Interview with Fire Cider Workshop Leader, Alyssa Regan

Alyssa Regan of Dare to Eat Bravely is teaching our October Fire Cider Workshop at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA. We're sharing a few Q&As with her so you can get to know this incredibly knowledgeable Integrative Nutritionist and herbal enthusiast!

 by Alyssa Regan

by Alyssa Regan

Q: What do you like most about traditional remedies? 

A: My favorite thing about traditional remedies are the stories. I love hearing how the remedies came to be. What cultures used which plants and how. There was such a connected respect toward nature and this beautiful reciprocity amongst plants, animals, and humans. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. They used what they could find and it was often very little. I respect that traditional remedies are meant to be simple, easy to make and use. When you begin to prepare these types of remedies you inadvertently begin to develop a relationship with the plants and the earth. Gratitude is something that naturally develops when you open yourself up to these types of healing. There is so much peace and solace in keeping these remedies alive.

Q: What's your favorite thing about Fire Formula (aka Fire Cider)? 

A: Truthfully, besides the taste, just how simple it is to make. It is most certainly one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” remedies. Like a lot of folk medicine, there is no “right” way to make it. You can add or subtract what plants you want to make it your own. I find such beauty in this and love this about most plant medicine.

Q: What drew you to learning integrative nutrition?

A: Oooh, this is a long story but I’ll summarize ha! I developed anaphylactic food allergies as an adult. My intuition told me something was not “normal” about this. Our bodies innately should not have reactions like this and they especially shouldn’t develop as we grow. It was a sign to me that my body was not in optimal health. I have also had horrible menstrual health my entire life (recently diagnosed with endometriosis after years of infertility). I was persistently told by many doctors that this was all normal. My dying words will be just because something is common does not mean it is normal.

About 8 years ago after developing the food allergies, I was still eating a very processed Standard American Diet. After the diagnosis, I had to change every aspect of my diet as my allergens were lurking everywhere. I had to learn to love to cook. Through my journey, I became increasingly aware of how much our “food” really isn’t food. Convenience foods are anything but nourishing. I began to dive deeply into the world of organic practices, GMOs, chemicals, pesticides, herbal medicine, sustainable agriculture, foraging, etc. But be careful what you wish for because you cannot unlearn this information. It is absolutely horrifying and devastating what has been done to our food system and farms. I decided to go back to grad school to study nutrition and integrative health.

As I began to go down this journey though I began to heal. My body responded in ways I never dreamed of. It was extremely grateful to be nourished and shown love. As I begin to experiment and have this healing journey take place, I quickly became infatuated with the body and especially women’s health. I started to dive deep into the intricate endocrine system and wanted to share what I have learned to other women. I hope that no woman has to go through a journey like I have alone. I guess that is why I switched careers. I found something I was so profoundly affected by and I wanted to help others on their path to wellness. My passion is a very personal one.

Q: What are your favorite foods that promote wellness?

A: I think I would have to go with one of my favorite foods, beets. In my opinion, this is probably one of the most amazing foods out there. It is a beautiful food for blood building and blood cleansing as well as aid in healthy liver function and bile flow. The beet tops are also a potent bitter for digestion. I mean it is just so beautiful! Can I add water into this category? It is the most basic necessity and I often feel it goes overlooked. We typically should be drinking half our body weight in ounces (up to 100 ounces). Granted this varies with exercise and different life events but that is a good general rule. Our bodies are mostly water. When hydrated, our bodies function optimally and it makes everything else so much easier. Another area sometimes overlooked is healthy Fats (olive oil, sardines, avocado, ghee, chia seeds, fatty fish, olives, coconut oil, coconut butter, seeds, nuts, etc.). Fats are extremely critical for hormone production. Our brains are nearly 60% fat. We need fat to think and function on all levels. I am extremely grateful we are slowly moving out of the fat free fad of the past. Another category of foods I love are cruciferous vegetables. These beauties are great at helping us have healthy bowel habits and also aid in hormone balance. They are high in fiber and contain compounds to help the liver break down and excrete hormones. Have you caught on yet, I really love women’s health. Cruciferous veggies are ones like broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbages, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts are all examples of this food family. Another group I really love are spices. Spices bring so much flavor to a dish. They can also easily add warming and cooling properties. Since spices are super concentrated dried, plants it is an easy way to get some extra benefits in your meal. Basically eating any real, whole food will promote wellness.

Q: As the cold season approaches, what do you do to boost your immune system?

