Saturday, December 31, 2011

Recap: Weston A. Price Conference 2011 - Mythbusters!

Due to a scholarship, I was very lucky to be able to attend the Weston A. Price Foundation's 12th Annual Conference - Mythbusters! in Dallas, Texas in November.

In short, The Weston A. Price Foundation is "a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets." The Weston A. Price Foundation is run by President and Treasurer, Sally Fallon, and a board of directors. To read the rest of the foundation's mission statement, go here.

The main part of the conference ran from Friday, Nov. 11 - Sunday, Nov. 13, and there was always plenty to do: lectures typically ran from 9 am - 10 pm, with breaks for meals and time to visit the exhibitors, in addition to optional yoga and and a few other pre-breakfast activities. There were so many lectures at the conference that it would be impossible to cover everything, so I will highlight just a few of them here!

Exhibitors at the conference included Fab Ferments, Cultures for Health, and many, many more

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride spoke about GAPS: Gut & Psychology/Physiology Syndrome. GAPS is a condition that establishes a connection between the health of the gut and the health of the rest of the body. The father of medicine, Hippocrates (460-370 BC) stated "All diseases begin in gut." We also learned that gut flora:
  • Are "the housekeepers of our digestive system"
  • Protect us from invaders
  • Aid in detoxification, vitamin production, digestion, and absorption
  • Compromise 90% of our cells
  • Help to modulate the immune system
  • Is important for the health and integrity of the gut

Many factors can damage gut flora, including: poor diet, antibiotics, drugs, steroids, birth control, bottle feeding, stress, infections, disease, pollution, radiation, alcohol, dental work, toxic chemicals, and more.

According to Dr. Campbell-McBride, diseases are related to an unhealthy gut, such as autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, any digestive or autoimmune disorders, and more. Thus, by addressing the health of the gut, one can positively impact many health conditions. To learn more about GAPS, visit Dr. Campbell-McBride's websites here and here, and read her book: Gut and Psychology Syndrome- Natural Treatment for: Autism, ADD, ADHD, Depresseion, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Schizophrenia.

I also listened to David Wetzel, owner of Green Pasture Products. Green Pasture Products produces high-vitamin butter oil and fermented cod and skate liver oils. Cod liver oil is the most important superfood of the Weston A. Price Foundation, because it naturally contains vitamins A and D, "which Dr. Price found present in the diet of primitives in amounts ten times higher than the typical American diet of his day." In addition, the foundation recommends consuming cod liver oil with high-vitamin butter oil, because Dr. Price "found that cod liver oil on its own was relatively ineffective but combined with butter oil produced excellent results" due to the presence of vitamin K2 in grass fed butter oil.

David Wetzel spoke of how his fermented cod liver oil differs from other cod liver oil brands on the market. For example, some brands of cod liver oil may go through processes that remove some of the natural vitamins, resulting in a product with low levels of vitamins A and D, or a product that has manufactured vitamins A and D added to it. Green Pastures cod liver oil is a naturally produced, "fermented high-vitamin cod liver oil that is made using a filtering process that retains the natural vitamins." The business aim of Green Pasture Products is to "provide high-quality sacred-food oils just as they were made prior to the industrialized food and farming revolution...Fermenting the livers of fish to extract the oil is an old world practice that may go back as far as biblical times..."

Vitamin D is important because although the skin can synthesize Vitamin D with sun exposure, in northern latitudes one cannot make adequate amounts of vitamin D from sun exposure alone, especially in the winter. Learn more about vitamin D here and here.

Samples of Green Pasture products were available in the exhibitors section. The Cinnamon Tingle BLUE ICE Royal Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend was by far the tastiest of the fermented cod liver oils, and I did not even attempt to try the Skate Liver Oils given the negative reactions of some of my fellow peers. However, they do have capsules of their fermented fish liver oils if one prefers not to taste them. I also took home a sample of one of their skin balms made with their cod liver oil and butter oil blend. Even though I make my own natural body products, my skin never felt so soft as when I used their skin balm, so incorporating cod liver oil in my own body products is definitely something that I will be working on in the future!

Dr. Joseph Mercola gave the keynote address at the conference awards banquet on Saturday. He spoke on a variety of topics, including some of the dangers of fructose. Fructose is one of the leading sources of calories in the U.S., often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, such as in sodas and processed foods. Fructose causes wrinkling, cellulite, beer belly, and obesity, and is also a major cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fructose itself isn't bad, however the problem today is that individuals are consuming fructose in much larger quantities than in the past. Around a century ago, individuals only had around 15 g of fructose per day, such as from vegetables and fruits. Today, the typical adolescent may get as much as 73 g fructose/day from sweetened drinks. Read more about what Dr. Mercola has to say on fructose in these articles.

