Get Ready for the Winter

Autumn is a breathtaking time of year to enjoy the natural world. As the season changes from warm to cool to cold, and the business of our modern world keeps charging forward at an ever-steady pace, we must remember to care for our precious health and wellness. In traditional Asian medicine, we observe the natural world. From our lessons of the natural world, we learn how to treat our bodies, and make our medicines. Autumn is considered the season of metal energy. It marks the end of the growing season, when nature makes a final stunning display of abundant harvests, then the bareness, the coolness, the dryness, and the turning inward of energy sets in, in preparation for the winter to come. The metal elemental organs of the body are the lungs and the large intestine. Much like the functions of these organs, autumn is the time to both be inspired, and to let go. We must allow the leaves to fall from branches, in order to compost the soil for next year’s harvest. Similarly, in traditional Asian medicine, the autumn is the time to take care of our digestion and our immune systems. When our immune forces are not strong enough, we are faced with the perils of colds and flus, ear infections, sore throats, respiratory and sinus infections. Preventative medicine is a cornerstone of traditional Asian medicine, and we at Benedictine Healing Products not only have a wonderful line of traditional cold and flu remedies, we also have elegantly formulated herbal remedies for preventative care, along with some sage lifestyle guidance.

The digestive system plays a major role in our immune function. If we are digesting, assimilating nutrients, excreting our waste products effectively, and our symbiotic ecosystem is healthy, we tend to feel well. Unfortunately, in our modern culture we tend to over indulge in food and drinks that are rich and sugary, and that has serious effects on our immune, respiratory and digestive function. If we make good decisions for our health and wellness regularly, we build a strong foundation, which can withstand a little celebratory indulgence without feeling unwell as a result. The food we eat, the exercise we get, the way we breathe and settle emotions are some of the daily choices which can have profound influences on our health.

The autumn time is a beautiful season to eat warm, nourishing soup. There’s a reason traditional cultures from around the world revere soup and have healing soup recipes for every ailment under the sun. Soup is powerful tool for wellness in the cooler months. Soup is an easy to digest, nutrient rich, source of food and water, which deeply moistens dryness. Digestive systems love soups packed with vegetables, proteins, fats, broth and herbs. Using bone broth is great way to boost your soup nutrient density, and increase its healing properties. Our Holiday Bitters can also be a powerful formula traditionally used to boost digestive function. Bitter herbs stimulate the body to secrete its own endogenous digestive secretions, such as stomach acid and bile, improving the break down and assimilation of nutrients. When our digestion is functioning well we feel satiated are less prone to over indulgence. Holiday Bitters has a lovely, tasty digestive aperitif which can be enjoyed alone, or in a cocktail to assist in your celebratory wellness.

Breathing the cool autumn air, and getting your body moving is essential for the movement of qi, and the prevention of stagnation, which can lead to not feeling well, pain, impaired digestion and immune function. I suggest people find a way to move their bodies that they enjoy, whether that is Tai chi, yoga, dancing, hiking, going for a run, going to the gym, surfing, walking, or gardening, just enjoy doing it. It helps with motivation when you just love the way it makes you feel!

The holidays are not a happy time for everyone. Often the holiday season remind of loss, brings up feelings of grief, loneliness and despair. In traditional Asian medicine, the lungs are governed by the emotion of grief, for as many of you know, we often physically feel grief in our chest. The lungs are affected by the feelings of sadness and loss. We are all on this earth together. We all feel the loss of loved ones if we are lucky enough to live a full life of people we have loved, and been loved by in return. The holiday season can be a beautiful time to connect with people, to give and serve our fellow human beings. I find giving, and kindness to be a powerful tool in healing our own sadness, despair and grief, and remind us of the true beauty of the holiday season. Stress and our heavy emotions take a toll on our health. Finding tools that help with stress management and emotional well being are an essential aspect to holistic healthcare.

Traditional Asian medicine excels at preventative medicine, in part due to the variety of powerfully tonifying and adaptogenic herbs which come from Asia. Immune Plus showcases many of these powerful herbs, and is a truly powerhouse synergistic formula. When cold and flu season sets in, Immune Plus becomes an essential addition to my health and wellness. Adaptogenic herbs help us adapt to stress, and optimize the bodies innate ability to function. Traditionally, the herbs in Immune Plus have been used to increase our energy and stamina, optimize the function of the immune system to stave off illness, optimize the qi of the lungs and kidneys, to increase digestive function, and to decrease stagnation. The herbs in Immune Plus are also rich in vitamins, and minerals which nourish the cells of our immune system.

