As summer is dwindling, we can all feel the change of season on the horizon. Here in Sonoma County, the past few days have been exceptionally hot and I've been enjoying the last of my favorite cooling beverages before fall comes.
Hibiscus Flowers are on that list, as they are cooling, sweet, astringent, and in Ayurveda, pitta pacifying. Hibiscus helps to purify the blood, the heart (physically and spiritually) and also improve skin complexion, the circulatory, reproductive, and nervous system.
For a simple hibiscus infusion, let 1/4 ounce of dried Hibiscus Flowers sit in 1 pint of cool water for about 15 minutes. Traditional Medicinals has a great Hibiscus Blend if you'd rather use tea bags instead of loose flowers. Locally, I recommend The Kefiry's fermented "Hibiscus Maya: Royal Flower Elixir" - very refreshing and just sweet enough. Enjoy this last week of summer! Xo
Jill Nussinow, also known as the Veggie Queen has just published her third book, Nutrition CHAMPS. You'll want to keep this piece of inspiration nearby, as it's loaded with plant-based recipes that take you through each food group. Her knowlege and vast experience with vegitarian cuisine is helpful not only when deciding what to cook, but how to make healthy, nutritous eating simple and enjoyable.
I had the honor of contributing four spice blends to the book, one for each season. Below is the 'Summer Seasoning Blend.' I highly recommend cooking with fresh herbs and experimenting with your own blends. It makes all the difference to enhance each meal with the tastes you love. Especially, with the bounty of fresh garden herbs this season. You can purchase Jill's book here in print or as an e-book. Happy cooking! xo
Spring has definitely arrived and I’ve been feeling the surge of activity and inspiration. Lately for me, the point of balance seems to be between holding a larger vision strong and clear while at the same time taking the necessary steps in front of me. Next week I have the honor of assisting and facilitating a week-long Pancha Karma treatment and to work along side a dear friend and colleague, Heather Anthony, the founder of Revive Ayurveda. Pancha Karma is a rejuvenation and purification process specific to each person that's geared towards deep healing from the inside out.
In the spirit of spring and cleansing, here is a staple Ayurvedic tea recipe called CCF. Those who are familiar with this blend know that CCF stands for a coriander, cumin, and fennel. These herbs that are also used a culinary spices are combined in equal proportions. They are tridoshic, meaning they're balancing for all three doshas - vata,pitta, and kapha. This tea blend is also diuretic, which helps to clear excess kapha or water accumulation, which can be present this time of year. Sip throughout the day for overall health and digestive support for before, during, or after meals.
1/2 tsp. Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp. Corridor Seeds
1/2 tsp. Fennel Seeds
*Boil whole herbs together with 1 1/2 cup of water for about 5 minutes.
*Steep for 10 minutes or more, then strain.
*You can also make the tea with the powdered form of each herb. Mix a 1/2 teaspoon of each with a cup of hot water.
Most of us are familiar with that time of day when our energy dips and reaching for sweets or caffeine feels like the only option. Some days it's not possible step away from the desk or task at hand and we have to power through. Last week I had a lot on my plate and got into the habit of having an afternoon snack of chai and chocolate to overcome "the slump." Although it gave me a temporary boost, it wasn't really what I needed.
Don't get me wrong, chai and chocolate are wonderful but when they're used to mask deep exhaustion or lack of sleep, it can be detrimental (trust me, I learned the hard way and got sick!). I find that when these habits orbit back around they really remind us to draw upon healthier resources and live the wisdom we know. Luckily, Ayurveda shows us many ways to work with our natural energy. For example, take a look at the 'Ayurvedic Clock' below.
The hours between 2-6pm are considered vata time. This is often the time of day when people are more spacey or ungrounded because the air and ether elements that make up the vata dosha increase. This can cause instability in the mind because air and ether have a light, mobile, and subtle nature (based on the 10 pairs of opposites used in Ayurveda to describe the doshas).
These hours can be great for creative, artistic activities, and moving the body while mentally strenuous tasks are not recommended because the mind may get distracted easily. If you have a vata constitution, you'll likely need more structure and disipline during the afternoon. If you are on the opposite side of the spectrum and have more kapha, or are generally prone to sluggishness, these hours can be motivating and inspiring to get going and begin projects.
Vata hours are also between 2-6am, which is why many people feel a surge of energy in the middle of the night if they stay up past 2am. If you have difficulty sleeping these are often the hours one wakes up. Again, because of the subtle qualities of the air and ether elements can arouse the mind.
This is also why many spiritual practices are done in the early morning when the sun is below the horizon because etheric energy is conducive for meditation and expanding consciousness. During the day however, too much air and ether can be deranging and hard on the mind and body if not managed well. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for working with vata during the day and overcoming the afternoon slump.
~~~ Tips n' Tricks ~~~
1.) Walking: Take a brisk 10 minute walk outside to increase circulation andprana, or life-force. Focus on taking deep inhalations in through the nostril and long exhalations out through the nostrils. Even if you are in a busy city, observing the trees, the sky, the birds and other aspects of nature can help calm the nervous system and settle the mind.
2.) Laying Down: If possible, lay down and close your eyes, even if it's just for a few minutes. Even better, lay down outside and have your sacrum touch the earth. Depending on how much time you have, a restorative relaxation practice like yoga nidra, (also known as yogic sleep) is great when you need a temporary rest. I have found that taking a break and recharging my system in this way makes for a much more productive day.
3.) Power Snack: When life demands you to keep going and your appetite is strong, have a high-protein, or high-energy snack. Here is a nice "treat" that will definitely leave you feeling alert and energized to get things done! Dates and almonds are ojas building, meaning they increase our vitality and immunity; while the herbs in this chai recipe are grounding, strengthening, and assist digestion. Cacao and maca add an extra kick, as they are both super-foods for endurance.
