Monthly Archives: July 2011

Immerse Yourself!

I’ve been reading a lot about folks doing detox cleanses. They take pills or liquids, hoping to clean their ‘system’ out. These same folks seem to ignore another elimination channel: the skin. Cleaning the inside is all well & fine but help yourself out: take a detox bath, too!

Although Spring is when people normally think about detoxing, you can do it anytime. I find it especially helpful when I’ve been busy, stressing and not paying close attention to myself. (Stress blocks a lot of your body’s ability to eliminate toxins.) An aroma bath or soak is a wonderful way to detoxify body, mind & spirit, all at the same time.

An aroma bath can be done with either relaxing or stimulating essential oils and the effects of this type of therapy can be felt almost immediately. There are primarily three different types of essential oils: flower, spicy/pungent, and fruity sweet/sour. Their energetics are much like herbs in terms of heating, cooling or neutral. Flowers like Rose or Jasmine are usually sweet or bitter in taste and cooling in energy. They calm the nervous system by decreasing irritability and anger. Spicy oils like Clove or Ginger are pungent in taste and heating in energy – very stimulating. Fruits like Lemon or Grapefruit are neutral to cooling in energy and can uplift, relax or stimulate.

Chamomile oil has been shown to neutralize the effects of toxins produced by bacteria even in small doses … especially staphylococci and streptococci.

To relax, try a combination of Lavender and Chamomile (you can throw in some Rose petals and make it romantic, too). If you want some stimulation, try Rosemary and Peppermint together. 10-15 drops of oil in a full tub of water is all it takes. Adding Epsom and/or mineral salts will help draw out impurities and relax the muscles. If you add salts, mix the oil into the salt before swishing it into the bath. Otherwise, add the oils immediately after turning the spigot off. However, if you use salts, only soak for about 10 minutes or you’ll re-absorb all the toxins you’ve drawn out.

If you don’t want to use oils but do want the benefit of herbs in your bath, steep 2 ounces dried herb (in any combination) in 1 quart just-boiled water for about 10 minutes. Strain, then pour the ‘tea’ into your bath after you’ve drawn it. Don’t put the herbs directly into the bathwater – you’ll clog up your pipes. (Rose petals in small amounts are easily scooped up before unstopping the drain.)

If you don’t take baths you can get some of the same benefits in the shower. Add about 10 drops of essential oil(s) to a bottle of liquid soap (or some homemade bar soap). Or you can make a shower scrub with finely-ground sea salt or sugar and add a few drops of essential oil(s).

Don’t forget to start your bath/shower with a dry skin brush to remove layers of dead skin cells and stimulate circulation.

Enchanted baths are quite common in the magical community; most often for healing or protection, but can be used for anything of a personal nature. Herbs or oils are empowered before putting them into the water. Placing lit candles around the tub doesn’t just provide atmosphere – they add to the spell. Dunk yourself all the way at least once to cover all ‘bases’ and where possible, air dry rather than towel off. This keeps the spell on you not your towel.

How Sweet It Is!

I will fully admit to having a sweet tooth … especially anything containing that all-important member of the four major food groups: chocolate. However, I do feel a wee bit guilty for my over-consumption of sugar, which I know is bad for me.

There’s a natural sweetener available to everyone: Stevia. Stevia rebaudiana was used as a sweetener in South America for centuries prior to its ‘discovery’ in the West in 1887. Because it is ‘natural’ and calorie-free, it’s great not only for dieters but diabetics. (It doesn’t appear to increase blood glucose levels like sugar does.)

Here in the US, our Food & Drug Administration finally figured out Stevia was OK in December 2008 and it’s now been approved as a food additive. Manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and you’ll find it in quite a few products – even soda. It’s also available as a powdered food supplement in health food stores. If you buy it this way, be sure to get the green or brown Stevia – the white has been processed just like white sugar. I haven’t used the liquid products so I’d advise you to research prior to purchasing these. I have no idea if they’re simply extracts or processed in another fashion.

