Something for all of us to think about during Black History Month (and all year) is the fact that structural racism and destructive economic policies in the United States have deeply affected the relationship Black Americans have with food, the land, and agriculture. People who have such a rich history of growing food, creating varied and healthy cuisines, and using herbal medicine have often been deliberately separated from that knowledge over the past 400 years. Therefore, part of building wealth and health in communities is establishing Black ownership of these systems. This ownership involves access to land, knowledge, and fresh food offerings in communities.
Because of this, our social justice highlight and donation for this cycle is the African Heritage Food Co-op, which is looking to expand and establish a location in the heart of the Buffalo Fruit Belt at 238 Carlton Street!
Here is their vision statement from their website:
Our vision is to create a world where inner city “neighborhoods” can become Communities. Where NO ONE goes without HEALTHY AFFORDABLE food options. Most importantly a world in which we can create Ownership and employment opportunities IN and FOR the COMMUNITY.
In short: A community seeing a problem, attempting to solve it themselves but lacking resources to do so.
Building 238 Carlton will be an economic engine for a community which will hire 60 individuals and provide healthy food options within walking distance and reinvest in other cooperative businesses, further providing opportunities.
We started in 2016 as a community share, branched out to mobile markets and created a brick and mortar facility in Niagara Falls. COVID derailed our efforts, but we are now ready to continue our pursuits and would love your help.
The African Heritage Food Co-op already has a location in Niagara Falls as well as a Co-op garden on Edison Street in Buffalo AND a farm in Franklinville! Part of the Co-op’s mission is to offer programs that teach young people about agriculture as well as entrepreneurship. The Co-op also believes in offering employment opportunities to people who need them most: those who have been incarcerated, experienced addiction issues, or had interruptions in education.
We’re donating a portion of our sales this month to the African Heritage Food Co-op.. Want to contribute to this endeavor with us? Use this donation link to help this important project become a reality!
Want more information about the Co-op? Check out their website or check out this WGRZ article and video interview with founder Alexander Wright!
Since we’re offering a collaboration for Valentine’s Day and the spring, it seemed like the perfect time to give some local business love to Bru Apothecary!
Herbalist and Bru Apothecary owner Nnenna Ferguson describes her business like this:
…a magickal botanical wellness boutique for healing and restoration. This is an intuitive and communal space for reclaiming wholeness - mind, body, and spirit. Our artisan teas and tonics are infused with ancestral alchemy. Our mission is to create access to key sources of health and vitality.
In short, this is kitchen medicine. We believe everyone should have the essential tools for plant-based wellness in their home. Bru Apothecary products are hand-crafted in Buffalo, NY by community herbalist Nnenna Ferguson.
Herbalism can and should be accessible to all human beings. Communing with the plants is integral to our survival and prosperity. Every offering in this boutique has been crafted and curated with intention and guidance.
We can certainly speak to her Original Bru (olive leaf, rose hip, star anise, wild cherry bark) - it imparts a sense of overall wellness and also tastes great! Nnenna’s other offerings include Fire Cider, Elderberry Elixir, and many herbal potions. An abundance of options to help you nourish your body and maintain a state of wellness!
We know supporting this business will help you’ll also feel supported in your health, heart, and soul!
Since our new Soul Salt Soak has warming and aromatic cardamom, we thought that a great pairing for showing some love would be these soft and chewy cookies full of warming spices! These cookies (which happen to also be gluten free and can be made vegan) also have an extra boost of magnesium from the almond flour, dates, and pecans, and even the blackstrap molasses adds some extra magnesium, calcium, potassium. Perfect to make for your sweetie, your kiddos… or for yourself!
NOTE: If you love spices, feel free to add more ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom!
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream together butter, date paste, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, pecans, and salt. Add to butter and sugar blend a little at a time and mix well.
Drop 2-inch balls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet (If you have parchment paper to line your cookie sheet, it will help the cookies come off really easily) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 12-13 minutes, watching to make sure they don’t begin to burn on the bottom. Remove carefully with a spatula - they will be soft and chewy! Cool on wire racks. Enjoy with people you love!
Makes at least 2 dozen large cookies.
* Ingredient Substitutions
This recipe can be made vegan. To replace the butter, we actually used Miyoko’s cultured vegan salted butter made from cashews. You can also replace the two eggs with 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed mixed into 6 tbsp of water and allowed to stand 10-15 minutes. (The flax eggs will work in this recipe; however, know that the cookies will be extra soft!)
