Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Warm Holiday Drinks

     It's finally getting colder, even in Florida. That means it's time to break out the warm cozy sweaters, the scarves, and warm drinks. While coffee and hot cocoa are on the top of most lists for warm and comforting drinks, there are a few others that make this season feel more festive. Wassail and Mulled Wine are just two traditional and warm drinks that can make the holidays more cheerful. Plus they are also super healthy.


Wassail is a traditional drink that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Wassail is traditionally made with hard cider, seasonal spices, and a variety of seasonal fruits. There are so many recipes and variations today that you can make your Wassail unique to your family without much effort.

The Juices:

Apple Cider is one of the traditional ingredients and I can't imagine a Wassail recipe without it. You can use hard apple cider or non-alcoholic apple cider.
Orange Juice provides a super amount of vitamins that help support your immune system and fight colds and the flu.
Pomegranate Juice is a more modern addition that you can use in place of orange juice, or with it (use half orange juice and half pomegranate juice). Pomegranate juice is high in antioxidants and vitamins which help your body fight off infections and help boost your immune system and endurance.
Cranberry Juice is a more traditional addition and you can use it instead of the orange juice, or you can use it with the orange juice (use half orange juice and half cranberry juice). Cranberry juice is full of vitamins and minerals that help provide support for your immune system. It also helps to fight off a number of infections.

The Spices:

Cinnamon is one of the ingredients you will find in all Wassail recipes. It provides a natural sweetness without adding sugar, and is an excellent medicinal herb. You can read more about the benefits of cinnamon here.
Clove is another ingredient you will find in all Wassail recipes. These little spices are packed full of medicinal benefits that include pain relief, improving digestion, reducing inflammation, relieving the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and much more.
Nutmeg is an herb you will usually find accompanying both cinnamon and clove. It is a mild sedative, helping to relax and making sleep more peaceful.
Star Anise adds a slight licorice flavor to the blend, and it looks super impressive. Medicinally it's used to help sooth sore throats, treat cold and flu, as well as relieving quite a few digestive issues.
Juniper Berries are one of my favorite ingredients to add to my Wassail because they add a timeless flavor. Juniper berries are also super healthy. They help fight bacterial infections, they help you to get the most out of your sleep, they improve digestion, and they are good for your heart.
Ginger adds a nice punch to your Wassail. It's also one of my favorite medicinal herbs for this time of year. You can read more about ginger here.
Cardamom is the herb that gives Chai Tea it's distinctive flavor. It's also a great digestive herb and helps support the liver.
Pine Needles might seem like a strange addition, but they add a nice, citrus-like flavor. They are also super loaded with vitamins. Read more about the benefits of pine here.

Other Ingredients:
Fresh Fruit is often added to improve the flavor and make the Wassail look amazing. The most commonly added fruits are citrus and apples. You can also find cranberries, pomegranates, and just about any seasonal fruit.
Health Promoting Herbs make great additions to any recipe. Though the traditional herbs I have already listed are also super healthy, feel free to try your favorite herbs. I've seen Wassail recipes that include rose hips, hibiscus, hawthorne berries, elder berries, chamomile, lemon balm, lemon grass, passiflora, raspberry leaves, and so much more.
Liquor is something we all know the dangers of, but it's also full of health benefits. Plus, it makes any party awesome. The traditional alcohol to use for Wassail is brandy, however you can also try whiskey, rum, or just about any liquor you want. Two of my favorites to add are honey flavored whiskey or spiced rum.


3 quarts (¾ gallon) Apple Cider
1 quart Orange Juice
5-7 Cinnamon Sticks
10-20 Juniper Berries
15-20 Cloves
1 Nutmeg, crushed
½ inch Fresh Ginger, sliced
2 Oranges, sliced
1 Apple, sliced
1 Handful Fresh Cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot, or crock pot, and bring to a simmer (in the crock pot, heat on low) stirring occasionally. Turn down heat, cover, and warm for at least 1 hour. You can also remove from the heat and store to warm up for a future use.

Mulled Wine:

Another traditional drink served during the winter months. Mulled Wine is typically red wine sweetened and spiced, but modern recipes have made it much more than that by adding in fresh seasonal fruit and alcohol. I know this seems like a warm version of sangria, but it's a great addition to any holiday party. Not to mention the health benefits.

The Spices:

Cinnamon is one of the ingredients you will find in all mulling spice recipes. It provides a natural sweetness without adding sugar, and is an excellent medicinal herb. You can read more about the benefits of cinnamon here.
Clove is another ingredient you will find in all mulling spice recipes. These little spices are packed full of medicinal benefits that include pain relief, improving digestion, reducing inflammation, relieving the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and much more.
Allspice is an impressive herb from any standpoint. It's name comes from the fact that it has flavor notes from all the major spices such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. It's also great for your health, aiding in digestion and helping to improve immune function.
Nutmeg is an herb you will usually find accompanying both cinnamon and clove. It is a mild sedative, helping to relax and making sleep more peaceful.
Black Peppercorns add a bit of heat to your Mulled Wine, but they also help improve your digestion.
Star Anise adds a slight licorice flavor to the blend, and it looks super impressive. Medicinally it's used to help sooth sore throats, treat cold and flu, as well as relieving quite a few digestive issues.
Ginger adds a nice punch to your Mulled Wine. It's also one of my favorite medicinal herbs for this time of year. You can read more about ginger here.
Cardamom is the herb that gives Chai Tea it's distinctive flavor. It's also a great digestive herb and helps support the liver.