When the flu hits, we here at Benedictine Healing Products hit back. Chinese Cold and Flu is our version of the TCM Formula Chuan Xin Lian Pian. The traditional indications for this formula are clear heat toxins and/or damp-heat evils. What does that mean you may wonder? It means it has traditionally been used in the treatment of seasonal epidemics, both bacterial and viral in nature, which can cause symptoms such as fever, body aches, headaches, sweats, sore throat, cough, digestive disruptions, and being irritable and downright sick. The traditional formula features the herbs Chuan Xin Lian (Adrographis paniculata), Pu Gong Ying (Taraxicum mongolicum) also known as dandelion leaf and flower, and Ban Lan Gen (Istatidis tinctoria). These herbs are all used traditionally to clear heat and toxins. Our Chinese Cold and Flu modifies the traditional formula with Wu Zhu Yu (Evodia rutaecarpa) which is used to warm the interior. This herb is added to protect the digestion from the power heat clearing properties of the other three herbs. The formula is used as an antibiotic, antiviral, antipyretic (anti-fever) anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal, and immunostimulant. One of the side effects of the traditional formula is that it can injure the qi of the stomach due to its cold nature, which is why we added the Wu Zhu Yu. This allows people to take the formula for longer periods of time (in the fight against longer standing infections such as strep throat) without the impairment of digestive function. Chinese Cold and Flu is the formula I use to combat colds and flus with fevers, sore throats, and coughs due to lung heat.

I hope you enjoyed reading about health and wellness in the autumn months from a traditional Asian medical perspective. We sincerely hope you are all well, and finding your joy this holiday season! We have too many amazing formulas to write about in a single blog post, but some other autumn formulas to explore are our Immune for Kids, Sniffles for Kids, Elderberry Plus, Anti-X, Deep Lung and Deep Lung 3 in 1, Adaptogen Plus, and our Lymph Oil. Look out for more information about those formulas in our future blog posts.

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Our favorite oils

Melissa Pereira Gelin, our Educational Specialist, has a new video post about some of our favorite topical oils. She discusses the benefits and uses of Lymph Oil, Rose Geranium Oil, and the perennial favorite Yoni Oil.

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Salad dressings are easy!

For most of us, when we want to eat healthier, automatically add large salads as an easy way to include a variety of vegetables in our diet. This is an admirable task, especially when one goes beyond including salad basics, however it doesn’t address the problem of store-bought salad dressings. When using these, it is impossible to control the quality of the oils used, the amount of sugar or salt added, or whether any additional additives are included. Reduced fat or fat free salad dressings aren’t necessarily better for you either. In order to remove the fat and keep the flavor, sugar and salt are increased as well as ingredients to keep the dressing creamy.

Store bought salad dressings certainly require zero work, but homemade salad dressing isn’t difficult and only require a couple minutes to throw together. Many salad dressings can be made from pantry staples and only from a few ingredients. One thing that I enjoy about store bought dressings is how creamy they can be and that is easily remedied when an emulsifier is added to help bind the oil and water together. For emulsifiers, mustard, egg, yogurt, or sour cream are all options depend on the dressing you are making.

When making your own salad dressings, use high quality ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, free range eggs, high quality cheese. My mom preferred to avoid refined sugar when possible, instead using honey or maple syrup. She was adamant about avoiding hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola.

The possibilities are endless when making your own dressings! Off the top of my head, a sesame ginger may be one I will make in the near future. Find your favorite and make it at home, or use one of ours:

Balsamic vinaigrette

This is one that I make most frequently. I don’t generally use measurements but instead go for flavor and consistency. Whisk all the ingredients together and adjust for flavor.

EVOO

Balsamic vinegar

Dijon mustard

Salt

Pepper

Optional ingredients that I add from time to time:

Pomegranate syrup

Fresh crushed garlic

 

Caesar dressing

This was one of my mom’s favorite salad dressings. It is amazing for the skin because of the egg yolk and anchovy.

1-4 anchovy fillets (or anchovy paste)

1/4 – 1/2 lemon, juiced

1-2 tsp unpasteurized vinegar of your choice

1 Tbs EVOO

1/2 – 1 tsp flaxseed oil or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Artic cod liver oil (my mom preferred the Nordic Naturals brand)

1 egg yolk

1 clove crushed fresh garlic

Pepper and salt to taste

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Blend ingredients together and use immediately.

 

Honey lemon cilantro

This one is a family favorite from the defunct India Joze restaurant in Santa Cruz owned by restaurateur Jozeph Schultz. Not only did we spend many a dinner here growing up but my brother worked there for several years (and went on to follow Joz to subsequent businesses) and we have incorporated it into our regular rotation.

1 bunch cilantro stems

Juice of 5 or 6 lemons

2 Tbs honey

1/2 cup peanut oil

Salt and white pepper to taste

Jalapeno

Blend all the ingredients together and use. This isn’t a dressing that will keep, it is best when it is used immediately because the cilantro will go bad in the lemon juice. Freezing the lemon juice (or using frozen concentrate) is one way to extend the life of the cilantro. I’ve even added ginger to give it a different flavor. Unless you have gum Arabic powder on hand, this isn’t a dressing to try and thicken up.

