When I stock up my first aid kit, or the acute remedy section of my home apothecary, I always make sure I have what I need to deal with things that sort of come out of the blue. When a cold hits, or the flu (I shudder to think), or stomach pains or burns and scrapes show up and I don't have what I need, I feel like a failure of an herbalist. (Not totally true, but the thought does cross my mind.) Here are some of the essential basic products I keep on hand all the time (especially in the winter) that always seem to get me out of hot water quickly and effectively:

For the onset of a cold: Echinacea tincture; Urban moonshine Immune Zoom; Gypsy Cold Care Tea; Bronchial Wellness Tea. Herbs really shine right at the onset of a cold (you have to know your symptoms!) and be proactive. If you wait even 24 hours to start herbal remedies, the effects are not nearly as potent. I often take 1/2 teaspoon of echinacea tincture every hour on the first day of a cold (mix it with water to dilute!), and then 1/2 teaspoon every 2 hours the following days for up to 4 days. Immune Zoom I always take with me when I travel (especially on airplanes) and it kicks a cold almost immediately whenever I use it. (I'm just so in love with Urban Moonshine - if I had an herbal company crush, it would most definitely be them.) And the herbal teas - I drink these pretty much all day to hydrate and support the immune system and also as diaphoretic support to push the pathogens out of the body.  

For the onset of the flu: Oscillococcinum; Elderberry syrup. Much like the cold remedies, the flu remedies need to be taken right at the onset too! 

Stomach pains or acute digestive distress: Chamomile tincture. Chamomile is one of the best digestive modulators and calming remedies. You can take 1/2 teaspoon at a time as often as needed for acute digestive distress. You can read more about the uses of this herbal ally here!

Burns: St. Johns Wort Oil; Calendula Salve

Cuts and scrapes: Goldenseal & Myrrh Salve

Headaches: Peppermint Oil (a drop or two, massaged into the temples); Headache Soother

What are your go-to remedies when acute issues pop up? I love to hear what folks keep in their medicine chests, or if they have awesome family recipes that have been passed down!

Starting in 2009, I began working part time in the supplement section of a local health food store in Maryland wherein I was completely submersed in the overwhelming (and often unnecessary) world of dietary and herbal supplements. When I started, I knew absolutely NOTHING. I was just starting my masters degree in herbal medicine and nutrition, and they hired me on the spot because I would "catch on quickly and learn my way around". True that - after about 6 months I felt like I could navigate the in's and out's of all of those CoQ10's and calcium combinations, and after 5 more years I could talk about supplements, brands, products and manufacturing practices all day. At the end of last year, December 2014, was when I finally parted ways with working in the supplement section of health food stores having been a member of three different awesome stores from Maryland to Virginia. 

I still keep close ties with Ellwood Thompsons (I'm their health coach and offer FREE appointments there, as well as consult with them on incoming products) and their supplement section is a big part of their offering. I'm constantly talking with people about how to choose supplements, which ones are necessary and which ones may not be, how to read labels, and how to research product companies to get high quality products. Making educated decisions about supplements, both dietary and herbal, is essential if you plan to continue taking supplements for any long period of time. The supplement world is not really regulated, it's self regulated, so making sure to buy supplements from reputable and clean sources is of utmost importance. Not all supplements are created equal, and as a general rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. 

As a nutritionist, my philosophy and practice is to almost always try to get the nutrients we need from actual whole foods and nutrient rich herbs not supplements. The only time I recommend supplements is if, 1) the person cannot eat or does not have access to certain foods for particular nutrients, or 2) they have a legit absorption issue where they cannot absorb the nutrients they need from food. There is a time and place for dietary supplements (and as a culture we're extremely lucky to have them), however I feel that they're often overused, and used as a replacement for good, solid nutrient rich foods. People feel like they can slack off on their diet if they're taking supplements, and it just doesn't work like that. 

There are some products that are designed to enhance nutrients or support digestion that, when still eating a wholesome organic diet, can be nice to have on hand as part of your daily nutrition practice. I keep only a few things around that I take on a daily basis that serve my individual nutrient needs, and this will vary from person to person. 