Other Ingredients:
Honey is a great way to sweeten your Mulled Wine without resorting to sugar. It's also full of health benefits and can help fight off infections.
Fresh Fruit is often added to improve the flavor and make the Mulled Wine look amazing. The most commonly added fruits are citrus and apples. You can also find cranberries, pomegranates, and just about any seasonal fruit.
Health Promoting Herbs make great additions to any recipe. Though the traditional herbs I have already listed are also super healthy, feel free to try your favorite herbs. Some herbs to try include rose hips, hibiscus, hawthorne berries, elder berries, chamomile, lemon balm, lemon grass, passiflora, raspberry leaves, juniper berries, pine needles, and so much more.
Liquor is something we all know the dangers of, but it's also full of health benefits. Plus, it makes any party awesome. The traditional alcohol to use for Mulled Wine is brandy, however you can also try whiskey, rum, or just about any liquor you want. Two of my favorites to add are spiced rum or apple flavored whiskey.

Mulled Wine

1 bottle of Red Wine of your choice (or Pomegranate Juice for a non-alcoholic option)
1 Orange, sliced
½ cup Pomegranate Seeds
½ cup Honey (or sugar)
5-10 Whole Cloves
5-10 Black Peppercorns
5-10 Allspice Berries
2-3 Cinnamon Sticks
3-4 Cardamom Pods, lightly crushed

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot, or crock pot, and bring to a simmer (in the crock pot, heat on low). Turn down heat, cover, and warm for at least 30 minutes. You can also remove from the heat and store to warm up for a future use.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season and enjoy these great recipes! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Feel free to share your experiences with us as well!


9 Surprising Health Benefits of Mulled Wine: BT.com: http://home.bt.com/lifestyle/health/healthy-eating/9-surprising-health-benefits-of-mulled-wine-11364229012051
Herbal Wassail Recipe: Wellness Mama: https://wellnessmama.com/472/wassail-recipe/
Make a Toast to Wassail: Seasonal Wisdom: http://www.seasonalwisdom.com/2010/01/make-a-toast-to-wassail/
Slow Cooker Cider Wassail: A Spicy Perspective: https://www.aspicyperspective.com/wassail-recipe/2/
Traditional Mulled Wine Recipe: The Spruce: https://www.thespruce.com/mulled-wine-recipe-3510986

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Simply Cinnamon

     The Christmas Season brings with it many things. There's cookies, presents, Santa, and mint-flavored-everything. However, there is a flavor/scent that is more commonly used this season, but for some strange reason, it's not as popular as mint. Cinnamon is one of my favorite scents and flavors for just about any time of year. It's just so warm and cozy. It's always comforting to smell and taste. But it's also a great herb to use in so many situations.

     Cinnamon, as we know it, is the dried inner bark of cinnamomum trees. There are around 250 species of cinnamon trees and several of these trees are commonly used and labeled as “cinnamon.” The two most common are Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon or true cinnamon) and Cinnamomum cassia (Cassia, Chinese, or Saigon cinnamon). There are quite a few other species used, but these two are the most commonly found here, with Cassia being the most common. However, Ceylon Cinnamon is more potent if you are looking to use cinnamon for it's health benefits.

Medicinal Uses:
Summary of actions-
Stimulant, Tonic, Stomachic, Analgesic, Blood Alterative, Carminative, Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral, Anti-Parasitic, Mildly Astringent, Anticancer, Antispasmodic, Antioxidant, Hypotensive, Aromatic, Aphrodisiac, and Insect Repellent.

Traditional Chinese Medicine-
China's cinnamon tradition goes back almost as far as India's. In TCM, Rou Gui (cinnamon sticks) are used to reinforce fire, strengthen yang, dispel cold, stop pain, and warm meridians. This helps to invigorate the stomach, warm the lower back, reduce stomach bloating, and relieve abdominal problems associated with cold/excessive yin.

Native to India, and known there as Tvak, cinnamon has a long history as a medicinal herb in Ayurveda. Common uses for cinnamon include balancing digestion, pacifying Kapha, balancing Vata, increasing the effects of other herbs, to pacify headaches, and even to keep joints healthy.

Essential Oil-
Cinnamon stimulates the body and the mind. Externally, cinnamon essential oil makes an excellent warming liniment, helping to relieve sore muscles and stimulate circulation. Internally, it helps aid the digestive processes, combats infections, and fortifies the immune system. Always dilute essential oils before use, but be especially cautious with cinnamon as it can cause irritation if it is not diluted properly (about 10 drops of essential oil to every 1 ounce of carrier oil for a healthy adult).

Cinnamon has an excellent reputation as an anti-diabetic herb due to it's ability to help lower blood sugar and improve sensitivity to insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. It also helps curb the craving for sugary sweets and can be added to recipes to reduce the amount of sugar needed.

