What’s Online: Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) & Indian Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)

On Wednesdays I am going to try to share new (in general or to me) information from sources that put out good content.  Hopefully this serves as a hub to find interesting  new information that can encourage, educate, and aid in living a balanced life.

LEMON VERBENA FOR FOR PREVENTION OF INFLAMMATORY DISEASES    The study is from 2014 but since I love Lemon Verbena I am always ready to learn more or share what I find.  We grow Lemon Verbena as well as drink it (it was in our 2015 Balance Blend).  I also use a Lemon Verbena hydrosol (also known as flower water) under shea butter on my face.  It is a great energizing herb.

NEW PRO-VEGGIE/PLANT DIET VIDEO  This is quick and palatable to those who may be interested in a new way to eat.  I make it no secret that we eat some meat, but we make some serious room for our veggies and fruits.

SUTHERLANDIA SUPPLEMENT MAY CAUSE DISRUPTION IN ANTI-TB DRUG  Not quite as urgent for American readers, but the fact that usage could create a resistant form of TB is cause for concern.  It is important to remember that pharmaceutical drugs can and do react to supplements, and we do not know all the reactions or when they will be noticeable by symptom.

ST. JOHN’S WORT QUALITY FAILURE: 6 OUT OF 10 GIVEN FAILING GRADE   This is the glaring issue in the herbal supplement market, quality assurance.  You can see the ten tested brands and those that passed and did not.  Another reason to remember that if you can not grow your own herbals, try to find someone who does. If not that, then go to a sustainable, reputable, knowledgeable farm or company.  If you are taking supplements for a illness or disease you need to know what you are taking will work and is of the quality that was tested.

POSSIBLY THE NEXT “IT” SUPPLEMENT: BOSWELLIA  I try to stay out of the trend, since it usually causes an influx of false marketing, unsustainable farming/crafting practices, and harm from misuse.  Most “it” supplements are not new, are well used by professional herbalists and other practitioners already, and are now receiving funding to be studied by the evidence-based crowd.  I’m also seeing a lot of info out online about anti-inflammatory herbals, diets, etc.. so that may be a thing to look out for as well.





Pica & Herbs (A Personal Account)

I just finished my fourth pregnancy, and for the first time in my life I experienced what many call “pregnancy pica”.  Pica loosely translates into someone craving non-food/non-nutritional substances to eat.  The issue spans geography.  It can be experienced by children, the mentally handicapped, the elderly, the pregnant, and the iron-deficient.  It is experienced for a lifetime or a season.  There are correlations, but not definite causation.

I first noticed it when I would put laundry detergent in the washer.  For some reason the strong scent brought out a type of craving impulse.  I did not exactly want to eat the detergent, but I did notice the scent gave off a distinct internal signal.  I felt it deep within my gut.  It was a similar feeling as to when I nurse, I get the urge to drink water.  My mouth does not go dry, for I do not experience any symptoms of dehydration. I am not dehydrated at all.  But I feel it in my gut, this deep craving for a glass of water.  I could point it to the microbiome, which is where my mind goes, but I am untrained to share such knowledge if there was any to begin with.

Weeks went by, each time I attempted to pinpoint what aromatic chemical was causing such a reaction.  It wasn’t until I decided to eat a few mint leaves right after putting in a new load of wash that I noticed the craving was sufficed.  It was definitely an ah-ha moment.  Mint is highly astringent, and for some reason beyond my current training it satisfied the deep craving initiated by the aromatics of the detergent.  I have lemon balm throughout my yard and tried that as well.  It also sufficed the craving.  We eat both herbs throughout the seasons and my body is used to their chemicals, but this was different.  It was a distinct astringency that met the pica craving.

I hope to dig deeper into the chemical components of these lamiaceae family herbs and see just where the connection lies. Beyond the aromatic response I am hoping to see a specific chemical connection. Traditionally herbs in the lamiaceae family are known as gentle digestive aids.  But to limit an herb to one ailment, or even one chemical to one response, is often amateur and short sighted.  I’ll attempt to look deeper into this as the weeks go on and will link to this any information I find.



