Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Perfume of the Gods

Last night I decided to pull out some of my most precious aromatic materials to make special little incense balls.

The formula included Baieido's Sandalwood & Excellent Jinko (very high grade woods from Japan), Powdered Cinnamon, Ground Ambrette Seed, a few other aromatics and some Makko for binding.

To that was added a bit of honey, Orange Blossom Hydrosol, chants of a Gardnerian High Priestess and enough water to stir it up into into a clay like consistency.

From there all I had to do was roll it into little balls, let them dry overnight and now I have yummy incense that is very easy to burn on the little Japanese bamboo charcoals.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Soufflé of Life

It came to me today that life is a lot like baking a soufflé (I feel like Forrest Gump's mom ;). I have been graced with (or attracted if you will) all of the ingredients that I need in my life to make something fabulous, but received no recipe. It is up to me to figure out how to organize these ingredients, prepare them, combine them, add the proper amount of heat, get the timing all right and enjoy a divine experience as the result.

Soufflés can be tricky. The blended ingredients that are placed into the oven are not yet a soufflé. Trust has to be placed in the oven that it will work its magic on the mix. Having patience to not peek in the oven before it is ready is one of the most essential actions (or lack of actions) to not sink a soufflé! This is true for life as well. Taoists call it Wu Wei ( 无为 - wúwéi ).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's a Keeper!

I love my Keeper! It is a reusable menstrual cup. I've used it for over 15 years now. In all that time, between it and my Glad Rags, I've not had to buy disposable "feminine protection" (needing specifically "protection" is a throwback concept from the days when menstrual blood was deemed as powerful and dangerous ;).

The average woman will dispose of about 12,000 pads and/or tampons over the course of her childbearing years. Disposable menstrual products take up a larger volume in landfill than disposable diapers (which BTW I also cloth diapered both of my children). Also their manufacture uses many trees and releases toxic chemicals into rivers and oceans. Disposable tampons and pads are by far the most common menstrual management items. The majority of women believe they are the only choices available, but there are other alternatives, closely matched in convenience level to disposables, which and are far more healthy for the ladies themselves and Mother Nature as well.

The Keeper, The Keeper Mooncup and The Diva Cup are all reusable menstrual cups with similar designs. They have all the convenience of a tampon without the paper/fiber waste and issues that tampons can have - such as being overly absorbent. In sharp contrast, some may remember the disposable cup called "Instead", which was a horrible product and in no way compares to the other 3 cups I mentioned!

I encourage every woman to look into the alternatives to disposable products for her "lady's time" needs. I also recommend the book Her Blood Is Gold by Lara Owen and The Museum of Menstruation web site.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Salt, pepper, rosemary, ginger .. soothing muscles or seasoning chicken ?

I've been stretching a lot and practicing some new "stuff" in Kung Fu (I am training in Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong). It has me rather sore in several places.

A few arnica tablets, a good soak in a rosemary and eucalyptus salt bath, followed by a rub made from an essential oil blend of black pepper, fresh ginger and rosemary diluted to 2% in a base of arnicated oil, and of course, proper rest, should do the trick.

Incidentally, that same EO blend, diluted to 2-5% in olive oil instead of arnicated oil (which is NOT edible) makes a great seasoning for chicken!

Rosemary can be a bit too stimulating for some at night, so that should be taken into consideration when making a muscle rub blend for evening use. For me, it is not usually an issue. I have no doubts that rosemary oil or not, I shall sleep well tonight and have dreams filled with symbols and insights :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jewelweed .. not bleach

