Health and Wellness

Tulsi Elderberry Syrup

By Alyssa P

CN buyer, herbalism student, beverage enthusiast

It’s that time of the year again when elderberries become the star of the bulk herbs show. Elderberries are known for their immune supporting properties as well as their delicious taste, especially in syrup form. Elderberry syrup is such a fun way to support your immune system and can be taken every day.

This elderberry syrup is inspired by Mountain Rose Herbs’ recipe, a company that supplies many of our bulk herbs and more. Also included is tulsi rama, aka holy basil. Tulsi can act as an immune supporter and is great for stress support as well. The inclusion of tulsi adds some spice and depth of flavor to the syrup and compliments the elderberries well.


  • Medium pot

  • Measuring tools

  • Strainer and/or cheesecloth

  • Sterilized glass jar



  • Add berries. herbs, and cold water to a pot and bring to a boil.

  • Reduce heat and let simmer for 30-40 minutes.

  • Remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour

  • Strain berries and herbs using a funnel overlaid with cheesecloth and squeeze out all the liquid. It may still be hot so use caution.

  • Let liquid cool to a bit warmer than room temperature and stir in honey. Make sure the amount of honey is at least half of the total liquid left (1/2 cup honey for 1 cup liquid). This will help to increase the shelf life. If using vodka or brandy, stir that in as well.

  • Store in a sterilized glass jar in the fridge. You should be left with about 1-1.5 cups of syrup or a bit more if you added an alcohol.

This syrup can be taken daily to support your immune system. It tastes amazing on its own or you could use it as a base for mixed beverages. I love adding a tablespoon or two of the syrup to a Ruby Hibiscus Sparkling Water- a delicious drink that’s only two ingredients!

P.S. Find the Mountain Rose Herbs Elderberry Syrup Recipe (and video!) here!

The information in this blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

Mushroom for Discussion: The Riddles of Reishi

By Amber Testa, CN Supplements Buyer & Armchair Mycologist

To those uninitiated into the wonders of mushrooms, Reishi is an unassuming entity. It is neither as strikingly colored as Turkey Tail, as luminescent as Lion's Mane, or as downright bizarre as Cordyceps. Indeed its physical form is simple and smooth, unlikely to attract much attention. The binomial name, ganoderma lucidum, literally means 'bright skin' in the Greek--a reference to its sleek brown surface. Reishi is a type of mushroom known as a bracket fungus, which means it doesn't have a stem or stalk. Instead it grows directly from the surface of trees (usually maple). It is either parasitic or saphrotrophic, growing on both living and decaying matter; indeed, it is as apt to colonize stumps as it is living trees.

But contrary to its plain appearance, perhaps no fungi has such an esteemed place in mythology as the Reishi. With written records of its use dating back as early as the first century B.C., it has been revered in Asia for thousands of years. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is known as lingzhi 靈芝, or "divine mushroom" and is known as the "mushroom of immortality". The common name 'Reishi' is a loanword from the Japanese; similar cognates also exist in Thai (het lin chue, เห็ดหลินจือ); Vietnamese (linh ch); and Korean (영지; 靈芝).

Reishi is sacred in Taoism, and was often consumed by monks before their meditation sessions. The term zhī specifically means 'fungi', but has been translated by various scholars as 'excrescence' or 'cryptogam' (a plant or fungi that reproduces via spores instead of seeds). In Taoism, Reishi was thought to belong to a mythical class of substance that gave the eater xian, or immortality, when ingested. This association with immortality has persisted into the present day, and is evident in Reishi's contemporary usage.

In contemporary herbalism, Reishi is used primarily as an immune booster. Initial studies have shown that it has the potential to boost white blood cell count among cancer patients, although research indicates it is best to use the mushroom in combination with traditional cancer therapies rather than directly in place of them. Reishi may also reduce inflammation in the body, specifically among blood cells. Early studies also show the potential for Reishi to reduce anxiety and depression, especially among cancer patients.

Commercially cultivated Reishi is usually grown on hardwood logs, or else a substrate of sawdust or wood chips. It is a deep reddish-brown, generally fan- or kidney-shaped, and often larger than a fist in size. Reishi is dry and sturdy, and often surprisingly heavy--indeed, it often resembles a piece of carved wood more than a mushroom! Though it is slightly bitter in flavor, it can be easily neutralized by mixing it with other ingredients. It can easily be powdered and added to hot chocolate, mixed into baked goods, or crumbled and added to tea blends. The versatility of Reishi also means you can find it in some more unusual formats, like sparkling beverages and even body care products!

