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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!

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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

Early Spring Brings Chickweed

Jessica Graves

  Stellaria media , image from The Herbal Academy

Stellaria media, image from The Herbal Academy

Spring is almost sprung here in Western Pennsylvania. It's been a slow roll this year, with cold temps and snow showers well into late April. So it is with a happy heart that I'm finally seeing some familiar plants popping up around town! Dandelion, purple dead nettle, and speedwell make a riotous display of color and texture along roadsides and sidewalks, while mugwort is showing off delicate, silvery undersides of its fresh green leaves. Docks are taking up space with their massive leaves, and thistles are popping up, spiky and sharp. What spring plants are you noticing this year?

Today we'll talk about one of these happy spring plants that you'll see blooming now. It quiets down in the heat of summer, and returns with blooms again in the fall. Chickweed, Stellaria media, is a sweet little plant that packs a huge healing punch. Chickweed is low-growing plant with paired leaves and a line of hairs that grows on one side its stem, switching sides at each leaf pairing. It is identifiable by its 5 star-shaped petals, each with a deep cleft so it appears to have 10 tiny petals.

 By Lazaregagnidze - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

By Lazaregagnidze - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Chickweed offers a number of medicinal benefits. It is a highly nutritious plant, packed with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and Vitamins A & C. Pick, wash, and eat the fresh plant in salads, stir-frys, and smoothies for a revitalizing spring treat!

Chickweed is an alterative herb, meaning it helps cleanse, purify, and balance blood and water in the body, i.e. it helps support the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic systems. It clears lymphatic congestion (especially useful after the stagnation of winter) and helps move toxins through the kidneys and liver. Saponins in chickweed are reported to help break down excesses in the body, whether that be excess mucus, fat cells, and even cysts. It is a lubricating herb, helping to soothe dry, irritated parts of the body, both internally and externally. Taken internally, this lubricating action may help to reduce the swelling and painfulness of arthritis.

Externally, chickweed is an incredible soother to inflamed, irritated, & itchy skin. Susun Weed recommends it as a cure for the bacterial infection of pink eye, applying fresh chickweed as a poultice (mashing up fresh herb until it is juicy) directly to the inflamed eye. Here at Una, we use Chickweed as one of our go-to herbs for itchy skin, everything from bug bites to eczema & psoriasis. Blended with other herbs like plantain, calendula, and chamomile, chickweed can be made into a wonderful healing salve for itchy skin issues.

Grow this sweet herb in your garden, or forage it from a location free of pesticides, toxins, and vehicle exhaust. Toss it into your salads, make an herbal oil, or prepare it as a tea and experience a range of health benefits from this tiny star of a plant! Here's a recipe from Mother Earth Living for a delicious Chickweed smoothie. Happy Spring, everyone!

Chickweed Smoothies

Ingredients:

• 2 large handfuls (about 2 oz.) chickweed
• 1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 c. carrot juice
• 1 banana
• 1 apple
• 1 avocado
• 4-5 oz. strawberries
• 3 oz. frozen raspberries (or berry blend)

Directions:

1. In a blender, add coconut milk, banana, apple, and chickweed. Blend until combined.

2. Turn off the blender to add carrot juice and avocado; blend until combined.

3. Add strawberries and frozen raspberries and blend well, adding more liquids (coconut milk, carrot juice, or water) if needed. This recipe makes two 24-ounce smoothies.

References:

"Chickweed". The Herbarium, The Herbal Academy. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Chickweed". A Modern Herbal. Maude Grieve. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Chickweed: The Delicious Medicinal Herb Hiding in Your Yard". Sarah Baldwin, Mother Earth Living. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Chickweed is a Star". Susun Weed. Web accessed 26 April 2018.

"Starting Your Medicinal Herb Cabinet". Jessica Graves. Powerpoint Presentation. June 2017.

Garden Dreams: Creating an Intuitive Garden

Jessica Graves

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Did you know that you have a superpower? Well, you do...it's your intuition! You don't have to be a spiritual guru, a healer, a mystic or anything like that to tap into the power of your intuition. You might just need a little practice to listen to the wise voice that is there to guide you.

With wisdom & intuition, I willingly nurture &
honor my inner seeds & desires.
— "Ace of Pentacles, Whole Grains" The Spirit of Herbs, Michael Tierra

Intuition comes from the Latin word "In-tuire": looking, regarding, or knowing from within. It is a way of knowing that is holistic; a surety that knows the inherent truth without the need or external evidence or proof. We can strengthen this faculty through simple practices of mindfulness & meditation, and sometimes all it takes to activate our intuition is removing the barriers and obstacles in the way of its unfolding. Remember, we all have our own intuition--we just need to tap into it!

Our intuition can manifest in a number of different ways, and we might find that we experience our intuition more strongly in certain ways than others. Where is your intuitive strength?

