When we make dessert we like to make sure of a few things. It's paired with:
1. Lots of good fat
Fat slows down the absorption of sugar. This means two things: we stay satisfied longer and we don't overburden our organs- especially the pancreas.
The pancreas is an incredible organ taxed with the huge responsibility of getting sugar out of the blood. When we have too much sugar in the blood, those sugars bind with our blood cells rendering them clunky, ineffective and hazardous to our entire body. So basically, always eat fat when you eat sugar! We like grass-fed butter, ghee, and unrefined coconut oil for our saturated fats and extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil for our unsaturated fats.
2. Sugar stabilizing herbs
In many clinical trials, Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) has been shown to: promotes glycemic control, improve lipid parameters, reduce insulin resistance, and improve insulin action (Ranasinghe et al, 2012). It's likely no coincidence that cinnamon and sugar is a traditional combination. Our ancestors knew what was up!
This class of herbs could possibly be one of the modern human's greatest herbal allies. Adaptogens work by improving our body's perception of and response to stress, making us more resilient in the face of it. Think of it this way- we can't always control the amount of stress going on in and around us, but we can certainly control how we respond to these stressors. Our bodies are always responding to stressors large and small, emotional and physical, whether we are aware of it or not (if you haven't noticed, our bodies are really good at acclimating to sub-optimal environments and our minds are really good at distracting us from listening).
And the truth is- the modern world barrages us with constant, low-level stressors that our ancestral bodies have simply not adapted to handle. These chronic low-level stressors mean that our bodies are always pumping out stress hormones, leaving us depleted in some capacity at some point in time. Depression, autoimmune conditions, fatigue, inflammation, mood disorders, hormonal issues, lack of vigor- many argue that all these things could be traced back to chronic, low level stress (Sapolsky, 2004).
Adaptogens have been utilized by our ancestors in some form across the globe. They are tonic level herbs (meant to be taken regularly) that produce a non-specific response in the body (they increase our resilience to numerous stressors) while also having a normalizing effect (balancing us out no matter the direction we favor) (Winston & Maimes, 2007).
Science is in the midst of catching up to the magic of adaptogens, but the verdict is out: adaptogens rock! They come in all shapes and sizes and address countless modern complaints.
An important note on taking adaptogens: best practice is to stop any adaptogen routine during times of acute illness such as the flu.
1.5 sticks grass-fed butter
6 oz chopped bittersweet bakers chocolate
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ceylon cinnamon
1/4 tsp licorice powder
2 tbsp red Reishi powder
1 tbsp Shatavari powder
4 large eggs room temperature
1/2 c raw sugar
healthy pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup raw cacao
1 c heavy cream (coconut cream can work too!)
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
pinch sea salt
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit a circular 8” pan. Place paper into pan. Set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan at a medium low heat. Add the Reishi and Shatavari, stirring constantly as the herbs infuse into the butter, about 5 minutes. Remove butter mixture from heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Add the instant coffee and vanilla extract and set aside.
Whisk or mix eggs, sugar, and salt until your mixture has grown in volume (this takes around 5 minutes with a hand mixer). Next, slowly add your chocolate-butter mixture as you continue mixing. Fold in cacao, cinnamon, and licorice. Mix until completely combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 325. The edges should appear "baked" but you want the center a bit gooey still. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature completely before transferring to a fridge. Let chill for 5 hours.
Bring 1-2" water to a low boil/simmer in a sauce pan. Top with a double boiler. Add chocolate and cream to the double boiler and let melt, stirring occasionally until you have a smooth consistency. Add a pinch of sea salt. Drizzle over your chilled cake until it's completely covered. Chill again for another hour. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!
Engels, Gayle & Brinckmann, Josef. 2012. HerbalGram: Cinnamon, Issue 95. American Botanical Council
Ranasinghe, P., Perera, S., Gunatilake, M., Abeywardene, E., Gunapala, N., Premakumara, S., ... & Katulanda, P. (2012). Effects of Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) on blood glucose and lipids in a diabetic and healthy rat model. Pharmacognosy research, 4(2), 73.
Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don't get ulcers: The acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping-now revised and updated. Holt paperbacks.
Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
This berry has our hearts, livers, immune systems, adrenals... Come to think about it, what can't this plant do?
chisandra is a longstanding adaptogen with the sort of gentle healing touch we could all use. With the summer heat in full-force, we have been enjoying Schisandra as a cool drink paired with Licorice root powder, Holy Basil and lemon. We decoct 1-2 tsp. of Schisandra berries in 10 oz filtered water for 5-10 minutes. We remove from heat and add fresh Holy Basil and an organic lemon wedge. Cap this with a lid and let steep for 15 minutes. Add a bunch of ice to the hot water or let cool in the fridge before enjoying the cooling, calming, enriching benefits of this powerful tonic strength berry. Read on for the full Materia Medica on our favorite "Five Flavor Berry".
Schisandra Materia Medica
Scientific Name: Schisandra chinensis
Taste/Energetics: Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, warm, dry
Actions: Adaptogen, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiasthmatic, hepatoprotective, immune amphoteric, refrigerant, stimulant, cardiovascular tonic
Parts Used: berries/seeds
Uses: Schisandra is a prolific herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where it is known as Wu Wei Zi, which translates to the 5-Flavor Fruit. We call it the everlasting gobstopper of the herbal world. Its broad spectrum of flavor means it has the breadth to benefit many organ systems.
In TCM, it is also said to enhance the 5 yin organs: liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen. Basically, when you hear yin, think nourishing.
Schisandra “astringes the jing”, which means it remedies conditions caused by excessive fluids as in diarrhea, frequent urination, and excessive discharges (vaginal, sweat, mucus, premature ejaculation). Its ability to reduce excessive fluid means it is very useful for night sweats and menopausal conditions. In Chinese medicine, the kidneys allow the lungs to fully inhale; Schisandra helps the kidneys “grasp the lungs”, allowing for stronger respiration and the ability to take deeper breaths and have more productive coughs. Paired with its anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and relaxing qualities, it is very useful for asthma and shortness of breath.
Schisandra “calms the shen”. The shen is stored in the heart and represents the spirit or our consciousness; disturbed shen yields anxiety disorders, ADHD, and emotional/mental debility. By calming the shen, it is used for those with stress-induced cardiac issues, chronic insomnia, and anxiety disorders. Schisandra is incredibly beneficial food for the liver. It possesses the ability to regenerate hepatocytes- liver cells- and increase a powerful endogenous antioxidant, glutathione. Clinically, its been shown to protect us from liver damage and promote healing.
Schisandra is one of the more stimulating of adaptogens, mildly stimulating CNS activity. Interestingly, it simultaneously enhances reflexes, mental and physical performance while also calming and relieving anxiety (when herbs work both ways like this, we call them amphoterics). Schisandra has also been found to have normalizing power over blood pressure, elevating hypotensive states and reducing hypertensive states- likely due to its calming properties.
Safety: Increases the effects of barbiturates. Best practice is to discontinue the use of tonic strength adaptogens during times of acute illness.
Dosage: 400-500 mg capsule 2-3x day/ 1-2 oz dried berries in 10 oz water, decocted for 5-10 min, steep 20-30 min 3x day/ 20-40 drops tincture 2-3x day. As a tonic strength adaptogen, take 5-6 days a week consistently for at least 3 weeks. Bodies love regularity but they also love breaks. It is wise to take a week off every 5-6 weeks for any tonic herbal regime.
Plays Well With: Bacopa, Milky Oats, and Rhodiola for ADHD; Lemongrass, Holy Basil, and Hibiscus for the ultimate cooling drink; Milk Thistle, Turmeric, Artichoke Leaf, and Beet juice for liver health; Dang Shen and Prince Seng for wheezing, asthma, and general debility/chronic fatigue; Licorice, Cinnamon, and Fu Ling mushroom for strengthening vitality of lung and kidneys (this formulation is called Gui ling wu wei gan cao tang in TCM).
Upton, Roy. Editor. Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis): Analytical, quality control and therapeutic monograph. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium. Santa Cruz, CA; 1999:1-25.
Winston, David, and Steven Maimes. Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2007.
Scientific Name: Althea officinalis
Family: Malvaceae (the same family that brings you Okra, Mulberries, and Hibiscus!)
Etymology: Althea from Latin altho, “to heal”; officinalis indicating its placement in the official pharmacopoeia of medicine, medieval Latin
Taste/Energetics: cooling, soothing, neutral/slightly sweet
Parts Used: all parts, especially dried root
Actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-tussive emollient, demulcent, diuretic, vulnerary
Uses: Wherever there’s an itchy, hot, inflamed situation, think Marshmallow. Marshmallow root is a cooling, soothing mucilage that resolves irritated epithelium both inside and out. Mucilages are polysaccharides- slimy, thick, moistening and cooling in nature. Mucilages like Marshmallow root are interesting in that they resolve inflamed states without penetrating the cells at all- rather, the mucilage acts physically rather than chemically, coating the skin’s surface with a soothing, protective barrier to allow healing to take place. This non-intrusive quality makes it especially safe for infants, infirm, and elderly to use and makes it paramount medicine for any digestive condition characterized by inflamed, irritated tissue and ulcers. The slippery nature of Marshmallow means it can also acts as a gentle laxative.
