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California Mugwort Dreamin’& Herbal Recipes

article, photos, and recipes by Jessica Shepherd

First, I’d like to give a big green Thank You to my fellow Herbalist and talented friend Nicole Gagliano of Wild and Wise Herbal CSA for inspiring me to write this article–check out her amazing website full of hand-crafted herbal products featuring local ingredients at http://www.wildandwisecsa.com. Thanks Nicole!

spring growth of California Mugwort

spring growth of California Mugwort

Spring is here and the herbs are rising up with vigorous new growth.  It’s a time we can envision our goals, plant seeds of our dreams, and sprout them into our reality. The opportunity is here to energize, purify, and thrive from the renewal this spring season gifts us with!  To spark your dreams and visions this spring, we can turn to the wild California Mugwort known as Artemesia vulgaris var. douglasiana, to be very specific—as the genus Artemisia includes about 300 species.

Common along the coast and the west slopes of inland foothills, Mugwort thrives in well drained moist to dry sandy soil in open to shady sites, forest edges, and streambanks.  Each season I happily visit certain stands of Artemisia douglasiana along the riverbed that I have come to know and love over the years.  As I approach these special spots, I delight in seeing the silvery blue-gray hue glowing from the cluster of plants sprouting about from the ground.  The plants have a certain magical “silver-glow” about them, almost as if charged permanently by the moonlight.  Artemisia vulgaris is historically associated with the beautiful Moon Goddess and the Huntress herself Artemis, the Greek Goddess whom is credited with the ultimate inspiration for the genus.  But sources say the immediate inspiration was probably Queen Artemesia of Caria (Helicarnassus), a Turkish female botanist who lived about 400B.C.E. Apparently after her husband Mausous’s death, she built a most beautiful memorial that became one of the “Seven Wonders” of the ancient world and the origin of the word “mausoleum.”

California mugwort

New growth spring Mugwort sprigs are soft and slightly furry to the touch—and when rubbed between the fingers just a bit they are left smelling incredibly pungent with a sage-like aroma, mixed with an earthy richness that uplifts, and sparks the spirit.  I look forward to summertime when these stands of plants–which are tiny sprigs right now, will be soaring tall and will have spread far and wide.  Artemisia is a colony plant, so she forms stands of several to hundreds of individuals all interconnected by underground rootstalks.  During summer months as the sun begins to set and the days heat is just letting up, the Artemisia emit off their pungent sage-like aroma and it diffuses into the air.  I have taken many hikes in the hillsides high up from the riverbed and when the breezes come through catching the aroma just right– I can smell the diffusing California Mugwort fumes traveling on the wind.  This herb-scented breeze stops me in my tracks, and I take a deep breath becoming even more reverent and grateful to the land I care for and the plants that offer us so much.

bundle of dried mugwort

Protection, purification, and dreamtime amplification have long been associated with Artemisia vulgaris by many cultures and native tribes.  The sage-like herby aroma of Artemisia vulgaris has been used for smudging, and also as a visionary herb.  Some consider it able “to give one a clearer view on life and impart a deeper sense of peace”–Herbal Tarot book.  For smudging, take dried mugwort and burn it in a fire-safe receptacle such as a mini cauldron, clay vessel, or abalone shell. The smoke can be circulated around to purify oneself and the environment/space around them.

Mugwort is usually the star of any dream pillow and pairs nicely with other calming aromatic herbs like lavender and rose.  Every Spring I gather a tiny bundle of California Mugwort to hang near my bed—not only is a bundle of Mugwort said to offer protection, but having it near the bed will also stimulate your dreams and connection to the dream-state. Artemisia vulgaris is well known to enhance visions in dreams and assist with dream recall—some even go as far to say it can help achieve astral projection. I’m quite fond of crafting an infused oil of Mugwort leaf and flower that can be useful for many things. As an annointing oil it can be used before any sort of ritual or rite of passage, as well as rubbed on the third eye area before bed to enhance your dreaming experience. This can be especially powerful when used with set intentions, or when seeking guidance/messages via the dreaming realm.