A: I believe taking care of ourselves year-round and nourishing our bodies is the first place to start. I’ll share some of my favorite herbs and remedies but there is absolutely nothing that will beat good nourishment, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, light movement, and emotional health. When these basic practices are out of balance, herbs and other supplements will not be as beneficial as your body is already in a compromised state.

With that said, I usually start taking Astragalus in August. It is a beautiful adaptogen to start utilizing before cold season approaches. I take this herb until I potentially fall sick. I am a lover of medicinal mushrooms. I rotate through mushrooms on a daily basis, always taking reishi. During this season I take a product by Host Defense Mushrooms called MyCommunity. It is a gorgeous blend of many medicinal mushrooms to help with immune support. I believe mushrooms in particular really help strengthen our immune systems at a much deeper level.

I also take a big spoonful of fire cider daily (or several) as well as Elderberry syrup. I drink a lot of hot water with lemon and ginger and include raw local honey. I also make sure I use my NetiPot and Nasya Oil daily. Furthermore, hand washing is probably the most underrated preventative there ever was.

I try to stay away from processed carbohydrates and foods as well as sugar as they ultimately weaken the immune system. If I do begin to get sick, I really up what I take. I will take vitamin C, Echinacea, Zinc, Manuka Honey, and usually several more herbs, symptom dependent.

Q: In your view, how is our food connected to our health?

A: I will try not get on my soapbox here, haha. Food and our food systems are foundational to our health. I believe the current state of our food system is in crisis. We are beyond disconnected from our food system in this country. We do not know where our food comes from or who our local farmers are. If you have a local farmer, hug them, thank them for the hard work, grit, gifts, and much needed work they provide.

As humans, we cannot create every nutrient within our bodies. We need to eat in order to gain this nourishment. Every process that happens in our system is dependent upon various nutrients. Unfortunately, with Big Ag and CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) farms, both plants and animals alike are far from the food our ancestors ate. Our food has been altered, sprayed with many chemicals, and processed. Animals raised in factory farms are full of disease, malnourishment, chemicals, and live a very terrible “life”. When we eat food such as this we are missing those critical nutrients and eating dead foods. Our soils have become depleted of minerals and therefore our food also is. To gain these nutrients, we need to support a synergist relationship amongst plants and animals. Supporting small family farms and your local food systems support this type of relationship with our food.

Taking small steps to get back in our kitchens, cook meals as a family from scratch, and learn about food processes can make a huge difference. I also understand this is easier said than done in the fast-paced world we live in. I think bringing awareness to others is a passion of mine and I like encouraging others to do what they can, when they can. I am a firm believer that without making time for cooking food, our health will never be optimal.

You can find Alyssa online at Daretoeatbravely.com and @daretoeatbravely on Instagram.


 by Alyssa Regan

by Alyssa Regan

JOIN US!
FIRE CIDER WORKSHOP
with Alyssa
Saturday 10.6.18
1 - 2:30 PM
@ Temenos Retreat Center
*Registration closes THIS Sunday (9.30.18) end of day!*


PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD BY SHARING THIS EVENT ON FACEBOOK!

Interview with Natural Perfumer, Priya Narasimhan

Priya Narasimhan of Priya Means Love is teaching our June class, Botanical Perfume 101 at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA. We're sharing a few Q&As with her so you can get to know this amazingly talented natural perfumer!

 by Priya Narasimhan

by Priya Narasimhan

Q: What made you interested in natural perfume?

A: I think I've been focused on the senses since I was a child, and when I was a teenager that led me to a really strong interest in food and drink, especially in spices, herbs, and other aromatic elements.  (Growing up in an Indian household, with a whole different language of flavors at home than at school, must have had an effect too!)  

So when I started making bodycare in 2009, I was always really interested in telling an aromatic story with each product.  I loved building off the natural scent of the oils and beeswax and clays and tinctures that formed the basis of my products, adding essential oils — ones that smelled right but also made sense functionally — to build a compelling olfactory story.  But with bodycare and skincare — face cream, shampoo, deodorant — my first priority is always the healing effect of the botanicals on the body, and the scent palette is drawn from ingredients that make sense functionally.  

After a couple of years immersed in making functional products, I became interested in the idea of abstracting out only the dimension of scent — no functionality, no texture to hide behind, no other purpose than the olfactory journey itself — using the ingredients that I'd become so familiar with.  That's what perfume and cologne is to me.  A scent that smells great on a person, yes, but the scent has to be compelling, evocative, meaningful, and take the person on a journey until the scent winks away into nothingness.  That's the goal at least!

