Yerbas Y Tierra by Lauren Cabeza De Vaca

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Yerbas Y Tierra© founder Lauren Cabeza De Vaca has been an advocate for whole living for almost a decade.  Herbalism student and currently working towards her certificate in Nutritional Therapy and in school to become a RD she plans to use her education to create uplifting atmospheres that educate woman and men on how the simplicity of herbalism and diet can create a beautiful synergy. 

Yerbas Y Tierra© is built on the fundamental principles of wholeness. Having started out as a personal passion project it organically bloomed into a company based on an inspiration for plants (Yerbas) and earth (Tierra) and their exceptional talent to not only heal but teach. In a response to the lack of biological based self-care and the overly hard-to-swim-through abundant pseudo-science culture, Yerbas Y Tierra© was created: a skin line dedicated to bringing true botanical bounty to those who desire the next level in skin care.

Our skins epithelium is composed of stratified squamous cells. because of the nature of these cells our skin can intake whatever we put on its surface. A large percentage of what we apply topically enters our blood stream at a faster rate than if you had ingested it. This theory is used in practice in some common drug treatments (think nicotine patch & estrogen delivery patches) and is enlightening science to understand if you are interested in cleaning up your skin care routines. Simply stated: applying something on topically is an immediate gateway to our bloodstream, and bypasses our liver (the organ responsible for our “detox” pathways). 

True beauty encompasses a way of living. Because we love ourselves we feed our cells a nutritious whole food diet from sources as close to home as we can find. We leave out factory faming principles and opt for a more traditional way of eating, full of hormone boosting fats and mineral-plenty greens. Because we love ourselves we feed our skin its necessary lot of daily Vitamin D and don’t cover our bodies in petroleum nano-particle sunscreens, instead opting for smart sun exposure and using natural sunscreens free of chemicals. Because we love ourselves we pay attention to our bodies and move and groove them with the tides of our lives. Because we love ourselves we ditch the petro-chemical maze of endless beauty product promises for products that love our bodies and our environments. 

Do you ever wonder why some woman and men radiate? It’s not because of a singular practice, it’s because they live within the ideals of radiant health. Individuals who love themselves naturally nurture their beings. Our biology on a cellular level is composed of a myriad of natural chemical cofactors that build our bodies from atom to organism. Our bodies truly radiate all on their own. However, through the years of over sanitation, harmful applications, the unconscious bathing in carcinogenic bubble baths, the drinking of toxic municipal water, and over use of nutrient devoid diets, we have dulled our delicate cells and in turn our skin has suffered. 

When we are void of nutrients we are prone to skin burns, hyperpigmentation and premature wrinkles. Our hair becomes pre-maturely grey and thinning begins. We essentially give away our OJAS, The Ayurveda essence of life; The FAT, the JUICENESS of health and immunity. Deficiencies of the mind body and soul are a growing concern. It’s time for to strive for radical biological radiance. To apply practices that teach us how to love our bodies throughout all stages of life. This is what Yerbas Y Tierra© stands for.

Yerbas T Tierra’s© Product line is rooted in the ancient studies of Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine with touches of westernized herbalism sprinkled throughout. Each plant product is hand-created in a small Bay Area home. The botanical extract sits for 6 weeks where each individual plant’s nutrients and minerals slowly and peacefully extract into their bases. These infusions are used as the potent bases of all of our formulas. After that each ingredient is specially selected and added in correct dilutions to create nutritious skin food full of antioxidant and phytonutrient bounty. Products currently in rotation are:  Botanical Face Serum, Ojas Violet Breast Balm, Inflamaheal oil (rosacea prone skin), Sunra’ oil (Sun bathing serum), Ayurveda Hair Oil, Green Tea and Chamomile Eye serum and last but not least a Abayanga oil. 

YYT© only uses organic oils and wild crafted plants in our formulas, never containing any synthetics, preservatives or harsh skin drying alcohols.

Stay tuned for opening in April & follow @YerbasYTierra on Instagram for updates/inquires.


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Rastafari & "Ital Foods"

Though dreadlocks and reggae music are the familiar symbols of the Rastafari religion, the lesser-known style of eating its followers adhere to is more telling of the belief system. To stay healthy and spiritually connected to the earth, Rastas eat a natural diet free from additives, chemicals, and most meat.

The style of primarily vegan eating is known as ital cooking. Rastas commonly say, “Ital is vital,” pointing to how the diet got its name.

