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Una Biologicals is an independent company proud to bring you Organic Beauty & Wellness products. All of our products are hand-crafted just for you.  

Because we believe that your body deserves the best that nature has to offer, we use only premium organic oils to nourish your skin and never include harsh chemicals, additives, or artificial fragrances.  Our goal is keep you Healthy & Gorgeous!


Health & Beauty Blog

This is where we can expand a little on the ideas of health & wellness.  All information is shared in the spirit of education and fun.  We hope you find a little inspiration, perhaps a new recipe, or even a new way of looking your day.  Thanks for spending a little time with an open mind.

~Namaste, Jessica

Get Out and Explore: Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve

Jessica Graves

Sometimes you can live in a place for years and overlook some of the most beautiful gems. Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve is one of those places! This gorgeous nature reserve, cared for by the Audubon Society of Western PA, is well worth a visit one of these long, sun-soaked summer days.

Located in Dorseyville Road right out of Pittsburgh in Fox Chapel, Beechwood Farms has 5 miles of trails to explore within its 134 acres of land sanctuary. The trails are open all year round, from dawn to dusk! There is a hawk rehabilitation center on site, an eco-friendly educational building, and the Audubon Center for Native Plants, where you can buy native species and enjoy the garden full of beautiful PA plants.

We had a great visit out there yesterday, as Jessica was speaking to the Piccadilly Herb Club. (They have a gorgeous herb garden, by the way!) We CANNOT wait to get back there and wander the trails, check out the wildlife, and work on our native plant identification ;-) Be sure to add this to your Pittsburgh bucket list!

Garden Healers: St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

Jessica Graves

St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

In sticking with my plan to educate you on plants that grows well in the North Eastern United States, St. John’s Wort, which is fabulous in the garden, is the topic of today’s Herbal Update.  The plant itself possess bright green leaves, small and slender, that are accented by star shaped yellow flowers that practically take over the plant in July and August.  The herb itself can grow into a small shrub 24 inches high if allowed.  A perennial, this sun loving herb is quite hardy and will tolerate partial shade as well.  Though it prefers light, moist soil this herb originated in forests, fields, and roadsides of Europe and has a survivor’s adaptability. Once started these plants need very little attention except in the poorest of soils where fertilizer will be a great aide, and water during long dry spells.  In short, in order to enjoy this amazing herb at home simply stick in the ground wherever you have room and see what happens. ☺

St. John’s Wort is believed to be have been named for St. John the Baptist. Used for centuries, the Greek physician Hippocrates (ca. 460-377 B.C.E.) was one of the first to speak of the health benefits of St. Johns Wort, and it has been used to treat anxiety, neurosis, and depression since the time of Paracelsus (ca. 1493-1541 C.E.), when it was declared to be "arnica for the nerves."  St. John’s Wort has undergone countless clinical studies and has been proven effective by US physicians in aiding the treatment of depression.  These results have made it one of the most widely marketed and used herbs in the US.   

St. John’s Wort is also an anti-inflammatory, astringent, expectorant, nervine and sedative herb.  It has been used throughout history to treat everything from rheumatism and gout to dysentery, jaundice, urinary issues and bedwetting.  Historically, St. Johns Wort was also relied on for pulmonary complaints including consumption and catarrh of the lungs.  It’s second most popular use today, however, is as an aid to wounds and burns.  Prepared as an extract and applied topically St, John’s Wort has been used to reduce the pain and aid in faster healing.

At home, St. John’s Wort at home can be prepared as a tea using the leaves and flowers (always use organic of course).  You can also make your own extracts using sunflower, olive or wheat germ oils.  If you are harvesting your own flowers, pick them in their prime preferably in the morning after the dew has dried.  Allow them to dry in an arid space away from the sun and store in an airtight container.

St. John’s Wort should be used only after consulting your physician, particularly if you are ingesting it.  It is NOT RECOMMENDED for those on MAO or Protease inhibitors.


Milkweed & Monarchs

Jessica Graves

Common Milkweed, By Lmmahood -

Common Milkweed, By Lmmahood -

Have you considered planting native plants in your garden this year? Native plants thrive naturally in a habitat or region and attract local birds, bees, and other pollinators, contributing to a healthy ecosystem. They often need less attention than their non-native counterparts, too, as they are adapted to the soil and weather of our region.

Native plants often play a key role in the life cycle of other creatures, such as the food and habitat that milkweed, pictured above, offers for the beautiful monarch butterfly. Monarchs depend on native milkweed plants for survival--and the loss of milkweed plants over the past years has gravely affected the monarch population. When monarchs migrate from Mexico to North America each spring, they lay their eggs on the milkweed plant, and monarch caterpillars solely feed on milkweed. They are actually able to ingest the toxic properties in the milkweed and use it to their advantage; they become toxic to predators! Monarchs, in turn, are one of the main pollinators of milkweed, helping this plant to thrive. Without milkweed, monarchs are not able to complete their life cycle, and we see the decline of this beautiful species.

