short, in order to enjoy this amazing herb at home simply stick in the ground wherever you have room and see what happens. ☺

St. John’s Wort is believed to be have been named for St. John the Baptist. Used for centuries, the Greek physician Hippocrates (ca. 460-377 B.C.E.) was one of the first to speak of the health benefits of St. Johns Wort, and it has been used to treat anxiety, neurosis, and depression since the time of Paracelsus (ca. 1493-1541 C.E.), when it was declared to be "arnica for the nerves."  St. John’s Wort has undergone countless clinical studies and has been proven effective by US physicians in aiding the treatment of depression.  These results have made it one of the most widely marketed and used herbs in the US.   

St. John’s Wort is also an anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant, nervine and sedative herb.  It has been used throughout history to treat everything from rheumatism and gout to dysentery, jaundice, urinary issues and bedwetting.  Historically, St. Johns Wort was also relied on for pulmonary complaints including consumption and catarrh of the lungs.  It’s second most popular use today, however, is as an aid to wounds and burns.  Prepared as an extract and applied topically St, John’s Wort has been used to reduce the pain and aid in faster healing.

At home, St. John’s Wort at home can be prepared as a tea using the leaves and flowers (always use organic of course).  You can also make your own extracts using sunflower, olive or wheat germ oils.  If you are harvesting your own flowers, pick them in their prime preferably in the morning after the dew has dried.  Allow them to dry in an arid space away from the sun and store in an airtight container.

St. John’s Wort should be used only after consulting your physician, particularly if you are ingesting it.  It is NOT RECOMMENDED for those on MAO or Protease inhibitors.

**THIS INFORMATION IS SHARED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  UNA BIOLOGICALS DOES NOT DISTRUBUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING HEBRS!***

Milkweed & Monarchs

Jessica Graves

Common Milkweed, By Lmmahood - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12027861

Common Milkweed, By Lmmahood - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12027861

Have you considered planting native plants in your garden this year? Native plants thrive naturally in a habitat or region and attract local birds, bees, and other pollinators, contributing to a healthy ecosystem. They often need less attention than their non-native counterparts, too, as they are adapted to the soil and weather of our region.

Native plants often play a key role in the life cycle of other creatures, such as the food and habitat that milkweed, pictured above, offers for the beautiful monarch butterfly. Monarchs depend on native milkweed plants for survival--and the loss of milkweed plants over the past years has gravely affected the monarch population. When monarchs migrate from Mexico to North America each spring, they lay their eggs on the milkweed plant, and monarch caterpillars solely feed on milkweed. They are actually able to ingest the toxic properties in the milkweed and use it to their advantage; they become toxic to predators! Monarchs, in turn, are one of the main pollinators of milkweed, helping this plant to thrive. Without milkweed, monarchs are not able to complete their life cycle, and we see the decline of this beautiful species.

© Derek Ramsey / derekramsey.com, via Wikimedia Commons

© Derek Ramsey / derekramsey.com, via Wikimedia Commons

You can assist this lovely relationship by planting native Pennsylvanian milkweeds in your yard! Here's a list of natives from Monarch Joint Venture:

  • Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

  • Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

  • Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

  • Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata

  • Poke Milkweed, Asclepias exaltata

Many local nurseries and gardens sell milkweed, including Garden Dreams and Sylvania Natives, and many more. And, check out Penn State Extension's wonderful resource on the who, what, where, and when of planting native plants! So, get busy planting gorgeous natives and help keep our population of pollinators happy and healthy!

Sources and More info:

 

It's Planting Season! Let's Talk Lemon Balm

Jessica Graves

With the planting season upon us, it occurs to me that we should discuss herbs that we can plant here in Pennsylvania.  Nothing is quite as satisfying as harvesting your own food and that goes for herbs too!  There are tons of culinary and medicinal herbs that really flourish in PA. Let's talk about Lemon Balm, Melissa officianalis.