Almond Butter, Cacao Bean Stuffed Dates
*Cut dates in half and take out the pit.
*Fill with a small amount of almond butter and top with 1 cacao bean.
Rosemary's Garden - Nourishing Chai (non-caffeinated)
Contains powdered organic/wildcrafted: Maca, Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Eleuthero, Licorice, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Clove, and Black Pepper.
*Add 1-2 teaspoons for each cup of water.
4.) Aromatherapy: Use uplifting essential oils like peppermint, pink grapefruit, or lemongrass to bring alertness and clarity. If you are feeling flustered or hyper (which tends to happen during this time of day) try grounding aromas like vetiver or jatamansi that are in Floracopia's Vata Essential Oil Blend. Use an essential oil diffuser if you have one. Or, do a simple 'palm inhalation' by placing a drop or two of oil on the palm of your hand, rub your hands together, bring your palms up to your nose, close your eyes and inhale.
5.) Creative Pursuits: This is a great time of day to dance, make art, play or listen to music. If you are working during these vata hours, try to work on the more "fun" tasks that don't require as much mental focus. Also, take breaks away from your computer or internet browsing (a very etheric activity) during the afternoon to stay as grounded as possible.
I recommend experimenting with these suggestions and see what works for you. Most importantly, it's about bringing awareness to these cycles and our varying energy levels throughout the day so we can recognize when it's time to engage and step forth, and when it's time to take a step back, recover, and conserve energy. Of course, we are all works in progress and sometimes fall into old habits, but it's never too late to self-correct. Following a proper daily routine optimizes health across the board. In this case, the ultimate goal is being able to come home at the end of a long work day and instead of zoning out, having enough energy to cook, spend time with loved ones, and do enjoyable things.
I hope this has been helpful. Good luck! ~Camina
I've already mentioned that incorporating herbal teas into your daily winter routine is beneficial, but I want to highlight one of my favorite herbs, licorice. Not the candy - the delicious, sweet root. If you don't normally like the taste of licorice, I have a feeling you will like the teas listed below. I've been experimenting with some new blends and sampling them out to friends and family who have found they are perfect for cold winter nights, even in California!
Licorice itself is very soothing and holds many medicinal properties. It's great for sore throats, coughs, and difficulty breathing. It also has a wide range of benefits for digestion, the reproductive system, the skin, as well strengthening the kidneys and calming the nerves.
In combination with other medicinal spices, licorice tastes even more delicous. 'Licorice Marshmallow' tea is my most recent recipe, followed by two recipes crafted by my all time favorite Ayurvedic Chef, Mira Murphy. Please note that if you are experiencing excess kapha, the Ayurvedic dosha made up of earth and water then you'll need to be cautious of using licorice in excess. Also, be aware if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
10 cups water
2 Tbsp dried licorice root, whole (not powdered)
1 Tbsp dried marshmallow root, whole
2 tsp dried ginger root, whole
5 cinnamon sticks
*Boil water and add herbs
*Keep at a low to medium heat for 10-20 minutes, then strain
*This blend is very sweet on its own
~Licorice, Orange Peel and Vanilla~
8 cups water
1 Tbsp licorice root (cut and sifted preferred, or powdered)
1 orange, sliced into rounds, peel included
1 fresh vanilla bean, cut into small pieces
*Boil water and add licorice, orange, and vanilla
*Steep for 10-60 minutes
*Strain and enjoy!
~Licorice Spice Tea~
8 cups water
2 inches fresh ginger
3 sticks cinnamon
2 star anise
1 tsp whole clove
1 Tbsp whole cardamom
1-2 Tbsp licorice root (cut and sifted preferred, or powdered)
*Simmer ginger for 10 minutes with lid on
*Add other spices and steep for 10 minutes
Strain and enjoy!
If you are not into making your own tea from scratch, a blend you can buy is Yogi Tea's Egyptian Licorice. It's much milder so you'll need to use several tea bags to make a medicinal dose for a sore throat...etc.
Source: Sebastian Pole, "Ayurvedic Medicine"
Source: Mira Murphy (former Ayurvedic chef at 7 Centers, Sedona). Her site, MiraMurphyMedicine.com is coming soon.
According to Ayurveda, it's important to bring in warming spices during the winter to increase circulation and prevent congestion. Sipping on an herbal tea is a great way to incorporate medicinal herbs as well as stay warm. Here are some of my favorite blends for this season:
4 teaspoons cardamon pods
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 sticks of cinnamon
2 teaspoons whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional: add sliced fresh ginger
Boil 4 cups of water and add whole spices (except cardamom). Let simmer 15-20 minutes and keep the lid on the pot to contain the essential oils. Turn off the heat, add cardamom, and let sit for 10 minutes. Lastly, strain out all of the herbs and enjoy!
Here is a spiced tea variation with dry herbs from Dr. Lad's, 'Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.' This blend is great for increasing your digestive fire after a heavy meal.
1/2 teaspoon dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of clove
Boil in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes and drink as tea. No need to strain.
For those who prefer to use teabags, I recommend Traditional Medicinal's Ginger Aid and Yogic Tea's Chai Rooibos.
One of my favorite projects this spring was putting in my first culinary herb garden. There's nothing like harvesting fresh herbs from the garden to spice up any meal. It's amazing how quick, easy and low-cost this project was. The soil and bricks were free from Hayes Valley Farm and the starts were just a few dollars. We decided to put in herbs that were pretty low maintenance like mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, and sage. I hope this has inspired y'all to get your hands in the dirt and build a spiral of your own. It doesn't take a lot of work and it beats paying for fresh herbs a the grocery store that go to waste!
Check out 'this site' to learn more about herbspiral design, growing
information, and use of each herb.
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