I will also anoint with infused Mugwort oil before I travel for protection, especially if I cannot smudge.  The infused oil is additionally wonderful for massaging of stiff muscles like neck and shoulders, or over the abdomen for menstrual cramps or spasms.  Mugwort is well known for its ability to warm and circulate energy throughout the body and is specific for breaking up congestion or stagnation.  And of course the infused oil can be used as a base or an addition to many types of salve recipes etc. *To make mugwort infused oil simply fill a mason jar about ¾ of the way full of dried mugwort leaves and cover with olive oil or sunflower oil, seal it with a lid and put it in a cool dark place—shaking it every few days. Allow it to infuse for 3-4 weeks, the strain through cheesecloth or muslin cotton into an amber bottle and label it and its ready for use!

Because of Mugwort’s ability to circulate blood and move energy in the body it is the prime ingredient in moxibustion– an extremely useful Chinese heat therapy practiced by TCM physicians, Acupuncturists, and some Herbalists. Mugwort is valued in moxa also for its ability to burn quickly and for its deep penetrating heat.  Burning moxibustion over a painful area increases blood circulation, relieves pain, and quickly heals injuries, bruises and more. Sometimes acupuncturists actually burn moxa on acupuncture points as an alternative to needles (do not try this on your own!).  Moxa can be sold in the form of a smudge stick, or it can be made by rubbing aged, dried mugwort leaves, with stems removed, between your palms until a wooly consistency, then formed into balls or tiny cones that are sometimes burned in specially crafted “moxa boxes.

in TCM mugwort goes by the name Ai Ye

mugwort leaf and a few fresh rolled moxa balls

Medicinally Artemisia vulgaris is a well-known bitter and digestive aid.  It is considered a bitter tonic and Mugwort has been used to treat stomach disorders and improve digestion, while also having antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  I appreciate what the late and great beloved herbalist Michael Moore wrote about Mugwort in his book Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West: “California Mugwort is also an antioxidant for cooling fat metabolism.  If you wake up in the morning with a grey sheet over your psyche, your head hurts in the front, your mouth tastes like a three day old Greek salad, your hemorrhoids are aching, and you crave things like pizza, potato chips, or fry bread take the infusion once at night for a couple of weeks.”  That’s right folks, he says take the infusion once at night for a couple of weeks—the cold infusion is rather tasty in my opinion especially if you like the flavor of sage tea.  Michael goes on to recommend the cold infusion for chronic gastritis and ulcers, and the hot tea more for its diaphoretic properties—to break fevers and stimulate discharge of mucus in the sinuses and the lungs.  Artemisia vulgaris is also valued as a nervine having indications for shaking, nervousness, anxiousness, and insomnia.  Because of its warming, blood-moving qualities mugwort can stimulate the uterus and is not to be used during pregnancy internally, nor is it recommended topically unless you are under the direct guidance and care of a trained or licensed practitioner.

stand of California Mugwort

A mugwort liniment can be applied to relieve itching, fungus, or other skin infections and can be applied topically for general skin healing of bug bites and stings, poison oak rash etc.  The acetum (vinegar extract) tincture can also be used as a liniment for sprains, bruises, and is a mild counterirritant.

Because of the pungent aromatic compounds in mugwort (mainly cineole, and thujone) the scent is believed to repel insects, and ticks while also helping to ward off and treat poison oak.  To use as a repellant simply rub the fresh leaves on your clothes, near the ankles, along the waistline, on your sleeves, and at the back of the neck. You can also rub it directly on your exposed skin.  For arthritis, pain, swelling, aches etc. you can add Mugwort tea to a footbath, or a salt blend soak—the tea can also be used as a rinse for skin rashes and poison oak rash.  Mugwort is a marvelous herb to include in your all-purpose herbal first aid salve and dream-time balms.

Here are some basic preparations and recipes to get crafting with the beautiful Artemesia vulgaris var. douglasiana—California Mugwort: *as with all my recipes home-grown, or locally grown/ethically wild crafted herbs are preferred to be used–otherwise–support your local herb store!

