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:
*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.
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.
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:
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.
Nothing compares to the quality of hand crafted lip gloss made from the most exquisite and organic ingredients. I recently had so much fun gifting out this Spring batch of lip gloss I made to a group of my lovely herbalist friends. I felt like I was the lip gloss fairy! Then watched with a smile, as all the gals tried it out saying “oooh, aaah, feels great and tastes great”! Sheer satisfaction for me—gifting my friends hand-made herbal treats! Truly “good for you” gifts!
This lip gloss takes care of chapped or wind-burned lips and contains especially hydrating and soothing ingredients like cocoa butter, coconut oil, honey, and the deep healing and repair of the herbal infused oils. I also had some locally grown and produced Macadamia nut oil that I was lucky to purchase at a Farmer’s Market in Hawaii, while there on a trip this past March. Its truly the glossy definition of emollient which means:“making soft or supple; soothing especially to the skin or mucous membrane”. Personally, I prefer to pass on the petroleum, propylene glycol, paraben’s, and other synthetic chemicals that conventional lip balms, and other body products contain. I know that what I put on my skin can and usually will, find its way into my bloodstream. So I take pride in discovering ways to make my own healthy plant-based body care recipes, and hope that sharing some of my recipes will inspire and empower you to do the same!
Spring Nectar Lip Gloss
I am calling this a gloss, rather than a balm, because I wanted a slightly softer lip balm that was able to glide easily across the lips and soak right into dry areas. This lip-gloss offers healing skin repair to chapped, wind-burned, and sunburned, lips while also working to keep the lips supple, moist, and plump. Yum, it has a great subtle taste from the herbs and added essential oils, making the lips feel lovely and silky smooth! Keep in mind if you don’t have an herb infused oil on hand, or if you don’t have or want to get the Mac nut oil (you really should treat yourself to it though!)–you can always just substitute any regular organic oil like plain Sunflower oil, or Almond oil, Hemp seed oil, Sesame, Olive oil, you get the idea–any of those will work–just be sure to use the total amount of 6 ounces of oil and follow the directions from there!
Here is the recipe– and as always organic ingredients are preferred!
Yields aprrox. 28 tubes
¼ oz empty lip balm tubes, about 28 you’ll need
4 oz. Herbal Infused Oil — I used a blend I always have on hand which is Lavender, Calendula, and Rose petals infused in Sunflower oil. To make this: Take 1 ounce of each dried herb and put them in a quart sized mason jar. Cover with your sunflower oil to fill the jar. Seal the lid on the jar and let the oil and flowers soak for 2-4 weeks in a cool dark place, visiting your infusing oil every few days shaking it to distribute the oil around, and offer it your blessings and love! Then after that time, strain off the herbs from the oil, and viola’ you have an infused herbal oil! You can add 1 tbsp. of Vitamin E to this to help preserve it and it should keep for up to one year. It can not only be used in your lip balm base, but also on its own as a body oil or massage oil, and in your other body products like creams, lotions, and salt or sugar scrubs.
2 oz. Macadamia nut oil-- a protective oil to the skin with a high absorption rate, soothes burns, and helps with scars, nourishing to the skin
2 ½ tbsp. Cocoa butter–reduces dryness and helps improve the elasticity of the skin tissue, it also lends a thick and creamy consistency to blends like lip balms, lotions, creams etc. Oh, and of course, it smells like chocolate!
4 tbsp. of grated Beeswax–increases essential moisture in the skin, has mild anti-bacterial properties, contains Vitamin A, and is a natural emulsifier suitable for use in all types of body products (lotions, salves, balms etc.)
2 tsp. Honey- anti-bacterial and humectant– meaning it promotes the retention of moisture
8 drops Lime essential oil–bright and cheery, anti-septic, acts as a “natural preservative” (all essential oils help to add a preservative quality to your home made goodies (creams, lotions, balms etc.) and lengthen their “shelf life”
2 tsp. Vanilla extract--excellent for burns, cooling and soothing, also adds that flavor we all know and love!
