September 25, 2015
Elderberries can be made into a syrup
While there are many herbs to help treat cold and flu symptoms and to shorten the duration of an illness, elderberry (Sambuccus nigra) is Mother Nature’s version of the flu shot and can actually help prevent you from contracting the virus. Elderberry syrup is Europe’s most esteemed formula for colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections.
Just how does elderberry keep the cold and flu at bay?
Flu viruses are primitive organisms that need the body’s cells as a host to replicate themselves. They puncture the cell walls with little enzyme-coated spikes called hemaglutinin and so break into the cell. Research has shown that elderberry has chemical compounds that disarm these spikes and prevent the virus from entering the respiratory cells thereby working in a prophylactic way.
Growing up in Germany, my mother got us through the winter by making sure we got our daily dose of elderberry Syrup. (The adults, on the other hand, preferred a glass of elderberry wine!) She would make many batches of the syrup and I have kept up with this tradition in my family as well.
In recent years, elderberry syrup has been gaining in popularity here in the U.S. too and can be found in many health food stores. But why spent a lot of money, if it is so easy and fun to make in your own kitchen. All you need is:
½ cup of dried Elderberries
3 cups of spring water
½ -1 cup of honey
In a saucepan, bring the elderberries and water to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 to 4o minutes. Strain the liquid, making sure you mash the berries in order to get every drop of the decoction. Add the honey to the warm liquid and fill in a glass bottle. The syrup will keep in the fridge for 3 months. Take 1-3 tbsp per day for as a preventative remedy.
Elderberries are safe and can be taken over extended period of time!
*(don’t give honey to children under the age of 1)
September 18, 2015
Caffien in my cup?
It is certainly an interesting topic and one that comes up frequently at the tea shop. Many customers seek to limit their caffeine intake or even completely avoid it altogether. Most consider it unhealthy but it seems there is no real consensus among experts on the answer to the question whether caffeine is friend or foe!
Fact is that caffeine is a bitter substance, naturally occurring in some plants as their protective measure against insects and microbes â€“ a natural pesticide! In the human body, caffeine increases metabolism and stimulates the nervous system, which leaves us more alert, feeling less tired and a little more cheerful â€“ nothing to complain about if you ask me! Negative effects such as heart palpitations, headaches and sleeplessness are typically the result of too much caffeine or sensitivity to it. For most people, though, the moderate consumption of caffeine is not harmful.
Truth is also, that the level of caffeine in your favorite drinks varies greatly and that not all caffeine is created equal. Let’s take a closer look at the makeup and effects of caffeine in your cup of tea:
How much is in my cup?
This is one of the most asked questions we get. The answer is: A variety of factors determine the caffeine content in the dry tea leaf and in the steeped leaf.
- Since caffeine is a pesticide, the younger shoots and leaves have more caffeine than the more mature tea leaves. The type of tea plant, soil texture, climate, and elevation all play a role in how much caffeine the tea leaf produces.
- Processing methods also matter when it comes to the caffeine content in your cup. Green and black teas undergo different processing and the oxidation step of black tea production changes the cellular structure of the leaf in such a way that caffeine is more readily available to dissolve in water.
- Steeping time and water temperature have a great impact on the caffeine level in your cup as well. Caffeine is water-soluble and the longer it is exposed to water, the more caffeine molecules are released â€“ in short, the longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine will end up with. This explains in part, why your green or white tea tends to have less caffeine than your black tea. The recommended steeping time for most green and white teas is 2-3 minutes, whereas black tea is typically steeped between 3-5 minutes.
How does tea compare with other sources of caffeine?
Due to the many factors contributing to the caffeine content, it is difficult to provide exact measurements. On average, however, an 8 oz cup of black tea has 85 mg caffeine and an 8 oz cup of green tea has 40-60mg of caffeine. In comparison, an 8 oz cup of drip coffee contains 135 mg, a 12oz can of Coke 34mg.
Why does tea give me a lift and not a jolt?
- The caffeine in tea is called theine (tay-eene) and metabolizes differently in the body than the caffeine in coffee. Researchers found, for example, that the high content of antioxidants found in tea slows the absorption of caffeine, resulting in a gentler effect that seems to last longer and does not end with the abrupt let-down often experienced with coffee.
