From the Help Desk:

Throwback Thursday: Boericke & Tafel aloe icon April 20 2017   by Mastel's Help Desk

The oldest brand we carry at Mastel’s can be traced back to 1835. During that time, Constantine Hering, the Father of American Homeopathy, held a practice in Philadelphia and Hans Burch Gram, pioneer of homeopathic medicine, held a practice in New York. Dr Hering founded America’s first homeopathic medical college. Also in New York, William Radde, managed a group of stores that would eventually become Boericke & Tafel. According to Sylvain Cazalet, the shops “advertisement in Herring’s The Domestic Physician offered readers: "All works on Homeopathy, as well as pocket cases of homeopathic medicines, prepared by approved hands and very neatly arranged." 

Boericke and Tafel Products at Mastel's Health Foods

In 1949, cholera was fast spreading across Europe, as well as the Americas. Homeopathy was having better results treating the epidemic than traditional medicine and as a result “many orthodox physicians took up the practice of homeopathy. At the same time, many of the intelligentsia were attracted to homeopathy because of its scientific basis in experimental pharmacology.” (Cazalet).



By 1853 Boericke & Tafel started to manufacture homeopathic medicines and ten years later they purchased the Radde pharmacies in Philadelphia and New York and as the demand for homeopathic remedies increased they spread their pharmacies onto both coasts as well as the Midwest, including Minneapolis.



Boericke went on to publish a good deal of literature on the subject of homeopathy with Ernest Albert Schreck, as well as Edward Wheelock Runyon. “Around 1920, Boericke and Runyon began producing popular non-prescription home-remedy medicines under the tradename EOPA, the middle four alpha characters from the word "Hom-eopa-thy". EOPA eventually became a subsidiary of Boericke and Runyon – Eopa Company – and distributed medicines nationwide.” (Wikipedia).


Boericke and Tafel homeopathic historyHomeopathic remedies began to decline in their usage until the latter end of the 20th century, when an interest in safe, natural remedies began to gain in momentum. Today at Mastel’s, we carry a wide variety of homeopathic remedies for many common and uncommon ailments such as: smoking cessation, allergies, food poisoning, stage fright, the common cold, gas, and motion sickness. Boericke & Tafel, or “B & T” as we call it around the shop, is the oldest company we stock at Mastel’s. We carry their time-tested Arnica Gels, Cough and Bronchial Syrups, and the ultra-popular Ssssting Stop Soothing Gel, and more. Our well-versed staff is here to assist you with finding the right homeopathic remedies.

Cooking Daily With Bone Broth aloe icon April 12 2017   by Mastel's Help Desk

Guest Blog Post: by Becki Melvie, Brand Ambassador at Taking Stock Foods



Bone broth has long been a staple in kitchens of home cook’s for many generations past. If you’re a cook who’s made your own broth, you’ll be well acquainted with the time demanded to coax delicious flavors, and yield the soothing properties, from traditional ingredients used in bone broth.

Typically, bone broth will involve a long process of simmering chicken, beef or pork bones, vegetables, herbs, and aromatics in a large stockpot on the stovetop for 12-24 hours. The bones and vegetables are removed from the liquid, leaving a deep, rich, golden broth that can be used as a culinary ingredient or as a savory hot beverage.

Taking Stock Food’s bone broth available in Mastel’s frozen section, is locally-made in St. Paul, slow-simmered for 12 hours, using locally-raised organic chicken and vegetables. We use a raspberry rhubarb vinegar to further break down the bones, effectively extracting every last mineral from the bones.  

Taking Stock Food’s broth is rich in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, as well as collagen, amino acids, and electrolytes. These nutrients, along with the other properties of bone broth, such as collagen, amino acids and electrolytes, have been used holistically in the healing of deficiencies like pain and inflammation, cramps, muscle soreness, brittle nails, periodontal disease, anxiety, depression, allergies, and IBS.

Add nutrition and delicious flavor to your daily cooking by replacing water with bone broth. Using bone broth in cooking can be very rewarding, resting assured you’re adding nutrients to the food you and your friends and family are consuming.


Add bone broth to your daily diet with these cooking techniques:

  • Tacos - When adding water into the last simmering step of your favorite taco recipe, use bone broth instead!
  • Savory Dough - Use warm bone broth to raise your pizza dough.
  • Rice & Pasta - Bone broth works perfectly, substituted for water, in risottos, steamed rice, and boiled dried pastas, like orzo.
  • Dried Vegetables & Mushrooms - Reconstitute your dried, preserved vegetables and mushrooms with hot bone broth.

For a recipe using our broth in a comforting Stove Top Pot Roast CLICK HERE.