Pica – Clinical Methods 3rd Edition 




Biodynamic Tea at Republic of Tea

I’ve attempted to learn what I can in this full season of life on biodynamic farming.  I truly find that it is the closest thing to “husbandry” we have a modern name for, since it focuses on the entire health of the farm and it’s ability to create a “closed loop” of self reliance.  I find when talking to people that many times when someone mentions the term “organic farm” they are often thinking more along the lines of what a biodynamic farm looks like.  The animals running free in harmony with the farmers, vegetation being grown in a companion style with as little artificial human interaction as needed.

If you are interested in the philosophy of biodynamic farming, you can look into it more here  Biodynamic Association.

From the association’s front page:

Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy(link is external).” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.

Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.

Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy and other organizations. Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.”

So I received an email a few days ago from the Republic of Tea, sharing some new type of blend they are bringing on.   I was beyond excited to see that they carried a slim amount of blends grown on biodynamic farms.  How cool!  I know there are a lot of herbs that come from places that take great care in sustainability (Mountain Rose Herbs being one), but to see an actual label mentioning biodynamic was so neat.

Republic of Tea’s Biodynamic Collection


A Brief Look At Green Rooibos


We love rooibos.  I remember drinking ‘red tea’ for the first time back when I was a young college student and barista.  We sold Republic of Tea and always had to try the new flavors that came in so we could recommend properly.  I fell in love with their iced ‘red tea’.  It was refreshing, it had some sweetness.. it was wonderful during a busy 8 hour shift at the coffee shop.  Flash forward ten *yikes* years later and I still like rooibos… but when I had the chance to try green rooibos (unfermented), I could not let it go.  It is a little less ‘woodsy’, a little less ‘obviously sweet’ and the nutrient benefits are surprising.  If you are a lover of ‘red tea’ and have yet to have the green counterpart, don’t miss out on a chance to try it.

Most of our herbal tisane blends have a base of green rooibos.  We find it adds that subtle sweetness that can curb the urge to add extra sweetener, gives the water a lovely dark(er) red color, and lends it’s nutrients to enhance the benefits of the other herbs.

Like all things health-related, there are many ideas and claims out there concerning rooibos.  It is hard to know what is truth and what is preference.  It is hard to know what was exaggerated and what was explained correctly.  I’ve added quite a few different articles (both scientific and ‘lay-man’) that those who are interested can wade through.  I’ve found cross referencing many, many articles helps find a balanced opinion.

Is Rooibos better than Green tea?
“It is the ‘new fad'” {remember I said Republic of Tea pushed this 10 years ago… yeah…}
“unfermented is a close second to green tea antioxidant wise”
“It’s popular now because we can now import it from South Africa, the only place it grows, since apartheid-based trade sanctions were lifted in 2000”.

Teas Ect. on Rooibos
“Rooibos does not have 50 times the antioxidant benefit of green tea, it does not even have as much.”
“Rooibos does not contain any vitamin C.”

Rooibos from Natural News 
“It is low in tannins which allows easier assimilation of its minerals”
“Rooibos is a good source of essential and trace minerals as well, including: iron, magnesium, potassium, (organic) fluoride, copper, manganese, zinc, and vitamin C. {Oh wait, didn’t the other article say it does not contain any vitamin C?? mmmmm}

Phytochemicals in Rooibos
“These are typical phytochemicals found in rooibos: aspalathin, nothofagin, caffeic acid, chrysoeriol, isoquercitrin, orientin, isoorientin, luteolin, vitexin, isovitexin, luteolin, rutin,flavonoids, quercetin, polyphenols.”

Metaphoric Labs: Regular Rooibos vs Green
“Green Rooibos has 100 times more antioxidants and 10 times more aspalathin (buzz word) than regular fermented Rooibos.”
“Rooibos contains nine flavonoids. Two of these flavonoids quercetin and luteolin, also occur in fruit and vegetables. They are potent antioxidants that can cause cancer cells to “commit suicide” (apoptosis).”
“In in vitro studies, it was found that Green Rooibos was generally more protective against DNA damage than fermented Rooibos. However, senior research scientist at the Medical Research Council of SA, Jeanine Marnewick says her group’s research shows that fermented Rooibos has a stronger effect against some mutagens. She says that both the fermented and unfermented Rooibos show significant protection.”

