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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!

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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

The Mysterious Pomegranate

Jessica Graves

 The pomegranate plays a star role in the myth of Persephone.

The pomegranate plays a star role in the myth of Persephone.

On a visit to the produce section this time of year, we start to notice a most exotic looking fruit, the pomegranate. Its leathery skin conceals a multitude of beautiful, jewel-like red seeds that have been valued in the cuisine and healing practices of many cultures for millennia. It also plays a central role in mythology, perhaps most notably in the myth of Persephone.

Persephone was the only daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of fertility and agriculture. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld, Demeter became inconsolable and turned away from her duties. The earth became barren -- nothing grew. People suffered to the point that Zeus stepped in to convince Hades to return Persephone to her mother. Before he did, Hades tricked Persephone into eating some pomegranate seeds. Because of this, she was required to remain underground with Hades for a portion of the year. But every year, when she returned to her mother, the ground became fertile again, crops grew and there was abundance on the earth.

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Pomegranate has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It traveled far and wide on global trade routes and has been revered for its health benefits in every culture it has touched. According to Herbal Academy, all parts of the pomegranate have been used medicinally – seed, pulp, rind, flower, leaf and bark – in various traditions, including Ayurveda and traditional Chinese Medicine. Today, the pomegranate has received a lot of attention as a super food and powerful antioxidant.

We’re including a couple of nice recipes using this esteemed fruit, but first let’s talk about what you need to look for in a good pomegranate. Keep an eye out for plump, rounded fruits that feel heavy for their size. Pomegranates dry and shrink as they're stored and start to age. Make sure the flesh is free of cuts, slashes, or bruises.

Once you get this mysterious looking orb home, you may wonder how to open it up. There are a few methods, but the most straightforward way is to use a sharp knife to cut around the flower end to remove it, forming a slight cone shape as you do. Next, you’ll notice that your pomegranate is not entirely round -- it has ribs that protrude slightly. With your knife, score along these ribs from end to end being careful to cut only through the skin and pith, not the seeds. Using your thumbs, pull the sections apart. There will be dozens and dozens of glistening red and juicy seeds that you can remove easily by bending the cut sections outward.

Once you have a bowlful of delicious pomegranate seeds, you can eat them as is (or drink them, as the case may be). Below is a simple a healthful recipe for Pomegranate Tea, full of those antioxidants we mentioned before.

Pomegranate Tea

Place the seeds of one pomegranate in a pot and cover with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for about 15 minutes. Add a sprig of mint, if you like. Strain and add honey to taste. Easy peasy.

For a dressy, yet simple, holiday salad, try this:

Endive and Fennel Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Wash and cut two fennel bulbs in half. Core and thinly slice them. Add a handful of fennel fronds. Wash and trim about a pound of Belgian Endive and separate the leaves. Add these ingredients and about a ½ cup of pomegranate seeds to a large bowl. Toss and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. A handful of roasted, chopped walnuts is a nice addition.


So, as we enter that time of year when the growing season reaches an end and plants go dormant, the pomegranates that line the shelves at the grocery store remind us of Persephone’s perennial return and the promise of spring in a few months’ time.

The Many Faces of the Pumpkin

Jessica Graves

  Centuries ago, people carved scary faces into pumpkins and root vegetables to keep the ne’er-do-well Stingy Jack away from their homes.

Centuries ago, people carved scary faces into pumpkins and root vegetables to keep the ne’er-do-well Stingy Jack away from their homes.

We couldn’t resist featuring the pumpkin in our October blog. We see pumpkins on doorsteps and windowsills all over as Halloween approaches, many carved into spooky jack-o-lanterns. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago in Ireland, an unsavory character named Stingy Jack kept tricking the devil into not claiming his soul upon death. When he got to heaven he found that God didn’t want him because of his misdeeds, so he was condemned to roam the earth with nothing but a burning coal to light his way. He carved a turnip into a lantern and became known as “Jack O’ the Lantern.” People were so afraid of him that they would carve their own turnips and beets and light them up to scare Jack away. The tradition continued when immigrants arrived in America where pumpkins were readily available, and we’ve been carving this bright round gourd into Jack-o-Lanterns ever since! Since pumpkins are ripe and plentiful at the time of the year when All Hallows Eve approaches and the seasonal threshold between the living and the dead draws near, these “scary” traditions have survived throughout the centuries.

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But the pumpkin is so much more than a Halloween decoration. This iconic fruit (yes — pumpkin is officially a fruit and part of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash, gourds and even watermelons) is an impressive source of antioxidants including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and many others, which may protect your cells against damage by free radicals. It’s also delicious and surprisingly easy to prepare.

The most straightforward way is to simply cut your pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds and “strings” and bake in a 375 degree oven until collapsed and easily pierced with a fork. You can eat the sweet, tasty flesh just as it is with a little salt and pepper, or puree your roasted pumpkin — it’s so much better for you than canned pumpkin. Use it as the key ingredient in pies, muffins, pancakes and soup, to name a few. Below, we’ve included a super easy and delicious recipe for you to try.

Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin

  • 1 onion

  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic (minced)

  • 1.5 cups of vegetable broth

  • 1.5 cups of coconut milk

  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

  • Pinch of sea salt and black pepper

  • Olive oil (to brush on pumpkin flesh)

  • Pumpkin seeds and fresh rosemary (to garnish)

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 375°. Cut your pumpkin in half and spoon out the strings and seeds. (You can save the seeds for roasting later.)

2. Brush the flesh of the pumpkin with olive oil and place the halves skin-side up on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately one hour or until easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool.

3. Saute garlic and onions until translucent. Add turmeric to toast slightly.

4. Add all remaining ingredients (pumpkin flesh, broth, coconut milk, salt and pepper) and bring to a simmer.

5. Once incorporated, use an immersion blender to create a smoother consistency and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes.

6. When ready to serve, garnish with rosemary and pumpkin seeds*.

*If you’d like to roast your own pumpkin seeds, simply toss them in olive oil and salt and spread the on a baking pan in a single layer in a 300 degree oven for around 40 to 45 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

Recipe adapted from Alternative Daily


Pumpkin is a powerhouse of nutrients that are not only good for us on the inside; it works its magic on the outside, too. It contains alpha hydroxy acid, a fruit acid that acts as a natural exfoliator and keeps the skin glowing. Plus, the Vitamin C and beta-carotene it contains are not only excellent edible sources of antioxidants, they also provide protection from UV rays while softening your skin. Zinc, a powerful healing agent, is also plentiful in pumpkin and can be helpful for preventing acne.