I know that for folks reading this in many parts of the US, poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) isn't something they are necessarily thinking about, as the leaves have fallen and the gardening work has trickled to a minimum. But in my part of the country (gulf coast Texas), the growing season is still going strong, so its on my mind. Also, don't let Autumn and Winter lull you into a sense of security when it comes to poison ivy. The presence of urushiol (a chemical irritant present in the sap) is not limited to fresh ivy leaves. It is found in the dried leaves, and throughout the plant, even during the dormant season. It also sticks to clothes and pet fut, so a romp in the woods, or late season clean ups of the yard can end with a rash.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensisis) is Mama Nature's soothing answer to Poison Ivy's vicious wrath. Chlorine bleach is NOT! I bring this up because apparently the "home remedy" of dousing one's already ivy irritated skin with a toxic chemical and known dermal irritant is very common, and not just limited to experimentation by total dumbasses either. Even one of the smartest cookies I know was masochistic enough to do that to his poor skin (names have been removed to protect the goofy ;). Words to the wise .. never put salt in your eyes (or was it always put salt in your eyes? ;) and never put chlorine bleach on your skin, especially irritated and/or broken skin {grinz}. (Yeah, I'm going to give him a bit of grief here and there about that one for the rest of this lifetime - tee hee)

Easy Wildflowers sells jewelweed transplants in springtime to grow in the garden.

The Wildman Steve Brill has a great site for information on wild foraging for jewelweed (and other plants).

Herbs Etc of New Mexico carries a great spray called Ivy Releaf. Do a Google search to find other resources for already made jewelweed soaps, salves and sprays.

It is really something worth having in the home if there is any chance of exposure to poison ivy, any time of the year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saliva and aromatic chemicals

I remember in elementary school learning about Helen Keller. Someone posed the question to the class "which one of your senses would you give up if you had to?". Unlike everyone else, my answer was NOT taste or smell, and I suppose it is not coincidental that in my adult life I use my nose professionally and I almost chose a career as a chef.

This morning I was reading about how bacteria in saliva can turn odourless sulphur-containing compounds from fruit and vegetables into aromatic chemicals called thiols and how they plan on using this bacterial action to flavor foods.

See the NewScientist article: For tastier food, just add bacteria

Have a gastronomical weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Camphorous incense for the Full Moon

I so very much enjoy making incense. Grinding the herbs, blending the oils .. it brings me back to the days of working at Enchantments in NYC's East Village/Lower East Side.

Today is the Full Moon, and I have a been smoldering a variety I call Luna Piena (that means Full Moon in Italian). It is a particularly camphorous concoction, laden with high cineol rosemary, borneo camphor crystals, sandalwood, juniper berries and oil, etc.

Enjoy the full moon tonight! I absolutely will be, with a vase full of fresh flowers from my subtropical garden.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Ok, so when last I blogged I mentioned that I was making Echinacea and Goldenseal tinctures, and then proceeded to only discuss the Echinacea, so today its Goldenseal's turn!

Along with Echinacea, Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) root tincture is another staple in my medicine cabinet. As with synthetic anti-biotics, this is not one to be used frivolously, both for health reasons, but also because it is in many cases being over harvested and in a non sustainable manner, which is leading to potential problems for the future of the species. Also, overuse is waste and waste is unnecessary! Never does it do any good (there's my lecture for the day ;) .

Goldenseal roots have traditionally been used for used by Native Americans to wash the local areas of wound as well to improve appetite and digestive problems including diarrhea, mucous membrane inflammation of the digestive tract and liver disorders. Additionally it has historical use in treatment of skin and eye inflammations (combined with marshmallow root for the latter).

I personally use it externally in salve for wounds and for internal infections. Unlike its synthetic counterparts, it does not kill all of your friendly bacterial flora and tear apart your gut.

In my humble opinion it is certainly a botanical worth researching and deciding if it is something that could be beneficial in your own medicine cabinet! I warn you though, it is very bitter tasting. Capsules are preferred by some.

Goldenseal - Grieve's Modern Herbal

Goldenseal Cultivation

University of Maryland - Goldenseal

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Echinacea and Goldenseal Tinctures

'Tis the season to make medicinal tinctures. Today I started fresh batches of Echinacea (E. angustifolia) root and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) root tinctures. They will be ready in several weeks.

Long known to herbalists, Echinacea has in modern times been shown in scientific studies to boost immunity, help the body fight colds, infection, and many other things that may ail ye. It is a staple in my home.

I find it very comforting to be able to simply grow this lovely plant species (that makes for great cut flowers too) in my garden, powder the root, and steep it in Everclear (grain alcohol) to produce a powerful medicine with a long shelf life for myself and my family.

Next blog - Goldenseal.