Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Blog Posts on Pause for a While

Hello all.

I will be putting a pause on the blog posts for the foreseeable future. I've got a super busy summer coming up, and I'm going to be taking some time to practice what I preach by taking care of myself.

The Etsy shop is still open though, so if you are interested in purchasing, products check it out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chicken Soup Recipe for Recovery

A few weeks ago, I went to Nashville for the weekend. Even before I left for my trip I knew I was going to need something to help my body recover from the traveling, the not so healthy food I would be eating, and the whiskey I'd be drinking.  I tend to not be so careful about my food choices when I go somewhere new, because I love to try the local cuisine. This meant plenty of pulled pork, grits, and biscuits while in Nashville.

After I've spent a few days away from my preferred eating habits, I like to do a reset to get me back on track and to remind my body how good it feels when I eat nourishing foods. This chicken soup recipe is absolutely perfect for that. It's filled with chicken bone broth, and plenty of fibrous vegetables that get my body back on track.

Chicken soup has been used for centuries, in cultures all around the world, as a cure for the common cold. Recently scientists have studied the effects of chicken soup on the common cold and found that it has anti-inflammatory properties. After a weekend of eating and drinking foods that are often thought of as promoting inflammation, an anti-inflammatory remedy is just what I needed.

The anti-inflammatory action of this soup is increased with the addition of turmeric and ginger roots. 

When I make this soup, I purchase bone broth from my local reputable butcher (shoutout to The Piggery!!), because I simply do not have time or energy to make my own. I combine the bone broth with water and chicken broth powder for flavor. I also purchase an organic rotisserie chicken and break that apart so I can put meat in the soup. This saves tons of time, and makes this whole process much easier.

This recipe was inspired by A Spicy Perspective's Detox Chicken Soup.

This is my soup, it's not pretty, but it sure
tasty.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 rotisserie chicken
1 quart bone broth and 1 quart chicken broth
1 large onion
2 cups chopped celery
3 tablespoons shredded ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 cleaned and sliced leek
2 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups broccoli
1/4 cup parsley
3-4 handfuls of chopped kale
salt and pepper


Directions

1. Chop and prepare vegetables. Tear apart chicken meat from bones and chop.
2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, ginger, garlic, and leek to the pot and saute until onions are translucent.
3. Add broth, carrots, apple cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to simmer and cook until carrots are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Add chicken, parsley, and broccoli to the pot, continue to simmer until broccoli is soft.
5. Stir kale into soup, adding salt and pepper to taste. Once kale is wilted, turn off the heat and serve warm.

I usually double the recipe and freeze half of the pot. This way chicken soup will always be in my freezer when I need it.


💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Recommendation: The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health

A few years ago I started to become interested in the gut microbiota. You see, our bodies are covered with bacteria, viruses, and fungi inside and out. All of these species together make up the gut microbiota. For a long time people said that the number of bacteria cells on the human body outnumbered the human cells ten to one. That has since been disproved, but these microbes play a key role in keeping the human body healthy.

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg is a fantastic book to read if you would like to learn more about the gut microbiome and it's effect on your health. This husband and wife team have a lab in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University in California. In their lab they explore interactions between the microbes that live in our gut and the host (us!).


In The Good Gut, the Sonnenburg's go through the current science we have available on the gut microbiota. This is a relatively new field and constantly expanding, so the most recent advances are not covered, but they've got the basic science down. They explain that the gut microbiota plays an incredibly important role in our overall health, both physical and mental. The microbes in our gut affect our immune system, metabolism, and the nervous system. Basically, if our gut microbes are out of whack, it's much more likely that we will not feel our best.

They go on to explain that the makeup of our microbiome starts at birth and continues on throughout the rest of our lives. Our microbiota is very individual and changes from person to person, based on their life experiences and the foods they eat. It is thought this may play a role in why some areas of the world have a higher predisposition to some diseases compared to others.
Kale by Dwight Sipler via Flickr. License.
In this book probiotics are also addressed. These probiotic bacteria are thought of as transient microbes, because they do not take up permanent residence in our guts. They are likely catalysts to encourage growth of beneficial bacteria when they have been overrun by too many harmful microbes, due to poor diet, medications, or even antibiotics.

