June 16, 2016
We are well into the triple digits and as well all know they will stay with us for the next months. Summer is the time when we have to be extra careful and protect our skin from the damaging UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Unfortunately, getting sunburned is much more common that it ought to be. In a recent survey conducted in partnership with iVillage, The Skin Cancer Foundation learned that 42 percent of people polled get sunburn at least once a year.
So what to do when, after that day tubing on the river, you come home with a nasty burn?
There are several herbs that are well known for their ability to bring sunburn relief.
This is probably the best known herbal remedy for sunburn. Aloe Vera gel may be used directly on sunburns for immediate relief of sunburned skin and to accelerate the healing process. Because of its high water content (99.5%), it is especially soothing to the skin. Aloe Vera is very mild and can be applied generously to the burned area as often as needed. Add a few drops lavender and chamomile essential oil to maximize healing effects.
Chamomile is wonderful for the skin â€“ gentle, relaxing and its anti-inflammatory properties help the skin heal. Use cold chamomile infusions as a compress, or spray it on the affected areas.
Green tea is a powerful anti-oxidant, and may be used topically or internally as tea before or after sun exposure. Studies have shown that green tea may reduce skin inflammation and redness, protect the skin cells, and to assist with the adverse affects of UV radiation exposure. It contains tannic acid, theobromine and polyphenols, all of which are soothing and healing to sunburned skin.
Not only good for relaxation, to soothe headaches and calm nerves, lavender can be used to treat minor cuts, scrapes and insect bites (antiseptic) and helps calm inflamed, sunburned skin. It is beneficial for all skin types even the most sensitive skin, offers immediate relief and may accelerate the healing process.
Soothing Oatmeal Bath
2 cups oatmeal
¼ cup Baking Soda
½ cup Chamomile Flowers
½ cup Lavender Flower
2-4 tbsp. Green Tea Leaves
Blend oatmeal in a food processor until it has the consistency of powder. Place all ingredients in a muslin bag or cheesecloth, tie under the faucet and draw a lukewarm bath. Soak for 10-15 minutes.
March 1, 2016
Spring is in the air and with the sunshine, warm temperatures and flowers in bloom, many of us feel the urge to sweep winter out the door and give our homes a thorough cleaning. Why stop there? After the (over-) indulgences of the holidays, our bodies could use a little help as well, getting rid of waste and maybe some unwanted weight. A gentle herbal cleanse is easy and can support the body’s natural detoxification process.
In order to deal with toxins, the body produces excess mucous or fat and traps them in there temporarily. Eventually the mucuous breaks down and the toxins seep into the bloodstream where they can cause tissue damage. Storing waste in such a manner means that in many cases, people may be carrying up to 10 pounds of unhealthy, mucous harboring toxic waste. The result is that we feel sluggish, have PMS, digestive disorders, headaches, joint pains, bad breath, allergies, skin breakouts, poor memory, depression – the list goes on and on.
How does detoxification work?
- eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars, and saturated fats
- minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal care products and substitute with natural alternatives
- include some meditation, relaxation exercise or simply an nap to de-stress
- eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and fiber
Drinking herbal infusions which stimulate the liver to process toxins faster and more efficiently, is something we can do daily. Mother nature provides some wonderful herbals that are not only very effective, but also tasty and easy to prepare. My favorite cleansing herbs are Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). Nettle is a popular spring tonic since it cleanses the liver and builds blood. It is rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C. Dandelion complements nettle in that it also targets liver and kidney cleansing, but it also tones the stomach, gall bladder and intestine, improving absorbtion of nutrients. It is a very safe diuretic due to its high content in potassium and iron
To maximize benefits, blend the two herbals together and maybe add a little mint or lemon balm for flavor. For an herbal infusion, use 1-2 tsp of herbs per 8oz of boiling water and steep anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Drink 2 cups per day.
February 12, 2016
We all deal with stress every day, a hectic schedules, lack of sleep, demands at the work place or in school our world has become increasingly more complex. We are constantly bombarded with information via TV, cell phones and the internet, and the majority of it is negative, fueling worries and anxiety. Assaults on our senses create a physical and emotional reaction, an overwhelming feeling we call STRESS!