  • Intuitive Experiences: Discovery/invention, creative inspiration/art, creative problem solving, clairvoyance, telepathy, extra-sensory perception, hunches, premonitions
  • Physical Intuition: Associated with bodily sensations; gut reactions; physical cues including tension, sweating, hair-raising; open vs. closedness when around someone
  • Emotion Intuition: Experiences through emotions, picking up on people's "vibes", making choices based on what feels emotionally correct
  • Mental Intuition: Aspects related to visions, thinking or awareness; often seen in discovery & breakthrough; scientific discoveries coming from a "feeling" about their research
  • Spiritual Intuition: Mystical experiences, the knowledge of "God", knowing that is derived without emotion, feeling, thinking, or physical cues
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Creating sacred space and setting aside time for practice is essential for strengthening your intuition. By creating a practice, we can learn to quiet our minds, improve our hearing & cognition, and open our hearts to receive. Start by quieting the mind with meditation. Most spiritual traditions include a form of meditation to help clear obstacles so that you are fully open to recognizing, hearing, and using your intuition. Meditation increases your skill at being still, and enhances your ability to open your third eye. Chanting is a great way to start with meditation, as it gives your brain something to focus on (a mantra), for those of us that find ourselves easily distracted. Read more about Chanting here! Chanting invokes joy and focus, allowing for deeper reception and clarity. Remember, there is no "right" way to still your mind...pay attention to what fills you with joy and calm, and use that as an anchor when you are moving into a meditation space.

Meditation is listening to the divine within.
— Edgar Cayce

Growing an Intuitive Garden is a great way to both create a sacred space for your practice, while also growing herbs and plants that will be helpful on your journey! Start your garden by choosing a shape: a circle works well, or a square, where you can sit in the center. Use stones from your yard to make the four cardinal directions, and line the edges of your garden with stones as well to create a boundary. You can create paths through your garden, as seen in the image below:

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Or, consider making mandala-like spirals or a labyrinth. Whatever speaks to you! If you don't have a yard or a lot of space for your garden, you can grow plants in containers and place them around a sacred space in your home.

Let's talk about plants! There are lots of options to choose from based on your specific goals/needs. Here are a few suggestions for different gardens to get you started.

Meditation Garden

  • Yarrow: prepares you to willingly receive enlightenment, opens the Crown chakra, cleanses body & spirit, protects aura & spirit, aids with healthy boundaries, aids with communication with past loved ones
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): sacred herb in Ayurvedic tradition, releases tension & anxiety in the body, supports Crown chakra
  • Mint: aids magical sensitivity, divination, protective, helpful with communication & personal growth
  • Lavender: calms the minds, links the chakras
  • Calendula: strengthens Solar Plexus, increases fire & strength, protective & healing, increases intuitive awareness both in & out of dreams
  • Thyme: activates conscious mind

Purification Garden

  • Sage: purification herb, awakens inner guide, creates mental clarity, opens third eye, can be used as a cleansing bath
  • Lavender
  • Sweet Grass
  • Clary Sage: allows deeper connection to the dream world
  • Juniper: balances & protects energy
  • Thyme

Dream Garden

  • Mugwort: associated with moon goddess Artemis & feminine energy, strong dream herb for lucid dreaming, very cleansing & protective
  • Lavender
  • Roses: heart-opening flower, helps the heart to hear, opens us to self-love
  • Jasmine: traditional dream herb, opens third eye and enhances psychic ability, prophecy & diviniation
  • Dandelion: highly nutritive herb that nourishes the body & spirit, the root enhances divinitory ability and intution
  • Calendula
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi)
  • Geranium

Gaia Garden

  • Ferns
  • Fruit-bearing plants
  • Patchouli: grounding & stabilizing
  • Roses
  • Witch Hazel
  • Birch
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Find plants at local Pittsburgh nurseries Garden Dreams, Cutting Root, or wherever you prefer to get your plants. Have questions? Drop us a line at anneunabiologicals@gmail.com, or give a call at 412-621-4126. Happy planting, and don't forget to trust yourself ;-)

Herbal Aphrodisiacs--In Pursuit of Pleasure

Jessica Graves

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Whatever your thoughts on Valentine's Day, it's always a good time to revisit our relationship to pleasure. I love this quote from the Herbal Academy on how important pleasure is to a healthy life:

"Experiencing pleasure is not just a luxury meant for special occasions and celebrations. Pleasure is part of a balanced, happy life. And this doesn’t just mean sexual pleasure — it includes pleasureful foods and scents; physical pleasure such as platonic loving touch or massage and fluid movement such as yoga, dance, or exercise; and creative pleasures such as painting, drawing, gardening, cooking, or making music. These pleasureful activities helps us feel expressive, receptive, loving, and liberated."

Herbal aphrodisiacs can support us in our pursuits of pleasure in a variety of ways, including relaxing the nervous system, toning & nourishing our reproductive systems, and enhancing our libidos. Let's talk about a few!

