July 24, 2014
Without even really realising it, we often have a treasure trove of natural, powerful, safe medicines growing on our window sills or sitting in our pantries. The everyday, common herbs and spices we adorn our foods with should not be overlooked for their medicinal properties. More than simply adding culinary flare, these beauties have so much more to offer. Today, I am showing you some of my favourites, and how to use them.
Stimulant, tonic, carminative, spasmolytic, rubefacient (reddens the skin), antiseptic.
Cayenne certainly grabs your attention. It is a wonderful cardiovascular tonic and circulatory stimulant, helping to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, improve the blood flow through the veins and arteries and increase warmth. Cayenne is a strong antioxidant, and a great digestive tonic – it helps to increase gastrointestinal juices and stimulate appetite. Used topically, it works as a counterirritant while simultaneously blocking pain receptors.
How to use it:
A pinch in a glass of water (with lemon and honey to flavour it).
Warming stimulant, carminative (dispels gas), aromatic, astringent (contracts body tissues), antispasmotic, antiseptic, antiviral.
Cinnamon powder is ground from the dried inner bark of the tree. It is traditionally used for digestive ailments, particularly, flatulence, irritable bowel, nausea and diarrhoea. It is also useful for menstrual irregularities and fighting yeast infections.
How to use it:
Add a teaspoon to your smoothies or sprinkle over a hot drink.
Combines well with ginger.
Carminative (dispels gas), mild local anaesthetic for toothache, warming stimulant, antiseptic, antispasmodic.
Clove is a great remedy for toothache, and chewing on a clove bud may help anaesthetise the area before you get to see a dentist. It is also a great carminative, combining well with other warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and ginger – in a lovely chai tea for example – to help ease gastric distress and improve digestion.
How to use it:
Chew fresh cloves for toothache, or dab a cotton tip in the oil and dab onto the affected area.
Stimulant, carminative (dispels gas), antispasmodic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic (induces sweating), rubefacient (causes redness of the skin), anti-emetic (prevents nausea and vomiting).
Perhaps my all time favourite, simply because it is so versatile. Ginger is a true remedy for many digestive complaints. It works as a carminative to help ease wind and bloating. It eases indigestion. And it works a treat for nausea, whether it be from an upset tummy, morning or travel sickness. Aside from its therapeutic use for digestive ailments, it is also a fantastic circulatory stimulant, and helps bring blood flow to the surface. As a stimulant, ginger can also help increase sweating, which is useful in case of a fever, to bring the body temperature down. Finally, ginger is useful for treating respiratory conditions. Soothing to coughs and colds and even sore throats when taken as a gargle.
How to use it:
Make an infusion: slice an inch of ginger and steep in hot water.
Antispasmodic, antiseptic, antiemetic, carminative, analgesic (relieves pain), nervine, aromatic, diaphoretic.
Peppermint is so easy to grow and soothing to the digestive tract. A well known stomach tonic, it helps to promote digestion, ease flatulence, cramps, spasms, and bring relief to irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint contains menthol, an aromatic oil that has antimicrobial and antiviral properties. You can use a little peppermint oil blended with your lip balm to help treat cold sores – in addition to being antiviral, it is soothing, cooling, and relieves pain. Peppermint can also help improve the flow of bile and break up gallstones.
How to take it:
Peppermint makes a lovely infusion. It also helps make other herbal infusion more palatable.
Diuretic, carminative, expectorant, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, gastric tonic, uterine tonic, emmenagogue.
Parsley is one of my favourite herbs because it helps us ladies out so much with all things pelvis, bladder and uterus related. Parsley is a natural diuretic and helps eliminate bloating and water retention. Not only that, it also helps maintain kidney and bladder health, by assisting with the elimination of waste. As an emmenagogue, parsley helps to stimulate blood flow to the pelvic region and the uterus, making it helpful in encouraging a delayed period and in relieving menstrual pain. It is also a great digestive, helping dispel gas. Finally, parsley sprigs chewed at the end of the meal help to freshen the breath (thanks to all that lovely chlorophyll!).
How to take it:
Again, as an infusion, or by adding a handful to your smoothies.
Antispasmodic, antiseptic, parasiticide, carminative, choleretic (stimulates the output of bile), diuretic, sedative, anti-depressive, circulatory tonic.
Rosemary stimulates the circulatory and nervous systems, making it useful for treating headaches and migraines. You can either take it internally as an infusion, or externally as an oil. It improves blood flow and strengthens fragile blood vessels. Rosemary also helps reduce flatulence and stimulates the digestive tract and gallbladder, to increase the flow of bile. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is also helpful for painful periods.
