All Natural Snacks and Drinks

The newest New Hope Blogger Box had some great options for gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, health-minded people. Whether you are Paleo or a prefer a house of carbs (like I do), there’s something here to suit your snacking needs.

Oats are one of those things that cause confusion in the gluten-free world. There are two issues to consider: 1.Oats do not have gluten in them, but they do have a protein that is similar to gluten and it can cause problems for those who are both gluten-intolerant or celiac. 2. Oats are mostly processed on the same equipment as wheat and therefore there is a high likelihood of cross-contamination unless they are certified gluten-free. This makes granola off limits for many, especially those that follow a grain-free Paleo diet, or at least it did until now. The #NewHopeBloggerBox had this delicious sample in it from Grandy Oats, and it really is a fantastic substitute for oat-based granola. I’ve happily never had a problem with oats so I eat granola pretty much everyday, and this one tastes just like any other I’ve munched on lately.

If you are gluten-free and soy-free, finding a protein bar is nearly impossible. These Hi-Health bars are both, and some are vegan as well, using pea protein, while other flavors contain hormone-free whey. I probably should have used something other than a soy candle to prop up the bar since they are soy-free, but hey, it was handy.

Turmeric is all the rage these days, and with very good reason. It helps with inflammation, has adaptogenic properties, and is probably the most rigorously tested herb out there. Gaia makes taking your Turmeric easy and enjoyable with this golden milk powder. Just add it to warmed milk or milk alternative, and reap the benefits.

The literature with Gaia’s golden milk encourages the drinker to add one of their tinctures to the golden milk for extra health benefits. They suggest Ginger for digestive support, or Holy Basil for easing stress. Raw and Root puts extra herbal support right into their golden milk powder, with Ashwagandha, Gotu Kola, and others. (Gaia’s actually has Ashwagandha in it too. Turmeric has reigned supreme for some time now, but I think Ashwagandha’s star is rising if this box of samples is any indication.)

This is the second time Jackson’s Honest has been part of the New Hope Blogger Box so my kids were eager to dig into this bag. They have a heartbreaking story behind their mission based brand that has directly resulted in clean, organic, simple ingredient lists. This chip has only three ingredients: Organic Yellow Corn, Organic Coconut Oil, and Salt, and that’s clearly all a chip needs because these are delicious. Love to Jackson’s family.

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Speaking of clean ingredients, have you looked at your mayo jar lately? Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo is clean, soy-free, non-gmo, and made with cage free eggs. Real food.

Cascadian Farms has a new flavor of granola and it tastes like a lemon blueberry muffin. I’ve never had lemony granola before and was skeptical, but it actually really works. This granola is not made with certified gluten-free oats though, so if you are following a gluten-free diet then this won’t work for you. I tried it because I’ve been systematically working to get over my gluten-intolerance so I figured a little cross-contamination wouldn’t cause me harm, and it hasn’t.

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Have a great holiday weekend! Do something special and try something new.

New Supplements for Self Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s falls on ‘Wellness Wednesday’ this year, so this is a great day to think about showing yourself some love. The #NewHopeBloggerBox happens to be full of supplements this time around that can definitely improve your health and beauty, and even your breath! Valentine’s isn’t supposed to be only about self-love after all. So let’s start there~

At first I thought this package from Lively Up Your Breath was gum, but it is actually a capsule full of liquid that you break open in your mouth, then chew or discard the capsule. (I discarded mine.) It has powerful ingredients such as peppermint oil and menthol crystals, as well as chlorophyll to provide both instant and long-lasting results. They are free of refined sugar, artificial colors and flavors, gluten, aspartame, and no preservatives.

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but great skin never hurts. Neocell’s Super Ceramindes helps hydrate the skin from the inside out, which is helpful any season but especially in winter.

This is where self-love is important because if you are unhappy with the quality of your skin, especially when it comes to aging, there are different supplements out there that can offer help. Neocell also makes great collagen powders and supplements that I swear have kept my skin from getting the grey cast it always has by this time of year. I’ve been drinking a glass of the powder mixed in water first thing in the morning for a couple of months and it has helped my skin look alive in the dead of winter. It’s really just a matter of figuring out what works best for you, and no one is going to give you permission to take care of yourself, you just have to commit to doing it. (Trust me, I know it isn’t easy.)