The Rastafari religion and political movement was born in Jamaica in the 1930s and promoted an African-centric way of looking at the Bible. It has since fanned out across the Caribbean and beyond to over a million followers, the most famous of which was the late reggae singer Bob Marley. Rastas are commonly called Locksmen and Dreadlocks, as they believe God (Jah) instructed them to to never cut their hair.

Daniel “Nashamba-I” Crabble hasn’t cut his hair in decades. His dreads touch the floor, so he wraps them around his head to keep the weight off his neck and out of the way when cooking. A master of ital cooking, Nashamba-I converted to the Rastafari religion as a young man and now farms a couple of steep acres on the western side of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We don’t use the word ‘cook’, since they use things like butter and salt,” Nashamba-I explains to me in the kitchen of his green-colored home with red and gold accents—official Rastafari colors. He says I can call him an “ital dubmaster,” which is the title he uses on his catering company’s business card.

Traditionally speaking, dubmasters are skilled producers of dub music, a subgenre of reggae that’s typified by remixing songs to focus on drum and bass. But Nashamba-I uses the title figuratively, perhaps to signify his creative cooking methods.

Today, he’s baking organic, vegan cakes made from banana, coconut, almond, and flaxseed—a healthy remix of a traditional cake.

Rastas believe eating pure, organic food increases one’s natural connection with nature. And getting that food directly from the land is just one more way they strengthen that bond.

Eating naturally is both a spiritual and practical matter for Rastas: The healthier you eat, the less you have to see a doctor—a concept just now catching on in the mainstream. As processed foods were being introduced in the 1950s, Rastas took a firm stand against them even before research proved how unhealthy they can be (see Do Corn Subsidies Really Make Us Fat?)

Staying away from processed food keeps Rastas away from Western medicine, another thing the religion avoids. “Let the food be your doctor,” Nashamba-I tells me.

In recent years, ital cooking has become more popular as interest in health food grows and new restaurants serving ital-inspired food have sprouted up in places like New York and London.

It’s no coincidence that Nashamba-I is part of the largest and most organized community of farmers on St. Thomas. Since Rastafarians strive to eat as naturally as possible, many prefer to grow their own food to ensure it’s chemical free.

Ital is about preparing food as naturally as possible too. Many Rastafarians believe cooking in metal pans can damage the kidneys and liver, so they prefer to use clay pots. Like others in his community, Nashamba-I cooks his food with the ‘three-stone’ method, where a clay pot is balanced on three stones over a small timber cooking fire.

A heavy rain kept Nashamba-I from cooking outside on the three stones during my visit, but he gives me a tour of his home and shows me the two large clay pots he cooks in. He doesn’t mind the rain, since his plants and his storage tanks need their fill.

Instead of using butter or dairy, coconut milk forms the base of many ital meals. Herbs and hot peppers like the fiery Scotch bonnet that is native to the Caribbean replace salt and processed flavor additives.

Nashamba-I’s diet is largely based on what grows in his yard. Mango, avocado, passion fruit, sugar apple, banana, breadfruit, coconut, soursop, tamarind, and guava trees surround his home. Collard greens, kale, peppers, pumpkin and a leafy, spinach-like green called callaloo, a Caribbean favorite, grow on the nearby hillsides and are used in many stews.

There’s room for experimenting with Ital cooking, since the diet is more of a guideline than a strict code. At Rastafari food fairs like the one held in St. Thomas every January, popular dishes include made-from-scratch barbeque jerk tofu, hearty pumpkin stews, and red pea (kidney bean) loaf. Since they shy away from added fats and salts, Rastas are acutely skilled at creating complex flavor profiles from herbs and spices like lemongrass, allspice, nutmeg, and thyme.

“Just remember, respecting culture and eating properly is Rasta,” Nashamba-I’ says as I leave his home with a gift of green bananas and breadfruit.



Monique Koch "Being black and Vegan"

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Monique Koch, a vegan family coach who is also known as the Brown Vegan on YouTube

Aph Ko got tired of hearing that eating vegan was something only white people did. So in 2015, she created a list of 100 black vegans for a website. It included pioneering figures like Dick Gregory and Coretta Scott King and younger, less famous writers, filmmakers, cooks and activists.

“When you say ‘vegan,’ a lot of people tend to only think of PETA, which doesn’t reflect the massive landscape of vegan activism,” said Ms. Ko, 28, a Floridian whose favorite dish at the moment is the spinach pie in “The Vegan Stoner Cookbook.” “The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements.”

So many other people wanted to be included on the list after it appeared, she started a website, Black Vegans Rock. That spawned a Twitter hashtag (#blackvegansrock) and a T-shirt business. In June, she published ”Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters,” a book she wrote with her older sister, Syl Ko.

