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Romantic Ylang ylang: 5 Sensual Recipes to Caress Body & Soul


photo by j.shepherd

article, recipes, and product photos by Jessica Shepherd

Night blooming flowers intrigue me, especially those reaching peak scent production during the night—their romantic fumes perfuming the evening air.  One such flower is that of the “heavenly-sensual” Ylang ylang tree, pronounced EE’-lang EE’-lang, with its botanical name being Cananga odorata.  The tree’s starfish shaped yellow clusters of flowers are not only night bloomers, but are considered the “Queen of Perfumes” emitting a scent often described as sweet, intensely-floral, exotic, creamy-custard, rounded with rich balsamic notes.  Ylang ylang is also called the  “flower of flowers” because it smells like many flowers swirled into one sexy scent.

It takes five years for the ylang ylang tree to even begin producing these fumy blooms and after it does, she will go on producing an average of 45 pounds of flowers annually for somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 years! Ylang ylang trees in the wild can reach 60ft. if not higher, and are native to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other lowland countries of East Asia.  The trees also grow, and are cultivated in other warm tropic locations as well, like Madagascar—a top exporter of ylang ylang essential oil.

So how is Ylang ylang essential oil made?  Reaching their “crescendo” of scent during the night, the careful hand collection of ylang ylang flowers ideally begins during these night hours, and usually by dawn the harvest is in full swing.  Harvest timing is crucial, as the freshly harvested flowers begin to lose their scent once exposed to the light. The best essential oil is said to come from flowers that have gone from a green color to reach their mature rich yellow color and that are harvested in dry weather—not during rain. It takes on average 50 pounds of fresh flowers to yield 16 ounces of essential oil.

Once harvested, the flowers go through a steam distillation process also called “fractional distillation”, Depending on the expertise of the distiller, the distillation process is interrupted at precise times to pour off and collect fractions of the essential oil.  It is important to keep this in mind when you go to purchase ylang ylang essential oil because you’ll often find a range of options, including:

Ylang ylang Extra grade—Extra grade is the very first fraction collected from the still, taken after the initial first hour or so of distilling. This fraction includes the smallest molecules making its scent the sweetest and most floral in aroma compared to the other fractions—highly valued in not only aromatherapy, but also for perfumery.  Some aromatherapists find this to be the most delicate in scent and have noted it is the least to cause a headache in highly sensitive individuals verses ylang ylang III.

Ylang ylang I grade: this fraction is collected after approx. 4 hours into distillation

Ylang ylang II grade: this fraction is collected after approx.7 hours of distillation

Ylang ylang III grade: this fraction is collected after approx.10 hours of distillation. These grades (I,II,III) are commonly used throughout the food and flavor industry and additionally in the cosmetic/perfume industry, and sometimes in aromatherapy.  These grades also have a bit of a “greener” smell to them.

Next is the Ylang ylang Complete grade– after the approx. 15 hours of distillation this last fraction of essential oil is collected and then is often mixed with the previous four fractions into one blend called Ylang ylang Complete– encompassing all the different chemical components from each fraction.  Having a rounded delicate floral scent, it too, especially when obtained from an organic reputable source, can be lovely for skin care and aromatherapy.

And finally, the ultimate full spectrum essential oil is Ylang ylang Complete-Fine grade, also sometimes called VOP (very old process). This essential oil indicates that the steam distillation process was never interrupted resulting in a “complete” distillation–not a blend of the separate fractions.  It is deep and delicate in its floral scent, custard-rich, and is a most excellent choice for use in aromatherapy and hand-made body products.

No matter the grade, Cananga odorata is always the botanical name for true Ylang ylang–remember to cross-check your botanical name to confirm you have the correct plant!  All choices of course have their own special value and slight variations in scent.  My current favorites available from Humboldt Herbals are Veriditas Botanicals organic Ylang ylang Extra, and Primavera Life’s organic Ylang yang Complete and from Eden Botanicals all choices they offer are great, but their  Ylang ylang Compete VOP is my recent favorite.

ylang-ylang photo from base formula blog

What are the healing properties of Ylang ylang essential oil?