© Derek Ramsey /, via Wikimedia Commons

© Derek Ramsey /, via Wikimedia Commons

You can assist this lovely relationship by planting native Pennsylvanian milkweeds in your yard! Here's a list of natives from Monarch Joint Venture:

  • Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

  • Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

  • Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

  • Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata

  • Poke Milkweed, Asclepias exaltata

Many local nurseries and gardens sell milkweed, including Garden Dreams and Sylvania Natives, and many more. And, check out Penn State Extension's wonderful resource on the who, what, where, and when of planting native plants! So, get busy planting gorgeous natives and help keep our population of pollinators happy and healthy!

Sources and More info:


It's Planting Season! Let's Talk Lemon Balm

Jessica Graves

With the planting season upon us, it occurs to me that we should discuss herbs that we can plant here in Pennsylvania.  Nothing is quite as satisfying as harvesting your own food and that goes for herbs too!  There are tons of culinary and medicinal herbs that really flourish in PA. Let's talk about Lemon Balm, Melissa officianalis.

A member of the Mint family, Lemon Balm is perfect for the novice gardener.  It grows fabulously in pots as well as the garden.  Because it is in the mint family it will spread, so you should choose your garden location carefully and be ready to cut it back as needed (don’t worry, it’s not as avid a spreader as mint!).  Lemon Balm is short bushy plant that produces bright green lemony fresh leaves that will grow in most soils.  It is a hardy perennial that can withstand some drought as well.  The fragrance is lovely when the leaves are touched.  

Throughout history Lemon Balm has been used as an esteemed herb in herbal medicine.  For centuries it was relied on to treat any ailment of the central nervous system.  In addition, Lemon Balm was claimed to renew vigor, strengthen memory, reduce melancholy and prevent baldness.  It was used in battle to treat wounds, both helping them to heal and prevent infection.  Lemon Balm is also used to attract bees and beneficial insects to a garden, the name itself deriving from the Greek word for bee.

Today Lemon Balm is primarily used as a sleep aid and to ease gastrointestinal troubles.  Melissa is also added to topical creams for its success in fighting viral infections of the skin, particularly cold sores.  Recent studies have shown it to be quite effective in reducing symptoms and aiding healing. And of course, that delicious scent is popular in cosmetics and perfumes.  Melissa essential oil is quite expensive however, so if you are purchasing it be sure that you are getting the REAL thing and not citronella or a diluted alternative.

In your own garden, the leaves are the part that you will harvest (the only part used) once your Lemon Balm is thriving.  You can add the leaves fresh to your dinner, an iced tea, or sliced over fresh fruit and ice cream.  You can make a lovely relaxing tea from the fresh or dried leaves as well.   If you want to ensure a lemon balm stock through the winter, harvest leaves during the height of the season when the leaves are fresh and green.  Dry them in a dark place with good ventilation and store in an air tight jar for tea through the cold months. ☺

Happy planting!

Vitamin Boost: Easy Molasses Bread

Jessica Graves

Blackstrap Molasses is packed with iron, vitamins, and minerals to give your body a boost!

Blackstrap Molasses is packed with iron, vitamins, and minerals to give your body a boost!

Made from sugar cane boiled three times, Blackstrap Molasses is a super-nutritious food that's great for those of us who are looking for a non-animal source of iron. In addition to iron, Blackstrap molasses contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, and b-vitamins.

Although it's made from sugar cane, blackstrap molasses is not very sweet, as most of the sucrose from the sugar has been boiled out of it. So, while swallowing a spoonful every day might not be too appealing, molasses can be a great nutritional addition to your baking! I recently found a recipe for an incredibly simple molasses bread. With a total of 5 ingredients, this bread throws together in a snap. The molasses adds tons of nutritional value and a mild flavor, so this plain bread can be sweetened (or savoried!) to your liking with honey, peanut butter, greek yogurt--let your imagination go wild!

Simple Molasses Bread


  • 2 1/2 cups white or wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses + 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • pinch salt


  1. Mix together flour, baking soda, vegetable oil, salt, and molasses to form crumbly mixture
  2. Set aside one cup of mixture
  3. In small bowl, mix together hot water and extra 1/4 cup molasses
  4. Stir water and molasses mixture into crumbly mixture
  5. Pour batter into 9 inch buttered pan. Add crumbly mixture to top.
  6. Bake for 30 min in a 375 degree oven

Adapted from Cait Johnson's "Witch in the Kitchen" cookbook.

Brighten up with Grapefruit Oil

Jessica Graves

It feels like an endless string of grey days lately. However, if we turn to the plant world we can find some lovely friends to help us get through the cold winter months. Let's talk about that gorgeous citrus dream, Grapefruit!

Did you know that Grapefruit Essential oil is more than just a lovely scent?  Indeed, the beneficial properties of this essential oil are quite numerous. Grapefruit essential oil is antibacterial, antidepressant, astringent, antiseptic, diuretic, digestive, restorative, tonic, and stimulant.  