Marshmallow has an affinity for tissue of the digestive and urinary systems. Stephen Bergner calls it the band-aid of the stomach for this reason. Think of Marshmallow for any case of heartburn and irritable bowel or as a mouthwash for inflamed gums (remember that the lining of the mouth is contiguous with the entire digestive tract).
Marshmallow not only cools and soothes, but it’s vulnerary action means it heals wounds. Traditionally it was used in topical poultices for injuries. Its hydrophilic nature means it retains heat, allowing the heat to penetrate more fully when used as a warm compress for sprains and swelling.
The epithelium of the gut is similar to that of the throat- therefore, Marshmallow is an ally during cold and flu season. Sore throats and painful coughs are calmed by Marshmallow. It also stimulates phagocytosis, the process by which the immune system destroys pathogens. Rosalee De le Foret recommends Marshmallow root for lingering post-infection coughs, dry coughs, and unproductive coughs. As a urinary system anti-inflammatory, it is an effective remedy for the hot, inflamed and irritated conditions of bladder infections, cystitis, kidney stones, and frequent UTIs.
Preparation/Dosage: Cold infusion is ideal for retaining the cooling qualities - put 1-3 tbsp of dried herb, tied up in a satchel or loose, in cool, filtered water. Let infuse overnight and strain in the morning. Drink throughout the day to soothe chronically irritated guts or prevent heartburn. Hot or cool compress (depending on your needs) - simply place a clean cotton rag into your marshmallow tea and wrap around irritated, swollen, or inflamed skin.
Contraindications: According to King’s American Dispensary (1898), the infusion or decoction may be freely administered. In modern times, take several hours after taking prescription medications as it may inhibit the absorption.
dela Foret, Rosalee. 2010. Learning Herbs
Pengally, Andrew. 2004. The Constituents of Medicinal Plants
Soasted = soaked + toasted
It's about time we wrote about soasted nuts because it is a GAME CHANGER.
Here's the thing about nuts.
1. Nuts is a blanket term for a TON of different nuts, seeds, beans, and pseudo nuts that we clump together as one food category when in fact, they are all quite botanically unique. For example, certain brands will put cashews, almonds, and peanuts together and call it a "nut mix" when these 3 foods represent incredibly diverse plants- one is a tree, one is a bean, and one is an exterior seed (check out Cashew apples- pretty crazy!). This means that some "nuts" might work fine with you, but others might be very irritating. Many people have allergies or sensitivities to some "nuts" but not others (which is a dangerous situation when you buy these "nut mixes"). Many nuts are also high FODMAP which means it can cause digestive distress in some individuals.
2. "Nuts" contain a TON of potential energy. Remember, a little walnut was meant to become a massive walnut tree one day. Plus "nuts" have been pegged as the ultimate health food, making people much more likely to over-indulge in handfuls of these potent tree droppings because they are "healthy". This has a doubly deleterious effect: excessiveness in any form or fashion is the antithesis to health AND you are consuming a ton of potential energy that will eventually wreck havoc on your metabolism and digestive system.
3. Store bought typically come in two categories = raw and roasted. Sometimes the roasted nuts are "dry roasted", meaning no extra oils have been added. More often than not, these nuts are roasted in one of the following oils : soybean, cottonseed, canola, rapeseed, or sunflower. While these oils are called "vegetable oils" to entice us into thinking they are healthy, the truth is that these oils are incredibly sensitive and the modern factory processes we use to extract them are caustic and dangerous. Vegetable oils are pulled out of their protective covering (be it sunflowers, cotton or rape seeds) using intense solvents, exposing them to light and heat which they are very sensitive to (because they don't naturally occur free from their protective covering- for a gruesome analogy, think of how sensitive we would be to the light if we scrubbed away our protective skin). This means they are not only exposed to intense solvents, but they also go rancid quickly because of all the heat, light, and plastic exposure. These unsaturated fats are high in Omega 6s, an essential fatty acid that our world is already rampant with. We function best with an Omega 3:6 ratio of 1:1. The Average American is working with an inflammatory ratio of 1:20. You can improve your Omega ratio by avoiding nuts roasted in these rancid oils.