However you chose to enjoy your next mug of Taking Stock Food’s bone broth from Mastel’s, make sure to tag us on Facebook to let everyone know how nourishing bone broth has transformed your life!

Alaffia Very Much aloe icon March 17 2016   by Mastel's Help Desk

Guest Blogger: Carolyn

 When asked to write a blog entry about a favorite company, the one that immediately sprang to mind was Alaffia. Alaffia is a company that specializes in natural care of hair and skin. I am devoted to this brand, for 3 big reasons: Products, Price and Mission.



The foundation of most Alaffia products (and their value-priced Everyday Shea line) is shea butter. I had used shea butter in the past, and didn’t see what the big deal was. After trying Alaffia shea butter, I was an instant Believer. Theirs is prepared the traditional, time-honored and labor-intensive way, and the rich, luxurious, nourishing results are worth every minute. Like most tropical oils, it is solid at room temperature, so it takes a few seconds to warm it up with your hands to spread it.

 I use plain shea butter today in the same way that people used Vaseline in the 60s and 70s, as an all-purpose emollient. It can be used as a hand cream, lip balm or for any rough spots on the body. Used regularly on the feet, it is outstanding for preventing cracks on heels. For years, it has been a critical component of my winter survival kit, particularly in the winter of 2013-2014. For a 26-mile round-trip bike commute in temperatures between 10 and 20 F, I used it on all exposed areas of my face, and it created a barrier which kept the sting off my skin, especially on windy days. That same winter I used it on morning walks in temperatures around –20 F (before factoring in windchill) to protect my eyelids, under eyes, and upper cheekbones; I didn’t miss a day of walking due to cold.

 I am also a big fan of the Everyday Shea Body Lotion, which is thick, creamy and has impressive staying power. I use the unscented variety, and add a drop or two of essential oil for each handful, depending on which scent I feel like using that day.

 My absolute favorite Alaffia product is the Shea Butter Body Milk. Don’t let the name mislead you; this is less of a milk and more of an extra hefty cream. I use it nightly on my hands. The fragrance is a gender-neutral, beguiling combination of vanilla, orange, almond and lime. It’s hard to go more than a minute without wanting to smell it again. Currently, it is only available in a travel size, but you don’t need much.



The Everyday Shea body lotion and body wash are both exceptional values at $.44 per ounce. This is comparable to conventional, chemical-laden brands like Dove or Olay which cost $.48-.66 per ounce for lotion , and $.41-.47 for body wash (source-

 The best deal on unscented, pure shea butter is the Everyday Shea, in an 11-oz. recyclable plastic jar for $13.99. However, I opt for the smaller Alaffia one, since (even with daily use) it takes me over a year to go through a single 2-oz jar. At $8.95, that still costs less than 2.5 cents per day.



Even without the fabulous products and affordable prices, this company is worth supporting for their mission alone. They donate 100% of profits to their various projects in Africa. Not 1%. Not 5 or 10 %. After paying themselves what they need to cover their necessities, the owners of the company plow every single extra penny back into community improvement through reforestation, education, maternal health, eyeglasses and eradication of female genital mutilation. By buying their raw materials from female-owned cooperatives in Togo, they assist in creating economic empowerment with a “Trade, Not Aid” approach.

 If you’ve never tried Alaffia or Everyday Shea, take a look at our selection of shampoos, conditioners, facial moisturizers, body wash, body lotion, bar soap and liquid soap. They also offer products based on coconut oil in their Everyday Coconut line. With so many excellent products at reasonable prices, it’s easy to find something you’ll like, from a company you can be proud to support.



Holiday Extravaganza: Coconut Butter Candies aloe icon December 21 2015   by Mastel's Help Desk

Guest blogger: Carolyn

Coconut butter is a remarkable and delicious food. Like peanut butter or almond butter, it is simply the nutmeats of the coconut processed until completely smooth. Coconut butter has all of the nutritional value of coconut oil, along with the protein and fiber of whole coconut.

The most challenging aspect of using coconut butter is that the fats and solids tend to separate. Since both solidify at temperatures under 76 degrees, coconut butter is more difficult to reincorporate than other nut butters, at least for those of us living in cooler climates. In Minnesota, we average about two days a year when weather conditions are such that coconut butter can be used straight from the jar. The two brands that we carry here at Mastel’s are both from California, so I have to laugh when I read the labels; one says “Simply warm and blend back together”, the other states, “Place jar in hot water for 5-10 minutes and stir”. Not only does this not work very well in cool climates, they also neglect to mention that this needs to be done every single time you want to use it. My solution is to warm and stir the entire jar, then portion it out by single servings, so it’s ready to use whenever I want.

