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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

Filtering by Category: Herbs

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 WellnessMama.com)

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Instructions:

  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

Recovery

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: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/elderberry-tonic-for-cold-and-flu-prevention-zbcz1508.aspx

     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:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/elderberry-tonic-for-cold-and-flu-prevention-zbcz1508.aspx Web accessed 3 August 2016.

http://honest-food.net/2009/07/06/elderberry-season-is-here/ Web accessed 3 August 2016.

The Herbarium Monographs. “Elder”. http://herbarium.herbalacademyofne.com/monographs/#ID=1005. Web accessed 3 August 2016.

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 GatherVictoria.com

Ingredients:

  • 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

Icing:

  • 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

Directions:

  • 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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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

From Refinery29.com

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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Steps:

  • 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.

 

Summer is here....time for poison ivy relief!

Jessica Graves

Jewelweed, Impatiens aurea

As many of you know, it is that time of year when the dreaded Poison Ivy rears its itchy head at gardeners and outdoorswomen alike. One of the most common requests we at Una get at this time of year is for Poison Ivy relief. Well friends, today is your lucky day - as we are going to let you in on the traditional solution for homemade reprieve from the itching.

Jewelweed. Yes, the common Jewelweed has been one of the most effective solutions used for centuries. Part of the impatiens family, this plant grows abundantly throughout the eastern United States. It is said that where you find Poison Ivy, you will find Jewelweed. Though finding a poison and its antidote growing together is a common occurrence, it is not a hard and fast rule, as Poison Ivy will grow in more varied environments and Jewelweed prefers moist, rich soils. However, it is easily found along roadsides, in woods, and near stream beds.

Jewelweed itself is easily identified by its succulent-looking stem as well as the lovely orange flower. Typically the plant grows two feet high, but in the right conditions it can grow up to 7 feet tall (one only needs to see our garden for proof of this). The plant possesses a tall slender stem that appears slightly translucent. The leaves are ovate and thin, growing larger and more dense toward the top of the plant. Most easily identified by its flower, Jewelweed produces slip flowers in orange and yellow from July – September.

Few modern studies have been done on Jewelweed. Some that were completed report no useable results and have created question about Jewelweed's effectiveness. The leaves, however, appear to contain tannins which accounts for its effectiveness when applied to the skin to sooth piles and ivy rashes. Despite these studies, mothers and home healers have turned to this plant for centuries for its soothing relief. Commonly used, you will likely know someone with a Jewelweed story if you start asking about it.

What to do: Jewelweed is most effective when applied directly to the infected area. The leaves and stem should be crushed to release the plant juices. Traditionally the plants would be freshly gathered, lightly crushed and boiled with enough water to cover the plants. Cook the water down until it is darker in color. Apply with a clean cloth to poison ivy rash. This traditional remedy will keep in a covered jar in a lid for up to a week. The liquid can also be frozen in ice cube trays to save for later use.

All information is shared for educational purposes only.  Una Biologicals does not offer medical advice or purport to treat, cure, diagnose or assist with any illness.  Always consult your physician before using herbs.

FDA has not approved these statements.

Lady Herbs

Jessica Graves

You may have noticed that ladies wellness regularly takes center stage at Una Biologicals and we’re proud to share that we are working on several new products for ladies of all ages. In honor of girl power, we’d like to introduce you to three new herbs for your uterus.

When incorporating any new herbs into your diet it can be important to talk with your doctor about how these herbs will react with medications you are currently taking.    

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) also known as Chasteberry is a dried fruit known for treating hormone related health conditions. While Chasteberry was traditionally used to curb the sex drive of monks, it has a very different effect on women than it does on men. Vitex raises progesterone levels and lowers androgen levels. Because of this Vitex can help many symptoms of high androgen levels in females, such as acne and excessive hair growth. Interestingly, while Vitex can increase fertility in women, it also decreases fertility in men. However, luckily for us women, Vitex can balance menstrual cycles, treat premenstrual syndrome, and can reduce bloating, cramps, and breast pain. For the new mother, Vitex can also stop postpartum hemorrhaging and can increase a mother’s milk supply.  

Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) is the bark of a fruit-bearing tree that is named for its ability to soothe uterine cramps. It is one of the most potent uterine antispasmodics and works rapidly. Cramp Bark is astringent and can slow blood loss during menstruation or menopause. It helps to build up uterine muscles which can lead to easier labor during childbirth. Cramp bark can even be used to halt premature contractions. And while this special herb clearly shows a lot of love to us women, it’s uses don’t stop there. Cramp bark has been shown to lower blood pressure by relaxing the walls of blood vessels, and has been used treat breathing difficulties, heart disorders, and convulsions.

Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus) has always been a lady favorite, especially during that time of the month. Raspberry leaf is high in Vitamin C and B, manganese, potassium, iron, and calcium. Overall it is good for the female reproductive system and helps fight nausea, stomach upset, menstrual and leg cramps, and even the rough sleep during pregnancy. An alkaloid present in raspberry leaf helps to strengthen uterine and pelvic muscles for ease of childbirth. This herb is also astringent and soothes internal and external irritations while purifying the skin and blood. And last but not least raspberry leaf promotes circulation, which is important for any and all aspects of health.

All of these herbs are available as supplement, extract and loose herbs that you can use to create your own teas.  You can also enjoy some Una teas with these herbs – including Mama Maintenance, Don’t Cramp My Style and our forthcoming Menopause tea.

 

All information is shared for educational purposes only.  Una Biologicals does not offer medical advice or purport to treat, cure, diagnose or assist with any illness.  Always consult your physician before using herbs.

FDA has not approved these statements.

Contributed by Margot Pomeroy, © Una Biologicals ® 2015.

