Thursday, September 13, 2018

Approaching the end of summer is consistently hard for me. I treasure the summer months with the same savoring quality I did during my elementary summers away from school. It's not just the heightened summer outdoorsy, free spirited, long days and fire-fly filled nights I woefully see slipping's the oppressive summer heat, too. I do love it. I've lived in Virginia most of my life, and although it's not the "Deep South", it's still plenty hot, humid and muggy during the months of July and August, which are, of course, prime months to be outside frolicking, picnic-ing, going to outdoor concerts, backpacking, hiking, lounging in hammocks, dining al fresco, camping, herb harvesting, gardening....etc. All the outdoor things I'll miss. And the warmth that comes with it. But in these last few weeks, when the nights are still warm and the humidity is still hovering, I'll savor the times I get to create late summer cooling spritzers with dashes of herbal bitters to add some refreshing bubbly goodness in the stagnant summer air. 

At some point after 6:00pm most days, I want to be sipping on something, Whether it's a pot of herbal tea or apple cider or yummy wine or fruit flavored kombucha or a cooling spritzer, I find myself pulling out something to imbibe while I'm cooking. Lately, it's been bubbly spritzers that I spike with fresh fruits and little dashes of mild bitters. These are especially fun to whip up and share because they're so easy to make, and folks can choose their bitter preference if they want to! I like keeping friends involved when they're making their own drinks, clearly. I keep a few bottles of single herbal bitters about from Mountain Rose Herbs, including Artichoke, Sage, Gentian & Angelica. These are some classic herbal bitters that range from mild to very bitter and are super fun to play with in mixed drinks or even in kombucha or sparkling water. How to choose? Here's what I tend towards:

Artichoke (Cynara scolymus): When I want a simple, earthy and ever so slightly salty flavored drink. It's a solid bitter, a little salty and on the sweeter side of bitters. It tastes best with aromatic flavors, like peppermint or orange liquors or botanical infused beverages. About 5-7 drops will do the trick in a 6 ounce drink. Bonus - artichoke is supportive of liver health, which is a perk considering alcohol is one of the hardest things for your liver to process. Adding a splash of a liver loving herb to your mixed drink is a great way to give your body just a smidge of extra TLC. 

Sage (Salvia officinalis): When I want a more savory drink with a botanical flavored twist. Sage tends to be on the energetically drying side, so I like mixing this with drinks that are a bit more watered down (like kombuchas, sparkling waters or juiced drinks). It's a little aromatic too, and smells delicious in both teas and as an extract! I use about 6-9 drops in a 6 ounce drink.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica): When I want a more aromatic, drink that's only mildly bitter. This is an interesting taste that I can only liken loosely to celery. It's light, moderately bitter and quite aromatic. I find it to be stimulating and moving to my circulation, so I add it to drinks when I'm feeling kind of stagnant (or it's just so, so heavy and hot outside). I use about 6-8 drops in a 6 ounce drink (and this one tastes especially good with added fresh fruits!). 

Gentian (Gentiana lutea) - when I want a true classic bitter punch to my drinks. Gentian is considered the king of bitters and is very, very bitter. It's also a little astringent and energetically cooling. This is a perfect bitter to add to any drink, but stay on the lower end of dosing - about 3 drops should do you juuuuust fine. As this is a true bitter, it will stimulate digestion fairly quickly, so ideally be drinking this with a side of a meal (because your stomach will be asking for that shortly after your start imbibing this one!). More about Gentian here.

For this simple spritzer recipe, I chose to use Angelica along with a pinch of blow-your-mind delicious smoked sea salt for a savory, aromatic and crisp late summer cocktail. The addition of the smoked salt was a game changer! I tend to like things a bit on the saltier side (including my sarcasm), and this adds a hint of smokey flavor to round out the sweetness of the alcohol base. I often use a simple and affordable vino verde as a base, chilled and a little bubbly. I add in whatever fresh fruits are around, like strawberries or blackberries, blueberries, peaches or cherries, and then just a couple of drops of any bitter of my choosing. For a cocktail for a crowd, it doesn't get much more simple and affordable than this combo. 