Stevia can be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Only a tiny pinch of the dried leaves is necessary to sweeten a cup of tea. One fresh leaf is all it takes for a glass of iced tea. I know it’s used to sweeten puddings, sauces and the like but apart from the processed stuff (which seems to be a combination of Stevia and white sugar), I haven’t seen any recipes using it as a sugar substitute in baking. You’ll need to experiment to see just how little to use when cooking with Stevia. Like any good cook, add a little and taste before adding more. Too much Stevia causes a bitter taste.

If you live in a warmer climate (Zone 9 and up), Stevia will grow in your garden (it may die back in winter). However, it grows nicely in a pot here at my zone 7 house, as long as I remember to bring it in over the winter. It likes light, loamy soil and full sun so I’ve used a decent potting soil and it gets about 8 hours of sun each day in the summer from its spot on the deck. Everything I’ve read says it’s a nice little compact plant, growing 18 to 30 inches tall, but if I don’t pinch mine back, it gets really leggy. Pinching it back is no problem – I use a leaf or two to sweeten my afternoon tea when I don’t want the extra flavor organic honey adds (or if I’ve run out of honey – a frequent occurrence).

Although there are no ‘known’ uses for Stevia in a magical sense, I see no reason not to use it as a sugar substitute here, too.

Try it! You may just like it!


Travels (Travails?) of a Witchy Herbalist

I’m back. At least my body is sitting at my desk. I’m not too sure where my brain is.

This trip was a most interesting experience. For the first time in decades of air travel (including internationally), my bag wasn’t on the same flight I was on.  No, the Comfrey charm I place in all my luggage didn’t fail. Delta knew where the bag was, so it wasn’t lost. It just didn’t make the tight connection in Phoenix. (It apparently had to go farther than the three gates I had to walk?) It was finally delivered to the hotel at 4:45pm the next day. Now I know the agony many others have experienced of not having any of your stuff when you’re miles away from home. The next time I travel, I’m going to add a magical tether so my luggage arrives with me.

Gambling isn’t my thing so I’ve never had occasion to visit a casino … until now. Our hotel is also a huge casino. Two square blocks of gambling and noise. Constant music blaring from loudspeakers wasn’t pleasant to ears accustomed to only bird & squirrel chatter. I had to walk through a cacophony of not only music but gamblers’ emotions to breakfast early each morning (with only one cup of lousy in-room coffee ingested). It was enough to set one’s teeth on edge. I was very glad when my luggage arrived and I had my own things to help with shielding.

Thankfully, the landscaping included three very large fountains with park benches around them. I found a few moments each day to sit and allow the sound of the water to soothe me. The gardeners probably thought I was nuts – or maybe not. I doubt I’m the first to sit on a bench & close my eyes. They probably did think I was crazy, though, as I talked to one particular crow each day. I’m not sure why he chose me (haven’t had time to do the necessary research & thinking) but he gifted me with a feather which now graces my desk as a reminder of …?

Working a fencing tournament means long days on your feet with few breaks. I drank a lot of water. (I normally do anyway, but Reno is high desert – it really is a dry heat and although quite pleasant to the lizard in me, is considerably drier than I’m accustomed to.) I also massaged Arnica cream into my legs each day. Arnica is a topical anti-inflammatory specific to keeping blood flowing for things such as phlebitis and bruising. While not specific for overuse of muscles, good blood flow helps everything and I’ve found it quite useful when doing a lot of walking & standing. I always bring it with me to tournaments.

For the first time that I can remember, we didn’t fly out immediately after taking down & packing up the equipment on the last day – we left the following morning. That gave four of us a few hours to drive up to Lake Tahoe. The lake is spectacular but the view on the way up is what impressed me.

We stopped several times to admire, take pictures (my cellphone only takes so-so photos), and walk around. At one of our stops, there was a small cluster of beautiful purplish flowers, seemingly growing out of solid rock. It is Clarkia biloba and is only found in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s a member of the Evening Primrose family and quite a happy little thing.

My friends are all just as much nature-lovers as I, so they didn’t think it strange when I plopped my butt down on a rock and stared. (I was listening, too.) After ten days of brown desert, the view made me homesick! Especially since the trees near the road were grumpy. I guess I would be, too, if I had to filter all that car exhaust all the time.

I am quite glad to be back in my woods … quiet, greener and un-grumpy trees.


PS The US took 12 of 12 gold medals at the tournament (Pan-Am Zonal Championships). So proud of our kids!