A member of the Mint family, Lemon Balm is perfect for the novice gardener.  It grows fabulously in pots as well as the garden.  Because it is in the mint family it will spread, so you should choose your garden location carefully and be ready to cut it back as needed (don’t worry, it’s not as avid a spreader as mint!).  Lemon Balm is short bushy plant that produces bright green lemony fresh leaves that will grow in most soils.  It is a hardy perennial that can withstand some drought as well.  The fragrance is lovely when the leaves are touched.  

Throughout history Lemon Balm has been used as an esteemed herb in herbal medicine.  For centuries it was relied on to treat any ailment of the central nervous system.  In addition, Lemon Balm was claimed to renew vigor, strengthen memory, reduce melancholy and prevent baldness.  It was used in battle to treat wounds, both helping them to heal and prevent infection.  Lemon Balm is also used to attract bees and beneficial insects to a garden, the name itself deriving from the Greek word for bee.

Today Lemon Balm is primarily used as a sleep aid and to ease gastrointestinal troubles.  Melissa is also added to topical creams for its success in fighting viral infections of the skin, particularly cold sores.  Recent studies have shown it to be quite effective in reducing symptoms and aiding healing. And of course, that delicious scent is popular in cosmetics and perfumes.  Melissa essential oil is quite expensive however, so if you are purchasing it be sure that you are getting the REAL thing and not citronella or a diluted alternative.

In your own garden, the leaves are the part that you will harvest (the only part used) once your Lemon Balm is thriving.  You can add the leaves fresh to your dinner, an iced tea, or sliced over fresh fruit and ice cream.  You can make a lovely relaxing tea from the fresh or dried leaves as well.   If you want to ensure a lemon balm stock through the winter, harvest leaves during the height of the season when the leaves are fresh and green.  Dry them in a dark place with good ventilation and store in an air tight jar for tea through the cold months. ☺

Happy planting!

Vitamin Boost: Easy Molasses Bread

Jessica Graves

Blackstrap Molasses is packed with iron, vitamins, and minerals to give your body a boost!

Blackstrap Molasses is packed with iron, vitamins, and minerals to give your body a boost!

Made from sugar cane boiled three times, Blackstrap Molasses is a super-nutritious food that's great for those of us who are looking for a non-animal source of iron. In addition to iron, Blackstrap molasses contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, and b-vitamins.

Although it's made from sugar cane, blackstrap molasses is not very sweet, as most of the sucrose from the sugar has been boiled out of it. So, while swallowing a spoonful every day might not be too appealing, molasses can be a great nutritional addition to your baking! I recently found a recipe for an incredibly simple molasses bread. With a total of 5 ingredients, this bread throws together in a snap. The molasses adds tons of nutritional value and a mild flavor, so this plain bread can be sweetened (or savoried!) to your liking with honey, peanut butter, greek yogurt--let your imagination go wild!

Simple Molasses Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups white or wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses + 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Mix together flour, baking soda, vegetable oil, salt, and molasses to form crumbly mixture
  2. Set aside one cup of mixture
  3. In small bowl, mix together hot water and extra 1/4 cup molasses
  4. Stir water and molasses mixture into crumbly mixture
  5. Pour batter into 9 inch buttered pan. Add crumbly mixture to top.
  6. Bake for 30 min in a 375 degree oven

Adapted from Cait Johnson's "Witch in the Kitchen" cookbook.

Brighten up with Grapefruit Oil

Jessica Graves

It feels like an endless string of grey days lately. However, if we turn to the plant world we can find some lovely friends to help us get through the cold winter months. Let's talk about that gorgeous citrus dream, Grapefruit!

Did you know that Grapefruit Essential oil is more than just a lovely scent?  Indeed, the beneficial properties of this essential oil are quite numerous. Grapefruit essential oil is antibacterial, antidepressant, astringent, antiseptic, diuretic, digestive, restorative, tonic, and stimulant.  

What does all this mean? Well it means that through the years Grapefruit oil has been used to boost mood and energy through aromatherapy (you just need to smell it). Along this line it has been used to treat fatigue, jet lag, depression, and exhaustion.   It has been used as a digestive aid, and is even purported as a diet aid as the aroma is said to help quell your appetite.  