Late Summer Spritzer with Herbal Bitters

6 ounces Vino Verde, chilled
2 large organic strawberries, sliced
4 drops Mountain Rose Herbs Angelica extract
Small pinch of Mountain Rose Herbs Smoked Sea Salt
Serves 1

Add the vino verde to a glass. Add just a small pinch (about 1/8th teaspoon) of smoked sea salt and 4 drops Angelica extract. Mix slightly by swishing the liquid around in the glass gently. Slice the strawberries and add in last. Sip slowly on the hottest late summer days. Adjust the bitter dose to your liking, and experiment with other bitters as well!


This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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Monday, September 03, 2018

Let's get into the nitty gritty details of stress. Specifically, the brain - stress - whole body connection and how this presents individually. Psychosomatic is defined as, "(of a physical illness or other condition) caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress". When symptoms show up in the body "out of the blue", there is almost always an underlying causative factor you may be overlooking, and stress is one of the most common causes. Every one of us presents with symptoms of stress, and we all have different experiences. As a practitioner, when I'm working with someone with a high stress load, I always ask them, "Pretend like I don't know what the word 'stress' means. How does it show up for you when you're stressed? What are you actually feeling?". And everyone has a different answer. People describe stiffness in their upper body, racing minds, feeling overwhelmed, racing heart beat, unable to stay asleep, agitated, frustrated, angry, stomach aches, headaches, feeling hyper type-A and need control of everything that feels out of control, muscle spasms, exhaustion....the list goes on. But ultimately, stress starts in our mind. And from our mind, stress percolates down into the body and gets funneled into a dozen different symptoms. Which symptoms you feel first is unique to you, and this is how we determine appropriate herbs for how stress is showing up for you, specifically. 

As an herbalist, I work with lots of stress reducing herbs in dozens of different combinations for any possible way stress may present in a person. As a human being, I show up with stress just like anybody else, and even I still sometimes struggle to find the right remedy because I can over think it (classic me). I've had a significantly stressful year, and my body had the symptoms to show for it. I developed eczema on my face, had some significant digestive issues, and lost a lot of weight over a short time...and I knew that stress was the cause even though I was presenting with very specific symptoms. Like most people, I couldn't just immediately remove the stressor from my life which ultimately would solve the problem, so I had to work with it for a long time and address the symptoms as they showed up until I could shift my life enough to get rid of the stress altogether. 

How much control we feel like we have over the causes of stress in our lives significantly impacts how our symptoms show up, and this is important to take note of when you're looking for alternative or herbal approaches to your symptoms. First, what's the cause of your stress? Second, can we remove, reduce, or manage this stress in an effective and positive way? Third, how are your symptoms associated with this stress? (ie, do symptoms flare when you're around a certain person, or when you feel like you're in control of a stressor do your symptoms reduce?). Fourth, what are you doing for self care support? How are you helping yourself even in small ways? We may not be able to get rid of what's stressing us, but we can allow enough time for sleep, and meditate daily, and take deep breaths at every red light, and ask for help when we need it, and take 20 minutes to take a long walk or give our body exercise. All of these things help over time. 

For the psychosomatic stress symptoms themselves, here are six of my most used herbal supports for six different ways stress may show up:

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) - Skullcap has been my go-to herbal ally for a long time and works ideally on how my body holds stress. I hold stress in my shoulders and neck, often feeling the tightness and strain clenched up all the way into my jaw muscles. I also hold stress in my lower GI (small and large intestines) and generally can't eat hardly anything when I'm stressed because my lower GI muscles are so tense. Skullcap is ideal for those who hold tightness in their muscles and musculoskeletal system - being calming, relieving, and decompressing to tension held in the muscles, joints, and digestive area. Skullcap has classically been used for folks who feel "overexposed" - like the world is too big and bright for them, they're sensitive to crowds and stimuli and other people's energy and generally have a sense of overwhelm of responsibility. They'd love to just retreat into a cave with their mom and a teddy bear and just escape. This is the classic skullcap person. And a cup or two or three of skullcap tea a day is just the thing to bring some calm, gentle relaxing and reassuring energy into these stressed, highly senstivie folks. 

Tea: Steep 1 tablespoon into 4 cups hot water, let steep for 10-12 minutes and drink throughout the day. 

Tincture: I dose about 30 drops (1ml) in 2-3 ounces water every 2 hours for acute stress. 

