Some tips to stay healthy this winter:
Your immunity is your vitality. What can you do to experience joy, connect with others, make your heart sing? What gives you energy and fills you with inspiration? Seek out those things!
Good sleep is essential, not just for rest and rejuvenation. There are many important immune functions that are optimized during sleeping hours, making sleep essential for a healthy immune response. For adults, this means at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, or more for certain individuals.
We are what we eat, and this is especially true when it comes to immune function. To best support vitality and immunity here are some suggestions: eat with the seasons - in winter that means warm food and beverages, i.e. soups and teas. Avoid overeating and leave space between meals - overburdening your digestive system can create mucous and weaken vitality. Eat healthy - more whole foods, less refined sugar and processed foods.
Stay warm! Bundle up indoors and outdoors. Try to get direct sunshine whenever possible, for as long as possible. Consider a humidifier if you are prone to dryness.
Keep your blood and lymph flowing strong by moving every day, ideally at least 15-30 minutes of moderate exercise. Go outdoors and get fresh air, just bundle up!
6. Herbs + supplements
Cook with antimicrobial, warming herbs such as garlic, thyme, oregano or rosemary. Consider a daily immune tonic such as astragalus, reishi or elderberry. Consider immune stimulants such as echinacea when an extra boost is needed. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D during the cold months.
Stay well out there, and let us know how we can help! Want to talk to an herbalist? Book a consultation here.
With the holidays upon us many people will be eating quite differently then they usually do. Here are some tips to support digestion during this time:
1. Be easy on yourself
This time of year it's just more difficult to eat the way we'd like to to be healthy, and that's ok! Be easy on yourself. It happens. You may eat the thing that your tummy regrets later. The gut-brain connection to huge, and one of the best things we can do to care for our guts is to be kind, gentle and accepting of ourselves, even when we we make choices that we know don't reflect our ideals.
2. Set healthy boundaries with family
There's nothing like family for providing pressure around food. We just don't them to feel bad if we say no to their special treat, right?
We know it's hard, but accepting the love of your family doesn't need to mean accepting their food. If you know you are sensitive to gluten, dairy, sugar or something else, while knowing that it's quite possible you will slip up on this and that's ok, know that it's also ok to say no if you feel this would be best.
Consider taking this opportunity to educate your loved ones about food alternatives, perhaps by bringing along something to share that does fit your needs. You may even help expand someone else's worldview and better their health as well.
3. Use digestive bitters
One of the easiest way to promote better digestive for large holiday meals is with digestive bitters.
Bitters refer to pretty much any herb that has a bitter taste. The bitter flavor has historically been very common in the human diet, but in the U.S. many people rarely include it. Due to our evolutionary history, simply tasting the bitter flavor stimulates digestive secretions all along our GI tract. This stimulation allows us to better break down and assimilate heavy meals, lessening the chances for discomfort.
The easiest way to take bitters is to take 5-15 drops of a bitters tincture blend 5-15 minutes before a meal, or to do the same after a meal. Bitter herbs include dandelion, burdock, yellow dock and gentian. It's good to also include aromatic bitters like ginger, orange peel or angelica. Urban Moonshine makes a line of bitters available at most natural food stores.
4. Drink a warm digestive tea after the meal
One of the most enjoyable things after a large holiday meal is a warm cup of tea. The warmth helps to promote good digestion, and if the tea contains digestive herbs this can doubly help.
The herbs the are particularly best are called "carminatives." These are aromatic herbs that taste yummy and are particularly good for relieving gas and bloating. Examples include chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, cinnamon and ginger, or the classic chai tea spices. Brewing up a cup of these herbs after the meal can go a long way in preventing indigestion, and can taste so yummy!
Here's an example recipe:
These herbs are featured in our dessert tea, specifically designed to accompany dessert or to BE a dessert all on its own.
*Have caution with licorice, this may not be a good herb for some people.