I also really liked that perfume is recognized as an art.  I treat making bodycare with the same reverence as I do making perfume — though my intentions vary depending on the format — but I like that perfume fits into a history of artistic practice going back millennia, and that the context around perfume invites the user to pay close attention to scent, to travel on a journey with the perfumer, to make room for the emotions and associations and memories conjured by scent.  I think perfume is the context in which the sense of smell is taken most seriously — you can really move people with perfume, and I like that.


Q: What’s the best part about getting to create your own personal, unique scents?

A: You get to create what you like, to lean into what moves you, what makes you swoon!  I love that I can create scents that feel like magic to me.  For me personally, this means scents that evoke northern forests, bonfires, smoky cocktails, old books, rainstorms, orange groves, meadows… I often find that most of the natural perfumes out there — with notable exceptions, of course! — are just not to my taste, often too sweet, fruity, or floral.  I crave green, the ocean, salty earth, smoke, forests, the interesting and compelling instead of just the pretty.  It's like how learning to cook means being able to eat the food you crave — it's true for perfume too!  

And the process is so cool too.  The materials are so beautiful individually, and the way aromatics come together and pull out aspects of each other's personalities is so lovely to witness and work with.  And there's the way botanicals can combine and lock into something new and unique, to the point that it's hard even for the perfumer to remember what went into the blend!  And how developing a new vocabulary of scent — one based around the building blocks of natural perfume — makes you come alive to the smell of the world around you.  Perfumery is a joyful and endlessly interesting practice.


Q: What is the most interesting thing you learned about scents?

A: Last year NPR had a piece on an article in Science about how humans are much, much better at smelling than we think!  That our olfactory hardware — our smell receptors and the olfactory bulb in our brains — is pretty damn good, not so different from that of dogs!  We've got the capacity, and we all know how scent can spark a decades-old memory, transporting us back in time, stirring deep emotions.  Yet our society mostly focuses on smell in the form of taste, through the world of food and drink.  Food is wonderful!  But we smell our partners, our pets, our homes, our hospitals and schools, our cities and our forests — we know the world partly through our noses.  And as a culture, we don't focus on cultivating our innate capability to smell, refining our experience of this sense through thoughtful language, using our intelligence to discern and analyze our experiences of scent — smell remains something of a mystery, even as its power over emotion and memory is clear.  We sleepwalk through the world of scent!  My mind boggles at what our culture could be like if we combined our human creativity and intellect with a full embrace of the fact that we are smelling creatures, just like the other animals in our world.

You can find Priya online at Priyameanslove.com and @priyameanslovebodycare on Instagram.


A note from Priya —

"I'm so excited to lead a class that expresses a passion of mine: sensory education, the kind that is only possible in person as a shared experience. There is so much knowledge that can only be obtained in the moment, through careful attention to the senses, and in this class you'll use your nose (with guidance!) to learn so much about perfume, its building blocks, and construction, its mysteries and enchantments. This is the kind of class I'd wished I'd been able to take when my interest in perfume was first starting to bud years ago -- but I intend for it to be a rich experience for perfumistas and experienced herbalists alike, as well as folks who just love good smells."

                                                                -Priya

 by Priya Narasimhan 

by Priya Narasimhan 

JOIN US FOR
BOTANICAL PERFUME 101
with Priya
Tuesday 6.19.18
7 - 9 PM
@ Temenos Retreat Center
 

 
 by Priya Narasimhan 

by Priya Narasimhan 

PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD BY SHARING THIS EVENT ON FACEBOOK!

The Story of Chaga: A tale of a rooster, love, loss, and life

by my partner in life & business, Adam Lush

The Story of Chaga pic 1.jpg

For years we wanted chickens. Six years ago Lauren and I moved into a beautiful rental property with a large yard. It seemed like the perfect place to begin our tiny farm. Unfortunately, the property owner bluntly denied our request of getting chickens. His words, if I remember clearly, were "You don't want chickens, they tear up the ground and they stink." Clearly not a fan of the flock. We were disappointed, to say the least. 

A few months later Lauren and I decided to create a vision board for our future life. We cut out pictures of our hopes and dreams, of our goals and aspirations and of course, chickens. When it came time to pin the cut pictures to a cork board to hang, the picture of chickens was first on the wall. 

Reflecting back, it's amazing to see how multiple small decisions combine and unfold to shape our lives. In that moment years ago, the desire for chickens planted a seed that would slowly grow into our current reality.