At Cambridge Naturals, we carry a variety of Reishi supplements in various formats. You can shop our entire stock of Reishi products online here, or come in for some exciting mushroom discussions with our Supplements team!


The information in this blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

A CBD Guide!

By Alyssa P
CN buyer, herbalism student, and CBD lover

The world of CBD can be intimidating if you have never ventured there before- especially with all of the different options that are out there! Here I will guide you through some CBD basics as well as my favorite CBD products for those who are new to CBD and beyond. First, let’s cover some basics:

What is CBD?

CBD, also known as Cannabidiol, is a chemical found in the cannabis plant. CBD is not psychoactive and therefore will not cause a “high”. People use CBD for a variety of reasons, ranging from stress and sleep support to pain relief.

Isolates vs Broad Spectrum vs Full Spectrum

Generally, there are three types of CBD products: isolates, broad spectrum, and full spectrum. A CBD isolate is isolated CBD and will contain CBD only- no other components from the cannabis plant will be included in these products. CBD isolate is also the form of CBD that has been widely studied, as broad or full spectrum CBD contains too many variables. Broad spectrum products will contain CBD as well as any other naturally occurring plant extracts such as terpenes, but no THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Full spectrum CBD products will contain everything that you find in a broad spectrum CBD plus up to .3% or less THC, which is the legal limit of THC in any CBD product.

CBD for First Timers

There are a couple of products that I usually recommend to customers who are new to CBD. The first being Sunsoil CBD. This CBD oil is a great first glimpse into internal CBD because the dosing is relatively small and it’s one of the most cost effective CBDs we carry at Cambridge Naturals. With an oil you can easily take a very specific dose, which can be especially helpful when figuring out a dose that works for you personally. Sunsoil’s smallest dose is 10mg per 1 dropperful and you could cut that in half by taking a half dropperful. 5-10 milligrams is generally a good dose to start with for those who have never tried CBD, as you can incrementally up your dose from there.

Another great option for trying out CBD is a smaller pack of gummies, like the Upstate Elevator 10mg Gummies- another 10 milligram dose that you could easily cut in half if need be. This pack of gummies is only $10 for 10 gummies so it’s not a huge investment if you are first experimenting with CBD. Plus, they taste great!

CBD Isolates (THC Free CBD)

For various reasons, some people may want to purchase a CBD product that contains absolutely no THC. In this case, they would look for a CBD isolate. Upstate Elevator makes a THC Free CBD Oil as well THC Free Gummies, which are both great options for those avoiding THC altogether.

Topical CBD

In my experience, topical CBD works great to relieve pain. In a recent training from Cordial Organics, our staff learned that our skin has its own endocannabinoid system. This system can absorb up to 3 times more CBD than our internal endocannabinoid system. So because of this, CBD that is used topically has the potential to work even better for pain relief than CBD that’s taken internally. One of my favorite topical CBD products at Cambridge Naturals is Cordial Organics’ Restore Stick, and not just because of their amazing training. This is another affordable CBD option that is easy to apply and smells amazing. It has helped me through various needs, such back pain and menstrual cramps.

My Other Favorite CBD Products

The Gingergrass flavor of the Dram CBD Sparkling Waters was the best selling product of the whole store in 2021, and for good reason too! My coworkers and I definitely contributed to that statistic because this CBD sparkling water tastes so good and in my experience really helps to put me in a good mood. Plus each flavor contains adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms, offering long term stress support as well.

Other CBD favorites of mine include the CV Sciences Calm Gummies and the Flora Sophia Gummies. The CV Sciences Gummies contain 10 mg of CBD, which is a relatively small dose, but they also contain both L-Theanine and 5-HTP. L-Theanine is most commonly found in green tea and is the reason that we feel calm after drinking a cup of green tea. It balances out the caffeine and leaves us feeling peaceful. I find L-Theanine to be so helpful in moments of stress and it has had my back every time I’ve accidentally drank too much coffee. L-Theanine is something I often recommend to customers on its own because in my experience it’s fast acting and reliable. (Find L-Theanine supplements here!) 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, meaning it can help improve our mood. I find this formulation so amazing! The Calm Gummies are relatively new but have already gained a lot of traction by both customers and staff members alike. The Flora Sophia gummies contain 20 mg of CBD and in my personal experience, they do a lot for mood and stress support. I love to take them towards the end of the day to help me unwind and have a relaxing and lighthearted evening.