To make this recipe nut free, all purpose flour or gluten free flour blends can be used instead of almond flour, and leave out pecans.
If you do not have dates, replace the 8 dates + 1/2 cup sugar with 2 cups of sugar.
Magnesium and Emotional Health
With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s a good time to think about emotional health. This celebration of love brings up reactions ranging from total delight all the way to resurfacing relationship trauma. And it’s important to take a look at how days like this that are promoted by our culture resonate in our emotions and, yes, even in our bodies. Especially in our bodies.
And of course you know what we’re going to say next… magnesium is part of these reactions in our bodies! Like many other reactions, the relationship between emotional health and magnesium is one that goes in both directions: our magnesium levels affect our emotional health, and our emotional health affects our magnesium levels.
Much of this is about our relationship with stress and our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Our sympathetic nervous system is the system that activates our “fight, flight, or freeze'' response when we are in danger; our parasympathetic nervous system is the system that returns our body to a sense of calm so we can resume normal functioning. However, when we are constantly exposed to stress or danger without the opportunity to process it or achieve a sense of safety, our bodies and emotions can get stuck in a constant state of sympathetic nervous system activation. This causes a cascade of physical effects in the body, particularly where magnesium is concerned..
In The Magnesium Miracle (2017), Dr. Carolyn Dean writes that “Adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol (elevated in chronic stress) deplete magnesium. Stress causes elimination of magnesium through the urine, further compounding magnesium deficiency. ‘Stress’ is such an overworked word, but we all suffer physical, emotional, and mental stress every day, and every bit of it drains magnesium” (p. 14).
What does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Love? Relationships? If you find yourself in a negative, toxic, or even abusive and traumatic relationship with a partner, friend, or family member (or even an overly-critical and negative self-talk relationship with yourself), it can cause your body to lose magnesium. Which then makes it more difficult to manage stress and maintain emotional health in the future.
For a little more on how this works, Dr. Dean goes on to say that “When the adrenals are no longer protected by sufficient magnesium, the fight-or-flight hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline become more easily triggered. When they surge erratically they cause rapid pulse, high blood pressure, and heart palpitations. The more magnesium-deficient you are, the more exaggerated is the adrenaline response” (Dean, 2017, p. 14).
All of this sounds pretty terrible, right?
The flip side of this, however, is the hopeful side, because this negative-feedback system is reversible! If you are in a state of emotional health (having a loving and supportive partner, family, and friends) or cultivating love for YOURSELF, it may actually help your body to maintain your magnesium levels and, consequently, better physical health… leading to better emotional health because then you are able to manage stress better in the future, making this a positive-feedback loop. “Magnesium calms the nervous system, relaxes muscle tension, and lowers the pulse rate, helping to reduce anxiety and panic attacks” (Dean, 2017, p. 14).
How can you make this happen? Some of it is nutritional - you can eat magnesium-rich foods and/or supplement with magnesium. (And we have just released our new Soul Salt Soak with rose, cardamom, bergamot, and vetiver for emotional grounding and easing anxiety.) Other healthy ways to calm the nervous system include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, massage, acupuncture, reiki, EFT tapping, or getting out into nature. So... on Valentine's Day, be sure to show some love to your parasympathetic nervous system!
Dean, C. (2017). The Magnesium Miracle (Second Edition). Ballantine Books.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to share news and information about our products as well as research-based information on magnesium that we have found useful. We are NOT medical professionals and do not intend this post to be taken as medical advice. Our products are not FDA approved or approved for medical use, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please be sure to consult a medical professional with any questions about utilizing our products along with your current health regimen!
As January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we’d like to take this opportunity to talk about Project Mona’s House, run by founder Kelly Diane Galloway.
Human trafficking is essentially modern-day slavery and affects many more people (and people closer to home) than we may realize. There are several forms of human trafficking, such as sex trafficking and labor trafficking, that are very difficult to escape from; those who are victimized by trafficking can be affected by the trauma of the experience in deep and lasting ways. Thankfully, Mona's House is an organization working to empower and advocate for victims of trafficking.
According to the Project Mona’s House website,
Mona's House is designed to help women 18 and older who have been victims of any type of human trafficking. WE ARE MORE THAN A SHELTER! Women entering our residence are committed to becoming contributing and functioning members of society, rebuilding their lives, and possibly assisting other women who may choose freedom one day too. Our 12-24 month program is designed to bring healing to the whole woman-- mind, body, and soul. We've specifically designed our holistic restoration program for women who have been victimized by human trafficking.
