A message from the Camino

Many of you may know that our wonderful co-worker Sue is currently on pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago and has been since early September. For anyone following her instagram feed @suegeorge322, you will be familiar with the beauty of her photos and her inspiring messages as she moves along her path.

The Camino, for those who aren’t familiar with it (I wasn’t!) is essentially a long walk that medieval Christian pilgrims undertook culminating at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, where it is said the apostle James is said to be buried. The modern day Camino may be less about the Christian aspect and more a journey of self-discovery and insight of personal spirituality.

Sue arrived at the cathedral today, so the official part of her pilgrimage is complete, however there are a number of common side trips that many of the pilgrims do, including a three day walk to the sea, which is her next leg.


From Sue:

I am grateful to be able to experience Northern Spain the autumn months, witnessing a plethora of extraordinary healing plants growing naturally in their full essence. Just to name a few: calendula, plaintain, mullein flower, blackberry, tansy, yarrow, yucca flower, and lavendar.

I feel honored to see the beauty of these plants growing happily on the sacred path of the Camino. I am in awe of their beauty from within. I pay homage to the pilgrims who come to walk in rain or shine and to find the source for which to heal, many of them healers themself. This experience has brought more mindful awareness & gratitude for this experience, for the world, to be part of an extraordinary community in Santa Cruz, and for my love of the healing arts and nature. Much love to all on your journeys!

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I wanted to get back to our common herb posts. Each time I write one of these, I am amazed all over again at how many benefits the common herbs we find in our gardens have. This truly is a testament to eating fresh, varied, whole foods instead of packaged, processed, boxed crap.


Rosemary is a member of the mint family and is a common herb found in kitchen gardens all over the world. It is hardy, aromatic, and adds a wonderful flavor to food when prepared with it. It has a number of health benefits that it has been used for since ancient times including the ability to improve the memory, boost the immune and circulatory system, alleviate muscle pain, stimulate hair growth and modern science is finally catching up with all the old wives tales. Continue reading

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Making your own tinctures

Making your own simple tinctures is easy and relatively straightforward. It is a way to concentrate the healing properties of the herbs in question and make the finished product shelf stable. Alcoholic tinctures will last years if stored properly and all you need are a few simple pieces of equipment to complete the process.

  • Procure and prepare herbs

Either fresh or dried herbs can be used. If using fresh, make very sure you are using the appropriate herb as there are many lookalike herbs and some are incredibly poisonous. If you choose to use fresh herbs, clean and cut them up in to small pieces prior to putting them in the container you will use to extract. Glass or ceramic is preferred, as the compounds may react to plastic or metal. Also, plastic degrades over time. A mason jar works well. Be sure whatever you chose to use has been washed and sterilized prior to using. Fill the container but be sure not to pack it too tightly. You will be periodically shaking the mixture during the extraction process and the herbs should be able to move easily.

If you choose to use dried herbs, keep in mind that when they reconstitute, they will expand. Roots and other fibrous herbs will close to double in size. Also, try not to use powdered herb, because this is exceptionally difficult to filter out of the final product. In oil it can be an irritant on the skin, especially if you are using it on a sensitive area. In alcohol it will settle to the bottom of your final product.

  • Cover with alcohol or oil

Cover with your choice of alcohol or oil. When deciding on what to use, consider what the end use of the product will be. Will you be using this externally? Or taking it internally? For external products, we prefer Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but any neutral oil will work. Just make sure it is high quality. If you are making an alcohol tincture, any high proof clear alcohol will work. Vodka is obviously the easiest to procure, but if you can get your hands on grain alcohol, even better. Just remember, the higher the proof, the more efficient the extraction process will be.

Once covered, seal the jar and give it a good shake and make sure any air bubbles that are trapped under the surface are removed.

  • Label and let sit

Be sure to label and date your tincture, then let it sit in a dark place for at least three weeks. You can periodically shake the mixture when you check on it. Recommendations on how frequently to shake vary, some people suggest shaking the mixture multiple times of day for the first two weeks, others suggest fewer times. If you forget to shake the herbs, it won’t ruin your tincture, so don’t worry overmuch about that. Remember, the longer the herbs sit, the stronger the tincture will be.