Basic Cold Infusion tea: Use approx. ½ ounce of dried leaf per 32 ounces of water. It’s helpful to moisten the dry herb first before suspending it in the water. Infuse covered overnight, then strain off the herbs.

Basic Hot Infusion tea: Use approx. ½ ounce of dried leaf per 32 ounces of water. Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and add in the dried herb. Steep covered for 20 minutes up to an hour, then strain off the herbs.

a "trinity" of herbs basket of California mugwort, St. John's Wort, and Yarrow

a “trinity” of herbs basket of California mugwort, St. John’s Wort, and Yarrow

The Huntress of Healthy Hair Vinegar

Herbal vinegar hair rinses restore the natural acid of the scalp and are great for itchy scalp, dandruff and dull hair. This recipe is adaptable to your preference and what you’ve got growing in the garden!

Equal parts each of the following:

Mugwort leaf

Nettle leaf

Rosemary leaf

Dandelion leaf/blossom

½ parts each of:

Lemon Balm leaf

Calendula flowers

Lavender flowers

Apple Cider vinegar

10 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil

 Fill a quart jar with your herbal blend halfway then cover with vinegar and cap tightly. Keep the jar in a warm spot to infuse for 3-4 weeks. Shake the mixture daily. Strain the vinegar, then add to it the essential oils, bottle and label. Before you bathe, dilute the rinse with distilled/spring water—generally, a 1 part herbal vinegar to 7 parts water dilution. Make the rinse and set aside. After shampooing and rinsing, pour the vinegar rinse slowly through the hair, massaging it into the scalp. Rinse with warm water and then, if you can take it cold water—this stimulates the scalp and leaves your hair glossy and sheen!

Revitalizing Silver Moon Foot Soak

Refreshing and relaxing, stimulates circulation and reduces pain and inflammation of the feet.

¼ cup Mugwort dried leaf

2 tablespoons Rosemary, dry or a handful of fresh sprigs

2 tablespoon Peppermint leaf dried or 3 tbsp. fresh

1/2 cup of Sea Salt or Epsom Salt

6 drops of essential oil of Lavender

2 drops of essential oil of Peppermint 

1 tablespoon of jojoba oil

Mix Salt, herbs, and essential oils together. This makes one foot soak.

Add to a warm footbath tub the aromatic herbal salt blend and the jojoba oil, stir things around a bit to mix– then soak those pups! *You can also brew the herbs into a strong tea in advance. Just use the above listed amounts of herbs to one quart of water, and steep for an hour, then strain into your footbath. If you do it this way be sure to add the jojoba and essential oils together before adding it to the bath to help it disperse better.

Artemesia Healing liniment

Good for bruises, sprains and strains, and skin healing. This is great to infuse in vinegar and if you do, it can later be combined with some Aloe Vera gel (1 tbsp. vinegar to 2 ounces gel) for sunburn or rash.

Equal parts:

Mugwort leaf

Comfrey leaf

Calendula flower

Lavender flower

Combine the herbs and place in a jar that the herbs take up 2/3 the space of. Cover and fill the jar with either apple cider vinegar, or vodka, or witch hazel. Apply with a cotton ball to affected areas—dilute in water prior if needed.

silver-blue hued leaves of California Mugwort

The Huntress-Gatherer Salve

An all-purpose, all-healing salve. When in doubt “put some salve on it!”.

1 part Mugwort leaf

½ part Calendula flower

½  part Comfrey leaf or Plantain leaf

1 part St. John’s Wort Flowers

½ part Yarrow leaf and flower

½ part Western Red Cedar leaf tips, or Fir Needle tips, or Redwood Needle tips

Lavender essential oil 5 drops to each ounce of herbal infused oil

Eucalyptus radiata essential oil 3 drops to each ounce of herbal infused oil (optional)