First, Lauren began to research chickens. She became well versed in all of the different breeds available. I remember her showing me pictures of all the different types of chickens and imagining which we would eventually get.

A few years later we decided that it was time to look for our own home. We looked at well over 30 different houses and each time our question to our realtor would be, "does this neighborhood allow chickens?"  

On a side note, there was not always a clear answer. Often after viewing a property, we would go online clicking through difficult to navigate township pages to find lengthy zoning ordinances that we would sift through to find the rules on backyard chickens. It was surprising how many places disallow the practice of keeping such docile animals. 

Finally, after nearly a year of searching, we found a beautiful home in Unionville, PA. A nineteenth-century home in a historic town nestled in the farms of Southern Chester County with a very open chicken policy. It was perfect. On August first the paperwork was complete and Lauren and I moved into our new home. 

Home is a concept that humans have been reflecting on for ages. In its best manifestations, it's something that takes a structure of wood and stone and fills it with loving warmth. It provides the opportunity to focus on what you love, and grow a beautiful life. 

Now that we had a home to call our own, it was time to build our flock. Lauren found a specialty chicken breeder in Ohio. Going through the list she put in the order for seven chickens. One Barnevelder, One Cream Legbar, One Jubilee Orpington, One Blue Laced Red Wyandotte and three white Silkies. During the hatching process, the breeder fell short of our order and gave us a Lavender Orpington in place of the Jubilee. Osha, our Lavender Orpington, is one of our favorite chickens today. 

It's amazing how a slight shift of fate can turn out that way. One of my favorite sayings from Byron Katie, a modern-day sage, is "Life didn't turn out the way I expected it, it was perfect instead." This saying has given me joy in good times and has helped me to heal through sorrow. Looking back over my life I can see how some of the most difficult things I faced were what helped me to grow the most.

One of the most surprising things about ordering chickens is that they are shipped, alive and chirping, in a small box with hay on the ground and holes on the sides. We eagerly tracked the package of chickens and awaited its arrival. They were supposed to arrive at our house, but a mishap in shipping landed them in the nearby post office. This was a very close call. If the box of chickens was marked return to sender, it would be very unlikely that they would survive the trip back to Ohio. 

Fortunately, we caught this error at the last minute and picked up our box of chickens from the post office. Fortune had smiled in our favor and the chickens were on their way to their new home. 

Early on the chickens lived on a bed of wood pellets, in a small plastic storage container with the lid removed and placed under a hanging heat lamp. If you have never held a chick, it feels like a wad of cotton balls with tiny legs. They are extremely fragile and cute. 

It didn't take long for them to start developing personalities. As they grew we begin to name them. We wanted to name them after herbs and mushrooms and fit the names to their dispositions. One particularly rambunctious chicken we called Chaga, then Osha, Amla, Sorrel, Myrtle, Buchu, and Palo Santo.

As the months passed, the chickens grew and we moved them to their new temporary home. A pen built on the dirt floor basement of our old house was the perfect place to keep them warm and safe while I set out to begin construction on their outdoor coop. 

We spent a lot of time with them in the basement throughout the winter, handling them, feeding them, and observing their endearing behaviors. Chaga, for instance, refused to be ignored. Whenever we picked up any of the other chicks he would jump onto our arms demanding attention. He was on his way to becoming one of our favorites. 

One day we went down into the basement to check on them and someone was missing. We panicked, where was Osha, our Lavender Orpington!? There were no signs of a struggle, all the possible exits were closed, she was nowhere to be found. We were ready to give up, but with a last ditch effort, I decided to look under the wood platform that held our washer and dryer off of the dirt floor. It was unbelievable, Osha had managed to squeeze herself through a small opening and work her way underneath the platform until she couldn't go any further and couldn't back out due to the direction of her feathers. I carefully removed the washer and dryer and slowly lifted the platform from the pillars embedded in the dirt. Osha was saved.

It is easy to take for granted the things that we love. We grow accustomed to having them around and our minds can spend time on the other distractions of life. It is often a potential or actual loss that makes us truly realize what's important to us. As Joni Mitchell sang "don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone." In that moment we realized how much we loved our pet chickens. 

As the weather began to warm I began construction on an outdoor coop. Having the tendency to underestimate the labor involved in such endeavors, quite some time passed before the final nail was in place. The chickens had grown larger and the small pen in the basement was quickly becoming inadequate. 

I wanted to make the coop as safe as possible and large enough that they had space to roam inside. It had a spacious indoor section that was fully enclosed with a heat lamp and a branch for them to perch. The roof extended over the outdoor space which was fortified with heavy gauge chicken wire. 