  • Damiana (Turnera diffusa): A nervine that helps calm the mind, damiana stimulates our sacral parts by increasing oxygen to this area. A major libido booster and energy enhancer. 
  • Rose (Rosa rugosa): An herb of the heart, rose helps open and soften the heart, while also helping to protect it. Huge support for the emotional aspects of pleasure.
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng): An energy & vitality builder, ginseng increases testosterone as well as certain chemicals in the brain that lead to feelings of greater well-being. Also increases blood flow to our sexual organs.
  • Oatstraw (Avena sativa): Nourishing to the nerves & endocrine glands, and vitamin-rich for the whole system, oats are a wonderful tonic for increasing sexual health and performance over time.
  • Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): Used in Ayurveda as a tonic medicine for female sexual health, it nourishes female sex organs, balances estrogen levels, and brings bodily fluids into balance. It is also said to increase feelings of spiritual love.

Try an herbal-infused massage oil or a honey with some of these love herbs for a seasonal treat. Or, here's a recipe for a Love Your Libido Tea from the Herbal Academy!

Ingredients

2 parts damiana leaf
1 part rose petals
1½ parts cinnamon chips
1 part shatavari root
2 parts hibiscus
1 part sarsaparilla

Directions

  • Blend herbs together in jar.
  • Use 1 tablespoon per 8 oz boiling water, let steep 10 minutes, and sweeten with honey to taste.

 

References:

Jessica Graves. "Herbs for Women's Health". Powerpoint presentation. Feb. 2016.

The Herbal Academy. "Herbal Aphrodisiacs". Blog. 30 Jan. 2015. https://theherbalacademy.com/love-it-up-with-herbal-aphrodisiacs/

Homestead Apothecary. "Aphrodisiac". Zine #4. Available for purchase online: https://homesteadapothecary.com/product/aphrodisiac/

Mullein, an Herbal Friend to the Respiratory System

Jessica Graves

 Mullein,  Verbascum thapsus

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

Have you ever noticed this strange and beautiful plant? Often growing in polluted soils, look for mullein along roadsides, train tracks, and empty lots around town. It has an affinity for damaged soils, and is often one of the first plants to pop up in disturbed landscapes, thus helping to improve the quality of the soil for other plants to thrive. Once you see it, it just can't be missed with its characteristically tall rod of small yellow flowers, which can reach up to 8 feet in height! An interesting-looking plant to be sure, and one that brings us lots of healing.

Mullein has been used since ancient times. Its wide variety of folk names reflects its long and varied usage, known colloquially as everything from torches, blanket herb, old man's flannel, to lungwort. The tall stalks of mullein were reportedly dipped in fat and burned as candles, and the soft, wide leaves were used to wrap, wipe, and soothe.

Where mullein really shines, however, is when taken internally as a tea or tincture to support our respiratory systems. An expectorant (helps expel congestion in the lungs), astringent (reduces secretions; helps dry out), and demulcent (soothes irritated mucus membranes), mullein helps you have a more productive cough while soothing your lungs. It moves Kapha congestion from the body, energizes the lymphatic system, and in general tones the respiratory system. The leaves of mullein, taken as a tea or tincture, are used for colds, congestion, asthma, and bronchitis.  Here at Una, we make mullein extract to use in our herbal Vapor Rub to help get the gunk out of your lungs--and it sure does work!

But what about those pretty yellow flowers, you say? Those pack a healing punch, as well. Use the flowers to make an herbal oil that will heal up an ear infection, stat! Mullein flowers are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and they work wonders on ear aches. To make the oil, fill a clean, sterilized mason jar a third of the way with mullein flowers. (You can purchase organic mullein locally from Cutting Root Apothecary or online at Mountain Rose Herbs.) Cover with organic olive oil. Let sit for 3-6 weeks, strain, and it's ready to go. Put a few drops in infected ear. For extra old-school healing, cover sore ear with half a warm onion wrapped in a towel (it really works!).

For more tips on staying healthy this winter, check out our Fight the Flu blog post. Stay warm, drink tea, and be healthy, friends!

 

References:

"Mullein". The Herbarium, The Herbal Academy. Web accessed 17 Jan 2018.

"Mullein Leaf". Plant Profiles, Mountain Rose Herbs. Web accessed 17 Jan 2018.

"Mullein, Great".  A Modern Herbal. Maude Grieve. Web accessed 17 Jan 2018.

"Herbs for Winter Health". Jessica Graves. Powerpoint presentation. Jan 2017.

The Mind-Gut Connection, or, Digestion Really Matters!