5. Have herbs on hand if you need
If things really don't go well, make sure to have on hand your herbal allies that can provide relief. Best to know ahead of time what these are for you, but may include some of the following:
6. Let us know if we can help!
We work with people who experience digestive discomfort to regain well-being and to feel better. If you would like some personal guidance on supporting your digestion, be in touch! Learn more here.
Article by Nick Cavanaugh, clinical herbalist at Railyard Apothecary
Holidays are coming. It's still a pandemic. Plus, you know, all the things. Here's 3 ways we use herbs to help deal.
1. Drink a relaxing herbal tea throughout the day.
2. Start your day with an uplfiting or adaptogenic herbal powder blend.
3. Take an Herbal Tincture an hour before bed to unwind and prepare for sleep
Tinctures are generally a fast-acting way to take herbs. There are many relaxing herbs that can have a somewhat sedating effect in larger quantities (do not combine with alcohol or sedative medications). Taking one of these herbs in tincture form before bedtime can help calm the mind and body and prepare for a more restful sleep.
Herbs that work well
I sincerely hope this blog post helps you find more ease during stressful times. Want to talk with me about you can herbs to support your individual situation? Book a free 15-minute info call with me to learn about our herbal consultations here.
- Nick Cavanaugh
Clinical Herbalist at Railyard Apothecary
Herbalists traditionally view the digestive system as being centrally important to health. The digestive system includes the following organs:
From a scientific standpoint, digestion is "breaking down food into molecular particles of usable size and content."
But perhaps the bigger point from the herbalist's point of view is that there is also a sense in which the digestive process is just one part of one larger, interconnected process which is not limited to the organs of the digestive tract.
More broadly speaking, there is a bigger process of assimilation, metabolism and elimination, a dynamic and continuous interplay between the individual and the wider world which affects all aspects of our body and health. The digestion of foods in the digestive tract is a central part of this bigger process.
Traditional systems of medicine often have incorporated a wider, more integrated model of the body which describes these broader processes. For example, in classical Greek and Islamic medicine this bigger process is called the "Natural Faculty," one of the four primary faculties of the body which govern fundamental body processes. The principal organ of the natural faculty is said to be the liver, an organ which herbalists often pay special attention to.
Because assimilation, metabolism and elimination are such interconnected processes with effects throughout the body, herbalists often make connections between the state and behavior of the digestive tract and physical symptoms in other parts of the body. These are some examples of how those connections are made:
And there are so many more examples!
Additionally there is the basic reality that the nutrients we ingest are only as beneficial to us as is our ability to assimilate them. Since good nutrition is so fundamental to health, this is why the strength and capacity of the digestive system is similarly seen as so fundamental.
This is why herbalists often will make statements such as "you are what you assimilate!"
Want to learn how to support your digestive health? Check out our other article about two of the most relevant kinds of digestive herbs:
Want to get individual guidance on how you can support your digestive health? Our staff of clinical herbalists is ready to guide you. Learn more about getting support and coming up with an individualized health plan here:
White sage grows wild in the southwest. It is considered sacred to many indigenous peoples of this continent, and many have shared concerns about the widespread commercialization of this plant. To some indigenous people sacred plants such as this should not be sold commercially, and to do so brings up issues of cultural appropriation.
Along the same lines, the term "smudging" or "smudge sticks" are terms many native peoples feel refer specifically to their indigenous practices related to sacred plants. For that reason, we use and suggest non-native peoples use the terms "burning bundles," "smoke bundles" or "incense."
Additionally, white sage is becoming at risk in the wild due to over harvesting according to United Plant Savers, and many so-called sustainable wild crafting sources of this plant are not actually sustainable.
In order to honor and respect native peoples, their traditions, and this sacred plant, we encourage non-native people to use abundant plants such as garden sage (pictured) and mugwort for making your own burning bundles. Or, if you feel the need to use white sage in particular, we'd suggest growing this plant yourself.
Smoke has been used for centuries to ward off negative energy, clear personal aura space, and hold sacred containers. Working with plants in this way is a tradition we all can embrace and bring into our lives in our own personal way.
Want to learn more about making your own smoke bundles? Check out the following:
Learn more about issue related to white sage from United Plant Savers here.