So next time you make pumpkin puree this season, put some aside to make a simple pumpkin facial mask. We’ve included the recipe below.

  Pumpkin is good for us on the outside, too!

Pumpkin is good for us on the outside, too!

Pumpkin Face Mask

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh pumpkin puree

  • 2 teaspoons raw honey

  • 1 egg

  • 3 drops apple cider vinegar (for oily skin, use lemon juice

Instructions

Whisk all your ingredients together and apply facial mask to clean skin, spreading it all over your face, neck, and chest. Relax for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse off.

So you see, your fall jack-o-lantern is not just another pretty face. Use it as a nourishing and delicious ingredient in your fall recipes and on your pretty face!

Happy fall!

A Rose By Any Other Name . . . May Be An Apple!

Jessica Graves

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Apples show up at farmers’ markets and grocery stores all over at this time of year, but you may not know that apples and roses belong to the same plant family -- Rosaceae (as do pears, quince and many more). The flowers of the apple tree offer a clue: the blossom is made of 5 sepals, and inside these are 5 petals, which usually overlap. The stamens also occur in multiples of 5.

 The blossoms of the apple tree offer a clue to its relation to the rose.

The blossoms of the apple tree offer a clue to its relation to the rose.

But it’s the fruit of this blossom that comes to us in such abundance at this time of year. And the apple is full of delicious health benefits that herbalists have recognized for centuries. The famous phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” originated as the Welsh proverb "Ait a happle avore gwain to bed, An' you'll make the doctor beg his bread” in the 19th century. Legendary Appalachian herbalist Tommie Bass wrote “.... apples good for constipation, dry apples good for diarrhea.” Bass’s, and many other herbalists’ use of the apple has not been limited to the fruit, however. The leaves and the bark of the tree are astringent and can be used internally for teas to aid in digestion and heartburn and externally as a poultice for poison ivy and bug bites and as a compress for sore and swollen eyes.

While we may not all have access to apple bark and leaves, apples and apple ciders are plentiful this time of year. Unsweetened, apple cider -- especially from tart apples -- is full of antioxidants. Cider is a great medium for steeping herbs to increase its benefits. Try infusing chamomile in warmed apple cider for a lovely before-bed beverage. It’s a nice, calming beverage for kids and adults alike, although adults may want to try this with some hard cider!

Fermented apple cider, or apple cider vinegar has been highly regarded throughout history. In 400 B.C. Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, used it for its amazing health qualities. Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the “mother” (strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance) contains potassium, magnesium, iron and other minerals. It’s high in prebiotics that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Studies have also shown that apple cider vinegar can help reduce blood glucose levels.

 Four Thieves Vinegar photo courtesy of Adventures in Making

Four Thieves Vinegar photo courtesy of Adventures in Making

Apple cider vinegar is the base for two effective herbal tonics for the coming cold and flu season. The first is called Four Thieves Vinegar, versions of which have reputedly been in use since Medieval times. Legend has it that when the Black Plague swept through the city of Marseilles in the 7th century, a group of herb-savvy thieves successfully looted the graves and homes of victims of the plague without succumbing to it themselves. They did this by dousing their bodies in this herbal vinegar which includes strong antibacterial and antiviral properties. Here is one recipe, adapted from The Nourished Kitchen:

Four Thieves Vinegar

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh lavender flowers

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh anise hyssop

  • 4 cloves garlic, (peeled and crushed)

  • 1 quart raw apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Toss herbs and garlic together in a one-quart mason jar, cover with vinegar and marinate for seven to ten days in a sunny location. After seven to ten days, strain the vinegar through a fine-mesh sieve into a second, clean 1-quart glass jar.

  2. Store at room temperature until ready to use and serve as you would any seasoned vinegar: as a basis for vinaigrettes or as a seasoning for braised meats and vegetables.

For the Vinaigrette

Mix together 1 part vinegar, 3 parts extra virgin olive oil, and 1/2 part prepared mustard and 2 cloves of crushed, organic garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whirl the mixture together in a blender until combined or shake vigorously in a capped glass jar.

The second apple cider vinegar recipe to keep around this season is called Fire Cider. This healthful concoction has many variations but the one we use here was formulated over four decades ago by esteemed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, who has shared her recipe freely.

 Fire Cider photo courtesy of The Herbal Institute

Fire Cider photo courtesy of The Herbal Institute

Fire Cider

Ingredients

  • ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root

  • ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions

  • ¼ cup or more chopped garlic

  • ¼ cup or more grated ginger

  • Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper ‘to taste’. Can be whole or powdered.  ‘To taste’ means it should be hot, but not so hot you can’t tolerate it. Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.

  • Optional ingredients; turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, etc.

Instructions

  1. Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches.  Cover with a tight fitting lid.

  2. Place jar in a warm place and let it steep for three to four weeks. Best to shake every day to help in the maceration process.

  3. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs and reserve the liquid.

  4. Add honey to taste.* Tip: Warm the honey first so it mixes in well.  

* ’To taste’ means your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet.  “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”

Rebottle and enjoy! It’s best to refrigerate your Fire Cider, but it will keep for several months unrefridgerated if stored in a cool pantry.  

A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic or take a few teaspoons if you feel a cold coming on. Take it more frequently if necessary to help your immune system do battle.

For more information about Rosemary Gladstar and Fire Cider visit her website.

Of course, you can also get your apple benefits by eating them! We found this healthy and yummy fall recipe on Epicurious.com:

Roasted Brussels Sprout and Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

  • 1 apple, cut into 1/4-inch slices

  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

  • 2 teaspoons white miso

  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped

  • 4 cups baby spinach

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Preparation

Heat oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet with 1 teaspoon oil. In a bowl, combine brussels sprouts, apple, onion and remaining 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Roast on baking sheet, turning once, until sprouts are brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together tahini, vinegar, syrup, miso, red pepper and 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water until smooth; set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Toast hazelnuts 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide spinach, sprout mixture, hazelnuts, blue cheese and tahini dressing among 4 plates. Season with salt and black pepper.