What does all this mean? Well it means that through the years Grapefruit oil has been used to boost mood and energy through aromatherapy (you just need to smell it). Along this line it has been used to treat fatigue, jet lag, depression, and exhaustion.   It has been used as a digestive aid, and is even purported as a diet aid as the aroma is said to help quell your appetite.  

Rubbed into sore joints and muscles, this oil is reported to help with arthritis and rheumatism, as well as headaches and menstrual cramps.  In addition it can help brighten skin and balance oily skin as an acne aid.  To make it even better, the constituents of this oil are said to break down and flush out fat cells, helping to reduce cellulite deposits when applied topically (Una is currently testing this theory for you).

Like many citrus oils, the germ fighting properties of Grapefruit oil are also documented.  You can mix 3-5 drops of essential oil in water for a disinfecting spray, or add to your cleansing water when you mop the floors or wipe down surfaces.

Grapefruit oil can be used as aromatherapy in a diffuser, or a few drops sprinkled on your light bulbs. It can also be applied topically to the skin, but a carrier oil should always be used – place 2-3 drops of Grapefruit oil in water or a carrier oil before applying to skin.

Experiment with this lovely oil yourself! What do you want to make?  And, you can find many products at Una made with Pink Grapefruit essential oil, including body butters, salt & sugar scrubs, and room sprays.

Here's a quick and easy recipe for an uplifting hair tonic using grapefruit oil. Use this spray to control oily hair, add shine, and leave you smelling amazing!

  • Spray bottle
  • Aloe vera juice
  • Distilled water
  • Grapefruit essential oil

Add 2 parts aloe vera juice to 1 part distilled water. Add 10 drops grapefruit essential oil. Shake well, and apply to hair as needed throughout the day!


Deepen Your Wellness Practice in the New Year

Jessica Graves

Re-evaluate. Re-envision. Recharge! The New Year brings with it a chance to reflect on how we have changed, what has worked, and what needs to be transformed. Perhaps your go-to recipes need a shake up. Or, you've hit a plateau with your yoga practice and it's time to set some new goals. We've pulled together some of our favorite ideas for digging deeper into your wellness journey this year.

Instagram continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration for everything from yoga, to gorgeous meals, to interesting ways to de-stress your life. Check out our favorites below. You can visit the website without having an Instagram account!

The Minimalist Baker : Mouthwatering pictures of her delicious meal creations with 10 ingredients or less, and most are plant-based.

Jessamyn the Yogi : Are you following Jessamyn yet?! This amazing yogi is revolutionizing yoga by making space for ALL bodies, no matter the shape or size, to enjoy the health benefits of this practice.

Alex Elle, Author : Swoon. Alex shares beautiful poetry and simple affirmations that are sure to give you the boost you need to center and ground yourself in love, each and every day.


One of the biggest health trends that seems to be popping up on all the lists this year is the benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms such as reishi, chaga, turkey tail, and maitake, among others, are becoming popular for their many medicinal properties, including immune support and anti-cancer activity. Here's a yummy recipe from Organic Authority for a Medicinal Mushroom Latte that you can make at home.


1 cup unsweetened cashew or coconut milk
½ tsp reishi mushroom powder
¼ tsp chaga mushroom powder
¼ tsp cordyceps mushroom powder
½ tsp maca powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 heaped Tbsp cacao powder
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil, MCT oil, or ghee


Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and gently warm over medium heat until ingredients come to a simmer. Transfer hot liquid to a high-speed blender and blend on high for 30 seconds, or until latte is frothy. Pour into a mug and enjoy!


One of my favorite mushroom experts lectures regularly at Mother Earth News Fair. Tradd Cotter, of Mushroom Mountain, has been researching and cultivating mushrooms since the 90's. You can check out his website for educational information as well as to order mushrooms for your own use!

This may sound a bit odd, at first, but one of the most buzzed-about relaxation and de-stressing methods going around involves floating in the complete dark in a tank filled with salt water. Wait, what?! But, Sensory Deprivation Therapy, or Immersion Therapy, comes with many benefits akin to meditation or yoga. The theory is that by reducing external stimuli, you can lower stress levels and blood pressure, as well as increase creativity. And, by soaking in a giant tank filled with Epsom salts, your body reaps the benefits of a long magnesium soak--including balancing hormones and calcium levels. Read more about the experience here.

The downside is that floating is not cheap; a one hour session typically runs about $50-60. There are number of tanks in Pittsburgh, including Pittsburgh Float in Shadyside, and Levity in Squirrel Hill.

Shake up your Yoga practice this year by trying out some different styles! Here's a list of our favorite yoga studios in town, each with their own distinct style.

  •  The Shala, Ashtanga Yoga. Located across the street from Una in Lawrenceville, this studio offers a physical demanding practice that synchronizes the body and breath to create an internal purifying heat.

  • Schoolhouse Yoga, Variety of Styles. Located in E. Liberty, Squirrel Hill, and the North Hills. Our very favorite yogi Kendell Romanelli teaches here, and you can find anything from a gentle introduction to yoga, to more advanced ashtanga.