Combine the herbs and infuse with olive or sunflower oil—use a pyrex filled with the herbs and oil 1 part herbs to 7 parts oil, place pyrex into simmering water in a saucepan and let it warmly infuse yet not “cook” for at least an hour—keep an eye on the water in the saucepan and add as needed. After a few hours of this low-heat infusing method strain off the herbs from the oil and store in an airtight jar with a label. *Another infusing method would be to grind the herbs a bit in a grinder, then blend the oil and ground herbs together in a blender just until warm, then jar it up and soak for 2-3 weeks, after which strain off the herbs. To make salve from this herbal infused oil: simply use 1 cup of herbal oil to approx. ¼ cup of grated beeswax—heat together the oil and beeswax in the pyrex by sitting it in a saucepan of simmering water, let it warm until the beeswax has melted into the herbal oil—stir with a chopstick to mix, remove from heat. Then add in your essential oils, stir well, and pour into jars. Label and share with your friends!

Artemis Dream’s Potpourri Blend

1 cup Mugwort leaves

½ cup Hops flowers

¼ cup Marjoram herb

1 cup Lavender flowers

½ cup Rose Petals

½ cup Lemon Verbena whole leaf (optional)

20 drops of Lavender essential oil

10 drops Ylang ylang essential oil

5 drops of Clary Sage essential oil

Combine the herbs and mix well, then add in essential oils and mix things around again. I like to let this sit in a sealed bag or jar overnight to infuse the scent throughout the herbs. Then stuff into small cotton drawstring bag(s)and keep by the bedside for fragrant dreams and peaceful sleep. You can also store the blend in a pretty glass jar and simply uncork or unscrew the lid to diffuse the fragrance whenever you choose—this is always a great gift!

California mugwort stand with Lupine

California Mugwort Dreamin’ Tea

A tea blend to relax, and calm—sweet dreams to you!

You will need:

½ part California Mugwort

1 part Linden

½ part Spearmint

¼ part Orange peel

1 part Oat tops

1 part Lemon Balm

½ part Chamomile

Mix the herbs together and store in an airtight jar. Use 1 tablespoon of the blend per cup of water. You can make it as an overnight cold infusion, or steep it warm 10-20 minutes or longer if you prefer.

Sweeten with honey if you desire.

California mugwort

“I now grow Artemisias in tubs, borders, trimmed hedges, and as single accents. Never again will I relegate them to the sidelines. Artemesias add sparkle to every planting, enhancing neighboring bright colors, and create soothing oases during the hot days of summer and fall when they reach their peak of form.  Growing artemsias is an herb lover’s dream, uniting utility and beauty.” Jo ann Gardner (from an article she wrote for Herb Companion 2000)

 

*Cautions/Contraindications for Mugwort: Not for use during pregnancy. Bear caution using if you have any pre-existing allergy to the daisy family (asteraceae family). Not advised to be taken in large dosages over extended periods of time. Please consult with your local herbalist or licensed practitioner before using.

Sources Cited:

Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

Healing with the Herbs of Life by Leslie Tierra

The Herbal Tarot Book by Candice Cantin and Michael Tierra

After the First Full Moon in April by Josephine Peters and Beverly Ortiz

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Tucker and Debaggio

Other links to check out:

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mugwor61.html

http://www.crimson-sage.com/item/Mugwort-Native-Californian-Artemesia-douglasii-100236

For Supplies and Herbs check out:

humboldtherbals.com

mountainroseherbs.com

*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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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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Help with putting the cigarettes down

By Kate Maxey

Cigarettes kill a lot of people. Not only is cigarette smoking the single greatest cause of preventable disease but it is probably the most difficult addiction to kick. We all know the health problems that come with cigarettes, from respiratory and heart issues to impotence and cancer. I am not going to cover the problems with this habit so much as I want to talk about ways to kick it. For some you just might feel that it is time to do it, but maybe you need a little help.

So here are some suggestions in the herbal and psychological realms:

* Social support: Grab a friend to quit with you. If you know of another person who also wants to stop ,do it together. Your odds of continuing cessation will greatly improve. One study found that if someone’s spouse quits with them their chance of continued smoking decreased by nearly 70 percent.

You can also tell your friends and family that you are trying to quit so that they can provide support and motivation. Social media can be useful for this as well.