Dr. Mercola also discussed fitness. He says what many exercisers do wrong is doing too much cardio, which causes oxidative stress. Instead, Dr. Mercola recommends what he calls peak fitness: an exercise program in which for no more than three times a week you exercise, by raising your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20-30 seconds, recovering for 90 seconds, and repeating this cycle for 8 repetitions. You would also begin this exercise with a 3 minute warm-up, and end with a 2 minute cool down. If you follow this routine, every time you exercise will only be an investment of 20-25 minutes, which he says is better than traditional cardio. Peak fitness exercises increase the amount of human growth hormone (HGH) you produce naturally, because it engages the white muscle fibers, which are the only muscle fibers that increase production of HGH. HGH is "key for strength, health and longevity." Dr. Mercola first learned about this approach to fitness from Phil Campbell, author of the book "Ready, Set, Go!". For more about peak fitness, read Dr. Mercola's articles: "The Major Exercise Mistake I Made for Over 30 Years..." and "Flood Your Body With This 'Youth Hormone' in Just 20 Minutes," which includes an explanation and demonstration of the peak fitness program with Phil Campbell himself.

The food provided at the conference was in line with the Weston A. Price Foundation's nutrition principles, including grass-fed meat, butter, and dairy products, plenty of bone broths (have you ever had beef broth in a Starbucks cup?), fermented foods, and much more. I thought there should have been more vegetables with the meals, but the lack of vegetables may have been due to the drought in Texas.

Overall, it was a great conference with diverse speakers on a variety of nutrition and health-related topics, and it was great to meet others who were also interested in nutrition and their health. I also enjoyed visiting Dallas, Texas for the very first time!

The Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive in Dallas, Texas

Read more details about the 2011 Mythbusters Conference here, visit this page for conference recordings from 2006-2011, and stay tuned about the Weston A. Price Foundation and their next annual conference on their website. I hope this article has given you some food for thought, and here's to a happy new year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Handmade BU II 12/2

I am very excited to be participating in Handmade BU II this Friday!

"Hosting student vendors, Handmade BU II will showcase the DIY talent of BU, and offer the community a chance to buy fabulous goods for you to keep warm for the winter, to buy gifts for friends and family, or to treat yo' selves.

All are welcome, including students, faculty, staff, and our friends and neighbors in the greater Boston community!

Vendors will be selling vegan cupcakes, homemade lotion, handknit hats and gloves, tooled leather pouches, unique and charming jewelry, originally painted nail decals, chainmail jewelry cuddly plush animals, silk screened t-shirts...

HMBU will be hosting Sustainability@BU as well, bringing in some of the great artists you've seen at the farmer's market all year."

Read more about Handmade BU here, and check out the Facebook event for Handmade BU II. Thanks to The Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism at BU for sponsoring the event!

When: Friday, December 2, 2011, from 10 am - 6 pm

The link at the George Sherman Union (GSU) at Boston University (775 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215)

Items that I will be selling include, but are not limited to:
  • Handmade moisturizer creams for body, face, and hands
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balms and lip glosses
  • Facial exfoliating scrubs
  • 2-in-1 body wash and hair cleanser
  • Moisturizing and massage oils
  • Make Your Own Lip Balm Kit
  • And more

I'm looking forward to the event and I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Food Fight" Screening and Discussion

The Harvard Food Law Society hosted a film screening and discussion of the documentary film "Food Fight" last week on National Food Day, with Director Chris Taylor.

Food Fight "is a fascinating look at how American agricultural policy and food culture developed in the 20th century, and how the California food movement has created a counter-revolution against big agribusiness." Chris Taylor also described the film as a "murder mystery, with taste as the victim."

How did big agribusiness develop? Before World War II, major problems in the United States included an inadequate food supply and malnourishment. Post-WWII, fertilizers, pesticides, and large-petroleum based machinery developed during the war encouraged the growth of large farms, so much in fact that the number of farms in the U.S. decreased from 6 million to 2 million from 1945 to 1970.

In addition, in the 1970s, Earl Butz of the U.S. Department of Agriculture supported large scale agribusiness. While previously the government regulated agriculture by keeping supply and demand in balance, in the 1970s, the government supported large farms by encouraging them to grow large quantities of commodities, such as corn and soy. "Don't worry about overproduction, Butz told farmers on trips through the Midwest. Produce all you can, and we'll the sell the surplus overseas!" This led to the growth of cheap food, and to produce being grown for their shipping qualities, and not for their qualities of taste and flavor. Overproduction of commodities also led to the development of many processed foods, such as foods containing corn and variations of corn, including high fructose corn syrup. Foods were being developed for their cheapness and convenience, not for their quality and taste.

The movie also showed that although food costs have gone down over time, instead, we are paying increasing prices for the cost of health care, which is partly related to more Americans getting diseases from an unhealthy food supply. Below is a graph that demonstrates this idea, although it is a different one than was used in the movie.

To counter industrial food, "Food Fight" identifies Chez Panisse in California as a major player in the counter-revolution in California. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse "are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations." However, originally in opening the restaurant, Alice Waters wasn't looking to promote local and organic food. She wished to provide the most delicious and pleasurable food, and in searching for that, found that this food was local, organic, and sustainably grown.

To wrap up the film, we finished with a Q&A session with Director Chris Taylor, who is also a Harvard alum.