How to use it:
Place a few stems in hot water and steep, to drink as an infusion.
Dry the herb and prepare as an infused oil to rub on your temples when you have a headache.
Antiseptic, carminative, astringent, aromatic, tonic, reduces sweating, oestrogenic.
The botanical name for Sage, Salvia, is a Latin derivative that means to save. Sage is great for oral health. Like parsley, it helps freshen the breath, and can be used as a mouthwash. The astringent and antiseptic properties help prevent gum disease and mouth ulcers. Try it as a gargle with a little added apple cider vinegar for sore throats, laryngitis or tonsillitis. Take it as an infusion to help settle the stomach and fight inflammation. Its astringent properties will help ease mild diarrhoea (astringent simply means the drawing together of body tissues). It also has oestrogenic action – it can help stimulate breast milk production and ease hormonal nights sweats and hot flushes.
How to use it:
Prepare as an infusion to either drink or gargle.
As a mouthwash.
Antiseptic, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, anti-microbial, anthelmintic (anti-parasitic), astringent (contracts body tissues), carminative, expectorant.
This little Mediterranean shrub contains volatile oil that helps settle a grumpy stomach. It is strongly antiseptic so this makes it useful for treating sore throats, tonsillitis and laryngitis as a gargle. As an expectorant (relieves chest congestion and expels mucous), it is particularly good for coughs.
You can use it topically (as a cream) to treat an infected wound.
How to use it:
Pick a little fresh from the garden, steep in hot water and enjoy.
Stimulant, carminative (dispels gas), aromatic, digestive, anti-inflammatory.
Available whole, or as a bright golden yellow powder, turmeric is useful for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, skin conditions and inflammatory bowel. It is also rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. Cancer protective and anti tumor.
How to use it:
Slice it fresh and steep in hot water to take as an infusion (a little lemon and honey combine well like this).
Add half a teaspoon of the powder to your smoothies.
July 17, 2014
I often get asked about the correct way to soak and activate nuts, and why it is beneficial. So today’s post demystifies this simple process so you can enjoy healthy and extra tasty nuts, raw or in your cooking (or un-cooking!).
Why activate them?
Nuts and seeds are sleeping. They are not yet ready to germinate. To protect them in their dormant state, they have an anti-nutrient called phytic acid, which tastes very bitter and deters the pesky birds and other pests from bothering them until it is time to wake up and grow. Phytic acid, when ingested, will bind to minerals in the digestive tract such as iron, calcium and zinc, inhibiting your absorption of them. In order to release this anti-nutrient, nuts and seeds are best soaked and even sprouted – also known as being ‘activated’. The process of soaking mimics an environment in which they may start to grow. Activating your nuts is indeed beneficial, especially for those with compromised digestion.
You can activate any nut or seed with a skin. Try almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and pecans. You may be surprised at how much tastier and less bitter they are after this process.
Generally, those that are pale and have no skins such as cashews and macadamias do not need to be activated.
One last note – I like to use a splash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, as it helps facilitate the process – but even just using water is perfectly fine.
A large quantity of raw, organic nuts (or seeds)
Apple cider vinegar
- Place your raw nuts (or seeds) in a large glass bowl and cover with filtered water
- Add a small splash of apple cider vinegar
- Let soak for a minimum of two hours, ideally overnight
- Drain the water
- Spread evenly on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 115˚F till completely dry. Store in an airtight container.
July 10, 2014
Poor Nana has such bad circulation in her hands and feet because she has a slightly delicate heart, so I made her this beautiful fragrant oil to use as a stimulating foot rub. This is a nice recipe to play with in winter since it’s so cold, and the simple ingredients used are warming and boost the blood flow. I’ve used ginger, rosemary and olive oil, and the nice thing is, these are all things you may already have at home. A few drops of basil essential oil adds a divine scent. The most important part of preparing a home remedy of course (or a meal), is to set your intentions before you make it. It’s in this way that you can really amplify the healing properties of the plants. Here is a little more on each of the ingredients…
Rosemary has long been considered the herb for circulation and memory enhancement. It is often referred to as the ‘herb of remembrance’ and a sprig of it on your desk is said to help improve your memory as you study. The essential oils also act as a pick-me-up, stimulating the central nervous system. A mix of lavender together with rosemary is also said to lift the spirits and ease depression. The substances in the herb help slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, in turn helping prevent Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t just improve blood flow to the brain, but to the rest of the body as well. It is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage and protect the delicate capillaries. The oils are wonderful for muscular pain.