Psychological treatments:  Behavioral therapy can be beneficial like setting up some sort of rewards system for when you don’t smoke. Whatever it may be try to make your reward something healthy, like giving yourself time to relax or be in nature or buying a special small thing for yourself.  Sweets and fatty foods might not be a good idea as rewards because people tend to put on weight when they quit smoking.

Another idea is hypnotherapy. I have personally had really good experiences with hypnotherapy which is why I mention it here.  It doesn’t work for everyone and the clinical results are mixed, but it is something to look into if you have the extra funds to pay for a few sessions. For more info on this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/11/hypnosis-quit-smoking_n_1248444.html

*Exercise: Exercise not only helps to relax the nervous system but it helps the brain to be happy and healthy. Aerobic exercise especially helps with clearing out the lungs as well. I have a friend who when she was trying to quit ran everyday, and what really kept her from smoking was seeing all the black tar nastiness that was coming out of her lungs! No good!

*Nicotine Replacement Therapy:  This comes in the form of patches, gum, inhalers, ect and can help with the intense cravings that come with putting down cigarettes.   Clinical studies have shown that NRT is more effective then a placebo treatment, however abstinence rates are only about 50 percent at 12 month follow ups. Also, a smoker can become dependent on these things so it is good to be aware of other options.

*Herbal Treatment:  There are many herbal allies to help with putting the cigarettes down. Here are a list of some of the main ones:

Lobelia: (Lobelia inflata) Lobelia has a general depressant action on the central and autonomic nervous systems and is a great anti-asthmatic.  Clinical studies have shown that a constituent in Lobelia called lobeline, acts similarly to nicotine in the brain, making it helpful with withdrawal symptoms. It also thins the thick mucus that accompanies cessation from smoking. This is a low does plant so it is best to take it as a tincture or you can also smoke it in a herbal smoking blend. (More on this later)

Oatstraw: (Avena Sativa) Oatstraw is a phenomenal nervous system tonic.  I personally believe it should be in our water supply it is so amazing. It calms and balances the nervous system and not only helps with nicotine withdrawal, but it also helps with other addiction withdrawals that come with opiates and alcohol.

Skullcap: (Scutellaria laterifolia)  Is a strong nervous system sedative that works for the acute symptoms of withdrawal. It effectively soothes nervous tension while renewing and reviving the central nervous system.

Skullcap

Skullcap

Yerba Santa: (Eriodictyon californicum) This stimulating expectorant thins and stimulates the free flow of mucus from the lungs when there is congestion with thick mucus.

Elecampane root: (Inula helenium ) Another great lung herb that helps  get the gunk up and out of the lungs. It also soothes irritation in the lungs which is nice for the lungs of a smoker. It is useful for asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD and for chronic coughs.

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Elecampane flowers

One great tea recipe for soothing the lungs is:

Coltsfoot 2 parts (A great expectorant and anti spasmodic)

Marshmallow root 2 parts  (A great soothing demulcent)

Hyssop 2 parts (Expectorant, nervine and anti-spasmodic)

Licorice 1 part ( Soothing demulcent, as well as a nice liver and adrenal supporting herb)

Anise 1 part  (A great anti-spasmodic)

Some other great tea blends for the lungs are made by Humboldt Herbals. One is a lung tonic and the other is a nice expectorant tea. you can find them here:

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/organic-bulk-teas/herbal-tea-blends/expectorant-cough-relief.html

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/organic-bulk-teas/herbal-tea-blends/lung-tonic-tea.html

They also carry a great herbal smoking blend that can be useful when you are dealing with the habit of the hand to mouth action of smoking. You know, when you just need to smoke something. They don’t put Lobelia into their blend, but you can add it to this blend or get an idea of some other good smoking herbs.

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/organic-bulk-teas/herbal-tea-blends/actors-smoking-blend.html

They also have a great tincture to help with the nicotine withdrawal symptoms that I have seen be very effective for people:

http://www.humboldtherbals.com/tinctures-and-glycerites/humboldt-herbals-formula/tobacco-remedy/tobacco-remedy-1-oz.html

Well I hope this helps. And good luck to all those who have decided to put the cigarettes down!