If you haven't previously thought about where the food on your plate comes from, the documentary "Food Fight" is a good place to start. Thanks to the Harvard Food Law Society for putting on the event, and here's to voting with your fork!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Christopher Hobbs: Plant Walk and Talk

The other week, I was lucky to be able to attend Christopher Hobbs' plant walk and talk on "An Integrative Approach to Pain and Inflammation" at Mass Audubon's Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont, sponsored by Rainbow Light.

Christopher Hobbs is "a licensed acupuncturist and 4th generation herbalist and botanist with over 30 years of experience with herbs." In addition, he is the "director of formulation" of all Rainbow Light products, and has written numerous books on herbs and health.

Christopher Hobbs, as he talks about oregon grape root
Photo courtesy of Melanie Flach

Here, I will recap some of the points that Christopher Hobbs made in his plant walk and talk. I think the food-loving side of me caused me to take more notes on the culinary herbs, so you should be familiar with many of them!

We first came across a patch of wintergreen, the leaves of which can be used for tea. Wintergreen is easy to grow in the shade, and wintergreen essential oil can be applied externally to help relieve pain, arthritis, and more.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Flach

When using plants for healing, it can be important to know where the plant is from and the environmental conditions that it grew in, because the concentration of compounds in a plant and the scents they emit can vary greatly, according to environmental threats, the quality of the soil, and more.

Christopher Hobbs
recommends using fresh herbs whenever possible. Ideally, one would have some garden space, such as in a backyard or a community garden plot. If you don't have access to a plot of land, you can also grow plants on your windowsill. Don't have a green thumb? There are still fresh herbs in the supermarkets if need be!

Next, Christopher Hobbs gave several cooking tips. He recommends adding fresh herbs at the end of cooking, so that the volatile oils, often which have protective compounds, don't evaporate off. In addition, when cooking with garlic, it is advised to crush the garlic well first, let the garlic sit for at least 2-3 minutes before use, and add it to the cooking food shortly before serving. Crushing the garlic and allowing the garlic to sit for a few minutes before use is needed for allicin to break down, the compound in garlic that offers many health benefits. Christopher Hobbs is a particular fan of the Zyliss Garlic Press, which he says releases many of the garlic's juices (to release the allicin, just chopping the garlic won't work. Crushing or pressing the garlic is required as well).

The herb thyme has a variety of uses. Thyme has antiseptic, antispasmodic, and expectorant effects, and is taken for various ailments such as whopping cough, bronchitis, coughs, and sore throats. It also contains thymol, a broad spectrum antibiotic. Thyme can be served as a tea, and is also used in other forms.

We looked at several mushrooms species, as well. The turkey tail mushroom has a long history of medicinal use, and much scientific research to support its use.

Turkey tail mushroom

The turkey tail mushroom has been found to be helpful against cancer. Some identifying factors include "zones" on the top of the mushroom and a pore-like surface on the underside of the mushroom. The turkey tail mushroom also grows in shelf-like structures. However, be cautious if you are mushroom hunting- it can be easy to accidentally identify a poisonous mushroom as a safe one if you are not experienced! Learn more about mushrooms in Christopher Hobbs' book, Medicinal Mushrooms.

In addition, Chinese medicine offers a wealth of information on herbs. For those interested in learning more about Chinese medicine, Christopher Hobbs recommends the book The Web That has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted Kaptchuk. And to purchase chemical-free and high quality Chinese herbs, check out Asia Natural Products based in San Francisco, California.

Finally, Christopher Hobbs finished off the day with a presentation on additional herbs and discussion of how herbs are integrated into Rainbow Light's products, which are 100% food-based supplements.

It was an informative morning and I am glad I was able to attend. To learn more about herbs and health from Christopher Hobbs, visit his website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recap: Integrative Nutrition Live in NYC: Fall IINto Action 2011 Conference!

I had a great time this past weekend at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition's conference, Fall IINto Action. Since January, I have been training to be a health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition through their distance learning program, so it was great to see the lecturers in person at the conference! In addition, I enjoyed meeting fellow IIN students and graduates, who came from the U.S.A. and all over the world to attend the conference for the weekend.

Speakers we heard from included Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. David L. Katz, Dr. Mark Hyman, Pierre Dukan, Sally Fallon Morell, Dr. Deepak Chopra, and Kathy Freston. And of course, Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Joshua Rosenthal

Here, I will share highlights of some of the lectures of the conference:

On Saturday, Sally Fallon Morel of the Weston Price Foundation addressed some of the discrepancies in the United States Department of Agriculture, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 that they helped to develop. The dietary guidelines were "developed to meet nutrition needs...Though they have not been specifically tested for health benefits..." (source: page 50 in this document). In addition, Sally Fallon spoke about several benefits of raw milk. For example, raw milk contains components that help to strengthen the immune system. In addition, raw milk is easier to digest than pasteurized milk: in one study, over 80% of individuals who had been advised by health care professionals that they were lactose intolerant were able to digest raw milk without a problem. I am exited to be attending the Weston Price Foundation's 12th Annual Wise Traditions Conference this November, so look forward to hearing more about the Weston Price Foundation then!