Less healthy apple recipes abound on the internet: tarts, pies, muffins, galettes, donuts, cakes -- you name it! If you decide to indulge (and really . . . you should), know that your star ingredient, the amazing apple, is one of a whopping 7,500 cultivars that comes to us with beneficial bounty every fall.

Goldenrod: A Friend, Not a Foe for Allergy Season

Jessica Graves

 Goldenrod and other bright yellow flowers show up everywhere as summer nears its end.

Goldenrod and other bright yellow flowers show up everywhere as summer nears its end.

Goldenrod shows up with its bright golden stalks of tiny dense flowers in the late summer to early fall. Many people blame goldenrod for their fall sniffles, but the more likely culprit is ragweed! Goldenrod is pollinated by insects, not by wind. Its pollen is heavy and sticky and does not readily float through the air and into people’s noses to cause that sneeziness we often experience in late summer. Pollinators flock to goldenrod’s bright sprays; it is well loved by honey bees and supports over one hundred species of caterpillars, making it a useful plant for calling in local butterfly populations. Goldenrod supports humans, too -- it can actually help to ease those sniffly fall symptoms by using it as a tea or a tincture.

Goldenrod tea is tasty, slightly sweet and astringent with a hint of volatile oils. According to herbalist Robert Dale Rogers, goldenrod has 7 times the antioxidant levels of green tea! It is also a premier decongestant and alleviates upper respiratory congestion; it’s  one of the best herbs for drying up those sinuses.

Identifying Goldenrod

Goldenrod (S. canadensis) is a tall, slim plant that grows 4-10 feet high and is topped off with fluffy, golden flower spikes. Crush a goldenrod leaf when the plant is in bloom and smell it. You’ll detect hints of resin and seaside in the fragrance; a perfect blend of salt and balsam. Some varieties are more bitter, others more astringent. Sweet goldenrod (S. odora) has honeyed hints of anise or licorice and is a prized beverage tea. Any goldenrod species can be used medicinally. Identification to the species is not essential — good thing, because goldenrod hybridizes freely and it’s sometimes difficult to identify to that level.

Make sure, though, that you’ve properly identified your species as a true goldenrod, in the Solidago genus! Proper identification to genus is crucial. Late summer brings us many yellow flowers and some of the yellow-flowered aster family members are deadly toxic, including ragwort and groundsel.

 Make sure to identify goldenrod properly.

Make sure to identify goldenrod properly.

 Left to right: Ragweed and groundsel. Do not confuse these with goldenrod. Now's the time to break out your field guides!

Left to right: Ragweed and groundsel. Do not confuse these with goldenrod. Now's the time to break out your field guides!

Harvesting and Drying Goldenrod

Look for goldenrod in fields and meadows -- avoid plants that grow along roadsides close to traffic and pollution. Flowering tops are harvested when the plant is in full flower by cutting off the top third of the plant. (Don’t worry, the plants are vigorous enough to withstand cutting and will regrow during the growing season.)

Tie two or three stalks of your harvested goldenrod and dry the bundles by hanging them upside down away from full sun and with plenty of airflow. When the stalks are dry and crispy and the flowers appear to be fluffy, the herb is ready to use.

Goldenrod Tea

Start with 1-2 teaspoons of goldenrod leaves/flowers per 8 ounces of water. Increase the steeping time and dosage as needed. 1-3 ounces of herb can be used per day. The longer you brew it and the more herbs you use the stronger the medicine will be.

Goldenrod Tincture

Fill a small jar around 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with chopped, fresh goldenrod flowers. If using dried, fill the jar about 1/4 to 1/2 way. (A few leaves are okay to include, too.) Pour a high-proof alcohol such as vodka or brandy until the jar is filled. Cap, label and store out of direct sunlight for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Strain. Tinctures are usually good for at least 1 year, but can last even longer.

Start with a small dose (around 5 drops at a time, mixed with a spoonful of raw honey). If the tincture is well-tolerated, the dose can go up as high as 30-60 drops diluted in a little water 3 to 5 times a day. Take into consideration body size and metabolism. Smaller frames and high metabolisms will need smaller doses while larger body types and more entrenched conditions may need the full amount. Use what feels right to you, but certainly check with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns before use.

Goldenrod tincture can also be used in combination with other herbal tinctures such as yarrow flower, elderflower and nettles.

Another great way to reap the benefits of goldenrod is to infuse it in honey. Loosely fill a small jar with dried goldenrod flowers and add some delicious, local raw honey. Cap the jar and put it on a sunny windowsill for several weeks. Like goldenrod tea, the longer the herb is in the honey, the more effective the infusion will be!

So don't spend those last precious days of summer inside. Go outside and play!

Taste the Sun: Fresh Herbal Tisanes

Jessica Graves

Clockwise from top left: Borage, Chamomile, Lavender, Calendula

After a very loooong winter, I'm beyond excited to be able to walk out to my backyard, pick a handful of lemon balm leaves, and brew myself a fresh cup of tea. Technically, a brew of herbs or flowers is called a tisane, as opposed to tea, as it does not contain the tea plant Camellia sinensis that make up our familiar black & green teas. You say tea, I say tisane, at the end of the day it's just a delicious cup of herbal healing, right? ;-)

While dried herbs are what many of us are familiar with for making tea, fresh herbs have an entirely different flavor and vibrancy that is such a treat in the summertime! In general, 5-6 fresh leaves covered with nearly-boiled water, steeped for 5-15 minutes, makes a perfect cup. Be sure to cover your cup or pot while steeping: the oils from the plant, which contain the healing benefits, are lost if they evaporate. If you're making an iced tea, you can increase your amount of plant matter a little to balance the increased water from the ice.

Peppermint and lemon balm are familiar and delicious go-to herbs for fresh teas, but don't stop there! What other herbs are you growing in your garden? Try rosemary, lavender, chamomile, or raspberry leaf, or take the blossoms from your calendula or borage for a delicious and beautiful tea. Holy Basil in particular is divine as a fresh tea. In fact, I prefer holy basil fresh: it has such a different flavor than dried! If you're growing this plant, pick a handful of leaves in the morning, wash and bruise them gently with your fingers, and throw them in your water bottle. This beautiful, adaptogenic plant will increase your Happy & Bright throughout your day!