 

Papaya seed dressing

1 Tbs Fresh papaya seeds

½ Onion

Vinegar (red wine or cider)

¼ cup honey

Salt

1 tsp – 1 Tbs mustard depending on taste

EVOO

Blend all ingredients together and serve. The papaya seeds have a light peppery taste that enlivens a salad dressing and is nicely balanced by the sweetness in the recipe.

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Herb Walk Talk

Here is a video of excerpts from the herb walk we hosted a while back. Enjoy!

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Immune products

I wanted to share a video that Melissa, one of our Educational Specialists did talking about our immune  and cold & flu products and how and when to use them. She covers some of the formulas in our children’s line, as well as some oils that are helpful for a cold or flu.

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Herb Walk


A couple weeks ago we collaborated with the Farm at UCSC to host an herb walk discussing some of the herbs that are used in our formulas. Our Educational Specialist, Jasmine Wiest, along with David Shaw, founder of Santa Cruz Permaculture & UCSC Common Ground Center  as well as having been a professor of Agroecology since 2004; and Cameron Salomon, founder of Kindred Herbs lead the walk.

They covered a number of our more popular herbs including cleavers, fennel, lemon verbena, oregano, chamomile, lavender, and fever few as well as others. Many of the common kitchen herbs are incredibly useful and flexible and can be used for a variety of issues, which is why maintaining a small culinary herb garden can have so many unexpected benefits, aside from delicious food!

 

 

It turned out to be a gorgeous day and everyone enjoyed the walk. In addition to discussing how useful herbs are in our lives, Jasmine Wiest talked about BHP’s liver supporting formulas and David talked about the Agroecology department.

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Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies

One of my mom’s favorite pet projects was the propagation of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, a native butterfly. I remember helping my mom collect the leaves the caterpillars pupate on, then feeding them sometimes three and four times a day depending on how large they were. It was wonderful to be in her garden when the butterflies were emerging from their chrysalis. Here is a video my dad made about the Pipevine Swallowtail years ago, with a compilation of over five years of photos.

This is the time of year to look for the caterpillars on the pipevine plant. They spend six weeks as caterpillars, which is longer than many other species and because it only eats one variety of pipevine, makes it particularly vulnerable. If you live in and around Santa Cruz, keep your eye out for these beautiful specimens.

If you want additional information on the Pipevine Swallowtail, go to the website: http://butterflyproject.org/. It’s a little out of date, but the information is still accurate.

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BHP Activities

We’ve had an eventful spring here at BHP. Now that my dad and I are working together to produce the herb formulas, we’ve been discussing what we want to do for our fresh herb sources. When he moved to Ohio, one of the requirements for the place he chose was adequate space for a garden. We did some planning over the winter and now that the growing season has commenced we are getting our infrastructure in place. I’ve been documenting the process and we finally have enough complete to warrant a blog post!

The patio needed to be replaced.

There were a couple old raised beds in the yard that needed to be replaced and upgraded so we ripped those out. You can almost see the three decrepit beds by the back fence in the above photo. Continue reading

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Using herbs in our diet to enhance our health

fennel

Most of us try to live a healthy lifestyle: eat a good diet, exercise regularly, and tread lightly on the planet. Even so, sometimes it can be hard to incorporate herbs into our regular routine and keep it up when we don’t have a pressing health issue. Adding fresh herbs to our meals is a wonderful and delicious way to make this easier.

Don’t forget that culinary herbs are often times what we are taking in tinctures or pills and can be just as beneficial. If you don’t have a mini herb garden already, why not? It’s inexpensive to grow, can take as much or as little room as you’d like, and greatly enhances the flavor of any food you might make. Now is the ideal time of year to plan any garden activities. In my part of the world, while it’s a bit early to be planting outside, seeds can be started indoors and any window is perfect for a pot of herbs. I’ve been making my garden plans and I’m looking forward to organizing my dad’s this year as well.

Herbal teas and tea blends are a great way to introduce new herbs into your diet. Again, you can grow many varieties in your own garden if you have the wherewithal. You could also blend your own teas. Tea is a great place to add pre-made tinctures. If they are alcohol based, the hot water will help the alcohol evaporate if that is a concern and it is simple to disguise the flavor if necessary.

Use herbs as digestives. Again, you can make your own if you’re feeling adventurous, otherwise you can find any variety herbal bitters at the liquor store these days that can help digestion. Micro distilleries are springing up everywhere and are a great source of hand crafted liquors using local and seasonal ingredients.

If you’re interested in a non-alcoholic option, try adding your herbs to sparkling water. You could further enhance your drink with additional fresh herbs, lemon or lime, cucumber, or fruit. Really, only your imagination limits you.

Fresh herbs are also great in salads and sandwiches. They impart an intense burst of flavor and can improve an average dish. Have you ever tried making banh mi and not including fresh herbs? The beautiful thing about a sandwich like this is that it only gets better with a wider variety of vegetables and herbs.

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Cold & Flu video

We have had our Educational Specialists doing trainings for the past few months in the stores that carry our products. Here is a short clip providing a basic overview of our cold and flu products.



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