Wednesday, February 24, 2010

chi chi chi chia

when i was in costa rica in december i was hiking to a waterfall and noticed a tall flowering plant that drew my attention. having a great interest in plants, i started to look at the plant and was able to conclude it was from the mint family, but i wasn't exactly sure what it was. i asked a costa rican woman i was with what it was. my spanish is not great, but i was able to make out that costa ricans use the seeds in beverages. She called the plant "chan." later i asked an american herbalist living in costa rica what the plant was and she told me the natives call it chan and that the seeds are mixed with water and sugar to make a beverage.

the very next day i saw the beverage at a restaurant and ordered it. it was delicious. the tiny seeds were mucilaginous and so fun to slide around in my mouth. i was sure that the beverage was probably good for digestion given the mucousy texture, but what i hadn't yet connected was that the seed and plant i was enjoying was chia! and what i have since learned is that the beverage is enjoyed in many parts of central america and widely popular in mexico where it is called chia fresca. and yes, it's the same seed found in chia pets!

i've been familiar with chia as a flax substitiute and source of omega 3 fatty acids for many years, but drinking chan in costa rica has renewed my interest in this tiny little seed. what makes chia interesting to me is that it is much more stable than flax seed and therefore enjoys a longer shelf life. what many people don't know is that flax seed only has a shelf life of about 3 months -- possibly a little longer if it is refrigerated or frozen. and that's if the flax was purchased as fresh as possible. when flax is ground and stored, the shelf life and stability decreases even more. chia seeds seem to have even more health benefits than flax and some say they have a shelf life of up to 5 years, although i would recommend consuming chia within a year. in addition to being a highly concentrated source of omega 3's, chia seeds contain 19 amino acids including all the essential amino acids minus taurine. unlike flax, chia seeds do not need to be ground up and can be eaten and digested whole. chia seeds are said to have 2 times the protein of any other seed or grain, 5 times the calcium of milk, 2 times the amount of potassium as bananas, 3 times the reported antioxidant strength of blueberries and 3 times more iron than spinach, in addition to the fantastic amounts of omega 3. and let's not forget the potential source of fiber these seeds offer!

many people recommend hydrating chia seeds and eating them as a gel. you can spoon this gel onto oatmeal, into smoothies, eat the gel as is in unlimited quantities, make a pudding out of it and the list goes on. the recommended water to seed ratio is 2 oz (about 1/3 cup) of seed to 2 cups of water. mix, stir and let sit for a few hours and then begin to consume. it will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and the gel can be made with whole or ground seeds. and because chia are water loving and absorb water well, the gel is very hydrating to the body. the seeds can also be consumed whole or ground on salads, in juices, on yogurt etc. etc. chia are particularly great in smoothies because they thicken smoothies in the same way that protein powders would without all the unpronounceable ingredients that are in protein powder.

this little blog only scratches the surface of the potential that chia seeds have as an addition to the diet. i encourage you to read and research for yourself. meanwhile, here's a "pudding" recipe i found on a forum that you might enjoy as your first chia adventure:

3 cups water
1 to 2 inches of ginger
blend and add 5-8 brazil nuts or a handful of cashews or almonds
blend again
add 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-2 tblsp agave
1/4 cup ground coconut
1/4 cup chia
blend and let sit a minute and blend again -- do this a few times
let sit a few hours and then eat

special thanks to margaret conover for the great photo! check out her website:


Saturday, February 20, 2010

put oil on your face!

i was recently contacted on etsy by someone asking me about using featherheart trading co body products as an acne fighter. here's what i had to say....

i don't necessarily have a full line with cleansers and toners, but what i do offer is my lavender face and body oil. i have struggled with adult acne for years and years. it's depressing and awful i know! i started making handmade body products about 6 years ago and one day i decided to try the lavender oil on my face. i was nervous about aggravating my skin and making things worse, but i knew two things for certain:

1. often times the skin is oily because it is actually dry. dry skin on the face attempts to bring balance to itself by creating oil. usually when this happens the skin produces too much oil, thus making the face appear oily rather than dry and creating an environment for bacteria to grow.

2. lavender is a natural antiseptic, killing bacteria.

with this in mind, i started by using just a little bit of the lavender oil on my face at night. after a few days it seemed like i was seeing an improvement. i started using a little more of the oil and then i started using it in the morning and at night. now it is my primary moisturizer. not only has the oil cleared my acne, but i believe it keeps me looking young too!

others who have tried the oil have had similar results. you may have an initial break out as your skin adjusts, but try the oil for 3 or 4 weeks and see what happens! it may not be for you, but if you decide it's not, you've only made an $8 mistake versus the $20 to $100 dollars you might spend on other face and acne creams!

the lavender oil contains two ingredients -- olive oil and fresh dried organic lavender flowers. the formula is as simple as that! so not only are you getting the benefit of beautiful skin, but everything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body and your body loves olive oil and lavender, unlike all the crazy ingredients in commercial face creams. your eyes can't even read the ingredients in commercial face creams and your tongue can't pronounce them. imagine what your body thinks about them! yuck.

be natural. be environmental. be the change!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

valentine's day heart health

it's valentines day which makes me think of hearts which makes me think of heart health which makes me think of lowering cholesterol which makes me think of oatstraw which makes me think of harold and maude tea which makes me think of featherheart trading co!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

happy valentine's day to all.