  • Press and filter

This step is the only step where you will need special equipment. Depending on the quantity that you are making, you will want a way to press the larger pieces of the herb to extract as much liquid as possible, then filter it to remove as many of the tiny particles as possible. You could use a press of some sort if you already have one, otherwise cheese cloth or nut milk bags are a good option for a small amount of tincture. For the final filtration, coffee filters are something that almost all of us have on hand and are fantastic at trapping the smallest particles.

Once you are pleased with the filtering process, store the final product in a cool, dark place and it will keep for an extended period of time, at the minimum of three to five years.

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Making time for exercise

Finding beauty in where I exercise is one way to keep myself interested.

I know there are people out there that take pleasure in the act of exercising, but I’m not one of them. I like the results, I feel better after I’m done, but when I exercise with no other reason than my health and knowing that I should, it’s not the most fun thing I’ve ever done. My mom had similar feelings about exercise. She knew it was a cornerstone to her health, but she didn’t love doing it. For her, when she was tired or busy, exercise was the easiest thing to push back. I think for many of us, exercise feels like a chore, rather than a genuine pleasure but there are ways to improve your experience. Continue reading

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Getting ready for going back to school

Summer has screamed by once again and my daughter is all set to start first grade tomorrow. We met her teacher yesterday, dropped her school supplies off, and did a final round of school lunch supply shopping. We start early compared to most of the country, and have been madly trying to cram as much fun into our last few days as possible. In between the fun, there are a few things that we as parents can do to prep our kids and boost their immune systems prior to the first day of school. Here are a few suggestions that may help your child get ready for their first day of school. Continue reading

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Turmeric is a distinctive spice, both in color and flavor.  Like many other spices, it has had a multitude of uses in folk and alternative medicines throughout history however modern medicine has done little research to corroborate ancient theory. It has been used both internally and externally and has a long history of use in Ayrvedic medicine to purify and move the blood, as well as for a host of various ailments. It is well known as an effective anti-inflammatory, which may be why turmeric can be credited with being so effective against so many diseases.

The main active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin and studies have shown that this component is able to subdue a protein called NF-Kappa B which may control as much as 98% of all modern diseases including cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis as well as many others. NF-Kappa B is a protein that promotes abnormal inflammatory Continue reading

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Website contest

We have something exciting to talk about today, we are announcing a contest on our website and the winning prize is $100 in retail credit, to spend however you like. This is the opportunity you have been waiting for to stock up on your favorites, or try something new!

Here’s the deal: write a product review on our website and you will get an entry into the contest. One entry per review and you can review as many different products as you like.

The contest runs from now until May 29, 2015. When the contest closes, we will randomly pick a review and notify the winner via email.

How to do it: in order to review a product on our website, log in to your account. If you do not have an account, you will need to create one. Once created, pick the product you wish to review and click on the reviews tab. Click on Write a Review and fill out the information. Once your review is submitted it may take some time to show up.

One note: we will notify the winner of the contest using the information they provide in their account.

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This month in our garden

I thought it would be nice to bring back the monthly garden posts, with photos from the BHP garden. Once things get growing here in Ohio, I intend including some pictures of my own more modest efforts as well.

Calendula flower. One of our recent harvests from the BHP garden was calendula. This is used in a number of our oils and salves.

Continue reading

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Herbs to grow, part 2

We are continuing our series on the health benefits of herbs to grow in your garden.



Historically, rosemary has been used for a variety of complaints including alleviating muscle pain, improving memory, boosting the immune and circulatory system, and promoting hair growth. It is part of the mint family and is high in calcium, iron, and vitamin B6. Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and an excellent anti-inflammatory. It is commonly used to treat indigestion and heartburn as well as improve overall digestion. Components contained in the oil of rosemary correlate with improvement in memory and concentration, in fact scientists have found that rosemary is good for the brain. Rosemary also may be good for macular degeneration and keeping one’s eyes healthy. When used topically with other herbs, it may possibly prevent hair loss, can relieve joint and muscle pain, and can be used to relieve stress.


Garlic has the ability to treat a wide variety of uses conditions related to the heart and blood system, colon and rectal cancer, stomach cancer, high blood pressure, tick bites, and various fungal infections including ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch. Garlic is another spice that has been used for thousands of years, in fact there are records that it was in use in Giza during the time that the pyramids were being built, over 5,000 years ago. Garlic was even given to Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece as a performance enhancer. Historically, it has been used to treat bronchitis, tuberculosis, rheumatism, dysentery, colic, stomach ailments, diabetes, even intestinal worms.