That goes for weight issues too. If you have a problem with sugar cravings, you are certainly not alone, and you don’t have to fight them alone. Redd Remedies’ Crave Stop uses the herb Gymnema Sylvestra and the mineral Chromium along with other ingredients to help balance the blood sugar peaks and dips which helps control cravings.

CBD oil has been getting a lot of press lately for, well, just about everything. It seems to have an endless list of benefits from fighting inflammation, to balancing hormones, to reducing anxiety and much more. This one from CV Sciences is made with non-GMO ingredients, is gluten-free, and vegetarian.

Whether you are the type of person who has problems falling asleep or if you are the type that wakes up in the middle of the night to stare at the ceiling for hours on end, Utzy Naturals’ Utzzz’s Stay Asleep Natural Sleep Aid can help. This formula has great ingredients such as Ashwagandha, Chamomile, GABA, Calcium and Magnesium, and more, plus it does not have gluten, yeast, nor artificial colors or flavors. I’ve taken this already for a couple of nights in a row and it really has helped me fall asleep, and stay asleep through the night instead of waking up at 2:30 for one to two hours. I don’t feel any kind of residue upon waking like I have in the past with some other natural sleep aids, and in fact have awoken fairly bright and ready for the day. Well, ready for the walk to the coffeemaker anyway.

In the “Welcome to the Modern World” category, Source Naturals stays at the cutting age with their Screen Time Stamina, helping us collectively adapt to the age of technology. This may be a modern formula, but it’s chock full of time-tested traditional adaptogens, and plenty of other herbs, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to support brain and eye function as well as stamina. Gutenberg would be proud.

Speaking of adaptogens, Oregon’s Wild Harvest Ashwagandha is organic and is simply the herb in a vegetarian capsule with no fillers. Ashwagandha is a classic adaptogenic herb that is best known for increasing stamina by balancing energy levels, which includes helping with sleep. (It is in both Utzy’s sleep formula and in the Screen Time Stamina above.) Adaptogens are popular right now and it’s not surprising considering they help our bodies, minds, and emotions manage stress and adrenal fatigue, and are known to have a very low likelihood to causing harm.

Another herb with adaptogenic qualities is Turmeric, and it is also anti-inflammatory with high anti-oxident activity. Natural Factors has paired Turmeric with L-glutamine for a post-workout recovery powder. These two ingredients are also highly helpful for the digestive system and I’m excited to try it as part of my quest to completely heal my food intolerances.

May your heart be full and healthy on this Valentine’s day and every day. XOXOXO

 

How to Make an Herbal Oil Part 2

Herbal oils are one thing that are not easy to find ready-made. They are instead extremely easy to make though, and once you have an oil ready, it can be made into massage or body oil, an all natural perfume, balm, salve, or butter. You can even just use it straight as a healing moisturizer and it makes a lovely gift. (Valentine’s day is just around the corner!) Adding some rose buds or petals back into a bottle of rose oil makes for an extra special gift presentation. If you missed the beginning of the process, you will find it here. This method is called the cold method and is very similar to making an herbal tincture.

How to Make an Herbal Tincture Part 2

This is the second video on how to make an herbal tincture. The first one showed the beginning of the process, and the one below shows the end. This is so easy to do yourself and I find the herbal tinctures I make myself to be much more potent and certainly fresher of course. You can also blend herbs together in the beginning of the process to make your own unique, custom blend, or blend your tinctures after they have been made. (Herbal extracts using only one herb at a time are called simples.) A tincture made with alcohol, kept out of heat and light, will be potent for about four to five years, while ones made with vegetable glycerine will keep for one to two years. The video below shows how easy it is to make your own medicine.

