Friday, May 29, 2009

Interesting Tidbits Shared at Food Coop Talk

Thank you to everyone who attended our talk at the East End Food Coop last night! What a great and interesting crowd. If you missed it, here are some tidbits that people shared:

  • One gentleman, upon his return from Vietnam, found he had developed hay fever. He ate a few comfrey leaves and his symptoms diminished by 50%. Now, if he gets a bout of hay fever, he'll eat some comfrey leaves and always gets at least a 50% diminishment of his symptoms.

  • Another gentleman hangs a large stalk of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) in his room at night, and reports very vivid dreams

  • Quickweed is a delicious green edible, enjoyed not only by people, but ducks love it.

  • To treat poison ivy: (this is a remedy reported from Countryside magazine) Put some water in the bath tub and add 1/2 cup sea salt, and 1/2 cup Epsom Salts. Sit in the water for 30 minutes and sponge (or use wash clothe) to splash the water on.

  • pouring vinegar on poison ivy is a way to kill the plant

  • chewing plantain leaves and applying them to the skin is a great remedy for stings, bites, cuts, itchy rashes. Some people call these "fairy bandaids."

  • Comfrey (Symphytum officialis) is also referred to as "knit-bone" and external poultices on broken bones will help heal the bone

  • Homeopathic Comfrey is called Symphytum, and is also taken to help heal broken bones

  • The crown vetch (Securigera varia) that is increasing common all over Pennsylvania was created by Penn State extension. The variety is called Penngift and was created to prevent soil erosion, with mixed results. Crown Vetch is actually a perennial from Europe and is in the legume/pea family. Some consider it an invasive weed.

  • The verdict on the toxicity of Crown Vetch is still out (the master gardners at Penn State extension are only in Monday through Thursday mornings), but we did find out (online searches) that it contains high amounts of nitroglycerides, especially in the seeds, and is toxic to horses and other non ruminants (animals with one stomach, like people.) Cows and other ruminants can eat the crown vetch because their 4 stomachs convert the nitroglycerine into a nontoxic substance. Symptoms of toxicity include paralysis, high heart rate, and even death.

  • Comfrey leaves (Symphytum officinalis) can be added to compost to speed up composting. It can also be made into strong tea in large garbage pail (steep for two weeks), which is an excellent fertilizer for gardens; just be sure there are no seeds in the tea or you'll find yourself with lots of new comfrey plants!

Plus, we shared interesting recipes, enjoyed discussion of many plants, and enjoyed the delicious Red Clover Apple Cookies.

If you missed our talk but are available this weekend, please come to our Wild Edibles Workshop this Saturday morning, from 10am to 1 pm. Check our wild events page for more information.

Thanks so much!

~ Melissa

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Coop Talk Tonight; Wild Edibles Workshop Saturday

If you are in Pittsburgh, PA, please join Melissa and David Sokulski tonight - Thursday, May 28 at 7 pm - at the East End Food Coop. We're going to be talking about Wild Edibles in Pittsburgh (and sampling a few treats made with wild edibles!) The talk is free and open to all. For more information or to register, call the coop at (412) 242-3598.

On Saturday, May 30, we hope you'll join us for what promises to be a fantastic Wild Edibles Workshop! We'll start with a Wild Edibles walk around Frick park. We'll all make garlic mustard vinegar to take home. Melissa will demonstrate recipes using wild edibles, and we'll sample those plus other previously made yummy treats.

On the menu are:

  • Wild Pesto
  • Red Clover Apple Cookies (pictured above)
  • Dandelion Wine
  • Plantain Crisps
  • Wild Green Smoothie
  • Lemony Ginger Burdock Juice
  • Various Vinegars made with Wild Edibles

Each participant will get a full color identification guide of all the wild plants used, along with the recipes.

The class is from 10 am to 1 pm, and is $35.

Please call us at (412) 381-0116 to reserve your space! (Please call soon by Friday, space is limited!)

More information can be found on our wild events page.

We hope to see you soon!

~ Melissa and Dave

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Join Us for a Wild Edibles Workshop on Saturday

Join us this Saturday, May 30, at 10 am to 1 pm for a Wild Edible Workshop.

We found the perfect location in Squirrel's easy to find and abuts Frick Park, where we will take a Wild Edible Walk and identify and gather wild edible plants together.

Then we'll all make our own Garlic Mustard vinegar to take home. Melissa will demonstrate recipes using wild edible plants, and we'll all get to sample those recipes and ones that she will have made in advance.