Finally, they offer suggestions of the best way to feed your gut microbes; fiber. Beneficial gut microbes love fiber, and they do not like sugar or processed foods. Harmful microbes overtake the beneficial microbes when we eat too much sugar and processed food and not enough fiber. So the best thing we can do is fill our bodies with good fiber from vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Kid friendly recipes are included in the book, along with suggestions for encouraging kids and picky eaters to try out new gut friendly foods.

If you are interested in learning about the gut microbiome, this book is a great place to start. I think the Sonnenburg's do a wonderful job of summarizing the research, pointing out where it is lacking, and providing information on future studies to look out for. Their tips for eating to feed your gut are handy, and I've tried a few of their recipes, which are lovely. Personally, I have implemented some of their ideas for keeping a healthy gut, and I have noticed a considerable difference in the way I feel.

By Environmental Illness Network via Flickr. License.
If you decide to start adding more fiber to your diet, I recommend starting slowly and gradually increasing your consumption. Adding too much too quickly could be rather uncomfortable and unpleasant for yourself and those around you (they mention this several times in the book).

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Recipe: Peanut Butter, Honey, and Cinnamon Apple Dip

Good morning everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend. This week the post will be short and sweet because I was traveling last weekend and I'm getting ready to travel this weekend too. I love going on trips, it's always been something that I have enjoyed.

I thought I would share a snack I enjoy making when I'm craving sweetness. It makes a great snack for during the work day or an after dinner dessert. I will be mixing up a batch before our road trip later this summer because I think it be the perfect thing to eat on the road.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons nut butter (almond or peanut work great)
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 apple

Directions

1. Stir the ingredients together and taste. Do you want it to be sweeter? Add honey. Want a bit more cinnamon? Add it in. 
2. Cut or slice apple
3. Dip apple slices in yummy concoction and enjoy.


Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Self-Care Sunday: Self Love and Hard Tuths

This week, Courtney and I agreed that I would write about Self-care, and tell you a bit about what it means to me. I believe that one of the most important aspects of self-care is self love. I also believe that true love is knowing and accepting everything about myself. This means getting to know all of myself, and sometimes means hearing hard truths. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to hear one of these truths from Courtney. 

You see, I was asked to interview with a business that I deeply respect. They work with battered women helping them to leaving abusive partners and get into safe living situations. The position itself wouldn't be taxing, but watching abused women come in and out every day would be for me, for two reasons. 

The first, and more obvious, reason is because most descent, and caring people hate knowing that another person is suffering. But in my case, I don't just dislike knowing it, I suffer with them as if it was my own. I forget that the way I can most help another is by staying healthy and whole myself so when they need support, I can be strong for them.

The other, and more personal, reason is because I have a very bad habit of adopting "strays". I'm that woman who feeds the feral cats, and brings the homeless person home to stay with her. I do this often to my own detriment. In a work situation like this, I could quickly end up jeopardizing not just my health and well being, but the well being of the women trying to get out of the worst situations.

This is where self love comes in. When Courtney pointed out to me that I have this habit, I had the opportunity to either take it as an insult, or embrace this aspect of myself. By embracing it, I can grow and change the habit into something healthier for not just myself, but the people I care about. I can also use my knowledge to make better choices in my life. 

Embracing all of my parts in the act of self love, is one of the hardest and deepest forms of self care for me. But it's harder for me to keep living my life hating myself for who I am, and unable to change because I keep denying who am I. 

What is self love for you? 


Many thanks to Courtney for inviting me to author this week's Self-Care Sunday post! 

Catherine

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wildcrafting Adventures: Sweet Birch

I decided I wanted to wildcraft some sweet birch for the birch oil that goes into some of my products this past weekend. So, Brad and I ventured into the woods with his parents and gathered a bunch Saturday. We had so much fun playing in the woods with his parents and their dogs!

Brad and I playing in the woods
Normally I purchase my herbs from a local farm in upstate New York, but I wanted to give wildcrafting a try. Wildcrafting is the process of gathering herbs from the wild to use in herbal preparations. I've done this a few times with goldenrod and dandelion, but never with a tree. I was super excited to get out there and harvest my own birch.

