Strengthen Boundaries: go to Hawthorn

hawthorn berries

It is my direct experience that Plant allies have two functions: the physical and the energetic function.

The physical aspect communicates with our bodies, supporting it with nutrients, regulating hormones and stimulating or relaxing the nervous system, helping us to cope with our imbalances.

The energetic aspect communicates with our Soul, our energy field and our connections with Spirit.

I’m not scholarly nor a very good writer, so I do not offer you a list of reference or lengthy explanations. I’m reading my herbal books and online sources, communicating with the plants myself, and forming my own Herbarium of experiences. It is these experiences that I wish to share with you.

Hawthorn is a dear ally to me, as it helps me to lift my blood pressure and soothe heart palpitations when ever they occur.
It is a heart medicine, regulating blood pressure (lifting if low, lowering if too high) and strengthening the Heart. You can find plenty of descriptions about Hawthorn’s herbal medicine qualities in books and online – read a good selection of sources to get a well-informed understanding about her qualities!

But today I would like to look deeper into the energetic aspects of Hawthorn.

She typically stands at the edge of the woods, or in a hedgerow between fields. She is a ‘gatekeeper’, the watcher over boundaries. She is thorny, giving shelter to birds and small mammals from their predators. She is the protector.

She stands in full blossom in May, and has plenty of berries in the autumn, marking the transition seasons, Spring and Autumn.

Hawthorn has the reputation to be, together with Elder, the favourite tree or bush of fairies, elves and other etheral creatures.

For me Hawthorn is the ideal Plant ally for protecting my personal boundaries and for transiting between our seemingly solid visible world and the etheral Spirit world. I go to her and use the berries in herbal tea for the energetic aspects, and as a tincture (blossom, leaves and berries) for the physical aspects. Why? Mostly because I feel that the alcohol in the tincture doesn’t rhyme very well with the aspects of Soul, and yet it does get the medicinal components out of the plant material and into the liquid so that they are more readily available for our physical body.

So to conclude: whenever you feel you could use some stronger personal boundaries, seek Hawthorn and hang out with her, in any way that appeals to you. Visit her, drink her, think her.

 

 

 

Spring Forest

I felt it was time for a new soul support scent, and went on to creating a grounding, invigorating scent that would open the senses for new opportunities, challenges and adventures ahead. It took more time than I had expected to get that olfactory mental image from my ‘inner smell’ into a bottle. But, finally: success!

It is a composition of woody, green scents with hints of fruit and flowers.

It’s actually meant to be used in an aroma lamp to scent your living space with, but if you head to the soul support scent page, you’ll find out there are more methods to enjoy the scent as well.

Wishing you sunny (early) spring days, enjoy!

 

Our food – part 2

walnuts

(read part 1 here)

introduction:
In these challenging times I find myself telling my son: choose with your Heart, your Heart knows what is right.
The Mind is a great tool, but the Heart comes first.
There are three things I do when feeling overwhelmed: Meditate. Be in Nature. Rest.
Just silent sitting is a very effective method to tackle tough stuff. Answers will arise. The next step will become obvious.
I bake my bread, ferment foods and drinks, sow seeds and tend to Life as well as I can.

Connecting with Nature through food

In herbalism there’s an interesting theory: plants that you need the most, will grow nearby you.

Another herbalist-theory is that local herbs are much more potent for healing a person than herbs imported from another habitat.

Nature organizes itself through an inherent intelligence.
We  humans are also a part of Nature, although we’re often dis-connected, because we’re so busy in our minds.

Since food is our best medicine, and working with soil (dig your bare hands into the soil!) evokes feel-good hormones, it’s logical to grow some of our own food – as much as you can!
If you don’t have a garden or an allotment, you can still grow some herbs in pots by your window.

More theory: talking or singing to plants makes them grow better.
This is true, because we live in a respiratory symbiosis with plants. We  humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2). Plants also have a circulation of gasses, and they ‘breathe’ in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.
Have a little breathing session with your plants!

By incorporating the grow-your-own-food mentality into your life, you’re automatically connecting to the web of Life, even if it’s only one plant you’re tending to.
The more you pay attention, the more you’ll notice. About the soil and its inhabitants. About compost. About the elements – earth, air, fire (sunlight), water and about the natural rhythms of everything alive.
It is very calming, nourishing and enlightening. It puts things in Life into a healthier priority and perspective.

There is another aspect of growing your own food and eating locally produced food that I hadn’t expected.
I’ll weave it into a story:

At the community herbal garden where I’m volunteering, the garden design is based on a beautiful keyhole mandala.
At the center of the mandala grows a medlar tree. It is the first medlar I’ve consciously met in my life. Perhaps because it was a stranger to me, I found it a little bit difficult to relate to it. I didn’t get further than a general “it’s a tree with (somewhat) edible fruit, so it’s all-right”.

