Johnna Holmgren is not your go-to holistic expert. (Image via So Yummy)

A Holistic Instagrammer’s Cookbook Has Been Recalled for Its Potentially Toxic Recipes

Remember: avoid eating Instagram influencers’ favorite forest berries.

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Remember: avoid eating Instagram influencers’ favorite forest berries.

Johnna Holmgren, the mind behind the naturalist lifestyle blog Fox Meets Bear, lives a picturesque, wild and free dream.

Her Instagram (under the same name) showcases beautiful photos of a small, content family living in the woods, exploring nature and preparing freshly foraged meals.


As demonstrated by the emergence of tiny house trends, home farming and off-the-grid lifestyles, the societal push for sustainable and environmentally friendly living has increased public interest in a return to nature and the simple life.

Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen,” which was written by Holmgren and advertised as a field guide that features over 80 different recipes and tips related to foraging, appeals to the same audience.

The cover of the book and the photographs inside are just as stylistically pleasing as the official Instagram of Fox Meets Bear; however, concerns regarding the Holmgren book surfaced not long after its publication and listing on Amazon.

In a recent review, Amazon user Sam Sycamore labeled the book as “Not safe (or palatable) for consumption.”

Sycamore said: “Unfortunately, I have to conclude that this book is about the style and not the substance, which contains several quite glaring and damning errors that would have immediately been caught by anyone with at least a couple years of experience with wild foods — or cooking, for that matter.”

Additional reviews, which were even more concerning, provided evidence of exact recipes promoting the improper preparation of possibly toxic plants, such as raw morel mushrooms and uncooked elderberries.

Raw elderberry seeds contain compounds known as glycosides, which induce cyanide poisoning in humans when consumed in large amounts. In her recently published book, Holmgren recommends to use them in a blended smoothie.

The Michigan Department of Community Health warned the public about the risks of consuming raw wild mushrooms, noting that morels (the same mushrooms used in the Holmgren recipe for dark chocolate dipped fungi) can cause a variety of symptoms under certain conditions, such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

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We are the only species born with an un-developed brain. We come in with that little soft spot, our skull is making room for the brain to grow those first three years. And how does the brain grow? Love. Everyone’s brain grows on love. You can literally see it now on scans that when people are well loved, their brain grows bigger and better and more connected, which totally makes sense because they’re in growth mode— not stress and protection mode. So from the way humans are designed, at the core, we are designed to love. If you didn’t get that love from the people who are supposed to love you the most, you walk about feeling, “Am I lovable? Am I lovable?” You’re not responsible for what happened to you, but you are responsible to yourself to try to move past it. To one day wake up and say, I deserve in this lifetime, to feel lovable. To be whole. When you realize you’re responsible for your own self esteem, it’s a very empowered place. That your thoughts are your own now. That you are worthy and enough just as you are. Flip the script in your brain. How do you love yourself in a way that it grows the muscle in your brain? Thoughts are medicine. So when you’re speaking gracefully to yourself, you’re actually changing your neurochemistry. Who you surround yourself with matters. There are three types of friends: The type that brings you down. The one’s who keep you stagnant. Then there’s a spiritual elevator up. As you become healthier, your vibe attracts your tribe. A healthy partnership is the best therapy. Being seen and loved, wholely for who you are. Someone who loves you at the height of your ugliesness and acting out, they see you as lovable. Not, “if you don’t behave, I’m going to slam the door.. or walk out.. or abandon.” This is the way to love a child. Not contingent upon performance or obedience, but with a beautiful unconditional love that they deserve and everybody deserves. -Dr. Robin Berman YES.

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On Aug. 10, Rodale Books recalled the book due to health concerns for readers and made a statement in conjunction with Holmgren to offer full refunds and discontinue the book in all stores.

Holmgren responded to criticism of her book by clarifying that readers are ultimately responsible for identifying non-toxic plants.

A disclaimer on the bottom of the blog reads, “While I strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification. Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. I am not a health professional, medical doctor, nor a nutritionist.”

When considering that personal trainers, self-made dietitians and lifestyle bloggers are constantly promoting detox teas, supplement pills, workout enhancers and beauty serums, similar disclaimers should perhaps be on all Instagram influencer’s profiles.

Despite their aesthetics, quality feeds and thousands of followers, how are such social media figures reliable and accountable for their sponsorships or products?

The microcelebrity world of Instagram, short shelf life glamour and sponsored endorsements included, is changing how the world relates beauty and aesthetics to credibility and expertise.

A scientist, nutritionist, dermatologist or doctor may not always be as beautiful as the model on Instagram promoting a nondescript health product, but the knowledge of professionals is what keeps the wandering children of the information age from blindly following social media marketing into disappointment or disaster.

Or, in this instance, poisoning everyone at your next vegan, naturally sourced and foraged barbecue.

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Jamie Lovley

University of Maine
Journalism and Psychology

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