Jessica Graves

  We've been on a kick exploring the gut-brain connection lately, and it's been illuminating! You know, there is a reason we talk about feeling "butterflies in our stomach" or having a "gut instinct"...Did you know that microbiota in the gut have a complex communication system with our brains? When we get an intuitive feeling in our bellies, science actually backs up that there is a connection between our gut microbes & our brain chemicals. These little bacteria in our intestines influence our mental state, and chemicals in the brain then influence the health of our intestines, which thus contributes to the health of our immune systems. So if you're looking ways to deal with stress & depression (especially during the Holiday season!), consider taking a look at your digestive health.
     Traditional medical systems, such as a Ayurveda, have long put focus on healthy digestion as key to our overall health. Talk to any Ayurvedic practitioner, and they will probably ask you if you're regular right off the bat! If you struggle with digestion issues, here are a few tips for getting back into balance:

  • Drink more water! Start the day with a room-temperature glass of water, before anything else. This helps jump-start the kidneys and intestines.
  • Take a 15-20 minute walk after eating. This light physical activity helps get your digestive system working.
  • In the winter months, keeping your body warm is key to keeping all systems running smoothly. Add warming tastes like ginger, cayenne, garlic & cinnamon to your meals. Wrap a warm towel or a heating pad around your lower back & belly to bring heat to your kidneys & intestines.
  • Make or buy digestive bitters. These herbal tonics are made from bitter herbs like dandelion, and are often combined with tummy-calming herbs like ginger & fennel. The bitter taste stimulates bile production and supports healthy digestion.
  • Yoga poses & intentional breathing can help digestion. Try this "Wind-Relieving" sequence from Do You Yoga

 

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Image & yoga sequence from Chara Caruthers, Do You Yoga

Interested in learning more about the gut-brain axis? Here's a few books we've been perusing:

Stay healthy, friends!

Rosemary...for so much more than just rememberance!

Jessica Graves

   Rosemarinus officinalis

Rosemarinus officinalis

Rosemary is among one of the oldest used herbs in history.  This delicious and aromatic herbs has a ton of properties and wide ranging uses – from practical to fun.  Let's talk a little more about this fab plant!

The rosemary plant is a shrubby herb that remains fairly short in Pennsylvania, but can grow to 3 feet tall.  It has short evergreen leaves and comes in several varieties including silver to gold striped, though the green leaf variety is used medicinally.

Rosemary’s earliest known role was as a preservative and antiseptic.  Early populations used rosemary to preserve meats, finding that the crushed herb added to the meat could dramatically improve the shelf life.  Rosemarinic acid in the plant is still harvested and used as a natural preservative today. The herb is also regularly added to commercial food products as a stabilizer and to extend shelf life. 

Rosemary was also considered good for the memory and in ancient Rome rosemary wreaths were worn around heads to promote good memory.  This trait evolved into an aid for remembrance, and rosemary is often placed near entry ways of homes to help us remember those we lost.  As a sign of fidelity for lovers, rosemary was used in wedding wreaths and flowers.   This lovely little plant has also been planted outside homes to ward off evil and witches.  And in old England, it was planted in the gardens to show that women ruled the roost in that house (men were reported to have been seen ripping it out of the garden, there by establishing their place as the head of the household). 

Rosemary’s volatile oils are the source of its curative powers.  It has been used as a tonic, astringent, nervine, stomachic and antiseptic.  In plain English that means it’s great for indigestion and stomach concerns, headaches, skin issues, and improving circulation.  It’s often used a hair wash and is fabulous for dandruff and dry scalp.  Rosemary has also been said to promote hair growth, even in cases of baldness.  The Queen of Hungary used a wash of rosemary in the 1200s to stimulate blood flow and combat paralyzed limbs and gout.  These blood stimulating properties have gained rosemary a reputation as an aid in stimulating kidneys.   Rosemary is also known to reduce stomach cramping, bloating and gas (by aiding in the release of bile that digests fat). 

You can tell by smelling rosemary that it has a camphor component. As such, rosemary is great as a tea, or chest rub, when you have a cold or congestion (and good bit better than the Stuff grandma used to rub on you).  For easy at home preparation – make a rosemary tea by steeping the herb (fresh or dried) in hot water for 10-15 minutes.  Soak a cloth in this tea and apply to chest, refreshing the cloth as it cools.  Breathe deeply and think healthy thoughts. :-)

PRECAUTIONS: The essential oil should NEVER be ingested as it is for external use ONLY.  Women that are pregnant, and those who experience heavy menstrual cycles, should not use rosemary medicinally – though some in your food is considered safe.

So Ladies, grab yourself a rosemary plant to put on your steps  - thereby establishing yourself as the Queen of the house, warding off any witches, promoting fidelity and remembrance, and of course spicing up dinner tonight!

Health Benefits of Chanting Meditation

Jessica Graves

Over the past year, we've been hosting a beautiful, monthly Chanting Meditation evening with Kendell Romanelli & Ashley O'Hara here at the boutique. Chanting was a new experience for me (This is Una staffer Anne), and I really learned a lot about the health benefits of meditation & community singing.

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When we chant, what actually are we chanting? It depends, but usually it is a mantra made up of Sanskrit words that uplift the names of Hindu gods & goddesses. While Kendell & Ashley give some context as to who they are and what their story is, the beauty of chanting these mantras is that we don't have to be "followers" of any particular religion or spirituality to appreciate the energy inherent in the sounds of these names. For example, we might sing a chant to the goddess Lakshmi, and simply be meditating on what she represents: harmony, peace, & abundance.

