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Wednesday, September 20, 2017



As a follow up to my recent post on Botanical Infused Hair Oil for Long Strong Locks, I wanted to layer in the second half of what contributes to strong, healthy hair and that includes good nutrition and optimized digestion. It's often more convenient to rely on only topical products to enhance the way our hair looks and feels, and some good quality hair products are beneficial for scalp health and to strengthen and nourish damaged hair strands (botanical oils work really well for that!). But my foundational practice for long strong locks is what I'm putting in my body everyday and I focus heavily on nutrition and digestive support to make sure that, 1) I'm getting in all of the essential nutrients, vitamins, healthy fats and minerals that I need to maintain healthy organ systems, detoxification pathways and energy levels and, 2) I'm able to actually absorb all of the things I'm eating. It's a common saying, "You are what you eat", but it's more accurate to say, "You are what you absorb", and if we have impaired or compromised digestion, this can dramatically affect how our hair, skin and nails show up. 

As part of my foundational routine, I always incorporate whole, fresh foods into my diet every day with a variety of color and proteins (both plant based and animal) along with nutrient rich whole grains, legumes and healthy fats. As soon as my digestion starts to get a little out of whack, I notice it in the texture of my hair (and also my nails) and this is a sign that I'm not absorbing the nutrients I need. Your body speaks to you in little whispers like subtle hair and nail changes, and those little whispers are always telling you something that you should be paying attention to. Also, keep in mind that nutrition and digestive health are not the be-all-end-all solution for healthy hair. Sometimes other health considerations need to be addressed too such as hormone balance, stress, and immune system support. Everyone may require something different, physiologically. Here are a few recommendations to maintain long strong locks from a nutritional and herbal medicine perspective:

Essential Nutrition -----

Healthy Fats: I can't stress enough how important healthy fats and essential fatty acids are for hair health (and for so many other things, too!). When we have dry, damaged or brittle hair, that is a classically dry and deficient condition. Healthy fats are not only feeding and structurally supporting our cellular membranes but they're providing that much needed moisture into our bodies to help balance out those dry conditions. Fats are one of  our three dietary macronutrients (along with carbohydrates and proteins) and are essential for us to absorb our fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. Avocado's, coconut oil, olive oil, walnuts, almonds, salmon, flax seed, chia seeds and hemp seeds are all great sources of healthy fats and a variety of these should be consumed daily. I often eat at least 1/2 an avocado or 1 tbsp freshly ground flax in a summer morning smoothie just to start off the day. A handful of walnuts and coconut butter also find their way into my snacks on the regular. Of course, everything in moderation. The amount of fats you should consume daily is different for each person and lifestyle, and your nutritionist or dietitian can help figure that out for you.

Essential minerals zinc, magnesium, potassium and selenium. If you're eating a moderate portion of at least 5 different colors every day of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, you're probably getting what you need in terms of essential minerals. All of these minerals are abundant in spinach, rainbow chard, carrots, nuts and seeds, legumes (especially lentils!), broccoli, sweet potatoes, black beans, whole grains (like quinoa, amaranth, wild rice), tomatoes, blueberries, bananas, sunflower seeds, peppers and mushrooms. Focus on COLOR, fresh vegetables and fruits and variety for each and every meal. Even a small amount consistently adds up over time!

Biotin - biotin is one of the most beneficial nutrients for healthy hair, and it's abundant in so many whole foods including walnuts, eggs, almonds, sunflower seeds, bananas and avocado's. As you'll notice, all of these biotin rich foods cross over into other categories for healthy hair like minerals, healthy fats and also proteins (hence why we should never pigeon hole foods - they're supportive in such comprehensive ways). 

Protein: proteins provide all of the amino acids we need to build strong muscles, organs and hormones so that we can function optimally and with adequate energy. Variety is key when it comes to proteins, as many protein rich foods are so abundant in nutrients that we also need for hair health. Some of my favorite proteins that pack a powerful nutrient punch include lentils, quinoa, walnuts, Brazil nuts, eggs, organic yogurts, organic turkey and chicken, salmon and black beans. Personally, I also eat organic red meats about two or three times per month for the extra iron. 

And, obviously, WATER! As a general rule of thumb, take your body weight, divide by 2, and that's the minimum amount of ounces you should drink daily. (Ex, if you're 120lbs = 60 ounces of water at minimum). Herbal tea counts towards this too, as long as it's not a tannin rich tea like black tea. 