I've gathered a few summer tea recipes to whet your appetite! These links also include some great tips & tricks about tea-making. Go forth and get a taste of sunshine :-)

Relaxation Tea from Northwest Edible Life

  • A base of 50% chamomile flowers, 25% spearmint and 25% lemon verbena
  • Stevia to sweeten and a small pinch of dried hop blossoms (optional)

Bliss Blend from Worts & Cunning Apothecary

  • 2 parts Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
  • 2 parts Sacred Basil (Ocimum sanctum or tenuiflorum)
  • 1 part Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Lemon verbena, turmeric, ginger and lemon peel tea from Edible Manhattan

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon verbena leaves
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric knob (find it at Whole Foods, or at specialty Indian or Asian food stores)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger knob
  • 2 strips lemon rind
  • 1 cup water

In a small sauce pan, heat the water to almost a boil and turn off the heat. Add fresh lemon verbena leaves, fresh turmeric knob, fresh ginger knob and lemon rind strips to the pot; bruise herbs with a long spoon by pressing the spoon into the herbs against the side of the pot. Place lid on pot and steep for 10 minutes. Strain tea into a cup.

Peaches and Mint Iced Tea from The Hearty Soul

  • One tablespoon of mint leaves (20-25 fresh mint leaves)
  • Two cups of fresh pureed peaches
  • Four cups of water

Steep both the peaches and the mint in the water, but steep the mint alone for three minutes before you add the peaches to the mixture. This is an energizing tea that is perfect for entertaining.

Taste the Sunshine Fresh Flower Herbal Tea from The Hip Homestead

  • 3 Calendula blossoms
  • 5 Lavender blossoms
  • 7-10 Borage blossoms
  • 1 Daylily blossom
  • 3 Pansy blossoms 
  • 4 cups boiling water

Before you head out to the garden, boil your 4 cups of fresh filtered water. Once the water has boiled, remove it from the heat and head out to the garden. This will allow the water to cool slightly, I find the flowers hold their colour and shape better with hot but not boiling water.

Head out to the garden and harvest your blooms. I like to inspect them just make sure they are fresh and healthy, and they aren’t showing any signs of disease. I also like to make sure they aren’t home to any little creatures.

I used a large 2 litre vintage Mason jar for my tea, but just because it looks pretty and holds a lot of water, but feel free to use your usual teapot.

Place your fresh blooms in the pot and pour over hot water until blooms are covered. Stir with a wooden spoon and steep for 7-10 minutes. Strain and serve hot or cold over ice.

Early Spring Brings Chickweed

Jessica Graves

  Stellaria media , image from The Herbal Academy

Stellaria media, image from The Herbal Academy

Spring is almost sprung here in Western Pennsylvania. It's been a slow roll this year, with cold temps and snow showers well into late April. So it is with a happy heart that I'm finally seeing some familiar plants popping up around town! Dandelion, purple dead nettle, and speedwell make a riotous display of color and texture along roadsides and sidewalks, while mugwort is showing off delicate, silvery undersides of its fresh green leaves. Docks are taking up space with their massive leaves, and thistles are popping up, spiky and sharp. What spring plants are you noticing this year?

Today we'll talk about one of these happy spring plants that you'll see blooming now. It quiets down in the heat of summer, and returns with blooms again in the fall. Chickweed, Stellaria media, is a sweet little plant that packs a huge healing punch. Chickweed is low-growing plant with paired leaves and a line of hairs that grows on one side its stem, switching sides at each leaf pairing. It is identifiable by its 5 star-shaped petals, each with a deep cleft so it appears to have 10 tiny petals.

 By Lazaregagnidze - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

By Lazaregagnidze - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Chickweed offers a number of medicinal benefits. It is a highly nutritious plant, packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and Vitamins A & C. Pick, wash, and eat the fresh plant in salads, stir-frys, and smoothies for a revitalizing spring treat!

Chickweed is an alterative herb, meaning it helps cleanse, purify, and balance blood and water in the body, i.e. it helps support the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic systems. It clears lymphatic congestion (especially useful after the stagnation of winter) and helps move toxins through the kidneys and liver. Saponins in chickweed are reported to help break down excesses in the body, whether that be excess mucus, fat cells, and even cysts. It is a lubricating herb, helping to soothe dry, irritated parts of the body, both internally and externally. Taken internally, this lubricating action may help to reduce the swelling and painfulness of arthritis.

Externally, chickweed is an incredible soother to inflamed, irritated, & itchy skin. Susun Weed recommends it as a cure for the bacterial infection of pink eye, applying fresh chickweed as a poultice (mashing up fresh herb until it is juicy) directly to the inflamed eye. Here at Una, we use Chickweed as one of our go-to herbs for itchy skin, everything from bug bites to eczema & psoriasis. Blended with other herbs like plantain, calendula, and chamomile, chickweed can be made into a wonderful healing salve for itchy skin issues.

Grow this sweet herb in your garden, or forage it from a location free of pesticides, toxins, and vehicle exhaust. Toss it into your salads, make an herbal oil, or prepare it as a tea and experience a range of health benefits from this tiny star of a plant! Here's a recipe from Mother Earth Living for a delicious Chickweed smoothie. Happy Spring, everyone!

Chickweed Smoothies

Ingredients:

• 2 large handfuls (about 2 oz.) chickweed
• 1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 c. carrot juice
• 1 banana
• 1 apple
• 1 avocado
• 4-5 oz. strawberries
• 3 oz. frozen raspberries (or berry blend)

Directions:

1. In a blender, add coconut milk, banana, apple, and chickweed. Blend until combined.

2. Turn off the blender to add carrot juice and avocado; blend until combined.

3. Add strawberries and frozen raspberries and blend well, adding more liquids (coconut milk, carrot juice, or water) if needed. This recipe makes two 24-ounce smoothies.

References:

"Chickweed". The Herbarium, The Herbal Academy. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Chickweed". A Modern Herbal. Maude Grieve. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Chickweed: The Delicious Medicinal Herb Hiding in Your Yard". Sarah Baldwin, Mother Earth Living. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Chickweed is a Star". Susun Weed. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Starting Your Medicinal Herb Cabinet". Jessica Graves. Powerpoint Presentation. June 2017.