We placed the chickens in their coop and as it is with most living things exposed to new circumstances they were very apprehensive about the new environment. Slowly they began to explore and after a few days, they were settled in. 

The Story of Chaga pic 2.JPG

The chickens had also grown to a point where we noticed three of them were getting much bigger than the others. When we ordered chickens we requested all hens but it is difficult to determine a chicken’s sex at birth, especially with the smaller breeds. It turns out that two of our Silkies and our Blue Laced Red Wyandotte named Chaga were all roosters. 

We began to worry. Roosters are loud and in our small village, our neighbors would not be happy with a crowing alarm clock that would begin to go off at 4 am. We decided that it would be best to find them a new home. 

We posted pictures online and within a few days, we were able to find the two Silkies, Palo Santo and Buchu, happy homes. One went to a young family that had lost one of their roosters recently and the other went to the owner of a small wood shop in Unionville whose wife kept a flock of chickens at home. 

Now it was time to decide what to do with Chaga. From his first days as a small chick, we had fallen in love. As he got bigger, he filled in with beautiful auburn and black feathers. He was a majestic bird. There was no way we were going to give him away. He was part of our family. But what were we to do about the crowing?

We researched online and came across a unique invention called a No Crow Rooster Collar. This simple solution was a combination of velcro and mesh that could be placed on the rooster like a necklace. Chickens are similar to frogs, they fill a sack of air in their throats that they use to create bellowing crows. The collar limited the amount of air that could fill in the chicken's throat when it attempted to crow and significantly reduced the volume of his crows. 

We had found a solution that would save Chaga from getting shipped off. He quickly adjusted to the collar and would take his stance to crow, as regal as ever, and out would come a faint "ca-ca-caw." It worked perfectly.

Chaga, Osha, Amla, Sorrel, and Myrtle were a happy flock. Chaga made sure of it. He trained the hens to come to his call by making a "bak-bak" noise every time he found a tasty treat to share. Every time we would give the chickens treats, Chaga would immediately take credit for making them appear. 

The other chickens listened to Chaga. When they were grown enough, we began to let them out in the yard to forage. We would keep a close eye out for hawks, but Chaga was always the first to see them. He would let out a "gwaaak" that would send all the girls running for the cover of the bushes. He was their protector. 

While Chaga certainly had the demeanor of a powerful rooster, he also seemed to have the most health issues. The first major medical emergency came when we noticed that half of the top of his beak had broken off and he was walking around like nothing had happened. He must have got it caught in the chicken wire surrounding the coop and powerfully jerked his head breaking his beak. Lauren and I panicked.  We quickly searched for what to do for a broken beak and fortunately found a simple solution. We wrapped him in a towel to hold him still and with a few carefully placed dots of super glue I was able to reattach his beak and hold it until the glue set. I now include chicken plastic surgery in the skill section of my resume. 

A few months after the beak incident he contracted a respiratory infection. We went back to searching for medical advice online and the results were horrifying. We found many forums of people describing similar symptoms and an inability to save their chicken. We were very scared until we found a recommendation for an antibiotic. We gave him the medicine and a week later he was fully healthy. Disaster averted. He was back to his usual self. 

Chaga's favorite treat was dried mealworms. He would sprint across the yard to us at the sight of the bag and would even happily jump to peck them out of our hands extended above his head. He chased rabbits out of the yard and even had a showdown with our new puppy to make sure the dog knew who was boss. He was the first out of the coop in the morning and would greet anyone who walked by. We gave him the affectionate nickname of Chugs, fitting for his barreling stomps and the loud "thud" sound he would make when jumping off of his roost.

Winter was always a tough time for the chickens. We kept them warm with a heat lamp in their coop, but the short days, snow, and cold weather made it hard to find time to let them roam in the yard. Chaga would see me looking out of the kitchen window and pace back and forth at the door of the coop, his way of requesting to be let out. 

During a recent snowfall, we needed to salt the path leading to the house. We were worried that the chickens may eat the salt and get sick so we didn't let them out for several days. Eventually, it rained and there was barely any salt left, so we decided it was safe to let them out as long as we closely monitored them. A few strategically placed meal worms seemed to do the trick. We did notice Chaga pecking at a patch of snow at one point but thought nothing of it. 

I want to take a moment to reflect here. Life is fragile. I have experienced many losses, pets, friends, and family members. If I had the option of taking the sadness away from those losses, I would not. Grief is a deep well, but if I allow my feelings to sink deeply enough, I find that at the bottom grief is connected to the source of life. Joy and sadness are just two of the many colors that paint the beauty of life. 

