Valle de la Luna

inspirations of an herbalist

a profound love

This week, I had a love affair. Opps. I forgot to mention that it was with Chocolate!  Yes. That divine dark sweetness that turns my world upside down.  I thought of ways to express my love to it, I thought about Odes, love songs, sweet nothings.. but thought that writing about it would allow myself to admit  that I have a guilty addiction to chocolate. Some weeks, like this one it borders near on obsession.

I cant count the number of times my girlfriends and I have shared our guilty admissions to the addiction of chocolate, especially during the hormonal and stressful times of our life,  there are some who have an awful amount of blame on themselves when it comes to chocolate.  However, I have news for you… There is nothing to feel bad about when indulging in chocolate.   Its incredibly healthy for our hearts and our minds. So indeed we crave it for good reasons.

Interestingly enough eating chocolate around our menstruation time provides the magnesium we need for our uteruses to relax, and ease the cramping. It adds iron back into our bodies which we loose much of during our menses and the stress cravings we feel, are benefited by chocolates rich supply of antioxidants and mood elevating endorphins, which buffer stress.

 Let me share a bit more about what chocolate can do for your health.

  • It reduces blood pressure, improves cholesterol rations, and certain studies have shown that is can reduce the overall risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 76 %!!! 
  • it improves our brain function and mood
  • improves stress response
  • improves immunity
  • reduce inflammation
  • supports healthy blood sugar levels
  • provide a concentrated source of antioxidants (8 times more than red wine, 3 times that in green tea) in your diet
  • provide minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium

So, with all this in mind don’t feel like its okay to eat a few snickers bars a day. There are are some things to understand about chocolate.

First, in terms of the heath benefits- The darker the better.  The less cocoa content the chocolate bar contains (which will tell you by the % marked on the label), the less of the antioxidant polyphenols, minerals and fiber it will contain.

Secondly, its important that the product is as unprocessed as possible. That way the more antioxidant power it will have.

All in all the research I have found it seems that a 100g serving of 70% or higher dark chocolate, or 3 tbl (about 25g) cocoa powder are what you want when it comes to optimum health benefits and disease prevention. As well as a diet that is already rich in whole foods and plants i.e.  don’t think you can live on chocolate!

Think of it, as the added nutritious sweet goodness you give yourself on a daily basis.

I think its also important to bring up the fact that a lot of chocolate comes from exotic places far off that most of the people involved in the making of it, mainly children have very little rights, and are exploited in the process of producing it. The environmental impact is also important to consider as the land is often destroyed for the same reason. We don’t want to be eating human suffering and environmental degradation just to support our health . There is quite a bit of information on this, and I urge you do do your research on this when buying chocolate. Find out where it comes from- and try to by Fair trade/ shade gown and organically cultivated  so that everyone benefits.

For more information on this I recommend this film: http://documentaryheaven.com/the-dark-side-of-chocolate/

So, on a happier note: Please indulge and do not feel guilty.  I know I wont.

This weekend Im planning on continuing the love affair by making this:

CHOCOLATE ROSE GANACHE

what better could the benefit of roses be with the added addition of chocolate?

To make the rose powder simply take a coffee grinder ( clean it well) and powder the herbs to a fine silky substance.  This will later be added to the chocolate ganache.

Ganache consists of two ingredients: Dark Chocolate/ semi- sweet and heavy cream. Oh Yum.

9 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup of heavy cream.

Bring the cream to a boil, then remove and pour over the bowl of chopped chocolate.

Let it stand covered for a moment to soften up the chocolate, then whisk until it is smooth, Now stir in about 2 tbls of the rose powder. For the best results pour into a jar of some kind and let it cool overnight at room temperature.

Im going to have this on hand for the quick fix to a chocolate dessert, hot chocolate, or for those moments that im feeling particularly sinful, when  I just have to have a spoonful.

Advertisements

Observing change in our lives

Its been a busy month. I have found myself  here at Halloween, the day of the dead.

It is blustery here in Vermont, and as the season shifts to cooler air, and a slight frost dusts my windows so early in the morning  I am taking note of the changes around me. It is nearing the time where we enter back into our bodies and allow ourselves to go deep. To creep back into our souls and come home for a while. To nourish and feed our bodies.

In the five element practice of chinese herbalism we find ourselves coming back into the time of metal. Where we shed what we do not need, we let go, and allow ourself to ground and think about all that has happened over the past year. When I  look to the trees I  see that this process is  happening already. Their vital energy is moving back down to the roots to hibernate for winter. Their brilliant leaves of red and oranges and gold are changing to brown and collecting on the ground.

Here in vermont, winter is coming, even the distant peaks of the Adirondacks across the lake have had the first dusting of snow in the high peaks and southern parts have already felt the first of the snow.

I think today is the perfect day for subtly observing what you do not need in your life.

Traditionally halloween, or the festival of Samhain was a marking point of the end of the harvest, the lighter more fruitful part of the year and the beginning of the darker half.  In some cultures this day is marked as the eve before the first day of winter; November 1st.

I cant say that I am fully ready for the winter to arrive, but I do feel prepared to allow the change to happen. I always look forward to a little down time.

Lately I have taken to a favorite drink , one that I believe is grounding and nourishing and helps to support my body during the changing of the seasons . Id like to share the recipe with you..

I have always loved chai, but this recipe combines all sorts of recipes from herbalist friends, and a little twist of inspiration from my herb shelf.  Every time I formulate the herbs, it changes just a little bit. I stand in front of my herbs with a bowl, and begin to add whatever calls to me. However,  It always contains spices to warm and circulate the blood, roots and adaptogens to nourish and ground  and a few flower blossoms to keep the heart open.

Here is my recipe but feel free to change and alter, and come up with your own ideas.

Chai:

1/2 cup Cinnamon chips/ or a few sticks.

