Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Plant Medicine - Nature's Medicine Cabinet

Terry and I both believe that the Great Spirit has provided everything that humans and animals need to be able to be healthy and happy, through the bounty of the earth.  Animals know instinctively what plants are edible, and which are to be avoided.  Over the centuries, humans gained this knowledge through trial and error (often with painful and even fatal results).  Since the days of antiquity, much has been learned about the efficacy of plant medicine, both nutritionally and medically.  Much of our Modern Medicine owes a huge debt to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Asians and indigenous tribes of the world who used healing plants to treat a wide varieties of ailments and illnesses.

It might even surprise you that 40% of our more commonly known prescription and over the counter medicines and preparations come from either plant extracts, or synthesized plant compounds such as Aspirin - Willow bark; Throat lozenges, Muscle creams, Cold and Nasal treatments - Mint leaves (Menthol); and Quinine (anti Malaria drug) - Fever Tree (Cinchona) bark.  Even poisonous plants such as Deadly Nightshade have been used to great benefit to produce Atrophine which is used to treat certain heart conditions and to relax the muscles of the eye. The list goes on and on.

While animals choose the plants they need by instinct, we humans have to make a conscious choice.  In the advent of the "quick, fast, and in a hurry" lifestyle, and our convenience based culture, it's very easy to just pop a pill, or drink a brightly colored chemical syrup, then sit back in our misery and hope we feel better later. So many pharmaceutical  commercials tout the benefits of their expensive chemically synthesized products, while showing pictures of happy smiling people living the good life and feeling great.  Then in sotto-voce they speed through the list of side effects and problems that their product causes-including death.  Isn't there a better way?  Plant medicine can help by offering a healthier, cheaper, and in some cases a more effective and safer alternative for many of life's ailments.

My plan is to highlight some of these wonderful plant and herb gifts that we have been blessed with.  Since we are in the cold and flu season, I will offer one example of an effective medicinal plant.***

Anise seed   Anise is sweet and very aromatic.  In the kitchen it is used as a flavoring spice in foods, and in baking.  Anise gives the popular Greek liqueur Ouzo its distinct licorice flavor.  It has also been used as a popular remedy for hundreds of years in North America.  In fact, the ubiquitous licorice flavored cough drop contains anise!  Anise can be used to break up congestion, ease coughing and to relieve gas,
bloating and indigestion.  It has also been used to treat rheumatism and colic.  It can be eaten in food, taken as a tea, and anise seed oil can be used in aromatherapy to lift one's mood and stimulate a sluggish appetite.

Anise is a natural expectorant that also does double duty, since it acts as an antiseptic, killing germs in the mucous membranes while it clears the lungs of congestion.  It also contains a chemical called anethol which has estrogenic properties.  According to folklore, it has been used as a tonic for nursing women to increase milk production, or for menstrual problems.

Side note: Anise seed does have a few side effects.  It should never be taken in large quantities as it becomes narcotic at that level.  Also due to its estrogenic properties, anise should not be used by women who are pregnant or by infants.  The oil should never be taken internally, and should only be used in an air diffuser or topically.

If you are curious or interested in using Anise in your own life, I would advise that you do your own research on it first.  It's also a good idea to consult an herbalist or homeopath for more information on its proper usage.

I'll be back next week with more plant medicine for cold and flu symptoms.



*** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs and plants are provided on this blog is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. ***

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bring on the new!

Last week I spoke at length about beating the winter blues.  As I sit here today after yesterday's snowy assault, I am marveling over the change in the weather.  After weeks of mostly sub-zero temperatures, it is now a balmy 41 degrees and sunny!  Even though at times it seems like "Mother Nature " is a bit schizophrenic, at this point I'll take it.  A little bit of positive change in the weather makes everything easier, plus it portends towards our hope for Spring to arrive, and other good things to come.

With that in mind, Terry and I are excited about our two new products that we are introducing this week. As always, we listen to suggestions from our loyal fans and followers, especially where there is a real need for a product for folks who are sensitive or cannot have certain ingredients.  For example, when we first started in business with our Tranquility Chai, a woman at one of our venues really wanted to sample it, but could not because she was diabetic.

"I sure wish you had an unsweetened version," she told me. 
"Let me see what I can do," I responded.

That is how our Tranquility Chai Unsweetened was born!

Over time, as our product line expanded, we added Tranquility Vegan, along with a number of other products.  Terry and I experiment in making other products to fit certain niches as well, and while we aren't always successful, we try our best to bring you Comfort Drinks and Comfort Snacks that are good tasting, healthy, and satisfying.

This is one of those successful times!