Dr. Joel Fuhrman talked about the rise in infectious diseases, due to numerous causes such as the overuse of antibiotics and increased travel. In order to maximize our immune function, we need to increase our intake of macronutrients. How to do this? One way is to eat GOMBS:
  • G- greens
  • O- onions
  • M- mushrooms
  • B- beans and berries
  • S- seeds
Learn more by checking out his book, Super Immunity.

On Sunday, Dr. David Katz told us that the masters of our medical destinies are our feet, forks, and fingers. Dr. Katz also discussed some of the programs that he is involved with to improve nutrition and physical activity in schools and at home: ABC for Fitness (Activity Bursts in the Classroom), A-B-E for Fitness (Activity Bursts Everywhere), and Nutrition Detectives, a program for elementary school children that shows them "5 clues" to reading food labels, helping them to identify and choose healthful foods.

Finally, Dr. Deepak Chopra spoke about well-being, consciousness, awareness, and more. Ten questions that he recommended that we ask ourselves everyday, in order to help us to identify with ourselves and our purpose include:
  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want?
  3. What is or what would be a peak experience to me?
  4. What's my life purpose?
  5. What kind of contribution do I want to make to the society and the world?
  6. What does a meaningful relationship mean to me?
  7. How do I contribute to relationships?
  8. What are my unique skills and talents and how do I use them to serve the world?
  9. Who are my heroes in history, mythology, and religion?
  10. What's my story?
Again, it was great to hear from such a diverse set of speakers, who each had different philosophies on nutrition and health. The diverse range of nutrition theories presented relates to IIN's theory of bio-individuality: that no one diet works for everyone, because we all are different. Interested in learning more about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition? Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and you can also read more about IIN at their website here. In addition, I offer free initial health consultations if you are interested in working with a health coach to meet your health goals. More information about my health coaching services can be found on my other site,

Eat happy and eat healthy, and I hope you are enjoying the farmers markets while local produce is still in season! :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Make Herbal-Infused Oils

Making herbal-infused oils is a great way to add properties of an herb to an oil, such as for their color, their medicinal properties, or for their scents. Herbal oils can be used on their own, or they can be used in various body products. There are numerous ways to prepare herbal-infused oils, and individuals each have their own ways and opinions on how to make herbal oils. Keep in mind that herbal-infused oils are not the same as essential oils, and cannot be used interchangeably. When making an herbal oil, it is best to use a stable oil that will not go rancid quickly, and the ideal choice is usually cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. If you are making an herbal oil with an oil that is less stable, such as almond oil, then the infused oil will need to be used more quickly. Here, I will introduce you to a few different methods on how to make herbal-infused oils. Enjoy!

Herbal-Infused Oils with Dried Herbs (1)

Making herbal oils with dried herbs is a great way to begin learning how to make herbal-infused oils. Because dry herbs contain little or no water, they are much less susceptible to spoilage as compared to infused oils made with fresh herbs.
  1. Add 1 oz. of herb by weight to a clean and completely dry glass jar with a tight lid.
  2. Pour 4 fl. oz. of oil over the herbs in the jar. If infusing a fluffy and voluminous herb, such as chamomile or calendula, add 5-6 fl. oz. of oil instead of the 4 fl. oz.
  3. Stir the contents of the jar well until the herbs are completely saturated with the oil, then tightly cover the lid. Label the jar with the date and contents.
  4. Try to shake the jar daily, as the agitation helps to maximize the release of the herbal properties into the oil. Placing the jar in the oven with the pilot light on can be helpful, as the warmth helps to encourage the extraction process. Steep the oils for 6 weeks or longer.
  5. After steeping the oil, strain the oil by placing a strainer lined with a thin cloth, such as cheesecloth, over a bowl, and pour the contents of the jar into the cloth-lined strainer.
  6. Gather the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out any remaining oil from the herbs. The more you squeeze, the more oil you will get. However, even after thoroughly squeezing out the oil, expect a loss of ~20-30% of the oil, because some oil is absorbed by the plant material.
  7. Store the oil in a clean and dry glass jar with a tight lid. Store the jar in a cool, dark, and dry place. Depending on the oil used, herbal-infused oils may last for several months, and sometimes years.
Alkanet root-infused extra-virgin olive oil, made with dried alkanet root. I can't wait to make some lip balms with this red-tinted oil! Annatto seeds can also be used to infuse oils, giving them a yellow-orange shade.

Herbal-Infused Oils with Fresh Herbs (1)

More care needs to be taken when making herbal-infused oils with fresh herbs, because the water content of fresh herbs makes these infused oils more susceptible to spoilage. Rotten smells are a sign that the oil has gone bad, and if this happens, the entire contents need to be thrown out and you will need to start over. If the infused oil grows mold but the oil still smells good, you can attempt to save the oil by removing the moldy part, and adding more oil to keep the herbs submerged. Thus, it is sometimes easier to make herbal-infused oils with dried herbs rather than fresh herbs, because spoilage is much less likely. However, keep in mind that St. John's Wort oil needs to be prepared with the fresh plant, in order to obtain its healing properties. For plants that have a high moisture content or protein content, it may be easier to dry them for a few days before using them to make an infused oil, or to make these infused-oils using a heat method.