Sources:

Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann

Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth by Sharol Tilgner

Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson Haas


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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

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**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.

IMG_1087

Coconut Bread


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Mermaid Divine Bath Soak

herbs, flowers, and seaweed

By Jessica Shepherd

February has been a wonderful month of celebrating quite a few of my cherished friend’s birthdays.  I will admit,  I get a little “Martha Stewart” (and proud of it!) when it comes to my “all things herbal” life and I keep my pantry stocked—so when birthdays of treasured friend’s and family roll around  I’m ready to pour my love into crafting them a one-of-a kind hand made herbal treat–sure to delight!

mermaid bath soak

I make sure to have a collection of glassware—jars, bottles, etc., plenty of herbs and flowers of course, then there’s carrier oils, butters, hydrosols, salts, and essential oils you get the picture…it’s like my magical little nook of inspiration—I open the door and the ideas start swirling!

This time around it was a delicious bath soak.  I set my eyes on some seaweed a dear friend had recently wild-crafted in Mendocino County and it sent me dreaming of mermaids for a moment and I knew it was meant to be a part of this aromatic soaking blend.

So here’s the recipe for you to treat your friend’s too, or better yet treat yourself!  Soak up the wonder’s of bliss from aromatherapy, the relaxation and minerals of salts, herbs, and flowers, and the soothing quality of seaweed.

The smell of this blend is heavenly-sweet, with soothing vanilla and ylang ylang to melt your stresses away!  The essential oils in this recipe are all well known to bring about deep relaxation, calm mental-chatter, elevate mood/promote euphoria, and comfort the heart; seaweed’s are famous for their ability to soothe, heal, and moisturize the skin and offer a bounty of minerals; the herbs and flowers relax the muscles and rejuvenate skin cells;  sea salt and pink salt relax and purify both body and mind.

mermaid soak

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 cups sea salt

1 cup Himalayan pink salt

1 cup baking soda

½ cup each dried: Rose petals, Lavender, Calendula, Lemon Balm, Linden blossom/leaf, Chamomile

approx. 4  (6-8 inch) strips of Kombu seaweed

1/4 cup Vanilla bean powder

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Lavender angustifolia essential oil 40 drops

Ruby Red Grapefruit essential oil 25 drops

Lime essential oil 15 drops

Ylang Ylang extra essential oil 25 drops

As always organic or home-grown herbs are preferred!

Support your local farms and your local herb shop too!

This recipe filled 3 approx. 8oz. heart jars (which I scored at Michaels Craft Store) and one 16oz. jar

sea salt, himalayan pink salt, and baking soda mixture

Begin by mixing together the sea salt, pink salt, and baking soda together

adding vanilla bean pwd. and e.o.'s

Next add in the essential oils, stir well with a whisk, then add the vanilla bean extract, and whisk well, then finally add in the vanilla bean powder and whisk/mix well trying to break up any clumps

adding kombu strips

Now snip into pieces, and add in the kombu to the aromatic salt mixture

bath soak blend

Next add in all of the beautiful flowers and herbs: roses, calendula, linden, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm (and of course any others you desire!!)

view of inside the jar

After a final mixing of all the divine ingredients,  you can put it into any jar of your choice…I always like a little piece of seaweed on top…

gorgeous bath soak

the scent exuding from this jar is exotic, tropical-floral, with a wink of citrus, finished with a ripple of vanilla to soothe the soul!

You can also include a little muslin cotton drawstring(optional) bag for easy use and re-use– and of course, a little label with ingredients and instructions. I like to use about a 1/2 cup of soak blend per bath–up to a full cup if your feelin’ like a queen!  Scoop it into the wee cotton bag, toss it in as you run the hot water for your soak, then let it infuse the whole time that well, you do!  When you treat yourself to this soak you will be oh, so glad you did—if you find that after the first 10 minutes or so you relax into sheer bliss and content (somehow forgetting about your stiff neck and silly worries)—yup that’s aromatherapy and herbs at work–give thanks!