 

 

Pep Up with Peppermint

Jessica Graves

We love peppermint. It is a dear friend in the wintertime, brought to us from the far reaches of the Mediterranean and Western Asia. Mentha Piperita, or Peppermint as we know it, is an herb of many hats. It contains volatile oils (the compound we strive to isolate when distilling essential oils), vitamins and minerals, flavonoids, tannins, and menthol.

Everyone knows peppermint tea can help to cool the burning of a sore throat, but peppermint exceeds much expectation. It is an antispasmodic, it offers pain relief, and can be used as an inhalant for congestion. It is great for detoxification and acts as a liver stimulant, nervine, and blood purifier. It cools the body while also allowing it to sweat out toxins. When using peppermint you may find your headache fading away.

There are truly countless ways to utilize the wonderful benefits of peppermint. Una Biologicals has been taking advantage of this special power punch for years. You can find peppermint hiding in most of our teas, including Headache Helper, Revitalize, Mama Maintenance, and Better Belly. We flaunt our love for Peppermint with several of our Body Butters and our Rosemary Mint Salt Scrub, and you can’t miss that minty tingle in our Peppermint and Chocolicious Lip Balms. And with a little help from lavender, peppermint really lends a helping hand to any sorry sufferer with our Headache Relief Roll-On.

Needless to say we are on good terms with peppermint and you should be too! To start your very own first date with peppermint right in the comfort of your home, try one of these DIY recipes!

Peppermint Lip Scrub

Combine:

1 tsp Coconut Oil

    1 tsp Honey

    1 ½ tsp Sugar

    3 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

Rub on with a finger and roll your lips together. Wash or lick off when done for baby smooth lips!


Minty Mouth Wash

Combine: 1 cup Water

    1 tsp Baking Soda

    3 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

Swish for 5 to 20 seconds and then spit! Baking soda has a salty taste, but it is excellent for getting teeth pearly white and your breath smelling fresh.

 

Curiously Strong No-Cook Breath Mints

½ cup (approximately) Gum Paste

Powdered sugar

4-5 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

2 drops cooking oil

Knead egg sized piece of gum paste with hands until soft. Mix the two oils and then work into the gum paste. Sprinkle powdered sugar on your working surface and roll paste out to ⅛ inch in thickness. Cut out your mints to size or stamp with a large straw. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar and then let sit for 48 hours or until desirably crunchy. Enjoy!


All information is shared for educational purposes only.  Una Biologicals does not offer medical advice or purport to treat, cure, diagnose or assist with any illness.  Always consult your physician before using herbs.

FDA has not approved these statements.

Contributed by Margot Pomeroy, © Una Biologicals ® 2015.

Herbal Update - Arnica

Jessica Graves

Arnica - Arnica montana

This plant has many powerful medicinal properties, Arnica is a serious healer and comes from the same family as one our faves, the Sunflower ! The roots and flowers are used to treat many conditions. This is a strong one people, so use caution and follow direction for its celebrated benefits!

Arnica is native to Central Europe and can be found in forests and mountain pastures.  The leaves form a flat rosette, and a flower stalk which can reach 1 to 2 feet high emerges from the center. It bears orange-yellow flowers and the rhizome is dark brown, curved , and shows brittle wiry rootlets on the underside. Arnica is hardy in zones 5-9. This lovely perennial herb blooms in July and prefers a home in moist, well-drained soil with periods of ample sun. The flowers are picked and dried to make medicine.

Native Americans referred to arnica as leopard’s bane and mountain tobacco, and used the plant for sprains, bruises and wounds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, health practitioners used this herb for contusions, bruised muscles, painful breasts, chronic sores and abscesses. - See more at: http://www.medicinehunter.com/arnica#sthash.8W3sQAv7.dpuf

arnica blog.jpg

 Arnica has been widely used since the 1500's and has a long standing reputation for successful topical treatment . Its constituents are a bitter yellow crystalline principle, Arnicin, and a volatile oil. In early North American colonies the flowers were used in preference to the rhizome but the whole plant is an antiecchymotic, antiphlogistic, nervine. The homeopathic dose has been effective due to its antiseptic , anti-inflammatory, and pain relieving properties. Arnica's actions may be due to two chemicals called helenalin and dihyrdohelenalin. These chemicals may modify the action of immune cells, reduce the activity of chemicals and blood cells that cause inflammation, and kill bacteria.

For tender feet, a foot-bath of hot water containing 1/2 oz. of an Arnica tincture will bring great relief. Applied to the scalp it may make the hair grow.

Great care must be exercised though, as some people are particularly sensitive to the plant and cases of poisoning have resulted from its use, especially if taken internally.

Arnica extract has the power to reach deep tissue layers when applied externally. Its ability to absorb past the skin and penetrate areas that need a little TLC is the exact reason we use it in our Bruise Balm! Come on people, lets start healing!

All information is shared for educational purposes only.  Una Biologicals does not offer medical advice or purport to treat, cure, diagnose or assist with any illness.  Always consult your physician before using herbs.

FDA has not approved these statements.

© Una Biologicals ® 2015.

 

 

 

 

Herbal Update - St. John's Wort

Jessica Graves

This blog give us a change to look in depth as some of the plants we utilize regularly here are Una Biologicals.  

St. John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum

St. John’s Wort,  is fabulous in the garden and grows easily in most climates, happily wintering over through planting Zone 4.   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.

St. John's Wort flower

All information is shared for educational purposes only.  Una Biologicals does not offer medical advice or purport to treat, cure, diagnose or assist with any illness.  Always consult your physician before using herbs.

FDA has not approved these statements.

© Una Biologicals ® 2015.