Directions for Making Herbal-Infused Oils with Fresh Herbs, Without Heat (1)
  1. Fill a clean and completely dry glass jar with fresh herbs, loosely packing them in.
  2. Pour oil over the herbs until all of the herbs are submerged, so that none of the plant material is exposed to the air.
  3. Cap and label the jar with the date and contents.
  4. Place the jar in a bowl, just in case oil seeps over the edges of the jar.
  5. Try to shake the jar daily, as the agitation helps to maximize the release of the herbal properties into the oil. Placing the jar in the oven with the pilot light on can be helpful, as the warmth encourages the extraction process. Steep the oils for 6 weeks or longer.
  6. After steeping the oil, strain the oil by placing a strainer lined with a thin cloth, such as cheesecloth, over a bowl, and pour the contents of the jar into the cloth-lined strainer.
  7. Gather the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out any remaining oil from the herbs. The more you squeeze, the more oil you will get.
  8. Let the strained oil sit for a few days, which allows the water from the fresh herbs to collect at the bottom of the jar.
  9. Pour off the oil into a clean and dry jar with a tight-fitting lid, and discard the liquid that has collected at the bottom. If the water isn't separated out, the oil may spoil.
  10. Store the oil in a cool, dark, and dry place. Depending on the oil used, herbal-infused oils may last for several months, and sometimes years.
Making Herbal-Infused Oils with Heat

Making herbal-infused oils with heat is an excellent method for infusing herbs that contain a lot of moisture or protein. Heating the oil helps to evaporate water from the fresh herbs, which discourages spoilage of the oil. Making herbal oils with heat can also be used for dried herbs to speed up the infusion process, and sometimes yields a more potent oil.

Directions 1 (1)
  1. Place the herb and oil filled jar (following the proportions in the other directions above), uncovered, on a heat source that doesn't exceed 125 degrees F. Keeping the jar uncovered encourages the water from the herbs to evaporate. The heat source may be, for example, a radiator, warming tray, or whatever will offer consistent, gentle heat. You can also place the jar in a water bath of an electric cooking pot or slow cooker set on low. However, if their lowest heat settings are above 125 degrees F, you may need to turn it on and off throughout the day to adjust the temperature. If you don't have a thermometer to check the temperature, feel the oil to make sure it isn't too hot. Oil at 125 degrees should be cool enough to touch without burning yourself, although if you continue to touch the oil for a few seconds, it should feel a little too hot for comfort.
  2. Infuse the herb and oil mixture for 10 days.
  3. Strain the oil by placing a strainer lined with a thin cloth, such as cheesecloth, over a bowl, and pour the contents of the jar into the cloth-lined strainer.
  4. Gather the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out any remaining oil from the herbs. The more you squeeze, the more oil you will get.
  5. If infusing fresh herbs: let the strained oil sit for a few days, which allows the water from the fresh herbs to collect at the bottom of the jar. Pour off the oil into a clean and dry jar with a tight-fitting lid, and discard the liquid that has collected at the bottom. If the water isn't separated out, the oil may spoil.
  6. Store the oil in a clean and dry glass jar with a tight lid. Store the jar in a cool, dark, and dry place. Depending on the oil used, herbal-infused oils may last for several months, and sometimes years.
Directions 2 (2)
  1. Place the herbs and oil (following the proportions in the other directions above) in a double boiler and bring to a low simmer.
  2. Slowly heat for 30-60 min., checking frequently to ensure the oil is not overheating. The lower the heat, the longer the infusion, the better the oil.
  3. Strain the oil by placing a strainer lined with a thin cloth, such as cheesecloth, over a bowl, and pour the contents of the jar into the cloth-lined strainer.
  4. Gather the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out any remaining oil from the herbs. The more you squeeze, the more oil you will get.
  5. If infusing fresh herbs: let the strained oil sit for a few days, which allows the water from the fresh herbs to collect at the bottom of the jar. Pour off the oil into a clean and dry jar with a tight-fitting lid, and discard the liquid that has collected at the bottom. If the water isn't separated out, the oil may spoil.
  6. Store the oil in a clean and dry glass jar with a tight lid. Store the jar in a cool, dark, and dry place. Depending on the oil used, herbal-infused oils may last for several months, and sometimes years.
Solar-Infused Oil for Dry or Fresh Herbs (2)
    1. Place the herb and oil filled jar (following the proportions in the other directions above), tightly covered, in a warm and sunny spot.
    2. Shaking the jar daily helps to maximize the release of the herbal properties into the oil. Let the oil steep for 2 weeks.
    3. Strain the oil by placing a strainer lined with a thin cloth, such as cheesecloth, over a bowl, and pour the contents of the jar into the cloth-lined strainer. Gather the ends of the cloth together and squeeze out any remaining oil from the herbs. The more you squeeze, the more oil you will get.
    4. Add a fresh batch of herbs to the oil and infuse for 2 more weeks, following the same directions as described in steps 1-2.
    5. Strain the oil again as described in step 3. This will give you a very potent medicinal oil.
    6. If infusing fresh herbs: let the strained oil sit for a few days, which allows the water from the fresh herbs to collect at the bottom of the jar. Pour off the oil into a clean and dry jar with a tight-fitting lid, and discard the liquid that has collected at the bottom. If the water isn't separated out, the oil may spoil.
    7. Store the oil in a clean and dry glass jar with a tight lid. Store the jar in a cool, dark, and dry place. Depending on the oil used, herbal-infused oils may last for several months, and sometimes years.
    1. Falconi, Dina. Earthly Bodies and Heavenly Hair. Woodstock, NY: Ceres Press, 1998, p. 221-223.
    2. Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2008, p. 383-384.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Herbal Medicine Box at the Boston University Farmers Market!