That afternoon we put the chickens away and later I went out to the coop to check on them one last time before bed. I saw the hens on the perch and then saw Chaga, lying on the other side of the coop. My heart sank, he was lying on his side, not moving. I quickly opened the other coop door and picked him up. His body was stiff. It didn't seem real. This beautiful rooster, so full of life just hours ago was now lying lifeless in my arms. 

Still in shock, I walked back to the house opening the door to the kitchen. Telling someone you love something that you know will devastate them is a terrible experience, and I knew there was no way to soften the awful news. I held Lauren in my arms and I told her Chaga was dead. She joined me in shock and panic. We walked out to the coop together so that we could say goodbye to our beloved rooster.

For quite some time we stood looking at him, we pet his feathers. We both waited for the moment we would wake up and realize this had all just been a bad dream. The moment did not come. Instead, we were now faced with our minds trying to make sense of what happened while overwhelmed with emotion.

When I think of grief I picture an ocean. At first, the shock of a loss pulls out all the water, there is an eerie calm, then the tsunami hits. Tears, sadness, anger, and fear all wash over me. Then as time passes, slowly the waves begin to settle. They spread out, moments of calm followed by waves of sadness. 

We couldn't sleep that night and laid in bed tossing and turning on the sea of our emotions. We solemnly faced the next day. My heart was broken. I felt the sadness of all the losses in my life. All grief is connected. While it was painful, I knew it was vitally important to let myself feel everything. Grief was showing me the depths of my love. My emotions intimately connected me with reality and the situation brought forth deep sadness.  

The next day the world looked different. As I went through my day, I imagined the people that I saw all had experienced, on some level, the loss of something or someone they love. I felt a deep connection with all of humanity. This fleeting life that we all share is full of beauty and sorrow. 

I came home from work that day and we ceremoniously buried Chaga. We wrapped his body in a red cloth, said prayers into tobacco and sprinkled it over his body. I placed him in his grave and laid sage leaves and a bone whistle from one of my sun moon dances on his body. We said some more prayers and slowly covered him with the loose earth. We slept more peacefully that night.

As the days pass and the waves of grief begin to settle, I am slowly adjusting to this new reality. I am taking more time to be present with everything that I love and am aware of how fragile life can be.  I know that these feelings will fade and I wanted to write this story to remind myself to treasure life. We are temporary, along with everything we love. When I think of Chaga, I want to remember to cultivate a deep gratitude for every moment. It is my hope that this story may encourage you to be present with all that you love.

Today I sit outside watching the four hens, Osha, Amla, Myrtle, and Sorrel, pecking about the coop. The wheel of life continues to turn. Looking back through old pictures of Chaga brings a smile to my face. The sadness is still there but it is softening. I sit down and write this story as a thank you to Chaga for being a beautiful part of my life. 

 Painting of young Chaga and Buchu by Chicago Artist, Cindy Phelan @cphelandesign

Painting of young Chaga and Buchu by Chicago Artist, Cindy Phelan @cphelandesign

Foraging for Meaning

by Adam Lush (the other half of Arete Herbs)


Our brains are wired to seek.

When we actively pursue a goal or set out to explore, our brains are wired to release dopamine to reward our behavior. On a deep emotional level, we are built to seek. 

The neurochemical system makes us feel good when we are seeking. This emotional drive gives us a feeling of excitement when we set out into unexplored territory.
 

"Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~Henry David Thoreau~


The seeking system is key to our survival, whether we are seeking food, intimate relationships, or even knowledge.

It drives us out into the unknown, the unfamiliar, and unexplored. It encourages us to overcome our fears of leaving the comfort of certainty and the familiar. It allows us to discover all of the things that we ultimately come to revere.  
 

"Our current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers."
~Anonymous~

 

We are foragers at the core. We are built for discovery and seeking expands our world. 

In recent years, Lauren and I have begun learning the art of foraging for wild plants.

Are we seeking plants? Information? Or an entirely new perspective?

As my knowledge grows, the world changes. 

The forest has taken on new life.

Now, an unassuming pile of leaves could be a treasure chest, housing an elusive Morel mushroom (this mushroom is quite the delicacy).

I now step more carefully on untrodden paths and find my gaze fixated on the forest floor. 

Across the path, there is a sea of green covering the ground. First appearing as just another green plant quietly blending in with the rest of the forest, the newly sprouted ramps (a delicious wild leek) begin to stand out from the undergrowth. 