Circulatory Health-
Cinnamon is very beneficial for heart and circulatory health. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. It helps the blood to coagulate, which helps prevent and reduce bleeding. It increases circulation, and helps tissues to regenerate. This is especially beneficial to the heart as it needs to regenerate tissue to fight and/or recover from heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

Neurodegenerative Diseases-
Cinnamon contains quite a few antioxidants, many of which act to help to activate protein that protect brain cells from mutation and damage caused by aging. This has enormous potential to help prevent neurodegenerative disorders and diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Dental Health-
Cinnamon is wonderful to use to help fight the bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, and bad breath. It's also smells and tastes great, so it makes a great addition to any natural tooth powders or mouthwashes.

Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral-
As a naturally antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and immune boosting herb, cinnamon works extremely well to help combat a number of infections. Not only does it help prevent infections, but it has been shown to be very effective at treating them as well. It's immune boosting properties are so potent, that it is even being studied as a possible treatment for HIV.

Stomach and Digestion-
Cinnamon has quite a few properties that make it wonderful to aid digestion and prevent digestive upset. It's carminative, which means that it helps to prevent and relieve gas and bloating. It soothes stomach and intestinal cramps and helps in the digestion of fats and sugars.

Cinnamon helps reduce inflammation all over the body, which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline, and much more. These anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce pain, relieve muscle soreness, relieve pain associated with PMS, reduce the severity of allergic reactions, and may help relieve arthritis pain.

Cautions and Contraindications-
If taken in small amounts, cinnamon is not known to cause allergies or negative reactions. However, when taking extracts or essential oils, it is possible to take cinnamon in a large enough quantity that it may negatively interact with certain medications and medical conditions. Please check with your doctor before supplementing with cinnamon.

Use caution with cinnamon if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding.

When using cinnamon essential oil, make sure to properly dilute the oil and to use a patch test as cinnamon can be very irritating to the skin.

     I hope I have given another reason to fall in love with cinnamon this Holiday Season. Let me know how you feel about cinnamon, I love hearing from you!

10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon
Aromatherapy Cinnamon: Herbs 2000: https://www.herbs2000.com/aromatherapy/a_cinnamon.htm
Ayurveda Medicinal Herb, Cinnamon (Tvak): Ayurveda for You: https://ayurveda-foryou.com/ayurveda_herb/cinnamon.html
Cinnamon: Annie's Remedy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/cinnamomum-zeylanicum-cinnamon.php
Cinnamon Bark: Maharishi Ayurveda: http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-recipes/spices/cinnamon.html
Cinnamon Bark: TCM Wiki: https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/cinnamon-bark
Cinnamon Benefits: Herb Wisdom: https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-cinnamon.html
Cinnamon Side Effects and Benefits: Herbal Resource: https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/cinnamon-herb.html
Cinnamon Sticks (Rou Gui): Chinese Herbs Healing: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/cinnamon-sticks/
Cinnamon, the Ancient Healing Spice: Vedic Healing: https://vedichealing.com/cinnamon-the-ancient-healing-spice/
Health Benefits of Cinnamon and Nutrition Facts: Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/health-benefits-cinnamon/
Medicinal Uses of Cinnamon Reviewed: Monterey Bay Spice Company: https://www.herbco.com/t-Medicinal-Uses-of-Cinnamon.aspx
Use of Chinese Cinnamon; Gui Zhi & Rou Gui in Herbal Medicine: Empirical Point Acupuncture: https://www.philadelphia-acupuncture.com/cinnamon-chinese-herbal-medicine/

Monday, November 27, 2017

Herbal Bitters: A Brief Introduction

It's the Holiday Season! That means it's time to get together with friends and family. Time to share gifts, drinks, and stories. Time to get fat and lazy after eating amazing meals. All of this can be very exciting and wonderful. However, this can do a serious number on your digestion. I figured that I could let you in on a tip to help keep your digestion going strong even after a day of gorging yourself on food you don't normally eat.

Over the years, “Bitter” has gained a bad reputation. The word is most commonly associated with harsh feelings like anger, resentment, and pain. However, “Bitter” can be a wonderful and healthy tool to use. Bitter herbs help digestion, and a number of them are already in our diets. Coffee, most culinary herbs, and leafy greens are just a few examples. Even though we do continue to enjoy our bitter herbs, we don't have enough of them to really use their true potential. If you aren't tasting the bitter flavor, you aren't getting the benefit. But before I dig to deeply into that, here's a basic introduction to the world of Bitters.

Bitter Herbs and Foods:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are 5 flavors of food. Sweet, Salty, Pungent (sometimes referred to as Spicy or Acrid), Sour, and Bitter. Each of these flavors is associated with certain actions on your digestive system, as well as your body as a whole.

Bitter herbs and foods help to stimulate digestion by triggering the production and/or release of digestive enzymes, hormones, and various digestive secretions (saliva, bile, etc). This action benefits the gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, and just about your whole body. Bitters help us to properly digest proteins, fats, and starches. They help increase nutrient absorption, improve the integrity of the tissues lining the digestive tract, and help to create a protective barrier against pathogens. Most bitters are also cooling in nature, helping to reduce inflammation and rid the body of excess heat. They also help aid the elimination process.

With such a wide range of bitter options available to us, why do so many health professionals think that the modern American diet is all but devoid of bitter flavors? Because sweetening the bitter flavors destroys most, if not all, of the health benefits. So eating those dark leafy greens in your salad is a great choice, but using a salad dressing packed full of sugar negates most of the healthy benefits. This is one of the reasons that herbal bitters are such a great tool for your health.