    I am really excited to be a participating vendor at the Boston University Farmers Market this fall.

    The market runs on Thursdays, September 8 - October 27, from 12 - 5 pm, at the George Sherman Union (GSU) Plaza at BU, at 775 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215. Although the market runs from 12 - 5 pm, I will be at the market from approximately 12 - 4 pm, because I waitress at night at Taberna de Haro. For more information about the BU Farmers Market and participating vendors, visit their web page and keep updated with their Facebook page.

    I will be selling various natural body products, including, but not limited to:

    -Moisturizer creams

    -Lip balms


    -Body washes

    -Facial exfoliating scrubs

    -Other rotational items- stay updated on Facebook

    Geranium Moisturizing Cream

    Items will be subject to availability. If there is anything that you would like to see me sell at the market, let me know, I love hearing suggestions and feedback!

    For the latest updates on the products I will be bringing to the market, connect with Herbal Medicine Box on Facebook.

    Hope to see you at the farmers market!

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Recipe: Homemade Deodorant

    I had a great time at my Kitchen Cosmetics Demo a few weeks ago, and so I wanted to share another natural body product recipe with you: homemade deodorant. I first tried out this recipe when I saw it on Alex's blog, Feed Me Like You Mean It, and I'm so glad I did! I've found it more effective than the natural deodorants I've tried in stores, and it's really simple to make. Read Alex's post on homemade deodorant here, and two sources of his inspiration to make it here and here. Below is the recipe including Alex's adaptations and some of my own:

    Coconut-oil based deodorant:
    • 1/2 cup coconut oil
    • 3 tbsp baking soda
    • 1.5 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
    • 8-32 drops assorted essential oils (including tea tree)
    1. If the coconut oil isn't already melted due to warm temperatures (it melts at around 75 degrees F), gently melt the coconut oil in a warm/hot water bath. Pour the coconut oil into an 8-oz glass jar.
    2. Add the baking soda, arrowroot powder (or cornstarch), and essential oils, and stir until combined.
    3. Once the ingredients are combined, cover and put the jar in the refrigerator so that the deodorant solidifies. I usually keep my deodorant in the refrigerator, so it stays at a solid state. If you leave the deodorant out at room temperature and if it's warm enough, the ingredients will separate, so just mix the ingredients before use. In addition, you can fill an old and empty deodorant container with this deodorant recipe. To use, apply the deodorant onto underarms.

    Explanations for the ingredients:
    • Coconut oil acts as the base.
    • Baking soda cleans and deodorizes.
    • Arrowroot powder and cornstarch aid in absorbing moisture and here, perspiration. Arrowroot powder tends to be gentler and smoother on the skin, so that is what I used.
    • Essential oils aid with their beneficial properties and pleasant scents. Antibacterial essential oils are especially helpful in deodorant, because it is bacteria that causes body odor. Thus, tea tree essential oil is recommended, because it is one of the strongest essential oils in terms of its antibacterial properties. I used 16 drops juniper essential oil, 12 drops of tea tree essential oil, and 4 drops lemongrass essential oil in this recipe, because tea tree and lemongrass are both antibacterial essential oils. Lavender is another nice essential oil, that is also antibacterial. Choose essential oils according to their properties and your own preferences. To read more about essential oils and the aromatherapy course that I took, read my blog post here.
    Again, there are many reasons to using homemade and natural cosmetics, including not being exposed to various chemicals and toxic substances that may be found in commercial products. To read more about what may be found in your everyday cosmetics, check out The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. In this recipe, all of the ingredients are edible (although consuming essential oils should be done with caution, if done at all, as I previously mentioned. If you have any concerns about this, you may want to contact your health care practitioner).

    I hope that some of you will try out this homemade deodorant, and please share if you do!

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Kitchen Cosmetics Demo 8/6

    Location: Brookline, MA. Close to the Harvard Ave. stop on the B (green) MBTA line. For the address, please e-mail Annabelle at info [at] or RSVP through The Urban Homesteaders' League.

    Cost: Sliding Scale, $15-$30


    Ever wanted to learn how to make your own body care products? Many commercial body care products may contain ingredients or chemicals linked to toxicities. Your skin is your body's largest organ. If you can't eat it, why put it on your skin?

    In this workshop, Annabelle will demonstrate how to make a homemade moisturizer cream, lip balm, and exfoliating scrub, all made with natural ingredients, and many of which can be found in your own kitchen! She will discuss the ingredients used for these products, and how the recipes can be customized to suit individuals' needs.