Rubbed into sore joints and muscles, this oil is reported to help with arthritis and rheumatism, as well as headaches and menstrual cramps.  In addition it can help brighten skin and balance oily skin as an acne aid.  To make it even better, the constituents of this oil are said to break down and flush out fat cells, helping to reduce cellulite deposits when applied topically (Una is currently testing this theory for you).

Like many citrus oils, the germ fighting properties of Grapefruit oil are also documented.  You can mix 3-5 drops of essential oil in water for a disinfecting spray, or add to your cleansing water when you mop the floors or wipe down surfaces.

Grapefruit oil can be used as aromatherapy in a diffuser, or a few drops sprinkled on your light bulbs. It can also be applied topically to the skin, but a carrier oil should always be used – place 2-3 drops of Grapefruit oil in water or a carrier oil before applying to skin.

Experiment with this lovely oil yourself! What do you want to make?  And, you can find many products at Una made with Pink Grapefruit essential oil, including body butters, salt & sugar scrubs, and room sprays.

Here's a quick and easy recipe for an uplifting hair tonic using grapefruit oil. Use this spray to control oily hair, add shine, and leave you smelling amazing!

  • Spray bottle
  • Aloe vera juice
  • Distilled water
  • Grapefruit essential oil

Add 2 parts aloe vera juice to 1 part distilled water. Add 10 drops grapefruit essential oil. Shake well, and apply to hair as needed throughout the day!

**THIS INFORMATION IS SHARED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  UNA BIOLOGICALS DOES NOT DISTRIBUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING HERBS.**

Deepen Your Wellness Practice in the New Year

Jessica Graves

Re-evaluate. Re-envision. Recharge! The New Year brings with it a chance to reflect on how we have changed, what has worked, and what needs to be transformed. Perhaps your go-to recipes need a shake up. Or, you've hit a plateau with your yoga practice and it's time to set some new goals. We've pulled together some of our favorite ideas for digging deeper into your wellness journey this year.


Instagram continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration for everything from yoga, to gorgeous meals, to interesting ways to de-stress your life. Check out our favorites below. You can visit the website without having an Instagram account!

The Minimalist Baker : Mouthwatering pictures of her delicious meal creations with 10 ingredients or less, and most are plant-based.

Jessamyn the Yogi : Are you following Jessamyn yet?! This amazing yogi is revolutionizing yoga by making space for ALL bodies, no matter the shape or size, to enjoy the health benefits of this practice.

Alex Elle, Author : Swoon. Alex shares beautiful poetry and simple affirmations that are sure to give you the boost you need to center and ground yourself in love, each and every day.


shutterstock_468894395.jpg

One of the biggest health trends that seems to be popping up on all the lists this year is the benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms such as reishi, chaga, turkey tail, and maitake, among others, are becoming popular for their many medicinal properties, including immune support and anti-cancer activity. Here's a yummy recipe from Organic Authority for a Medicinal Mushroom Latte that you can make at home.

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened cashew or coconut milk
½ tsp reishi mushroom powder
¼ tsp chaga mushroom powder
¼ tsp cordyceps mushroom powder
½ tsp maca powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 heaped Tbsp cacao powder
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil, MCT oil, or ghee

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and gently warm over medium heat until ingredients come to a simmer. Transfer hot liquid to a high-speed blender and blend on high for 30 seconds, or until latte is frothy. Pour into a mug and enjoy!

 

One of my favorite mushroom experts lectures regularly at Mother Earth News Fair. Tradd Cotter, of Mushroom Mountain, has been researching and cultivating mushrooms since the 90's. You can check out his website for educational information as well as to order mushrooms for your own use!


This may sound a bit odd, at first, but one of the most buzzed-about relaxation and de-stressing methods going around involves floating in the complete dark in a tank filled with salt water. Wait, what?! But, Sensory Deprivation Therapy, or Immersion Therapy, comes with many benefits akin to meditation or yoga. The theory is that by reducing external stimuli, you can lower stress levels and blood pressure, as well as increase creativity. And, by soaking in a giant tank filled with Epsom salts, your body reaps the benefits of a long magnesium soak--including balancing hormones and calcium levels. Read more about the experience here.