Herbal Bitters:

The herbal bitters we usually refer to are mixtures of various herbal extracts designed to help aid digestion. There are an unlimited amount of combinations of bitter herbs out there that can be put into these herbal bitters, and many recipes date back thousands of years. Some of the oldest recipes come from the Mediterranean region and date back over 2,000 years ago. Some of the more famous recipes are still in use today, though mostly as cocktail ingredients. The most famous of these is Angostura Bitters which is used in the traditional Old Fashioned. And for those of you who are fans of Gin and Tonic, tonic water started off as a bitter folk remedy as well.

Who Should Take Bitters?:


Bitters are great for everyone to use. Pregnant and nursing women should use caution with certain herbs, but an Herbal Bitter formulated with fennel and other gentle herbs can be a great asset, especially since fennel helps increase breast milk production. Those of you who have had problems with your gallbladder, pancreas, liver, or kidneys can benefit tremendously from taking bitters. People who suffer from anemia, or iron deficiency, should think seriously about adding bitters to their diet. Our bodies need bitters in order to properly absorb and use iron.

How Do You Use Bitters?:

I typically recommend using bitters 15 min before you plan on dining. Bitters most often come in liquid extracts with droppers, but occasionally you will find them in spray bottles. In the case of the droppers, take 1-2 dropperfuls, under your tongue. For the spray, spray into your mouth 2-3 times. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the bottle.

Whatever your digestive concern, there is an Herbal Bitters formula out there for you (or you can make your own). I urge you all to talk to a nutritionist, herbalist, or other health professional about adding bitters to your daily routine.

I hope I have gotten you excited about herbal bitters, and I hope that they help you throughout this holiday season. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

Where to Buy Great Bitters:

Check out your local Farmer's Markets
There are also several people who sell their herbal products on Etsy
I have also been known to make bitters occasionally. For more information, please contact me directly at BatLadyHerbals@gmail.com


5 Reasons Why You Should Eat Bitter Foods and Herbs: Natures Sunshine: http://blog.naturessunshine.com/en/5-reasons-why-you-should-eat-bitter-foods-and-herbs/

10 Reasons to Use Bitters: Hint it All Starts with Digestive Health : Radiant Life: https://blog.radiantlifecatalog.com/bid/70036/10-Reasons-to-Use-Bitters-hint-it-all-starts-with-digestive-health

Benefits of Bitters: Organic Spa Magazine: https://www.organicspamagazine.com/the-benefits-of-bitters/

Digestive Bitters: Better than Probiotics: Gwen's Nest: http://gwens-nest.com/digestive-bitters/

Herbal Bitters: Invaluable Aid to Fat Digestion: The Healthy Home Economist: https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/bitters-invaluable-aid-to-fat-digestion/

Herbal Medicine: Tonics, Bitters, and Digestion: Healthy.net: http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/Tonics_Bitters_and_Digestion/862

Natural Healing: Befriending the Bitter Herbs: Mother Earth Living: https://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/natural-healing-bitter-is-better-befriending-the-bitter-herbs

Properties of Food from a TCM Perspective: Shen Nong: http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/food_property_food_tcm.html

Taste and Action of Chinese Herbs: ITM Online: http://www.itmonline.org/articles/taste_action/taste_action_herbs.htm

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Savory Pumpkin Recipes

     Thanksgiving is just days away, and Christmas is just around the corner. That means it's time to pull out all those family recipes, but sometimes it's fun to introduce a new recipe or two. This year, I want to get back to something I love, pumpkin. Not just the pumpkin spice that everyone obsesses over this time of year, but pumpkin itself. So here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes. Some make great side dishes, and some work well as meat-free main dishes. These recipes also don't have to be confined to this time of year, sometimes I make these just for fun. So I hope you enjoy!

1. This makes an excellent replacement for stuffed turkey. Stuffed pumpkin can be served year round and is a great, healthy dish. This recipe is Vegan and Gluten Free. Feel free to experiment with fillings. Try quinoa or rice instead of bread, add cheese to the mix, or try using seasonal produce from your local farmer's market.

Stuffed Pumpkin

1 small Sugar Pumpkin (about 3 lbs)
1 medium Onion, diced
4 small Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 handfuls fresh Spinach or Chard, roughly chopped
¼ lb lightly toasted (or stale) Gluten Free Bread, cubed (about ½ inch chunks)
2-4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 small Apple, cored and diced
¼ cup fresh Chives, chopped
½ tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
½ tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened Cashew or Hemp Milk
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional* ½ tsp Cayenne Powder (or to your taste)

Preheat your oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut away the cap of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits (save the seeds to toast later if you want). Clean up the underside of the cap. Season the inside of the pumpkin (and the cap) with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Place on baking sheet and set aside.

Pour olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms. Cook until onions are slightly browned. Add in the spinach (or chard) and cook until slightly wilted. Scrape mixture into a bowl and add the bread, garlic, apple, chives, thyme, and sage. Mix well. Stir in the cashew milk and season with salt & pepper, to taste.