4. Raw nuts don't have the dangers of being roasted in rancid oils, but they do contain naturally occurring anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients represent a variety of phytochemicals that plants produce to protect themselves from predation and degradation. Historically, our ancestors used gentle means to dissolve these anti-nutrients, like soaking and slow roasting (aka, SOASTING) their nuts for optimal nutrition and ease of digestion.
Step by Step Guide to Soast your Nuts
Get a quart-sized mason jar. Fill is 3/4 of the way full with your favorite raw nuts. Pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and brazil nuts are our favorite nuts to soast. Totally cover the nuts with filtered water and a hefty pinch of sea salt. Cover with a lid (but don't screw on the tight) and let sit on your countertop over night. In the morning. Strain off all the water. It will likely be a pale brown color. Give it another rinse with some more filtered water. Shake the nuts dry and spread evenly on a roasting pan. You can go the extra mile and drizzle with a few blobs of coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee and top with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A bit of honey drizzle and turmeric is another lovely addition. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 F. Crank the heat down to 200 F and slow roast until the nuts are golden brown and smelling fragrant. This varies per nut variety but usually take anywhere from 25-55 minutes. Let cool completely before transferring back to an airtight mason jar, container, or bag. Store in the fridge or freezer for months! We have found these soasted nuts SO much more satisfying and tasty. They don't leave that heavy, dull tummy feeling we often get when eating raw or store-bought roasted nuts.
3/4 c unrefined coconut oil, room temp
1/2 c cacao powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp beet root powder (secret ingredient!)
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp flax meal
2 tbsp caca nibs
In a glass bowl, mix all the ingredients until well incorporated. Lay out a piece of parchment paper on a large plant. Transfer the cacao mixture onto the parchment paper, using wet finger tips or the back of a spoon to smooth out until about 1/4 to 1/2" thick. Individually press the soasted walnuts just into the surface of the cacao mixture in a decorative manner if you are feeling fancy. Sprinkle with more sea salt and flax seed. Let set in freezer for 10 minutes. Break off into pieces and store in an airtight container in fridge or freezer for many weeks.
*Check out our Soasted Walnut (Soaked + Toasted) recipe in our next blog post!
Developing a Healthy Relationship with the Sun
Sunscreen, sunblock, SPF, UVA, UVB… we’re all too familiar with these summer-time terms and yet they perplex us all the same. Is SPF 50 really that much better than SPF 45? And how do they calculate those numbers anyways? Why does it burn when I rub it into my face, and how often should I reapply?
Yes, we want to protect our skin from excessive exposure, but it is only natural to seek the sun after a winter filled with cold and clouds. And of course, most can’t deny the desire for that sun-kissed, summertime glow.
But that’s just it: sun-kissed has become equated to cancer-kissed in the modern world. We are scared to go outside and rightfully so: study after study confirm that the sun is determined to fry us to a crisp and turn all our skin cells against us. And now there’s all this talk of sunscreens actually causing cancer and destroying coral reefs.
Interestingly, even though there are more sunscreens and media coverage than ever before, cases of malignant melanoma are rising every year, representing a 200% increase from 1975 to 2013¹. How could this be if our awareness and product access is better than ever?
Well, the answer is complex, but here are some key points:
In a nutshell, UVA and UVB represent different wavelengths. UVB is highest around solar noon (11 am- 2 pm) and is critical for Vitamin D absorption. UVA rays are much more intense, seeping deeper into your skin cells and causing more free radical damage. UVA is also present all hours of the day whereas UVB is low in morning and afternoon 6.
While supplements exist and offer some benefit, the most efficient and effective way to absorb Vitamin D is through direct sun exposure- 15-25 minutes a day, especially during the sun-rich spring and summer months around noon (remember this is when beneficial UVB is at its highest!). The more skin exposed the better! Our body stores up Vitamin D during the warm months to use all year long. This partially explains why many of us come down with the flu or other viral and bacterial infections in the late winter months; our bodies Vitamin D stores have dropped to their lowest point. The darker your skin, the more time you will need in the sun. You can always get your Vitamin D levels checked- 40 ng/ml is minimum; 50-70 ng/ml is ideal 6. As a supplement during the dark days of winter, we like Bio-emulsified Vitamin D by Biotics.
Our Responsible Sun-lover TIPS
Prioritize your body’s largest organ this summer season. Practice responsible sun exposure, hydrate, eat right, protect, and rejoice the wonders of the sun!