Garden Dreams: Creating an Intuitive Garden

Jessica Graves

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Did you know that you have a superpower? Well, you do...it's your intuition! You don't have to be a spiritual guru, a healer, a mystic or anything like that to tap into the power of your intuition. You might just need a little practice to listen to the wise voice that is there to guide you.

With wisdom & intuition, I willingly nurture &
honor my inner seeds & desires.
— "Ace of Pentacles, Whole Grains" The Spirit of Herbs, Michael Tierra

Intuition comes from the Latin word "In-tuire": looking, regarding, or knowing from within. It is a way of knowing that is holistic; a surety that knows the inherent truth without the need or external evidence or proof. We can strengthen this faculty through simple practices of mindfulness & meditation, and sometimes all it takes to activate our intuition is removing the barriers and obstacles in the way of its unfolding. Remember, we all have our own intuition--we just need to tap into it!

Our intuition can manifest in a number of different ways, and we might find that we experience our intuition more strongly in certain ways than others. Where is your intuitive strength?

  • Intuitive Experiences: Discovery/invention, creative inspiration/art, creative problem solving, clairvoyance, telepathy, extra-sensory perception, hunches, premonitions
  • Physical Intuition: Associated with bodily sensations; gut reactions; physical cues including tension, sweating, hair-raising; open vs. closedness when around someone
  • Emotion Intuition: Experiences through emotions, picking up on people's "vibes", making choices based on what feels emotionally correct
  • Mental Intuition: Aspects related to visions, thinking or awareness; often seen in discovery & breakthrough; scientific discoveries coming from a "feeling" about their research
  • Spiritual Intuition: Mystical experiences, the knowledge of "God", knowing that is derived without emotion, feeling, thinking, or physical cues
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Creating sacred space and setting aside time for practice is essential for strengthening your intuition. By creating a practice, we can learn to quiet our minds, improve our hearing & cognition, and open our hearts to receive. Start by quieting the mind with meditation. Most spiritual traditions include a form of meditation to help clear obstacles so that you are fully open to recognizing, hearing, and using your intuition. Meditation increases your skill at being still, and enhances your ability to open your third eye. Chanting is a great way to start with meditation, as it gives your brain something to focus on (a mantra), for those of us that find ourselves easily distracted. Read more about Chanting here! Chanting invokes joy and focus, allowing for deeper reception and clarity. Remember, there is no "right" way to still your mind...pay attention to what fills you with joy and calm, and use that as an anchor when you are moving into a meditation space.

Meditation is listening to the divine within.
— Edgar Cayce

Growing an Intuitive Garden is a great way to both create a sacred space for your practice, while also growing herbs and plants that will be helpful on your journey! Start your garden by choosing a shape: a circle works well, or a square, where you can sit in the center. Use stones from your yard to make the four cardinal directions, and line the edges of your garden with stones as well to create a boundary. You can create paths through your garden, as seen in the image below:

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Or, consider making mandala-like spirals or a labyrinth. Whatever speaks to you! If you don't have a yard or a lot of space for your garden, you can grow plants in containers and place them around a sacred space in your home.

Let's talk about plants! There are lots of options to choose from based on your specific goals/needs. Here are a few suggestions for different gardens to get you started.

Meditation Garden

  • Yarrow: prepares you to willingly receive enlightenment, opens the Crown chakra, cleanses body & spirit, protects aura & spirit, aids with healthy boundaries, aids with communication with past loved ones
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): sacred herb in Ayurvedic tradition, releases tension & anxiety in the body, supports Crown chakra
  • Mint: aids magical sensitivity, divination, protective, helpful with communication & personal growth
  • Lavender: calms the minds, links the chakras
  • Calendula: strengthens Solar Plexus, increases fire & strength, protective & healing, increases intuitive awareness both in & out of dreams
  • Thyme: activates conscious mind

Purification Garden

  • Sage: purification herb, awakens inner guide, creates mental clarity, opens third eye, can be used as a cleansing bath
  • Lavender
  • Sweet Grass
  • Clary Sage: allows deeper connection to the dream world
  • Juniper: balances & protects energy
  • Thyme

Dream Garden

  • Mugwort: associated with moon goddess Artemis & feminine energy, strong dream herb for lucid dreaming, very cleansing & protective
  • Lavender
  • Roses: heart-opening flower, helps the heart to hear, opens us to self-love
  • Jasmine: traditional dream herb, opens third eye and enhances psychic ability, prophecy & diviniation
  • Dandelion: highly nutritive herb that nourishes the body & spirit, the root enhances divinitory ability and intution
  • Calendula
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi)
  • Geranium

Gaia Garden

  • Ferns
  • Fruit-bearing plants
  • Patchouli: grounding & stabilizing
  • Roses
  • Witch Hazel
  • Birch
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Find plants at local Pittsburgh nurseries Garden Dreams, Cutting Root, or wherever you prefer to get your plants. Have questions? Drop us a line at anneunabiologicals@gmail.com, or give a call at 412-621-4126. Happy planting, and don't forget to trust yourself ;-)

Herbal Aphrodisiacs--In Pursuit of Pleasure

Jessica Graves

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Whatever your thoughts on Valentine's Day, it's always a good time to revisit our relationship to pleasure. I love this quote from the Herbal Academy on how important pleasure is to a healthy life:

"Experiencing pleasure is not just a luxury meant for special occasions and celebrations. Pleasure is part of a balanced, happy life. And this doesn’t just mean sexual pleasure — it includes pleasureful foods and scents; physical pleasure such as platonic loving touch or massage and fluid movement such as yoga, dance, or exercise; and creative pleasures such as painting, drawing, gardening, cooking, or making music. These pleasureful activities helps us feel expressive, receptive, loving, and liberated."

Herbal aphrodisiacs can support us in our pursuits of pleasure in a variety of ways, including relaxing the nervous system, toning & nourishing our reproductive systems, and enhancing our libidos. Let's talk about a few!