On the menu are:

* Lemony Ginger Burdock Juice
* Dandelion Wine
* Wild Green Smoothie
* Red Clover Apple Cookies
* Plantain Green Crisps
* Wild Pesto
* Various Vinegars mad with Local Wild Edibles
* Red Clover Mint Iced Tea

All participants will also receive a full color handout with identification information of all the plants used, and recipes of all the dishes demonstrated and sampled.

Space is limited, so please call today (412) 381-0116 to reserve your space with credit card.

Give us a call to register or if you need more information visit the Events Page on our website.

Hope to see you soon!

Location: 2534 Mt Royal Rd, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
Time: 10 AM - 1 PM
Cost: $35
Register: (412) 381-0116 - call to register or for more information
* Please register by Thursday, May 28, 2009*

Friday, May 15, 2009

Walk With Us Sunday

We hope you'll join us this Sunday, May 17, at 11 am on the South Side River Trail for a Wild Edible Plant Walk!

This weekend, we are looking forward to seeing Black Locust Flowers. This amazing edible delight is only available a few weeks every year. The flower is the only edible part of this tree, and they are delicious:

Please give us a call: (412) 381-0116 for more information, or to register for the walk.

The cost is $5. Kids are welcome with adults, and children under 10 are free.


If you can't make the walk, make sure to check out our Wild Edibles Workshop on May 30 from 10 am - 1 pm. This promises to be a great workshop! We'll go on a walk, harvest edible plants, make garlic mustard vinegar (we'll each make our own so you can take yours home). I will also demonstrate some recipes. We'll sample delicious food made with wild edibles including:

  • Juice
  • Smoothies
  • Cookies
  • Green Chips
  • Vinegars
  • Dandelion Wine
  • Pesto

Each participant will also receive a packet of all the recipes sampled and demonstrated, and a picture guide of wild edibles used.

The cost of this workshop is $35, please register early, space is limited! This workshop will be held in Squirrel Hill (location will be sent once you register). Call (412) 381-0116.

We hope to see you soon!

~ Dave and Melissa
The Birch Center for Health

***Also, please check out our new website, Food Under Foot, which is devoted entirely to wild edible plants! There are pictures, videos, free eBooks and more!!***

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Acupuncture Clears Seasonal Allergies

by David and Melissa Sokulski, Licensed Acupuncturists

While the best thing about spring may be open to debate: the warmer weather, beautiful flowers, picnics; the worst thing is nearly always unanimous: seasonal allergies.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are widely available, but do nothing to help overall health and prevention of allergies, plus come with a host of side effects.

Natural remedies such as acupuncture, however, not only clear symptoms of allergies, but they also help the body come into balance: clearing the underlying condition causing allergies and improving overall health.

Seasonal allergies occur when someone reacts to the pollen of flowers in trees, grasses and weeds, and causes symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue.

Although western medications are available, even over the counter, they come with their own host of side effects: one I recently heard was loss of smell and taste (hopefully temporary).

Allergies are a sign of an imbalance in the immune system. Balancing and strengthening the body can be the best thing to decrease or even rid oneself of seasonal allergies altogether.

Some natural tips include:

  • Eat local, seasonal foods. This keeps us in tune and in balance with the natural cycles around us.
  • Eat local honey, and - if you do not have a reaction to it, test by having only a tiny granule at first - local bee pollen. The local honey and bee pollen is made from pollen of local flowers, in a form that is utilized by the body. Thus, when the body is later exposed in the environment, the immune system does not see it as an invader and react against it.
  • Take a regular multivitamin/mineral supplement year round to ensure that your body is functioning at its best.
  • Eat more raw foods, especially in the warmer months. This puts us in tune with the seasons, and helps our body function at its best.
  • Take a homeopathic allergy remedy. Homeopathic medicine works by matching the vibration of your symptoms to a particular remedy. When the vibrations match, they cancel the symptoms out and improve overall health.
  • Receive acupuncture.

How Acupuncture Helps Treat Allergies

Acupuncture is a great way both to treat symptoms of seasonal allergies, and to bring the body into balance so one need not suffer seasonal allergies in the future.