Our first new product is actually an old product to those who know us around the Twin Cities area.  Our Aww Nuts! are a staple during farmers market days.  They are normally sold unbranded in small 4 ounce bags.  However, after requests for a larger size, we are adding a 6 ounce branded package to our stable of products, which will be available for both wholesale and retail sale on March 16th.

Aww Nuts! are a tasty sweet and savory mixture of almonds and cashews, coated in brown-sugary cinnamon goodness.  As you chew them, they start out a little sweet, before finishing with a little "kick" thanks to just a touch of added cayenne pepper.  Don't worry though.  There's not enough heat to hurt you, just a little tingle to make things interesting for your mouth.  Warning:  These little gems are very, VERY addictive!

Product number two is something I am particularly proud of.  While our grand kids love our products, our grandson happens to have a nut allergy, which limits what he can and cannot have.  Quite a few of our patrons at the farmers market have also expressed this same concern for themselves and family members as well.  Terry and I pondered over this for months, discussing various flavor combinations that I might experiment with.  Finally in December, we had it!  After extensive test marketing, branding and packaging, it is finally available.  For our friends out there who have allergies or sensitivities to tree nuts (and to those who don't), introducing Winter Goddess Sunflower Apple Raisin granola!

Brand Farms
Sunflower Apple Raisin granola is a delicious blend of plump golden raisins, crunchy sunflower kernels, and tart apple pieces sourced locally from our friends at Brand Farms in Farmington, MN.  Now folks with nut allergies have an alternative.  No longer do they have to sacrifice taste or texture to enjoy a good granola.  Sunflower Apple Raisin is a satisfying combination of chewy, tangy, nutty goodness; perfect for everyone!

Terry and I are proud to introduce these new offerings to you, our loyal followers.  And like our other products, they are made with Intent, and made with Love for your well-being. We enjoy them a lot.  We're hoping that you will too!



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beating the Winter Blues

We are approaching the middle of February and many of us are enduring an exceedingly cold winter. The days are dark and dreary, and we perk up just a bit when that strange large glowing orb makes an occasional appearance in the sky. As the weather turns wet, cold and gloomy, a heaviness seems to settle in upon us like an oppressive cloud. We seem to feel oppressed and run down, as if everything we do seems to require more effort. All the while we question ourselves in an internal dialogue, asking, "Why do I feel this way?"

The winter season brings quite a load upon us both physically and mentally due to the plummeting temperatures, fluctuating weather patterns and the decreasing amount of light.  Each one of these burdens can have a huge negative effect on our overall health and well-being.  Fortunately, there are steps we can take to make ourselves feel better so that we not only survive the grip of "old man winter," but to thrive in it. 

Avoiding getting sick. Winter heralds the time where it seems like every one around you starts to get sick, and with good reason. The cold weather effects our immune systems, and we have a tougher time fighting against various viruses colds and the flu. This is the time where we need to be nice to our bodies and do all that we can to defend against this microbiological onslaught. Some of the many steps we can take to protect ourselves from illness include:

1) Wash your hands! While you don't have to be as obsessive about it like Monk or Felix Unger, keeping your hands clean goes a long way toward protecting yourself from illness,. Due to the cold and dryness of the air we unconsciously touch or rub at our faces. Since we pick up a huge amount germs by making hand contact with surfaces, we risk contracting illness with every mouths swipe or touch of the noses. Wash your hands properly with soap, scrubbing away from the faucet for 20 seconds, before rinsing. Try to do it at least five times a day. This is especially important if you use mass transit. Wash after arriving at work, and after arriving home.

2) Use your own personal items! Carry and use your own pen, cell phone, tablet, cup or glass, etc. If you must borrow someone else's item, remember to avoid touching your face during its use, until you can wash your hands again. 

3) Hydrate! It's hard to believe, but it is very easy to become dehydrated during winter due to the dryness of the air. Drinking water is the easy-breezy way to not only keep your body on an even keel, but to flush the germs and toxins that may already be present, and prevent viruses and bacteria from taking hold if you've been exposed.

4) Dress in Layers - Shrek the ogre once told his friend Donkey, "Ogres have layers." In order to stay warm in the winter, we too must have layers. Cold weather requires more than your old reliable heavy jacket. Each extra item of clothing we put on helps to trap needed body heat which makes a big difference, especially at sub-zero temperatures. Don't forget the basics. A comfortable hat, adequate footwear and good pair of mittens or gloves are worth shelling out a few extra dollars for, in the interest of personal comfort and warmth. There is nothing more miserable than to have freezing hands and feet. (For very cold climates, I highly recommend a pair of "choppers" or insulated gauntleted mittens. Trust me, they keep your hands quite warm if you must be out for longer periods.)

Dealing with the Blahs

The grey grip of Winter effects us emotionally as well, whether we like it or not. Here are a few ways to make it a little easier.