Monday, February 8, 2010

what's on the turntable

every song is brilliant and beautiful including the bert jansch cover!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

herbs as medicine

i became interested in herbs after studying nutrition at a holistic nutrition school in berkeley california called bauman college. i completed the two year nutrition consultant program and though i liked the program very much, i was quite overwhelmed by the lists upon lists of supplement suggestions i saw as i later looked through my notes. it seemed like every ailment, disease, syndrome and disorder had a laundry list of vitamins, minerals and formulas in pill form that could be taken to relieve, reverse or heal it. not a bad thing i suppose, but i began to think "isn't this just one pill being replaced with another?" in other words, what is the difference between taking a pharmaceutical a doctor prescribes and taking a "vitamin" in pill form that was made in a laboratory? are vitamins and minerals in pill form really "healthy?" i mean aren't they created in a lab and dissected, broken down, manipulated and isolated in ways that are not natural? the questions i then began to ask myself were:

isn't there a better way?
and aren't we supposed to get our vitamins and minerals from food?

given those questions, it seemed to me that the best way to heal oneself is the way nature intended -- through the food and the plants that grow around you. it's really just about taking a cue from your ancestors -- looking at what they ate and how they healed themselves. plants have been used for centuries and before there was television and noise and distraction and consumerism and attention deficit disorder there was woman, man and nature. plants used to talk to people because people spent time in nature, listening, hearing and receiving information from mother earth. this ancient wisdom is unchanging. it is explicit and it is there for you whenever you want to see it and hear it.

and thus began my journey as an herbalist. i am in no way saying there isn't a time and place for allopathic medicine and that a supplemental vitamin or mineral isn't necessary because sometimes they are. for example, i live in michigan. i don't get a lot of sun. i take vitamin d in pill form. i have hypothyroid. my thyroid does not function on it's own. i have tried to heal it with herbs and supplements. unfortunately i was not successful and i have determined that my body is better off taking a prescription pill. but what i have found is that true health and wellness is found in nature. eating non processed food and herbs are your best medicine. on a genetic level plants contain information that transfers to our genes and heals our body. plants are complicated beyond our human comprehension, therefore i do not recommend taking herbs in pill form. herbs in pill form have been isolated and some of the plant's constituents have even been eliminated, thus not allowing the plant to be used in its synergistic and mysterious form. plus herbs in pill form may have been sitting on shelves for years before finding their way into your hands, thus potentially rendering them much weaker than fresh, recently dried or tinctured herbs. i recommend eating real food. i recommend ingesting herbs in tea or tincture form or sprinkling fresh or fresh dried herbs on your food and cooking with them. of course it's important to consult a professional to learn which herbs are appropriate to ingest and the best way to ingest them. but, i think it's important to hear this -- to go back to nature and to try new ways to bring health to yourself. i spend time sitting with plants. they talk to me. they tell me how to use them and they want me to use them. plants are out there raising their hands and saying "pick me! "pick me!" all you have to do is turn off the tv and listen.

this particular blog was inspired by some words i recently read from herbalist donnie yance. i once saw donnie at a bauman college weekend conference. he is a very dedicated herbalist who had used his intense knowledge of plants to work with and truly treat those with cancer. he has spent countless hours scientifically dissecting plants and understands that no one part of a plant can be removed or isolated without affecting the whole of the plant. some of his words are below. i hope they inspire some thought in you...

“There are different ways to think of the role of herbs in people’s health. From my perspective, working from that vitalistic tradition, herbs are what are called trophorestorative, so they actually do work on the deepest level.

What’s very interesting now, with the explosion of science and to the field of herbal medicine, is that we’re learning that plants transfer information genetically to our genes that do nothing but add benefit to our health in a genetic level.”

"Pharmaceutical medicine sees your body as broken and needs to do one of two things: replace something, but most of the time, it’s blocking something …

Now, plants aren’t going to block or eliminate or replace anything unless you abuse them, unless you either manipulate them, by taking everything away from them but maybe one compound, and then using it inappropriately, like the wrong dosage.

So you can manipulate a plant to be used pharmacologically. But if you look at it from my perspective, which is providing plant medicines like you do food, like what I say is a gourmet meal -- I put plants together like you would put a great gourmet healthy meal together for someone -- and that’s more a traditional way.

I’m just looking to find ways to lend a helping hand to the body so that the body is as much responsible for the healing as the plants, so there is a cooperative effort. I’m not looking at the body as some broken mechanistic machine; everything relates to everything.”