In aromatherapy Ylang ylang is used for anxiety, stress, anger, irritability, tension, shock, and insomnia.  It is has calming, balancing, sedative properties widely used to combat many forms of stress.  With its romantic aroma ylang ylang has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant– relieving tension and imparting joy.  It can help support breakthrough in blockages of fear and timidity around intimacy providing a sense of relaxation and letting go.  It is said the scent of Ylang ylang can “calm the passions of jealousy by generating the ability to feel more loveable.”   The scent encourages enthusiasm, uplift, and is considered anti- depressant. It is one of the best at relaxing the mind and body as it sweetly soothes jangled nerves and emotionally charged states.  Renowned Aromatherapist Valerie Ann Worwood says that ylang ylang “may soften the hard-hearted and allow those who use judgement against others to feel the soft seduction of heaven”—beautifully put indeed.

The scent when inhaled, stimulates the adrenal glands, supports the thymus gland, and also stimulates the immune system and liver. Topically, when diluted, it is antiseptic and antifungal and is a great addition to your herbal “all purpose” healing salves.  Ylang ylang being a sedative, can help lower mildly elevated blood pressure even just a few drops of the essential oil diluted in a carrier oil (jojoba, olive oil etc.) and applied topically over the heart area of the chest can have a remarkable effect in producing relaxation, and calmness. Ylang ylang is antispasmodic and relieves muscle spasms, also relaxes nerves, stimulates circulation, and is effective for musculoskeletal cramps and digestive cramps—making it a nice addition to massage oil blends.

Ylang ylang essential oil is especially suited in skin care for treating dry, mature skin, but will benefit any skin type.  It promotes healthy supple skin, balances oil production, gently stimulates circulation, and strengthens the capillaries. Ylang ylang soothes a dry scalp and indigenous people of the tropics have long mixed ylang ylang in coconut oil to use as a hair and scalp tonic, and to protect hair from salt water damage (add 3-4 drops of essential oil to every ounce of conditioner or ¼ cup of coconut oil).

When using ylang ylang essential oil—remember it is highly concentrated and powerful in its scent intensity.  A few drops go a long way and too much can be over-powering—potentially causing a headache.  So, when I blend with ylang ylang it is always one drop at a time and I smell as I go, gauging the intensity.  I aim for a delicate but rich floral addition, while not letting it dominate over the other scents I have chosen to combine it with.  In my experience people respond most positively to the scent of ylang ylang oil in light amounts. I recommend starting with just 1-3 drops per ounce of carrier oil.  You can always add more drops to your blends, but you can’t take them back out!!  Ylang ylang combines nicely with many other essential oils such as: bergamot, clary sage, vetiver, most citruses (blood orange, mandarin), spice (cardamom), and wood oils (sandalwood, cedarwood).

Now time to enjoy the gifts of Ylang ylang with some recipes to caress your skin and soothe your soul! Craft with Love and Enjoy!

Sensual Ylang ylang Spritzer

photo by J.Shepherd

Use as a mist for your body, bedroom, linens, sheets, and lingerie—divine!

You will need the following:

2 ounce size glass bottle with atomizer top

5 drops Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

3 drops Bergamot essential oil

2 drops Peru Balsam essential oil (optional)

1 teaspoon organic Vanilla extract

1 oz. Ylang ylang hydrosol/or Rose Hydrosol

Put drops of essential oils, vanilla extract, and hydrosol in the bottle.  Fill the rest of the way with purified or spring water.  Shake well, mist as desired to feel the bliss!

Romantic Cananga No. 5 Roll-on Perfume

photo by J.Shepherd

Ylang ylang essential oil was actually used in the famous perfume Chanel No. 5 and other popular fragrances.  With this recipe you can make your own romantic scent to adorn with–minus the yucky synthetics normally utilized in commercial perfumes.  The “flower of flowers” takes center stage, with a touch of vanilla, and hints of robust coffee bean.

You will need the following:

1/3 oz. glass perfume bottle with roll-on top

1/3 oz. of organic Vanilla infused jojoba oil (to make this simply split and chop one organic Vanilla bean, next put in a glass jar, then cover with 4 ounces of organic jojoba oil, seal the lid on and put in a cool dark place allowing it to infuse for 2-3 weeks, then strain off and store in a glass bottle for use on its own or in endless other recipes!)

9 Drops of organic Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

4 Drops of organic Coffee essential oil (optional)

Put drops of essential oils in bottle, then fill with your vanilla infused jojoba oil, put roller cap on bottle.  For an added touch, I left a tiny piece about ¼ inch of chopped vanilla bean in the bottle with all the above.  Shake well before applying your roll-on perfume to pulse points, and neck.

Feelin’ the Love Massage and Body Oil

photo by J.Shepherd

Sensually sweet, with a touch of spice and warmth relieving tension while centering the heart and soothing the soul.  Perfect for a relaxing massage and as an aromatic moisturizing body oil.