To make the lip gloss: Take a sauce pan and fill it halfway and bring the water to a simmer then turn heat to medium-low. Take your glass pyrex measuring cup and fill it with specified amount of herbal oil, mac nut oil, and then add in the cocoa butter, coconut oil, and beeswax to that. Set the pyrex in the hot water of the saucepan, stir with a chopstick here and there until everything has melted together.
Now, before adding your other ingredients do what we call a “spoon test” with your lip gloss base—the melted goods you have in the pyrex. So take a spoon and scoop a little of the hot liquid and set the spoon in your freezer (I usually set it on a paper towel in case of spilage). Let the spoon sit in the freezer for about 10 minutes. After that time take it out and dip your finger in it, getting an idea of the consistency of the gloss. If it seems to liquidy and not solid enough that is a great indicator you want to add more beeswax to make it more solid. On the contrary, if it is too solid and hard, you want to add a little more oil to your pyrex of melting goods. I adjust it usually by the ½ tablespoon or so until I do another spoon test and reach my desired consistency. Once you have that perfected you can take the pyrex with melted oils, butter, and wax and set it on the counter to cool down for a good 10 minutes.
After that grab a clean chopstick and add in your honey and mix well, then add in the essential oils drop by drop mixing well after, and then finally add your vanilla extract. Stir it all together mixing with love! Now, from the pyrex you are ready to pour up your lip gloss into the tubes. I just hold a tube in my left hand and slowly, with my right hand pour from the pyrex, until the gloss reaches the top of the tube, or even spills over the sides if you go too quick—that’s okay you can clean it up! In between filling a few tubes, be sure to give the oils and wax a stir again to help distribute the vanilla, honey, and essential oils throughout. At a slow and steady pace you’ll get the hang of it– and before you know it you’ll have filled 28 lip balm tubes!
I let them stand on the counter for a bit before I put the caps on and move em’ around. You want to allow for a wee bit of time for the lip gloss to cool and “set” or harden in the tube. You can speed this process up after letting it cool enough on the counter that you can put the lids on with out spilling liquid, just put them in the refrigerator for about a half hour, and it will be “set” and ready to gloss upon your lips! Of course, my final step is to wipe the tube off of any spilled gloss that occurred during the pouring procees (rubbing alcohol works well for this!), then label it with a fun name and your ingredients. Your lip balm will stay good or have a “shelf life” for at least one year!
Spring Nectar Lip Gloss
If I purchase a lip balm, which I do sometimes if I can’t find time to make my own, these are a few of the brands I choose—Wild Carrot Herbals rich and creamy with a few different choices, Terra Firma Botanicals makes a lip balm called “Love Oil Lip Balm” and its one of my favorites– super silky with an awesome flavor, and then there is Eagle Peak herbals–they make a wonderful herb infused lip balm using all the top skin loving herbs many of which they grow themselves or ethically wildcraft!
Enjoy and Cheers to your happy juicy lips!!! Now go give someone a smooch!
Spring is afoot! Fresh green growth sprouts from barren trees as life springs forth and thrives again. Our resting plant friend’s wake up and grow putting all their energy upward, and we too, begin sloughing off the winters introspection and rest, to set our selves—or rather “spring” ourselves back into motion. Its that “feverish” season where we “clean house” and are inspired to tend the seeds of our dreams and hearts desires, work to cultivate them into our bountiful gardens, then have them be our fruit of reality come fall time. Now is when we can turn to the Green and let the plants nourish us– body and spirit, helping to process away that which no longer serves us— and bring balance to assimilate all that will nurture, build, and revitalize us. And the Spring flowers bloom too, fitting that the sensory organ of Spring according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is the eyes. So much to see! Rhododendrons, Irises, Trilliums, Lilly’s, the bright yellow flowers of the Wild Mustard, Lilac’s, Daisies, California poppy’s, Apple and Cherry blossoms galore and more! For the herbalist it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “eye candy”!
In this Spring-time moment, I feel the plants, trees, and flowers are so content and happy to offer their love and I am marinating in it– just soaking it up—saying thank you, and I love you too! I am present in the peace of nature, and am so grateful for all the lush green plants and bouquets of wildflowers scattered about the forest floor and the mountainside hills and meadows.