Just allowing yourself to meditate on these ideas is medicine on its own, as plenty of studies on meditation have shown. But, things get really interesting when we dig into what actually happens on a physical level when you sing these words, especially in community with others.

-Chanting is GREAT brain exercise! The practice of learning to say unfamiliar words, and to remember a pattern & melody, is a vigorous workout for the brain. (We've dubbed it Brain Flossing :-) )

-Forming different sounds stimulates different body parts, like our nasal passages, lips, & vocal chords. This stimulation affects our pituitary gland, which in turn regulates our hormonal system. Our immune systems get a positive boost when our hormones are in balance.

-Studies have shown that chanting meditation affects the limbic system, the part of our brains that controls stress & emotion, among other things. Chanting, quite simply, relaxes the brain & increases the flow of calming hormones throughout the system.

-The energy that is created when singing with others is powerful! It creates a sense of connectedness, community, and compassion--all feelings that again increase one's overall sense of well-being.

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Interested in learning more? There are plenty of places around Pittsburgh to give Chanting Meditation a try, like BYS Yoga, Mookshi Wellness Center, or the Krishna Kirtan Center. Chanting Meditation at Una will resume in January, so please check back on our Upcoming Events page to see when our next workshop will be!

Sources:

Stress Less & Sleep More Soundly: Chamomile

Jessica Graves

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Chamomile, Matricaria recutita, that sweet little flower that makes us think of tea and grandmothers. As the seasons change and we enter the quieter, more inward-focused seasons of Fall & Winter, it can be difficult to switch gears and get ourselves to slooooow dooooown - hence the inspiration for this installment of the Herbal Update.  

Chamomile is a low growing flowering perennial that is hardy through zone 5, (though it grows well in PA too).  Its leaves are fern-like and frilly, the flower small and white with a yellow center (think teensy daisy), and the scent of the live plant is summer at its best - crisp, clean and apple-like.  A lovely addition to any border in your garden. 

Chamomile is one of the oldest and most relied upon herbs throughout modern and ancient history.  Chamomile Flowers have been used in tea to calm the nerves, induces sleep, relieve hysteria, gout, gripe, upset stomach, diarrhea, flatulence, headache, and the list goes on and on.  In fact, Chamomile was used as a medicine by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans and its name derives from the Greek chamos (ground) and melos (apple).  It has been planted in English gardens and walks for centuries, and is even said to help revive sick plants if planted next to one.  

Current research has confirmed the plant's usefulness in treating minor abrasions, cuts, and scrapes, and as a sedative and sleep aid.  The plant contains chemicals that are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic.  It also stops spasms in the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestines.   The flower is the most used part of the plant, as the beneficial components are concentrated in the flower center.  Chamomile flowers are commonly brewed as tea after a stressful day, when one is under the weather, or if you are having trouble sleeping.  Combined with ginger, the tea is also used for aiding digestion.  The essential oil of chamomile is also extremely beneficial.  This blue oil is particularly abundant in the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral chemicals and is often to treat minor cuts and scrapes.   At Una Biologicals we include Chamomile oil in all of our Wonder Salves.

Chamomile is known to be safe without harmful side effects. It is however, a member the Ragweed family and may react with those who have extreme sensitivities to the Ragweed family. And of course, herbs of all types are serious medicine and you should always consult your physician before using them.

Happy Fall to you all! And I hope you take advantage of these herbal allies who can help you make a smooth transition to the depth & wisdom of these quieter months :-)

 

**THIS INFORMATION IS SHARED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  UNA BIOLOGICALS DOES NOT DISTRIBUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING HERBS!***

We're Sponsoring Farm Aid! & Why We Love our Local Farms

Jessica Graves

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Farm Aid has been advocating for small American farmers since 1985, when Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young organized the first annual concert. Equal parts amazing music festival & farm-fresh food round-up, Farm Aid is a an event not to be missed. At Una, we care deeply about supporting local agriculture and getting MORE fresh, local food onto the tables of all our community, and we are so proud that we are sponsoring this year's fest!

The Farm Aid organization works year round to help small, independent farmers stay on their land, from providing grants for emergency aid, to resources for farms transitioning to more sustainable methods, to advocating for policies & amplifying stories that support small farms.

We are so lucky here in western PA to have an incredible amount of small farms growing us all the yummiest produce! Many of these farms offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) programs, which often give a chance for participants to actually volunteer on the farms, getting their hands in the dirt, and bringing folks that much closer to where their food actually comes from. Providing fresh food, connecting non-farmers to the land, and building community...YES!! Thank you, local farms!

Want to learn more about farming in PA? Check out the links below:

Garden Picks: Herbal Cocktails

Jessica Graves

Ah, the dog days of summer are upon us, and what better way to unwind then with a delicious homemade cocktail (or mocktail)! Even better if it's made with herbal goodness from your garden.