There are several ways to warm the jar. It can be placed in a pan of hot water, or set near a heat source (e.g. a radiator, a woodstove, or the top of a stove with the oven on) for a couple of hours. It helps to occasionally stir it with a sturdy spoon very gently, such that it doesn’t slosh over the sides of the jar. Once fully melted and incorporated, measure out by tablespoons and pour into silicon ice cube trays. Allow to resolidify at room temperature, since placing it in the refrigerator can sometimes cause it to cave in and become irregularly shaped. Another storage option is to pour the liquefied coconut butter out by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  It will spread out, so you can cover it with another sheet of wax paper and once it solidifies, store in a quart-sized Ziplock bag. (Does anyone remember Wrapples, those sheets of caramel intended to wrap around apples? It looks like that.)

When ready to use, just take out as many servings as you need, and place in a double boiler over simmering water, or in a bowl near a heat source (like the aforementioned stovetop, radiator, etc.) and heat until melted. You may then proceed with using it as a spread or recipe ingredient.

My favorite use for coconut butter is in little truffles/candies. These are great as holiday or party treats for people with dietary restrictions, such as diabetics and folks with food allergies and/or sensitivities.

Vanilla Base

2 Tbsp coconut butter

1 Tbsp milk of choice (or more as needed)

¾ tsp vanilla

6 drops Stevita

Pinch of coarse sea salt

4-6 tsp. roasted, chopped nuts or seeds (optional)



Same as vanilla, but add a scant ½ tsp. peppermint extract



2 Tbsp coconut butter

2 Tbsp cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)

2 Tbsp milk of choice (or more as needed)

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 drops Stevita

Pinch of coarse sea salt

4-6 tsp. roasted, chopped nuts or seeds (optional)


Chocolate Mint

Same as chocolate, but add a scant ½ tsp peppermint extract


To make truffles/candies: Melt coconut butter and stir in unsweetened milk of choice, starting with one tablespoon. I use almond milk, but you can also use coconut or cow’s milk. Add additional ingredients (except salt and nuts) and stir well. You may need to keep the bowl warm to keep it from stiffening up. If the batter is still too stiff to stir, add more milk a little at a time to make it workable, but not runny.

Drop by spoonful (whatever size you like) onto a chilled plate or baking sheet lined with wax paper. Top each one with a pinch of coarse sea salt. You can also sprinkle them with finely chopped roasted nuts. I like to use sunflower seeds with the vanilla base to make my own version of a salted nut roll, and walnuts are a great companion to the chocolate mint variety. For an elegant visual effect, freeze the candies, then dip them in (or drizzle with) melted dark chocolate, and refrigerate for a few minutes until the decoration is set.

Place in refrigerator until solid, usually about 30 minutes. These candies can be served at room temperature, and are best handled on days under 70 degrees. Warmer weather can cause them to get a bit oozy, requiring the serving dish to be placed on a bowl of ice.


Demystifying Manuka Honey Ratings: Part 2 aloe icon October 22 2015   by Mastel's Help Desk

So what is ‘manuka honey’ anyways? Manuka honey is honey whose nectar has been sourced from the Manuka tree (L. scoparium), which grows primarily in New Zealand. It has been gaining popularity since its unique antibacterial properties were initially investigated by the University of Waikato in the 1980s. The most well-known of these unique properties is its touted potential to inhibit the MRSA superbug, which gained this particular honey its current notoriety. It has since been studied for its effect on numerous health conditions, including H. pylori, C. diff, E. coli, plaque, gingivitis, and ulcerative colitis, to name just a few.

There are now many varieties of honeys popping up on retail shelves using rating systems like “Active”, “NPA”, “MGO”, “UMF” and “Medical Grade”. Here’s a quick guide on how to read them:

  • Medical Grade: These are manuka or other honeys that have been gammairradiated for sterility, to ensure that they are suitable for wound care. These are the types of honey now used in clinical applications, under brand names like “Medihoney” and “Remavil”. The type of irradiation used does not appear to inhibit the honeys’ antibacterial activity. If honey is antibacterial itself, you may ask, then why does it need to be sterilized? The reason is that raw honey occasionally harbors spores of the pathogen Clostridium botulinum, better known as botulism (which is also the reason why honey should never be fed to infants). There exists a chance that botulism spores could proliferate in an anaerobic wound environment, and so this safety measure is recommended for anyone attempting to use honey as a topical agent for significant wounds.
  • UMF: UMF is an internationally-recognized rating system unique to manuka honey, which stands for “Unique Manuka Factor.” Its intent is to measure all of the known non-peroxide qualities of manuka honey, including its MGO activity. This is an independently tested certified trademark, and it represents an industry-standard phenol equivalent, meaning “this honey inhibits bacteria growth to the same extent as an equivalent concentration of disinfectant.” Batches of manuka honey may differ in their activity level, and are individually tested. UMF values range from 5+ to 28+, with levels above 10+ being considered therapeutically useful.
  • MGO: This label stems from the work of German scientist Dr. Thomas Henle, has been developed and established as a rating system by the company Manuka Health. It measures the activity of one constituent of manuka honey, methylglyoxal (MGO). The important thing to remember is that MGO and UMF ratings do not use the same units; different opinions exist regarding how to convert and compare UMF and MGO ratings to one another, and whether one label is preferable to the other, but the presence of either label verifies that a certain amount of testing has been performed on the product you have in hand.
  • NPA: This stands for ‘Non-Peroxide Activity’, and can be seen as an alternative to UMF ratings. It is not a registered trademark, but rather is a figure that is returned on lab certificates of analysis. Use of this term not regulated, so consumers purchasing NPA honey may contact the company directly to find out about their testing procedures or to request certificates of analysis, if they have concerns.    
  • Active: Similarly, ‘active’ is an unregulated term that presumably indicates the antibacterial level of a given honey, whereby a company determines their honey’s activity level without supervision. However, just because the term is unregulated, this doesn’t mean that the product is necessarily bad or ineffective: in the same way that small food producers may use organic production methods but lack the USDA certified organic label due to the prohibitive cost of obtaining certification, small honey companies may shun expensive certifications like UMF for the same reasons. In this case, it is up to the consumer to put their trust in the company at hand. Consumers may save money on this type of honey, but should take this information with a grain of salt when deciding what type of honey to purchase and for what reasons.
  • KFactor: This is a new one. In recent years there has been controversy over dubious practices in manuka honey labeling: Kanuka honey, a sister honey also hailing from New Zealand, has at times been erroneously labelled as manuka honey. While perfectly suitable as a culinary honey, kanuka honey doesn’t pass UMF or NPA tests, and the identity discrepancy has been responsible for significant variations in the price of ‘manuka’ honeys. KFactor tests for a number of markers, the most interesting of which is pollen count: the higher the KFactor, the higher the guaranteed percentage of pollen from the Manuka tree, thereby guaranteeing the identity of the honey at hand. This rating system is currently being utilized by the company Wedderspoon.

So what do we offer here at Mastel’s? At the time of writing this article, we carry a selection of manuka honeys rated UMF 15+, MGO 400+, Active 15+, and KFactor 12, as well as one medical grade manuka honey (blended into a Throat and Chest Syrup containing other ingredients). We also have a number of body care items incorporating manuka honey such as soaps, creams and toothpastes, as well as the essential oil of the manuka tree.


Hungry for more nectar knowledge? Check out this source material:

1) “Manuka Honey.” WebMD. Ed. Kiefer, David M.D. WebMD Medical Reference, 2015. Web. May 2015.

2) Mandal, MD and S. Mandal. “Honey: Its Medicinal Property and Antibacterial Activity.” Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. Apr 2011; 1(2): 154–160. PubMed. Web. May 2015.

3) Burlando, B. and L. Cornara. “Honey in Dermatology and Skin Care: A Review.” J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013 Dec;12(4):306-13. PubMed. Web. May 2015.

4) Kwakman, Paulus and Sebastian Zaat. “Antibacterial Components of Honey.” IUBMB Life, 64(1): 48–55, January 2012. Epub 2011 Nov 17. Wiley Online Library. Web. May 2015.

5) Cooper, Rose A. PhD and Leighton Jenkins BSc. “A Comparison Between Medical Grade Honey and Table Honeys in Relation to Antimicrobial Efficacy.” Wounds, 2009; 21(2). Web. May 2015.

6) Simon, Arne et. al. “Medical Honey for Wound Care – Still the ‘Latest Resort’?” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Jun; 6(2): 165–173. Published online 2008 Jan 7. Web. May 2015.

7) “About UMF History.” Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association. Web. May 2015.

8) “A Buyers Guide to Manuka Honey Ratings.” Green Bay Harvest. Web. May 2015.

9) “Industry Leadership.” Manuka Health New Zealand. Web. May 2015.

10) “UMF vs. MGO”. Alive Plus Honey, 2013 May 15. Web. May 2015.

11) “KFactor”. Wedderspoon. Oct 2015.

12) Burne, Jerome. “Is Your Manuka Honey Really Worth the Money?” Daily Mail, 2009 Feb 2. Web. May 2015.

13) Usborne, Simon. “The Manuka Honey Scandal.” The Independent, 2014 Jul 1. Web. May 2015.