    Everyone will receive a sample made in the demo.

    RSVP: by e-mailing Annabelle at info [at] or through The Urban Homesteaders' League.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Get Your Farmers Markets On!

    The growing season in New England is in full swing! I've written before about farmers markets and The Lexington Farmers Market. If you don't already have a CSA and haven't made it to a farmers market yet, now is the perfect time to stop by!

    Shopping at farmers markets helps to support the local community and helps to support the farmers, because you are buying directly from the producer. In addition to more flavorful and fresher produce when you buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, you may also find different varieties of fruits and vegetables at the farmers market that you can't find at the grocery store. By shopping at a farmers market, you can also learn more about the foods and how they are produced, because you can often talk to the farmer or producer. Nowadays, farmers markets contain more than just produce vendors: depending on the farmers market, you may also find fish vendors, meat vendors, baked goods, sauces and salsas, wine vendors, artisans, and more.

    I biked from Brookline to The Lexington Farmers Market last week, and couldn't help but purchase some golden raspberries from F. Busa Farm's gorgeous fruit display.

    To find a local farmers market near you, check out the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets site, Local Harvest, this interactive Google map at, and Edible Boston's listing of farmers markets. And if you see Flats Mentor Farm at the farmers market, consider stopping by and seeing what they have to offer! Read my article about Flats Mentor Farm for the Lexington Minuteman here. Finally, when cabbage is in season (or you can use other vegetables as well!), how about making some sauerkraut?

    Hope you are enjoying this season's bounty!

    Thursday, June 30, 2011

    Fermenting Rice: Amazaké

    Ever since I first tried the fermented rice drink, amazaké, from Whole Foods, I've been intrigued at how to make it. It was hard to believe that such a sweet beverage could be made only with rice and a fermentation starter, without any added sweetener! Although amazaké literally means "sweet sake," it contains almost no alcohol because the fermentation process is stopped with the addition of heat. (Or if the fermentation process isn't stopped, then making amazaké can be the first step to making sake, the Japanese rice wine). Amazaké can be made with grains and koji, or it can be made with sake lees, which are byproducts from the sake making process. Like many other fermented foods, amazaké is thought to be very nutritious. For example, it is said to contain B vitamins. And because I love fermentation, I thought that making amazaké would be a great culinary endeavor!

    Here, I am providing a brief recap of the recipe to make amazaké (a combination of the recipe listed in Sandor Katz's book, Wild Fermentation (1), and South River Miso's Amazaké recipe). For a more detailed set of directions, check out South River Miso's Amazaké recipe.

    -2 cups grain (I used brown rice, but other grains may be substituted, such as millet)
    -2 cups koji (I ordered my koji locally from South River Miso. The koji is the fermentation starter, and here it's brown rice inoculated with the spores of the mold Aspergillus oryzae)


    1. Cook the grain in 6 cups of water. Please note: do not add salt when cooking the grain.

    2. When the grain is finished cooking, remove from heat, uncover the pot, and allow the grain to cool down to about 110-130° F. Don't let the grain get too cool- koji can tolerate temperatures as high as 140° F.

    3. Add the koji to the cooked grain and stir well.

    Brown rice with koji mixed in

    4. Keep the container in a warm place for about 5-8 hours or overnight (at least 90° F or above). The amount of time you ferment the mixture will depend on the desired level of sweetness and the temperature. The higher the temperature, the quicker the fermentation process will take place. Do not let the grain get above 140° F, which can kill the koji. Suggestions for incubation: a rice cooker on keep warm, with a towel on top instead of the hard cover. Or incubate in the oven with a pilot light, in a hot water bath, etc.).

    Amazaké after about 5 hours

    5. When the amazaké is at your desired level of sweetness, gently boil it with some additional water or heat it up to stop the fermentation process (which will prevent the amazaké from turning into alcohol). Be careful not to burn the amazaké.

    6. Amazaké can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator. Serve the amazaké as is as a pudding, or add water to it and put it in a blender to made a sweet rice drink. You can also seasonings to it, such as honey or spices. Amazaké can also be used as a sweet base for various preparations, such as breads and baked goods. Read more suggestions for what to do with amazaké here.

    My amazaké didn't turn out as watery as I thought it would be, so I ended up making sweet rice balls with my amazaké:

    Amazaké rice balls, covered with black and white sesame seeds, coconut flakes, and sea salt, with a peanut in the center.

    Two comments from my experience:
    -I tried freezing some of the rice balls, but they did not taste very good after being kept in the freezer.
    -I used a slow cooker to incubate and ferment the amazaké. However, from a quick google search, it seems that slow cooker temperatures, even on low, can reach temperatures to above 140° F. This meant that I was constantly monitoring the amazaké to try and ensure that it didn't get above 140° F (I didn't have a food thermometer, so I was estimating). So, ferment amazaké in a slow cooker at your own risk...

    Amazaké is a fun and different way to enjoy your grains. In addition, amazaké is a great way to have a sweet snack that is also healthy, without any additional sugar added.