Spring is the season of the Wood element in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is ruled by our Liver and Gallbladder. Our bodies “filters” are always hard at work for us, and doing all they can to process whatever we send our bodies way, in addition to what we are exposed to environmentally—some things healthy and great, and some things we give thanks to have a liver for! So it’s a fitting time to pay some extra care and attention to those organs through the support of nourishing herbs and foods. For this herbal ode’ to Spring post (its a long one, maybe best read in the evening with a warm mug of tea!), I ask you join me in celebrating two powerhouse spring tonics most of us know and adore: Nettle and Dandelion.
First up is the one the only Nettle–Stinging Nettle that is…
Nettle Urtica dioica
…“Our nurse would not come nettle hunting. Mary (the cook) would, and what is more, she made and doled out the nettle beer. It was lovely to think that whole beds of nettles were entirely yours to do as you liked with and that, literally, no one cared if you picked the lot”… –excerpt from the book: The Surprising Life of Constance Spry by Sue Shephard
Spring is the perfect time for honoring the deep green nourishing beauty of the Nettle plant. Many of us have met this plant and have felt the sting–you feel the tingles (ouchie!) and know you are alive!! For me, it is a reminder to wake up, become alert, active and present in the current moment—alive, and receptive to nature’s wisdom and beauty. No wonder Nettle was traditionally used for inactivity—if I brush upon it and feel its little sting I am “activated” and energized! The Nettle plant is one of the first herbs I learned of and has always remained one of my favorites. I love to put a few fresh leaves in cool water letting it steep for some hours as this delicate infusion tastes like the essence of the Green!
And like the excerpt above mentions, if you are lucky enough to find a big ole’ patch or even have one in your yard, you are a very happy foraging herbalist! Most folks will not become as excited as us over these finds—I remember my neighbor giggled at me when I beamed in delight over the wild nettles in each of our backyards, before he could finish giggling I was rattling off all the wonders of the nettle and he was impressed.
I won’t “pick the whole lot” but, a good paper bag full or two, of vibrant green, young upper leaf clusters will get the job done. Yes, gloves are worn in this process, and long pants and my rubber boots too! I am entering a Nettle patch after all! The stinging hairs on the leaves and stems release acids when touched like an injection–acetylcholine (a histamine), galacturonic acid, oxalic acid, tartaric acid and formic acid to name a few. Once released, these acids cause a reaction with the skin, the “sting” can itch and leave a slight rash and raised welts, but for most people the itch subsides shortly. However, being able to properly identify Nettle, and harvesting wearing gloves makes your chances of getting “stung” quite minimal. Not to mention, as we herbalist’s all love to point out, there are usually other plants that act as antidotes to the Nettle sting that tend to grow close by—like yellow dock or plantain leaves to make into an on the spot poultice for soothing the sting. Even the juice of the fresh nettle leaf itself is claimed to be an antidote of its own sting! The sting has in fact been used as a topical application, called flagellation, or urtication—where the fresh plant is essentially used in a whipping action for stimulating inactive organs (even paralyzed limbs) and nerves and also to relieve specific types of pain. Flagellation is not a very common practice these days but some still practice it, and some books even deem it as the oldest known use of the nettle.
Harvesting: Spring and Early Summer when the leaves are not as tough, and the young upper leaf clusters and stems are best to harvest. Once Nettle goes to seed and has become rather tall (it can reach up to 9ft!) it is too concentrated in silica and renders it past the recommended time to gather leaf—but in temperate climates you can get a second growth of nettle and harvest again once the new growth sprouts, or if you have a patch you can cut it back after your first spring pick to yield another one!
Parts used: All parts—seed, root, leaf, stem, of this plant have some use and overall nettle provides food, fiber, and of course medicine. The nettle stems have fibers running through them that have been used to make cordage, netting, even clothing—the linen is of fine quality and is able to last a long time, in fact some ancient burial sites of western China have discovered 2,000 year old nettle clothing still in perfect condition. It is a time consuming process to make the fiber into clothing but presently some herbalist’s are putting the efforts in, and are making their own nettle fabric and other wares from the fibers.