The volunteer whose brain-child the herbal garden is, had made medlar compote from the fruit, and had a jar of it for us all. At home, I tasted it, savoured the composition of fruit and spices, the texture, the warming feeling it gave. The energetic warmth and velvety smoothness, topped up with exotic spices made me decide that even if it was just for one jar of medlar compote per year, this was a tree I’d love to have in my garden – what an interesting personality to meet!

Gardening is on winter pause now, but one day early in January I went for a walk in the direction of the herbal garden, and decided to go and take a look at how the garden is doing at this moment. Letting my eyes glide over the bare, brown stems of herbs and the graphic contours of the plants, I was paying attention to the subtle colour palette of the garden when – my gaze met the medlar and there was an instant connection. Suddenly I could feel the inside of its trunk inside my ‘trunk’, my body!
Smiling, I thanked it for its delicious fruit, and a happy answer came, thanking me for paying attention.

The herbs that I collect and dry for herbal teas are also a personal allies.
Herbs will have their unique effects, no matter where they come from, but herbs/plants you personally know… will bring magic!
As I mix herbal teas in the autumn when the season of colds and flu’s is around the corner, I meet the plants again, they go through my hands and I thank them for their healing power.
The next season I see the familiar flowerheads nodding in the sun again, and I’m so sincerely and thoroughly happy to see them, and as I express my joy they seem to swell up a little bit with happiness as well.

If you quietly pay attention, plants that you mindfully connect with will gladly connect with you, and in addition to their healing qualities they are willing to share their wisdom – if we just listen.

medlar

 

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Natural body care – Safe & Dry deodorant

Safe&Dry deodorant

Your body is a wonderful vessel for your soul to travel in during this lifetime, with it’s fine-tuned biological functions – and we don’t want to bring it into imbalance with synthetic chemicals, do we? (“Nooooo!”)

So, in order to stay fresh and lovely the whole day I turn to my natural helpers, mixed together and contained in a tin, with the descriptive titel on top: deodorant.

I use this deodorant since the day I created the recipe – almost 5 years now. And I’m still very happy with it! Which doesn’t mean you can’t improve on the recipe! If you do, please share your invention with the rest of us in the comments below.

This is a deodorant creme, you bring it in your arm pit with the tip of your finger. It has the scent of rosemary and sweet orange.

This recipe is a bit complicated, but well worth the trouble. The batch will make 4x 30ml and a bit more… I usually scoop the “and a bit more”  into smaller tin(s) for a travel-size deodorant and as a tester for the particular batch.

Make it, use it, gift it (make a set, with Nourish&Heal face oil!) – but don’t steal it! This recipe is meant for personal use only. Adapting it for commercial use will cause you instant bad karma, you’ve been warned.

 

Safe&Dry deodorant

4 tablespoons sheabutter

1 and 1/3 tbsp beeswax

6 tbsp jojoba oil

1 tbsp corn starch

8 teaspoons baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

10 tbsp natural white clay

4ml (or 36 drops) of fresh lemon juice

4 tbsp strong sage infusion (“tea”)

16 drops essential oil of teatree

12 drops essential oil of lavender

32 drops essential oil of sweet orange

8 drops essential oil of rosemary

Method:

1.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2. Mix the essential oils together in a small glass container.

3. Melt the shea butter and beeswax in a smaller bowl, au bain marie. When fluid, add the jojoba oil and let the mixture warm up again, so that everything is fluid and well mixed.

4. Add the lemon juice into the still warm sage infusion, add this mix into the oils mix.

5. Take a deep breath and get organized, i.e. have your ingredients ready, tins opened (on paper kitchen towels) and ready for filling. Things are going to move fast now.

6. Remove your bowl of oils-sage-and-lemon from the heat source, pour the contents slowly and steadily, mixing continually, into the dry ingredients. Get out every last drop. Then mix in the essential oils, mixing thouroughly.

7. Using a table spoon and a teaspoon, scoop the mixture into the tins as fast as possible. The mixture sets as it cools.

8. Let the filled tins cool before cleaning the rims and closing the lids.

Label, be very proud of yourself and use daily.

The tins will keep “forever” – I’ve never had one spoil (I store them in a cupboard), but then again, they get used and gifted away continually.

 

What do the ingredients do?

Shea butter and jojoba oil moisturize and nourish your skin. Beeswax gives the ‘hardness’ to the cream (together with shea butter) and keeps moisture in your skin.