The downside is that floating is not cheap; a one hour session typically runs about $50-60. There are number of tanks in Pittsburgh, including Pittsburgh Float in Shadyside, and Levity in Squirrel Hill.


Shake up your Yoga practice this year by trying out some different styles! Here's a list of our favorite yoga studios in town, each with their own distinct style.

  •  The Shala, Ashtanga Yoga. Located across the street from Una in Lawrenceville, this studio offers a physical demanding practice that synchronizes the body and breath to create an internal purifying heat.

  • Schoolhouse Yoga, Variety of Styles. Located in E. Liberty, Squirrel Hill, and the North Hills. Our very favorite yogi Kendell Romanelli teaches here, and you can find anything from a gentle introduction to yoga, to more advanced ashtanga.

  • Yoga Hive, Vinyasa Yoga. Located in Garfield and the Strip District. This studio offers a great range of class styles for everyone from beginners to more advanced yogis. The vinyasa flow style focuses on synchronizing the breath with a flow of postures.


We hope this adds a bit of inspiration to your new year.

Peace + Light to you in 2017!

Fighting the Flu

Jessica Graves

It's the time of year when our immune systems need a little work out! While the Flu always seems to take center stage, all hope is not lost - there is much you can do to keep yourself healthy!  Try adding these simple ideas into your basic be-well repertoire.

1. Una Biologicals' Flu Fighter Tea - this tea tastes great & works thanks to organic Elderberries. Elderberries have been scientifically proven to be effective against 8 types of flu strains.  They help prevent the virus from attached to your healthy cell enzymes. We also add in lots o Vitamin C herbs to give you a little extra boost.  Pick some up at your local retailer!

2. Take those Vitamins.  Omega3 and B vitamins support immune health, and keeping your body in tip-top running condition will help it fight off those nasty germs you are sure to come into contact with.

3. Positive thinking.  Even though it sounds hokey, it can really help. Tell your body it is healthy, it can stay healthy, and mean it! If you are under the weather, tell the germs to get out (and try the Lion Pose – silly but great at expelling germs). It's really rather empowering.

4. Work your Lymphatic System!  This is a big deal & easily done.  Your Lymphatic system run throughout your entire body & is connected to your circulatory system.  Though it does a lot, one major role is to move your white blood cells (the infection fighters) throughout your body. To invigorate your lymphatic system stretch your arms out wide - you should feel it pull and open under your arms (major lymph gland area). Do a few side bends to stretch your side body and open help open the lymphatic vessels, and massage your lymph glands in your neck & under arms.  You can do this as often as you remember.

5. Finally, go exercise and sweat! Allow your largest organ, your skin, to help you excrete toxins that are building up. Exercise also promotes greater blood flow and helps energize your internal organs so they can to more effectively cleanse the germ army from your body.  The more effectively your physical body is working, the healthier it is able to keep itself as well!

Sending you some love for a Flu Free season...

Herbal Roots & Coffee Substitutes

Jessica Graves

With less sunlight and warmth, now is the time when plants are moving their energies away from their leaves and flowers, and deep into their roots. This first dip in temperatures alerts the plants: hey, buds! Time's a-changin'! Let's refocus and store your energy down underground for the winter season. Just as we've learned to harvest plant leaves when they are new and tender in the spring, and their flowers when they are showy and vibrant in the summer, we know it's time to make use of this root energy in the fall. 

There are plenty of herbs with medicinally beneficial roots to harvest. We're going to talk about two today: Dandelion and Chicory, because they are abundant and local, and because together they make a truly delicious coffee substitute! Speaking of local, if you do plan on harvesting these plants yourself, be sure you are doing so from areas clear of chemicals, pesticides, and toxic runoff from roads and highways! These tap roots soak up what is in the soil--including toxins. If you don't have a backyard you can dig into, try a Pittsburgh Park or the cleanest, greenest place you can find. 