Medicinal properties of the stem and leaf:
Coined the “spirulina” of the plant kingdom by the late and great herbalist Michael Moore, ounce for ounce Nettle leaf contains twice the amount of protein as spinach, and while we’re at it– more protein than any other native plant. It is also rich in: iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids (lysine), protein, potassium, silicon, manganese, zinc, chromium, selenium, beta-carotene, sulfur, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E.
I agree with the renowned and most beloved herbalist Rosemary Gladstar that nettle is “…one of the superior tonic herbs and is as important as many of the famous Chinese “long life” herbs”. Nettle is a highly nutritive alterative that tones and strengthens the entire system. The mineral rich tea helps to add electrolytes and alkali to assist the buffering system when under stress making Nettle leaf a wonderful tonic for the adrenals that have become taxed from excess or prolonged stress.
It restores and aids the liver and kidneys to cleanse the body of toxins and waste—essential for vitality and energy; builds and nourishes our adrenals aiding with our stress response and how our system processes stress; nettle leaf helps build up a healthy supply of blood in the body and purify unwanted waste and uric acids from the bloodstream resulting in clearing up skin conditions and some inflammatory conditions like arthritis and in particular gout. The nutritive rich tea is well known to use for strengthening and promoting healthy hair, bones, teeth, and nails. It has anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory effects employed for seasonal allergies and hayfever– for this you may try seeking out fresh “freeze” dried nettle in capsule form, as it has been found that the formic acid contributes to its antihistamine effects and that acid is only present in the fresh plant. It has also been used for myalgia, osteoarthritis, and arthritic conditions. The amazing herbalist Matt Wood writes: “Nettle is a remedy that gets the job done. It works with complicated protein building blocks to build some of the most complicated molecules used in the body. It is a highly nutritious food which supplies these materials, but it also supplies the know-how, the intensity, to use them”.
Nettle leaf is also a reproductive tonic for women and men, and a mild diuretic helpful for edema and water retention. Nettle has been used as a galactagogue (to enrich and increase the flow of breast milk) in nursing mothers, and can aid in restoration and recovery after childbirth building back up the blood supply. It has also been used as a post surgery recovery tonic to facilitate healing and to build back vitality.
Whew, I know the list of nettle’s benefits are plentiful (and there are even more!)—I never get tired of an Herbalist speaking or writing about nettles, and in all my many years of working at an herb shop I always loved filling the big bulk glass jar– to only empty it time and time again to happy nettle seeking customers! Your pet companion’s can also benefit from nettles minerals and vitamins as well– helping to promote a healthy skin and coat, and offering support to the liver, urinary tract, and immune system. A little sprinkle of the powder on food is a great way to incorporate it and it pairs very well with powdered dandelion leaf for a green sprinkle. You can start with a 1/4 tsp. per 10 lbs. of animal body weight.
Preparations: Fresh young Nettle leaves have a deliciously mineral rich green flavor. Once prepared for use and the sting is removed (which is a quick and easy process), nettle can be used to replace spinach in all types of recipes.
The acids that cause the sting deteriorate rapidly once the leaf is dried or dehydrated, or gently steamed or boiled for about 15 minutes, just long enough to wilt and remove the acids. To blanch nettles, use tongs to transfer the leaves into a pot of salted boiling water, wait 30 seconds, then remove to a bowl or sink of ice-cold water to stop the cooking process—then squeeze out excess water with your hands and the nettles are ready to go. To boil nettles, fill a pot with the nettle leaves and add 1-2 cups of water, bring it to a simmer turning the leaves a few times with tongs until wilted, then drain into a colander, when cool chop and use. Remember if you blanch, steam, or boil nettle leaf to use the water that many of the vitamins, chlorophyll, and nutrients have ended up in—sip on it as tea, add it to soup stocks etc. it’s the goods and you don’t want it to go to waste—your houseplants will even thank you for it if you treat them to a sip!
You can freeze harvested young nettle tips after blanching, to store for future use throughout the year. Hooray for Nettles all year round!