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There are lots of ways you can bring the herb garden into your beverages:

  • Muddled: Using a muddler (or just the back of a spoon!), mash up fresh herbs for flavor in drinks
  • Simple Syrup: Cook sugar in water and adds herbs for flavor
  • Infusion: Steep your herbs in alcohol of choice for delicious flavored alcohol, ready for drink-making
  • Shrubs: Ferment fruit in vinegar; add herbs for health & flavor. Makes amazing cocktails!

In general, you want to choose herbs that won't be overpowered by the taste of the liquor, but you can really follow your taste buds when deciding how to construct your drinks. Here's a general guide for what herbs pair best with different liquors:

  • Vodka: parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, eucalyptus
  • Gin: sage, coriander, lemongrass
  • Tequila: rosemary, lavender, basil, sage
  • Rum: mint, oregano, lemon verbena, tarragon
  • Whiskey: thyme, sage, rosemary, tarragon

Let's talk muddling: quick, easy, and can add a lot of flavor, while keeping drinks simple! Some nice combinations include Tequila muddled with basil & watermelon, Gin muddled with thyme & cucumber, Rum muddled with mint & strawberries, and Bourbon muddled with mint & peaches (super yummy). With muddling, you want to be careful not to over-crush the herb so that it breaks apart in the drink, but you do want to mash it up enough that the essential oils are released.

Herbal simple syrups are another easy way to add a touch of flavor & sweetness to your drink. In general, you'll want to follow a 1 cup sugar: 1 cup water: 1/2 cup fresh herb ratio. Add water, sugar, and herbs to saucepan, bring to boil until sugar is dissolved. Cool, strain, bottle, & enjoy!

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You can also choose to make your own herbal-infused alcohols. This involves taking the botanical item of your choice and steeping it in the alcohol of your choice for a set period of time. The botanical ingredients are then strained out, and you are left with a deliciously flavored alcohol. It's best to taste these regularly, as oversteeping does not always lead to better flavor. Some basic guidelines for steeping times:

  • Herbs: 8-12 hours
  • Fruit: 1 week
  • Spices: 1 month
  • Citrus rind & peels: 1 month

For those of you that enjoy a good food-preserving project, you'll definitely want to try your hand at making shrubs! Shrubs are made with fruit and vinegar, and are an excellent way to preserve a large fruit harvest when you're tired of pies and canning :-) Shrubs were made traditionally as a way to preserve fruit, and also as a way for herbalists to make their herbal remedies taste better. Additionally, vinegar has a number of health benefits, so you can feel great about drinking that cocktail ;-) The shrub-making process takes a couple of weeks, so plan ahead! We found some great recipes & instructions over at Deer Nation Herbs. Take a look and give them a try! In the meantime, you can get your hands on some local, delicious shrubs by stopping in to Caffe D'amore in upper Lawrenceville!

Phew! All this cocktail talk is making me thirsty! We'll leave you with a few fun recipes to try. Cheers to you!

Watermelon Mint Mojito

  • 6 cups fresh watermelon
  • 1 cup rum
  • 1/2 cup mint simple syrup
  • 3/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup ice
  • 5 sprigs fresh mint
  • Splash of club soda
  1. Blend watermelon to fine puree in blender
  2. Add all ingredients to pitcher & fill with ice
  3. Top with club soda, mix, & garnish with fresh mint

Basil Peach Bellini

  • 1/2 ounce purple basil simple syrup
  • 2 ounces fresh peach puree
  • 4 ounces sparking wine, dry
  1. Add puree to glass, then add simple syrup & sparking wine
  2. Stir & serve, garnish with a basil sprig

Blood Orange & Turmeric Margarita - from the Wicked Spatula

  • 4 ounces blood orange juice
  • 2 ounces mezcal or tequila
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 1/2 - 2 Tbs turmeric simple syrup (1 cup water; 1 cup sugar; 2 Tbs turmeric powder. Heat to dissolve, strain through cheesecloth)
  • Salt & cayenne pepper for rimming (1 tsp salt: 1/4 tsp cayenne ratio)
  1. Add ingredients to shaker with ice
  2. Shake well & pour over ice
  3. Add lime wedge for garnish

Herbal Update: Raspberry Leaf

Jessica Graves

Rubus idaeus (cultivated variety), R. strigosus (wild variety)

Ahhh. Is there anything better than eating fresh raspberries off the vine? However, there is more to this fine plant than just its fetching fruit. Did you know that raspberry leaf is also an amazing herb? Many people don’t realize that we can do so much more with this plant than simply trying not to prick our fingers while pilfering its fruit. In fact, the plant as whole has been used throughout history and across cultures for its superb tonic and nutritive qualities.