We've sung the praises of Dandelion on this blog before, but just a quick recap: Dandelion, that ubiquitous, sunny weed, is an amazing herbal helper for detoxifying the blood, purifying the liver and kidneys, stimulating digestion, and adding vitamins A and C to your body. All that in your morning up of joe? You bet! According to Margaret Grieve's A Modern Herbal

Dandelion Coffee is a natural beverage without any of the injurious effects that ordinary tea and coffee have on the nerves and digestive organs. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness. 

Chicory (Cichorium intybu) is that beautiful blue-flowered spindly plant you see on roadsides all over town. It is well-known as a coffee substitute for those with caffeine sensitivities, but chicory also provides some similar health benefits as dandelion. Mountain Rose Herbs has an interesting blog post on Chicory Coffee, sharing the story of its rise to prominence as the New Orleans drink of choice!

To harvest these plants, you'll need to dig deep. As anyone who has tried to remove dandelions from their yard knows, they have deep tap roots and do not come out of the ground easily. Bring a fork or spade to help dig deep all the way around the root to be sure it remains unbroken. Once dug, clean your roots as thoroughly as you can. Chop into small pieces, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at your oven's lowest setting for 8-10 hours. Pieces should be dry and brittle when done.

Once cool, store in an air-tight container, and grind and prepare as you would any other coffee bean! 

Herban Root Coffee from the The Herbal Academy

Makes two 16 oz. servings

Ingredients:

4 cups water
2 tablespoons dandelion root, roasted and ground
2 tablespoons chicory root, roasted and ground
½ tablespoons cinnamon powder
Natural sweetener to taste
Ground cinnamon, for dusting

Directions:

  • Add the dandelion root, chicory root, and cinnamon to your coffee maker or French press.
  • Add boiling water and allow the herbs to steep for 5 minutes to release all the healing properties.
  • Strain and add sweetener to taste. Serve dusted with cinnamon.

References:

  1. The Herbal Academy. "Dandelion: The Dandiest Weed of All." 7 April 2014. Web accessed 28 October 2016. https://theherbalacademy.com/dandelion-the-dandiest-weed-of-all/
  2. Grieve, Margaret. A Modern Herbal. Originally published 1931. Web accessed 28 October 2016. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html
  3. The Mountain Rose Blog. "Recipe: Roasted Chicory Coffee." 7 April 2014. Web accessed 28 October 2016. http://mountainroseblog.com/make-roasted-chicory-coffee-recipe/
  4. The Herbal Academy. "A Homemade Dandelion and Chicory Root Coffee." 26 April 2015. Web accessed 28 October 2016. https://theherbalacademy.com/a-homemade-dandelion-and-chicory-root-coffee/

Skullcap - Releasing Stress, Slowing Down, and Finding Balance

Jessica Graves

"Scutellaria lateriflora" by Rolf Engstrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

"Scutellaria lateriflora" by Rolf Engstrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Autumn Equinox took place on September 22nd, and with this ending of summer, a change of pace is brought to our lives. We start to slow down and look inward as we prepare for the darker months. For some of us, this comes as a blessing! And for others, shifting gears and slowing down is a challenge.

Supporting your body + soul with herbs during this transition period can be so helpful. Skullcap, Scutellaria laterifolia, is lovely little herb in the mint family that helps calm overly-stressed systems, fights headache pain, and in general brings about a sense of grounding and balance. Skullcap helps to pull energy from an anxious or stressed mind deep down into our roots, helping us to slow our roll just a bit. A nervine, this herb helps restore balance to the nervous system, especially those that experience prolonged stress (hello, non-stop summer schedules!!). It's also useful in releasing pent-up energy that leads to restless legs, insomnia, and anxiety. Such a sweet plant--herbalist Kiva Rose Hardin has renamed Skullcap as "blisswort" as a nod to it's calming effects!