Learn More: Skullcap Uses + HistoryDaily Habits for Highly Sensitive People / How Stress Affects Digestion 

Shop: Organic Skullcap (looseleaf) / Skullcap tincture

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) - I've written about the beauty of chamomile here before, and for stress specifically it's one of the most tried and true remedies as a general calming nervine.  When the body is under stress, this releases our primary stress hormone, cortisol, which over time is inflammatory to the body. Chamomile is one of the most effective stress relieving herbs because it helps to support the body's overall response to inflammation, thus relieving the body of one of the primary causes of extra stress (increased or uncontrolled inflammation). It's also a classic example of of "herbs are not created for our issues" (ie - there's no one "herb for stress" or "herb for a stomach ache"). Lots of herbs deal with stress and lots of herbs deal with stomach aches, but what's the actual cause? Chamomile is multi-functional, as inflammation targets every organ system, so does chamomile, making it a beautiful and effective sustainable solution to managing stress long term. Chamomile is one of the most gentle and effective stress relieving herbs for people of all ages, including children and elderly folks, and I find it to be especially useful for pre-teen / teenagers in particular. 

Tea: Steep 1 -2 tablespoons in 4-6 cups hot water and let steep for 8-10 minutes. Drink throughout the day. 

Tincture: I Dose about 15 drops every hour as needed for acute stress (great for travel anxiety too!)

Learn more: Chamomile - An Overview / Cortisol & the Adrenal Glands / Matricaria Uses, History and Preparations

Shop: Organic Chamomile (looseleaf) / Chamomile Tincture

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - Following the line of thought around cortisol and inflammation is where turmeric comes in. One of the primary symptoms of stress for many people is skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. The skin can erupt in itchy patches that flare when stress is high, and increased inflammation is always at the root of red, inflamed skin conditions that can be potentiated by the increased level of cortisol in the body. Turmeric is a classic multi-purpose anti-inflammatory that supports the liver specifically to manage this increased systematic inflammation and support the body's response (symptoms) of cortisol induced inflammation. One thing to note about turmeric - it has a short half life, meaning it doesn't stick around in the body for very long. Repeated dosing, or eating meals with turmeric throughout the day, is the ideal way to consume turmeric for best therapeutic benefit. 

Powder: Add 1/2 teaspoon to each meal during your day

Capsules: Follow dosing directions on each bottle, but ideally choose a product that contains the whole root Curcuma longa + 95% curcumin + added black pepper or rosemary for increased absorption. 

Learn More: Turmeric & Skin Health / Stress, Skin & Inflammation 

Shop: Organic Powder / Capsules 

Motherwort (Leonorus cardiaca) One of the most underused herbs, I think, especially for stress that shows up as a rapid heartbeat or tightness in the chest. As it's name 'cardiaca' suggests, it has affinity for the heart, and is negatively chronotropic, meaning it slows the heart rate. Motherwort is a calming nervine that I incorporate specifically for folks who report their heart beat racing when they're stressed, or feel this symptoms as they're going to sleep at night (which is one of the most common times stress strikes). It's a potent herb, on the very bitter side, so you can really taste the medicine in this one. Start on the lower end of dosing and see how you respond before increasing your dose, and generally I recommend a tincture for this one due to the taste. BUT, side note - a tea made with skullcap + motherwort + an aromatic herb like lavender is a winning calm down formula! When you add a sweet herb in with a bitter, it helps to balance the flavors. 

Tea: Steep 1/2 teaspoon in 2 cups hot water and let steep for 6-7 minutes (ideally with a sweet herb as well like lavender or peppermint) or add honey to cut the bitterness. Sip once daily or before bed. 

Tincture: Dose 10 drops in about 1 ounce of water 1-3 times daily for acute support. 

Learn More: About Motherwort 

Shop: Organic Motherwort (looseleaf) / Tincture 

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) Also known as tulsi, this is my favorite herb for those who have daily or chronic stress with little end in sight. It's for those who can't eliminate their stress for whatever reason, and just need some adaptogenic support to get through it in the meantime. Holy basil is supportive of the adrenal glands (which house our cortisol) and help to modulate the release of cortisol during times of stress so we don't burn through it as quickly. This not only helps to balance our cortisol reserves, it also support out circadian rhythm long term which means our sleep is supported too. Much like chamomile, it functions as a broad spectrum anti-inflammatory as well, making is an ideal option for longer term use is stress is present for weeks or months at a time. 