  • Damiana (Turnera diffusa): A nervine that helps calm the mind, damiana stimulates our sacral parts by increasing oxygen to this area. A major libido booster and energy enhancer. 
  • Rose (Rosa rugosa): An herb of the heart, rose helps open and soften the heart, while also helping to protect it. Huge support for the emotional aspects of pleasure.
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng): An energy & vitality builder, ginseng increases testosterone as well as certain chemicals in the brain that lead to feelings of greater well-being. Also increases blood flow to our sexual organs.
  • Oatstraw (Avena sativa): Nourishing to the nerves & endocrine glands, and vitamin-rich for the whole system, oats are a wonderful tonic for increasing sexual health and performance over time.
  • Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): Used in Ayurveda as a tonic medicine for female sexual health, it nourishes female sex organs, balances estrogen levels, and brings bodily fluids into balance. It is also said to increase feelings of spiritual love.

Try an herbal-infused massage oil or a honey with some of these love herbs for a seasonal treat. Or, here's a recipe for a Love Your Libido Tea from the Herbal Academy!

Ingredients

2 parts damiana leaf
1 part rose petals
1½ parts cinnamon chips
1 part shatavari root
2 parts hibiscus
1 part sarsaparilla

Directions

  • Blend herbs together in jar.
  • Use 1 tablespoon per 8 oz boiling water, let steep 10 minutes, and sweeten with honey to taste.

 

References:

Jessica Graves. "Herbs for Women's Health". Powerpoint presentation. Feb. 2016.

The Herbal Academy. "Herbal Aphrodisiacs". Blog. 30 Jan. 2015. https://theherbalacademy.com/love-it-up-with-herbal-aphrodisiacs/

Homestead Apothecary. "Aphrodisiac". Zine #4. Available for purchase online: https://homesteadapothecary.com/product/aphrodisiac/

Mullein, an Herbal Friend to the Respiratory System

Jessica Graves

 Mullein,  Verbascum thapsus

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

Have you ever noticed this strange and beautiful plant? Often growing in polluted soils, look for mullein along roadsides, train tracks, and empty lots around town. It has an affinity for damaged soils, and is often one of the first plants to pop up in disturbed landscapes, thus helping to improve the quality of the soil for other plants to thrive. Once you see it, it just can't be missed with its characteristically tall rod of small yellow flowers, which can reach up to 8 feet in height! An interesting-looking plant to be sure, and one that brings us lots of healing.

Mullein has been used since ancient times. Its wide variety of folk names reflects its long and varied usage, known colloquially as everything from torches, blanket herb, old man's flannel, to lungwort. The tall stalks of mullein were reportedly dipped in fat and burned as candles, and the soft, wide leaves were used to wrap, wipe, and soothe.

Where mullein really shines, however, is when taken internally as a tea or tincture to support our respiratory systems. An expectorant (helps expel congestion in the lungs), astringent (reduces secretions; helps dry out), and demulcent (soothes irritated mucus membranes), mullein helps you have a more productive cough while soothing your lungs. It moves Kapha congestion from the body, energizes the lymphatic system, and in general tones the respiratory system. The leaves of mullein, taken as a tea or tincture, are used for colds, congestion, asthma, and bronchitis.  Here at Una, we make mullein extract to use in our herbal Vapor Rub to help get the gunk out of your lungs--and it sure does work!

But what about those pretty yellow flowers, you say? Those pack a healing punch, as well. Use the flowers to make an herbal oil that will heal up an ear infection, stat! Mullein flowers are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and they work wonders on ear aches. To make the oil, fill a clean, sterilized mason jar a third of the way with mullein flowers. (You can purchase organic mullein locally from Cutting Root Apothecary or online at Mountain Rose Herbs.) Cover with organic olive oil. Let sit for 3-6 weeks, strain, and it's ready to go. Put a few drops in infected ear. For extra old-school healing, cover sore ear with half a warm onion wrapped in a towel (it really works!).

For more tips on staying healthy this winter, check out our Fight the Flu blog post. Stay warm, drink tea, and be healthy, friends!

 

References:

"Mullein". The Herbarium, The Herbal Academy. Web accessed 17 Jan 2018.

"Mullein Leaf". Plant Profiles, Mountain Rose Herbs. Web accessed 17 Jan 2018.

"Mullein, Great".  A Modern Herbal. Maude Grieve. Web accessed 17 Jan 2018.

"Herbs for Winter Health". Jessica Graves. Powerpoint presentation. Jan 2017.

The Mind-Gut Connection, or, Digestion Really Matters!

Jessica Graves

  We've been on a kick exploring the gut-brain connection lately, and it's been illuminating! You know, there is a reason we talk about feeling "butterflies in our stomach" or having a "gut instinct"...Did you know that microbiota in the gut have a complex communication system with our brains? When we get an intuitive feeling in our bellies, science actually backs up that there is a connection between our gut microbes & our brain chemicals. These little bacteria in our intestines influence our mental state, and chemicals in the brain then influence the health of our intestines, which thus contributes to the health of our immune systems. So if you're looking ways to deal with stress & depression (especially during the Holiday season!), consider taking a look at your digestive health.
     Traditional medical systems, such as a Ayurveda, have long put focus on healthy digestion as key to our overall health. Talk to any Ayurvedic practitioner, and they will probably ask you if you're regular right off the bat! If you struggle with digestion issues, here are a few tips for getting back into balance:

  • Drink more water! Start the day with a room-temperature glass of water, before anything else. This helps jump-start the kidneys and intestines.
  • Take a 15-20 minute walk after eating. This light physical activity helps get your digestive system working.
  • In the winter months, keeping your body warm is key to keeping all systems running smoothly. Add warming tastes like ginger, cayenne, garlic & cinnamon to your meals. Wrap a warm towel or a heating pad around your lower back & belly to bring heat to your kidneys & intestines.
  • Make or buy digestive bitters. These herbal tonics are made from bitter herbs like dandelion, and are often combined with tummy-calming herbs like ginger & fennel. The bitter taste stimulates bile production and supports healthy digestion.
  • Yoga poses & intentional breathing can help digestion. Try this "Wind-Relieving" sequence from Do You Yoga

 

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Image & yoga sequence from Chara Caruthers, Do You Yoga

Interested in learning more about the gut-brain axis? Here's a few books we've been perusing:

Stay healthy, friends!

Rosemary...for so much more than just rememberance!