Raspberry Leaf is most often recognized as a pregnancy herb.  And though it is great for expecting and new mamas, its usefulness is far more wide reaching.  The leaves of the plant are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and iron as well as potassium and vitamins B, E, and C.  A tonic tea can be enjoyed by anyone in need of a vitamin boost, including men and children.  Raspberry also has a high concentration of tannins, resulting in its traditional use as a remedy for diarrhea.  Traditionally a tea of the leaves has also been used to reduce fevers and curb excessive bleeding.

As a woman’s herb, Raspberry Leaf is considered the safe and effective go-to tonic herb throughout life.  The leaf contains fragrine, an alkaloid which is responsible for the muscle-toning, uterine muscle to be exact, attributes of this little plant.  An adoptogenic herb, raspberry has the ability to act as both uterine relaxant and stimulant.  During pregnancy this creates a regulating action in the uterus - which is further enhanced by the overall uterine tone thanks to the fragrine.  The leaf is also said to help relieve morning sickness and promote the flow of breast milk.  Outside of pregnancy Raspberry’s toning quality is considered helpful both for in increasing fertility as well as assisting menopausal women.  An astringent herb, Raspberry Leaf is recommended for those with excessive menstruation and can be added to a tonic tea that helps to regulate women’s cycles.  And of course the high calcium levels are an asset for women as we age and work to maintain bone density.

You may have picked up on the fact that this herb is primarily enjoyed as tea.  It can be enjoyed on its own or blended with other useful and tasty herbs based on your personal needs.  At Una we use Raspberry Leaf as the base for our Mama Maintenance Tea and enhance it with peppermint, ginger, chamomile, and hibiscus.

The best way to enjoy this lovely herb, is to grow the plant yourself.  Raspberry plants grow wonderfully in the Northeast and require sun and decent soil. They prefer well drained soil as they are prone to root-rot otherwise.  If you have heavy clay, like most of western PA, you will need to add some serious organic matter to your soil.  Raspberries are generally started from shoots and should be planted early in the spring.  The plants will take a year or two to fully establish but of course you can still enjoy the fruits, and leaves, of your labor during that time.  Raspberries like water and do not like weeds (like most plants) so be sure to pay a bit of attention to them.  Naturally, you should also avoid chemical fertilizers and insecticides on your new plants, especially if you want to eat them!

Raspberry Leaf is considered safe and has no reported side effects.  Happy Planting and enjoy your tea!

**THIS INFORMATION IS SHARED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  UNA BIOLOGICALS DOES NOT DISTRUBUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING HEBRS!***

Ritual Smudging

Jessica Graves

Smudging, or the burning of sacred plants for purification, is practiced traditionally in cultures throughout the world. Plants are chosen based on their spiritual power and their ability to affect the energy of a person or space--whether to move, clear, purify, protect, or enhance.

It has been said that Spirits like the aroma of the burned herbs, thus evoking their presence in our lives. The smoke itself is believed to carry our prayers and intentions to a higher power. The scent may inspire memories within us, awaken quiet voices in our souls, and direct us on our paths. As a purification ritual, smudging is a powerful tool to move stagnant energy and create sacred space. The scent of some herbs enhances our psychic energy and intuition, and can be used to deepen meditation practices or dream states.

There are a number of plants that are used traditionally in smudging, and you can explore to find the ones that speak most clearly to you and your needs.

  • White Sage  II   Drives away negative energy and influences. Releases what is troubling the mind. Prepare for ceremonies and teachings. Useful for cleansing homes and sacred items.
  • Cedar   II   Purify space. Calls the attention of the Spirits as an offering and carries prayers upward. Guardian spirit that chases away negative energies.
  • Sweetgrass   II   Awakens gentleness and has a calming effect. Attracts positive energy. Known as the "Hair of Mother Earth". The three braids represent love, kindness, and honesty.
  • Juniper   II   Fortifies our spiritual will and expands consciousness. Release stagnant thought patterns of anger, frustration, irritability, and anxiety. Opens the heart chakra. Protective energy, and can break hexes and curses.
  • Palo Santo   II   Known as Holy Wood, this South and Central American tree is known for its mysticism.  The tree lives for up to 90 years, and then lies dead for at least 4 years, when it transforms and gains its sacred properties. Cleansing, grounding, enhances creativity. Relieves stress, eases emotional trauma, and raises vibrations in preparation for meditation. Can inspire a deep connection to the source of all being.

Other herbs can be added to smudges as well, such as mugwort, roses, calendula, sweet annie....really, whatever plant is speaking to you!

Fresh in the shop you'll find bundles of sage, cedar, juniper, and braids of sweetgrass, as well as uniquely handcrafted bundles (made right here!) of a combination of herbs. These beauties make great gifts for friends or family in need of a powerful energetic shift!

 

 

Fun in the Sun Picnic Recipes

Jessica Graves

It's hot, sunny, thunderstormy, and absolutely GORGEOUS in Pittsburgh right now. All I want to do is play in the sun-soaked woods, swim in whatever body of water I can find, and daydream in wildflower fields. Summer's got my brain on permanent vacation :-)

But, life & its responsibilities keeps us busy, and I find myself savoring those random moments of joyful peace in this vibrant green world. And what's a better way to fully enjoy the abundance of summer than with a fresh & yummy picnic? Here's a round-up of mouth-watering picnic recipes to share with your friends & family this holiday weekend. Cheers to sunshine, long days, and full bellies!