Tea: 1-3 cups Tulsi tea daily

Tincture: 30 drops up to twice daily mixed in a little water

Learn More: An Herb for All Reasons / Overview + History and Therapeutic Uses

Shop: Tulsi Tea / Tincture

Linden (Tilia spp.) Linden is the herb I usually turn to when folks report trouble sleeping due to stress. When we wake at night, and our mind races and our heart rate picks up and we can't seem to fall back to sleep because we're living a whole other day in our heads when all we want to do is sleep? Linden works pretty well for stress that shows up this way. When taken in the evening, it helps to reinforce what the body is already doing (slowing the heart rate a bit, lowering cortisol, calming the body, preparing the body for rest and relaxing the muscles). Linden combines well with chamomile in a tea and makes for a delicious and effective bedtime tea. 

Tea: Dose 1-2 teaspoons in 3 cups hot water and steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1 hour before bedtime

Shop: Organic Linden (looseleaf) / Tincture

Further support - Creating a Care Plan for Yourself

Even MORE: Dive deeper into your options by taking the Herbal Self Care for Stress Management Course with the Herbal Academy. This course is pretty amazing - I've taken it myself and absolutely loved it. 

Disclaimer - as with any new herb or supplement, seek out the advice of a professional herbalist or ND before trying or combining herbs into your health routine. Herbs are also drugs, and do have effects that can unpredictable that are often dose dependent. More on herbs and their usage guidelines here.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A staple in my own personal kitchen space has always been a fermenting creation. Something on the shelf, bubbling away, growing and shifting (sometimes...developing that distinctive vinegary smell which I kinda love). It's like a little kitchen baby that I end up obsessively checking on several times a day. I try to perfect things like my sourdough starters or my kraut batches, knowing that every time I'm not really the one in control of the deliciousness of the final result. All those billions of little bacterial critters do the heavy lifting. I like that variability, though. Making the same thing a little different every time, playing with the fermenting time or the flavorings....most especially with kombucha. 

Kombucha is my true love of fermented things, and whenever I can I have a batch brewing on my counter I absolutely do. 

Kombucha, like pretty much all of my other imbibed creations, is just another delicious and creative way to drink tea. Kombucha is made from fermenting a tannin rich tea with a Scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). It'a like a living, floating bacterial hotel that will hang out in your 'bucha and make magic happen. The tannins in the tea will ferment along with the bacteria and yeast (and added sugar!) to create a delicious, vinegary, fizzy, probiotic rich beverage that's super adaptable to flavorings. Creating the perfect batch of kombucha can be a bit temperamental and take experimentation (but don't all good kitchen creations?), and my recipe is what I have found to brew the ultimate perfect batch, with three different flavoring options. 

(More on the power of bacteria and our gut microbiota here!)

The basic ingredients for kombucha are extremely simple: Scoby. Filtered water. Organic cane sugar. A bit of an original batch. High quality black tea (which can make or break a good kombucha batch). My favorite black tea to use is organic Kumaon Black Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. So many black teas can taste too acidic or harsh or burnt. The flavor of this Kumaon black tea is exquisite - It's slightly floral with a lighter taste and earthier undertones. It's divine all on it's own (and yes, I do drink it almost daily just from the tea pot!). It makes the most delicious kombucha I've ever made, and jives so well with fruit and herb flavorings which you'll add later. 

A few Variables...

Sugar: Some recipes fluctuate between 1-2 cups of cane sugar per batch. I err on the lesser side and one cup of organic cane sugar does the job for me and doesnt make the batches too sweet. Also yes - I have tried LOTS of other sugars. Coconut palm sugar, stevia, maple sugar (what was I even thinking?), turbinado, date sugar...I've tried all the "healthier" options and personally they just never work to make a good batch for me. Thus, I embrace the cane sugar and don't think twice about it anymore. I made an effort. 

Fermeting time: Once your batch is flavored, the amount of time you let it sit to carbonate depends on how fizzy you like your kombucha. I like mine pretty bubbly, so I let mine sit on the counter for about 40 hours before I stick them in the fridge. I let it for for almost 50 hours once and they all did, actually, explode in the fridge. 

Bottling containers: I prefer to use 1 liter tightly air locked glass bottles to store my batches in for three reasons: 1) Each one of my batches fills exactly 3, 1 liter bottles. 2). Easily transportable to share. Because who doesn't love the person who brings a bottle of 'butcha to an otherwise alcohol overloaded party? 3). The fizz keeps longer. Only opening one bottle at a time keeps the others highly carbonated until you're ready for them. I used larger growlers in the past and had to drink it SO FAST to retain the carbonation because I kept opening the same bottle over and over and over again. 