While our bodies strive to adapt to the stresses in our live and keep us balanced and healthy, it is the consistent exposure to stressors that eventually leads to physical symptoms such as:
- frequent bouts of low blood sugar,
- mood and memory problems
- salt and sugar cravings
- morning fatigue, low energy
In nature we find a category of herbs called adaptogens which can help the human body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic processes, and restore balance. They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors and promote normal physiologic function. They can provide a defense response to acute or chronic stress and are unique from other substances in their ability to restore the balance of endocrine hormones and strengthen the immune system.
Adaptogenic herbs have been used for thousands of years in ancient India and China. In the past, they have been called rejuvenating herbs, qi tonics, rasayanas or restoratives. Modern research has substantiated what the ancients knew, that many of these herbs are important medicines that can be used for the prevention and treatment of a variety of common ailments.
Astragalus, Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Eleuthero are some of the herbs that are considered Adaptogens.
ASTRAGALUS is native to China and it s Chinese name means yellow leader because the root is yellow and the herb is considered the leader among tonic herbs. Astragalus strengthens the lungs and enhances the immune system function. Research has shown that it helps prevent immunosuppressant caused by chemotherapy and has anti-tumor inhibiting activity. More recently, Astragalus has been used to improve cardiac blood flow and to prevent kidney and liver damage.
ELEUTHERO is native to Siberia, Korea and northern Japan. It strengthens the immune system and if used regularly, can reduce incidence of colds. It also increases endurance and stamina and if used regularly, a person will feel better perform better and recover more quickly. It is great for those stressed-out type A people who work long hours and/ or don’t get adequate sleep or nutrition. Eleuthero is also used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, jet lag and adrenal fatigue.
Adaptogens are tonic herbs and they don’t have any negative physical effects and can be taken safely over long periods of time. A tonic supplement strengthens and invigorates various organs and body systems. They help balance emotions and enhance memory.
Reference: (Winston & Maimes, Adatptogens-Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, 2007)
October 23, 2015
The weather Gods are having their fun with us. We are going from unseasonably hot to the wet and cool in just a few days. I am hoping that this is just a fluke, and we will finally get to enjoy fall temperatures. However, we still have many customers come into the store plagued by allergy symptoms.
Itchy eyes, runny nose and sinus headaches are keeping many from enjoying Mother Nature. On the other hand, Mother Nature also offers a natural remedy to nagging allergy symptoms.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), is a valuable herb with many health benefits – alleviating allergy symptoms being one of them. What herbalists have known for a long time has now been substantiated by modern science.
A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2009 showed that Nettle leaf blocks histamine receptors, and acts to block prostaglandin production by the COX-1 and COX-2 pathways. It also blocks the release of enzymes from mast cells. All those effects together make this a pretty potent anti-allergy medicine.
Other studies demonstrated that nettle also reduces sneezing and runny nose for people with allergies.
Best of all – unlike other anti-histamines, Nettle (freeze-dried is best for allergies!) does not cause drowsiness!
September 25, 2015
Elderberries can be made into a syrup
While there are many herbs to help treat cold and flu symptoms and to shorten the duration of an illness, elderberry (Sambuccus nigra) is Mother Nature’s version of the flu shot and can actually help prevent you from contracting the virus. Elderberry syrup is Europe’s most esteemed formula for colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections.
Just how does elderberry keep the cold and flu at bay?
Flu viruses are primitive organisms that need the body’s cells as a host to replicate themselves. They puncture the cell walls with little enzyme-coated spikes called hemaglutinin and so break into the cell. Research has shown that elderberry has chemical compounds that disarm these spikes and prevent the virus from entering the respiratory cells thereby working in a prophylactic way.
Growing up in Germany, my mother got us through the winter by making sure we got our daily dose of elderberry Syrup. (The adults, on the other hand, preferred a glass of elderberry wine!) She would make many batches of the syrup and I have kept up with this tradition in my family as well.
In recent years, elderberry syrup has been gaining in popularity here in the U.S. too and can be found in many health food stores. But why spent a lot of money, if it is so easy and fun to make in your own kitchen. All you need is:
½ cup of dried Elderberries
3 cups of spring water
½ -1 cup of honey
In a saucepan, bring the elderberries and water to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 to 4o minutes. Strain the liquid, making sure you mash the berries in order to get every drop of the decoction. Add the honey to the warm liquid and fill in a glass bottle. The syrup will keep in the fridge for 3 months. Take 1-3 tbsp per day for as a preventative remedy.