Thank You and Addressing the Survey

Just a quick note to say thank you to those of you who took the survey in my last post. The answers are anonymous so I can’t address you personally if you took it (because I don’t know who took it), which means I have to do it here. Two things come up in the survey that I wanted to talk to right away. The first is that someone mentioned learning more about growing and drying herbs. I’m not much of a grower myself with barely a raised bed of edibles each summer, but herbs are notoriously easy to grow. Of course, that depends on if you are growing what is native to your area or if you are trying to grow jungle plants in Alaska, but assuming you are growing somewhat native plants, most herbs are hearty, not too picky about soil, and are a good pick for kids because they generally don’t disappoint. As for drying, if you are in a hurry you can use a food dehydrator if you happen to have one, or your oven on it’s lowest setting (under 185 degrees) with the door cracked open. Those two techniques can dry herbs in a day. All you really need though is some sort of slatted drying rack, a cooling rack from your oven would do if the herbs don’t fall through, and a dry room with good ventilation. You want the herbs to not touch as much as possible, and flipping them over once a day or so is also a good idea. You can also tie small bundles together and hang them to dry which is space saver and less work once they are hanging. Either way will take from a few days to over a week, depending on what you are drying and the conditions of the room. You can dry herbs in the sun if you are just looking for a quick 1-2 day dry but still intend to use the plant as ‘fresh’. Hope that helps, but if not there are plenty of websites that go into detail about drying herbs so you aren’t alone and definitely can find what you need.

To those that indicated they would most like to learn about a particular disease and what would help it, I highly recommend starting with the book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch CNC. It’s a great resource as a starting place. It does not go too deeply into herbs, but it does give sound herbal recommendations after each disease/condition. An old edition was given to every employee when hired at the health food store I worked at over 20 years ago, and we kept the new editions behind the checkout counter to hand over to customers for when they came in looking for natural help for whatever ailed them. It’s a great resource and I’ve held onto mine all these years despite the fact the cover is gone and the pages are starting to fall out. Here’s a brief video to see what the book looks like:

Also KP Khalsa has some online videos about herbs for specific diseases/conditions so you might want to look into those as well. I love that people are taking their health into their own hands. We hear a lot about self-care lately and that means something different to everyone, but when we apply that notion to our health it means really addressing the imbalances that inevitably occur so they do not go into a disease condition. Sometimes this means getting a diagnosis from a doctor, other times it might mean just thinking about long term conditions, or parts of our bodies that seem most susceptible to disharmony, and then changing daily habits or supplementing accordingly. Be an authority on yourself. You’ll be your own best advocate and it’s the surest way to your best health possible.

How to Make Your Own Toner

Toner is one of those things that I kind of hate buying but I can’t live without. It is used between cleansing the skin and putting on a serum and/or moisturizer, and it balances the pH of the skin as well as helps the serum/moisturizer spread evenly so you get the most out of those more expensive products. Since it is the first layer on your skin after washing it, it has the potential to really help your skin be its healthiest and therefore its glow-iest, but it’s a light product so there shouldn’t be too much in it. Leave it to the serums and moisturizers to pack in the heavier oils and such, but that doesn’t mean toner can’t have some amazing ingredients too. Making your own means you can tweak it for your specific skin needs and even add in ingredients that might be missing from your other skin care products. For example, if you know your skin could benefit from more Vitamin C but you happen to love your current serum which is Vitamin A based, you can make sure your toner is strong Vitamin C by using Hibiscus tea, Vitamin C powder, and/or orange peel.

One of the easiest ways to make toner is by using Witch Hazel as the base. In fact, you can just use Witch Hazel for a toner by itself or by adding essential oils to it. Witch Hazel balances skin, soothes irritations, tightens, firms, and refreshes the skin. You can use it to cleanse your skin by pouring some onto a cotton ball and wiping your face clean. To use as a toner, it’s nice to cut it a bit with distilled water, floral water, a hydrosol, or a glycerin extract of an herb such as rose or orange peels as mentioned above. You can also just use floral waters and hydrosols alone as a toner in which case Rose water is a popular choice.