Sweet Birch (Betula Lenta) leaves
Sweet birch or Betula lenta, also known as black birch, contains wintergreen. A lovely smelling oil which contains methyl salicylate. This is similar to the main component of Asprin, and can also be found in topical pain relieving products such as Bengay. The oils from sweet birch are anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, and especially useful for muscle and joint pain.

Brad's dad hard at work
Brad's dad was super helpful in identifying the proper trees, and cutting the branches down for me, and Brad carried the harvest back to the car. I was mostly along for the ride and to document our adventure.

Brad playing pack mule
One of my favorite things about this tree, is that whenever a branch is cut, you can smell the wintergreen. There's something about it that is comforting to me. This also makes the tree extremely easy to identify.

After harvesting, it's important to set the branches out so the leaves can wilt. This will prevent water getting into the oil, and causing the oil to spoil.

The full haul, laid out to wilt.
Sunday, I spent most of the day clipping leaves and shaving branches to make the oil. I prefer to use the double boiler method of oil infusion. It's much faster than other infusion methods, and it helps ensure there's no water in the oil.


I made tons of oil, and my house smells WONDERFUL! Seriously, I love how this stuff smells. I've also had my dehydrator running non-stop drying some leaves for future infusion. With all this oil, I will have plenty for weeks to come!

Have you ever gathered your own herbs? What's your favorite way to spend time in nature?

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Self-Care Sunday: What is Self-Care?

I am so excited to be bringing this series of posts to you. Self-care, self-love, and self-compassion are incredibly important topics to me and I am so glad I get to talk about them with you.

Love! by Farid Iqbal Ibrahim via Flickr, License
Self-care is consciously making choices that take care of your mind, body, and soul. These actions can be daily rituals such as yoga and meditation, or decisions we make on a daily basis to care for ourselves.

It's similar to the safety demonstration you see when you get on an airplane. Every time the oxygen mask demonstration is done, the flight attendant says to attach your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. You need to take care of you, before you can take care of anyone else. Another similar saying is: "you are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm."

This means that if you don't take care of yourself first, you can't help other people. I experienced this often during my teens and early twenties. I spent so much time worrying about other people, their feelings, and how I could help them, I didn't take the time to take care of myself. I was burnt out, exhausted, and eventually, I had nothing left for them, let alone myself. 

By CongerDesign via Pixabay
Sometimes, self-care is saying, "no, I'm sorry, I can't today, but I'll be there tomorrow." Sometimes self-care is taking the kids to the grandparents, or a friends for the day and going home to read a book, have some tea, or go on a date with your partner. Sometimes self-care is forming good habits, like showering regularly, brushing your teeth morning and night, or doing your laundry on a regular basis. Sometimes self-care is running errands, making phone calls, and doing chores. Sometimes self-care is building an exercise and healthy eating routine, and sometimes, it's having a glass of wine with dinner and ice cream for dessert. The list goes on...

You see, self-care is highly individual, and it is most important to do what is good for you. Your self-care routine is different from my self-care routine. Self-care is a conscious decision to take care of yourself in the best way you can.

There is no right way to practice self-care, and it is an ever evolving journey that will morph and change over time. 

Start small, pick one thing to do to take care of yourself, and see how that can change things for you.

What are some self-care practices you would like to start? 

💗 Courtney

Blog editing and advisement by adreamingone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Introducing Self-Care Sundays!!

Happy Wednesday everyone! This week I am introducing a new series I will be doing called Self-Care Sundays. Each week I will share something that I do, my friends or family do, or new ideas about self-care. I would like to do this because an essential part of my business is promoting the ideas of self-care, self-compassion, and self-love. 

Church by Kasper Florchinger via Flickr. License
I chose Sunday's for this series because I like the alliteration for the title and Sundays are often looked at as a day of rest. I grew up in a family that went to church every. single. Sunday. This was followed by a large egg and bacon breakfast, and sometimes an outing of some sort. But most often we spent the time on Sunday at home, finishing chores, completing weekend homework, and getting ready for the week ahead. This was how a majority of the people I grew up with spent their Sunday. Many people all over the world still do this every week.