Temperature: The temperature of your kitchen will kind of dictate how well your kombucha thrives while it's fermenting. When I lived in an apartment with no air conditioning in southwestern Virginia for a year, I just couldn't brew anything - way too hot and humid in the summer. Try to keep your space between 68-78 degrees for an ideal brew. 

FLAVORINGS! This is the most fun. You can flavor your kombucha any which way you want to. With herbs or fresh fruits or other teas or fruit juices - it's up to you! I've used them all in the past and have the most flavorful batches when I use juicy fresh fruits and/or fresh herbs. Here are three of my favorite flavoring combinations:

1. Peach + Rosemary (recipe below)

2. Pomegranate + Basil - Seeds of 1 whole pomegranate + 10 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped)

3. Strawberry + Thyme (My sweet friend Renee Byrd served me a kombucha brew she made with this flavor combo and it blew my mind it was SO good. I've been flavoring every other batch this summer with this combo and it's hands down my favorite. Also, beautiful pink kombucha - yes please!) - 1 cup chopped, fresh juicy strawberries + 5 tbsp fresh thyme. 

Peach + Rosemary Kombucha

3.5 liters filtered water
2 heaping tablespoons Kumaon black tea
1 cup organic cane sugar
3 ripe, juicy organic peaches
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 happy scoby
2 cups original batch kombucha
Makes 3 liters

In a large pot, bring 3.5 liters filtered water to a boil. Turn off heat and add the sugar and Kumaon black tea. Stir to let the sugar dissolve, then let sit to cool completely (this will take several hours). Once completely cool, strain and pour into a large gallon glass jar with a wide mouth and drop in the scoby. Make sure the tea is completely cool before the adding the scoby! Ideally you should add in 2 cups of original kombucha brew at this point too, either from a previous batch or an original, unflavored kombucha brew. Cover the mouth of the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band and let sit on the counter for 7 days. 

After about 4 days, you should start to notice a new scoby forming on top of the original. This is good! Little bubbles with start showing. A subtle sweet vinegar smell will develop...

After 7 days, remove the scoby with clean hands and separate the scoby's, placing each on a clean plate. You should now have 2 scoby's. Reserve 2 cups of the liquid (this is important for your next batch!) and place the original, bigger scoby in with this 2 cups of reserved kombucha. The second, newly formed scoby is going back in the jar with the fruit flavorings. 

Add in your fruits. Peel and chop 3 juicy ripe peaches and drop them into the jar along with about 2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary. Make sure to add back in the newly formed scoby here too. Cover again with the coffee filter and let sit for 24 hours. 

After 24 hours, Strain out all of the fruit, scoby and rosemary and divide into 3, 1 liter bottles. Seal completely and let sit on the counter for 36-40 hours, after which time place in the refrigerator to stop the carbonation. Enjoy within 2 weeks :) 

*Note - I discard the fruits and the new scoby at this point. (but I always save my original for a continuous batch!) Although some may say throwing away a scoby is sacrilege, I just don't have the refrigerator space or the wherewithal to have dozens of scoby's literally floating around. One batch brewing is plenty for me!


This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

One of the things I like best about herbs is their simplicity. Most of the time they're just completely no-fuss and relatively intuitive - especially in cooking. I've always been the type to never measure anything when I cook. Recreating recipes (or heaven help me when I post something) I have a stupidly hard time remembering what I did because I just guesstimate the heck out of every ingredient. Meticulous notes help...but that's completely not my nature. When I learned how to infuse herbal oils, I felt like I met my match. You basically have to measure nothing. It's not an exact science, and always forgiving and ultimately super effective no matter the "dash of this" or the "handful of that" mentality. 

Oils are an incredibly good extractor of not only medicinal constituents, but of flavors. If you've never cooked with infused oils, it's a glorious way to add subtle and aromatic tastes to your recipe. Nothing about this process is overcomplicated. Keep it simple, and don't overt think the process.

To infuse herbal oils, all you need is your herb of choice (I prefer single, aromatic and fresh herbs) such as rosemary, thyme, basil, tarragon or dill) and an oil that you like to cook with (I often default to olive oil). During the summer months, I reach for olive oil more than any other because I use it often as a salad dressing base, and when I infuse herbs into my olive oil holy smokes is it extra delicious. You can also experiment with sesame oil, macadamia nut oil, sunflower seed oil or avocado oil, however I prefer the infused taste of olive oil more than any other. 