    If you are interested in trying amazaké before you attempt to make it, I have found amazaké at various Whole Foods Markets and at the Harvest Co-Op. At the Harvest Co-Op, I've also found amazaké in various delicious flavors, such as Almond Shake and Go Hazelnuts. You may also find amazaké in your local Asian grocery store. If you have any stories about your experience with amazaké, please share!

    1. Katz, Sandor Ellix. Wild Fermentation. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2003, p. 118-119.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Aromatherapy Course

    This past February, I completed an Aromatherapy Certification Course with Clinical Herbalist, Linda Patterson, at The Boston School of Herbal Studies. This course ran from November-February, one Saturday class a month from 10 am - 5 pm.

    In the course, we learned about the different body systems (including the respiratory system, digestive system, olfactory system, and more), their typical ailments, and the essential oils used to treat these ailments and body systems. Throughout the course, we were introduced to 50 essential oils, and techniques used for blending them.

    It was pretty amazing to learn what essential oils can do. They can be used to treat numerous ailments, including depression, muscular pains and aches, infections, stress, and more. After taking the class, it was hard not to purchase a variety of essential oils.

    Every essential oil has different properties, and it's fun and interesting to learn about, to experiment with, and to combine different oils. Essential oils can be expensive, though, and if you did have to narrow down the ones you were buying, these are the recommended top two: Tea Tree, the "king" of essential oils, and Lavender, the "queen" of essential oils. Tea tree essential oil is primarily known for its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, which also make it a great natural preservative in homemade body care products. It is also a powerful antiseptic, and has many other uses. Lavender essential oil is very calming, has an enjoyable floral fragrance, and is cytophylactic, encouraging the growth of skin cells, among other numerous benefits. For a book on the properties of different essential oils, The Directory of Essential Oils by Wanda Sellar is one recommended read.

    Where to purchase essential oils? Throughout the course, Linda persistently reminded us about the importance of using practitioner grade essential oil whenever possible, meaning that the essential oils in the bottle contain only the oil from the first distillation of the plant, ensuring that the oil is of the highest quality and integrity. (As opposed to the same plant material being distilled twice, ensure that there are no other preservatives or other ingredients put into the oil, etc.). To guarantee that your essential oils are of good quality, you may need to do a little research. Currently, I purchase essential oils from Aromatherapy International, because this company has essential oils of high quality and there is a distributor of this line in Boston. Other recommended companies to purchase essential oils from include Floracopeia (they are expensive but their essential oils smell AMAZING) and Fragrant Earth.

    Essential oils can be applied using various methods. A single essential oil diluted in a carrier oil or a blend of 3-5 essential oils diluted in a carrier oil can be applied topically. Carrier oils can be any type of oil, such as almond oil, apricot kernel oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc. Typically (but there are some exceptions) it is not recommended to apply essential oils topically by themselves without a fat or some type of carrier oil, because essential oils are very strong. In our class, we diluted 15 drops of essential oil in 1 oz of carrier oil. In addition, we learned never to take essential oils internally (again, essential oils are STRONG). However, this opinion differs depending on who you talk to.

    Another way that essential oils can be enjoyed is by diffusers and nebulizers. In order to preserve the quality of the essential oils, especially if you are using them for medicinal purposes, it is important not to add heat to them (this rules out most diffusers, such as candle diffusers). Nebulizers technically are not supposed to use heat when diffusing the scent of an essential oil across a room. For example, a picture of a glass nebulizer can be found here. The downside to this nebulizer is that it requires a lot of essential oil when using it, and it is very hard to clean. The other nebulizer that was recommended to us in the course was the Heavenly Scent Diffuser/Nebulizer:

    Heavenly Scent Diffuser/Nebulizer

    Add some water to the nebulizer and 5-7 drops of essential oils, plug it in, and you can enjoy the scent for 50 min. - 9 hours, depending on what timer settings you choose. The downside is that the diffuser does use specially designed plastic cups to put the essential oils in for use. However, they last for quite awhile and shouldn't need to be replaced often. The upside is that the nebulizer does not require much essential oil for use, is easy to clean, has a convenient timer, and produces a lovely mist! To diffuse the essential oils, this nebulizer uses a fan that breaks down the molecules of the essential oils, and releases them into the air. The Heavenly Scent Diffuser can be purchased from Aromatherapy International. Something to remember if purchasing a nebulizer other than the ones mentioned here is that not all nebulizers sold are actually nebulizers. Again, technically, nebulizers aren't supposed to use heat to break down the essential oils, whereas diffusers can use heat. Many nebulizers sold on the market may use heat, even if they are called nebulizers. So if you are considering purchasing a nebulizer, make sure that you are in fact paying for a nebulizer, and not a diffuser!

    Finally, in our last aromatherapy class, we made several natural body products, and applied our essential oil blending techniques to use in the products. Items we made included body powders, bath salts, and a moisturizer cream.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the Aromatherapy Certification Course, and would highly recommend it to others. For myself, I've found it important to learn more about my health and ways to take care of myself using natural methods. If you have any questions about the course, please let me know! And to learn more about The Boston School of Herbal Studies and the classes that they offer, check out their website and join their mailing list!