CBD can be a different experience from person to person, so if you are interested in trying it out its important to do some experimenting with dosage and specific products. It might take some time to find out exactly what works for you, so hopefully this guide is a helpful starting point!

The information in this blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

Mushroom for Discussion: Talking Turkey (Tail)

By Amber Testa, CN Supplements Buyer & Armchair Mycologist

Kingdom Fungi is a diverse place, and the names within it reflect it. Among mushrooms you'll find specimens with such descriptive names as Latticed Stinkhorn (clathrus ruber), Amethyst Deceiver (laccaria amethystina), and Bleeding-Tooth (hydnellum peckii). As beautiful as these names are, they're also fairly literal--it's not hard to imagine why the early discoverers of hericium erinaceus thought it resembled a lion's mane!

So understandable, too, is the nomenclature of the mushroom trametes versicolor. One look at this fanlike fungus, with its wide bands of copper, rust, and gray, and you'll immediately understand why it earned the name Turkey Tail. It resembles nothing so much as the fanciful feathers of those enormous birdies that grace Thanksgiving decorations (and sometimes menace drivers along Cambridge's Massachusetts Avenue in autumn).

Turkey Tail isn't just a pretty polypore, though. For years, humans have tapped into the health benefits of this fabulous fungi. The mushroom was formally described as early as 1753 by famed Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, though it was known to Indigenous communities worldwide long before that. It's native to colder regions throughout North America and Europe, where it is often strikingly recognizable against the bare autumn trunks of trees. Indeed, it is at its best in autumn, when the mushroom releases its reproductive spores. Turkey Tail is not generally used as a culinary mushroom due to its flocked, leathery texture and unappealing taste, but the potential health benefits it offers have made it the subject of much contemporary research.

Modern scientific explorations have revealed that Turkey Tail contains high levels of antioxidants, chemicals that are known to prevent cell damage from free radicals. It also possesses substances called polysaccharopeptides, immune-boosting carbohydrates that inhibit inflammation and encourage the production of monocytes (a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection). There's also some research into the potential for Turkey Tail to increase the efficacy of some cancer treatments when used in tandem with contemporary medical practices, although studies remain in the early stages.

The gut microbiome is lately a subject of renewed interest among laypeople and biologists alike, and the Turkey Tail mushroom plays a part in it. As a potent source of prebiotics, the fungus nurtures the good bacteria in your digestive tract, helping your gut bacteria to maintain a healthy balance and remain strong against hostile microbes that can cause problems like bloating, gas, and impaired digestion.

In short, Turkey Tail isn't just a pretty face--it's a potent source of beneficial chemicals to support your health. At Cambridge Naturals, we stock a variety of products made with Turkey Tail, including capsules, tinctures, and powder, and we even carry the dried mushroom itself in our fabulous bulk section! You can check out our selection of Turkey Tail products here, and avail yourself of the benefits of this fabulous fungus today.


The information in this blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

Sunday Sip - Adrenal Mocktail

By Alyssa P
CN buyer, herbalism student, and beverage connoisseur

If you find yourself needing a little afternoon pick-me-up or just some extra hydration, an adrenal mocktail is a great beverage to turn to. This beverage is packed with vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes- most notably magnesium, potassium, sodium, and vitamin C. It’s very simple to make as it only requires three ingredients. Plus it satisfies that salty-sweet craving! Adrenal mocktails are so refreshing and will give you an energy boost without having to reach for that second cup of coffee, all while transporting you to a momentary tropical vacation. It’s the perfect midday or post-gym drink.



Add all ingredients to a glass and mix well. If adding coconut cream, blend or shake well to make sure everything gets mixed in.

Sunday Sip - Elderberry Defense

By Alyssa P
CN buyer, herbalism student, and beverage connoisseur

As the season begins to change, now is a great time to give our immune systems a little love. Goldthread’s Elderberry Defense Tonic is a great place to start. This tonic is both refreshing and nourishing. It features herbs such as elderberry- a delicious and well loved immune supporter and rosehips, which are a great source of vitamin C. Astragalus root is another commonly used herb for immune support and ginger provides anti-inflammatory properties. Lastly, the addition of tulsi helps us to unwind and de-stress.

This tonic is great on its own or combined with sparkling water if you’re craving some bubbles. Nixie’s Lime Ginger sparkling water would pair really well! Adding a dropperful or two of a tincture could also make this drink even more potent. I would choose Urban Moonshine’s Immune Tonic, which features similar ingredients to the Elderberry Defense as well as immune-supporting mushroom extracts. Feel free to get creative with combinations!