Infusing culinary oils (in my method, anyway) takes absolutely zero measuring. Use any size jar you like, and when possible use fresh and very aromatic herbs in your infusions. Start with one herb at a time to get a feel for how strong you like each flavor, and then begin combing herbs for different flavor combinations. My personal favorite - rosemary and thyme. 

Simple Herb Infused Culinary Oils

1 large mason jar
Fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, basil, tarragon etc)
Highest quality olive oil

Chop your herb of choice as fine as possible. The more surface area exposed, the better the extraction. Fill your jar at least 1/3 full of the fresh, chopped herb. Cover completely with olive oil until your jar is at least 2/3 full. Cover with a tight fitting lid, give it a good shake then let sit in the sun for a solar infusion for about 3 days, shaking at least once every day. Once infused, strain out all of the herbs using a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth and store the infused oil in a glass container out of direct sunlight. Enjoy on salads, or as a dipping oil in the summer months. 


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Throughout my years of herbal obsession and experimentation, I've gone through probably hundreds of herbal body care items, both store bought and formulated in my kitchen. When I'm looking at ingredients for already made products, my philosophy is the fewer ingredients the better (and I preferably like to recognize every single ingredient listed on the label). As an herbalist, I'm always trying to make my own stuff too - from cuticle salves to infused nourishing oils and hair elixirs. Experimenting is so fun, and using single herbs one at a time can really help to fine tune each recipe and get exactly what you want - whether for facial scrubs or simple salves or toners. My beauty cupboard is a mish-mash of old bottles with homemade formulas and a fair amount of bath products from Mountain Rose Herbs - one of my all time favorite makers of natural herbal beauty products. I keep a few staples with me all year long, and in the summer time my beauty routine shifts to the bare minimum with some seasonal specific herbal go-to's for my skin. 

As a very fair skinned person, summer skin health is super important to me, and I'm always hyper aware that this time of year I need to nourish my skin a little more due to constant sun exposure. It's rare that I ever wear anything on my skin except for sunscreen in the summer (which over time is extremely drying on my skin), so re-hydrating and nourishing my skin with simple, nourishing herbal based oils and soaks work beautifully. I have a simple daily routine that I begin during summer months and keep this routine through early Fall. I find this collection of herbal products to be ideal for semi-sensitive, sun parched skin on the dryer side as these formulas and products are cooling, moistening and very hydrating. 

First thing in the morning, and then throughout the day on extra hot, humid days, I use the White Rose Hydrosol spritz on my face that I keep refrigerated. This hydrosol is simply made from the petals of Rosa alba through a water steam distillation and has a subtle and floral rosy scent that's hydrating and cooling to parched skin. It feels especially good after I take Gromit for along walk and the southern humidity makes my skin feel like it's just crawling with sweat. This white rose hydrosol gives my face a fresh and clean feeling without actually washing my face, and it's incredibly invigorating as a little facial pick-me-up midday. Also - instant aromatherapy with these sweet and subtle rosy tones. 

Second, after I use the hydrosol in the morning I apply a small amount of Rosehip Seed Oil to my whole face for extra moisture that soaks right into my skin without leaving any oily residue. My skin (generally dry and only mildly sensitive) LOVES oils and responds really well to the nourishing and light quality of rosehip seed oil instead of creams or lotions. Rosehip seed oil is rich in fatty acids - especially Linoleic acid and Linolenic acids making it extremely tonically hydrating yet also light on the skin - perfect for the summer months when lighter skin products are my preference. 

In the evenings about three times per week, I take a long soak in an Epsom Salt bath along with about 1/2 cup of Relaxing Bath Herbs to nourish my muscles, soothe my skin, and calm my whole body from either a full day of appointments or a couple of hours of rock climbing (which, admittedly, I've gotten super into since January). Having climbed about 5 days per week a couple hours at a time for nearly 6 months straight now, my muscles have gone through a lot of changes and, unfortunately, I suffer from pretty extreme leg and foot cramps. Using these Epsom salts consistently has made a huge difference in how frequently these debilitating cramps show up (which, if you've ever had whole leg or foot cramps you know how hellishly painful they are. I feel like they're going to end me). In a full warm bath, I add about 1/4 cup Epsom salts with a cloth bag of relaxing bath herbs, containing hops, rose petals, chamomile, lavender, comfrey, and passionflower. The salts absorb transdermally into my muscles for tonic support, while this aromatic herbal soak blend relaxes my mind and soothes my skin (and it smells like a field of flowery dream heaven). 