I don't go to church anymore, and haven't for very many years, but I still think of Sunday as a day of preparation for the week ahead. I plan out our meals, we go grocery shopping, clean the house, do laundry, and spend some time together. I think of all of these things as self-care for Brad and I. We are doing what we need to do in order to be the most successful we can be in the coming week ahead. 

And really, isn't that what's important? Doing the things that set you up to accomplish your goals?
Brad's favorite self-care is hiking by the
waterfalls in the area. Buttermilk Falls,
Ithaca, NY. Taken by Bradley Benjamin
Some Sundays are better spent doing absolutely nothing and resting on the couch bingeing a show on Netflix. Other Sundays are better spent hiking, walking, or just being out in nature. What is most important is that the time is spent doing something that is good for you, and your mind, body, and soul.

Some people work on Sundays, other people have children's activities, and chores, or a whole to-do list. The idea behind these posts is to give you some inspiration for ways to take care of you. Some of my posts will be quick easy face masks you can make in a few minutes and keep on while you continue chores. Other posts will be about an inspiring book I've read and would like to pass on to you. Others will be about my personal self-care routine on a daily basis, and I will have guest posts from other people who practice self-care and compassion in their own lives.

These posts will be kept here on the blog so you can come back to them anytime you need for inspiration.

The series will be starting this coming Sunday, and I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to share your own self-care and compassion ideas. No action of self-care is too big or too small.

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Healthy Comfort Food Recipe

I'm really bad at taking pictures. It's not just the framing, focusing, lighting, etc that I'm bad at. I'm bad at remembering to take pictures. I just don't take them. You know, if my cats are adorable and my phone happens to be nearby, I'll snap one. But I am just not a picture taking person.

Do you know what this is not at all helpful for? Blogging.

The problem is, I make this beautiful meal, focusing on the ingredients and flavors I will be tasting soon. I finish cooking, eat the whole thing, do the dishes, go about the rest of the night, and hours later remember "I wanted to blog about that! I don't have any pictures!"

Maybe someday I will get this picture taking thing right.

So, I did that whole routine, again, this week, but I'm still going to share this recipe from Pinch of Yum, because it's delicious and it's my favorite healthy comfort food for when I'm not feeling the best, and it would probably be a bad idea for me to eat mac and cheese.

I love this recipe because it has turmeric which is anti-inflammatory, and as a person with multiple inflammatory diseases, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices are always a welcome addition. If you are cooking with turmeric or making a turmeric tea, always add black pepper to the mix. This makes the anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric more available to our bodies. 

The original recipe can be found here, I did make a few of my own changes.

Healing Bowls with Turmeric Sweet Potatoes, Poached Eggs, and Lemon Dressing


Ingredients

Fresh and Dried Turmeric by Ayurvedic India via Flickr

2-3 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups broth (for vegetarian use vegetable broth)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp honey
1/4 parsley
1/4 tsp salt
Scrambled, poached, or fried egg
Brown rice or quinoa
Arugula, spinach, or other greens
Walnuts or nut of choice

Instructions


1. Cook the brown rice or quinoa.
2. Cut the sweet potatoes into chunks. Small chunks cook faster, but keep them similar sizes.
3. Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a pan and add sweet potatoes.
4. Add turmeric, garlic, and broth to the pan and mix them all together.
5. Cover the pan and let the sweet potatoes simmer. When they are almost cooked, take the lid off the pan. Once the liquid is mostly gone and the sweet potatoes are soft, turn off the heat and mash. Season with salt and pepper.
6. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, add the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, parsley, and salt to a small food processor or blender to make the dressing.
7. Make up your eggs. When I have more time I will poach my eggs, and when I have less I will fry them up really quick. 
8. Assemble your bowl: Add quinoa or brown rice to the bowl, followed by sweet potatoes and greens. Add the egg and nuts and top with the dressing. 

This is the bowl I made for lunch today, it was scrumptious.
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. It can be customized any way you would like for your own preferences.

What are your favorite healthy comfort foods?

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to Make a Pain Bar

It's been a busy few weeks, and it will be a busy few months. I've got some new products planned for the shop, exciting blog post topics, and we've got a summer full of road trips, concerts, and weddings. It's going to be crazy and I am super excited about it. 