Soak your way into Spring and bask in the Mermaid’s Garden– let the waters cradle you and let the herbs and beauty of the sea-plants restore you.  Prepare for Bliss!

mermaid divine


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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.


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Raw Cacao Bars

Chocolate Pods

Chocolate Pods

By Kate Maxey

So we have all heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate and we love it, do we not? I sure do. Chocolate has been around for centuries and goes by many names. One of those names is ‘cacao’ which is extremely ancient and probably originated with the pre-Mayan Olmec peoples.  Cacao has even been used as currency with one cacao bean being worth one ripe avocado, one large tomato or five large chilies. A Mayan chocolate drinking vessel was found dating back thousands of years with the word “ka-ka-wa” on it. So there is proof that people have always enjoyed this amazing plant.

The health benefits of raw cacao and dark chocolate are many.  Raw cacao is going to have more active benefits then the dark chocolate because it has not had any processing done to it. Like most foods the less processed the better. I like to add cacao nibs to a trail mix with nuts and lycii berries and it’s also great powdered in smoothies!

Raw Cacao nibs

Raw Cacao nibs

Cacao is extremely high in magnesium, which supports the heart, increases brainpower, relaxes smooth muscles, which helps with menstrual cramps, constipation and overall muscle cramping. Magnesium is a primary alkaline mineral, which opens up over 300 different detoxification and elimination pathways.

Cacao beans are also super high in antioxidants. They contain 10 grams per 100 grams of flavonol antioxidants. Research has shown that the antioxidants in cacao are highly stable and easily available to human metabolism. Studies have shown that cacao has nearly twice the antioxidants as red wine and up to three times what is found in green tea.

Cacao also contains up to 2.2% phenylethylamine or PEA. PEA has been dubbed the “love chemical” and creates feeling of attraction, excitement and euphoria and is noticeably abundant in the brains of happy people. Levels drop when someone is feeling depressed or despondent. The brain releases PEA when we are sexually aroused and level can peak during orgasm. Hence the reputation of chocolate as the food of love.

So whether it’s constipation, depression or a desire to spark up ones love live, chocolate is here for us.

I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes with you that I have been making for years, Raw Cacao Bars!!

Raw Cacao Bars

2/3 cup cacao nibs ground into powder

¼ cup agave, honey or maple syrup

2 Tablespoons cocoa butter or coconut oil

2 Tablespoons lycii berry powder (A good place to get this: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkherb/l.html )

3 Tablespoons herb powder blend of choice*

1 Tablespoon Dried blueberries (opt.)

½ tsp vanilla extract (opt.)

*You can use any herbal powder you want but here are some ideas:

Anti-oxidant

Hawthorne 2 Tbsp

Rosehips 1.5 tsp

Hibiscus 1.5 tsp

Stevia ¼ tsp

Immune

Shitake 1 Tbsp

Astragalus 1 Tbsp

Reshi  1 Tbsp

Kava Kava

Kava Kava 2 Tbsp

Lemongrass 1 tsp

Ginger 1 tsp

Nutmeg 1 tsp

Loving

Damiana 2 Tbsp

Roses 1 tsp

Cinnamon 1 tsp

Ginger 1 tsp

Directions:

1)   In a double boiler melt the cocoa butter, then add your liquid sweetener of choice and the vanilla extract if desired. Mix well.

2)   Add the powdered lycii berry and stir until completely dissolved. I use a spatula to help with this process.

3)   Then add the powdered herbs and mix well.

4)   Then the powdered cacao. Mix well and stir in dried blueberries if desired.

5)   Line and 8×8 square baking dish with parchment paper and put the mixture into it and flatten and shape mixture to make a thin square.

6)   Put into the fridge and when it has hardened cut into 8 small rectangles or 16 small squares, however you want to serve it.

Raw Cacao Bars!!

Raw Cacao Bars!!

A great book for more info on the benefits of chocolate and more fun recipes: Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe & Shazzie