Elderberries are safe and can be taken over extended period of time!
*(don’t give honey to children under the age of 1)
August 24, 2015
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) is one of the oldest agricultural crops and has a long history as a religious symbol. The Celts of pre-Christian Ireland revered and legends tell that it inspired the Irish symbol – the shamrock!
- Did you know that Red Clover was the model for the suit of clubs in playing cards?
- It was used as a charm against witchcraft during the Middle Ages.
- Clover cordial was a popular drink in the early days of San Francisco
Medicinally, Red Clover has much to offer. Not only is it high in many important nutrients including vitamins and minerals, it also has antibiotic properties, is a diuretic and expectorant.
Red Clover is recommended in the treatments of whooping cough and dry coughs. Used internally, it can help with skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.
It has also been used in the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lymphoma. While it’s anti-tumor effects have to be substantiated by scientific studies, there is no doubt that Red Clover is one of the best detoxification herbs and respiratory tonics.
Take it as a tea (it actually tastes quite good!) , tincture or combine it with herbs like marshmallow to increase its healing effect.
August 16, 2015
September is National Organic
Certified Organic Label
Harvest month and therefore a good opportunity to take a closer look at what exactly this means when it comes to your tea purchases and how to navigate the different package labels.
The USDA ORGANIC label is showing up on more and more products and many of us rely on this label to deliver consistent quality.
The organic label indicates that an agricultural product – and tea is an agricultural product – has been produced through approved methods. These methods consist of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. This means that synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used!
The growing of organic tea is relatively new, dating back about twelve years. The rules under which organic tea is produced are fairly complicated and tightly controlled. The tea crop must be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It relies only on natural organic matter such as compost, plants and trees to provide the necessary nutrients and ground cover. There are two categories of organic tea production:
- In the first category, you will find teas that have been certified organic by one of several international agencies.
- The second category includes teas that are grown according to traditional methods, following the principals of organic growth, but are not validated by a certified agent. These are often teas from smaller tea gardens whose owners simply cannot afford the certification fees, but take pride in the superior quality of their teas.
When a tea is labeled “certified organic”, it has met the conditions by at least one of the regulatory agencies. That does not, however, mean that all non-organic teas contain chemicals and are unhealthy. Some teas have been grown organically for centuries, in spite of codes or set rules.
Tea consumption worldwide is growing and the demand for high quality, certified organic teas is increasing, yet the production is driven mainly by cost.
For the consumer it is not always easy to decipher which teas are organically grown. Here in the U.S., the certifying agency is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and certified organic products are clearly labeled.
On the other hand, a tea can be grown organically and certified by the appropriate agencies in Japan, England or Germany, yet the consumer here will not be aware of this due to the lack of labeling.
The better known certifying agencies whose logos might appear on products sold in the U.S. are Germany’s Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, Switzerland’s Institute for Market Ecology and Japan’s Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS).
With the increasing demand, a wide range of organic teas are now available, but even without organic production methods, tea is actually a very clean product whose cultivation and production is tightly controlled and monitored.
Some tea growers work in harmony with nature and produce what is called “bio-dynamic” tea. This means that the seasons, the weather, the waxing and waning of the moon and the interaction and interdependency of different species of insects, birds and animals are all taken into consideration when planting. This approach of tea farming links with ancient agricultural practices.
Demeter International is one of the bodies that runs a biodynamic certification program and invests in raising awareness of ecological patterns and sustainable farming activities.
So while the USDA ORGANIC label reflects the quality of the agricultural product you are buying, it is by no means the only seal for organically grown products. If you have questions about the origin and production of the tea and agricultural products you are buying, ask your grocer or tea purveyor for information on its origin and production.
Celebrate National Organic Harvest month with us at Souvia and check out the specials we have on our extensive selection of certified organic teas.
August 7, 2015
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used by herbalists around the world for thousands of years. From China, where it has been used to heal sore throats, treat respiratory and digestive problems it made its way westward. Hippocrates, the Greek physician Dioscorides as well as the German abbess/herbalist Hildegard von Bingen all swore by the powerful healing properties of this sweet tasting root.
The plant itself is perennial, reaching 2 meters in height from a root system of taproots and branch roots. It can be found in southern Italy, Spain, Russia and other countries east of the Mediterranean. While it still grows wild, it is now extensively cultivated to meet global demand and to protect the plant.