Stuff the mixture into the pumpkin, cover it with the cap and bake in the oven. Bake, covered, for 1 ½ hours (90 minutes). In the last 30 minutes of cooking, remove the cap to allow any extra liquid to cook off. Transfer the pumpkin to your serving platter, carefully. To serve, either scoop out the stuffing and pumpkin flesh, or slice into the pumpkin.

2. This vegan, gluten free, chili is great for the colder nights that accompany this time of year, but it's also packed full of healthy produce and spices. This recipe works well with zucchini, turnip, yellow squash, celeriac, and many other vegetables. Feel free to play around with it and try some new ideas.

Pumpkin Chili

1 small Sugar Pumpkin (about 3 lbs)
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup ground Flaxseed
¼ cup Gluten Free Flour
1 Zucchini, chopped
1 Turnip, chopped
2 medium Red Bell Peppers, chopped
2 or more Jalapenos, diced
1 large Onion, chopped
6-8 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
4 cups Vegetable Broth
2 (10 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can Red Kidney Beans
1 (16 oz) can Black Beans
2 cups Corn
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
a few dashes of Balsamic Vinegar
¼ tsp Dijon Mustard (or less)
Salt & Pepper

Peel the pumpkin and cut into 1-inch pieces. In a 6-quart or larger pot, heat the olive oil and whisk in the flour and ground flaxseed. Whisk until smooth, and add in the pumpkin, turnip, zucchini, peppers, onion, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in remaining ingredients (including the juices from the can of tomatoes). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer at least 1 hour (longer if you have the time). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

3. These are not your typical pancakes. Packed with savory vegetables, they can be served for breakfast, or as a side dish at dinner. Make sure your veggies are thinly shredded or finely chopped when you make this vegan, gluten free, recipe. Feel free to play around with the ingredients. Try golden beets instead of carrots. Or use Parsley, Sage, and Thyme instead of Cilantro, Turmeric, and Cayenne. Instead of Spinach, use Watercress or Swiss Chard. The possibilities are endless.

Savory Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup Gluten Free Flour
¾ cup Pumpkin Puree
½ cup chopped Spinach leaves
½ cup shredded Carrots
½ cup chopped Green Onions
2-3 tbsp chopped, fresh Cilantro leaves
½ tsp Cayenne powder (more or less to taste)
½ tsp Turmeric powder
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup Club Soda (Soda Water)
2-4 tbsp Oil

In a bowl, combine all ingredients (except oil). Mix well, adding more soda water if the batter is too thick. Heat and grease a griddle or skillet. For each pancake, use 2 tbsp batter. Spoon batter onto hot griddle and allow to cook. When the bottom is done, carefully flip each pancake over to finish cooking. Each side takes about 3-6 minutes to cook until lightly golden. Serve hot.

These taste amazing when topped with sour cream, feta or goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, a variety of chutneys, and many other toppings. Enjoy!

4. This falafel variation is so good it'll be hard to go back to the regular kind. It's great for a Thanksgiving meat alternative, or for a quick lunch. The dressing is a delicious hybrid of the traditional Tzatziki and Tahini sauces you typically find at flalfel restaurants. Feel free to play with the ingredients a little and make it your own.

Pumpkin Falafel

For the Falafel:
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
3-4 Garlic Cloves
1 cup cooked (or canned) Chickpeas, drained
½ cup Pumpkin puree
¼ cup fresh Cilantro
the juice and zest of ½ a medium Lemon (about 1 ½ tbsp)
1 tbsp ground Cumin
½ tsp Cayenne powder (or to taste)
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt & Pepper
¾ cup Gluten Free Bread Crumbs

For the Dressing:
¼ cup Tahini
¼ cup Greek Yogurt (or Coconut Yogurt for a Vegan alternative)
the juice and zest of a medium Lemon (about 1 ½ tbsp)
1 medium Cucumber, seeded and shredded
1 Garlic Clove, minced
Salt & Pepper

For the Falafel:
Preheat your oven to 350. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Place the onion, garlic, and chickpeas in a food processor and pulse a few times to break everything up. Add in 1 tbsp olive oil and the remaining ingredients and pulse until a coarse paste forms. Don't process this too well or it won't work. Form the mixture into small balls (or use a small, 2 tsp, cookie scoop), or patties. Mixture will be soft, be careful and use wet hands to avoid sticking. Arrange falafel on the greased cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even browning.

For the Dressing:
Whisk together tahini, yogurt, and lemon juice. Slowly stir in remaining ingredients.

5. Mashed potatoes are a staple with many a meal here in the South. This mash combines the potatoes with pumpkin and seasonings to provide an excellent twist to for our Holiday tables. And just like mashed potatoes, you don't have to limit this to the Holidays if you don't want to.

Pumpkin-Potato Mash

1 ½ lbs Red Potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 Garlic Cloves
¼ cup unsweetened Cashew or Hemp Milk
1 ½ cups Pumpkin Puree
2 tbsp Miso Paste
1 tbsp fresh Chives, minced
Salt & Pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are easily mashed with a fork. Drain water. In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and saute the garlic until golden. Mash potatoes until smooth, mix in all other ingredients and adjust seasoning if needed.

6. I love making my own salad dressings. It's a great way to add a touch of healthy herbs, ferments, and/or flavor to any diet. Here's one of my favorite fall dressings. Feel free to play around with the ingredients to make your very own pumpkin dressing.