You will need the following:

2 ounce glass bottle

1 ounce og. Macadamia nut oil (or any other oil you like for massage)

1 ounce og. Vanilla infused jojoba oil (or jojoba oil)

6 drops og. Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

3 drops Atlas Cedarwood or Sandalwood essential oil

2 drops Cardamom essential oil

Put all essential oils in bottle, then fill with the vanilla infused jojoba oil, and macadamia nut oil.  Cap up, label, and shake well before use.

Sexy Organic Coconut Milk Soak

photo by J.Shepherd

The ultimate “treat yo’ self-soak”!  Not only does this soak smell richly  divine– it completely relaxes the body melting all your tensions away. After getting out of the tub your skin feels like silk from the moisturizing coconut milk and will be delicately perfumed from the ylang ylang all night long!

You will need the following:

1 can of organic coconut milk

½ cup Dead Sea salt

1 teaspoon of organic Vanilla extract

8 drops of organic Ylang ylang essential oil

1 drop of Cinnamon bark essential oil (or Cinnamon leaf)

1 cup of organic dry rose petals

4×6 muslin cotton bag (for the rose petals)

To the can of coconut milk add the vanilla extract, and essential oils, then stir a bit to mix.  Fill your muslin cotton bag with the dry rose petals and tie.  As the tub is filling, pour into it your can of aromatic coconut milk, the Dead Sea salt, and toss in your yummy bag of rose petals.  Be sure and stir everything around just a little bit to mix the coconut milk throughout the bath water.  During my soak I always squeeze the rose petal bag letting the water rinse my face—rosy and delicious feeling.  Prepare for relaxation and euphoria! *Caution your tub and you will be slick after this, and you will also be in a state of euphoric bliss so be careful when getting out!

Love Me More Body Butter

photo by J.Shepherd

There’s nothing better than a body butter to caress the skin—especially one that smells of sweet ylang ylang flowers and cocoa butter.  The consistency of this body butter is on the softer side, making it easy to get out of the jar and slather on.  Highly moisturizing and protective to the skin, it can also on occasion be used as a hair and scalp treatment.  Perfect too for massaging tired hands and feet after a long day.  This smells so delicious!

You will need the following:

2– two ounce size salve jar or other glass jar (recipe yields about 4 oz. total)

2 Tablespoons organic Coconut oil (I used “heaping Tablespoons”)

1.5 ounces organic Cocoa butter

1 teaspoon organic Vanilla infused Jojoba oil or jojoba oil

½ teaspoon organic Vanilla extract

12 drops organic Ylang ylang Extra essential oil

In a saucepan of gently simmering water, place in a pyrex measuring cup and melt down in it the coconut oil, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil.  Remove the pyrex from the water bath, then to the melted oils add the essential oil and vanilla extract stirring well to combine.  Pour into your jars, label, and enjoy!

Sweet Dreams Ylang ylang Laced Lingerie

Last but not least, this one is recommended by the famous Jeanne Rose and is too easy not to try!  Just take a few cotton balls and on each put a drop of ylang ylang essential oil, then tuck it into your lingerie drawer to have your garments smelling kissed of ylang ylang.

Sources Cited:

photo of ylang ylang flower courtesy of: http://www.baseformula.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ylang-ylang.jpg

The Healing Trail: Essential oils of Madagascar by Halpern/Weverka

Aromatehrapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by K. Keville and Mindy Green (this is one of my “must-have” aromatherapy books!)

Aromatherapy for the Soul by Valerie Ann Worwood

Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice by Jennifer Pace Rhind

The Aromatherapy Book by Jeanne Rose

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cananga_odorata

Vibrational Aromatherapy by Deborah Eidson

*This article is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal healing traditions alive and well.  It is not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.


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Coconut Bread with Chocolate and Cherries

coconuttree

Coconut tree

By Kate Maxey

Coconut oil has been all the rage lately so I decided to dive in and see for myself what all the fuss was about. Coconut oil comes from the mature, hard coconut flesh. It is antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-fungal and has the highest level of energy of any oil and the least amount of calories. It is a great oil to use for frying, for it can be heated to high temperatures without converting to a trans fat like other oils do.

Coconut oil has many health benefits which are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. When it is present in the body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms because of its ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them. So think about Coconut oil as a great tonic in the winter months.