The corn starch gives body to the deodorant and binds it together. Baking soda and white clay draw out impurities and keep you fresh (so yes, for an ultra-simple version of the deodorant you could mix baking soda and white clay and dust the powder into your armpits!).

The lemon juice softens your skin and acts as an emulsifier in the mixture. The sage infusion diminishes perspiration (and smells nice!). Tea tree essential oil is antibacterial, combating bad odour (fresh sweat smells quite sweet actually, it’s when the bacteria on the skin become active and produce waste that things get smelly). Lavender essential oil is also antibacterial, soothes and tonifies the skin – and smells good! Sweet orange is there for its tonifying action and great fragrance, and rosemary for increased blood-and lymph circulation and the fresh fragrance.

 

 

 

 

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Wintersleep, and the scent of it

sunset

My focus seems to follow the Sun. After the autumn equinox my attention turns increasingly inwards and by the end of October I feel like withdrawing into my nest, for some deep reflection and rest.

As the leaves fall, my thoughts touch the deeper layers of Life:

  • gratitude for the lovely connections and things learned and realized this season
  • the deeper meaning of Life – yes, I’ve found it and search no more, for it is joy! …and love
  • the interconnectedness of Life and the cyclical nature of the flow of life. I’m revisiting patterns of life, dreams and hopes, at a new level, and almost planning for the future.

This is the time for digesting the old, giving it all a place. I’m observing, thinking and feeling through, sorting, filtering, integrating. Further input is not needed, it would disturb the process.

Somewhere in the darkness of this season, all that processing and integrating sparks new life. That which has been experienced, seems to go through some magical alchemical process, and in doing so it creates new questions, new desires, new seeds…and the gestation of a new future begins.

I’m not ready to get specific about those future plans quite yet. But I will share this with you: at this time of (relative) solitude and stillness I’m enjoying herbal teas, stews enriched with hot spices, red wine, a cat on my lap and a fragrant blend to suit.

Fragrant blend?! Tell me more!

I composed  a blend of high quality essential oils to support this alchemical wintersleep. Mainly meant to be vaporised in an essential oil burner, but if you want to mix it with a good quality base oil (think jojoba oil, almond oil, unheated sesameoil) and use for massage, body oil or your self made perfume, you could.

This composition is for calming the spirit, soul and mind. For deep thinking, sorting out, filtering things through your being and winning gold from your experiences.

You can read more about it here.

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Recipe: Nourish&Heal oil

Nourish and Heal face oil recipe

The idea to publish the recipes for my face oil and deodorant have been circling in my mind for some time already, and now that the ever-inspiring Milla from The Woman Who Married a Bear shared her deeply mindful train-of-thought about personal skin care (and asked about ours) on Instagram, it’s time for action – here it is, the Nourish & Heal face oil, in all her glory!

background story:

I had always had a ‘combination skin’, meaning that parts of my face would be oily (nose, cheeks, chin) whilst other parts, especially the skin right above my eyes and eyebrows, would be dry to the point of red and itchy. I used the regular moisturizers from skin care labels within the reach of my student/start-up budget.

Every break-through begins with a crisis (not sure if that’s 100% true but it sounds great and applied to my situation), here’s mine: I was pregnant, and then had a big, healthy baby, and suddenly my skin wouldn’t take the ‘regular’ stuff anymore. Moisturizers and cleansers all burned on my skin and all I could use was water, soap and olive oil.

I had been a huge fan of Kenzo’s ‘Jungle’ perfume (the ‘Elephant’ variation, though ‘Tiger’ would have matched my horoscope better) but suddenly perfume was giving me splitting headaches, so regular fragrances became a no-go area as well.

My curiosity led me to reading all around the internet and I started experimenting at home. I found jojoba oil a wonderfully soothing moisturizer for my facial skin, and mixed in a few drops of essential oil. Lo and behold, this was the birth of Nina’s Nature (along with a dream, you can read it here, otherwise the intro really gets too long)!

So let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

This will make 50ml face oil, enough to last for months when you apply a little every evening. After tapping it lightly on my face I pat my hands ‘dry’ at the ends of my hair = it doubles as hair serum! I use a 50ml glass bottle with a dropper to contain this natural wonder remedy.

Measure, mix (=shake), use and enjoy. And then make some for your friends!

25ml jojoba oil
15ml argan oil
9ml almond oil
4 drops sandalwood essential oil
3 drops frankinsence essential oil
1 drop rose (attar) essential oil
6 drops geranium essential oil
4 drops lavender essential oil

The oils are healing and deeply nourishing. The essential oils are all chosen for their skin repairing qualities.