I happen to be out of toner so I am making some with what I have on hand which is: Witch Hazel, distilled water, and essential oils of Carrot Seed and Geranium. Both of those essential oils have a plethora of beneficial properties for the skin from moisture-balancing to wrinkle-fighting, and are good for dry, oily, mature, and/or combination skin. Their wide-ranging benefits for all different kinds of skin types make them similar to Rose essential oil, but a lot less expensive.

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Toner Recipe:

1/8 C Witch Hazel

1/8 C Distilled Water (a floral water or hydrosol would work beautifully too)

4 Drops Geranium Essential Oil

3 Drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil

2 oz. glass bottle with a spray top

Be sure to label your product and to shake your toner before each use.

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Speaking of different skin types, here’s an infographic from Delicious Living on best natural ingredient for different types of skin. Some of these could be added to a toner, while others work better in a mask, serum, or moisturizer. Borlind_infographic_3

Happy creating and beautifying everyone! You deserve to shine with optimal health.

Cold and Flu Season

A few posts back I wrote about some great immune boosters that had recently been sent my way in the new hope blogger box. Now that we are in the thick of cold and flu season, I thought I’d also post some other natural products that help us fight the good fight against those nasty viruses and bacteria that like to get social this time of year.

Essential Oils:

Essential oils are great germ fighters and immune helpers with some more potent than others in their anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral properties. If you just want to have one go-to blend for fighting all the winter sicknesses that get around, then Thieves oil is what you want. Thieves oil has a great story to it, though whether it is more history or mythology is anyone’s guess. I like to think the story had to start somewhere, so why not in an actual event? The story has several variations, but basically they all say something along the lines of this: During the Middle Ages there were four thieves in France who used to rob the graves (or the houses) of those who had died of the Plague and managed to not get ill themselves. When they were eventually caught, they were given a lighter punishment in return for telling how they did it. The four thieves admitted they used herbs (most likely soaked in vinegar at that time) to keep themselves from getting the disease. They knew how to do this because among them were perfumers and spice traders who at the time understood the anti-biotic and anti-viral properties of their goods. Their blend has passed down to us through all these centuries, though the actual recipes vary depending on who’s making it. Usually the blends include: clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon and rosemary, and then different makers add in their own special favorites. You can find it as Thieves Oil, Medieval Mix Oil, Bandits Oil, and I’m sure other names as well.

Thyme oil is another great anti-germ essential oil. You can make a room spray for wiping down surfaces or use it in an diffuser for infusing the air with its strong anti-viral properties. Thyme also repels insects and combines particularly well with Lavender and Eucalyptus essential oils to kill any bacteria or viruses around, which makes it a great blend to have along for classrooms, workplaces, and travel.

If you have congestion in your nose or chest, nothing beats Eucalyptus Oil for loosening it up and helping you breathe. Putting it in a diffuser or flicking some on the back of a shower before starting the water are great ways to get the Eucalyptus into the air. If needed, I’ll put a drop right on the front of a shirt or on a pillow if it’s bedtime.

Herbs:

There are plenty of immune boosting herbs to help you avoid getting sick that also help you get well faster if you do get sick since sometimes it is just unavoidable, but there are two that almost always get center stage in any immune blend~ Echinacea and Astragalus. Tinctures and teas are a great way to take immune boosting herbs if you are already sick, and you can also add Astragalus to soup and you might be lucky enough to find it fresh in your local produce section. (It’s a root.) Herb Pharm makes quite a few immune support blends in tincture form, from a daily builder to use before getting sick, to a rapid defense once you are sick, one specifically for viruses, and one for kids. Yogi Teas has an assortment of immune boosting teas such as this one and this one. I put the powdered root of Astragalus into my adaptogen blend during the winter for daily immune system support and because it also has adaptogenic properties.

Elderberry is another cold season herb that is a must have in your personal natural medicine cabinet. It is in a lot of cold formulas and syrups so it is an easy herb to add. Besides this kind of formula there are lozenges that one of my son sucks on all school year long, though it’s more about the yummy taste in his mind.

A few other herbs to aid the immune system are medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Oregon Grape Root, Lomatium, and Garlic. Any time you can add any of these to your teas, daily supplement regime, and/or diet help keep your immune system in top form.