Jessica Graves

   Rosemarinus officinalis

Rosemarinus officinalis

Rosemary is among one of the oldest used herbs in history.  This delicious and aromatic herbs has a ton of properties and wide ranging uses – from practical to fun.  Let's talk a little more about this fab plant!

The rosemary plant is a shrubby herb that remains fairly short in Pennsylvania, but can grow to 3 feet tall.  It has short evergreen leaves and comes in several varieties including silver to gold striped, though the green leaf variety is used medicinally.

Rosemary’s earliest known role was as a preservative and antiseptic.  Early populations used rosemary to preserve meats, finding that the crushed herb added to the meat could dramatically improve the shelf life.  Rosemarinic acid in the plant is still harvested and used as a natural preservative today. The herb is also regularly added to commercial food products as a stabilizer and to extend shelf life. 

Rosemary was also considered good for the memory and in ancient Rome rosemary wreaths were worn around heads to promote good memory.  This trait evolved into an aid for remembrance, and rosemary is often placed near entry ways of homes to help us remember those we lost.  As a sign of fidelity for lovers, rosemary was used in wedding wreaths and flowers.   This lovely little plant has also been planted outside homes to ward off evil and witches.  And in old England, it was planted in the gardens to show that women ruled the roost in that house (men were reported to have been seen ripping it out of the garden, there by establishing their place as the head of the household). 

Rosemary’s volatile oils are the source of its curative powers.  It has been used as a tonic, astringent, nervine, stomachic and antiseptic.  In plain English that means it’s great for indigestion and stomach concerns, headaches, skin issues, and improving circulation.  It’s often used a hair wash and is fabulous for dandruff and dry scalp.  Rosemary has also been said to promote hair growth, even in cases of baldness.  The Queen of Hungary used a wash of rosemary in the 1200s to stimulate blood flow and combat paralyzed limbs and gout.  These blood stimulating properties have gained rosemary a reputation as an aid in stimulating kidneys.   Rosemary is also known to reduce stomach cramping, bloating and gas (by aiding in the release of bile that digests fat). 

You can tell by smelling rosemary that it has a camphor component. As such, rosemary is great as a tea, or chest rub, when you have a cold or congestion (and good bit better than the Stuff grandma used to rub on you).  For easy at home preparation – make a rosemary tea by steeping the herb (fresh or dried) in hot water for 10-15 minutes.  Soak a cloth in this tea and apply to chest, refreshing the cloth as it cools.  Breathe deeply and think healthy thoughts. :-)

PRECAUTIONS: The essential oil should NEVER be ingested as it is for external use ONLY.  Women that are pregnant, and those who experience heavy menstrual cycles, should not use rosemary medicinally – though some in your food is considered safe.

So Ladies, grab yourself a rosemary plant to put on your steps  - thereby establishing yourself as the Queen of the house, warding off any witches, promoting fidelity and remembrance, and of course spicing up dinner tonight!

Health Benefits of Chanting Meditation

Jessica Graves

Over the past year, we've been hosting a beautiful, monthly Chanting Meditation evening with Kendell Romanelli & Ashley O'Hara here at the boutique. Chanting was a new experience for me (This is Una staffer Anne), and I really learned a lot about the health benefits of meditation & community singing.

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When we chant, what actually are we chanting? It depends, but usually it is a mantra made up of Sanskrit words that uplift the names of Hindu gods & goddesses. While Kendell & Ashley give some context as to who they are and what their story is, the beauty of chanting these mantras is that we don't have to be "followers" of any particular religion or spirituality to appreciate the energy inherent in the sounds of these names. For example, we might sing a chant to the goddess Lakshmi, and simply be meditating on what she represents: harmony, peace, & abundance.

Just allowing yourself to meditate on these ideas is medicine on its own, as plenty of studies on meditation have shown. But, things get really interesting when we dig into what actually happens on a physical level when you sing these words, especially in community with others.

-Chanting is GREAT brain exercise! The practice of learning to say unfamiliar words, and to remember a pattern & melody, is a vigorous workout for the brain. (We've dubbed it Brain Flossing :-) )

-Forming different sounds stimulates different body parts, like our nasal passages, lips, & vocal chords. This stimulation affects our pituitary gland, which in turn regulates our hormonal system. Our immune systems get a positive boost when our hormones are in balance.

-Studies have shown that chanting meditation affects the limbic system, the part of our brains that controls stress & emotion, among other things. Chanting, quite simply, relaxes the brain & increases the flow of calming hormones throughout the system.

-The energy that is created when singing with others is powerful! It creates a sense of connectedness, community, and compassion--all feelings that again increase one's overall sense of well-being.

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Interested in learning more? There are plenty of places around Pittsburgh to give Chanting Meditation a try, like BYS Yoga, Mookshi Wellness Center, or the Krishna Kirtan Center. Chanting Meditation at Una will resume in January, so please check back on our Upcoming Events page to see when our next workshop will be!

Sources:

Stress Less & Sleep More Soundly: Chamomile

Jessica Graves

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Chamomile, Matricaria recutita, that sweet little flower that makes us think of tea and grandmothers. As the seasons change and we enter the quieter, more inward-focused seasons of Fall & Winter, it can be difficult to switch gears and get ourselves to slooooow dooooown - hence the inspiration for this installment of the Herbal Update.  

Chamomile is a low growing flowering perennial that is hardy through zone 5, (though it grows well in PA too).  Its leaves are fern-like and frilly, the flower small and white with a yellow center (think teensy daisy), and the scent of the live plant is summer at its best - crisp, clean and apple-like.  A lovely addition to any border in your garden. 

Chamomile is one of the oldest and most relied upon herbs throughout modern and ancient history.  Chamomile Flowers have been used in tea to calm the nerves, induces sleep, relieve hysteria, gout, gripe, upset stomach, diarrhea, flatulence, headache, and the list goes on and on.  In fact, Chamomile was used as a medicine by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans and its name derives from the Greek chamos (ground) and melos (apple).  It has been planted in English gardens and walks for centuries, and is even said to help revive sick plants if planted next to one.  

