Friday, August 7, 2009

Longevity Electuary: an East-West Chyawanprash

The August air is surely one of the most pregnant of the year. The air smells of sweet mead and layers of flowers coming and going. The bees are stupefied on the Rose of Sharon trees, heavy with so much pollen they can't even steer. The sunlight pours at noon, then tilts her smile a little earlier, luring the garden into fruition. The morning's air cool on my cheeks, nostalgically reminding me of desired goals, intended actions. After the crisp morning has tricked me into working, the warmth brings me back into my body and into nourishment.

Upon inspiration from my summer herbal intensive students, I replenished my jar of rejuvenative honey paste, and am offering the recipe here.

There are a million and one ways to make an herbal honey, an electuary, honey syrup, and on and on. My intention with this honey paste is for deep energy, somewhat in the tradition of Chyawanprash, the complex rasayana paste in the Ayurvedic tradition of healing. I do not have access to the vast array in the original recipes - and my simple formula is quite lovely.

You can play with your own variations as well.

In an 8 oz jar, add:

3 tsp Ashwagandha and or Shatawari powder
3 tsp Spirulina powder
3 tsp Slippery Elm or Mallow powder
2 tsp Siberian Ginseng (Eluthero) powder
1 tsp Cardamom powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
Cover almost full with good local, raw honey
Add 1 tsp of Rose hydrosol or Rose elixir
dried Elderberry powder optional as well!

Feel free to create your own, according to your personal herbal needs or constitution. Black pepper or ginger can be added for kaphas, extra rose or cherry for pittas, or taken in oatmeal for vatas.

Slowly (as to avoid the infamous "cloud poof") stir with a spoon until all the powders are smoothed into the honey. Label and store. Refrigeration isn't necessary.

Your longevity electuary is intended to be used daily, eaten by the spoonful, used on toast, stirred in warm milk with ghee, or in yogurt or smoothies. These herbs will provide you with stamina, clarity, physical and mental energy, good digestion, and strong mucous membranes. It is also a notorious aphrodisiac.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sweet Medicine

This month's blog party hosted by Kiva Rose is all about Sweet Medicine. Thank you Kiva!

I know herbal honey, cordials and syrups are well covered ... so I hope to offer something a little different... one of my dearest specialties, if I do say so myself.

Sweet oil.

I'm probably most in love with making herbal oils over many other menstruums. I love the feel, the versatility, the romantic, sensual nature, and really everything about it.

One of my formerly best selling skin products was my Lover's Cream ... a sweet, light, edible cream with herbal oil, herbal honey, and some tingly yet gentle essential oils.

But you don't have to get that complex... for sweet oils are easy to make!

First, you may want to use a different oil than the usual olive, as some sweet herbs taste too culinary in olive oil. But suit yourself. My favorite is apricot kernel, with it's fresh cherry-almond aroma. You can also use grapeseed or sweet almond oils. Unrefined coconut oil is especially sensual, and is lovely to use from it's semi-solid state, or warmed until liquid. Yum.

Next, you'll want to comb your cabinets or garden for your most favorite sweet or aromatic herbs. Fresh herbs should be carefully made or wilted first to avoid mold. Herbs that I really adore infused in oil include:

Vanilla beans
Cardamom pods/seeds
Stevia leaves or powder
Damiana leaf
Grated Nutmeg - in moderation
Lemon Verbena
Orange peel
Dried roses
Peppermint leaf and flower
Hyssop leaf and flower
Freshly ground coffee beans
Sassafras root
Cherry bark (Prunus spp.)
Birch (Black birch or yellow birch bark, also leaves)

Next, fill your jar 1/3 full if using powdered herb, or full if using loose dried herbs or freshly wilted herbs. It's best if freshly harvested herbs have wilted 2-5 days, depending on how much water content the plant has.

Cover your plant material to the brim with oil, label and cover. Let steep in a warm spot for one moon cycle.

If you're using powdered herb, stir it at first to saturate the herb in the oil. I have also found the taste and fragrance releases better if gently warmed before straining.

If you wish to use a fresh root such as ginger, a yogurt warmer or carefully watched crock pot method (two days intermittent low heat) work beautifully.

When your sweet oil is ready, strain it through muslin or layered cheesecloth, bottle, label, and store in a cool dry place - that is if it makes it to storage.

There are a million lovely ways to use your oil, both internally and externally. Obviously, you can use your oil for sensual massage with your sweetie, without displeasing your taste buds. But you can also enjoy the health giving benefits of self massage, using this heart centered oil to massage gratitude and attention into your own muscles and skin. Sweet herbs relax the nerves as well as work through scent to relax the limbic system - all too hyper in this day and age. These herbs, combined with self love in the form of intentional massage, can serve to clear up stagnation in the abdomen, throat, and neck areas, as well as feeding and soothing all your layers of skin. For more information on the rejuvenative powers of Ayurvedic self massage; abhyanga; you can read the description at the Maharishi website.

If you are a cream-maker, you can invent lovely creams with your sweet oil. If you are a kitchen Goddess, you can use your sweet oil in desserts, sweet bisque soups, or in your warm milks and hot toddies. If you are a locks lady, you can treat your dreads or tresses with sweet warmed oil mixed with vitamin E, shea butter,or Basil essential oil. And ... if you make salves... you can make the most sensual of body butters and lip balms when combined with cocoa butter and unrefined beeswax.
Gifts of sweet oil are well loved, too, and look so pretty in a basket. Women experiencing female transitions or discomforts appreciate a belly and breast soothing oil, and women dancing with breast issues or ovarian cysts can benefit greatly from applying healing oils, especially when combined with specific herbs such as Red Clover blossom, Violet leaf, or Dandelion flower oil.

I hope you will gift yourself with a little collection of sweet herbal oils for all of your daily treatings.

(photo of sweet oil #9: pink rose powder, sassafras root, vanilla beans, and crushed cardamom pods in apricot kernel oil)