Trees take on different individual personalities. I see the variation in bark and the beautiful diversity that must have taken so many years to develop. 

I can picture their roots, intertwined under the soil, nourishing and being nourished by the mushrooms growing among them. 

Everything is connected. A mosaic of natural beauty, infinitely complex, calls me to explore.

I dive into books, once a dusty stack of pages, now a fountain of collected knowledge from thousands of years of human experience. 

As I study, my sight becomes more refined. 

Rather than being satisfied, my drive to seek grows more intense. I'm invigorated and I find myself wanting more. 

Who knew such a simple concept as learning about and finding wild plants could hold such incredibly profound experiences?

My drive to seek connects me with nature, the unknown, and the world of infinite possibilities that I have only scratched the surface of.

The seeking makes me feel alive. Maybe, the seeking is living expressed in one of its most fundamental forms.

Who am I but an explorer? Questing out to find meaning, understanding, and above all--myself. 

After all, what do I see when I look into the forest but my own understanding reflecting back off of the unknown. 

If my sight is dulled by certainty, I pause, stare deeply and contemplate the miracle of a single leaf. How long and perfect was the dance of life and matter that brought it to this place?
 

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour."
~William Blake~

 


Where will your seeking take you? Keep the conversation going by leaving a comment below!
 



Foraging + Wild Foods Book Recommendations:

If you’re eager to deepen your knowledge on foraging and wild foods, here’s a great place to start:

  1. The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer is the best foraging book that I have come across. I love this guide because it focuses on 32 different wild, edible foods with a detailed chapter on each one. The author tells personal stories of each plant which help you to retain and relate to the information. This is unlike most guides which include hundreds of plants with small /limited images and only a paragraph write-up that doesn’t give the plants’ full story. 
     
  2. Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi might be the one for you if you love beautiful plant illustrations and one-page easy to read write ups with recipes.
     
  3. The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir by Pascal Baudar is the third book that I recommend. This cookbook takes wild foraging to a gourmet level of creativity. Includes detailed recipes for ferments, infusions, wild beers and sodas, vinegar, and so much more!

We're Hiring!

With the farmer's market season kicking off, we're looking to hire a commission-based position to vend at the local markets in the area. Currently, we vend at the East Goshen Farmer’s Market every Thursday and the Kennett Square Farmer’s Market every Friday. You’d have to be in drivable distance from our studio space located in the heart of Unionville Village. There is also the opportunity to vend at special events. We vend at the Philly Farm & Food Fest, all Terrain’s festivals, URBN markets, Clover Markets, & many more! We’re looking to mainly fill the vending position, but there is also potential to help with production in the apothecary studio. We're searching for a fellow herbal enthusiast who gets us.

We are looking for someone who:

  • has an interest and/or a background in plants and herbal medicine
  • has great communication skills
  • is outgoing & great with people
  • enjoys a lot of interaction
  • previous sales experience is a plus, but not required
  • has a larger vehicle to transport booth materials (SUV, Crossover, etc. But we actually had a Prius that fit everything too!)
  • is reliable
  • likes to have fun!

If it sounds like you might be a good fit, please contact us at Lauren@areteherbs.com with a resume and tell us a bit about yourself! Emails only please! Please spread the word!

 Lauren vending at the Kennett Square Farmer's Market!

Lauren vending at the Kennett Square Farmer's Market!

Bitters Spritzer Recipe

I can't stop talking about our Cardamom & Fennel Digestive Bitters! Their health benefits are endless AND they are delicious! We have been sampling them in spritzer form at the local farmers’ markets as well as our latest adventure to Urban Outfitters’ Head Quarters (see pic below)!

 URBN Market

URBN Market

Our Cardamom & Fennel Digestive Bitters are a great way to rev-up your digestive system! The bitter flavor helps to prime our digestion and let’s face it—our gut health is tied to everything! This flavor is very important to make sure our digestive system stays toned and active! Unfortunately, the American diet lacks the bitter flavor which denies our gut of what it needs to be happy & healthy! Here is a list of ways bitters work their magic~
 
Benefits: 

•    Improves overall digestion
•    Relieves symptoms of over indulgence (including hangovers!)
•    Promotes glowing skin
•    Boosts digestive enzyme secretion & HCL (Hydrochloric Acid) production
•    Eases upset stomach, gas, & bloating
•    Eases heartburn, acid re-flux, & indigestion
•    Stimulates a gentle, daily, liver detox!