- Besides caffeine, tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine (L-tay ah neen). L-theanine is relaxing and counteracts the stimulating effects of caffeine by increasing those neurotransmitters in the brain whose overall effect is to quiet brain activity. Instead of getting the jitters, tea drinkers experience a sense of calm with improved brain function. Recent studies also show that L-theanine may help protect the liver, alleviate high blood pressure and improve immune system function.
Are decaffeinated teas better for me?
During the decaffeination process, the tea leaves are first moistened before the caffeine is extracted using a solvent. Ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, or highly pressurized carbon dioxide strips the caffeine from the leaves. To remove any solvent residues, the leaves are steamed and finally dried again. The decaffeination process greatly reduces the amount of caffeine, but won’t remove it completely. On average, a cup of decaffeinated tea still has 5mg caffeine.
Teas decaffeinated with the gentler CO2 method retain most of the health properties, but even here, some of the antioxidant properties may be lost.
In summary, caffeine consumed in moderation, is well tolerated by most people and may even provide benefits to health and well being.
For those, who must or want to avoid caffeine completely, we recommend herbal infusions, such as rooibos, chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm since herbals do not contain any caffeine at all.
Ref. Dr. Paul Holmgren, PhD, www.Drpaulsupdates.org
August 16, 2015
September is National Organic
Certified Organic Label
Harvest month and therefore a good opportunity to take a closer look at what exactly this means when it comes to your tea purchases and how to navigate the different package labels.
The USDA ORGANIC label is showing up on more and more products and many of us rely on this label to deliver consistent quality.
The organic label indicates that an agricultural product – and tea is an agricultural product – has been produced through approved methods. These methods consist of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. This means that synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used!
The growing of organic tea is relatively new, dating back about twelve years. The rules under which organic tea is produced are fairly complicated and tightly controlled. The tea crop must be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It relies only on natural organic matter such as compost, plants and trees to provide the necessary nutrients and ground cover. There are two categories of organic tea production:
- In the first category, you will find teas that have been certified organic by one of several international agencies.
- The second category includes teas that are grown according to traditional methods, following the principals of organic growth, but are not validated by a certified agent. These are often teas from smaller tea gardens whose owners simply cannot afford the certification fees, but take pride in the superior quality of their teas.
When a tea is labeled “certified organic”, it has met the conditions by at least one of the regulatory agencies. That does not, however, mean that all non-organic teas contain chemicals and are unhealthy. Some teas have been grown organically for centuries, in spite of codes or set rules.
Tea consumption worldwide is growing and the demand for high quality, certified organic teas is increasing, yet the production is driven mainly by cost.
For the consumer it is not always easy to decipher which teas are organically grown. Here in the U.S., the certifying agency is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and certified organic products are clearly labeled.
On the other hand, a tea can be grown organically and certified by the appropriate agencies in Japan, England or Germany, yet the consumer here will not be aware of this due to the lack of labeling.
The better known certifying agencies whose logos might appear on products sold in the U.S. are Germany’s Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, Switzerland’s Institute for Market Ecology and Japan’s Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS).
With the increasing demand, a wide range of organic teas are now available, but even without organic production methods, tea is actually a very clean product whose cultivation and production is tightly controlled and monitored.
Some tea growers work in harmony with nature and produce what is called “bio-dynamic” tea. This means that the seasons, the weather, the waxing and waning of the moon and the interaction and interdependency of different species of insects, birds and animals are all taken into consideration when planting. This approach of tea farming links with ancient agricultural practices.
Demeter International is one of the bodies that runs a biodynamic certification program and invests in raising awareness of ecological patterns and sustainable farming activities.
So while the USDA ORGANIC label reflects the quality of the agricultural product you are buying, it is by no means the only seal for organically grown products. If you have questions about the origin and production of the tea and agricultural products you are buying, ask your grocer or tea purveyor for information on its origin and production.
Celebrate National Organic Harvest month with us at Souvia and check out the specials we have on our extensive selection of certified organic teas.
July 24, 2015
Yerba Mate is an evergreen shrub that grows in many parts of South America. As a beverage, it is a favorite in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Most Yerba Mate is green, although roasted Yerba Mate is also available and gaining in popularity. In South America, it is served in a hollow gourd with sweetener and milk. The brew is then sucked up through a filtered straw called bombilla.