This week I thought I would give you a peek behind the scenes, into my process. My mom and I made pain bars this weekend and we took some pictures along the way. 
Personal information blacked out.
Step 1: Gather all your ingredients

At the bottom left is menthol, peppermint essential oil, and beeswax. Starting at the top left is previously infused sweet birch oil, arnica oil, and cocoa butter. Not pictured: coconut oil and shea butter.


Step 2: Weigh the ingredients out into a bowl. I'm not going to lie, this was one of the more exciting purchases I made. Balances and scales are some of my favorite pieces of instrumentation. 


Step 3: Set up the double boiler. I fill the lower pot with water and set to simmer. The large glass bowl with all of the weighed out ingredients is set inside the pot. The steam from the simmering water heats the bowl and the ingredients gently. This prevents burning and over heating of the oils and waxes. 

...and now we wait.

Different pot and batch of oils than showed previously.
We forgot to take the picture before. 
...for this!! All the ingredients are melted and ready to be poured. 
  

Step 4: I pour the liquid into the molds. This is done on a scale to ensure each bar is 2 oz. This is often the most messy part of the whole process. There is definitely some skill needed when it comes to a good clean pour. The bars are left to cool for about 24 hours. 


Step 5: The last step! Wrap and label bars for sale.


That's it! This is the general process I follow for most of my products. It's simple, easy to execute, and makes my house smell lovely. 😄

Thank you for taking a look at what I do, I apologize for my poor photography skills. It's a skill I am currently working on improving.

I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. 

Have you ever used a double boiler? What for?

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Product Photos and Product Rundown

Everyone!! GUESS WHAT!?!?! HUGE NEWS! I've got new beautiful pictures for my shop. I am so excited! And they are SO PRETTY!!

I would like to send out a huge thank you to Matt Prokosch. He spent a few valuable hours working with me to get these beautiful pictures done one Sunday, and then got them edited and to me a few days later. And they are gorgeous!!!! Check out his other (even more amazing) work here.

So I am going to take this opportunity to show you these pictures and give you an overview of my products, what is in them, and what they are meant to do.

Lotion Bars

My lotion bars are a nourishing, moisturizing experience for the skin. I describe them in detail in this post. In quick summary; lotion bars are solid lotion. The lotion is applied after showers, baths, or whenever you feel your skin needs some extra love. They are super easy to travel with because they aren't liquid, and reduce the amount of packaging material needed. The bar should be slightly warmed between your hands, rubbed on the skin, and you're done.

The lotion bars contain shea butter, cocoa butter, calendula infused coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils for scent. The butters and infused oil are to moisturize the skin. The beeswax creates a barrier to keep the skin moist all day long. 

The Pain Bar

The Pain Bar is my favorite product. I developed this specifically to help deal with my daily muscle aches and joint pains. I use it on tight shoulder muscles and on my knees, hips, and hands when they are giving me trouble. The bar can also be used to massage sore muscles and help decrease pain.

The bar contains arnica and sweet birch infused olive oil in my lotion bar base. Arnica is a very popular herb for pain relief due to it's anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Sweet birch is used because it is anti-inflammatory and naturally contains a chemical found in products like Ben-gay (without that terrible smell). 

Soothing Hand Salve

The soothing hand salve is a multi-purpose product. It contains calendula, plantain, and sweet birch, which are all herbs that are purported to have anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. These herbs can be helpful with dry skin, cuts, scrapes, and burns.

The salve contains calendula, plantain, and sweet birch infused olive oil with beeswax. I like to use it on dry hands in the winter, after washing my hands almost constantly throughout the day, and on breakouts of eczema. When I use this salve on an injury I make sure to apply it several times a day for the best results. I've had some customers mention they use the salve as a cuticle cream as well. 

Lip Balm

So, I sell a lip balm. Really what kind of skincare company would I be if I didn't? They are the same combination of ingredients as my lotion bar, so your lips get the same nourishing experience as the rest of your body! Currently I only have them in peppermint flavor, but I will be adding more in the near future. 

What are some products you would like to see in my shop? Are there any herbs you'd like to learn about?

💗 Courtney






Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Plantain: When a Weed is Not A Weed

With the change of seasons comes gardening, weed pulling, and lawn care, if you are lucky enough to be a person who has a lawn or garden to look after. Occasionally, when I was a kid, I would help my mom weed her flower gardens, but I'd more likely be found playing in the freshly turned soil of the vegetable garden. The day wasn't finished until my feet were so covered in dirt it seemed like it would never come off. There is one particular 'weed' that I remember though...