Ray Sahelian M.D. : Rooibos Herb
“Aspalathin information:  Q:  What is the specific benefit of aspalathin from rooibos tea? Why is it aspalathin better or stronger than other antioxidants?  Also, does green rooibos have a higher concentration of aspalathin and greater anti-aging potential?
A:  There are countless antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, herbs and various plants. Each antioxidant works in a slightly different way in the body. It is not practical to claim aspalathin is better than EGCG in green tea or vitamin E, or astaxanthin, etc. Just as it is preferable to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, it is a good idea to consume a number of different antioxidants. I am not aware of any actual studies done with aspalathin supplements. Limited evidence suggest green rooibos has a higher antioxidant profile than red, but for practical purposes it should not make too much difference.”

“Q:  Does rooibos provide electrolytes and minerals, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, all which you lose through sweat.
A: I find it difficult to accept this claim. Rooibos is a tea that can provide antioxidants and is a healthy addition to one’s tea consumption, but it is premature to make fantastic claims about this tea. There are countless herbs and teas that have health benefits.”


We get our Rooibos from Mountain Rose Herbs.  It’s fairly priced, and we trust the company concerning sustainable practices and organic labeling.

Tips on drinking Rooibos
1.  You can use the herbs more than once without the tannin risk associated with black tea and still enjoy a flavorful drink a second round.
2.  Due to the herb being ‘chopped’, it falls through most tea infusers unless they are the fine mesh ones.  If you do not mind the extra nutrients and fiber (if the tea is organic and you trust the company, eating the herbs aids in both) you can just let the pieces be in your drink.
3. Let the entire family enjoy, as there have been no studies to show that young, pregnant, or elderly individuals can not enjoy the beverage.
4.  If you don’t like the taste, even with sweetener, drink something else. Seriously, why drink something disgusting when there is bound to be a nutritional drink out there for you that you’ll love!


American Dietary Guidelines & Sustainability



The American Dietary Guidelines were officially released for the next five years (2015-2020) and there is a lot of information to go through considering the fact that nutrition research is always changing how we view food.  I might end up breaking these into a few different posts as I find interesting changes, but the biggest interest I found was that the USDA openly stated that sustainability would not be a factor in these guidelines, even though the data was requested in 2010.

I understand what both sides said.  I understand the concern, as stated in the above article:

Merrigan argues that “by acknowledging benefits of sustainability, the government would open itself up to greater demand for sustainability investments and would signal to consumers that such foods are preferred.”  

I understand that the government may not want to openly show favor to certain foods that could change the balance of how things are now.  But by putting yourself out there from the beginning as a source of nutritional recommendations, you are in fact ‘signaling’ to consumers what foods are preferred.  Ever notice how the recommendations often mention both meat and dairy (not protein source and beverage source)?

But sustainability issues are not just raised with beef and dairy, as many expect.  There is the issue of almonds, too.  And if it truly is about farming responsibly and caring for animals consciously, no mass food source should be left out of the questioning.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s plate.  (A different ‘plate’ response.)

Johns Hopkin’s Sustainability in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines: What the Advisory Committee Really Said, and Why USDA and HHS Should Listen (If you are only going to read one article about this, read this one.)

So what does this mean for the little guy?  What can we do to live intentionally concerning our food?  We can grow our own, we can purchase locally, we can join garden-mobs or food co-ops.  We can learn more about farming techniques that incorporate the entire ecosystem, like biodynamic farming.  We can learn about different ways to cook foods that are healthful, filling, and not wasteful.  And most importantly, we can learn about these things without them becoming idols in our lives, so that we do not become enslaved to a specific diet or plan.  We can be free by growing for ourselves and getting involved in our community, and by carrying around the knowledge that you are consciously doing the best you can.

USDA’s healthy plate
Harvard’s healthy plate