1 Melanoma of the Skin - SEER Stat Fact Sheets. (2016). Seer.cancer.gov. Retrieved 30 May 2016
2 NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Report on Carcinogens Subcommittee Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Ra
3 Planta, M. (2011). Sunscreen and Melanoma: Is Our Prevention Message Correct?. The Journal Of The American Board Of Family Medicine, 24(6), 735-739.
4 Carina Storrs, S. (2016). Many sunscreens have lower SPF than labels claim. CNN. Retrieved 30 May 2019
5 NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Report on Carcinogens Subcommittee Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Ra
6 Mercola, J. (2011). Sun Can Actually Help Protect You Against Skin Cancer. Retrieved 3 May 2019
7. Grant, W. B., & Holick, M. F. (2005). Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review. Altern Med Rev, 10(2), 94-111.
8. Coronado, M., De Haro, H., Deng, X., Rempel, M. A., Lavado, R., & Schlenk, D. (2008). Estrogenic activity and reproductive effects of the UV-filter oxybenzone (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl-methanone) in fish. Aquatic Toxicology, 90(3), 182-187.
9. Rosebrook, J. (2017) The Best Sunscreen - Understanding Zinc Oxide SPF And The Nutrient Day Cream. Retrieved 5 May 2018
10. EWG (2017).The Problem With Vitamin A, https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/references/ Retrieved. 5 May, 2019
¾ c almond flour
½ c arrowroot starch
1 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Hefty pinch sea salt
¼ c melted unrefined coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp molasses
Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, stir molasses, syrup, and melted coconut oil until evenly incorporated. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the oil blend, mixing well. The dough should come together quite nicely.
Transfer the dough onto parchment paper about 8 in. long or onto a silpad. Both work. Wet your fingers (so dough doesn’t stick) and gently press out the dough until it’s about ¼-⅛ in thick (like a graham cracker!) and in a giant rectangle shape. Use a fork to pierce the dough like you see on store-bought graham crackers evenly throughout (this keeps the crackers especially flat and uniform). You can use a rolling pin or another piece of parchment paper to achieve this, but I find wet fingers works just fine.
Bake for 10-12 min until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just a bit before using a knife to slice into graham cracker shapes. I like squares but sometimes do long pieces. Let cool completely before storing in freezer for weeks!
Add ½-1 c chocolate chips for chocolate chip graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp turmeric + pinch black pepper for golden grahams
Add 2 tbsp cacao + 1 tsp vanilla for chocolate graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp pysllium + 1 tbsp flax seed for fiber graham crackers
Top with toasted oats + chopped pecans for a nutty fix!
We love the convenience of store-bought, quality energy bars, but we loathe the packaging and often times high price.
That's why we created our own take on Rx Bars... HGRX Bars! Our bars cost a fraction to make and store beautifully. Plus, the have the added fiber of Psyllium Husk powder and flax meal.
Psyllium Husk is an incredibly effective soluble fiber brought to you by none other than Plantain, Plantago ovata. Soluble means it absorbs water as it passes through your colon, pulling out toxins, regulating your bowels, and normalizing constipation, diarrhea, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and even helping with weight loss through metabolism support. Just be sure to drink lots of liquids when you increase your fiber intake because fiber with no liquids can have the opposite effect of backing of your bowels and causing discomfort.
HGRx Bar Recipe
1 c nut butter
⅓ c raw cashews
¼ c coconut oil
½ c toasted oatmeal (simply bring a pan to medium heat and toast until fragrant and golden)
½ c flax meal
1 c juicy dried, pitted dates (it is important that your dates aren’t super dried out and still have some fleshiness to them
3 tbsp psyllium husk (optional but excellent for added fiber)
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Hefty pinch of sea salt
½ c dark chocolate chips for topping
Line a 10 x 10 baking pan with parchment paper.
In a high-powered blender, mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips. It works best to blend the first 5 ingredients first. Then add the dates, pulsing until they are mostly pulverized. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until mostly smooth. A few cashew or date chunks is a-okay.
Transfer all the dough onto the parchment paper with a spatula. Using wet fingers, press the dough evenly into the pan. Top with the chocolate chips, scattering them evening and gently pressing them into the dough. Freeze for 20 minutes and then slice. Store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge for weeks.
Bitters are not a medicine, but a necessity and a forgotten flavor crucial for our survival as a species.
Eileen Schaeffer & Amy Wright
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