IMG_1075

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides or MCT’s.  MCT’s are a form of saturated fat that does not get stored in the cells but utilized in the liver and are quickly converted to energy. MCT’s provide easily digestible energy without the storage of fat in the body.

Coconut oil is also great as a body care ingredient. I use it in creams and body butters for my very dry skin. It”s all about these MCT’s again. They get absorbed into your skin, where they can be directly utilized for nutrition and energy by the mitochondria – the power house of our body cells. This provides all the energy your skin needs to heal and maintain itself.  For deep hair conditioning, a teaspoon or two on damp hair left for as long as possible can give an ultra-nice shine. Leave it on overnight and see startling results. (http://www.naturalnews.com/029120_coconut_oil_hair_conditioner.html)

I also love to bake with Coconut oil. I have recently put together a Coconut Bread recipe that I would like to share with you. It’s a great bread and is best served toasted in the toaster oven with melted butter on it. Oh so yummy!!

Coconut Bread

1/2 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted

2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp cardamom

1 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

1 4 oz dark chocolate bar, chopped

**Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

**Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom and the toasted coconut in a large mixing bowl.

**Gently melt the coconut oil over low heat and combine with the beaten egg, sugar, and vanilla, then add the coconut milk and stir well.

IMG_1082

**Chop up the cherries and chocolate

IMG_1080

**Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir in the cherries and chocolate.

**Butter a bread loaf pan and pour batter into it.

**Bake for 50 minutes.

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Coconut Bread


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Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Bell’s Coconut Curry Soup

delectable soup

by Jessica Shepherd

Chilly outside?  What’s that, your nose is cold and your cheeks are too?–Ahh, then today is surely a day for a warming bowl of soup!

During the winter season a steamy aromatic bowl of soup comforts, warms, and always hits the spot!  What I love about soup is that it’s a very convenient and tasty way to “eat your medicine” either by incorporating herbs, seaweeds, and medicinal mushrooms right in the mix; or by infusing your desired herbs and roots into your soup base broths (or some of us Herbalist’s like to do both!).  I look forward to this recipe being the start of my soup sharing with you!!!

This time of year we are blessed to have an abundant supply of winter squash available from local organic farms in the area (thank you Farmer’s!) and I can’t help but walk by butternut squash at the market and feel inspired for soup making!!!   Apparently someone out there has even deemed January as National Soup Month—who come’s up with these?—hooray for another reason to celebrate soup!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Bell’s Coconut Curry Soup

This soup recipe is one I and those friend’s I have shared a bowl with– (you know who you are!!) just can’t seem to get tired of.  At first taste its classic sweet creamy butternut squash, rounded off by the roasted red bell pepper and aromatic parsnip, to segue into the caramelized onion and garlic flavors that finish off with a generous hit of warming aromatic curry and a kick of spice (long description I know, but it gets the ole’ taste-buds activated!). Yum!

Here’s what you’ll need

2 medium to large sized butternut squash

2 large red bell peppers

1 medium  parsnip

4-5 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger root

½ medium sized yellow onion

4 cups of soup stock or veggie broth

1 can of lite coconut milk

2 tbsp. red curry paste (optional)

2-3 generous tablespoons of  Curry Powder (or whatever blend you make or prefer I share my recipe below so please keep reading!)

1-2 tbsp. of olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly oil a cookie sheet or roasting pan.  Peel the squash, scoop out seeds, and cut into halves.  Then lightly brush some olive oil on them and put on your roasting pan or cookie sheet along with the parsnip which I leave whole.

Cut the red bell’s in half and lightly brush them with oil–set them aside for now as they don’t take as much time to roast as the squash does.  So now, put the squash and lone parsnip in the oven to roast for about 50 min. or more if needed, until the squash is nice and soft—and you can easily poke a fork into it.  After about 20-30 minutes of roasting the squash and lone parsnip,  add the red bell’s to the roasting pan for the remaining 15-20 minutes or so of cooking time.

Meanwhile, get your soup pot (or cauldron) out and fill it with broth and coconut milk bring it to a simmer then turn heat to low.  Next in a cast iron skillet on medium heat, sautee’ your chopped onion, ginger, and garlic until nice and lightly caramelized, then add those to your pot-o-broth and whisk in your curry blend and paste (if using), salt and pepper, stir again and put the lid on.  When the squash, bell’s, and parsnip are done roasting you can let them cool just a bit and chop them into smaller quarters for blending, or just leave them as they are if your blender can handle it, then transfer them on into the amazing curry broth you have going on the stovetop…..roasted squash, red bells, and a parsnip in coconut curry broth

Now this is when I get out my trusty hand-held emulsion blender and begin the blending process slow and steady blending everything down to desired level of creaminess, I like to be able to see flecks of red from the bells everywhere.  You can of course use your trusty blender for this job too, just transfer small amounts at a time and be careful to secure the lid and be cautious with the hot liquid soup.