Nettle leaf can be made into infusions (tea)—hot, and cold; I like to use 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water of dry leaf and about 2 tablespoons of fresh, bring your water to a boil add the leaf and remove from heat. You can infuse it for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to overnight.
Other yummy things to do with Nettle leaf: pickle nettle tops in apple cider vinegar with a bit of honey and garlic-Yum! ;dried and chopped leaves are great for use in seasoning and marinade blends; nutrient rich syrups can be made and no doubt the endless array of culinary options like mineral rich soups and broths, purees, lasagnas, stir-fry’s, quiches, simply just steamed with balsamic lemon and olive oil, of course there is spanakopita-gone-nettle too; nettle pesto is super yum, also fantastic to powder after its been dried and you can add it to smoothie herb powder blends, and of course leaf powder or finely chopped leaf can be added to seasoning blends to be liberally sprinkled upon meals. As I have always been taught (thanks Jane!) “Eat your medicine!” Give thanks for and to the lovely green Nettle!
Nettle Hazelnut Pesto from Greg Higgins, Higgins Restaurant Portland, OR
2 cups Nettle Leaves, lightly blanched
2 cups Italian parsley leaves
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
2 cups hazelnuts, toastes
¼ cup minced garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
Rough chop the nettle and the parsley leaves. Combine in a mixing bowl with the feta cheese, hazelnuts, garlic, and oil and pulse in batches in the food processor or crush with trusy mortar and pestle until thick and saucy. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve on pasta or as a sauce or dip—you know the deal! And reminder: pesto freezes well!
Mix all above dried herbs together and keep in a glass jar. This tasty sprinkle can be liberally added to all types of dishes try it on: roasted veggies and potatoes, eggs, baked chicken, salads, and its especially good on a little bit of toasted bread with olive oil. Lots of possibilities with this sprinkle and also plenty of room for your own twists—like adding some seaweed powder or dulse flakes.
Spring Nourish-Me Tea
1 part dried Nettle leaf
1 part dried Dandelion leaf
½ part dried Oatstraw Tops
½ part dried whole Red Clover Blossoms
½ part dried Peppermint leaf
½ part dried Orange Peel
¼ part dried Hibiscus
This is a simple and highly nutritive tea to enjoy during the Spring season.
Mix ingredients together in a bowl—making sure to infuse your intentions of love and nourishment into the blend as you mix. Then use 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water. Bring water to a boil and pour over the herbs and letting them steep for at least 15-20 minutes and as long as overnight. Then strain off the herbs and you can enjoy up to two-three cups of tea per day throughout the Spring to offer support to your liver and nourish your body.
Fresh Spring Garden Sun Tea
Celebrate spring with simple garden infusions—depending on what you may have coming up like lemon balm, rosemary, marjoram, a dandelion or two, violets, nettle, and perhaps some sort of mint—I currently have an orange mint.
Grab a quart jar or larger if you desire—forage around your garden and yard picking fresh sprigs, blossoms, leaves—whatever is vibrant and calls to you. I usually end up with about ¾ to 1 cups worth of “fresh picked herbage” that I then set in my glass jar, pour cool water over the herbs, put the lid on and let it sit in a sunny spot for at least 2-3 hours– up to overnight.
This is a marvelous way to connect with the fresh energy of the Spring season and taste the delicate essences and aromatics of the vibrant plants in your yard and garden.
Here are the herbs I chose for my most recent Garden Tea: Lime Thyme, Lemon Balm, Rosemary sprig, Orange Mint, sprig of Lavender flower, Pineapple spearmint, English Daisy, Nettle Leaf, Redwood Needle sprig, and Dandelion blossom and leaf–Yum!
And next up– that infamous weed with the very easily recognized yellow flower head sometimes referred to as “Fairy Clock” or “Blowball”—yup I’m talkin’ bout’ Dandelion.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
“Eat em’ don’t weed em’ ” one of my favorite pro-Dandelion slogans from Dr. Peter Gail and the folks who make a concentrated herbal coffee substitute called Dandy Blend. Every now and then I catch a “weed killer” commercial with a dramatic plot to eradicate the Dandelion from your yard—a chemical battle never to be won my friends, this is a longevity herb that will sprout right through the cracks of concrete to say ha! –“the Green shall prosper!”
