Apple Cider Vinegar Bitters: New England Practicality, European Wisdom By Guido Masé, November 25, 2016

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Doctor Jarvis, who studied medicine in our hometown of Burlington, Vermont, was perhaps the epitome of the New England country doctor. He worked during the first half of the 1900s, helping countless patients, visiting homes of friends and neighbors, and relying on strategies that supported and nourished – the same tonic approach we favor today. But he is perhaps best known for popularizing the use of apple cider vinegar, recommending its use for a range of complaints. We may owe the recent popularity of switchel, fire cider, shrubs and other infused vinegars to the old country doctor. His popular remedy makes sense: New England is rich in apples, and every fall, pressed and fermented into cider, he had access to endless quantities of raw, natural vinegar. Ever practical, Dr. Jarvis realized that this abundant natural product (already popular with old-time Vermonters) could provide a range of health benefits.

Some of the classic uses for apple cider vinegar include improving digestion, especially the occasional bout of heartburn, and helping to keep healthy blood sugar levels stable. This seemed to us to provide a perfect match for the traditional European digestive bitters, another classic digestive and metabolic remedy. Furthermore, since apple cider vinegar’s fermentation process converts alcohol into acetic acid, steeping the right herbs and roots in vinegar provides a way to enjoy all the benefits of bitters in a preparation made without alcohol.

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We wanted to rely on the time-honored bitter roots that serve as the foundation of our original formula, so we started with burdock and dandelion […]

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DIY Herbal Facial Steam By Colleen Dando, November 23, 2016

As the cold weather creeps in, our noses and sinuses can feel it! Some of the best support for this time of year comes from a simple preparation… herbal steams.

Herbal steams have long been used as a way to help aid the body’s natural defenses. While inhaling the rich vapors of aromatic plants, the essential oils released from a hot water infusion penetrate the airways and can have an immediate effect on the sinuses and lungs, encouraging deep, clear breathing.

DIY Herbal Facial Steam

These steams are a wonderful ally for children and adults alike. The warm touch of steam on the face during the colder days is something appreciated by all, especially when the steam is magnified by powerfully fragrant herbs that are soothing and invoke clarity.

A classic way to prepare a steam is to create a ‘tent’ with a towel over your head. You simply need a pot and a towel. Some of the best preparations are the most simple, so keep it easy! Add a handful of herbs rich in essential oils that are traditionally used for supporting the immune system– often the ones right in your spice cabinet. There you can find thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, peppermint… all rich in volatile oils, ready to be released and breathed in. For a more instant effect, try adding other herbs such as eucalyptus, lavender and/or essential oils.  

Below is an uncomplicated yet effective steam recipe that can be prepared quickly once the cold weather begins. Regardless of the moment, it will undoubtedly provide comforting relief.

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Traditions and the Importance of Bitterness at our Table By Aisling Badger, November 20, 2016

Digestive Bitters and Bitter Foods

Abundant food, merriment, drinking and celebration are upon us: the holidays.  Enter the phase of the year where it is hard to say no to the daily treat left in the office break room, or the warm comforting smell of pie in the oven, the endless family feasts and time spent with loved ones. It is a time that we look forward to all year and however you celebrate, it is safe to say that feasting, eating, drinking and desserting are at an all-time high.

The holidays are known as the season of indulgence, and we should allow ourselves to partake in the merriment of eating together, because who wants to lose out on that?

Think about how much time goes into preparing a holiday meal–the chosen company, the aesthetic, the recipes and the traditions around them, the all too common feeling of overeating, and rightfully so!  This time of year should be enjoyed and we should feel well doing it.

Great health is about balance.  Body shaming and restricting food habits can dampen our mood and make the experiences less enjoyable, but there are ways to improve our health around the holidays, and thankfully they are easy habits that support these joyous traditions.

Among the best known herbal remedies used at this time of feasting are bitters. In our current food culture we have an overwhelming load of sugar, salt […]

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Science Update: Bitter Taste Effects On The Airway By Guido Masé, November 18, 2016

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Ever since discovering that bitter taste receptors are found in the airways1, we have been following this emerging area with an eye to how and why this is happening. Some of the initial research focused on cells that line our lung passages: these cells are covered in fine, small “hairs” called cilia which help to capture and eliminate harmful substances by constantly beating and pushing material up and out of the bronchial system. Scientists looked for genes in those cells that might have instructions for cell-surface receptors, to see if they were able to sense anything, and to their surprise discovered that these cilia-bearing lung cells had bitter taste receptors on their outside surface.

This in-and-of-itself was quite interesting, but what really surprised researchers a few years later was the discovery that, when stimulated, the bitter taste receptors in the lungs led to relaxation in airway smooth muscles, helping to keep lung passages open2. The apparent mechanism involves the cilia-bearing cells releasing a calcium-based signal into the local circulation which hyperpolarized the smooth muscle cells, making it harder for them to contract. Net result: dilation of the air passages.

It is becoming increasingly clear that our respiratory passages, from the nose to the lungs, are loaded with bitter taste receptors. Robert Lee and Noam Cohen at UPenn, for example, are researching bitter taste receptors […]

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