Herbs for digestive support + nutrient absorption -----

Aloe vera - Aloe leaf, when taken internally, helps to increase the absorption of nutrients by almost 20x and provides a soothing, cooling and mucilaginous effect throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract. This helps to calm inflammation and irritated or inflamed tissues and promote daily bowel movements to eliminate toxins and maintain a thriving probiotic/saccharomyces balance in the large intestines and colon. Aloe vera itself is packed with nutrients and minerals that you also absorb, making it a powerful ally for both digestive health + nutritional intake. When there is any sign or indication where malabsorption is an issue, aloe is one of my first recommendations. 

Chamomile: Matricaria recutita is one of my personal favorite digestive modulators, being a calming and slightly cooling herbal remedy for irritated or over-active digestive states. Often if folks have a rapid digestion (i.e frequent diarrhea) or volatile and reactive GI tracts, chamomile helps to calm the spasms of the gut, allowing more time for nutrients to be absorbed via the small and large intestines, and offering an energetically cooling quality to an otherwise hot (overactive) gut. 

Nettle - literally jam packed with nutrients, Urtica dioica is like a multi-vitamin in herb form that is incredibly easy for folks with compromised digestion to absorb. It is also high in kidney nourishing minerals potassium, sodium, zinc and magnesium. Adding in a nettle tea to your daily routine is such a nourishing and easy way to add essential nutrients into your diet that's also herby delicious, affordable and easy and quick to do. 

Slippery Elm - similar to aloe, Ulmus rubra adds in some much needed digestive support with it's soothing and mucilaginous quality for irritated or inflamed digestion. Slippery elm itself is (not surprisingly) also packed with nutrients including polysaccharides and fiber and I treat this herb much like a food. I add this to teas and also use the powders in nut butter balls for a quick protein rich, healthy fat + nutrient dense snack. 

Of course, you don't have to eat every single one of these foods every day to maintain healthy hair. Think of the big picture within your weekly diet and also within your daily diet, get in as much variety as possible if these foods are affordable and available to you. I'm always a proponent of getting in nutrients via food before supplements, however high quality, food based, organic supplements can also be a good option to increase some of the minerals and nutrients on a daily basis. It may also be beneficial to have your nutritionist, dietitian or PCP do a mineral or vitamin panel before beginning to supplement so that you know exactly which nutrients and foods you need to focus on the most. Remember, foods and herbs serve as allies in your health journey and each one of us may require something a little different. 

Photography by Renee Byrd

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This is the second year that we've planted Chinese eggplants in our garden with resounding success. Undoubtedly, these are one of the easiest, no fuss, take-care-of-themselves plants we have, and the yield is incredible. Come mid to late summer, we have more eggplants than we know what to do with, and we're always getting creative to figure out to how eat all of these pretty purple veggies. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of eggplants, but the first time Greg and I made this eggplant garden stir fry I knew this was going to be our favorite way to go through our late summer harvests! Thus, it was the perfect recipe to partner with Suite One Studio for our monthly Garden to Table series. We've served this dish for a crowd a couple of times and the Suite One Studio serving bowls make this meal look so incredibly good at a party! Get the recipe on the Suite One Studio blog this month and snag yourself one of Lindsay Emery's gorgeous serving bowls (also here) for your next garden potluck! Get the Recipe ---> 

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Thursday, September 07, 2017

When we started our urban garden in 2013, we didn't start small - we went all in and planted way too much to manage. Admittedly, we were overzealous homeowners. Several landscaping revisions, forlorn tomato plants and abandoned cold frames later, we honed in our expectations and started to make better use of the space to produce only what we really love (and also what the neighbors love...we share a lot come late summer). Even so, that doesn't give us any more hours in the day and there are some weeks when the garden grows a foot higher before we even notice. What we do notice though, is how much of our daily hours are spent working, in front of a computer screen or otherwise not engaged in being outside which is, ultimately, what make us the happiest. That's why we have a garden first and foremost. Our outdoor therapy is unquestionably important to our wellbeing. It also happens to be delicious, and makes city living feel a little more connected to where our food comes from.

