Monthly Archives: December 2015

Essential Oils to Beat the Winter Blues

Winter forest
Well we sure did get spoiled by that Christmas heat wave but winter is surely here! The unseasonable warmth was so lovely but it almost felt eerie. I saw a woman in a tank top out and about on Christmas day. With all the extra time and anticipation of the inevitable you would think we would be well prepared for the blustery white stuff but the snow tires haven’t even made it on to our cars yet!

Winter is tough. I try my very best to keep a positive mindset. I love the beauty, the stillness, the hibernation, the almost cleansing quality to a blanket of fresh snow…BUT it still gets to me sometime: The cold, the long grey days, the early nights not to mention the endless shoveling.

The dreaded WINTER BLUES. You may feel cold, fatigued, irritable, unfocused and just generally down.

One of the of the easiest and most effective ways to help combat the winter blues is aromatherapy. Aside from the cold and lack of sunlight one of the biggest contributors to the general sense of malaise in the wintertime is the stale one note air. Our sniffers are desperate for some of the variety and freshness that the other seasons offer.

One great thing about aromatherapy is that you can really take a targeted approach.

Depressed? Try a whiff of an uplifting scent. Citrus oils such as lemon, grapefruit, bergamot and lime are very effective mood boosters as well as fresh herbal and floral scents such as basil, sage, geranium, jasmine, lavender, patchouli, rose, or ylang ylang.

Fatigued or unfocused? Minty and freshly herbaceous scents like peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, rosemary and basil are all great for waking you up and helping promote clarity. I actually spritzed a little peppermint around the room when writing this!

Chilled to the bone? Spicy oils like cinnamon, clove, allspice and ginger are all helpful for creating a sensation
of warmth. You could add them to a stovetop simmer or diffuser and allow the warming scents to infuse your home. Drinking a tea or cooking with these warming spices (not the oils!) can also heat you up from within.

Many of these combine well together. Citrus oils and spicy oils blend nicely as well as minty and herbaceous scents and floral and herbaceous or floral and citrus. Really it could go any which way depending on your scent preferences.

All that you need to do to reap the benefits of Aromatherapy is to smell the oil. You could literally sniff it right out of the bottle, but you could also add it to a cotton ball, handkerchief or other carrier. Other ways to utilize the scent include: adding a few drops to a spritzer bottle to make a room spray or body spray, adding a few drops to a carrier oil such as olive, sweet almond, jojoba or any other neutrally scented oil to create a massage oil or a perfume, or adding a few drops to a warm bath.

Top 3 Spices for Health in the New Year.

Is 2015 really coming to a close already? Wowie what a year! We got to welcome our sweet baby boy into our family this summer so the natural progression of pure magic and total insanity has filled our home since! With Christmas just passed Everly and I are working on our second cold of the season (and that’s with the unseasonably warm weather-which does look like it’s coming to a close). Did you know that the colds aren’t actually spread by cold weather? It’s actually the congregation of people in tight quarters that aids the spread of germs in the cold season. Holiday gatherings seem to be ideal for sharing the love and germ! With the dawn of the literally-everything-in-reach-is-going-in-the-mouth-phase I’m pretty much resigned to a near constant stream of little illnesses for the next 6 months.

Little one or not what can you do to stay healthy? SPICE UP LIFE. No seriously! Many spices have properties that can boost your overall health and immunity which can keep you from getting sick in the first place. Some spices do have anti-inflammatory properties which can decrease the duration and severity of your sickness.

As with all healthy whole foods every spice has something to bring to the table in regards to your health but some are really superstars. I’m going to dive right in and talk about our TOP 3 SPICES for combating illness and overall health.