  • Yoga Hive, Vinyasa Yoga. Located in Garfield and the Strip District. This studio offers a great range of class styles for everyone from beginners to more advanced yogis. The vinyasa flow style focuses on synchronizing the breath with a flow of postures.

We hope this adds a bit of inspiration to your new year.

Peace + Light to you in 2017!

Fighting the Flu

Jessica Graves

It's the time of year when our immune systems need a little work out! While the Flu always seems to take center stage, all hope is not lost - there is much you can do to keep yourself healthy!  Try adding these simple ideas into your basic be-well repertoire.

1. Una Biologicals' Flu Fighter Tea - this tea tastes great & works thanks to organic Elderberries. Elderberries have been scientifically proven to be effective against 8 types of flu strains.  They help prevent the virus from attached to your healthy cell enzymes. We also add in lots o Vitamin C herbs to give you a little extra boost.  Pick some up at your local retailer!

2. Take those Vitamins.  Omega3 and B vitamins support immune health, and keeping your body in tip-top running condition will help it fight off those nasty germs you are sure to come into contact with.

3. Positive thinking.  Even though it sounds hokey, it can really help. Tell your body it is healthy, it can stay healthy, and mean it! If you are under the weather, tell the germs to get out (and try the Lion Pose – silly but great at expelling germs). It's really rather empowering.

4. Work your Lymphatic System!  This is a big deal & easily done.  Your Lymphatic system run throughout your entire body & is connected to your circulatory system.  Though it does a lot, one major role is to move your white blood cells (the infection fighters) throughout your body. To invigorate your lymphatic system stretch your arms out wide - you should feel it pull and open under your arms (major lymph gland area). Do a few side bends to stretch your side body and open help open the lymphatic vessels, and massage your lymph glands in your neck & under arms.  You can do this as often as you remember.

5. Finally, go exercise and sweat! Allow your largest organ, your skin, to help you excrete toxins that are building up. Exercise also promotes greater blood flow and helps energize your internal organs so they can to more effectively cleanse the germ army from your body.  The more effectively your physical body is working, the healthier it is able to keep itself as well!

Sending you some love for a Flu Free season...

Herbal Roots & Coffee Substitutes

Jessica Graves

With less sunlight and warmth, now is the time when plants are moving their energies away from their leaves and flowers, and deep into their roots. This first dip in temperatures alerts the plants: hey, buds! Time's a-changin'! Let's refocus and store your energy down underground for the winter season. Just as we've learned to harvest plant leaves when they are new and tender in the spring, and their flowers when they are showy and vibrant in the summer, we know it's time to make use of this root energy in the fall. 

There are plenty of herbs with medicinally beneficial roots to harvest. We're going to talk about two today: Dandelion and Chicory, because they are abundant and local, and because together they make a truly delicious coffee substitute! Speaking of local, if you do plan on harvesting these plants yourself, be sure you are doing so from areas clear of chemicals, pesticides, and toxic runoff from roads and highways! These tap roots soak up what is in the soil--including toxins. If you don't have a backyard you can dig into, try a Pittsburgh Park or the cleanest, greenest place you can find. 

We've sung the praises of Dandelion on this blog before, but just a quick recap: Dandelion, that ubiquitous, sunny weed, is an amazing herbal helper for detoxifying the blood, purifying the liver and kidneys, stimulating digestion, and adding vitamins A and C to your body. All that in your morning up of joe? You bet! According to Margaret Grieve's A Modern Herbal

Dandelion Coffee is a natural beverage without any of the injurious effects that ordinary tea and coffee have on the nerves and digestive organs. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness. 

Chicory (Cichorium intybu) is that beautiful blue-flowered spindly plant you see on roadsides all over town. It is well-known as a coffee substitute for those with caffeine sensitivities, but chicory also provides some similar health benefits as dandelion. Mountain Rose Herbs has an interesting blog post on Chicory Coffee, sharing the story of its rise to prominence as the New Orleans drink of choice!

To harvest these plants, you'll need to dig deep. As anyone who has tried to remove dandelions from their yard knows, they have deep tap roots and do not come out of the ground easily. Bring a fork or spade to help dig deep all the way around the root to be sure it remains unbroken. Once dug, clean your roots as thoroughly as you can. Chop into small pieces, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at your oven's lowest setting for 8-10 hours. Pieces should be dry and brittle when done.

Once cool, store in an air-tight container, and grind and prepare as you would any other coffee bean! 

Herban Root Coffee from the The Herbal Academy

Makes two 16 oz. servings


4 cups water
2 tablespoons dandelion root, roasted and ground
2 tablespoons chicory root, roasted and ground
½ tablespoons cinnamon powder
Natural sweetener to taste
Ground cinnamon, for dusting


  • Add the dandelion root, chicory root, and cinnamon to your coffee maker or French press.
  • Add boiling water and allow the herbs to steep for 5 minutes to release all the healing properties.
  • Strain and add sweetener to taste. Serve dusted with cinnamon.