Herby Picnic Potato Salad with Kale, Apples, & Chickpeas

Recipe from Green Kitchen Stories

Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Bowl+Spoon by Sara & Hugh Forte. We usually make an extra large (almost double) batch of the vinaigrette because it’s so good. If your white wine vinegar is very sweet, you can add some lemon juice for extra zing.

2 pounds/1 kg small new potatoes

Coarse Herb Vinaigrette
3 tbsp pickled capers
2 spring onions or green onions
2 cups loosely packed herbs (a mix of chives, parsley, basil and top greens from the celery)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup cold pressed oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 apples, diced
3 celery stalks (save the top greens for the vinaigrette), finely diced
2 leaves kale, chard or spinach, chopped
1 can (14 oz/400 g) cooked chickpeas, rinsed

Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover them with water and bring the water to a boil. Boil for 12-15 minutes until they are cooked through but not falling apart – just until you can easily pierce a sharp knife through the center. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a food processor, blitz capers and their brine, onions, basil, parsley, chives, celery greens, vinegar, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper until you get a coarse vinaigrette. Quarter the potatoes and collect them in a larger mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the just-cooled potatoes and gently toss to coat. It will look like a lot of dressing, but the potatoes soak it up as they sit. Stir celery, apples, kale and chickpeas into the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Iced Herb Gazpacho

Recipe from Mother Earth Living

6 large tomatoes
• 4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
• 1/2 cucumber
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 2 scallions, chopped
• 3 sprigs basil leaves
• 3 sprigs cilantro leaves
• 3 sprigs parsley leaves
• Salt and pepper

1. In a food-processor bowl, roughly purée the tomatoes, garlic, cucumber, red pepper flakes, vinegar and oil. Add scallions and herbs, then pulse just until they’re chopped. (If you let the machine run, you’ll end up with a brownish mess.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. If possible, chill overnight before serving so the flavors can blend. Serves 4 to 6

Cold Brew Jamaica

Recipe from The Kitchn. Check the blog post linked in the recipe title for lots of great info and recipe tips!

Makes 1 quart

1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (about 1/2 ounce or 15 grams)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup simple syrup
Lime wedges (optional, for serving)

Place the hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a large jar or bowl. Add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours). Add simple syrup to taste. Strain out the solids and serve over ice with a squeeze of lime, if desired.

Store the brewed jamaica covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Citrus Pistachio Salad

Recipe from The Coast Kitchen

Ingredients:
Mixed citrus, sliced
Pea shoots
Pistachios, toasted
Nice olive oil
Sea salt

Lightly toast the pistachios and set aside to cool. Layer the citrus as a foundation and sprinkle with the pea shoots and pistachios. Finish with olive oil and sea salt. My suggestion is to make this salad right before you are going to serve it and eat it quickly so the pistachios don't get soggy! 

Feta & Fresh Herb Quick Bread

Recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini

Ingredients

  • A pat of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 150 grams (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 large organic eggs
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) plain unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) sheep's milk feta cheese (substitute goat cheese)
  • 1 bunch fresh herb leaves (flat-leaf parsley, basil, chervil, chives, mint, preferably a mix), about 20 grams or 1 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Butter a 24-by-12-cm (9-by-5-inch) loaf pan and sprinkle half the sesame seeds onto the bottom and sides, shaking the pan to coat.
  3. Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Don’t overmix the batter, it’s okay if a few lumps remain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface with a spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.
  7. Put into the oven to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the loaf is golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for a few minutes and run a knife around the pan to loosen. Unmold and transfer to a rack to cool.
  9. Cut in slices or cubes just before serving, slightly warm or at room temperature.

No-Bake Almond Butter Cream Bars

Recipe from One Green Planet

For the Crust:

  • 8 dates 3/4 cup oatmeal (80 grams), 1 TB agave (optional)
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (optional)

For the Filling:

  • 1 15-ounce can of coconut cream or 2 full-fat coconut milk cans, cream only
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 6 tablespoons almond butter or any nut butter (feel free to use more)

For the Topping:

  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preparation

  1. Process dates and oats in food processor until mixture is sticky. Add agave if mixture is a little dry.
  2. Press crust into small container. Put in the refrigerator.
  3. Blend filling up and pour over crust. Put in refrigerator overnight or freezer for a few hours.
  4. Once filling is solid slice into bars and top with melted chocolate chips. To melt chips microwave in short 15 second bursts until smooth. Store in the refrigerator or freezer, depending how soft your filling is.

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.

**THIS INFORMATION IS SHARED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  UNA BIOLOGICALS DOES NOT DISTRUBUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING HEBRS!***