When I was a child, I was thrown from a horse and spent many years thereafter challenged by lower back and radiating leg pain. With time and maturity, as well as changes in my diet and appropriate exercise, I’ve put those pain-days behind me, but I’ve carried forward some of the best solutions that I learned from the experience. One of my favorites of these is the soothing comfort of an old-fashioned herbal sitz bath. Often used to relieve issues related to post-birth discomfort, etc., a sitz bath is also ideal for easing general lower-body soreness and fatigue.Read More
Sooner or later, everything old is new again. This saying has been sneaking into our day-to-day a lot over the last couple of years as people are rediscovering “old” methods of being more self-sufficient and resilient in these challenging times. One of our favorite old-new “discoveries” is yaupon tea. When our Mountain Rose Herbs tea team was introduced to yaupon, we—like most Americans—had no idea that there was a naturally caffeinated tea plant native to North America. This fact is astounding when you consider that yaupon tea was the drink of choice for literally thousands of years. This delicious tea is supremely sippable and, thanks to plentiful theophylline and theobromine (as well as a host of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.), provides a smooth caffeine boost and focus without the jitteriness that can come from coffee.Read More
Pregnancy is obviously a profoundly life- and body-changing event. Particularly as we move into the second and third trimester, when our babies are growing at super-speed, our bodies make remarkable changes to accommodate the little people who set up house in our wombs. Our joints, muscles, and organs all have to sacrifice space or need to stretch in challenging ways. The most obvious of these changes is what happens to our bellies. Our stomach skin must expand tremendously and can end up feeling stretched to its limits, with skin that is tight, dry, and itchy. And then once that precious child is born, our skin must reverse course, which takes time and has its own set of discomforts. Happily, a good balm helps a lot! Homemade belly butter made with soothing, organic butters and skin-loving herbal oils relieves discomfort and redness and helps the skin maintain its elasticity during and after pregnancy. Best of all, this balm for hard working mamas is easy and economical to make, so you can always have it on hand when you need it.Read More
The diversity of natural chemical compounds in plants is remarkable. For many years, scientists thought they could be broken down into simple primary and secondary categories: the primary compounds being those that contribute directly to growth and development, and the secondary ones being byproducts that don’t directly contribute to those primary functions. Most of the aromatic oils, gums, and resins that humans have adored for thousands of years fell into this wide category of secondary natural compounds. Why do plants produce them? Understanding the roles these compounds play in plants helps us understand how to use them most effectively. We went to our friend, fourth-generation botanist and plant physiologist Karen Hall, to get a better understanding of natural gums, resins, and gum-resins in plants.Read More
I have to admit that I have a fairly one-track mind about holidays—I really like festive food. Whatever else happens, fine, so long as the food is good. This works for the big holidays as well as ones hardly anyone knows about. For instance, in my house we are practically religious about Lemon Meringue Pie Day. Over the years, certain things have become tradition, and I’ve grown to really enjoy Valentine breakfast. Other people call this Valentine’s Day breakfast, but my husband and I celebrate our anniversary in mid-February, so Valentine’s Day has never meant much for us… except for Valentine breakfast. In our house, this is a time for sharing nurturing food and laughter with the people we love and who love us. Whether or not they are romantic partners is immaterial. Lovers, family, friends, your favorite four-leggers—this is a day for just feeling the love.Read More
Have you ever looked at the ingredients list on a store-bought chest rub? When you’re congested, bleary-eyed, and feeling like death warmed over, reading ingredients is not high on the priority list, but it’s also not comforting to find out that you just rubbed a semisolid soup of petroleum products onto your skin in order to give your respiratory passages some relief. The classic over-the-counter chest rubs are often less than 10% herbal ingredients, and approximately 90% petrolatum in the form of petroleum jelly, which is generally combined with turpentine. When petrolatum is not refined properly or entirely, as is sometimes the case in the U.S., it can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens particularly when used over a period of time. There are of course excellent petrolatum-free chest rubs on the market with all the herbal benefits and no carcinogenic ingredients. But why purchase something that you can easily make at home in 15 minutes and for less money?
As herbalists, we regularly combine a variety of healthful, supportive botanicals in infusions, extracts, elixirs, etc. With each herb bringing its own superpower to the mix and working in unison with the other ingredients, we ideally end up with a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. We use this wisdom in herb-based foods as well, stirring in a bit of herbal goodness here and supportive botanicals there to create a dish full to the brim with flavor, health, and healing. Homemade protein balls (or maybe we should call them energy balls? They’re both!) are a perfect example of this. With a base of healthy oats (which also happen to be gluten-free) and packed with nut-butter protein, they provide a good mix of protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, and are a perfect, oh-so-delicious vehicle in which to add the extra benefits of high quality herbal powders.Read More
I’ve been eating gluten free for nine months now and I’ve got to say it has been a serpentine journey to figure out how to meet my admittedly snooty standards for baked goods. Mediocre desserts are just not worth the calories if you ask me, but dessert is one of my two favorite “meals” (the other one being breakfast), and I refuse to give up the experience of a perfectly baked treat. I’ve taken the tactic of choosing a grain-based recipe that I love and reworking that recipe over and over again until I create a new gluten-free version that is at least as delicious. I’m lucky my husband and kids are good sports because sometimes this has meant days and days of eating slightly different versions of the same recipe. Lately it’s been crepes. Many batches of crepes later, the family and I agree that these coconut buckwheat crepes are so delicious, you would never guess they’re gluten free.Read More
Olfactory memories are powerful things. The other day I was at the feed store picking up cat food, and as I walked out, I caught a waft of chewing tobacco. Even before I could identify what I was smelling, my feet stopped walking and my Grandpa Albert—who is many years gone—popped into my head. There in my mind’s eye, he was in his overalls, with a plug of tobacco in his pocket, snuggling small-me in his lap, playing the penny counting game we used to play. This relationship between scent, emotion, and memory is hardwired in our brains—our olfactory bulb routes the smell information it receives to the limbic system, including the areas of our brain directly related to emotion and memory. This is why just a whiff of scent took me back decades and flooded me with the same warmth and comfort I experienced playing games with my beloved grandpa. These powerful connections are a fundamental factor in why aromatherapy can be supportive in managing mood and stress because what we smell literally impacts our brains… all of which brings me in a roundabout fashion to potpourri.
Candlelight is an element of winter holidays all over the world. Whether part of someone’s deeply held spiritual or cultural practices—as during Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali—or representative of age-old Winter Solstice and Christmas traditions, candles are, for many of us, a fundamental part of our winter festivities… which means it’s a perfect time to make easy homemade scented candles in preparation for the celebrations, decorating, and gift giving.Read More