Plantain by Wikimediaimages via Pixabay
This is plantain. I always thought it was a weed. A pesky thing that grew in the driveway and in the lawn that my dad would use weed killer on.

Then, one day, my eyes were opened by Kris and Tammi from Heartstone Herbal School in Van Etten, NY. I decided to take their Lotions and Potions: Herbal Creams and Salves Workshop one winter day, and they completely flipped my perception of this plant around. It turns out this 'weed' was not a weed but a helpful herb. 

Plantain or Plantago major is found in temperate zones all over the world, first originating in Europe. The Swedish and Norwegian name for the plant translates to "healing leaves." Plantain had been used by the Vikings, Dutch, Arabic, and Greek people for its wound healing properties for centuries. There are references stating that the herb has been used for bee stings, bruises, burns, acne, cuts, dermatitis, colds, bronchitis, digestive distress, tumors, pain, and many more health related issues.

That's a whole lot of things for one tiny plant to be responsible for!

Plantain Flower. By gaidele via Flickr. Creative Commons.
Today, I'm only going to explore functions of plantain that apply to uses of my products. I use plantain in my Soothing Hand Salve because it is wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial.

Plantain contains two compounds, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. Many studies have been conducted demonstrating the anti-inflammatory effects of oleanolic and ursolic acid. It has been reported that these acids prevent swelling (inflammation) and arthritis in test subjects when they have been exposed to inflammation inducing compounds. 

Plantain has been shown to be an effective anti-microbial against some types of infectious organisms. This effect could be due to the oleanolic and ursolic acids in combination with the other chemical constituents present in the plant. One study compared the use of plantain and standard bandages for burn injuries. Interestingly, the plantain treatment was as effective of an anti-microbial as the standard treatment, but did not have the same dangerous side effects. That's a huge plus in my book!

It is thought that the anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of plantain come together to create this healing effect. We do not know the process by which the chemicals in plantain work to heal wounds and prevent inflammation, but centuries of traditional use and the research available today provide a reasonable amount of evidence in support of  using this plant to heal wounds and  for general skin care.

Personally, I use plantain to heal the small cuts, burns, and scrapes I receive on a regular basis at my day job. I've also found it to be very helpful in healing dry winter skin and preventing dry hands when I have to wash them almost constantly throughout the day.

Close up of plantain. By Alice Anderson via Flickr. Creative Commons

Did you know plantain could be so useful? What is your experience with plantain?

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. This article is meant to be for educational use only. 

References

Amini, M. et al. "Effect Of Plantago Major on Burn Wound Healing in Rat". Journal of Applied Animal Research 37.1 (2010): 53-56 Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Liu, Jie. "Pharmacology of Oleanolic Acid and Ursolic Acid".  Journal of Ethnopharmacology 49.2 (1995): 57-68. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Nazarizadeh, Ali et al. "Therapeutic Uses and Pharmacological Properties of Plantago Major L. and Its Active Constituents". Journal of Basic and Applied Scientific Research 3.9 (2013): n. pag. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Samuelsen, Anne Berit. "The Traditional Uses, Chemical Constituents and Biological Activities of Plantago Major L. A Review". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71.1-2 (2000): 1-21. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Kombucha, Sauerkraut, and Yogurt, OH MY!

Hello all! It's been a gorgeous few days. I spent some time down at the park by the lake and laid in the sun. I really enjoyed that time soaking in the sun. I have sorely missed it.

Turmeric, ginger, and carrot kombucha, one of my favorite
flavors.
I'm really excited about the warmer temperatures not just because I won't freeze anymore, but it's helpful for the ferments I've got going on. Fermented food is a regular part of my diet because it might help keep gut microbes in check and healthy. I say might because there are still all kinds of studies exploring the effects our gut microbiome has on our whole body, not just the digestive system. Studies haven't determined if these probiotic foods (fermented foods) are helpful in any way, but I personally find them incredibly helpful in keeping my body and health in good condition.