1/3 cup  ginger root

1/4 cup Cardamom pods

2 tbl Star anise

2 tbl Black peppercorns

1 tbl clove buds

1/4 cup  rose petals

1/4 cup holy basil leaves

1/2 cup Astragalus root

1/2 cup Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) root

1/3 cup Burdock root

1/4 cup Hawthorn berries

a few pieces of orange peel

a slice of vanilla bean

Depending of how much I am  making I use about 2 tablespoons of the mix to a cup of water in a pan.  Bring the tea to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes. (Bask in that glorious smell) When finished strain out the herbs and add milk and honey to your taste. Sometimes I even add coconut milk as an extra treat, and a little maple syrup. Sip with intention!


So, here is to nourishing our bodies and embracing the ritual of coming home again.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

Moon Madness

La Luna! The moon, That shining silver light!

Tonight, October 11 the moon is full. Meaning the lighted side of the moon at her fullest point turns to face earth.

Octobers moon is called the Hunter, or blood moon.

Throughout old history and around the world the moon has inspired wonder and kindles curiosity within people.  That bright elusive silvery orb, that always seems to be just beyond our touch. What is it about the moon that makes it so intriguing and mysterious?

From the earliest of times, the moon has been a part of old legends, myths, folklore, religion, and ceremonies. Many of the early cultures viewed the moon as a symbol of their goddess; Artemis- the celestial goddess of the moon.

There is something about the moon that triggers erratic behavior and deep seated urges. I can say this is true for myself. I have the urge to party, move my hips and shout at the moon, to be loud and I always seem to have an endless source of energy around the fullness of the moon. I have more of a carefree mindset, and feel like celebrating, adventuring out into the night, drinking whisky, or more appropriate, and if available; Moonshine.

An interesting bit of research shows the long connection between the moon and the feelings of  insanity and irrationality; the words lunacy and loony  come from the Latin name for the Moon, Luna. Ancient Philosophers believed  that the full Moon brought on insanity in certain  individuals, saying  that the brain, which is mostly water, was affected by the Moon and its power over the tides, there is no scientific evidence to support such claims but I find it fascinating to think that our bodies which are so full of fluid could be effected by this.

Its no wonder that we are fascinated by the moon, its enchanting and mysterious beauty. It possesses a certain power over us that is not truly understood.

She has a beauty that feeds imagination to this physical world we live in. There is something about the moon that  has the ability to lift the spirits of most people.

For me, along with my feelings of ecstatic behavior, I find it important to take note of that bright magical moon that has inspired rituals and tradition, and has had a profound effect on healing, and centering.  I think  having some sort of ceremony and taking note of the majestic power is a wonderful way to honor her wise spirit.  If you are interested in trying this I encourage you to do something I have enjoyed  since  I was a small girl ; making moon water, or moon tonics.

Moon Tonic are waters containing the energies of the moon that embody very powerful healing benefits that bring about balance and wholeness throughout the body, mind and soul that are infused with herbs that promote spirit awakening, and healing..

some of my favorite herbs to add are :

Roses- (Rosa spp) adds an aspect of protection to the heart in this crazy time.

Chamomile ( Matricaria chamomilla) is said to bring prosperity as well as a calm sense of comfort and healing.
Lavender( Lavendula angustafolia)  cleansing and calming invoking love and romance

Rosemary: ( Rosmarinus officianalis) used in  blessings, and for remembrance

Sage: (salvia spp) clearing and  cleansing, sage brings a healing wisdom, and adds the right amount of spice.

Mugwork( artemesia vilgaris) a powerful Dream Enhancer  for promoting vivid dreams, wild imagination, and a sense of estacity. MugwortFor questions in the heart that are unaswered, brew a cold infusion of mugwort tea under the full moon.

Lady’s mantel( Alchemilla vulgaris)  in the time of the witches the dew from the ladys mantel was highly prized as an alchemical substance and was collected by the women right before dawn. I love the thought of collecting dew the next morning and adding it to your tea. If not from Lady’s mantel,  watch how any dew from a plant  glitters in the morning, this alone is a gift from La Luna.

So, tonight- find a special jar, or bowl and if you can use clean good water, add your collection of herbs, crystals or what ever else calls to you and find a special place in your yard or garden, where it will get at least a few hours of moonlight. Leave it out for the night. Come morning, find a special place and sit quietly while you drink. Hopefully the magic of the moon will have embodied the drink, and some sort of healing will take place. Even if nothing else, having that connection to the moon rays is something that not everyone can experience, and that should be treasured.

If you are not able to do this, I hope at least you can get outside to bask in the glow of that beauty in the sky!

Beginning

Beginning ; The point in time or space at which something starts. 

   Almost on a daily basis I open the small book my kitchen table entitled Wabi Sabi; the art of everyday life. by Diane Durston. 

Wabi: meaning tranquil simplicity, or irregular beauty. and Sabi being interpreted as the beauty that treasures the passage of time. Although there are many versions to the story, todays interpretation of the Wabi and Sabi is defined as the “beauty of things imperfect and incomplete… a beauty of things modest and humble, a beauty of things unconventional. 

It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence:  Impermanence, suffering, and emptiness or absence of self nature. Usually there is a quote or two by a famous, writer, transcendentalist, activist etc.  Most of the time I find these simple words inspiring, and then go on to enjoy my day.

Today’s seemed  fitting to the beginning of this venture.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.

Anne Frank

And so I begin this journey of exploring, expressing, awakening, and looking out into the world, opening myself  to creating, inspiring, becoming inspired, feeling empowered, giving and healing.

so, here is to the beginning!

saludé!  or as one of my dear friends and teacher Rosemary Gladstar would say: Boola Boola Boola!  a traditional Kava cheer from the Kava drinking culture.