  1. The Herbal Academy. "Dandelion: The Dandiest Weed of All." 7 April 2014. Web accessed 28 October 2016.
  2. Grieve, Margaret. A Modern Herbal. Originally published 1931. Web accessed 28 October 2016.
  3. The Mountain Rose Blog. "Recipe: Roasted Chicory Coffee." 7 April 2014. Web accessed 28 October 2016.
  4. The Herbal Academy. "A Homemade Dandelion and Chicory Root Coffee." 26 April 2015. Web accessed 28 October 2016.

Skullcap - Releasing Stress, Slowing Down, and Finding Balance

Jessica Graves

"Scutellaria lateriflora" by Rolf Engstrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

"Scutellaria lateriflora" by Rolf Engstrand (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Autumn Equinox took place on September 22nd, and with this ending of summer, a change of pace is brought to our lives. We start to slow down and look inward as we prepare for the darker months. For some of us, this comes as a blessing! And for others, shifting gears and slowing down is a challenge.

Supporting your body + soul with herbs during this transition period can be so helpful. Skullcap, Scutellaria laterifolia, is lovely little herb in the mint family that helps calm overly-stressed systems, fights headache pain, and in general brings about a sense of grounding and balance. Skullcap helps to pull energy from an anxious or stressed mind deep down into our roots, helping us to slow our roll just a bit. A nervine, this herb helps restore balance to the nervous system, especially those that experience prolonged stress (hello, non-stop summer schedules!!). It's also useful in releasing pent-up energy that leads to restless legs, insomnia, and anxiety. Such a sweet plant--herbalist Kiva Rose Hardin has renamed Skullcap as "blisswort" as a nod to it's calming effects!

Skullcap is best taken as a tea or tincture. You can find this plant friend in our herbal tea, Headache Helper, and it's sure to knock the pain of a troublesome migraine right out. If you are interested in trying your hand at making your own Skullcap tea or tincture, take a look at a few recipes we've found below!

We'll be offering an Herbal Tinctures class here at the Boutique on Tuesday, October 4th from 6:30-8:30 pm, so please come out and join us if you'd like some hands-on practice making tinctures yourself!

Wishing you a gentle transition into this coming season!


  1. "Skullcap". The Herbarium Monographs. The Herbal Academy of New England. Web accessed Sept. 24, 2016.
  2. "Autumnal Equinox: Recipes of Fortitude + Balance". Worts + Cunning Apothecary. Sept. 21, 2013. Web accessed Sept. 24, 2016.
  3. "Sip Tea and Stress Less". The Mountain Rose Blog. June 13, 2011. Web accessed Sept. 24th, 2016.
  4. "How to Make Tinctures: Skullcap Tinctures". Remedies & Recipes. July 1, 2010. Web accessed Sept. 23, 2016.
  5. "Skullcap". Healing Teas: How to Prepare and Use Teas to Maximize Your Health. Antol, Marie Nadine. Avery Publishing: 1996. pg 201-202.


Learn Your Land

Jessica Graves

Many of the plants we've talked about here on the blog can be found growing wild in your backyard, neighborhood, or local fields and forests. While there is plenty of (sometimes questionable!) information available on the internet, there is nothing quite like talking to an actual human about medicinal plants and herbs. Taking a guided nature walk with a naturalist is such a simple way to learn a bit more about the plants around us!

Enter Learn Your Land, an awesome website put together by local naturalist Adam Haritan. Gathering together profiles of naturalists, a calendar of events, and information about local clubs and organizations, this rich resource connects you with local experts looking to share their knowledge. You can search by naturalist, area of interest (i.e., Birding, Mushrooms, Plants, etc.), or geographical location.

I've gone on a couple of nature walks with naturalists I've found on this website, and it's been such a great way to deepen my knowledge of locally-growing plants and ecosystems. Taking the time to slow down and pay attention to the quiet details of life in the forest recharges my spirit and helps me feel more connected with the world around me.

Coming up this month, learn about foraging for edible plants and mushrooms in Cook Forest, stroll through the Wildflower Reserve in Raccoon Creek State Park, take a Bird Walk in Frick Park, or check out some mushrooms at Chatham University's Eden Hall!

The pace of life changes with the seasons. For some of us, it means things speed up as we enter the school year and gear up for the winter holidays. For others, there might be a slower pace as the sunshine and growing season winds down. Whatever season you're moving into, I hope you can use this resource to find ways to get grounded, connected, and restored with the natural world!

Harvesting and Using Elderberries

Jessica Graves

Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, a wonderful plant ally for boosting the immune system.

Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, a wonderful plant ally for boosting the immune system.