Also considered a circulatory stimulant, ginger is one of my favourites as it is so readily available, smells and tastes divine, and has so many therapeutic benefits. Aside from promoting blood flow, it is also highly anti-inflammatory, and useful in cases of nausea, travel sickness and upset tummies. If you have cold hands and feet, a little ginger will help bring the blood to the surface.
Basil Essential Oil
I added a few drops of Basil essential oil because it is indicated for Rheumatism and pain in the joints and connective tissue. This was specifically for my Nana. It smells so lovely, but other alternatives for a circulation tonic would be Cedarwood, Cypress, Bitter Orange, Sandalwood and Thyme.
If you are after specific foods or herbs to help increase circulation you can try;
Rosemary and Ginger Circulation Oil
1 fresh ginger
1 good handful fresh rosemary
250ml olive oil
Few drops essential oil of your choice
- Slice your ginger into really thin pieces like the photograph above
- Spread them out on a dehydrator tray with the rosemary and dehydrate till all moisture has been removed. It is important to have dry plant material when making infused oils so that they don’t ferment.
- Fill a glass jar with all of your dried plant material, then pour the oil over the top, right to the very top so there is no space for any air to get in. Add your essential oils.
- Gently tap the jar on a hard surface to remove any bubbles, then cap the lid.
- Let it infuse like this for about two weeks.
- After this time, decant into a small bottle, and store in dark, cool place. Massage into your hands and feet to boost the circulation.
July 4, 2014
This is a meditation for love. Because love heals everything.
Find a quiet time to do this, when you have space to sit for at least 15 minutes without being interrupted. I love to do this in the mornings. I wake early, have my lemon and water and put some herbs on to boil to enjoy as a tea later. Then I head back down to bed while they’re simmering away, and get in my M-Zone.
The benefit of doing this in morning means you are less likely to fall asleep mid way through!
Start by closing your eyes, and taking 10, deep, slow breaths. Breathe in for the count of three, hold for the count of four, and breathe out for the count of five. Feel your chest expanding with each breath.
Now tune in and connect with the Universal energy. Become consciously aware of the vastness of the universe, and the great power and energy within it. Say to yourself;
Universal energy, may I ask to work with you now please. Can I please share in some of your great light, to cleanse, balance and realign my energies, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Imagine a pillar of white light, being directed down from the stars directly into your crown chakra on the top of your head. Use your breath to guide it into your body and let it travel down your spinal column, through each of your chakra centres, and moving further – deep into the earth. Feel it clearing and correcting any imbalances. Feel it anchoring you into the ground.
Sit with this for a few minutes.
Now, imagine a pillar of rose pink light, travelling down into your crown, down your spine, and filling the crevices of your body with love, compassion, and warmth. Imagine this light expanding and growing stronger, feel what it feels like to experience pure, unconditional love. Let it wash over every emotional, mental and physical aspect of yourself, let it bathe all of you.
Sit with this again for a few minutes.
Next, imagine there are shutters over your heart. Open them. Beam this pink light out from your heart space. Radiate it. Feel the light swell from your body and surround you in a bubble of pure love.
Again, sit with this a few minutes.
If you like, you can consciously ask that this love and light be amplified, and visualise it extending from your aura space to saturate your room, or to fill your home, your back yard, your street…
Ask that this love energy stay with you for the whole day.
To finish, thank the Universal energy for sharing the light with you, and imagine it travelling from the earth back up your spine, through your head, and back into the universe. Send your thanks as the light returns to Source.
When you are ready, after a few deep breaths, you can open your eyes and start your day.
June 25, 2014
I saw a great quote the other day – ‘Keep your friends close and your snacks closer’ – couldn’t agree more! Here is a list of some of my favourite clean eating snack ideas. Print them out and you will never be stuck for inspiration again!
Healthy trail mix: activated almonds, activated brazil nuts, activated pumpkin seeds, goji berries, dried cranberries, coconut flakes, coarse sea salt
Toasted nori sheets
Pop corn cooked in coconut oil with Himalayan rock salt
Vegetable sticks with raw dip
Coconut milk blended with berries, vanilla and cinnamon
Coconut water and flesh
Banana and date ‘sandwich’
Capsicum boats filled with smashed avocado and nutritional yeast
Sliced apple with almond butter
Dehydrated papaya slices
Freshly made cashew milk
Freshly steamed edamame
Zucchini or beet chips
Home made chickpea nuts
Medjool date stuffed with almond butter
Celery filled with almond butter and raisins
Zucchini hummus and raw flax crackers
Antioxidant berry mix
Frozen berries blended with a little lemon juice, maple syrup or stevia