Pumpkin Vinaigrette

1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup Apple Sauce (or Greek Yogurt to make a creamy variation)
1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp finely grated, fresh Ginger
2 tsp finely minced Garlic
1 tsp Honey
½ tsp Dijon Mustard
Salt, Pepper, & Cayenne to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine. Enjoy on any of your favorite salads!

     I hope I have done my part to get you all interested in pumpkin, not the spice, this fall. I also hope I gave you some new ideas for Thanksgiving, or any Holiday, dinner! In any of these recipes, feel free to change the ingredients around. Have fun, play around, and let me know what you think below!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Wonders of Pine

     I love pine. It's a beautiful tree that stays beautiful no matter the time of year, or weather. In Summer, they are tall and proud. In Winter, they stay green and, if you're lucky enough to live in the more Northern climes, they provide a great snowy silhouette. I grew up wandering the deciduous woods in Northern Florida, so I got to experience the amazing scent of pine quite often as a child. Not to mention the, often painful, pine cone wars my friends and I would get into. Pine has always held a portion of my heart, and as an herbalist I'm just beginning to understand how amazing this lovely tree really is.
     The Pinus genus is a large one, containing over 144 distinct species of coniferous evergreen trees. Around the world, pines make up about 1% of the plant population, and according to the fossil records, they have been around for over 200 million years. In Florida, we have quite a few distinct species including Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), Pond Pine (Pinus serotina), Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), and many more. All species of Pine are safe to consume and there are no toxic look-alikes, so Pine is a good tree to start learning about.

Latin Name: Pinus spp.

Common Name: Pine

Parts Used: Needles, Resin, Bark, Seeds, Pollen, Roots

Medicinal Uses:

Summary of actions- Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-catarrhal, nutritive (nuts, pollen, needles), androgenic (pollen), antimicrobial, warming, astringent, purgative (boiled bark), immunomodulatory, carminative, diuretic, lymphatic, insecticidal, expectorant, adaptogen

Traditional Chinese Medicine- Known as Song in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Pine works most on the lungs and intestines. Pine Nuts tonify Lung Yin, lubricate the lungs and intestines, stop cough, promote bodily fluids, and treat constipation. Pine Bark heals wounds, abscesses, relieves pain, treats arthritis, and treats burns. Pine Pollen is an excellent Yin tonic and, as such, is used for a wide variety of ailments.

Native American Traditional Medicine- Various Native American tribes were known to use Pine Needles to treat Scurvy. They also use the inner bark, young shoots, twigs, pitch, and leaves to treat a variety of ailments including the common cold, flu, cough, pneumonia, fever, heartburn, headache, arthritis, bronchitis, croup, laryngitis, and kidney problems. Some tribes also used the inner bark and sap as a poultice for wounds. The pitch was used to treat boils and abscesses, to draw out splinters, and for rheumatism, broken bones, cuts, bruises, and inflammation.

Ayurveda- Himalayan Longleaf Pine (or Chir Pine) is used, in Ayurvedic Medicine, to control Vatha and Kapha, to expel worms, heal wounds, for digestive problems, to treat nervous disorders, for skin problems such as wounds and burns, and in the case of respiratory and rheumatic disorders.

Immune System and First Aid- The bark and needles contain high amounts of Vitamin C which helps improve the immune system. The needles and resin are also antimicrobial and can be used to help clean wounds.

Vision Health- The bark and needles contain a high amount of Vitamin A and other carotenoids which can help prevent the formation of cataracts, increase vision strength, reduce macular degeneration, and reduces oxidative stress in the ocular system.

Circulatory System- Pine increases your body's production of red blood cells which helps increase oxygenation in your body as well as prevent anemia.

Respiratory System- Pine helps to sooth inflammation in the respiratory tract, relieves coughing, sore throat, and can even help relieve asthma. It helps prevent upper respiratory infections. Pine also is an excellent expectorant, helping your coughs to eliminate excessive mucus. It also is great at eliminating pathogens and bacteria in your sinuses.

Needles- The needles can be harvested year round and make a delightful tea. They are high in antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. One of my favorite ways to use the leaves, is to make a syrup. Herb Geek has a great recipe for Pine Syrup here. The needles are great when added as a seasoning to your food, especially since they encourage healthy digestion. The needles can also be used as an expectorant, to help make your cough more productive in expelling mucus.

Nuts- Pine Nuts have been used for food throughout the world. They are a great source of vitamins E, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate. They also contain manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

Resin- The resin is a sticky substance that Pine produces when it's been wounded. It helps protect the tree from opportunistic invaders such as fungus, bacteria, and harmful insects. The resin eventually hardens and over time (millions of years) becomes amber. However, this sticky substance can be used by us in similar ways to how the tree uses it. It's antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal, so it makes a great addition to any wound salve. It's also helpful to fight off respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.

Bark- Many scientists are currently studying Pine Bark for it's anti-cancer properties. It has also been used to improve the circulatory system, as well as to treat heart disease and varicose veins. It's high in vitamin C and other antioxidants as well.

Pollen- Pine Pollen is highly nutritious, and though each Pine has a slightly different makeup of nutrients, most of them contain vitamins B1, B2, B6, E, C, D2, D3, A, folic acid, potassium, sodium, B-carotin, nicotinamide, calcium, magnesium, phosporrus, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium. In Korea, the pollen is used as a whole body tonic and to increase vitality. It's a great addition to anyone's food. However, the tincture of Pine Pollen is used to help increase testosterone levels in older men.

