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.
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 […]
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 […]
Ever since discovering that bitter taste receptors are found in the airways, 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 open. 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 […]
The liver, a three-pound sponge full of blood that is lodged just around the lower right ribs, is our tireless defender. It daily throws itself in front of a barrage of chemistry, coming from inside our bodies, from our food, and from the world around us, and helps to process and safely eliminate it before it can harm our heart, blood vessels, joints, nerve tissue, and skin. But the liver is also a wise regulator of metabolism: it takes the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins we consume and coordinates their storage, converts them like currency one into the other as needed, and packages lipids and cholesterol for shipping to long-term storage in our adipose tissue. As such, it is exquisitely sensitive to insulin, and takes care of clearing sugars from the bloodstream after we eat. It also has the ability to create cholesterol from scratch, produces bile, and synthesizes a range of important molecules used to clot blood and ensure optimal immunity. Needless to say, we owe our lives – and much of our quality of life – to the liver.
For all these reasons, healthy liver function is one of the herbalist’s primary goals. We aim to support its defensive role by ensuring that the liver is producing antioxidants like glutathione at optimal levels. We pay attention to the liver’s insulin sensitivity, helping it react to this important hormone in a healthy, balanced way so that it can fulfill its role in blood sugar management. And when working to keep healthy cholesterol levels in their normal range, herbalists turn to liver support first.
There are many plants […]