My lawn is only about 15% Dandelions and that’s fine by me, they are more than welcome to stay in my yard! I always enjoyed talking with folks at the herb shop I worked at about this terrorized weed—people new to herbs as medicine are generally surprised at how much the dandelion offers–giving them reason to hopefully not want to kill it! The dandelion too is such accessible and abundant medicine packed with minerals and vital nutrients. Not to mention who hasn’t felt the magic of getting to make a wish on a seeded dandelion head! Many common weeds in your backyard are able to heal common ailments and beyond—thanks Mother Nature! You need not seek out an exotic “designer” plant from a whole different bioregion when the dandelion and nettle are thriving right there in your own neck of the woods.
A superb spring green or potherb, and fantastic nutritive alterative, the tender young leaves are quite tasty and can be incorporated into culinary dishes, or with a little sautéed garlic, onion, olive oil, and balsamic it can be a side dish all on its own.
Medicinal Properties of the Leaf and Root: The leaf is generally used as a nutritive tonic and is high in potassium. Compared to romaine lettuce, dandelion greens have 4 times the vitamin C, 7 times the Vitamin A, and twice the amount of potassium! The leaves are also higher in beta-carotene than carrots! It also offers a bio-available form of iron, and calcium—way more than spinach contains. Also vitamins C, A, B (1,2,5,6, and 12), E, P, D, biotin, inositol, lecithin, phosphorus, zinc and contains the sugar inulin.
Herbalist and Acupuncturist Leslie Tierra says “taken cool, dandelion leaf tea is one of the most effective diuretics, as effective as Lasix, and because it is rich in potassium, it isn’t as harsh, thus cleansing the kidneys, eliminating water retention and lowering blood pressure.” I saw this to be true with a lot of the folks I helped while working at a local herb shop. Some folks with water retention issues found relief, and women whom had cyclical swelling in their breasts with tenderness to the touch also gave positive feedback about dandelion leaf tea.
The white milky sap of the dandelion stem used as a folk remedy for getting rid of warts!
The leaf gently supports the detoxification of the liver and has an affinity for building and cleansing the kidneys. The milky white sap squeezed from the fresh stems of the dandelion is touted as an old folk remedy as an effective topical treatment of warts, moles,calluses, and can sooth stings and blisters. Why not try– if it’s already growing in the front yard?
Dandelion root is a superior safe and gentle, liver and gallbladder cleanser helping to strengthen the entire body and promote the building and restoration of vitality. The root promotes bile flow and reduces inflammation of the bile duct. It has the capacity to clear stagnation and/or sluggish liver activity by aiding in liver function stimulation, thus helping the liver more effectively eliminate toxins from the bloodstream. With modern lifestyle and a diet too rich in dairy, meat, sugar, white flour etc. it’s rather easy to put a load on the liver to deal with. In addition, pent up feelings or repressed emotions, and stress also add their toll to the work of our liver and can manifest symptoms like anger, rage, short-temper, irritability, and even depression. Dandelion root tea is “…recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people. Anyone who’s a victim of excessive fat, white flour, and concentrated sweeteners could benefit from a daily cup of dandelion tea ” says “Wildman” Steve Brill.
The root has a high content of lecithin, which contributes to its liver supportive qualities, and in particular works as a liver protector that some say can even help with the prevention of cirrhosis of the liver. It also has reported use for hepatitis, reduces liver swelling in jaundice. With its high mineral content dandelion root is an excellent blood purifier useful for conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and acne. The root is also a mineral rich blood builder used for treating mild anemia and promoting vitality. A well-known “bitter” that stimulates all digestive glands and organs, dandelion root gets the juices flowing like– bile secretion, hydrochloric acid production, and digestive enzymes thus rousting the appetite and supporting more efficient break down, and assimilation of nutrients from our food. It is a chart-topper when needing an herbal coffee substitute—when the root is roasted, it pairs very well with chicory root and together they make what some herbalist’s call “Cowboy Coffee”. Not only is it a rich, roasty, bitter tasting stand in for coffee, its going to help repair and restore your liver from your coffee habit–if you have one! I know I like a good cup, I am not afraid to admit it—some have gotten off coffee altogether with their yummy roasted root blends. And some just make sure they have a cup of dandelion root tea a few times a week to counter the effects of the coffee they consume—hey better than nothing!