I highly recommend reading The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health by Erica and Justin Sonneburg. They do a great job of summarizing past, present, and future research on the food we eat and its effect on our gut microbiome and health. I love this book and have actually given a few copies out to friends. 😄

My kombucha brew set-up. It looks like time
to take some SCOBY's out to make room
for more. 
Anyway, in order to support my fermented food habit I always have a gallon jar of kombucha brewing and every few months I put together a couple mason jars of sauerkraut. I'm not very creative when it comes to sauerkraut, but that's mostly due to lack of room in the pantry and refrigerator. That's ok though, we like it simple. I put a little bit of sauerkraut on pretty much everything I eat and between Brad and I, it takes a month or so to go through a whole mason jar of it. I really like Cultures for Health overview and sauerkraut recipe, but instead of the airlock, I use mason tops. I've found these to give me the best results, and are not nearly as messy as airlocks can sometimes be. 

Kombucha is a different story. We go through that fairly quickly, and I like to flavor it with different herbs, fruits, and vegetable juices. Some of our favorite flavor combinations are ginger and lemon, ginger and blueberry, and carrot and turmeric. This week I am trying a new flavor with blueberry and mint. I'll probably make some ginger and lemon too, because that's Brad's favorite.

I highly encourage everyone to try fermented food. A great place to start is yogurt, but look for yogurt brands that aren't filled with artificial sugars. The sugar outweighs the probiotic benefits. My favorite brands are Brown Cow and Siggi's. Another great thing to try is Kefir. It is similar to yogurt, but is fermented differently, and is more liquidy so it's like a thick drink. If you are looking to give kombucha a try, GT's is the brand that got me hooked, but I also really enjoy trying new brands we find in the store. Target even sells kombucha now (and it's pretty darn good).


And if you are looking to make your own, which is fun, and so much cheaper, there are resources all over the internet to help you. I really liked Sandor Katz's books Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. But really, Google will absolutely give you all the instructions you need.

What foods or recipes do you eat that make you the healthiest you?

💗 Courtney

Blog editing and advisement by adreamingone.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Favorite Green Smoothie Recipe

I am so excited!! It got up to 68 degrees today!! We opened the windows on Sunday when I was in the house brewing up some lotion bars. I loved feeling the breeze move through the kitchen as I worked. The cats really enjoyed watching the birds and squirrels through the windows. All in all, the last few days have been pretty darn awesome.

This week's post isn't about herbs or oils or really much anything to do with the business. It's about kale smoothies. I thought it would be fun to show you something I use on an almost daily basis to support my health and wellbeing.

Curly Kale by Oldiefan via Pixabay
I love smoothies. They are quick and easy in the mornings, full of fruits and vegetables, and they are super tasty. I make my smoothies vegetable heavy because I'm really in it for the fiber, not the sugar. I add berries for the antioxidants, some nut butter for protein, flax for those omega-3's, almond milk, and kefir for a bit of probiotics and creaminess. I use smoothies to jumpstart my day with a healthy dose of fiber that will keep my gut microbes happy. Also, kale has vitamins A, C, and K, along with phosphorus, calcium, and zinc. Popeye was right, greens are good for you. 😃

I made this smoothie this morning. I
know it's not all that pretty, but I promise, it
is definitely tasty. Kale and blueberries don't
make the nicest color when combined.
This recipe was adapted from the best smoothie I've ever had. I found a little shop near the Port Authority the last time I was in NYC and it was a haven from the fast food and junk I had gotten used to eating on my way out of town. So finding this place was magical. And then, they made the most amazing kale smoothies. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a single bit of kale in tact. Magical.

Anyway, here's the recipe.

Ingredients:
2 or 3 large handfuls of kale (the curly kind)
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup plain kefir
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 banana
1 tbsp ground flax
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Directions:
1. Add the kale, almond milk, and kefir to the blender and blend on high. This is the key to breaking up the kale and not ending up drinking a very finely chopped salad. Always blend the kale (or other greens) and liquids together first.

2. Add the peanut butter, banana, flax, and frozen blueberries and blend on high. If the smoothie seems too thick, add more almond milk or water.

Blueberries by Pexels via Pixabay
Note: You can substitute almond butter for peanut butter, chia seeds for flax seeds, strawberries for
blueberries. Really the possibilities are endless to make a healthy smoothie.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Have fun and experiment with it.