Acupuncture helps the sufferer of allergies in two main ways:

  1. Alleviates symptoms such as itchy eyes, stuffiness, headaches and fatigue, and
  2. Brings the body into balance.

Symptom Treatment

Acupuncture is excellent at treating symptoms of allergies. Many allergy symptoms are located above the neck, that is, in the head (stuffiness, headache, itchy eyes, etc.) This means the energy is not flowing smoothly from the head into the rest of the body, and vice versa. All the yang meridians flow from the hands up to the head, or from the head down to the feet. We need to open the channels in the neck and shoulders and allow the energy to flow.

Acupuncture can also treat the symptoms very locally: by placing small, sterile needles right on points of pain or symptoms like the head or side of nose, allowing the stuck energy to dissipate and move more smoothly throughout the body.

Root Treatment

Secondly, though most importantly, acupuncture helps balance the body in general. This is done by taking a complete intake and doing a complete assessment of every client who comes for treatment. At The Birch Center for Health, we treat very specifically and individually, making sure the underlying cause of allergies (and any other symptoms) are cleared. When the body is in balance, symptoms disappear and health is restored. This is the main benefit of acupuncture: bringing a person into balance so that the body may heal itself of any ailment physically, mentally or emotionally.

While allergies can put a damper on enjoying the best the season holds, there is natural relief for allergy sufferers. And the relief need not be temporary. In fact, when the body is brought to a higher level of health, we enjoy renewed energy, flexibility and joy of living.

The original version of this article appeared in Natural News, where Melissa Sokulski writes health related articles that appear weekly or so.

Acupuncturist David Sokulski, of The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, is currently offering free 20 minute health consultations. If you'd like to talk to David about your condition and/or acupuncture, please call today: (412) 381-0116.

Thanks so much!

~ David and Melissa Sokulski

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day with Raw Chocolate and Personal Training

Happy Mother's Day!!!

If you love chocolate dipped strawberries on Mother's Day, but pass them up for health reasons (too much sugar, corn syrup and who knows what else!), you may get your wish this year. There is a great company, based in Pittsburgh but ships everywhere, that sells a wonderful raw cacao sauce, full of all natural ingredients, called Love Street Living Foods. (The chocolate sauce is shown in the picture, with the strawberries, yum.)
They also sell wonderful superfood items such as Goji Berries (click here for our post on them), maca, dried mulberries, and other yummies. Definitely a website worth checking out.

And if you are in Pittsburgh: Jon-Michael Kerestes, the owner of Love Street Living Foods, extends this offer to you: Personal Training at a price you can afford. Here is his email to me:

If you ever run into clients that want to lose weight using physical exercise, I'd be happy to work with them. I used to train with the Olympic Training Center judo team for 2 years in Colorado Springs. I started a new pricing structure where I work by however much they think it was worth. The main goal is to try to make as big an impact as possible and not letting money get in the way.

I have a friend who is training with him now and she loves it. But let me tell you, it is hard work! He is serious about helping you reach your goals and seeing results.

So please visit Jon-Michael's website, his contact information is on there. (And let him know we sent you!)

Happy Mother's Day to all of you! And remember your own moms, wherever they are. Have a joy-filled day.

Love and Light,
Melissa Sokulski
The Birch Center for Health

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Tonight we bottled our first batch of kombucha!

We've made it before, but had since lost our SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) which ferments the black tea and sugar into the ancient Chinese elixir known as kombucha.

This time, since we had no starter SCOBY, we bought a bottle of plain, organic live kombucha, and poured it into a half gallon of cooled black tea (using and removing 4 organic black tea bags) and 1 cup organic sugar. (This was last Monday, April 27, 2009.)

We covered the 1/2 gallon jar with a paper towel and rubber band. We watched day by day, waiting to see if our SCOBY would form. It did! A thin-looking film appeared on top of the tea. When we poured it off today, it looked like this:

Here it is, poured into bottles, which will sit out at room temperature for a few more days, to ferment further and build up fizz (though it is pretty fizzy now):

Meanwhile, we are cooling a gallon of black tea (8 tea bags, steeped, removed) and 1 1/2 cups sugar, When it is room temperature or just above, we'll add the SCOBY and a couple cups of the kombucha from this batch to start the next one.

According to the bottle of Synergy (TM) organic, raw kombucha, kombucha supports digestion, metabolism, immune system, appetite control, weight control, liver function, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity, and healthy skin and hair.

Here's our little kombucha lover enjoying today's batch!

*Kombucha is a lightly fermented, non-alcoholic beverage that is regularly sold in health food stores, and can also be made safely at home.

Cheers! To your health,

Melissa and Dave Sokulski, L.Ac
Birch Center for Health

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