Skullcap is best taken as a tea or tincture. You can find this plant friend in our herbal tea, Headache Helper, and it's sure to knock the pain of a troublesome migraine right out. If you are interested in trying your hand at making your own Skullcap tea or tincture, take a look at a few recipes we've found below!

We'll be offering an Herbal Tinctures class here at the Boutique on Tuesday, October 4th from 6:30-8:30 pm, so please come out and join us if you'd like some hands-on practice making tinctures yourself!

Wishing you a gentle transition into this coming season!

References:

  1. "Skullcap". The Herbarium Monographs. The Herbal Academy of New England. Web accessed Sept. 24, 2016. http://herbarium.herbalacademyofne.com/monographs/#ID=3047
  2. "Autumnal Equinox: Recipes of Fortitude + Balance". Worts + Cunning Apothecary. Sept. 21, 2013. Web accessed Sept. 24, 2016. https://wortsandcunning.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/autumnal-equinox-recipes-of-fortitude-balance/
  3. "Sip Tea and Stress Less". The Mountain Rose Blog. June 13, 2011. Web accessed Sept. 24th, 2016. http://mountainroseblog.com/stress-tea/
  4. "How to Make Tinctures: Skullcap Tinctures". Remedies & Recipes. LearningHerbs.com. July 1, 2010. Web accessed Sept. 23, 2016. http://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/how-to-make-tinctures/
  5. "Skullcap". Healing Teas: How to Prepare and Use Teas to Maximize Your Health. Antol, Marie Nadine. Avery Publishing: 1996. pg 201-202.

 

Learn Your Land

Jessica Graves

Many of the plants we've talked about here on the blog can be found growing wild in your backyard, neighborhood, or local fields and forests. While there is plenty of (sometimes questionable!) information available on the internet, there is nothing quite like talking to an actual human about medicinal plants and herbs. Taking a guided nature walk with a naturalist is such a simple way to learn a bit more about the plants around us!

Enter Learn Your Land, an awesome website put together by local naturalist Adam Haritan. Gathering together profiles of naturalists, a calendar of events, and information about local clubs and organizations, this rich resource connects you with local experts looking to share their knowledge. You can search by naturalist, area of interest (i.e., Birding, Mushrooms, Plants, etc.), or geographical location.

I've gone on a couple of nature walks with naturalists I've found on this website, and it's been such a great way to deepen my knowledge of locally-growing plants and ecosystems. Taking the time to slow down and pay attention to the quiet details of life in the forest recharges my spirit and helps me feel more connected with the world around me.

Coming up this month, learn about foraging for edible plants and mushrooms in Cook Forest, stroll through the Wildflower Reserve in Raccoon Creek State Park, take a Bird Walk in Frick Park, or check out some mushrooms at Chatham University's Eden Hall!

The pace of life changes with the seasons. For some of us, it means things speed up as we enter the school year and gear up for the winter holidays. For others, there might be a slower pace as the sunshine and growing season winds down. Whatever season you're moving into, I hope you can use this resource to find ways to get grounded, connected, and restored with the natural world!

Harvesting and Using Elderberries

Jessica Graves

Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, a wonderful plant ally for boosting the immune system.

Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, a wonderful plant ally for boosting the immune system.

     While we are still enjoying long, sun-filled days and super hot weather, I can’t help but start thinking about Fall and the changing of the seasons. August is a great time to start harvesting from our gardens and wild places to preserve food and medicines for the winter months. So, let’s talk about the luscious and powerful Elderberry: Sambucus nigra. From the Elder tree, elderberries are purplish-black juicy berries (see image above) that are known for their immune system-boosting properties. *Please note that there is a related form of elder, Sambucus racemosa, with red berries. These have been known to cause vomiting when eaten raw, so avoid them!*

     The tree itself has a long history of its own. Common in the English countryside, the wood of the Elder tree was used for instruments as far back as Anglo-Saxon times and children’s homemade pop-guns in the more recent past. Legend tells of a wise woman, Elda Mor, who lives in Elder trees and offers healing to those who ask for it, providing they offer her proper respect (it is recommend to always offer thanks to the plants for the healing they give us!). The Elder tree has also made a name for itself in the writings of Shakespeare, among others, though often as a sad symbol of grief and death. But despair not, my friends, for the berry is a whole other story.