What are your favorite smoothie recipes? I'd love to hear about them!

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone

P.S. Here's a tip to keep your kale fresh for longer: put a paper towel in the bag with the kale. It will absorb extra water and keep it fresh for longer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shea Butter: A Soothing Wonder

Happy Wednesday! I've had a very busy week this week working hard on getting products in stores and, I'm developing some new goodies that will be in my shop soon. I am so excited to share them with you!


This week I'd like to talk with you about one of the main ingredients in many of my products, shea butter. I love shea butter! It has this wonderful silky texture, and soaks right into my skin.  It gives my products a moisturizing and soothing feel, two very important properties of a dry skin lotion. I use this butter because it is a reasonably priced oil that can be sustainably harvested. Shea butter melts around body temperature allowing for easy transfer of lotion to the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.

100% Natural African Shea Butter by David Fulmer via flickr License
Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) in Africa. The trees play crucial roles to the culture and economy of Africa. The butter ranges in color from a pale yellow to a bright almost sun colored yellow. They have been used as food and medicine by the native peoples for centuries. It is good at absorbing into the skin quickly, while preventing water from leaving the skin, keeping it hydrated. Today, shea butter can be found in assortment of products, including cosmetics, soaps, and chocolates.


There have been many studies done on the potential benefits and applications of shea butter. Shea butter is made up of a mixture of solid and liquid fats and non-fatty material. The mixture of solid and liquid fats gives the butter its silky smooth feeling. The non-fatty material consists of compounds that are responsible for its medicinal properties.


A small study showed that daily application of a 5% shea butter cream kept the skin feeling moisturized all day. A separate study examined the ability of shea butter to prevent water loss through the skin. After applying alcohol to the arms of test participants, shea butter was able to bring the skin back to normal condition after 4 hours. Another small study found shea butter was helpful in decreasing the severity of eczema in the study participants.


Several studies have been completed on the anti-aging properties of shea butter. It has been found to contribute to cell regeneration and tissue softening and prevent aging from exposure to the sun. A study on rats showed that shea butter could increase collagen production in the animal. Collagen is a structural protein, which is the main component of the connective tissues such as skin, bone, muscle, and tendon. Collagen keeps skin springy and young looking.


Components of shea butter were found to have anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting various inflammatory processes in the skin. It has also been found to reduce the reaction of the skin to external irritants. This particular study introduced a toxin produced by bacteria to initiate an inflammatory response. When the test samples were exposed to the shea butter components, the inflammatory response was greatly decreased.  

Another study isolated compounds from shea butter and tested them to determine their anti-inflammatory action in mice. The compounds were compared with a prescription anti-inflammatory drug. It was found that the shea butter performed better in regards to reduction of inflammation than the drug did.

Shea Nut Extraction by Erik (HASH) Hersman via flickr License
This is just a small summary of the many studies that have been completed on shea butter and the chemical compounds that make it so wonderful for the skin. There have also been many studies analyzing the impact the shea butter trade has had both ecologically and socially for the people where this tree has become a source of income.  


Have you ever used shea butter? What did you think of it?


💗 Courtney

References
Akihisa, Toshihiro et al. "Anti-Inflammatory And Chemopreventive Effects Of Triterpene Cinnamates And Acetates From Shea Fat". Journal of Oleo Science 59.6 (2010): 273-280. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Israel, Malachi Oluwaseyi. "Effects Of Topical And Dietary Use Of Shea Butter On Animals". American Journal of Life Sciences 2.5 (2014): 303. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Verma, Nandini et al. "Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Shea Butter Through Inhibition Of Inos, Cox-2, And Cytokines Via The Nf-Kb Pathway In Lps-Activated J774 Macrophage Cells". Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 9.1 (2012): 1-11. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

A-C Andersson and J Alander, Shea butter extract for bioactive skin care, Cosm & Toil 130(6) 18-25 (Jul/Aug 2015) - See more at: http://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/research/chemistry/Shea-Butter-Extract-for-Bioactive-Skin-Care-310136331.html?prodrefresh=y#sthash.ZDPuASPn.dpuf


Blog advisement and editing from adreamingone