Arwen Greer, Peak to Peak
Rachel and Gina’s website, manacookies.com, humbly alludes to their “home in the Rockies,” but we all know the world famous “Mana Cookie” had its humble beginnings in a small cabin in Eldora, and is made with herbs harvested in the wilderness west of Boulder. The organic cookies are gluten, dairy, and egg-free, naturally sweetened with raw Rocky Mountain honey, and packed with the nutrition and healing power of herbs.
Rachel moved to Boulder after college to attend the North American Institute for Medical Herbalism. In 2012, she started experimenting in her home kitchen, “making small batches of tinctures, tea blends, salves, smoke blends, smudge sticks and the original ‘mana cookie,’ which I called ‘immune boosting energizing herbal cookie.’” (“Mana” means “the stuff magic is made of”.) Shortly afterward, she re-connected with her childhood friend Gina who helped turn the small-scale cottage apothecary into a full-scale and full-time business called “Lady of the Hearth and Forest.”
These young, ambitious and energetic entrepreneurs have a vision – “…feeding people healthy, organic, locally and ethically sourced foods that taste good.” Simple as that. “I think a lot of people still have the impression that if it is good for you it can’t be tasty and I just live to debunk that myth! I live by the principal that we truly are what we eat, and the foods we chose to put into our bodies effect not just how we feel physically, but also how we feel emotionally and mentally…and even spiritually and energetically!”
Rachel’s enthusiasm is contagious. “The synergy of food and medicine, to me, embodies the art
of alchemy. Combing the right flavors to please the palate, the right herbs to achieve vibrant health, the right ingredients to nourish and sustain the body…I would describe what I do as one part art, one part science, and one part magic.”
Mana Cookies aren’t just a fad, being “gluten-free” like everybody else’s. “Gluten-free, vegan, and paleo have become huge trends in the past couple of years, and while perhaps some people are just jumping on the latest foodie band wagon, I think a lot of people are tuning into their bodies and identifying what foods make them feel really good in every way.” Rachel used to suffer from digestive problems, acne, depression, and anxiety. “When I came to the herb school in Boulder and cut out gluten and dairy, my life changed. I have such deep compassion for people who suffer chronically and want to help them discover how simple it can be to identify and eliminate the foods that are hurting us and replace them with foods that nourish and heal.”
For Rachel, the Mana Cookie embodies her philosophy of food as medicine and medicine as food. The medicinal herbs that she uses in the original Mana Cookie recipe are cacao, cinnamon, ashwaganda, eleuthera, and maca. “Those last 3 fall into a classification of herbs known as adaptogens, which literally help your body adapt to stressors of all kinds and become more resilient in the face of stress. If you are a human living on planet earth in 2014, you could probably use some help adapting to stress!
“Cacao, known these days as a superfood, is wildly rich in anti-oxidants and thus has an overall protective effect on the body. Cinnamon is known in the herbal medicine world to help regulate blood sugar…an increasing problem in our modern high sugar diet.”
Rachel and Gina had no idea their cookies would be so popular. At first, they enjoyed local distribution at coffee shops and health food stores. But word of mouth and tourism has helped their business blossom into an international enterprise – shipping cookies, tinctures, salves and other herbal products to every corner of the globe. They’ve graduated into a commercial kitchen and are busy with production and promotion.
“Several flavors of mana cookies are in the works using different herbal powder formulas, as well as various herbal pestos, nut pates, nut cheeses, herbal broths and much more! Our vision for the company is to overlap vegan and paleo foods and integrate healing herbs into the mix.”
You can find these local treats and other delicious and healing products from Lady of the Hearth and Forest at the Nederland Co-Op.