Mona’s House also offers other programs like Mona’s Group:
Mona’s Group is a support system that is designed specifically for women who have been victims of human trafficking, have worked in most capacities within the sex industry, or have been a victim of sexual abuse or assault.
Our goal is to provide a safe place for women to learn, heal, and grow. Our curriculum is designed to guide women to be the overcomers they were destined to be. Mona’s Group provides a holistic form of coaching that is coupled with life skills classes, workshops, and seminars to help its participants live successful lives and maximize their full potential. In addition to regular coaching sessions we offer:
Mona’s House also includes a drop-in center called the FreeTHEM Center, to “aid human trafficking survivors as well as at-risk women and children in developing life skills and in receiving services in counseling and support.”
And, of course, Mona’s House puts a great deal of time and energy into raising awareness about human trafficking in Buffalo, NY, and the rest of the United States. Be sure to follow them at @projectmonashouse on Instagram for a ton of useful and in-depth information about types of trafficking, groups of people who are most affected by trafficking, issues of consent, and ways to advocate for ending trafficking and supporting victims.
We are donating a percentage of sales for January to cover the cost of an intake care package, and we hope that you will also go to their website to donate!
Images below are courtesy of Project Mona's House:
Black-eyed peas are a well known food of the African diaspora, making their way to the United States with people who were enslaved and becoming a staple of soul food and southern foodways in general. In the United States, they are often eaten with rice for New Year’s Day and are the perfect recipe to feature for our first January 2022 newsletter!
Unfortunately, African American and southern foods are often (and quite wrongly) deemed unhealthy by the wellness community. The truth is that many of these dishes are full of vegetables and legumes and very nutrient dense! Black-eyed peas, rice, and collard greens are all particularly high in magnesium and are a great, nourishing way to start the New Year or eat anytime you want a satisfying boost of minerals during a cold and snowy Buffalo winter!
Rather than printing a recipe here, we’re going to direct you to the Shondaland website for Noelle Carter's interview with culinary journalist Toni Tipton-Martin and her recipe for Black-eyed peas and rice as well as Gumbo Z’herbes with collard greens. We would also highly recommend checking out her book Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking for a wealth of recipes and historical information.
Here is her brief history of Watch Night and the significance of these foods:
Watch Night Service is a gathering of the faithful to bring in the New Year with spirituals, prayers, and testimony. The celebration began on “Freedom’s Eve,” December 31, 1862, when enslaved people gathered in churches to await the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had set them free. With the news came shouts of jubilation and gratitude. Today, the service includes reflection, praise, and worship to God for His provision and protection.
Folklore in the “Penn School & Sea Islands Heritage Cookbook” described the Carolina Lowcountry this way: “Early on New Year’s Eve, the pots begin to cook, as the meal for New Year’s day must be done by Midnight. The menu for New Year’s Day is a simple one: Hoppin’ John, collard greens with hog jowls, and ribs for a side dish. Hoppin’ John, or brown field peas cooked with rice, is eaten for good luck throughout the year. The collard greens represent dollar bills. It is said the more one eats, the more luck and money one will have.”
This adaptation of Hoppin’ John appeared in “Aunt Julia’s Cook Book,” a collection of Atlantic Coast recipes published in the 1930s by the Standard Oil Company.
May these delicious foods help you to start 2022 in a healthy and delicious way!
January often brings the surfacing of complex emotions. Some may love the fresh start after the holidays, the return of routines, and the promise of the coming year. Others may feel a bit bummed out that the holidays are over and go through a period of the “Winter Blues” as they get back into regular routines.
Either way, though, the prospect of enduring the rest of the long cold winter, especially here in the Buffalo snow belt, has very real effects for a lot of people and can sometimes result in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a specific type of clinical depression.
According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal, as cited in the article “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (2018), SAD tends to show up as depression, increased appetite and cravings for carbohydrates, the need to sleep more, decreased activity, and social withdrawal.
But did you know that magnesium deficiency may have a part to play in people developing SAD? This has to do with magnesium’s connection to the melatonin cycle, inflammation, neurotransmitters, and vitamin D.
MELATONIN: Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. It regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking. When the sun sets earlier, the body naturally wants to fall asleep earlier as melatonin is giving those signals. And while we do want melatonin levels to rise in the evening to help us fall asleep, we don’t want them to rise TOO early and make us sluggish before we actually want to go to bed. Magnesium helps to naturally regulate the melatonin cycle.