The name Taraxacum actually translates to “bitter herb” in Arabic and Persian, but it does such a balanced job at it—I would describe it as “gracefully bitter”. It is full bodied indeed, but unlike other bitter herbs that can become intensely bitter and almost intolerable like gentian or goldenseal etc. to drink, dandelion root even after steeping for a while, remains palatable. The root contains inulin which is a sugar that doesn’t promote increased production of insulin, like refined sugars do, so with that being said it is a great herb to consider and incorporate into a wholistic regime for mature onset diabetes and hypoglycemia, and can also act as a specific herb in blood sugar balancing tea blends and formulas.
Harvesting: Leaves, usually before it flowers when tender and smaller—although I have read of people preferring after it flowers so try for yourself and see! This herb is pretty perpetual in most climates so prime harvest of the root is late fall and early to mid spring. For some climates you can harvest year round!
Be sure to harvest in areas that have not been treated with pesticides or herbicides! Some of us (depending on where you live) can also find dandelion leaves these days at your local natural food store or Co-op in the produce section or at your Farmer’s Market
Preparations: The root of the dandelion can be simmered into a decoction: take 1-2 tsp. dried root per cup of water and simmer in a saucepan with the lid on for 15-30 minutes.
To make an infusion from the dandelion leaf use 1 tbsp. dry or 2 tbsp. fresh per cup of water, bring water to just about a boil then turn off from heat add your herbs and let steep covered for 15-30 minutes or longer if desired.
To roast your dandelion root place dry chopped root on a cookie sheet, preheat oven to around 250 degrees and slow roast for about 45 minutes Otherwise if its fresh chopped roots your using, do the same process but allow for it to take up to 3 hours to slow roast and dry for use in tea’s etc.
You can also roast the dry root on a cast iron skillet over low heat until it reaches a nice roasted brown color about 15-20 minutes.
Most folks generally drink 1-3 cups of tea per day depending on their needs and sensitivities.
The leaves are wonderful in salads, sautéed, or steamed. Great in lasagna, pasta dishes, spanakopita and quiche and even in your green smoothie! The flower petals can also be tossed into salad adding a bright floral element and texture. Dandelion flowers have also been made into wine, syrups, pickled, added to stir fry, or even dipped in batter to become fritters. The root can be added to soups, and grains can be cooked in the decocted tea (after straining out the roots).
“Rootsie Tootsie” Tea
Roasty rich and rootsie, this tea supports and nourishes the liver, aids digestion, and relieves indigestion and gas, and can also help to balance blood sugar levels and help with sugar cravings.
1 part dried roasted Dandelion root (raw/unroasted is fine too!)
1 part dried roasted Chicory root
½ part dried anise seeds (fennel seeds are good too)
¼ part orange peel
¼ part dried cinnamon chips
Mix together above ingredients. Use a nice heaping teaspoonful of the blend per cup of water. In a saucepan bring your water to a boil toss in your root blend, put the lid on and turn heat to a very low simmer for about 15-25 minutes. Strain off herbs and enjoy your richly bitter with a hint of sweet, herbal tea. You can make a quart or so at a time if you want and keep the extra in your refrigerator—it will be good for about 3 days and you can just re-heat it as you want a cup.
Dandelion Pasta (adapted from an Herb Companion magazine recipe)
3 cups prepared dandelion greens
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
½ cup diced spring onions
¼ to ½ cup of kalamata olives
1 green bell pepper cut into strips
1 red bell pepper cut into strips
½ pound cooked pasta
Parmesan cheese to taste
Cook dandelion greens in 2 quarts salted boiling water for about 7 minutes Drain and squeeze greens dry and set aside
Sautee’ garlic, onions, and peppers in olive oil. Add the greens and kalamata olives to this mixture and stir, then add it all into your desired cooked pasta, tossing with salt and pepper and grated parmesan to taste.
