Herbs and Botanicals

Scorpio Season Tea

By Alyssa P

CN Buyer, herbalism student, lunar Scorpio

We just entered Scorpio season which for me always signals that we have officially transitioned into fall. Scorpios tend to embody metaphorical death and rebirth within themselves, constantly changing and evolving throughout their lives. Oftentimes, they unintentionally challenge others around them to do the same as well. It’s no coincidence that this sign occurs at the same time as autumn, when the nature is also preparing to go into hibernation mode for the winter before re-emerging in the spring. Scorpios usually find themselves going to the depths of their emotions and have a talent for always seeking out the truth. The flavor of this tea is as deep as a Scorpio’s emotional world, with strong flavors of smoke, berry, and pungent rosemary. The smokiness comes from Lapsang Souchong, an unmistakably unique black tea. Also featured in this blend are rosemary, damiana, and hibiscus. Rosemary is traditionally associated with Scorpios because it is a hearty herb that is still able to thrive in the at times harsh conditions of fall. Rosemary also provides cognitive support, helping to keep your mind as sharp as a Scorpio’s. Damiana is a great herb for sexual health, as Scorpio rules this part of our bodies. Hibiscus provides a balancing berry-like flavor and makes this tea a gorgeous deep ruby color. Like a Scorpio, this tea can be a little intimidating at first but ultimately provides a feeling of deep comfort, depth, and freshness.

Materials:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Boil 8 oz of water.

  • Pour hot water over tea and herbs.

  • Cover and let steep for 4 minutes.

  • Strain tea or remove teabag, sip and enjoy!

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.

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.

Materials

  • Medium pot

  • Measuring tools

  • Strainer and/or cheesecloth

  • Sterilized glass jar

Ingredients

Directions

  • 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!

Sources:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01557/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/

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.

Sources:

www.first-nature.com

www.healthline.com

www.webmd.com

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.

Libra Season Tea

By Alyssa P
CN buyer, herbalism student, Libra ascendant

Libra is ruled by the planet Venus and therefore all things romance, beauty, and partnerships. This tea embodies that energy with floral, tart, and berry flavors and deep purple color. Libra also rules the liver and kidneys, so this blend is formulated to bring some balance (Libra’s symbol is the scales) to those areas as well. This tea is high in antioxidants, which may be beneficial for promoting hair, skin, and nail health. Vanilla rooibos is the base of this tea, which is high in antioxidants. Next, this recipe includes chamomile and Gotu kola, which have been known to promote skin health via anti-inflammatory and calming properties. Schisandra berries have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help support heart, liver, and kidney health. Butterfly pea flowers, in addition to being another source of antioxidants, are potentially collagen promoting, which is an essential factor in skin hydration and elasticity. Butterfly pea flowers provide a sapphire blue color, which when mixed with the other ingredients transforms into a gorgeous deep purple. This recipe provides enough for two, so you can share with someone close in true Libra fashion.

Materials:

  • Teabag or strainer

  • Mug of choice

  • Hot water

Ingredients:

Process:

Add all herbs to a tea strainer or teabag. Pour about 20 oz of freshly boiled water over the herbs, cover, and let steep for at least 5 minutes. Strain out herbs and enjoy with a friend!





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 - 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!

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.

Materials:

Ingredients:

Process:

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.

Materials:

Ingredients:

Process:

  • 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 :)

Sunday Sip - Hibiscus Cardamom Mocktail

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

Sit back and relax this Sunday with a cooling, bright, and slightly spicy hibiscus cardamom sparkling beverage. For this drink we are using Portland Syrup Co. Hibiscus Cardamom Syrup and Dram Cardamom and Black Tea sparkling water. Hibiscus can help us cool down from the summer sun and cardamom can aid digestion. Plus the sparkling water is very lightly caffeinated, making this beverage a perfect post-lunch pick me up.

To make: simply add an ounce of the syrup to a glass, pour in the Dram, add ice, and stir! Garnish with a slice of lime if you’re feeling fancy. Enjoy!

Mushroom for Discussion: Lion's Mane

By Amber Testa
CN Supplements Buyer & Armchair Mycologist

hericium erinaceus via Wikimedia Commons

Whether cultivated or encountered in the wild, Lion's Mane is a truly striking fungus. Cascades of fringelike white spines have inspired a variety of unusual names, mostly animal in nature. Its Latin name, hericium erinaceus, literally means 'hedgehog hedgehog'; in German it's called Igel-Stachelbart ('hedgehog goatee'); and one of its common names in Chinese translates to 'Monkey's Head Mushroom'. Nobody's quite sure where exactly the name 'Lion's Mane' came from originally, although the fungi itself is native to North America, Asia, and Europe. 

Lion's Mane is saprophytic, meaning it feeds on dead or decaying matter, but it's also a parasite, invading living trees. It's fond of growing on beeches and oaks especially, although Lion's Mane that is grown for commercial use is often grown on a substrate of rice bran. 

Unlike many other medicinal mushrooms, Lion's Mane is occasionally used as a culinary mushroom. Chewy and meaty in texture, it is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, where it is sometimes used as a meat substitute (the taste has been likened to seafood like crab or lobster.) It can be deep-fried or marinated in spices--a versatile ingredient indeed! 

In terms of its health benefits, Lion's Mane is remarkably comprehensive. Of particular note is its high antioxidant levels, which fight inflammation in the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they have a long history of being used for neurological support and supporting memory and nerve function, and have been used by Buddhist monks for thousands of years. Lion's Mane is primarily thought of as a nootropic, or a substance which bolsters cognitive function; the many helpful compounds within it have been found to easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Like many other fungi, Lion's Mane has also been found to boost the function of the immune system. 

As one of the newer examples of mushrooms being scientifically investigated for their medicinal benefits, there's still a lot of research to be done on quantifying the precise benefits of Lion's Mane. Early studies have already validated it as a powerful addition to the medicinal mushroom canon.

Lion's Mane is most commonly consumed encapsulated in pill form, although you'll occasionally encounter it as a loose powder. It's also often blended with coffee, matcha, or tea to create a tasty, brain-boosting beverage that can be consumed at home or on the go. One of my personal favorites is Tamim Tea's Lion's Spice, where it joins turmeric and ginger in an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. 

On the whole, Lion's Mane is a visually striking member of Kingdom Fungi, respected for both its health benefits and culinary uses. It's by far the most popular mushroom supplement we sell here at Cambridge Naturals. You can shop our full selection of Lion's Mane products in-store or on our webstore here

Sources: 
https://www.mushroomexpert.com/hericium_erinaceus.html 

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2018/04/14/2003691277 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323400