Go for high quality materials – your skin (and nose) will thank you.

The face oil as above has a light scent to it, but you can of course experiment with your own mixes of essential oils, bearing in mind that some essential oils can be very potent/strong (‘burning’) on the tender facial skin. Test first on a small area of tender skin, like on the inside of your wrist.

I’m sharing this recipe for personal use only. Adapting it for commercial use will cause you instant bad karma, you’ve been warned.

 

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Sweet dreams

sweetdreams

This time of year I’m yearning for a good wintersleep. Ideally I’d like to withdraw into my nest at the end of October and emerge again some time in March.
I’m daydreaming about endless amounts of firewood and cabinets filled with summers’ bounty, me slumbering in between it all with a woolen blanket and piles of good books around me. Perhaps, some day. At the moment our life has a more active tempo, and I’m trying to get enough sleep every night in order to function well.

This time of year I’m doing my best to craft some gifts for people who I think might appreciate them. Handmade gifts are in my eyes much more than their functionality, since someone has put their time and energy in it – precious!

I made some Sweet Dreams scent cushions, and would like to share the tutorial with you. They are made with the intention to calm, relax and to give lucid dreams. Here’s how:

What you need:

dried mugwort flower buds
dried sage
dried lavender blossom buds
dried rosemary
dried rose petals

I had everything else in house except the rose petals, but have included them in the list, since they fit the mix perfectly, giving it their wonderful scent and some more colour. This time my mix is missing them, but I’ll do my best to include them next year! (*Making a mental note to dry some extra rose petals in the summer, not only for our luxury tea.*)

Just put everything in a large bowl, mix the ingredients with your hand and then fill your sachets with the mixture (I used small organza bags as sachets).

If you want to store the scent cushions for some time, put them in a jar with a well fitting lid so that the aroma’s will keep longer.

Sleep well!

sweetdreams2

What is your favourite trick to ensure a good nights’ sleep? Share it with us here (below), or on Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

 

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Turn up the (inner) heat

getting warm with chai

Herbal tea is the welcoming drink of my sessions.

As the days get colder, I like to brew a teapot of chai in the morning and then enjoy its glowing contents throughout the day.
My teapot sits on top of a tealight that keeps the contents hot and the infusion going.

The traditional (masala-) chai is made with black tea and milk in it, but I’ve altered the mixture more to my taste, leaving out the  black tea and milk and adding some herbal heroes into it.

Here’s how I do it:

in the sieve of the teapot I put

loose white tea

peeled, chopped fresh ginger root

cardamom pods, crushed

a cinnamon stick, crushed

black pepper corns

dried pieces of astragalus root

some cloves

a few dried hawthorn haws

and a rosehip

I then pour boiling water over it all until the teapot is full, and let it all simmer over a tealight for a minimum of 30 minutes before drinking. During the day I sometimes add boiling water to the teapot as I’m drinking the tea, replacing some of the fluid, never more than the half of the volume. This way I can enjoy inner heat from the chai through the day.

Most of the ingredients are warming and helping the body to combat any small inconveniences associated with a cold. The astragalus root is there for some extra chi-energy, the hawthorn haws to balance out my Heart, and the rosehip is there for mostly its looks (!) although I hope some of its vitamine C survives the heat.

Do you have a favourite warming-up drink for this time of the year? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment here, or let your voice be heard on the Facebook page.

 

The hilarity of visualisation

During my herbalism-studies I’m always taking notes about plants I wished I had, and why. One of them was Albizia julibrissin Rosea, or the Persian Silk Tree.

persian silk tree
image source: Wikipedia

This plant is amazing! It is *beautiful*, it’s a great nectar tree for bees and butterflies, the seeds can be fed to livestock (I still need to check on that…) and it is medicinal (anti-depressant, sleep-inducing).

It is cold tolerant (can survive temperatures down to -25 degrees Celcius) and it folds its leaves in at night – it’s common name here in the Netherlands translates as “Persian sleep-tree”.

So who wouldn’t want to have such a beautiful, multi-facetted wonder tree in their garden? I do! So much that I was seeing it – with my minds’ eye –  blooming and attracting bees in the healing garden, radiating its silent blessings to its immediate surroundings. I was over the moon to find it in a webshop here in the Netherlands and ordered it (along with another long-time love, Schisandra).

When I unpacked it I actually asked myself “what’s this?” for a second or two before I burst into laughing – the contrast between my visualised wondertree and the young sapling I held in my hands couldn’t have been greater.

this tender twig in the center of the photo is my magical wondertree - as a baby
this tender twig in the center of the photo is my magical wondertree – as a baby

What a laugh! Welcome, my dear.