When it comes to wellness, it's easy to be almost too conscious about what we're doing right and wrong. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the headlines about diet and nutrition, self care and supplementation, meditation and exercise and setting boundaries and stress management and all. the. things. Most of the clients I see every day don't even know where to start - so they don't. At all. They're at this impasse where listening to their own body just isn't a reasonable option. Regarding nutrition alone there are literally a hundred different guidelines and not a single one is designed just for you. So I have a plan I give out to every single person I see: Just do more. If you're eating only one serving of veggies per day, try to make that two. If you're only eating three different fruits all the time, try to make that four by the end of the month. If you're only drinking 8 ounces of water a day, try to double that by the end of the week. I keep an organic garden because this is my version of "more" for where I am with my health and happiness This is my more time outdoors. My more connection with the earth. My more colorful foods every day. My more time with my husband. My more intake of sensory nutrients. My more gut health focus. My happy place. 

In late summer, the surge of all things abundant and juicy start to slowly wilt and wither away. It's a slow, almost unobservable transition but it starts to happen right around the time I start to slowly come down off of my summer high and let out a deep exhale. Things start to droop and dry out around the same time my energy reserves putter to a slow spin. It's an ideal time to harvest the last of summer's bounty and store away for the fall. It's a quiet time in the garden. A heavy, humid and regenerative time. It's all I want to do to spend an afternoon tearing out tomato plants after a week in my office, tethered to my email and mentally on and engaged. Garden time is like this expansive all encompassing mind pillow that's like, "Hey overworked-cyber-ravaged-hard thinking-sleepy-wired-brain....chill with me a while and lets cover you in microbes to get that computer smell off of ya....". Oh man, it just wraps me up for a few hours and I forget what was on my to-do list altogether. Self care gold. 

Currently, we just planted more beets and chard with a handful of extra squashes and zucchini's and lots of pole beans. I'm in the beginning stages of planning a summer herbal tea garden (sooooo excited about this!) that I'll be sharing more of next year.  We also just put the finishing touches on a hand-built outdoor kitchen in our backyard that truly makes my love of garden to table instantaneous. Moderate self sufficiency is a large enough goal for city living. (That, and perpetual activism these days.) 

Read more: Urban Garden | Spring 

Photos by Renee Byrd, my sister garden fairy angel. 

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September, you're a little bizarre and special. Always the start of a new beginning, Septembers past have been the start of new schools, new semesters, new apartments, new jobs, new seasons...new opportunities. This has never been a month of maintaining the same old rhyme and rhythm of steadfast summer. I feel the most open to change and challenges in September, and in my adult life it has never failed to deliver just that. Reflecting back on a September ten years ago, I was living in Galway, Ireland, settling into a new (yet very old) apartment, gushing over my new University syllabi, developing an addiction to earl gray tea and getting a crash course in UK city biking. One of the things I loved most about living in Ireland was their fondness and skill at beverage making (not coffee, alas), but crafty teas and otherwise caffeinated mid-afternoon beverages. Early in September of that year, by some happy accident I stumbled upon a magical form of hot chocolate marshmallowy milky heaven in a cafe not far from my apartment and it routinely became my weekly indulgence every Sunday afternoon. It was smooth and salty with a subtle sweetness but savory too...energizing but relaxing...decadent but rustic....oh it was an incredible liquid contradiction in the best way. I've never had anything quite like it since living there...until I discovered Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixirs.

I picked up a little packet of Reishi Mushroom Elixir several months ago from Boketto (as I can't resist a creative way to take medicinal mushrooms). As soon as I came home, I dropped the contents into some piping hot water and added a pinch of sea salt and experienced an intensely real time transport back to that little Irish cafe with my beloved imbibed Sunday contradiction. It was just a faint reminder of that liquid heaven I had in Galway - enough so that I subsequently bought a sample of every mushroom elixir available and started playing around with recipes to try and recreate it just as I had remembered. "What luck, too!", I thought, "that it's mushroom based!" I love mushrooms and any excuse to take them excited me to no end. All this time I'd been taking mushroom tinctures almost daily...and those are fine and all, but certainly don't taste as good as these little packets of nostalgia. 

I eventually struck upon a combination that was blissful and true to what my tastebuds remembered with the addition of homemade almond milk, a pinch of pink salt and a dollop of intensely delicious coconut butter infused with building and invigorating Shatavari from Laka (another incredible find from Boketto). This midday elixir has everything I've been craving lately with a texture that's absolutely transporting and as creamy as freshly melted chocolate. 