After blending everything, give it a final “stirring of the pot” and take a little taste test–adjust salt, pepper, and curry belnd to taste.  Also at this point, pause for a second to enjoy the air of your kitchen which is filled with a dancing blend of warming, pungent aromatics with a touch of sweet, all working to get the digestive juices stirring for warm yummy soup!

If you desire to add more of the curry blend, I prefer to whisk it in to ensure mixing it throughout the soup.  Serve it up and Enjoy!

warm soup

Speaking of curry…—yes, I make my own spice blend when it comes to that.  Making your own blend is not only easy, affordable, and empowering its also a perfect opportunity to interact with these amazing spices—their vibrant colors, complex aromatics, and array of flavors are waiting for you to come get creative and play!  And of course the added bonus they offer is their medicinal benefits–I will highlight a few of those healing spices at the end of the post so stick with me!  There are so many recipes out there for curry blend’s it’s incredible–you can always start there for inspiration, and eventually create  your own culinary blend.

from left to right chili flakes, celery seed, coriander seed, turmeric powder, cumin seed, black peppercorn, and the finished blend itself!

from left to right chili flakes, celery seed, coriander seed, turmeric powder, cumin seed, black peppercorn, and the finished blend itself!

And I’m happy to share with you  my herb-n-spice-lovin’ friend’s, my very own “Mellow Yellow Curry” recipe to try (if anyone wants to swap recipes I always love trying new blends too!!!) Of course, this soup can be made with your favorite herb-store bought curry spice blend too!  If I had to recommend one I would surely try Humboldt Herbals Seven Seas Curry blend—they grind it down from whole spices and prepare it in small artisan batches using organic ingredients.

Jessica’s Mellow Yellow Curry Blend

This recipe yields approx. 2 (4 oz.) spice jars–1 for you and 1 for a friend!

1/2 cup Coriander seed, whole

1/4 cup Cumin seed, whole

1/8 cup Celery seed, whole

1 tablespoon Black Peppercorns, whole

1 teaspoon Cardamom seed, whole

1/4 cup Turmeric root  powder

1 tablespoon Chili Flakes

1 teaspoon Clove powder

1 tablespoon true Cinnamon powder (common cinnamon cassia will work too!)

Take all of the whole ingredients (Coriander, Celery seed, Peppercorn, Chili flake, Cardamom seed, Cumin seed) and gently dry-roast them in a cast iron pan for a few minutes (up to about 10min.) moving things around with a wooden spoon so the spices don’t brown too much.  Then remove and let cool.  Next grind the whole roasted spices in your coffee grinder, or heavy-duty mortar and pestle.  Finally, take freshly ground spices and add remaining powdered ingredients (Turmeric, Clove, Cinnamon,) and mix them all together into an exotic and aromatic culinary blend!  Yellow Mellow Curry blend

Jar it up and enjoy not only in the delicious soup recipe above, but also enjoyed: tossed on steamed or roasted veggie’s and taters, can be mixed into cream cheese or greek yogurt for a dip, various curry stews, sprinkled on hard-boiled eggs or egg-salad, chicken, marinades, and more!!

Here are some highlights of just a few of the healing properties of Coriander, Cumin, and Turmeric three of the main ingredients in this curry blend. 

 Coriander seedCoriander seed (Coriandrum sativum): Sweet, nutty, taste with an edge of lemon, orange, and sage.  It is also bitter and pungent and aids the digestive process and the appetite. It eases indigestion, gas, and bloating, stomach cramps and spasms, and general tummy aches.  Aids in decreasing blood sugar levels, helps decrease bad cholesterol (“LDL”) and increase good cholesterol (“HDL”). Offers liver protective anti-oxidants that protect the liver from damage, while also being able to repair and regenerate the liver.  Has diuretic properties and has been used for the urinary tract.  Also has been utilized for insomnia, anxiety, as a sedative and muscle relaxant. Coriander is a valued key ingredient in practically all forms of curry spice blends.