Current research has confirmed the plant's usefulness in treating minor abrasions, cuts, and scrapes, and as a sedative and sleep aid.  The plant contains chemicals that are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic.  It also stops spasms in the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestines.   The flower is the most used part of the plant, as the beneficial components are concentrated in the flower center.  Chamomile flowers are commonly brewed as tea after a stressful day, when one is under the weather, or if you are having trouble sleeping.  Combined with ginger, the tea is also used for aiding digestion.  The essential oil of chamomile is also extremely beneficial.  This blue oil is particularly abundant in the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral chemicals and is often to treat minor cuts and scrapes.   At Una Biologicals we include Chamomile oil in all of our Wonder Salves.

Chamomile is known to be safe without harmful side effects. It is however, a member the Ragweed family and may react with those who have extreme sensitivities to the Ragweed family. And of course, herbs of all types are serious medicine and you should always consult your physician before using them.

Happy Fall to you all! And I hope you take advantage of these herbal allies who can help you make a smooth transition to the depth & wisdom of these quieter months :-)

 

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

We're Sponsoring Farm Aid! & Why We Love our Local Farms

Jessica Graves

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Farm Aid has been advocating for small American farmers since 1985, when Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young organized the first annual concert. Equal parts amazing music festival & farm-fresh food round-up, Farm Aid is a an event not to be missed. At Una, we care deeply about supporting local agriculture and getting MORE fresh, local food onto the tables of all our community, and we are so proud that we are sponsoring this year's fest!

The Farm Aid organization works year round to help small, independent farmers stay on their land, from providing grants for emergency aid, to resources for farms transitioning to more sustainable methods, to advocating for policies & amplifying stories that support small farms.

We are so lucky here in western PA to have an incredible amount of small farms growing us all the yummiest produce! Many of these farms offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) programs, which often give a chance for participants to actually volunteer on the farms, getting their hands in the dirt, and bringing folks that much closer to where their food actually comes from. Providing fresh food, connecting non-farmers to the land, and building community...YES!! Thank you, local farms!

Want to learn more about farming in PA? Check out the links below:

Garden Picks: Herbal Cocktails

Jessica Graves

Ah, the dog days of summer are upon us, and what better way to unwind then with a delicious homemade cocktail (or mocktail)! Even better if it's made with herbal goodness from your garden.

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There are lots of ways you can bring the herb garden into your beverages:

  • Muddled: Using a muddler (or just the back of a spoon!), mash up fresh herbs for flavor in drinks
  • Simple Syrup: Cook sugar in water and adds herbs for flavor
  • Infusion: Steep your herbs in alcohol of choice for delicious flavored alcohol, ready for drink-making
  • Shrubs: Ferment fruit in vinegar; add herbs for health & flavor. Makes amazing cocktails!

In general, you want to choose herbs that won't be overpowered by the taste of the liquor, but you can really follow your taste buds when deciding how to construct your drinks. Here's a general guide for what herbs pair best with different liquors:

  • Vodka: parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, eucalyptus
  • Gin: sage, coriander, lemongrass
  • Tequila: rosemary, lavender, basil, sage
  • Rum: mint, oregano, lemon verbena, tarragon
  • Whiskey: thyme, sage, rosemary, tarragon

Let's talk muddling: quick, easy, and can add a lot of flavor, while keeping drinks simple! Some nice combinations include Tequila muddled with basil & watermelon, Gin muddled with thyme & cucumber, Rum muddled with mint & strawberries, and Bourbon muddled with mint & peaches (super yummy). With muddling, you want to be careful not to over-crush the herb so that it breaks apart in the drink, but you do want to mash it up enough that the essential oils are released.

Herbal simple syrups are another easy way to add a touch of flavor & sweetness to your drink. In general, you'll want to follow a 1 cup sugar: 1 cup water: 1/2 cup fresh herb ratio. Add water, sugar, and herbs to saucepan, bring to boil until sugar is dissolved. Cool, strain, bottle, & enjoy!

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You can also choose to make your own herbal-infused alcohols. This involves taking the botanical item of your choice and steeping it in the alcohol of your choice for a set period of time. The botanical ingredients are then strained out, and you are left with a deliciously flavored alcohol. It's best to taste these regularly, as oversteeping does not always lead to better flavor. Some basic guidelines for steeping times:

  • Herbs: 8-12 hours
  • Fruit: 1 week
  • Spices: 1 month
  • Citrus rind & peels: 1 month

For those of you that enjoy a good food-preserving project, you'll definitely want to try your hand at making shrubs! Shrubs are made with fruit and vinegar, and are an excellent way to preserve a large fruit harvest when you're tired of pies and canning :-) Shrubs were made traditionally as a way to preserve fruit, and also as a way for herbalists to make their herbal remedies taste better. Additionally, vinegar has a number of health benefits, so you can feel great about drinking that cocktail ;-) The shrub-making process takes a couple of weeks, so plan ahead! We found some great recipes & instructions over at Deer Nation Herbs. Take a look and give them a try! In the meantime, you can get your hands on some local, delicious shrubs by stopping in to Caffe D'amore in upper Lawrenceville!

Phew! All this cocktail talk is making me thirsty! We'll leave you with a few fun recipes to try. Cheers to you!

Watermelon Mint Mojito

  • 6 cups fresh watermelon
  • 1 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup mint simple syrup
  • 3/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup ice
  • 5 sprigs fresh mint
  • Splash of club soda
  1. Blend watermelon to fine puree in blender
  2. Add all ingredients to pitcher & fill with ice
  3. Top with club soda, mix, & garnish with fresh mint

Basil Peach Bellini

  • 1/2 ounce purple basil simple syrup
  • 2 ounces fresh peach puree
  • 4 ounces sparking wine, dry
  1. Add puree to glass, then add simple syrup & sparking wine
  2. Stir & serve, garnish with a basil sprig

Blood Orange & Turmeric Margarita - from the Wicked Spatula

  • 4 ounces blood orange juice
  • 2 ounces mezcal or tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 1/2 - 2 Tbs turmeric simple syrup (1 cup water; 1 cup sugar; 2 Tbs turmeric powder. Heat to dissolve, strain through cheesecloth)
  • Salt & cayenne pepper for rimming (1 tsp salt: 1/4 tsp cayenne ratio)
  1. Add ingredients to shaker with ice
  2. Shake well & pour over ice
  3. Add lime wedge for garnish