The addition of mushrooms into my daily health regimen has been steadfast over the past several years and I'm a huge proponent of incorporating medicinal mushrooms into our medicine cabinets and our kitchens! I'm fascinated with mushrooms and their eclectic and diverse use as a tonic and supportive remedy of the immune system plus about a hundred other potential uses currently being researched. Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga and Cordyceps are some of the few natural medicines being thoroughly researched in specific health conditions, giving them some major clout and potential to be accepted and utilized by the western medical community (it's all about evidence based, evidence based, evidence based and mushrooms are starting to prove themselves in that niche way too, despite their hundreds of years of medicinal use...). Mushrooms are something that I would consider a food source of tonic health, and I often think that's the best way to take medicine - in our daily diet. 

Use any milk base you'd prefer. I like to use freshly made almond milk, lightly sweetened with dates. My favorite mushroom elixir to use in this recipe is the Chaga blend but honestly all of their mushroom blends are decadent and delicious in this recipe. I add in a bit of ashwagandha root for added adaptogenic support. Top with fancy flora of your choosing if you're feeling like some mid-afternoon decadence. 

Mushroom Elixir with Infused Coconut Butter

1 cup Almond Milk
1 tsp Ashwagandha Root
1 Packet Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir
1 tsp (Infused) Coconut Butter
1 tsp Raw honey
Serves 1

Heat one cup of almond milk with 1 tsp ashwagandha root on low heat for 7 minutes. Add to a high speed blender along with the mushroom elixir, coconut butter and honey. Blend for about 60 seconds until smooth and frothy. Serve warm, toped with a bit of cinnamon or rose petals. 



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Admittedly, figs are perhaps in my top three favorite fruits of all time. Here in Virginia, August brings a wave of fresh figs, and the fig trees are heavily laden with these juicy and sweet ripe fruits. My family's home in Virginia Beach has about a dozen huge fig trees, and if we're visiting at just the right time, we can snag some baskets and climb up into the shady limbs, dropping one after another into the baskets while snacking on just as many in the process. The harvesting time kind of sneaks up on us...one day they're still a little green and the very next morning the squirrels have literally taken a single bite out of every slightly ripened fig on the tree. We keep a whether eye out, and pick at just the right moment - usually multiple times a week and even sometimes twice a day. As I mentioned in my previous posts, everything feels like it ripens at once in the summer months, so we often have a LOT of these little fruits on hand...not that we're complaining. Figs are absolute heaven on a hot summer day! And - nothing seems to pair more beautifully on a summer table than beautiful, ripe purple figs with Lindsay Emery's signature pink porcelain bowls and dessert plates! 

Get the recipe for my Fig & Ricotta Flatbread with fresh garden herbs on the Suite One Studio Blog --> 

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I've kept my hair long for about 18 years now, with the occasional drastic chop and donation. When I was 12 years old, the movie Practical Magic came out and since the moment I first saw it, Nicole Kidman gave me forever hair goals (and I still to this day am desperate to get her epic layered haircut, but alas, have never found someone who can do it just right). Other than the subtle witchy vibe, keeping my hair long gave me a sense of individuality, of femininity...of inner elfishness like I just stepped out of Lothlorien treehouse heaven. It's my bit of consistent style and whimsey in a totally fleeting fashion-fad absorbed world. My hair grows like a weed, and the upkeep can sometimes feel tedious. A long time ago I committed to only using minimal, botanical based products and the least amount of effort and styling tools possible. Eventually I learned that the less I do to my hair, the better it feels and healthier it stays. Botanical infused hair oils (and good nutrition - more on that here!) are my not so secret allies for maintaining long, strong locks. 

I started using botanical infused hair oils years ago and it was hard to find ones that didn't have sketchy ingredients in them. My long time go-to was Banyan Botanicals Hair Oil and over the past three or four years I've been making and using my own hair oil at least twice a week as I've been growing my hair longer and longer. I also use a lot of hair oil...so keeping it inexpensive to make was important. Herbal goodness doesn't just stop with the internal application of teas and tinctures. Herbal and botanical body care items are absolute magic for harnessing the power of herbs topically. This botanical infused hair oil is what I would consider 1/2 of what contributes to long, strong locks. The other half is good nutrition, and I'll cover that in another post. And, obviously, there's the genetic factor (thanks, mom and dad). I slather my hair and massage my scalp with this oil twice a week, sleep with it in overnight, then wash my hair in the morning (and I only wash my hair about twice a week). I let my hair air dry as much as possible and rarely ever use any product in it after I wash it. Humidity, however, is a gross and unrelenting hair adversary. In the summer, I'll give my hair a spritz of sea salt spray or use my aloe sun soothing spray on the ends...but that's about it. Humidity generally always wins. 