     While we are still enjoying long, sun-filled days and super hot weather, I can’t help but start thinking about Fall and the changing of the seasons. August is a great time to start harvesting from our gardens and wild places to preserve food and medicines for the winter months. So, let’s talk about the luscious and powerful Elderberry: Sambucus nigra. From the Elder tree, elderberries are purplish-black juicy berries (see image above) that are known for their immune system-boosting properties. *Please note that there is a related form of elder, Sambucus racemosa, with red berries. These have been known to cause vomiting when eaten raw, so avoid them!*

     The tree itself has a long history of its own. Common in the English countryside, the wood of the Elder tree was used for instruments as far back as Anglo-Saxon times and children’s homemade pop-guns in the more recent past. Legend tells of a wise woman, Elda Mor, who lives in Elder trees and offers healing to those who ask for it, providing they offer her proper respect (it is recommend to always offer thanks to the plants for the healing they give us!). The Elder tree has also made a name for itself in the writings of Shakespeare, among others, though often as a sad symbol of grief and death. But despair not, my friends, for the berry is a whole other story.

     Elderberries contain wonderful properties for health and healing. The berries and flowers have been used for centuries to make homemade wine and cordials (go to town home brewers), and even hair dye. Medicinally, the bark, flower, leaves and berries can all be used.

     The berries have been attributed many properties over the centuries with claims to effectiveness against rheumatism and epilepsy and as a laxative.

     Today, the berries are commonly prepared as a tea or tincture. They have a pleasant citrus flavor and are less bitter dried than fresh.

     Extensive research shows that elder stop the production of hormone-like cytokines that direct a class of white blood cells known as neutrophils to cause inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis. (Translation – the berries help your body to stop inflammation causing achiness in flu and arthritis). On the other hand, elder increases the production of non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10-fold. Elderberries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder could be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel, found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses used to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.

     In addition, Elderberries have no known contra-indications, though excessive use has been known to cause nausea or vomiting in some cases.

     Now that we know the amazing health benefits of the lovely elderberries, let’s talk about harvesting, preserving, and using them throughout the winter months, when flu season is upon us.

     Elderberries ripen towards the end of August and early September, so now is the time to locate wild Elder trees if you don’t have them in your yard. Collect the ripened berries, which will be a rich black to purplish color, and will fall easily off the stem when fully ripe.

     There are MANY things to make with elderberries, from jams to pies to syrups, so I encourage you to research recipes that most appeal to you! Two simple ways that I love to use the berries for medicinal purposes are drying and using them in teas, and making a basic preventative tonic to keep my immune system strong.

To use elderberries in tea: Dry your freshly harvested berries by putting them in the oven at a low temperature (115 or so) on a baking sheet.  Parchment is recommended as a liner so that your berries don’t hang out on the metal sheet. A dehydrator is even easier. Once the berries are dried, store in a sanitized mason jar labeled with with the herb name & date you jarred it.  Add to teas of your choice, or simply put the dried berries in a mug with hot water and honey.

To make an elderberry tonic: This wonderful recipe from Mother Earth News is a simple way to get the most out of your elderberries for flu season!

Elderberry Tonic Recipe

(adapted from

Tip: Freeze freshly picked elderberries in clusters after harvesting to simplify the de-stemming process.


  • 2/3 cup Elderberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3-1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp fresh or dried ginger root (or powder)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw honey


  1. Pour water into a medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the liquid reduces to almost half (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  3. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  4. Discard the elderberries (feed to chickens or compost) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
  5. Add 1 cup of honey and stir well. (Note: honey is added after the mixture has cooled to keep raw enzymes intact).
  6. Pour mixture into glass jars to be stored in the fridge for up to three months.

Recommended Doses

Prevention (can be taken daily)

1. Kids (13 months-12 years old): 1/2 to 1 teaspoon

2. Adults: 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon


Take the normal dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms disappear.

Don’t get caught off guard by cold and flu season this year. Prepare this easy elderberry elixir for a natural alternative for flu prevention and recovery.

Special Notes:

1. NEVER give Elderberry Tonic to infants 12 months/under.

2. Elderberries can be used as any other berry for pies, jams, breads, stuffing, etc.

3. Consuming raw elderberries causes extreme GI distress in many people. Try a few berries raw before overindulging.

Sourced from:

     So, get out your tea kettles, darlins', and pour yourself some elderberry tea – or just order up some tasty Flu Fighter from Una – and keep those infections at bay!

Resources: Web accessed 3 August 2016. Web accessed 3 August 2016.

The Herbarium Monographs. “Elder”. Web accessed 3 August 2016.

Weekend Recipes: Basil Pesto & Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Jessica Graves

I'm feeling very grateful that there are a lot of green foods in my life right now. Spinach, kale, dandelion greens are thrown into the pan with some olive oil and vinegar for a crunchy, sharp, nourishing dish; peppers are eaten raw; basil is added to just about every meal! Here at Una we've been sharing freshness from our gardens and recipes to go along with it.

Sometimes we seek out food based on what our bodies are craving; sometimes we make dishes based on whatever needs to get eaten up! Here we've got a body-craving recipe for basil pesto, and a "What am I going to do with all these avocados?!" recipe! Give them a try!

Here are some thoughts on Basil, and a delicious, simple pesto recipe.