Any thoughts on this topic? Please share in the comments below. 🌿🌲💚
By Susan Staley, Clinical Herbalist
There’s a lot of talk about adaptogens out there. You may notice an increasing number of foods and beverages advertising that they contain adaptogens. Maybe even your cousin is suggesting you start working with them. But what qualifies an herb as adaptogenic? What is an adaptogen and why might someone consider incorporating one or more of these important plants into their life? What herbs truly adaptogens? And what makes them unique from each other?
The term “adaptogen” is a fairly recently identified plant action, perhaps coined in the early 1940’s, although the idea and value of these plants comes from the East and has long been understood. Adaptogenic plants behave in a non-specific way, meaning they support general balance and vitality in the body. They help a person to “adapt” better to the inevitable changes and stressors of life- especially the big ones with some kind of beginning and ending like a big project or moving. The source of the stress may be emotional, environmental, physical, or mental. We perceive the challenge the same way on the inside. They are also considered to be non-toxic and normalizing (meaning helps the body and the individual return to health and balance).
Until recently, perhaps the most well-known adaptogen was Ginseng- whether American or Asian. Ginseng immediately brings to mind words like “longevity” and “vitality”, perhaps even “magical”. Many adaptogenic plants are roots. Like roots, the right adaptogen(s) for an individual, in the right amount, can make one feel grounded while the winds of life blow about them. When harvesting roots, most often the entire plant must be taken, unlike a berry or leaf. This is good to keep in mind when considering sourcing and sustainability in regards to the herbs you decide to work with. Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Licorice, Eluethero, and the Ginsengs are all adaptogenic roots. Tulsi and Jiao Gulan are leafy adaptogens. Schisandra is a bright little berry adaptogen, and many consider Reishi mushroom to be adaptogenic.
Adaptogenic plants help us to support our vitality and resiliency, especially when combined with nourishing food, rest, and other lifestyle factors. They pair well with nervine plants, especially those of the tonic and relaxant variety like Skullcap, Milky Oats, Chamomile, Passionflower, Anise Hyssop, and Linden. In fact, often plants that support the nervous system and cardiovascular system are a good place to go for support in the face of increasing stress before introducing adaptogens.
If you’re feeling the call of the adaptogens, remember that plants, like humans, are all different from one another. Adaptogens each have their own character, gifts, and affinities towards different body systems, functions, and even emotional qualities. For example Ashwagandha is building, strengthening, and helps with healthy sleep- so nice in the evening, although the plant does not cause drowsiness. Rhodiola is a stimulating adaptogen that energizes body and mind, is drying in quality, and best taken in the morning. And Tulsi makes for a delicious tea, supports digestion and immune function, and enhances feelings of inspiration and peace. To find the adaptogens best suited for you, try speaking with an herbalist, reading texts that help differentiate their gifts and your needs, and start preparing some whole plant preparations at home and listen to your body for cues that you’re on the right track.
One of the great things about herbs is that they directly contact our digestive tracts when we consume them, making it quite easy for herbs to affect this body system which is at root of good health. There are two kinds of herbs in particular that support digestion: carminatives and bitters. Keep reading to learn more!
And please keep in mind that things vary from person to person. Please seek medical advice if you are experiencing concerning GI symptoms. If you would like any guidance in using herbs to support digestion then please schedule an appointment with one of our herbalists.
And also please keep in mind some of these ideas for supporting good digestion in general:
Carminatives are a great kind of herb for digestion. They generally help because of the presence of volatile oils (also known as essential oils) which relax smooth muscle and relive pain.
Carminative herbs often have many benefits for digestion, but they are most well known for relieving gas and bloating, as well as feelings of fullness, distension or spasm.
A nice way to enjoy carminative herbs is as a warm cup of herbal tea taken after the meal which can help to better assimilate the food and relive discomfort.
Example carminative herbs include:
The bitter flavor is one that has been largely removed from the modern U.S. diet, but it has a lot of beneficial effects!