Vegan cooking and eating are having a renaissance among black Americans, driven in part by movements like Black Lives Matter, documentaries like “What the Health,” and a growing cadre of people who connect personal health, animal welfare and social justice with the fight for racial equality. Athletes like Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics and pop stars like the singer Jhené Aiko are bringing a certain pop culture cachet. Cookbook authors and a new breed of vegan soul food restaurants offer culinary muscle.

“I no longer feel like an endangered species out here,” said Zachary Toliver, 26, a writer in Tacoma, Wash., who was on the 100 Black Vegans list and is now a columnist for PETA, the animal rights group, where he writes articles like “Here Are 11 Things You Can Expect to Happen if You’re Vegan While Black.” (No. 1: “You’re still just as nervous about whether or not your white friends properly seasoned the food.”)

Like many food trends that seem new, black veganism has historical roots. Eating vegan has long been a practice, especially for followers of religious and spiritual movements like Rastafarianism and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, a religious group with black nationalist underpinnings that rose up in the 1960s and still runs a chain of vegan restaurants in cities like Atlanta; Tallahassee, Fla., and Tel Aviv.

The compassion and health themes of veganism are tightly intertwined with the goals of social justice. This diet and lifestyle are a natural...

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Avoiding meat is also a core principle of the Nation of Islam, whose founders believed that pork was at the heart of the slave diet, and preached vegetarianism as the most healthful diet for African-Americans.

Many people who give up eating animal products do it for their health, or for animal welfare. The same is true for the new veganism among African-Americans, but there is an added layer of another kind of politics.

“It’s not just about I want to eat well so I can live long and be skinny,” said Jenné Claiborne, a personal chef and cooking teacher who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York. Her first cookbook, “Sweet Potato Soul,” is due out in February. “For a lot of black people, it’s also the social justice and food access. The food we have been eating for decades and decades and has been killing us.”

Ms. Claiborne, 30, is part of a new generation of vegan cooks who are transforming traditional soul food dishes, digging deeper into the West African roots of Southern cooking and infusing new recipes with the tastes of the Caribbean.

As a result, ideas about the dull vegan stews and stir-fries that were standard-bearers among the early generations of black vegan cooks are changing — albeit slowly.

“Some folks are kind of stuck in the ’70s,” said Jessica B. Harris, 69, an author and a food scholar of the African diaspora. “Their food seems to come with a dashiki. And don’t tell me it’s like fried chicken when it’s tofu.”

Bryant Terry cooks to counter the old ideas about vegan food. The chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, Mr. Terry, 43, wrote “Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Remixed,” a 2014 cookbook that regularly makes it to the top 10 soul food cookbook rankings on Amazon.

His recipe for millet cakes is bright with the brick-red Ethiopian spice blend berbere. He likes to serve it with a sauce built from roasted green peppers, garlic and cilantro, and infused with heat from jalapeños.

“In some ways, it’s a quiet wink to the ’70s-style macrobiotic veggie burgers,” he said. But it pales in comparison to what a new batch of black vegan cooks are doing. “I cook like someone’s grandma,” he added. “What I’m really excited about are some of the younger chefs who are professionally trained and know how to put food together in a new way.”

One of them is Ms. Claiborne, who grew up in suburban Atlanta and moved to New York after college to pursue an acting career. Her father was raised vegan, according to Hebrew Israelite beliefs, and still eats that way 90 percent of the time, she said. She grew up eating everything but red meat, and learned to cook soul food at her grandmother’s side.

Ms. Claiborne wasn’t a vegan when she started a food blog in 2010 as a way to pass the time between auditions. That came a year later, when she got a job at Peacefood Cafe in Manhattan. Now she dedicates herself to countering the notion that soul food has to include meat, and that childhood classics need milk or butter.

She adds butternut squash to sweet potato pie to create the texture usually contributed by eggs. Oyster mushrooms stand in for shrimp in Creole étouffée. She puts jackfruit in her jambalaya and cooks down collard greens with soy sauce and smoked paprika instead of pork.

Health is often not enough of a reason for people to give up meat, she said. The challenges that come with being black in America can be. “When it’s bigger than you, and it’s political and it’s spiritual, that is an entrance point for people,” she said.

The toughest cultural touchstone to let go of is fried chicken, she said. “People tell me: ‘I can’t do without the chicken. I’d rather die a painful death than have to give up chicken,’” she said. To help, she created spicy chicken-fried cauliflower, in which she builds a crunchy crust by dipping large florets into heavily seasoned flour and then a wet batter of hot sauce, Dijon mustard and soy milk.