Using the cloth bag for the herbal soak is optional...sometimes I just like soaking in a flower bath because it's beautiful and magical and, why not? This is also a beautiful formula to have as a facial water wash for your face in the morning. Just fill a large bowl with slightly warm water, add about 2 tbsp of relaxing bath herbs, let "steep" for about 5 minutes and then wash your face gently with the water in the morning or at bedtime.

Finally, for the days when I have sunscreen on my face, am out in the sun and sweating in the summer humidity, I use a homemade DIY facial scrub. I often use zinc oxide based sunscreens so they stay on top of my skin all day (not the best feeling, but super effective), and this facial scrub just makes my face feel extra cleansed and soothed after being out in the sun all day. I use a simple combo of moistening milky oat tops, aromatic lavender flowers, nourishing neem powder and exfoliating Dead Sea salt. This makes a decadent base formula (almost powder like) that you can then add any additional scents or oils to as you like. The lavender in this formula already gives it a sweet and fragrant smell, but other herbs such as eucalyptus or chamomile work well too for both soothing inflamed skin and also aromatic qualities. 

This recipe makes approximately 10 uses when using about 1 teaspoon at a time. You can use either a high speed blender or a spice grinder for these herbs and make sure whatever grinder your use is well washed with no other scents or the facial scrub will carry those scents too!

DIY Herbal Facial Scrub

2 heaping tablespoons milky oat tops
2 tablespoons lavender flowers
2 teaspoons Dead Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon neem powder

In a high speed blender or spice grinder (I use a vitamix), add the oat tops and lavender flowers. Blitz on high speed for about 8-10 seconds. The herbs should be about 80% powdered but slightly coarse. Pour out into a small bowl and add the salt and neem powder. Mix well with a spoon and store in a small glass jar. 

To use: In the palm of your hands, add a scant 1 teaspoon of the facial scrub with a small drizzle of water until it's a slightly thick and almost muddy texture. Rub together with both hands and apply gently to your face, avoiding the eye area, in circular motions. Rinse with warm water and damp dry. Finish with a misting of the White Rose Hydrsol for an extra clean and hydrating finish. 

This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It is my goal to use and recommend only the highest quality herbal products from companies that I wholly trust and fully support. Industry standards including sustainable harvesting, quality control, organic / fair trade standards and responsible sourcing are all things I care deeply about when working with herbs and herbal companies. I have been using Mountain Rose Herbal products for almost a decade, and have always been so impressed with their commitment to environmental stewardship. You can sign up for their newsletter here to receive extra tips, tricks and monthly product specials! Thank you for supporting the brands that help to make this blog possible.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Summer is a magical time for herbal foraging. I spend most all of my summers in the mountains of Appalachia in Virginia where folk medicine is literally bursting through the fields and forests. This is a time when I love to take friends and colleagues out to the mountains and teach herbal wildcrafting and plant ID (which you can read more about here!). It's an intimate practice in learning more about your surroundings and the plants that have helped sustain us in home and health for generations. It's a time to practice gratitude for our herbal companions and get to know knew botanical friends. And, it's my favorite time to take friends on an overnight trip for a full moon summer lunar infusion and to sink into some plant spirit medicine. 

This time last year, my cousin Alexis and my friend Hillary and I harvested yarrow and red clover and mullein and honeysuckle and horsetail and nettle from the prairie in Lexington, VA and made a full moon offering tea. We left it to infuse in the river under the moonlight and pretended that little fairies bathed in the infusion overnight, mixing the herbs with their wings and little swimming feets. In the morning, we collected the shimmering golden tea, strained it and sipped it by the river, imbibing the moonlight infused prairie medicine. Admittedly, it was deeply soul rejuvenating and felt like it truly connected us to the land and the healing power of old medicines. It's a practice I'm doing every year, because we all need more magic in our lives. And it's so incredibly fun to take friends into the forest and pick flowers (and wineberries) and make tea. It's the best way to spend a summer day. 

Learn MORE: Experience wildcrafting yourself and learn more though the Botany and Wildcrafting Course with the Herbal Academy. This is a super fun, hands on course that'll get you ID'ing herbs and plants in no time to make your own lunar infusions!

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Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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