Cautions and Warnings- Ponderosa Pine may not be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, or young children. The volatile oils in Pine needles and bark may cause problems in your kidneys if taken over long periods of time. Pine resin and amber can cause problems in the digestive tract when taken internally without a balanced formula.

     I hope you have a new appreciation for this amazing tree. I encourage everyone to take frequent walks in the woods, and breathe in the amazing scent of this beautiful plant. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

5 Incredible Benefits of Pine: Organic Facts: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/pine.html

8 Terrific Ways to Use Pine Needles Right Now: The Herbal Academy: https://theherbalacademy.com/8-ways-use-pine-needles/

Chir Pine: All About Ayurveda & Medicinal Plants:http://www.medicinalplantsindia.com/chir-pine.html

Common Pines of Florida: EDIS: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_common_pines_of_florida

Herbal Healing Practices of Native Americans: The Herbal Academy: https://theherbalacademy.com/the-herbal-healing-practices-of-native-americans/

Historical and Chinese Medicine Perspective of Pine Pollen: Raw Forest Foods:https://www.rawforestfoods.com/historical-and-chinese-medicine-perspective-of-pine-pollen/

Native American and Other Ancient Remedies: Legends of Amercia: https://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-remedy/

Native American Pine Tree Mythology: Native Languages: http://www.native-languages.org/pine-tree.htm

Pine: A Modern Herbal: http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/pine--34.html

Pine: White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/pine/

Pine Herbal Monograph: Natural Herbal Living: https://naturalherballiving.com/pine-herbal-monograph/

Pine Keeps You Fine: Susan Weed: http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Pine-Keeps-You-Fine.htm

Pine Scotch Essential Oil: Ayurvedic Oils: http://ayurvedicoils.com/tag/ayurvedic-health-benefits-of-pine-essential-oil

Sarala: Chir Pine: Easy Ayurveda: https://easyayurveda.com/2017/07/05/sarala-pinus-longifolia-roxburghii/

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Natural Flavors"

I truly believe in the effectiveness of a whole foods diet, and that we should do our best to avoid processed foods. However, even products that we may think of as whole foods based (such as orange juice) have interesting ingredients. Realizing this has made me start to read labels more and more. Something I've noticed is that lots of food have “natural flavors” on their ingredients lists. In fact there are quite a few statistics showing that “natural flavor” is the 4th most common ingredient in most foods. However, very few of these actually let us know what food these flavors come from. So I decided to do a little bit of research and here's what I found.

What's “Natural”?

The FDA has released several statements about “natural flavors.” One of these says that “for purposes of ingredient labeling, 'natural flavors' means flavor constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products from these foods.” In short, the material must come from a plant or animal. So far it sounds good. Right?

Here's where it starts to get interesting. “natural favors” don't have to come 100% from a plant or animal. In fact, most of these “natural flavors” are made up of 50-100 different compounds, many of which are synthetic. These synthetic chemicals play different roles in the make up of the “natural flavors,” such as solvents, preservatives, and flavor modifications. In fact, most “natural flavors” are mostly made up of these chemicals.

Why flavor food?

Mostly it comes down to consistency. Each orange tastes slightly different from the last. One might be sweeter, one more tart. But when companies have a product that includes these oranges (like orange juice), they want their product to taste the same every time. This is where “natural flavors” come in. Companies add these flavors to their product to ensure a consistency of flavor.

One of the other reasons these companies add flavors to their foods has to do with making more money. They want to create repeat consumers. In order to do that, they have to find a way to get us to consistently choose their product over their competition's product. Making the flavor more intense is one way to do that.

What does it mean for health?

The FDA does not require companies who use “natural” or even “artificial flavors” to label exactly what is in these flavors. This can be pretty dangerous for people with certain allergies and/or sensitivities. For instance, I have a good friend who is horribly allergic to capsaicin (a chemical found in peppers of all kinds). Paprika is basically smoked, and ground peppers. It's also a spice that is commonly used in the creation of certain “natural flavors.” My friend should not be eating food that includes “natural flavors” made with paprika. However, many companies do not even add allergy warnings for capsaicin like they do for soy, milk, peanuts, etc.  In short, we don't know what's in our food when we see "natural flavors" listed in the ingredients.

Aside from the food allergy possibilities, there are also side effects from the synthetic ingredients in “natural flavors.” Side effects such as dizziness, nausea, brain tumors, depression, seizures, allergies, fatigue, anxiety attacks, etc. Many of these are the same side effects you would find from “artificial flavors.”

I hope I have raised your awareness of “natural flavors” and how big businesses might be hiding synthetic ingredients in their food. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.