With its slightly smokey, vegetal and bitter taste, this brew takes some getting used to as a self-drinker (without adding milk and sugar), but it combines well with other herbs and spices. It can be made hot or cold.
Yerba Mate special properties include many vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. Unlike other herbals, it does contain caffeine. Aficionados swear by the energy boost it gives without the jitters and anxiety often caused by coffee.
To make an infusion, use 1 heaping tsp dried leaves in 1 cup (8oz) of freshly boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes or longer if you like it strong. (no worries about over steeping!)
May 9, 2015
Herbal medicine is gaining more and more popularity as an alternative to support conventional medical treatments or to simply maintain health and wellbeing.
While research is ongoing, herbal products are becoming more and more mainstream and are available in health food stores and specialty retailers. They come in many forms, accommodating the preference of the customer – from teas, capsules, syrups, lotions to liquid extracts. By far the most common method to take herbals is to make a tea, infusing the leaves, flowers or fruits with boiling water and letting them steep. Herbal infusions are gentle, easy to make at home and soothing when you don’t feel well.
However, not all phytochemicals dissolve in water and therefore the infusion method may yield the best results. Another, more effective method of extraction is to prepare a tincture – also called herbal extract. Not only do you end up with a more concentrated herbal medicine, you will also get a product that delivers herbal medicine in a standardized way, meaning with every dropper full, you get a similar amount of the active ingredient. Herbal extracts are alcoholic or water-alcohol solutions, prepared from fresh or dried botanicals. Vegetable glycerin is another solvent that works great for those who want to avoid alcohol or to make tinctures for children.
One of the oldest and a very easy way to make a tincture/herbal extract in your kitchen is called the “simpler’s method” which uses parts as a measurement. A part is a unit of measurement that can be interpreted to mean, tsp, cup, ounce, pound, etc., but always keeps the relative proportions of the herb consistent.
- Begin your tincture preparation by placing dried or fresh herbs in a glass jar and pour enough alcohol (clear grain alcohol like Vodka is best) over the herbs to cover them completely. Usually the ratio is 1 part herb to 5 parts of alcohol. Close the jar with a tight fitting lid and place it in a warm and dry place.
- Let the herbs soak for four to six weeks, shaking the jar daily to prevent them from settling on the bottom of it.
- Strain the herbs into a container and fill the liquid into small bottles and label these with the herb’s name and current date. If stored in a cool, dark place, the tincture will keep three to six years.
You can prepare single herb tinctures or with a little knowledge blend different herbs into a medicine that targets a specific problem. For example, combine Echinacea and Elderberry for an immune strengthening tincture or blend Skullcap and Lemon balm to soothe frayed nerves. If you would like to learn more about herbs and how to use them, check with your Souvia Tea Consultant for the latest seminars and workshops.
Olivia Wingert, Co-owner Souvia Tea™ and passionate herbalist
April 6, 2015
Green tea does not equal green tea just like no two red wines are alike. Aside from growing region, elevation, climate and harvest time, the processing after the leaves have been picked also determines the aroma and flavor in the cup.
Chinese green teas, for example, are pan-fired which sometimes add a certain smoky aroma while Japanese green teas are briefly steamed. It is the steaming of the leaves that gives them their bright green color and the green/yellow hue in the cup.
The flavor of Japanese green teas is often described as fresh grass, seaweed or spinach. Some are smooth, rich in flavor and others brisk, slightly astringent and refreshing.
Since the leaves are steamed, flavor and color is extracted more easily and therefore steeping times should be shorter. I usually start steeping my tea 1 1/2 minutes but would not recommend to go longer than three minutes. Longer steeping times makes these teas bitter. I also use slightly cooler water than the recommended 175 for Chinese green teas since it prevents the tea from becoming too astringent. 165F – 170F usually produces a delicious cup.
Paying attention to these small details is worth it if you are looking for a superb tea experience!
March 28, 2015
Today, more and more people realize the importance of a healthy diet and especially wholesome and healthy nutrition. They pay attention to the quality of their food, buy organically grown produce, read labels and hold the food industry to higher standards by refusing to buy products with harmful ingredients; the cosmetic industry is still flying under the radar of government agencies and the public eye.
