Our favorite Aviva moments from Expo West 2016

It’s been a whirlwind year since we announced our Aviva partnership before Natural Products Expo West last year. Now the bottles for Adrena Soothe, Adrena Nourish & Adrena Uplift are packed up, shipped out and already open in our customers’ homes across the country. And more collaborations are coming soon.

And Expo West has rolled around again. (For the 99.5% of you that aren’t coming, Expo West is a big convention in Anaheim for companies that make things that are organic or natural in some way. It’s 88,000 people in a big convention center that smells like new carpeting.  It doesn’t really remind us of farms or nature, but it’s actually a bit of fun.)

Anyway, last year we had Aviva with us at our booth holding conversations about topics that interested her. Here are some of our favorite moments from Aviva’s chats at the booth.

Aviva and Sara Katz (Herb Pharm Co-Founder) discuss ethical sourcing

Continue reading “Our favorite Aviva moments from Expo West 2016”

What’s the difference between a root and a rhizome? And where do bulbs and tubers fit in?

dandelion_root2

When you look at a plant in the ground, some parts are easy to spot. Most kids could do it. Hey, there’s the flower. That there is a leaf. Done and done. But below ground, things get a bit more confusing. There are roots, sure, but rhizomes too. And some plants like tubers and bulbs exist almost entirely underground. So what are all these things?

Well, let’s break it down. Continue reading “What’s the difference between a root and a rhizome? And where do bulbs and tubers fit in?”

Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca

Herb Pharm Maca Sourcing

The journey to the heart of Peru’s Maca fields starts in the early morning in Lima. Traffic noise filling the air. Horns of various pitches and volumes competing for attention. Lima is the second largest city in the Americas. Bigger than New York, bigger than LA, bigger than even Rio or Mexico City. Only Sao Paulo is larger.

Getting out of town means hopping in a car with our supplier, putting the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean at your back and heading uphill, crawling through a traffic jam. White taxis cutting you off at slow speed. Pedestrians crossing between idling cars and buses. Until we reach the highway and start the real climb. Continue reading “Out of breath and dizzy in the high Andes home of Maca”

The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.

GentianHerbalist or no, you probably have Gentian in your home. It’s in the pantry next to that weird bottle of alcohol you got as a gift and never opened. Can’t find it? Don’t worry. Gentian is in every bar in America, Europe or wherever you’re reading this. People take it for its flavor, but it’s not what you think. Continue reading “The Egyptians wrote about it. The Romans loved it. You probably own it. You just don’t know why.”

VIDEO: The Health Benefits of Coconut Water

For thousands of years the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) has produced many useful products for humankind, including firewood, timber, various wood products, soap, glycerine, palm leaves for thatched roofs, and the exocarp (husk) for garden mulch. Also this beautiful tree provides several delicious foods, including coconut water, seed endosperm (aka flesh & meat), coconut milk (made from the seed endosperm), oil, and a sweet, nutritious sugar made from the nectar of the tree’s flowers.

In this blog post I’m presenting a video talk on the use of coconut water as a therapeutic food.

“Mum’s” the Word!

blogmumA popular garden perennial and well-known ornamental plant, Chrysanthemum, is beginning to grow roots at our farm.  Typically referred to as florist “mums”, the plants are noted for their spectacular display of autumn flowers.  Garden centers and grocery storefronts are heavily stocked with the alluring hybrid colors of pink, yellow, purple, red and white throughout September and October. In 1798, the first cuttings of Chrysanthemum were planted in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Since then, plant breeders have transformed this Asteraceae-family flower from a typical daisy pattern into attractive pompons, buttons, anemone, single and double floral displays.  The US national Chrysanthemum society has divided mum flowers into thirteen distinct bloom forms by the arrangement of its floral parts, and the flower occupies second position in the world flower trade behind roses.  Modern floral exhibitions of Chrysanthemums resemble pictures from the popular Dr. Seuss books.

However, Chrysanthemums share a much older cultural heritage near its wild origins of China.  As a native to Asia, historical evidence has documented Chinese cultivation of this plant as far back as the 15th century B.C.  The Chrysanthemum flower, referred to “Ju hua”, along with plum, bamboo, and orchid are collectively referred to as the “Four Noble Ones”.  Through several dynasties, mums were exclusive to the elite class and common people were not allowed to grow them.  In China, leaves are steamed for cooking and the dried flowers are typically prepared as a tea for consumption on a regular basis.  The pale white to yellow flowers are steeped in hot water to create a cooling, medicinal tea with a floral aroma.  Specifically, Chrysanthemum morifolium is cultivated for it’s broad medicinal attributes and especially noted for eye health.  The dried flowers spread through Korean markets as a popular cure for insomnia, and in the year 910, Japan adopted Chrysanthemum as their national flower. Japan’s annual festival of happiness is based upon recognition of Chrysanthemum’s healing properties.

At Herb Pharm, we are growing three medicinal cultivars of Chrysanthemum morifolium, Bo Ju hua, Chu Ju hua, and Gong Ju hua.  Each variety is named after a specific region of initial cultivation in China’s Anhui province.  We are fortunate to have received stem cuttings of these rare varieties from Peg Schafer’s certified organic farm in Sonoma, California.  In 2011, Peg published a wonderful book titled “The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm” and claims to be one of the few, if not only, grower of these varieties in the U.S.  The cuttings arrived rootless in the beginning of March, and our challenge was to sustain the tender cuttings until root development.  Chrysanthemum morifolium does not grow true from seed, so cuttings are the only option for propagation.  Stem cuttings require a high level of relative humidity, while maintaining a soil temperature of 70-75 degrees.  Cuttings should never wilt and a continuous film of moisture should cover the leaves until roots are able to form.  The plants grow best in well-drained, slightly acidic soil.  Throughout the growing season, mums should be pinched back a few inches every month to encourage bushy, compact growth.  Pinching stem tips will increase flower yield and create a healthy structure for future growth.  Just remember not to keep pinching too late into summer, or you could lose the entire fall bloom.  Also, mums will over-winter in our climate and last several seasons given the appropriate pruning and soil requirements.  At the farm, we will be harvesting our first flowers in September/October for drying, and propagating from these original plants for many years to come.  The dried flowers are a key component of Herb Pharm’s new Eye Health™ Compound, and we are excited to become one of the few farms cultivating these medicinal varieties outside of China.

Originally published in June, 2014.