Simply tasting the bitter flavor 10-15 minutes before a meal (such as with 5-10 drops of a bitters tincture) can stimulate the body to begin the digestive process. This means especially that digestive juices including saliva and stomach acid begin to flow.
With the stimulating of digestive secretions this may help the body to more completely break down the food, preventing digestive problems further down the line, as well as increase feelings of satiety earlier in the meal, and increase motility in the lower GI.
Example herbs include:
Putting it together
Bitters are often combined with warming herbs or carminative herbs to balance their strongly cooling and drying qualities when taken in excess. Some herbs such as ginger carry several of these properties in the same herbs.
To round out a meal you could try a little bit of a bitters to stimulate things at the start, and a nice cup of carminative tea at the end to settle things down.
You could also try adding in bitter and carminative herbs INTO your food - kale, arugula, endive and other greens are bitter, and most of the common kitchen spices are carminative, especially if they are very aromatic (and especially those listed above).
So go ahead, give some of these herbs a try, and please reach out if you'd like an individual advice with a consultation. Enjoy!
With things really heating up our there we thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas for how to stay cool with plants. Below is a list of herbs, fruits and veggies that are all known in one way or another to be "cooling." By adding these into your diet, making them into a tea or other beverage, or cooking them into with your food you may feel a bit more refreshed and at ease.
Check out the lists below and see if anything jumps calls out to you to bring into your life these hot summer days. Some of these ideas come from ayurvedic classifications, with references noted in parentheses and at the bottom.
HerbsFresh for cooking/eating:
Take as a tincture before a meal, or mixed into a refreshing beverage. Can combine with aromatic hers for better flavor, or check out Urban Moonshine's bitters blends.
Refresh body and spirit with cooling nervines, as cool infusions or tinctures
Local foods to cool down
Fruits to eat:
Vegetables to eat
Herbal syrup are one of our favorite herbal preparations, for medicinal and/or summertime beverages. And they are simple to make at home!
Syrups can be made with honey or sugar, in more or less quantity, depending on how long you plan to store. The basic recipe is thus, and there are so many possibilities for flavor combinations so get creative!! Herbal Syrups can be used in spritzers, cocktails, and mocktails (about 1 oz. or so per glass) as well as taken by the spoonful or added to tea for specific health support. They can even be drizzled on various foods to happy effect.
Check out the recipe below:
🥄Simplified Herbal Syrup Recipe🥄
- 1/2-1 cup herb
- 4 cups water
- 1-2 cups of honey or sugar (molasses is an iron rich choice)
- optional: vinegar or alcohol tinctures for extra preservation
Herb suggestions you may enjoy: mint, hibiscus, mugwort, anise hyssop, elderberry, hawthorn berry, rose, and there are so many more possibilities.
Want to learn more? Check our self-paced online medicine-making course to learn 11 home remedies including herbal syrups.
Let us know if you have any questions and enjoy!
Things have been really heating up! It's time for herbal iced tea!
There a couple options for how to brew: one simple thing you can do is just make your herbal infusions with cold water - for example, add 2 tablespoons or so of dried herb to a quart jar, add cold water, and let sit for 1+ hour, or all day, straining it out as you go. Some people put it in the sun to make "sun tea."
Or, just brew hot tea as you normally would, i.e. 1-3 teaspoons per cup, steep 10-20 min, then strain and add ice. This will produce a stronger tasting iced tea.
Here are a few different recipes you could try to make one cup of tea (if making a quart, multiply everything by 4).
The tart and sour flavor of hibiscus combines well with a light mint-y spearmint and a little sweetness from stevia. Similar to our citrus bliss tea blend.
The classic chamomile combines really nicely with cinnamon for a suprisingly apple-like taste (which is why we combined them for our "apple pie tea")
The uplifting lemon balm and linden blend with a minty spearmint, sweet licorice, and come together with a surprisingly refreshing hint of ginger. Similar to our sunny day tea blend.
1/2 tsp. lemon balm
1/2 tsp. linden
1/4 tsp. spearmint
1/4 tsp. licorice
1/8 tsp. ginger
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