Dandelion Sautee’ from Wildman Steve Brill
3 cups chopped onion
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chopped dandelion leaves
2 cups grated carrot
several cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. of wine
1 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
black pepper to taste
Sautee’ the onions in the olive oil. When soft, add the dandelions, carrot, garlic, wine, and soy sauce. Cook for 10-20 minutes until all the flavors blend.
Liver Support Massage Oil– a nourishing general tonic to support the liver “the organ that regulates and replenishes life force”, it can be also used on areas of tension and stagnation to reduce inflammation and get the blood moving. It can also support water retention and mild female hormonal imbalances (our liver plays a big role in “filtering” out excess hormones from the body) like pms, and irritability especially if coupled with some dandelion root tea!
First make your Dandelion blossom oil 2 oz. To make this: Take fresh blossoms and let them wilt for a day or so to release some of the water content. Place the herb in a glass jar and cover over plant material a good 2 inches above it with the oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, or even castor oil are all great choices) and seal the jar with a lid. Let it sit in a sunny window or counter for 2-4 weeks, shaking it every few days to cover all the surface area of the plant material. Strain and viola’ you have your herbal infused Dandelion Blossom oil! It has been used topically to support the overall health of the liver and general metabolism.
Next, add to this herbal infused oil the following liver supportive and regenerative essential oils:
5 drops of Lavender essential oil-- a harmonizer to the blend and my favorite stress-buster, promotes peace and relaxation while also helping to calm tension and stiff muscles
4 drops of Lemon essential oil– a well known “cleanser” and antiseptic with a cheery and uplifting disposition
Now to create the whole combination: Take a 2 ounce amber bottle and add the essential oils drop by drop to it. Then, fill the bottle with the Dandelion Blossom infused oil you made. Shake it all up to mix the e.o.’s well. Label and Date your creation and its ready for use.
The oil can be massaged over the liver area of the body which is located on your right side, upper quadrant area below your diaphragm. You can massage the oil over this area for liver support, and you can also use this massage oil on any other muscles or areas of the body experiencing tightness, stiffness, or where any stagnation seems to be causing tension– for a lot of us that is the neck and shoulders. If you don’t want to make this oil but are interested in purchasing something similar I recommend trying Dandelion Dynamo a fabulous infused oil offered by Flower Essence Services, the link I provided also includes their descriptive actions of the oil which can be applied to the above recipe I am sharing.
Make a Wish!
Happy Spring!—Give thanks to the Earth—“The Earth is our Mother–We must take care of Her/ Her sacred ground we walk upon, we must take care of Her!”
May you delight in the Green this Spring and let nature’s Wild Garden nourish and feed you body and soul.
May love bloom in your heart!
A hummingbird moth–the first I have seen! Hovering over the wildflowers!
Besides Author’s own thoughts, feelings, and acquired knowledge from her cherished Herbal Teacher’s the following books:
Identifiying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by “Wildman” Steve Brill with Evelyn Dan
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon
Peterson Filed Guide Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Hobbs and Foster
Staying Healthy With the Seasons by Elson Haas, M.D.
and of course you can always find vibrant herbs and supplies through Humboldt Herbals–I am not an affiliate, nor do I make any money off of this blog it is just to share and spread information out of love for the plants and people!
a fun song for Spring if for some reason you are still here reading–Thank You So Much for reading what I have to share!
*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.
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.
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!!
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 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.
**Chop up the cherries and chocolate
**Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir in the cherries and chocolate.
**Butter a bread loaf pan and pour batter into it.
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!
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.
This recipe filled 3 approx. 8oz. heart jars (which I scored at Michaels Craft Store) and one 16oz. jar
Begin by mixing together the sea salt, pink salt, and baking soda together
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
Now snip into pieces, and add in the kombu to the aromatic salt mixture
Next add in all of the beautiful flowers and herbs: roses, calendula, linden, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm (and of course any others you desire!!)
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…
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!
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…..
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!
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!
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!
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!
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 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 (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 (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!
*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.
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
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!!