Beauty, however, is more than skin deep and reading labels can open your eyes to the dangers lurking in today’s beauty products. From lead in lipsticks to the phthalates and parabens in your baby’s lotion, the list of toxic and health-damaging ingredients is long and expands daily
Did you know that the average woman uses a dozen personal care products, containing 168 chemicals, 89% of which have never been tested for the safety of their ingredients. (Uricchio, 2010)
While the The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with the oversight of cosmetics, it has no authority to require pre-market safety assessments. It can neither review and regulate what goes into cosmetics, nor can it recall products that are found to be harmful.
The top five harmful chemicals most commonly found in popular beauty products are lead, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and nitrosamines.
Lead is a toxic heavy metal and can be found in whitening toothpastes and lipsticks. The negative effects of lead exposure are well documented and reach from neuro-toxicity, seizures, gastrointestinal issues to reproductive and kidney dysfunction
Formaldehyde, another frequently used ingredient, is absorbed transdermally or by inhalation and can be found in nail polishes, shampoos and liquid body soaps. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, excessive and prolonged exposure can cause skin rashes and may contribute to the development of cancer.
Parabens are most often used as preservatives and found in body creams, lotions, shampoos as well as any beauty product that has water added to it. Parabens have been shown to disrupt hormones, cause skin reactions and have even been found in breast cancer tumors.
Phthalates are in a class of chemicals that has been linked to hormone disruption, which can affect development and fertility.
Nitrosamines can be found in almost every skin care product, in baby shampoos, mascara, and concealer. You won’t, however find them listed because they are classified as impurities not as ingredients. Many studies link nitrosamine to cancer and in 1996, the FDA suggested cosmetic manufacturers remove ingredients from their products that, when combined, create nitrosamine, but this suggestion has largely been ignored.
These are only a few on the long list of harmful and potentially dangerous chemicals that beauty products expose us to and while the cosmetic industry argues that these toxic ingredients are absorbed in such small amounts that they do not pose any danger, it is the repeated use and thereby cumulative effect of exposure over a lifetime as well as the timing of exposure such as during growth and development, that increases their harmful effects.
Europe takes a hazard-base, precautionary approach when it comes to potentially harmful chemicals and has banned 1100 ingredients from cosmetics, while the United States has banned or restricted only 11. Ironically, U.S. companies selling their products overseas have changed their formulas to comply with European regulations while still using controversial ingredients in products meant for the U.S. market.
Organizations such as cosmeticsinfo.org provide consumers with factual, scientific information on ingredients most commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products.
Trusting Mother Nature, I have been making many of skin care products myself. It really is not all that difficult to make lip balms, shampoos and lotions. If you are curious and would like to find out, how you can create the perfect moisturizer for your skin type, join us for a
March 2, 2015
Name: Urtica dioica
Parts used: fresh or dried leaves
Use:Internal and external
Contraindications: None known
Side Effects: None known
Drug Interactions: None known
Character: cool, dry, astringent
Actions: astringent, diuretic, tonic, nutritive, circulatory stimulant, promotes milk flow, lowers blood sugar levels,
It is the season……Allergy season that is! Everything is in bloom and many of us have a difficult time seeing nature blooming and blossoming out of our watery and itchy eyes. Allergies are rampant this time of year and many of my customers have asked me if there isn’t a way to treat allergy symptoms naturally. There is indeed!
Nettle is one of the most effective natural treatment for allergies, especially itchy eyes and sneezing. The reason for this is that stinging nettle contains natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatory properties which can open up constricted bronchial and nasal passages and thereby reduce unpleasant allergy symptoms.
Dr. Andrew Weil, Director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, uses and and recommends this herb for seasonal allergies.
In 1990, the National College for Naturopathic Medicine in Portland Oregon was able to scientifically support what herbalists have know for a long time. There, a double-blind study was conducted to explore the efficacy of a freeze-dried preparation of stinging nettle on allergic rhinitis. The study showed that the group treated with the nettle preparation showed moderately better results than the participants in the control group which were given a placebo.
As with any medication, botanical or otherwise, before pursuing a course of self-treatment, always consult your physician if you are pregnant, nursing a baby, or being treated for any serious condition.