     Elderberries contain wonderful properties for health and healing. The berries and flowers have been used for centuries to make homemade wine and cordials (go to town home brewers), and even hair dye. Medicinally, the bark, flower, leaves and berries can all be used.

     The berries have been attributed many properties over the centuries with claims to effectiveness against rheumatism and epilepsy and as a laxative.

     Today, the berries are commonly prepared as a tea or tincture. They have a pleasant citrus flavor and are less bitter dried than fresh.

     Extensive research shows that elder stop the production of hormone-like cytokines that direct a class of white blood cells known as neutrophils to cause inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis. (Translation – the berries help your body to stop inflammation causing achiness in flu and arthritis). On the other hand, elder increases the production of non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10-fold. Elderberries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder could be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel, found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses used to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.

     In addition, Elderberries have no known contra-indications, though excessive use has been known to cause nausea or vomiting in some cases.

     Now that we know the amazing health benefits of the lovely elderberries, let’s talk about harvesting, preserving, and using them throughout the winter months, when flu season is upon us.

     Elderberries ripen towards the end of August and early September, so now is the time to locate wild Elder trees if you don’t have them in your yard. Collect the ripened berries, which will be a rich black to purplish color, and will fall easily off the stem when fully ripe.

     There are MANY things to make with elderberries, from jams to pies to syrups, so I encourage you to research recipes that most appeal to you! Two simple ways that I love to use the berries for medicinal purposes are drying and using them in teas, and making a basic preventative tonic to keep my immune system strong.

To use elderberries in tea: Dry your freshly harvested berries by putting them in the oven at a low temperature (115 or so) on a baking sheet.  Parchment is recommended as a liner so that your berries don’t hang out on the metal sheet. A dehydrator is even easier. Once the berries are dried, store in a sanitized mason jar labeled with with the herb name & date you jarred it.  Add to teas of your choice, or simply put the dried berries in a mug with hot water and honey.

To make an elderberry tonic: This wonderful recipe from Mother Earth News is a simple way to get the most out of your elderberries for flu season!

Elderberry Tonic Recipe

(adapted from WellnessMama.com)

Tip: Freeze freshly picked elderberries in clusters after harvesting to simplify the de-stemming process.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup Elderberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3-1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp fresh or dried ginger root (or powder)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw honey

Instructions:

  1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the liquid reduces to almost half (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  3. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  4. Discard the elderberries (feed to chickens or compost) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
  5. Add 1 cup of honey and stir well. (Note: honey is added after the mixture has cooled to keep raw enzymes intact).
  6. Pour mixture into glass jars to be stored in the fridge for up to three months.

Recommended Doses

Prevention (can be taken daily)

1. Kids (13 months-12 years old): 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

2. Adults: 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon

Recovery

Take the normal dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms disappear.

Don’t get caught off guard by cold and flu season this year. Prepare this easy elderberry elixir for a natural alternative for flu prevention and recovery.

Special Notes:

1. NEVER give Elderberry Tonic to infants 12 months/under.

2. Elderberries can be used as any other berry for pies, jams, breads, stuffing, etc.

3. Consuming raw elderberries causes extreme GI distress in many people. Try a few berries raw before overindulging.

Sourced from: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/elderberry-tonic-for-cold-and-flu-prevention-zbcz1508.aspx

     So, get out your tea kettles, darlins', and pour yourself some elderberry tea – or just order up some tasty Flu Fighter from Una – and keep those infections at bay!

Resources:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/elderberry-tonic-for-cold-and-flu-prevention-zbcz1508.aspx Web accessed 3 August 2016.

http://honest-food.net/2009/07/06/elderberry-season-is-here/ Web accessed 3 August 2016.

The Herbarium Monographs. “Elder”. http://herbarium.herbalacademyofne.com/monographs/#ID=1005. Web accessed 3 August 2016.