The materia medica of the American Botanical Council indicates that licorice is in the FDA ‘s list of herbs generally regarded as safe.
Parts used are the rhizome and root.
Licorice has widely been used to
- relieve coughs, sore throats, break up congestion
- soothe the digestive tract
- support adrenal function and combat stress fight disease-causing bacteria and the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections
- stimulate and strengthen the immune system
- strengthen and balance the female reproductive system
Licorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar and is added to chocolate to extend the sweetness of sugar. It is also used by brewers to give body and color to porter and stout. Did you know that licorice is an ingredient in the Irish ale “Guiness” and used to flavor the Italian liqueur “Sambuca”? It is used in the make up of many other products, but interestingly the popular candy “licorice” does not contain licorice root but gets its flavor from a distant cousin “anise”.
To make a decoction that can be taken for coughs, colds and to soothe stomach ulcers, put 1 1/2 oz of licorice root in 1 1/2 pt of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and drink as required.
While licorice is considered safe, it is not recommended during pregnancy and for those with liver conditions, severe kidney disfunction or suffering from hypertension. If taking prescription drugs, it is always advisable to consult with your physician first before taking any herbals medicinally.
July 24, 2015
Yerba Mate is an evergreen shrub that grows in many parts of South America. As a beverage, it is a favorite in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Most Yerba Mate is green, although roasted Yerba Mate is also available and gaining in popularity. In South America, it is served in a hollow gourd with sweetener and milk. The brew is then sucked up through a filtered straw called bombilla.
With its slightly smokey, vegetal and bitter taste, this brew takes some getting used to as a self-drinker (without adding milk and sugar), but it combines well with other herbs and spices. It can be made hot or cold.
Yerba Mate special properties include many vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. Unlike other herbals, it does contain caffeine. Aficionados swear by the energy boost it gives without the jitters and anxiety often caused by coffee.
To make an infusion, use 1 heaping tsp dried leaves in 1 cup (8oz) of freshly boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes or longer if you like it strong. (no worries about over steeping!)
May 9, 2015
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Herbal medicine is gaining more and more popularity as an alternative to support conventional medical treatments or to simply maintain health and wellbeing.
While research is ongoing, herbal products are becoming more and more mainstream and are available in health food stores and specialty retailers. They come in many forms, accommodating the preference of the customer – from teas, capsules, syrups, lotions to liquid extracts. By far the most common method to take herbals is to make a tea, infusing the leaves, flowers or fruits with boiling water and letting them steep. Herbal infusions are gentle, easy to make at home and soothing when you don’t feel well.
However, not all phytochemicals dissolve in water and therefore the infusion method may yield the best results. Another, more effective method of extraction is to prepare a tincture – also called herbal extract. Not only do you end up with a more concentrated herbal medicine, you will also get a product that delivers herbal medicine in a standardized way, meaning with every dropper full, you get a similar amount of the active ingredient. Herbal extracts are alcoholic or water-alcohol solutions, prepared from fresh or dried botanicals. Vegetable glycerin is another solvent that works great for those who want to avoid alcohol or to make tinctures for children.
One of the oldest and a very easy way to make a tincture/herbal extract in your kitchen is called the “simpler’s method” which uses parts as a measurement. A part is a unit of measurement that can be interpreted to mean, tsp, cup, ounce, pound, etc., but always keeps the relative proportions of the herb consistent.
- Begin your tincture preparation by placing dried or fresh herbs in a glass jar and pour enough alcohol (clear grain alcohol like Vodka is best) over the herbs to cover them completely. Usually the ratio is 1 part herb to 5 parts of alcohol. Close the jar with a tight fitting lid and place it in a warm and dry place.
- Let the herbs soak for four to six weeks, shaking the jar daily to prevent them from settling on the bottom of it.
- Strain the herbs into a container and fill the liquid into small bottles and label these with the herb’s name and current date. If stored in a cool, dark place, the tincture will keep three to six years.
You can prepare single herb tinctures or with a little knowledge blend different herbs into a medicine that targets a specific problem. For example, combine Echinacea and Elderberry for an immune strengthening tincture or blend Skullcap and Lemon balm to soothe frayed nerves. If you would like to learn more about herbs and how to use them, check with your Souvia Tea Consultant for the latest seminars and workshops.
Olivia Wingert, Co-owner Souvia Tea™ and passionate herbalist