Turmeric root powder Turmeric root (Curcuma longa):  Bitter, astringent, mildly pungent, and warming (also termed as “hot”).  Quite the well known potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant these days.  There seems to be plenty of information circulating out there regarding this  golden-orange roots benefit’s and proven efficacy, and also the many forms available on the market today (capsules, softgels, tinctures etc.).  At a glance, Turmeric has a history of being used for aiding digestion, assimilation of nutrients, and for stimulating bile which aids in the breakdown of dietary fats and hence,  this root also has cholesterol lowering properties.  It has been known to protect the gallbladder and worked with to prevent gallstones or added to a gallstone supportive formula.  Turmeric also protects and strengthens the liver helping with liver ailments including hepatitis, and jaundice, also assisting hormonal imbalances like PMS; and skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.  Used as a stimulant to improve blood circulation and as an analgesic to relieve headache.  As a potent anti-inflammatory it has been used for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions body-wide.  Much of the buzz around turmeric makes mention of its having curcumin–one of the active properties found in the root and its what makes turmeric yellow.  Curcumin has been widely researched and its many anti-oxidant properties are attributed to it, but it is the whole broad spectrum makeup of this plant that delivers healing, not just one isolate of it (opinion varies there, but this is what I believe with all of my heart).  Because of its antioxidant action it is considered the “anti-cancer spice” as it can fight cancer on various levels and is able to: inhibit the activation of genes that trigger cancer, inhibit the spread of tumor cells, kill cells that mutate into cancer, shrink tumor cells, prevent tumors from spreading to other organs, and can enhance the cancer-destroying effects of chemotherapy and radiation; in addition it also shows promise for alzheimer’s disease as it can bind to amyloid-A which is a protein that if not properly broken down and eliminated, can clump together hardening into a plaque that blocks neural activity and causes a host of neurological problems.  It can also slow oxidative damage to neurons; reduce damage to neural synapses, and also reduce levels of toxic metal’s in the brain.  Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry and is what gives it that bright-orange hue.  Turmeric is so well appreciated in India it seems to be used in just about everything!  It should be noted that traditionally they prefer the powder to be cooked verses consuming it raw, as the spice tends to mellow out after cooking.  To do this just heat a little oil in a pan and sprinkle in some turmeric, stirring with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn.  In a moments time the aroma will evolve into a more delicate version some describe as ginger and orange, with a slight peppery. Cook for just a few minutes and its ready for use.  There is so much more to get to know about this amazing root, but I will stop there for now, and as usual I highly encourage you, my herbal friends, to continue the learning journey about this plant!  p.s. for those of you who are new to turmeric heads up– it does stain things yellow, your skin too but will fade away in a day or two

Cumin seed  Cumin seed  (Cuminum cyminum):  A member of the parsley family cumin seed is spicy, zesty, bitter, pungent, and cooling.  It is a carminative, so it helps relieve gas and bloating similar to fennel, anise, and coriander to which it is related. It reduces nausea and colic, and is antibacterial against some forms of food poisoning.  Cumin decoctions were prepared and taken to cool the body during hot weather.  It is a mild diuretic, and has been used for mild insomnia and the common cold.  Cumin has been proven to reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (heart-damaging blood fats).  It also displays support for type 2 diabetes as it can effectively lower blood sugar and lower levels of damaging fat and inflammation in the cellls of the pancreas, the organ which makes insulin. Additional research has shown it can delay diabetes caused cataract progression and maturation.  Cumin is also rich in phytoestrogens and is taking stage as a possible bone-protector, and has a definite “osteo-protective effect” supporting postmenopausal women from losing their bone-mass.  Rich in volatile oils and vitamins A and C, cumin too is another potent antioxidant and is one more to add to the anti-cancer/cancer combating list of herb and spices.  India has used cumin for millennia and it is the most popular spice in Mexican cuisine, while finding its way into most every other cuisine world-wide.   And as with most spices, cumin too has a rich history from ancient Greeks keeping it on the dining table in its very own cherished box (they did this with pepper also), to it being used as currency by the Romans–they actually payed their taxes with cumin seed!  Cumin is an essential component of curry spice mixes and is also a well known ingredient in garam masala (and various other masala blends).

 I am always amazed and grateful for the medicine and healing the many “culinary” herbs and spices offer us.  Not to mention, how they are also able to elevate and enhance dishes prepared in the kitchen that please our palette’s, excite our senses, and nourish our bodies.  Put a little spice in your life and get to blending my friend’s!

sources sited

Healing Spices by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PHD with Deborah Yost

The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa and Michael Tierra

*This post is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal tradition alive and well.  It is of course not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.