Homeopathy:

There are a couple of homeopathic medicines that can really help shorten a cold or flu and lessen the symptoms. As soon as you start to feel flu-type aches and pains, fever, and such, your best bet is to take Oscillococcinum as soon as possible. This means having it on hand at all times, just in case, because it really only works if you get it in you before the flu really takes hold. Follow the directions on the box for how much/often to take it.

Another homeopathic medicine that really should be taken at the first sign of a cold or flu is Umcka, but with this one even if you don’t get it going immediately, it’ll still lessen the duration and intensity of the cold or flu when you do start taking it. I keep a cold formula and a cold/flu formula on hand all winter long because it always seems to be nighttime when one of us starts to feel bad. There are many versions of this medicine from a hot drink to an over-the-counter-style liquid, and it’s tasty enough for kids. (Mine love it.)

Vitamins, Minerals, and Others:

Vitamin C is of course the go-to vitamin for helping the immune system fight little invaders. Be mindful that our bodies get used to the amount of vitamin C we normally take so a large, sudden increase can result in diarrhea. Vitamin D has become more well-known lately for its role in immune system support so it can be found in some wellness formulas such as this Emergen-C fizzy drink, and if you are lucky, in the sunshine. Zinc is also recognized as an important component in immune boosting and can be found in the Zand Elderberry lozenges above as well as other wellness formulas.

Probiotics are an integral part of the immune system. Taking them regularly helps keep you well, and if you go through a round of antibiotics, hit the probiotics hard afterwards, and even during the antibiotic treatment. Just make sure to take them at least two hours after taking the antibiotics.

One more thing I feel compelled to mention is drinking anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. The bottle must say “with the mother” in order for it to be actively healing. If you feel something coming on, then drinking this three times a day will help your immune system fight it. It is strong tasting at first so starting with as small of an amount that you can get down is fine. I promise it grows on you and you can increase the amount you put in water for greater health boosting. Apple cider vinegar does a host of  good and I drink it every morning all year long (1 tablespoon in a glass of water) to prepare my digestive system for the day.

Keep well everyone and please share this with anyone who needs some immune support this winter.

How to Make an Herbal Oil Part 1

Making an herbal oil using the ‘cold method’ is very similar to making an herbal tincture. For the base oil you can use olive oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil, but olive oil is the one most commonly used. Herbal oils are a great way to get the healing benefits of the herbs onto the skin where they can work on skin issues (Calendula or Rose), and also be absorbed into the body through the skin to work on things like sore muscles (St. John’s Wort). Herbal oils can also be added to baths or made into a healing  balm or butter, and essential oils can be added to herbal oils for added benefits as well.

The skin benefits of roses from their nutritious rose hips to the highly prized essential oil are well known. Making an herbal oil of roses is another way to make use of the healing and beauty-imparting benefits of roses. It is far more economical than the essential oil, and also less potent, but it makes a great base for any perfume blending or body butter creations. Rose oil itself is skin healing and beautifully scented enough to make a lovely gift just as is, even without added essential oils. After the oil has cured and been strained, simply add a few new rose buds or petals back into the strained oil for a luxurious look. How to video below:

Cleansing for the New Year

Is anyone else ready to put away the dairy and desserts and cleanse for the New Year? I personally love a good cleanse, though I’m partial to the low-suffering kind. I know people who think it’s not a real cleanse unless you take in nothing but fresh juice and water, but that never made sense to me. Our bodies like balance, and balance by extremes is not really balance at all at the human level. Just look at how bad yo-yo dieting is for people or how hard it is on the body when there are huge weight fluctuations. Gentle detox is a way to cleanse while giving the body support to adjust, instead of shocking the body and then reeling from its effects. Of course, there is a time and place for everything and if you know what you are doing and have the right support, then by all means juice away your days. If you prefer a cleansing reboot that doesn’t leave your blood sugar levels bouncing and your mood-o-meter permanently set to hangry, keep reading for some options.