Natural vs Artificial Flavors: Organics.org: https://www.organics.org/natural-vs-artificial-flavors/
Synthetic Ingredients in Natural Flavors and Natural Ingredients in Artificial Flavors: EWG (Environmental Working Group): http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/natural-vs-artificial-flavors#.WeYktGhSy00
The Truth About Natural and Artificial Flavors: Bon Appetit: https://www.bonappetit.com/story/truth-about-natural-artificial-flavors
What are Natural Flavors Really?: Daily Burn: http://dailyburn.com/life/health/what-are-natural-flavors/
What Does the Term “Natural Flavors” Really Mean?: Well and Good: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/what-are-natural-flavors/
What's the Deal with Natural and Artificial Flavors?: Serious Eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/what-is-the-difference-between-natural-and-artificial-flavors.html

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2 Simple Recipes for Gut Health

If you've been following this blog, and reading for some time, you may have seen a post from January. This post is an introduction to the gut-brain connection and how our diet can affect our mental health. Today I'm going to give you a couple simple recipes to help start your path to healing your gut.


I've devoted an entire post to Kombucha in the past, and might do so again in the future. Kombucha is amazing, both for your gut and for the taste. If you want to get more of the nitty-gritty details, please feel free to look up that post I made last September. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a great recipe for flavored Kombucha that goes a step further than just plain. This particular one adds in a few ingredients that are also super healthy for your gut.

Ginger Berry Kombucha
3 ½ quarts Water
1 cup Sugar
6-8 Tea Bags (black or green tea work best, I usually do 3 of each)
1 ½ cups unflavored, starter Kombucha
½ cup each of Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, and Cherries, all chopped
3 or more tablespoons Minced Fresh Ginger

Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Now add in the tea bags. Cover, and let cool to room temperature. Once mixture has cooled, remove the tea bags and add in your starter Kombucha. Pour into your fermentation container (I use a gallon Mason Jar) and add in your SCOBY. Cover with cloth and secure with a rubber band. Let sit, out of direct sunlight, for 5-7 days (here in Central Florida, I start tasting at 3 days during the summer). When it tastes pleasant to you, remove the SCOBY and 1 ½ cups of starter, place them in a holding container (bowl or another jar). Now add in your berries and ginger. Cover with cloth and allow to sit at room temperature, out of sunlight, for an additional 2 or more days. Taste the brew and when you are happy with it, go ahead and strain out the herb/fruit solids. Pour the Kombucha into bottles and enjoy!

Adding chia seeds to your Kombucha is a great way to boost your energy levels and help with your gut issues. However, some people are sensitive to small seeds so use caution if you have certain gut issues like diverticulitis.

Add Chia to Your Kombucha!
1 cup Kombucha
¼ cup – ½ cup Rehydrated Chia Seeds (Combine 1 part Chia Seeds, and 4 parts Warm water. Stir well. Leave in the fridge for a few hours to rehydrate and form a gel.)

Place chia seeds and gel into a cup or bottle. Add in Kombucha. Stir (or shake) well. Enjoy!

Bone Broth:

Recently, bone broth has received quite a bit of attention. Which is awesome, because it's been so underrated for years. Bone broth is similar to a typical broth or stock, except you simmer the bones for 48-72 hours in order to break down the marrow and release all those healing minerals. It's this that makes bone broth so amazing for you. For optimal gut health, consuming a minimum of ½ cup every day will help to repair/rebuild the barrier of your gut and help increase nutrient absorption. I like to freeze my broth in ice-cube trays. This makes it easier to add them to rice, quinoa, soups, salad dressing, and so much more. Wellness Mama has written up a great introduction to bone broths, including where to find bones and how to use the broth.

Simple Bone Broth
2-4 pounds Bones (beef, lamb, poultry, or fish) from a healthy source
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 large Onions
2 medium Carrots, and carrot tops
3 stalks of Celery
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil (or Avocado Oil)
2 tablespoons Salt
1 tablespoon Black Pepper
3 cloves of Garlic, smashed
1 bunch Fresh Parsley

*Optional* Roast the bones, in a 350° oven for 30 minutes, to improve the flavor.
Place the bones in a stock pot and cover with water. Add in the vinegar and let sit for about 45 minutes. This helps the minerals to begin coming out of the bones. While you are waiting on the bones, chop 1 onion, 1 carrot, and 1 celery stalk. Sautee these vegetables with the coconut oil, until onions are translucent. Add them and the remaining onion, carrot, and celery (chopped) to the stock pot. Now is the time to add your salt, pepper, carrot tops, and any other herbs you would like to add (except the garlic and parsley). If needed, add water to just cover all the vegetables. Bring contents to a boil. Once it has reached a roiling boil, reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 48-72 hours. During the first few hours, scum will form on the top of the broth. Skim that off and keep simmering. If you're not comfortable leaving the stove on over night, turn it off (make sure it's covered) and let it sit at room temperature over night. Turn it back on the next day and simmer away. You can also make this in a crock pot. During the last 30 minutes of simmering, add in the parsley and garlic. When your time is up, remove it from the heat and let the broth come to room temperature. Strain out all solids and enjoy! This will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days. I always freeze ½ of my batches for later use.

Both of these recipes are very versatile. You can flavor the Kombucha however you want, with or without chia seeds. You can use the bone broth as a base for every soup, to cook rice/quinoa, or to add in place of water with any savory dish you are cooking. Not only will they help to boost your gut, but they all work to boost immunity, mood, and overall health.

I have previously posted some other recipes that are great for gut health. Fermented Lemons, Golden Milk, and Fermented Salsa are all great recipes to add into your diet to boost gut health.

I hope you enjoy making these recipes, and I hope they help you on your journey to better gut health! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...