Phew! That is one tonic everyone could use! Now on to the fun, summer recipe that I'm sure you'll enjoy:

BITTERS SPRITZER RECIPE

Ingredients:

•    Arete’s Cardamom & Fennel Digestive Bitters
•    Tonic Water or Seltzer Water (or a combo!)
•    Ice cubes

Directions:

That’s it! 3 simple ingredients. Pour Tonic Water, Seltzer Water or a combination of the two into a glass or pitcher. Add a few droppers full of the Cardamom & Fennel Digestive Bitters to taste. If you’re feeling a little bit wild, you can add a splash of your favorite alcohol! 

Cheers!

 Cardamom & Fennel Digestive Bitters

Cardamom & Fennel Digestive Bitters

Improve your Sleep, Naturally!

At Arete, we believe that our health is deeply connected to nature and to achieve optimal wellness it is vital for us to embrace a more natural, Earth-centered approach to living fuller, healthier lives.  Plant medicine is a beautiful way to empower you on this journey.

The featured product of the month is Sleep Tea, but before explaining the benefits of this restful brew, I would like to go over some sleep hygiene tips that you can incorporate into your daily life to promote healthier sleep patterns, naturally. 
 

Proper Sleep Hygiene Tips:

  • Sleep in complete darkness. Get black-out curtains; cover any light sources in the room like digital clocks, plugs, etc. Block out any street lights. Our bodies can only produce melatonin when there is complete darkness. This is essential for deep, rejuvenating sleep. 
  • Turn off all electronics one hour before bedtime; this includes TV, iPad, Kindle, computer, etc. These are considered to be blue light and are stimulating to our brains which will trick our bodies into thinking that it is day time. Light candles instead of having the lights on prior to bed-time. This gives off a different type of light. 
  • Reduce/eliminate surrounding noise. Ear plugs and eye masks may be useful.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine especially in the afternoon to evening time. Caffeine/nicotine forces our adrenals to produce more cortisol which is stressful to our bodies.
  • Avoid too many liquids close to bedtime to reduce trips to the bathroom in the night.
  • Avoid napping longer than one hour or after four pm.
  • Incorporate rest and relaxation into your daily life, some examples include meditation, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, warm baths, yoga, nature walks, prayer, joy, mindfulness, etc. Reducing stress and cortisol levels will greatly benefit sleep patterns.  If cortisol is always at a steady high, then there will be insomnia issues. 

General Lifestyle Tips:

  • Around eight hours of sleep is required for humans.  A lack of sleep can drive a person insane and reduce your overall health because many other issues will splinter off from this one area.  
  • Eat at regular meal times
  • Exercise will help you sleep better at night. Work out early in the day if you can. Exercises that reduce cortisol/stress levels are gentle yoga and tai chi-- Not power yoga!
  • Try to wake up when the sun does.
  • Create routine in your day. Wake up around the same time and go to bed around the same time every night. 
  • Go to bed around 10 pm. 10pm – 2 am is a deeper, more rejuvenating, non-REM sleep; 2 am – 7 am is strictly a REM and dreaming state of sleep. If you go to bed at midnight or later, you will miss out on the deeper, restful sleep. This is tied to the environment and our circadian rhythms.

I hope that these helpful hints provide you with some tools for healthier sleep habits. In addition to the above lifestyle recommendations, a sleep enhancing herbal tea can be extremely beneficial to those who need a little extra help to wind down at night.  We have just the thing for you! Check out the featured product below.

from 15.00

Caffeine Free Herbal Tea (Loose Leaf)

This minty blend of tranquilizing herbs will promote a healthy sleep cycle by calming tension, helping the mind unwind, and increasing deep relaxation. These herbs have been used to relieve insomnia, restlessness, irritability, tenseness, and nervousness. The overall result is an improved depth and quality of sleep, with fewer wakings and refreshed mornings.*

Suggested Use: 1 tsp of herb to each cup of water (8 oz.). Place herbs in a heat proof vessel and pour boiling water over herbs. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes or more for maximum benefit. Strain & enjoy! Drink 1-3 cups before bedtime. For a stronger effect, use 2 tsp of herb to each cup of water.

Ingredients: Org. Chamomile, Org. Linden, Org. Spearmint, Org. Passion Flower, Org. Skullcap, Org. California Poppy, Org. Valerian, Org. Hops

Options:
Bag ($15, tea weight: 2 oz, 50 servings)
Tin ($20, tea weight: 3.1 oz, 77 servings)