Adding powdered greens to your daily routine is one way to activate detox mechanisms in your body. While cleansing you should be drinking extra glasses of water anyway, so adding a scoop or packet to one of your glasses or bottles of water is a great way to get extra goodness. It is worth noting that some green mixes, like Paradise Herbs, are formulated for energy~

while others, like the Food Science one below, are formulated more specifically for cleansing. Greens in general, whether in a powder or in a whole fresh or cooked form, are cleansing though so an energy greens mix will still work towards detoxing your system. Both these mixes came in my New Hope Blogger Box and they are tasty as well as healthy blends, but there are of course other reputable greens out there. Just be sure to read ingredients lists thoroughly.

Adding a cup or two of detoxifying herbal tea a day is another easy way to help your body cleanse. There are plenty of blends out there, such as detox teas by Yogi and Traditional Medicinals that are as easy as boiling water. Flora makes a tea concentrate that you just pour a bit out and add hot water to. They promote their cleanse every year on Facebook so you can actually join a group of others using their product to get tips and expand your knowledge a bit into the world of detox. (Plus if you join in you just might get a coupon or more, depending on if you are one of the firsts to sign up.) They do have a dry blend as well.

If you want to do something a little more involved than greens and teas, making up a batch of kitchari is what one of my herbal teachers drilled into us as the most healing, cleansing, tri-doshic thing you could do. Kitchari is a meal from the tradition of Ayurveda that is made up of mung beans and basmati rice (brown or white depending on your preference), spices, and ghee. You can eat it once a day to support a general cleanse, or you can eat kitchari three times a day and nothing else but herbal teas for 6 days straight for a more intense detox. As with all things herbal, kitchari is a traditional dish that you can find a thousand variations for so this recipe can be modified as you like. What follows is how my herbal teacher told us to make it and it has never failed me. It’s a calming meal, easy on the digestive system, and healing.

Kitchari Recipe:

1 C mung beans

1 C brown basmati rice (my herbal teacher actually used white basmati rice, so your choice really)

1 tbsp. ghee (vegans can use coconut oil)

1 tsp. each turmeric, cumin, and coriander

After soaking the mung beans overnight (or at least 6 hours), cook them in 4 C of water until they are thoroughly soft, about half an hour.

Cook rice according to its instructions, depending on white or brown, then mix together with beans.

Warm the ghee in a sauce or sauté pan and add the spices, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes or so.

Mix the spices and ghee with the rice and beans and you are finished. Eat as often as you like.

I’ve never been big on resolutions, but I do like the spirit of renewal that January sweeps in. A gentle cleanse sets a nice tone for the year~ a reminder to think better, feel better, act better, and be better. Best wishes for health, fulfillment, beauty, and peace to everyone for the New Year.

Gluten Free Snacks

These are new snacks that arrived in my New Hope Blogger Box that would be great additions to a holiday gift basket or as party food. These are all gluten and dairy free, with clean ingredient lists that you can feel good about sharing.

My favorite of these products is the Thrive Tribe Paleo Bites. These aren’t the kind of product I normally buy so they surprised me with how delicious and snack-able they are, uh, actually were. My oldest son and I finished them off quite quickly. The vanilla in these is the predominant taste and we’ll be buying these again for sure.

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My son also loved these gimMe Seaweed snacks. He likes to snack on the regular seaweed so I gave him these which have extra crunch with the added ingredients, and he really enjoyed them. I’ll be getting more of these too and with only 100 calories per package, that’s quite a healthy lunch box addition.

Jackson’s Honest  chips are as clean as you can get, and the colors are incredibly vibrant which speaks to the quality of the foods and their minimal processing. The sweet potato chips are just sweet potatoes, coconut oil, and salt. The purple potato chips are just potatoes, coconut oil, and salt. That’s it! Their company is on a mission to bring more healthy oils to the table because they have helped the owner’s oldest son who has a rare autoimmune condition. This is a company you can feel especially good about supporting, and about eating and sharing.

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The R.W. Garcia Co. chips are a nice change from a regular tortilla chip. They are flavorful on their own with the hummus coming through much more than the red pepper. Both my sons gave their thumbs up and my youngest is an extremely tough customer to please so these are sure to be crowd favorites.

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Happy snacking and merry-making!

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