1. Fish Oil - I don't eat fish (or anything that came out of the water) EVER. I just can't handle it, smell it, touch it or look at it. I can't even go to an aquarium. I absolutely know that I need to supplement with this omega-3 rich oil due to the extreme lack of it in my diet. Omega-3 (and omega-9) are essential fatty acids because they body does not make them - they must be obtained through foods like salmon, cod and anchovies, or through nuts and seeds like chia, flax, walnuts and hemp seeds (which I eat on a daily basis). Make extra sure to find high quality fish oil - here's why

2. Probiotics - If there's one supplement I think almost everyone could benefit from, it's a good quality, comprehensive probiotic. These little bacterial critters play an enormous role in our digestive health, overall immunity, emotional stability, and even help to manufacture mood stabilizing hormones like dopamine, taurine and serotonin. The probiotics in our gut can be influenced by a variety of factors like environmental inputs, chronic stress, anti-biotic or pharmaceutical drug use and of course our daily diet. It's so easy to deplete the probiotic reserves in our body that it's almost always helpful to supplement with extra probiotics to help maintain the balance. Also eating fermented foods like kimchi, kraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt and miso will help increase probiotics too!

3. Turmeric - I eat this as often as I can with foods, and I also either take a capsule with each meal, or mix about 1/2 teaspoon in some water daily for increased anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory support. Although many supplement companies tout the benefits of only taking curcumin alone, it's my stead fast belief that utilizing the entire root of turmeric works much more efficiently and comprehensively in the body that one single constituent alone. The same can be said for almost any herb that people tend to want standardize. 

4. Triphala - In Ayurveda, this three-fruit blend of amalaki, bibhitaki & hiritaki has been used for generations to support digestion - especially the lower bowel and colon. It is considered tri-dosha and supportive of any constitution to both gently cleanse the lower digestive tract while also being extremely building and nourishing. Ayurvedic philosophy considers the colon to absorb the "prana" or life force from foods, and keeping a healthy and strong digestive, cardiovascular and lymphatic flow is essential for the absorption of prana into our body. 

5. Greens Powder - I only take this during the days or seasons when I can't get "enough" greens on my plate. Although almost every meal I have usually has veggies and fruits of some kind, if a day to two goes by and I just crave some extra greens, I'll mix some organic greens powder in some water or juice for an extra dose of minerals instead of taking a multi-vitamin. I also drink these anytime I would like some freshly made juice in the winter time when I don't have access to my favorite juicing veggies. I usually alternate between Amazing Grass and Health Force

Every now and then, I'll throw in some extra supplements depending on the season or my fluctuating state of health. These are the essentials though and tend to find their way into my daily routine almost 100% of the time. I'll have further posts on how to navigate deciding on, purchasing and researching supplements in the future, too! What have been the essential nourishing items in your medicine chest over the years?

I'm so excited to launch this new "Essentials" series today! Essentials is a series that goes through some of the staples in my home and lifestyle and will cover everything from pantry stock lists and nourishing/supplement items, to body care and backpacking go-to's. Everything included will come from a holistic nutrition foundation, along with several years worth of knowledge from working in the natural products industry. Keeping my daily products as clean and sustainable as possible is always a driving force when I make decisions about what to buy, and from where. I prefer to support local small businesses, artisans and crafters, local growers and farmers and even national companies with a clean, sustainable and holistic ingredient philosophy (along with fair trade guidelines for workers and families). I've realized over the years that sometimes my biggest voice comes from how I choose to spend my money, and who I want to support. 

My Pantry Essentials is a general list of the things that are ALWAYS in my pantry stock room. Lots of dried goods, whole grains, dried beans, herbs, spices and oils. These ingredients are things I use in circulation every day, and I feel so fortunate to live in a city where all of these staples are available (thanks Ellwood Thompsons!). 
Details on a few:

  • I get most of my dried beans from Purcell Mountain Farms. They offer a great variety of delicious organic, heirloom beans!
  • Yellow Mung Dal & Kitchari Spice Mix I always source from Banyan Botanicals. This is my go-to resource for most Ayurvedic spices, herbs and dietary info. I love them to death. 
  • Herbs & Spices I often source from Mountain Rose Herbs for the things I use tons of (like ginger, sage, cinnamon or fennel). 
  • Whole grains I always buy in bulk and store in re-usable recycled glass jars with an air tight lid. 
  • Hemp seeds I source from Manitoba Harvest
This is by no means a complete list, however it's an excellent place to pull ideas if you're looking to overhaul your pantry and then make adjustments to make it your own. I love to try new sources of foods, too! If you have suggestions of great companies or farms that you like please share in the comments. 

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


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Richmond, VA 23220
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