Herbs and Hair Health: My go-to herbal allies for hair are Nettle (shocker), rosemary, aloe and coconut + jojoba oil. 

Nettle (Utica dioica) is so nutrient dense, being extremely high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc - dietarily making it one of the most mineral dense plant foods we can consume. Nettle also has a rich content of two fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A and carotenoids (the pre-cursor to vitamin A), and vitamin K. B vitamins are also tucked away in those nutrient dense stinging leaves too. These are all vitamins and minerals we need in the right proportions in our diet to maintain overall health as well (and I'll dive into that later on). When I utilize herbs for hair health, like nettle, I'm using these vitamins and minerals on my scalp and also on the strands to help repair damage, split ends, and soothe the texture of the strands. Nettle supports both the hair follicles and hair strands. Rosemary I use specifically for the circulatory and oxygenation of hair follicles on the scalp - hence the good scalp massage part of the hair oil ritual. 

Aloe I include for it's soothing and repairing quality on hair strands. Have you ever used aloe topically on your skin? Works just as good in your hair too! Aloe is also super nutrient dense with some of the same nutrients that nettle carries and then some. Rich in Vitamins A, C, B12, niacin and folic acid, the inner gel also packs in calcium, magnesium zinc and iron. The fresh gel is so soothing and moistening for dry scalps, infusing the skin with nutrients and is cooling and soothing for itchy or flaky skin and just coats the hair strands in glycoproteins and nutrients. I absolutely love aloe for almost every single body care need, and I keep an aloe plant in my home constantly. 

Finally - the carrier oils. Coconut and Jojoba are my go-to's for hair health. I tend to have dry skin and dry hair, and personally coconut oil is my ideal oil to use topically due to it's high vitamin E content. The medium chain fatty acid content of coconut oil is what makes it so soothing for topical skin and hair health and it seems maintain that moisture for a long time - it's not something you have to continually re-apply and re-apply. Jojoba is an oil I repeatedly use to help balance oil production via the hair follicles. It's also moisture rich but lighter than coconut oil, not clogging pores or follicles and helps to maintain a perfect oil balance on my scalp. There are ton of other beneficial oils you can use on your scalp and in hair oils - these are just my preferred favorites. They're also excellent herbal extractors. Once I chop and fill my jars with the herbal inputs, I completely cover everything with a mix of these two oils and set it in the hot summer sun...

Solar infusions are my preferred way to let herbs infuse in oil, especially during the summer. Herbal oil infusions are SO luxurious and nourishing to use topically (like this calendula infused apricot kernel oil - a longtime favorite of mine!) when given enough time and moderate heat, most herbs extract beautifully in a carrier oil and have a relatively long shelf life. Once I prep my oil, I set it out in the garden for about two weeks and let the summer suns heat permeate through this formula, in a sense also infusing it with the essence of high summer. 

This is my base formula, always consistent and always effective. I sometime like to add various essential oils depending on what I'm feeling in the moment. Options include more rosemary, lavender, cedar, patchouli or, you know, whatever your favorites are. As always, play with it and make it yours. Try using different base oils if these don't quite work for you. Sesame oil, olive oil and argan oils are also excellent to use too. 

Botanical Infused Hair Oil

1 cup dried nettle leaves, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves, finally chopped
2 cups coconut oil
2 cups jojoba oil
1/4 cup aloe gel
essential oils

Chop herbs as fine as possible and add to a large mason jar, Cover completely with the coconut oil and jojoba oil, adding more oil if needed to entirely cover the herbs once it's settled. Scrape the inside of a large aloe leaf to remove all of the gel, between 1/4 - 1/2 cup. You may also use purchased aloe gel, but make sure there are very few added ingredients and no alcohol. Cover with a tight fitted lid and give it a good shake. Let sit in the summer sun for about 3-4 days, shaking daily. After it's solar infused, strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth and squeeze out all of the liquid. Adjust the essential oils to your smell preference after it is infused. Store in a glass jar and use weekly. Massage a generous amount into your scalp for about 2-3 minutes, and coat hair strands completely with the oil from root to tips. Comb through and put your hair in a braid. Sleep overnight with the oil in your hair and then wash as normal in the morning. 


Read more: Nutrition & Herbs for Long Strong Locks

Photography by Renee Byrd

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HELLO, I'M LINDSAY.
Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.

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