Happy sipping!

Probiotics and the Gut Microbiome 101

By Amber Testa, Supplements Buyer + Gut Health Enthusiast

We contain multitudes.

No, seriously. The human body is an ecosystem, comprising some 37.2 trillion cells distributed between bones, organs, blood, and other vital processes. But the body also contains billions of other cells like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, with the exact estimates ranging from 39 trillion to an astounding 300 trillion cells. (Bacterial cells are much smaller than human cells, which is why you look like a person and not like an amorphous cellular mass.)

Image via wikimedia commons

Most of those bacterial cells are concentrated in the stomach and intestines--the areas collectively known as the gut microbiome. Up to a thousand different species of bacteria inhabit your microbiome, and (contrary to popular assumption), most of them are actually beneficial to your body, with the disease-causing microbes limited to a minority. Humans have evolved alongside our microbiomes over millions of years in a symbiotic relationship with many benefits.

So what exactly does your gut microbiome do? Among other things, the gut microbiome plays an important role in digestion, particularly of fiber. It also supports the immune system as the bacteria within your body communicate to your own immune cells, instructing them on how to best fight infections.

But although we usually live in harmony with our gut microbes, sometimes imbalances occur. When your body has too many hostile microbes in the gut microbiome and not enough of the friendly bacteria, a state called dysbiosis occurs. This results in conditions like bloating, impaired digestion, and abdominal pain. It's in cases like this that you might want to turn to a probiotic.

So what is a probiotic, exactly? In short, a probiotic is a dose of cultivated good bacteria that are deliberately introduced to the gut microbiome. You can find naturally-occurring probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut--or you can take a probiotic supplement.

Probiotic supplements can vary widely in composition, but they all share a few common traits. On probiotic packaging, you'll see two important numbers. The first number is the total amount of live cultures in the probiotic. This number is usually somewhere in the billions--it might seem like a lot, but the gut microbiome works with a large scale of bacteria. The second number is the amount of strains of cultures. This can range from single-strain probiotics like lactobacillus acidophilus or saccharomyces boulardii to comprehensive probiotics containing a dozen or more strains. You'll also note that many probiotics specify on the packaging whether or not they require refrigeration. Many bacteria are especially sensitive to heat and moisture, and being too hot may actually kill the good bacteria within the probiotics. At Cambridge Naturals, we keep all of our probiotics in the refrigerator, just in case.

Probiotics can be helpful for anyone who experiences unpleasant gut symptoms like bloating or indigestion. They can also help to repopulate the gut microbiome after you've taken a course of antibiotics like penicillin (which kills both the bacteria that cause infection as well as, unfortunately, killing off some of the good bacteria in your body). Probiotics have also been found to aid individuals who suffer from yeast infections--especially a type of probiotic called lactobacillus rhamnosus.

Along with the probiotic cultures themselves, many probiotics come formulated with what's known as a prebiotic. This is a form of plant fiber that nourishes the good bacteria in the gut--it's basically the equivalent of giving them a welcome-home gift.

If you're interested in adding a probiotic to your health regimen, it's best to start simply with either a specific probiotic supplement or with probiotic-laden foods like ferments, yogurt, or kombucha. And always check with your medical practitioner if you have questions.

Probiotics can certainly seem intimidating at first, but they're a valuable part of a healthy lifestyle. Your gut microbiome does so much to keep you healthy--give it some recognition in return!

You can shop the entire Cambridge Naturals stock of probiotics here online or in-store!


The information in this blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

Virgo Season Tea

By Alyssa, CN Buyer, herbalism student, Virgo sun

Virgo season is here! Time to get organized, focus on the details, go out of your way to help your friends, overthink, and give solicited (or maybe unsolicited!) advice.

Virgos are known for their overactive minds, therefore they need all the stress support they can get. And notoriously Virgos are known for stomach issues (probably from stressing themselves out), so this tea provides digestive aid as well. For stress support, we have lemon balm, maypop (passionflower) for an overactive mind, and holy basil for sustainable nervous system support. Milky oat tops also help reduce stress as well as being all-around nourishing. Lastly, fennel, ginger, and dandelion provide digestive aid.