As I slow my pace and listen patiently for indicators, the awards of new insight continually fill me. Thank you basil for inspiring me on multiple levels. You seem to enjoy being grown by many people and in turn they are immediately happy to simply watch your process. You flourish when given sunshine and water and come again all season long because your health benefits are needed by the masses. Your aroma engages the senses and again elevates anyone you come into contact with. I could go on and on. The benefits basil shares are a blessing indeed!

Basil Benefits.  This is just scratching the surface...

~Blood sugar regulation/diabetes
~Enhances circulation
~Rich in antioxidants
~Skin Disorders
~Mouth infections/Tooth problems
~Cough & Sore Throat
~Kidney stones

It is clear to me why my body is politely requesting this beautiful power house! If we understood the magnitude of healing potential in our gifts from the garden, I believe its effects would also benefit us to that degree. It's all about connection and openness to receive. It's also about slowing down and listening to our bodies. When we open we can consciously utilize the limitless capabilities of our plant friends, that patiently await our realization of their service and benefits. Mother Earth provides us with great teachers.

Basil Pesto

Nice big handful of organic basil-leaves rinsed
1/2 C Organic olive oil infused with garlic
1/3 C cashews pieces raw or roasted you choose
1/3 C of parmesan cheese

Throw it all in a food processor or vitamix. Boom! Get creative with add-ins. We have tried garden peas, sauteed mushrooms & fresh tomatoes. Tops pasta like a charm. Great on grilled cheese. Compliments polenta or makes for a mean green pizza. The sky is the limit!

You know when your avocados turn ripe allll at once?? Well, that just happened to me, and I decided I wanted to make something other than guacamole. Here is a recipe for a super-simple avocado-based chocolate mousse! Enjoy!

4 very ripe avocados
8 oz melted dark baking chocolate
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup almond milk
2/3 cup honey (I used local apirary Apoidea herbal-infused honey--yum!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sea salt to taste

Throw all ingredients into food processor. Taste and adjust as you like. Refrigerate before serving. That's it! I adapted this recipe from:

I decided to make a simple no-bake graham cracker crust to turn this mousse into a pie. To make the crust:

Crush 8 graham crackers into crumbs. Combine with 7 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle in some brown sugar if you like a sweeter crust. Press crumbly mixture into pan. Make sure to press hard so it's firmly packed! Put crust in fridge to set for an hour before filling with mousse.

Look twice: Healing herbs disguised as weeds

Jessica Graves

As we move further into the beauty of summer, I’m finding myself constantly awed by the wild plants, flowers, and herbs I see all around me. Growing along the roadsides, popping up through the concrete sidewalks, and dispersed through the backyards of my neighborhood, plants that are commonly overlooked as troublesome “weeds” often contain many beneficial healing and nutritional properties. Here are a few common plants that you’re likely to see growing wild around town.

The humble yet amazing dandelion!

The humble yet amazing dandelion!

We’ll start with the obvious, ubiquitous, and WONDERFUL Dandelion: Taraxacum officianle

More than just a common weed, Dandelion is healing herb packed with nutrition and a reputation that dates back over 1000 years. In fact, dandelion was utilized for So many remedies in the 17 and 1800s that is was referred to as “the official remedy for disorders.” The very name of the plant also speaks to its widespread regard as Taraxacum, is derived from the Greek taraxos (disorder), and akos (remedy), on account of the curative action of the plant. Dandelion has been used as a tonic to cleanse blood, liver, gall bladder, and kidneys. It has also been heavily regarded as a diuretic to assist with weight loss, PMS, swollen feet and high blood pressure. The root can be combined with other herbs to assist with kidney stones. It is also used to treat boils and abscesses, promote lactation, and help replace potassium lost to excessive urination due to the diuretic effect.

All parts of the dandelion plant may be used. The Root is particularly strong and is used to make herbal decoctions (tea) and tinctures. The leafy greens are also nutritious containing substantial levels of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese and calcium. The leaves are delicious when added to salads or sautéed, alone or with other greens, with garlic and onion and a pinch of lemon. For an easy cleanse be sure to keep your eye for these in your yard or your local grocery store. Of course, be sure to ONLY eat dandelions that are free from chemicals and pesticides!

Super plant PLANTAIN!

Super plant PLANTAIN!

Next up, let’s talk about Plantain: plantago major

This powerful healer can be found just about everywhere around town! With its flat, ribbed leaves and tall spike of flowers and seeds, plantain is easy to spot. This plant aids in soothing broken and inflamed membranes and tissue, and has anti-infective properties. Externally, the leaves can be used to heal wounds, cuts, and even provide hemorrhoid relief. A quick poultice can be made on-the-spot by mashing up the leaves and mixing them with your own spit (great for bee stings)! You can also dry and powder the leaves and add them to bentonite or green clay to create a soothing paste to dry out summer rashes, like those caused by poison ivy, or other skin irritations like eczema and rosacea.