Turmeric
The golden spice!
No medicine cabinet/spice rack is complete without this spice. Turmeric is the dried root of an evergreen plant in the ginger family. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin boasts a wide range of properties that are beneficial for health.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are unrivaled. These properties help minimize cellular damage caused by the natural process of aging, illness, injury and exposure to toxins. It can also help relieve pain.
Studies are revealing how therapeutic quantities of curcumin in a supplement can be used to treat a wide range of illnesses including cancer. You don’t need to take an expensive supplement to reap the benefits of Turmeric into your diet. As little as a teaspoon a day can boost overall heath! It’s very easy to incorporate more Turmeric into your diet as the taste and aroma are rather mild and work well with a range of tastes. Try turmeric in curries, on meat, vegetables, eggs, soups, stews and grains. It is also often consumed as “golden milk” or Turmeric. To boost the absorbency of curcumin in the body, consume it with a touch of black pepper.

Cinnamon
The ubiquitous and lovable queen of the spice rack! Cinnamon is so commonly used that you would be hard pressed to avoid it and why would you? The active ingredient, cinnamaldehyde, is known to have a wide range of beneficial properties. The most notable is it’s ability to help regulate blood sugar. It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties as well. Any kind of cinnamon can be safely consumed in normal culinary amounts. If you are planning on eating large amounts of cinnamon or taking a supplement it’s best to stick with Ceylon cinnamon because it has a much lower amount of coumarin. High doses of coumarin has been linked to problems with the liver. For more information about the different types of cinnamon check out our blog post The Skinny on the Cinny.
Incorporating more cinnamon into your diet should be a breeze. Cinnamon is excellent in baked goods, on fruits, with chocolate, coffee and tea as well as in savory dishes like curries, meat and stews.

Thyme
Tea time for Thyme tea! Sorry I couldn’t resist a play on words. This little herbaceous shrub has a lot more to offer than puns. Thanks to one of its many active compounds thymol Thyme can boast powerful antiseptic, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. In fact, Thyme tea is an effective and soothing way to combat bronchial irritation from cough and cold. Properly diluted Thyme essential oil, teas and tinctures has also been shown to be extremely effective for treating skin infections and acne. Thyme plays well with other herbs and is easy to incorporate in to cooking. It is excellent on poultry, fish and meats as well as eggs and almost any vegetable and legumes.

Clove

orangepomanders
A friend of mine called the shop in a panic the other day looking for some Clove Bud oil. Her daughter was having a horrible toothache and was in a lot of pain. She stopped on over and later mentioned it was what helped get them through until they saw the dentist. It’s no surprise since Clove contains large amounts of eugenol, a volatile oil with antiseptic and anesthetic properties. It got me to thinking about Clove and it’s varied uses and applications. It may very well be one of the few spices that can hold it’s own in medical and culinary applications as well as decorative and cosmetic uses. In some cultures it is employed recreationally in the form of kretek, the clove infused cigarette common in Indonesia. Folklore has it that a Han dynasty ruler from the 3rd Century BC insisted that anyone addressing him chew cloves to sweeten their breath.

A clove bud is the unripened flower of the clove tree, Syzygium aromaticum. The name Clove is derived from the Latin, clavus, meaning nail, due to the nail-shape of the dried bud. And isn’t it appropriate that we nail it into hams for dinner or orange pomander balls to decorate and fragrance our homes. Cloves ground sneak into our pumpkin pies and also grace our cuppa chai. We use it in it’s whole form in mulled cider and wine and at our home we have a constant brew of simmering spices including clove going on the wood stove lending their warming and humidifying aroma. It’s a welcoming scent. Maybe you have some clove tucked in your pantry that can be pulled out and put to use. Below is a simple fragrant simmering blend for stove top or wood stove.

mulled cider

Stove top Simmer

Combine whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, whole allspice and star anise in any amounts you have with a few cups of water. Toss in your orange or clementine peels as well. Simmer on stove top or wood stove and just keep re-topping as water runs low. May the warming fragrance of clove sweeten your hearth, your home and your health and if need be, your breath.

This article was written for my column, The Spice Cupboard, in the Monadnock Ledger Transcript. http://www.ledgertranscript.com/