Sage is yet another spice that has a long history. It is one of the original herbs that made up Four Thieves Vinegar, a medieval remedy that was supposed to protect the wearer from the plague. It has had so many uses, both in cooking and as a medicinal herb that it was considered a remedy for all ailments, everything from the cleansing of wounds, sprains, ulcers, female and menopause complaints, and stomach and digestive issues. Today, not only is it nutritious, but it is used to help improve memory, it is an anti-inflammatory, and has properties that help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

It is approved by the German Commission E for mild gastrointestinal upset, excessive sweating, and inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. It is an anti-spasmodic and may reduce tension in muscle and it is commonly used to alleviate the side effects associated with menopause, specifically menopausal sweating.


As with garlic, chives are a member of the allium family, thus sharing many of the same properties. The benefits of the allium family have been studied extensively, specifically regarding cancer, and stomach and colorectal cancer especially. Research has shown the inhibition of tumor growth and the prevention of the formation of free radicals. Allium vegetables may also lower the risk of prostate cancer. The high levels of choline and folate in chives may be beneficial to improving sleep and mood. Other benefits may relate to heart health by reducing the stiffness and plaque in arteries, chives are high in vitamin K which is a key mineral in preventing bone demineralization, and chives are high in antioxidants.

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Herbs to grow for our health, part one

We all know that fresh herbs are where it’s at when cooking, but aside from being superior flavor-wise, our common cooking herbs have a surprising number of health benefits when regularly included in our diets. All of the following are easy to grow in a home garden of any size and add interest to our meals and are one of the many things we can consume to help keep us healthy.


When taken orally, oregano is used to help respiratory tract infections including influenza and the common cold, UTIs, gastrointestinal disorders, and even menstrual cramps. Oregano is high in vitamin K which promotes bone growth and density. It also contains high concentrations of anti-oxidants and is an effective anti-inflammatory.

When used topically, the essential oil of oregano has anti-bacterial properties. It is used in a wide variety of skin conditions from acne to dandruff, but it has been proven by Western medicine to be effective against multiple strains of Listeria bacteria, a common food pathogen and the Himalayan variety is even strong enough to kill MRSA and its effectiveness is not diminished by heating the oil in boiling water.

Conditions that oregano has been used to relive throughout history (but Western medicine may not have studied) include cold, muscle pain, acne, dandruff, bronchitis, toothache, bloating, headaches, heart conditions, allergies, intestinal parasites, fatigue, ear ache, menstrual cramps, and as an insect repellant.


Basil is a member of the mint family and in addition to being simple to grow and a wonderful addition to Italian, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, has many additional health benefits. There are a number of varieties of basil, all with different flavor profiles ranging from sweet, to citrusy, to peppery. In fact, holy basil is used as a healing herb in Ayurvedic and Tamil healing traditions. Western research has studied some specific aspects of holy basil and has found that extracts reduce inflammation and swelling; has anti-aging properties; is effective at combatting free radicals in the liver, brain and heart; and is high in anti-oxidants. Additionally, early studies suggest that holy basil may be helpful with anxiety and stress and even decrease blood sugar in people with Type 2 Diabetes.

Topically, basil oil has been found to have antibacterial properties. It has been used to treat ringworm; it can restrict the growth of bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli (E-coli); and even stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


Historically, thyme has been used through the ages to aid with a wide range of chest and respiratory conditions including cough, chest congestion, and bronchitis. The volatile component in the oil of thyme provides some pretty amazing benefits. Thymol significantly increases the anti-oxidant protection of cellular membranes. It has been found to protect and increase the healthy fats on a cellular level. Thyme is high in flavonoids, making it an excellent anti-oxidant.

Here is yet another herbal oil which is a highly effective antimicrobial. Studies have shown it to be effective in combatting a variety of bacteria including Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei. What is remarkable about the oils in thyme was not only can it prevent contamination, but it can decontaminate previously contaminated foods as well and it is as simple as washing the affected food with a 1% solution of the essential oil.

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