Add all herbs to a teapot or tea infuser. I use about a teaspoon of each except for the ginger and fennel- those I use a half teaspoon of. Pour 12-16 ounces of freshly boiled water over the herbs. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain out herbs or remove tea infuser. Add honey to taste. Take a deep breath and exhale any stress.

Sunday Sip - Cycle Balancing Iced Tea

By Alyssa P

CN Buyer, herbalism student, tea enthusiast

As someone with a menstrual cycle, I find that incorporating certain herbs into my routine can make a big difference in how I feel “that time” of the month and beyond. One of my favorite plant allies has been raspberry leaf for this very reason. Raspberry leaf is vitamin and mineral rich and has a toning effect which can help keep uterine cramps at bay. I’ve made it a habit to make a big batch of iced tea overnight to drink daily for at least the two weeks leading up to my period. However, I find that drinking this daily throughout the month gets me the best results. I always feature raspberry leaf in this infusion along with some other cycle balancing and stress reducing herbs. My favorite herbs to add in are rose, spearmint, milky oat tops, and red clover. The resulting taste has a black tea-like base and the rose and spearmint add floral and minty notes.




  • Add all herbs to your pitcher. I use about 2-3 tablespoons of each herb and my pitcher holds about a half gallon of water.

  • Pour water to fill the pitcher and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.

  • Strain tea out when done infusing and enjoy!

P.S. Brittany Wood Nickerson also had a great book called Sacred and Mysterious that details more menstruation supporting herbs and recipes. I like to incorporate herbs inspired by her recipes into this daily infusion.

P.P.S. This tea can be nourishing for all bodies! Not just for those who menstruate :)

Mushroom for Discussion: Cordyceps

By Amber Testa
CN Supplements Buyer & Fungi Enthusiast

Image via OM Mushrooms

Out of all the mushrooms commonly used for medicinal purposes, cordyceps (cordyceps species, including c. sinensis and c. militaris) may indeed be the most bizarre. A bulbous-topped, finger-like fungus, its scientific name literally comes from the Greek words meaning 'club-headed'. But you may have heard it called the 'zombie caterpillar fungus' due to the fact that it grows primarily by parasitizing the living bodies of caterpillars. (More on that later.) You may also know of its appearance in science fiction works like the videogame 'The Last of Us' and the novel/movie 'The Girl With All the Gifts'; in both, it is responsible for a global outbreak of zombies.

Suffice to say that pop culture hasn't exactly been kind to the noble cordyceps. It's something of a shame, really. Cordyceps has a long and storied history in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it's called Dong Chong Xia Cao, or 'Winter worm, summer grass'. The earliest recorded usage of it dates to 1757, though it likely entered the TCM materia medica long before that. It's believed to strengthen the lungs and kidneys, as well as support cardiovascular health. So it comes as no surprise that Western herbal healing promotes it for stamina, energy, and metabolic health.

Wild cordyceps is usually found in the Himalayan mountains, where it parasitizes the bodies of caterpillar larvae. It infects its host and eventually fruits from the head of the caterpillar, killing the insect. (This particular aspect of its life cycle has led to some truly weird photographs of the fungi, many of which I viewed--and cringed at--while writing this.)

Image by David Evans via Wikimedia Commons

Though cordyceps contains a variety of important nutritional compounds such as vitamins B1, B2, B12, and K, as well as the amino acids L-threonine and L-lysine, it is not usually used as a culinary mushroom. Most cordyceps supplements can be found in the form of powders (which are easily added to smoothies, protein bars, and even oatmeal), or as easy-to-swallow capsules.

So, wait, you might be thinking. You want me to eat a mushroom that's grown on bugs?! I'll pass, thanks. The good news is that most commercially-cultivated cordyceps is grown on a substrate of rice or barley, making it both vegan and vegetarian. Wildharvested cordyceps (aka cordyceps that's found growing naturally on caterpillars), obviously isn't.

You must be wondering, of course--does it taste weird, like insects? Thankfully, the answer is no. In terms of flavor, cordyceps is pretty mild, and easy to cover up in recipes.

When it's wildharvested, cordyceps can fetch up to $50,000 per pound, making it the most expensive fungi in the world. But cultivated cordyceps is significantly more budget-friendly, enough so that everyone can incorporate it into their supplement regime. At Cambridge Naturals, we carry a variety of cordyceps products such as capsules, dried mushroom powders, and even hot cacao mix, making it easy to add some of this eccentric mycological powerhouse to your diet.

And don't worry--it absolutely won't turn you into a zombie.


OM Mushrooms,

The National Library of Medicine,