In addition to its wound-healing properties, plantain is an antitussive expectorant, which means it helps with suppressing coughs and moving stuck phlegm in the lungs. It can be made into a tea or a syrup that helps to clear the airways and promote good lung health. Plantain is also a diuretic and has many health benefits for the urinary system. What a hard-working plant--healing many different systems and parts of human bodies! As with dandelions, the greens can be eaten and contain many vitamins.

Reference: The Herbarium Monographs. “Plantain”. Web access 29 July 2016.

Bright and sunny calendula

Bright and sunny calendula

Finally, let’s take a look at the beautiful Calendula: calendula officialis

It’s hard to overlook this lovely flower, which you might see in yards and gardens around town. Our neighbor behind the boutique is growing calendula in beds all along the block, and it’s such a sunny sight to see every day! The bright yellow or orange blossoms look a lot like marigolds, but note that calendula officialis is a different species than the common marigold, in which you won’t find the same medicinal properties.

The anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties of the bright Calendula flowers make this plant your friend for all things skin-related. Remove and dry the flowers to make teas, tinctures, and salves. A salve made with calendula flowers will heal wounds, burns, cuts, and scars, and will also soothe inflamed or irritated tissue. Redness and itchy skin can find relief with help from this plant.

Internally, calendula is great for the digestive system, gall bladder, and liver, helping to calm inflammations such as ulcers or other bowel diseases. Taken as a tea, it will also support the immune system, promoting circulation of energy within the body, and helping to remove toxins from the body through sweating. It is a lymphagogue, which means that it works to clean out the body’s lymph system (we see that as a reduction in swollen lymph glands). Another all-around amazing plant, calendula is a beauty to keep an eye out for!

Reference: The Herbarium Monographs. “Calendula”. Web access 29 July 2016.

If you have any questions about these or other plants, feel free to call or stop by the Boutique. We'd love to talk to you about how to incorporate these healing herbs into your life!

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Jessica Graves

What a beautiful time of year in Pennsylvania. We’ve made it through the cold, dark days, and we’re now in the season of warm sunshine, thunderstorms, lush gardens, and long days. The summer solstice, or Midsummer, is coming up on June 20th--the longest day of the year, and a day that holds spiritual significance for many. In European tradition, Midsummer was celebrated as a time to honor the sun and the abundance of plant life blooming that could be used for food and healing. For ancient Europeans, the significance of solstice and the returning of the sun’s light was so powerful that it was woven into the mystical stone monument Stonehenge. The sunrise on solstice aligns with certain stones in the monument and alights the center on this day only.

There are so many ways to celebrate this beautiful, energetic time of year! Have a bonfire, make flower crowns, and eat and drink delicious things from your garden. Below are some simple recipes to try.

Herb Honey Cookies

Adapted from


  • 1 & 3/4 cups of flour
  • ¾ C. softened butter
  • ¼ C. honey
  • ¼ brown or cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme
  • 1 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon minced sage
  • a few crushed cardamom seeds
  • pinch of salt


  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • Grated lemon
  • Natural food dye
  • Combine your milk and icing sugar. Slowing add in your colouring and mix until you find the desired colour/consistency


  • Preheat Oven to 300
  • Beat flour, sugar and soft butter together until creamy.
  • Slowly drizzle in honey while beating until mixture pulls together.
  • Add minced herbs and petals, mix well through the dough.
  • Divide into four balls and chill for an hour or so.
  • Roll out and cut into round shapes. Add flour as needed.
  • Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes.
  • Let cool.
  • Decorate using the flowers and herbs of the sun: petals of calendula, daisy, St. John’s Wort, rose, or sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage.

Green Garden Goddess Dip

Recipe from Hearth and Home Witchery


  • 1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T. garlic, minced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 8 oz. spinach, triple washed, patted dry, and de-stemmed
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 cup loose parsley, washed well
  • 1/4 cup chives, sliced
  • 1 T. freshly chopped dill
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. hot sauce, of choice
  • 1 - 8 oz. container plain vegan soy yogurt


In a non-stick skillet, saute the green onion and garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes to soften. Add the spinach and continue to saute until the spinach just wilts. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool completely. Transfer the spinach mixture to a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients, except the vegan yogurt, and process for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Add the vegan yogurt and process well to combine. Taste and add additional salt, hot sauce, or lime juice, to taste. Transfer the mixture to a glass bowl, cover, and chill for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as an appetizer with raw vegetables, bread slices, crackers, or chips, or use as a condiment on sandwiches, cooked vegetables, or grains. Yield: 2 Cups

Cucumber-Aquavit Punch


Aquavit is a traditional Scandinavian spirit that is often enjoyed at Solstice.


  • 1 1/2 cup cucumber puree
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup simple syrup
  • 8 cups soda water
  • 1 750L bottle Krogstad Aquavit
  • Thyme
  • Lemon zest
  • Cucumber slices


  • Make your puree by blending peeled cucumbers. It should last about a week in the fridge.
  • Bring a simple syrup to a boil and add fresh thyme and lemon zest to taste. Allow this to cool and strain off the solids.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a punch bowl.
  • Skewer a thyme sprig through a cucumber wheel and place in each glass before serving.