In addition to helping relief allergy symptoms, stinging nettle has many other benefits and makes a deliciously tasting infusion:
- Nettle leaf is a blood builder
- It is rich in calcium and Vitamin C (which aids iron absorption)
- It is used to reduce uric acid and to treat gout and arthritis
- Acts like a light laxative and diuretic (high in potassium)
- Used to treat skin conditions (eczema)
- Builds adrenal and kidney function
1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves per 6oz water, steep anywhere from 5-15 minutes. (The longer the steeping time the more potent the medical properties of the infusion)
February 2, 2015
We all know that tea, white, green, oolong or black, is a great addition to a healthy diet. Numerous studies show that the properties in green tea (and other tea varietals) can help you maintain health and well-being and may even ward of disease. Drinking 3-4 cups of tea per day will keep you well and beautiful on the inside.
Did you know, however, that you can incorporate tea in your beauty regimen for beautiful, radiant and healthy skin? The anioxidant ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea, for example appears to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can help fight damage done by free radicals.
It does not take much time or preparation to make the following recipes. You probably have most of the tools and ingredients at home. Give it a try – not only is it fun, but you can also save some money in the process.
Take one quart of water and bring to aboil. Add 1/2 cup of unflavored black or green tea and steep for 10- 15 minutes. Strain the leaves and set aside. Let the tea cool. Soak a piece of cotton in the tea and place on the sunburned areas. Leave on for about 15 minutes, or until the burned areas begins to cool. You can repeat this treatment up to four times a day. If refrigerated, the tea will keep for up to one week.
FOR PUFFY AND TIRED EYES
- Since tea is astringent, it helps get rid of puffy and swollen eys. Simply soak cotton balls in the prepared cold black or green tea and place on your eyes for 10 minutes.
TO BRING COLOR AND SHINE TO YOUR HAIR
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add 1/4 cup of black tea. Steep for 15-20 minutes. Cool the tea to room temperature and rinse damp, shampooed hair with it. Not only will it darken your hair, but it will also add beautiful highlights.
Simple, inexpensive, yet effective ways to take care of your skin!
September 21, 2014
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Life seems to be much more faced paced than it used to be. When I try to meet with friends for lunch or plan a get-together for the weekend, it often takes several attempts and hours of calling, texting and emailing back and forth because everybody has to check the calendar, shuffle engagements around to make it work. We all are busy, constantly bombarded with information via TV, cell phones and internet, always in “on” mode and often pushing ourselves beyond mental and emotional limits. The result is chronic fatigue, exhaustion, digestive problems, salt and sugar cravings, headaches, frequent colds and depression.
While skeptic in the past, even Western science recognizes the connection between chronic stress and chronic illness. The holistic approach to healing has always acknowledged the interconnectedness between the mind and body as well as the importance of including mind in the treatment of the whole being.
There are many ways in which herbs can benefit the nervous system. Nervines, as these herbs are called, are divided into different categories: nerve tonics, nerve relaxants or sedatives and nerve stimulants.
Nerve Tonics are herbs that feed, nurture and strengthen the nervous system. They nourish the nerve tissue and are generally rich in calcium, magnesium and B-vitamins. While they are effective, they tend to be mild and therefore need to be taken regularly over an extended period of time. Herbs that belong in this category are chamomile, skullcap, valerian, hops and lemon balm.
Nerve relaxants/sedatives directly relax the nervous system. They help reduce pain, ease tension and help with sleep. These herbs have a more immediate effect and are therefore indicated for acute exhaustion or to alleviate stress and bring relaxation and calm. Valerian root, catnip, passionflower, hops, skullcap and California poppy are all great to soothe your frayed nerves quickly.
Nerve stimulants gently nourish and stimulate the nervous system. They activate the nerve endings and increase vitality. However, they neither provoke nor agitate the nervous system, but rather work in subtle and gentle way. So when you find yourself stressed, depressed and simply worn out, don’t reach for coffee, chocolate and cookies. Instead, have a cup of lemon balm, spearmint, ginseng, sage, or peppermint tea and curl up with a good book!
Consistency is the key to healing with herbs. While herbs and natural remedies may not provide the strong immediate effects of allopathic drugs, they will over time rebuild they nerve connections and create a vibrant health and well-being without deadening our senses.
Sweet Dreams Tea Blend
3 parts chamomile
1 part oats
1 part passionflower
1 part lemon balm
Combine the herbs and prepare an infusion. Take 1-3 tbsp. of the herb blend for each cup of water. Bring water to a boil and pour over the herbs. Cover and let steep for 30 to 60 minutes. Then strain the herbs and take small frequent doses starting about 3 hours before you go to bed.
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