Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wee Favorite Gifts; For Herbalists Who Lead Plastic-Free Lives

Herbalists are fun folks to get gifts for, if you know what they love. Its nature.
In the modern world of plastic stuff and electronic toys, sometimes an herbalist would be happy enough to just get a stick rather than those things. But finding just the right stick can be hard, so I've come up with a few plastic-free gift ideas that can serve to keep your herb-lover happy all year 'round.

Herbalists want natural health care tools; lets start with that stick.

A wooden toothbrush with natural bristles will clean teeth without damaging tooth enamel or scratch sensitive gums the way that synthetic toothbrushes will do. These wood toothbrushes make dental care a safe and pleasing task. I've been buying these finely made toothbrushes since the 1980's when starting to remove all plastics from my home and life. Your herbalist will love these, and buy one for yourself too while you're at it.

Wood hair brushes with wooden pins (instead of bristles) set into a soft pneumatic air cushion base are another herbalist luxury. They gently massages and stimulate the scalp as you brush, distributing natural oils along the hair shaft. Using wood to brush hair eliminates static in the hair, making it more manageable and easier to style.

Both these wooden gifties can be found for under $10

Glass is a pretty nice material for health care tools as well. It's made of mostly silica. Many herbs contain silica, and so does sand. As an herbalist I can tell you, we love herbs and sand!

Form-fitting glass eye wash cups are an excellent maintenance tool for people with dry eyes or that wear contact lenses, to use with an eye rinse. They are also handy for keeping in a medicine chest to use to flush the eyes when something has gotten into them, or is irritating them. Glass eye cups are beautiful to look at when not in use, and can be purchased from a vintage shop, or bought new for under $10

Lovely things can be made out of metal as well. Metal is created out of ore, a kind of rock. It's true, I can't make this up! And what herbalist doesn't love rocks?

If your herbalist loves to travel, it's nice to be prepared for a get-away. They will surely enjoy a stainless steel metal soap box. I know that I love mine. They are durable, won't rust or break so they will have them for a lifetime. You can make them doubly happy by creating a stainless steel toothbrush case to go with it. It's not as hard as it sounds. Purchase a stainless steel cigar case, which are made well and to last. Next, if you are not handy this way yourself, find someone to drill a small hole in one end for aeration. You now have a travel tooth brush case to go with your soap case. Nice, very nice indeed.

If you've watched Steve Martin's movie The Jerk and shudder at the idea of getting a thermos for someone after hearing the song: I'm Picking Out A Thermos For You, please, get us a thermos! Look for any brand of food or drink storage that is durable, and attractive of course, after all it is a gift! The stainless steel type is a great choice. Make sure that the inside is also stainless, as food, especially hot food or liquid, can be easily contaminated by coming into contact with plastic. You can find the wide mouth style for soup and narrow-mouth style for herbal infusions and tea. The herbalist in your life will be so pleased that you cared enough to find just the right one to suit their sensibilities.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Perfect Excuse For Chai Tea & How To Make It

Mornings and evenings will be getting a bit cooler now as we draw near to fall. Perfect excuse to make some chai tea. Chai is really just spice tea and there are no rules as to what it must have in it. In India, where its from, it can just be cardamon and black tea with milk and honey. I prefer to leave the black tea out and use herb roots, seeds, barks and spices. The ingredients can be chosen for flavor or for their healing properties.

A little chai history & how it works on our bodies:
Chai gained popularity as it was formulated by Sikh spiritual leader Yogi Bhajan. I learned how to make chai by being a chef for one of the Sikh households that followed his teachings. His version includes black tea, black pepper and cloves among other spices. These are in there, I was told, to stimulate and somewhat agitate the nervous system as the Kundalini yoga we were doing was building it.

Now this stimulation/agitation of the nervous system is fine for the yoga practitioner. For us who have fallen off the kundalini yoga wagon and only do yoga sporadically this combination can make folks a bit 'out of their body', nervous and agitated. So, I generally leave out the black pepper, clove and black tea.

Whole milk, half and half or cream is added to chai to buffer the spices. Bringing milk/cream to a boil in the presence of the spices helps to break down the milk proteins to make them easily digestible. Pure milk is considered 'sattvic' or spiritually pure and coming from the highest vibration which conveys this into our cells. If folks are sensitive to milk, chai spices tend to make it easier to take. Dairy can be replaced with hazelnut milk or oat milk as they are rich enough to be comparable.

Honey is added to the chai after the cooking process is complete. Honey is also considered 'sattvic' and is deeply nourishing. Honey is never cooked as it loses these qualities. We know that honey is loaded with nutrients, some of which are damaged by cooking, but not damaged by being put into the hot tea. The sugars in the honey convert to very simple sugars if cooked and enter the blood too fast, giving a person an odd 'sugar high'. So the honey must be raw and never cooked. If honey is not desired, just leave it out.

"If you cannot see God in All, you cannot see God at all." ~ Yogi Bhjan

In the light of his words I started meddling with his formula.

There are few spices that are also considered 'sattvic': cardamon, cinnamon, coriander, fennel seed, ginger and turmeric. I also found that other roots, barks, seeds, dried hips and berries could be added to the formula to get various health benefits. Burdock for skin health and blood sugar balance, dandelion for liver health and as a very mild blood purifier and laxative, bilberries for eye health, rosehips for their vitamin C and assistance with building healthy connective tissue, etc. And the spices used also have therapeutic uses: cinnamon reduces cholesterol levels and causes our cells to be less insulin resistant, coriander is cooling, ginger a warming circulatory stimulant and anti-inflammatory, fennel seed is a respiratory anti-inflammatory, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that works so well for arthritis and balances blood sugar levels.

So where's the recipe? You are going to make it yourself! What do you need your 'chai' to do?
Choose from the ingredients I've mentioned, at least 3 of them to make the flavor interesting. Taste each of them first.

You are going to have to find quality spices, roots, barks, berries, etc. First, they must be in a somewhat whole state and not powdered. Powdered spices will make a mucky mess. They must be flavorful, look vital and not gray and have a fragrant aroma. Many sources & suppliers of these roots & spices are poor quality. I sell the top quality in my apothecary. If you are having trouble finding this therapeutic grade, call or email me. I'll send you the good stuff.

Once you know what ingredients you want to use, determine which one is the mildest. You will use more of this. Which one is strongest, you will use less of this. Create a mix of your ingredients to make 1/2 cup measure total. Add this to 1 quart of filtered or quality well water in a stainless steel or glass cooking pot. Stir this, turn the stove heat on high and put the pot on the heat. Bring this mixture to a boil and turn the stove heat down to the lowest, simmer setting and cover the pot. Simmer your ingredients for 40 minutes or up to 1 hour. Turn off the heat and strain the roots & spices away. Pour the liquid back into the pot and turn the heat up high again. Add 1/4 cup whole milk, half & half or cream and stir. Bring this to a boil and remove from the heat immediately.  Allow this to cool just five minutes before adding honey to taste. You may drink this hot or cold. Put this in a teapot to dispense if you drink it hot.  You can reheat it once it is cold by simmering it in a cooking pot on low until just warm. You can also keep it warm by covering the teapot with a tea cozy or by placing the chai into a low-heat crock-pot.

I hope you enjoy this! Tell me how yours turns out, write down your recipe so you can tell me what your ingredients were or know how to change the recipe more to your liking.