1) See the Light!  Do you best to spend as much time in bright light as possible. There are actually some people who suffer from what's called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) who become severely depressed during this time. Light box therapy, helps them immeasurably to lift and improve their mood. A light box or "SAD lamp" can be easily found in drug stores, medical supply houses or online. Give it a try!

2) Shake it up! - Our mental and physical energy are influenced by the short days and long nights of winter Darkness prompts our bodies to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, making us feel fatigued. Slogging through snow and ice, trembling from the cold while concentrating on avoiding slips and falls, will certainly add to making everything else you need to do seem more difficult. A brisk walk, or a little vigorous exercise once a day for about 15 minutes can put a little spring back in your step. If it's icy or the snow is deep, try walking in a mall or indoor shopping center. If you prefer staying at home, try some jogging in place, or put on a little music and boogie! That is certainly a fun way to recharge your batteries and get the blood flowing.

3) Carb it up! Spice it up! Foods like whole grains, beans and nuts are full of complex carbohydrates which when eaten without protein elevates the production of the mood enhancing chemical Serotonin within the body, Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish like Salmon do the body good this way as well. Dark chocolate at 70% cacao or higher will also improve the mood. Remember to use these in moderation. In addition, various spices (we recommend the organic variety) like Tumeric, Cinnamon, Clove, Garlic, and a host of others we have featured here in our blog, will not only improve the well-being of your body, but also help it to ward off cold and flu.

 4) Don't fight the feeling - Do yourself a favor. When you really feel that tiredness coming on, take a break and close your eyes and relax for a few minutes. If you can manage it, take a power nap. A short rest can help to recharge your batteries, or at least take the edge off.

Lifting your Spirit

Since winter can be hard on all of us, we can use a welcome distraction away from the cold dreary pressure it can put on us. Here are a few ways to do just that.
1) Do something fun! - Find an activity that makes you happy, and DO IT! Whether it be going out to a movie, engaging in a hobby, spending quality time with friends, or whatever turns you on, do something that makes you feel good. Don't allow "cabin fever" to take over your life just because it's cold and dreary outside. Be good to yourself.

2) Imagineering - Surround yourself with plants flowers and other growing things to remind you that winter doesn't last forever. Post pictures of a tropical island and water or a forest or meadow in spring or summer. Look at the view and imagine yourself there. What would you do? Where would you go? Dream it and live it out in your mind's eye for a few minutes each day. While children do use their imaginations, there is nothing wrong with us as adults using ours as well. Relax and spend a little time in your own "Fantasy Island."

3) Get a "Peaceful Easy feeling" - Like the Eagle's song, finding ways to relax and take a little stress away from your life goes a long way toward improving your health and boosting your immune system. Life's little stressors can take their toll on you both mentally and physically. Relaxing with a good book, a pampering bubble bath, singing along with your favorite songs, or just finding a quiet corner to meditate or calm the mind can melt stress away even for a little while. Practicing these feel good techniques provide you with a strong support, shoring up both body and mind, so you to are "standing on the ground."

There are many other things that we can do to take the edge off the winter blues as well. Do a little research on the subject, and especially on nutrition and herbal remedies. Put it to good use, and kick "old man winter" to the curb.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A few nice thoughts

Terry and I sure enjoy what we do.  Whether it's her making wonderful confections like her caramels and Butter Crunch Toffee, to me blending a batch of Tranquility Chai or more Granola, we feel privileged to be doing what we love rather than the grind of the "rat race."

Even so, this is a business, and as with all small businesses where it is just one or two people doing everything, there are times that we get tired.  There are times when the details and responsibilities weigh a little heavier on the mind (and the back). There are also times that it takes a more concentrated focus on what we do to avoid the "drone" syndrome.  That is to say, getting caught up in the doing of the thing, rather than thinking about the purpose behind it.

Then we receive messages like these from fans:

**I taste your love in your food. Absolutely amazing! - K. Brown

**We bought the vegan Chai a few months ago at the midtown market and just tried it this week. Finally we have something to drink on these extremely cold winter days when everyone else has their hot chocolate. Thank you for a quality product that makes us feel so special! - M.O. M.

**Just ordered more Chai, Cocoa and Granola. Your stuff rocks! We bought a bunch at Hana's fund raiser and now I don't think we are going to be able to live without it. - C. Adams

It's comments like these that lift up our spirits and put the wind back in our sails. These wonderful sentiments remind Terry and I of our purpose, and our reason for making Winter Goddess Foods what it is.  Thank you so much, our wonderful fans and followers, for believing in us, and in what we do.  We are honored that you have placed your trust in our products and in US!

In addition, here is a link to the nice write up that we received recently from one of our retail partners.