INFLAMMATION: On top of the melatonin cycle being out of sync, many people who experience SAD also have higher levels of inflammation (“Seasonal Affective Disorder,” 2018). Like the melatonin cycle, inflammation is a necessary process for the body... in the right situations. Inflammatory cytokines are necessary in the body to fight infection and promote healing. However, also like the melatonin cycle, the inflammatory process is the most beneficial when it is well regulated and not over- or under-functioning. Magnesium helps to regulate the immune system so it functions properly.
NEUROTRANSMITTERS: People with SAD often have lower levels of some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin.
VITAMIN D*: The decreased level of neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, may be a result of lower levels of vitamin D, a hormone that works to regulate calcium in the blood (“Seasonal Affective Disorder,” 2018). Vitamin D is naturally produced when the body is exposed to sunlight, and magnesium is essential for the body to be able to convert vitamin D to its active form, making it more available for the body to absorb and use.
What may be able to help support all of these systems and ease the symptoms of SAD? There is not a single solution, but rather a combination of approaches that work well together!
* NOTE: Very interestingly, recent research suggests a near-zero death rate from COVID-19 among people with vitamin D levels over 50. (Under 20 is generally considered deficient, and under 30 is generally considered insufficient.) The article “COVID-19 Mortality Risk Correlates Inversely with Vitamin D3 Status“ (Borsche, L., Glauner, B., & von Mendel, J., 2021) claims that “The datasets provide strong evidence that low D3 is a predictor rather than just a side effect of the infection. Despite ongoing vaccinations, we recommend raising serum 25(OH)D levels to above 50 ng/mL to prevent or mitigate new outbreaks due to escape mutations or decreasing antibody activity.” In other words, along with being vaccinated and masking, talking to your doctor about supplementing with vitamin D might be a great way to keep yourself healthy (or make viral infection less severe) during the current COVID surge!
Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog post is to share information about our products as well as research-based information on magnesium that we have found useful. We are NOT medical professionals and do not intend this newsletter to be taken as medical advice. Our products are not FDA approved or approved for medical use, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please be sure to consult a medical professional with any questions about utilizing our products along with your current health regimen!
As November is Native American Heritage Month, we will be donating to support the Haudenosaunee Indigenous Values Initiative to raise awareness about Indigenous history and the ongoing struggle of Indigenous people. We acknowledge that we as a business and as individuals are on Haudenosaunee land here in Western New York and recognize the need for us to learn about, and redistribute wealth to, the Indigenous communities that have experienced land theft and genocide.
The Haudenosaunee Indigenous Values Initiative website offers this information about their organization and mission:
NYA•WEÑHA SKÄ•NOÑH: Thank you for being well
The Indigenous Values Initiative is dedicated to articulating, disseminating and promoting values expressed by the leadership of the Onondaga Nation, the Central Fire (or Capital) of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (made up of the Seneca, Tuscarora, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations). Haudenosaunee means “People of the Longhouse,” and are most often mistakenly referred to as the “Iroquois”). The Onondaga Nation is unique to the world, in that they are the only Native Nation recognized by the United States, and the United Nations, that still operates according to their pre-colonial clan form of government. The Haudenosaunee organize themselves in a matrilineal clan system of extended families. Their ceremonies are aligned to phases of the moon, and are based on thanksgivings to the natural world. As we all face climatic changes, it is urgent that human beings reorient themselves to the rhythms of the earth. Indigenous value systems need to be heeded in these troubled times. Intercultural understanding, however, must be based on healing generations from colonization, missionization, genocide and assimilation. The Haudenosaunee understand the need for collaboration with individuals, institutions, communities, governments and businesses to articulate, disseminate and promote the ancient and enduring values of Indigenous Peoples traditions to the world. The Indigenous Values Initiative (IVI) raises funds to support educational projects which will disperse information through conferences, classes, exhibitions, publications, speakers, expositions, etc. (https://indigenousvalues.org/about/)
As November is Native American Heritage Month and we are located on Haudenosaunee land, we will be donating to the Indigenous Values Initiative to support this organization's crucial work in advocacy and education.
We also encourage you to read about the Landback Movement which states that "To truly dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression, we have to go back to the roots. Which, for us, is putting Indigneous Lands back in Indigenous hands." (https://landback.org/)
Local Business Love: Cuppa Culture TEApourium, Nickel City Wax & Wane, Transform Wellness Studio, Trait-Carré, Eclectic Energy Wellness Institute, and Salon Valeria
We really need to catch you up on the new places that are offering our magnesium products! These are six local businesses we are very excited about working with:
We are so thankful for the support of these local businesses and we hope you take some time to check them all out!