Eat Your Weeds!

Sometimes the medicine we need is right under our nose…

dandelion-750x410

I’ve been working on a permaculture farm in central France this summer and one of the interesting things about living in a rural area is making use of what you have, or going without. When I arrived, I noticed my liver needed a bit of a cleaning and without any medicine on hand, I had to be a bit creative with my resources. A daily task for us farm interns is to take care of the seemingly endless weeding in the large veggie beds but it isn’t all bad, as you get to know a lot about the plants you spend your time with. The definition of a weed is just a plant that does not belong in the place it is currently occupying and I learned that some of these “weeds” are actually very high in value. After some research, it dawned on me that I have been surrounded by my own living, breathing medicine cabinet all along. Many of the common plants that we consider pests actually have many uses including medicine, wild food and pest control. Here are a few plants that you will most likely find in your own backyard and once you realise their usefulness, you’ll never look at them the same again.

Dandelion (taraxacum officiale): Everyone knows dandelion with it’s cute yellow flower which turns into a white fluffy ball that you can blow into the wind. It’s one of my favourite little weeds that so happens to be a strong source of beta carotene and many other vitamins and minerals. IMG_1293Dandelion root is one of the best ways of removing toxins from the liver, kidneys and blood and is commonly found in many expensive boxed “tea-toxes”. It can be steeped into a tea to cure a killer hangover or roasted and brewed with chicory as a coffee substitute. To get the maximum benefit from the root, take the plant out of the ground before the yellow flowers appear. Alternatively, the flowers and young leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked in soups or stir fry to cut the bitter taste.

Stinging Nettle (urtica dioica): WARNING – watch out for the pricks on this one, they’re little but they hurt! This plant is one of my worst enemies while weeding but it has an absolutely astonishing amount of uses. DSCF3984Nettle carries a natural histamine (that’s why you see your skin get all red and swollen when it touches you) as well as serotonin and acetylcholine. It’s extremely beneficial for those with poor blood circulation and in conditions like arthritis, gout and muscle pain. In permaculture, nettle is known as a ‘dynamic accumulator’ which means it stores high amounts of nitrogen and iron in it’s leaves. To get the goodness of the nettle without it taking over your garden, remove the plant, brew it into a ‘compost tea’ to use as a fertiliser. Other uses are insect repellent (for both plants and humans), livestock feed and cuisine, if you’re adventurous – think nettle soup!

Yarrow (achillea millefolium): These little white babies breath flowers can be set apart from other look-alikes (such as edlerflower and cows parsley) Yarrow_2645966480by the tiny fleck of yellow you see in the centre of the petals. The clusters grow with a flat top formation and are normally found in cow fields or on the side of the road. Yarrow is a super mellow herb with many great powers and was said to have been carried by Achilles into battle to treat wounds. Yarrow can be applied topically for burns and be chewed for head and tooth pain. It is more commonly known for ladies to pacify menstrual cramps as it reduces swelling and bloating in the uterus area. It can be made into a tea or tincture for cough and cold and also help promote relaxation if taken before bed. This is a great mild herb that can be see regularly for children. Great recipe for Sleepy Time Tincture here.

 Milk Thistle (silybum marianum): Milk_thistle_flowerheadThis tall green stalk can   grown very thick with spiky green leaves and purple flowers and you’ve probably seen it bottled in capsule form at the pharmacy. Thistle is a very common plant with many varieties and can be found throughout the world. The entire plant can be used in various ways but the most potent part is the seed which contains silymarin. Silymarin repairs the degradation of the liver, in many cases, due to alcohol. Thistle is also proven in some cases to aid in the treatment of diseases such as cancer and hepatitis C. You will find this plant growing abundantly everywhere as it is toxic to most grazing animals.IMG_1317 It should be collected after flowering when the seeds will form, normally in autumn. Unless you are trying to wean yourself off of alcohol, it is best to make a tincture from the seeds. I didn’t have any seeds available so I used the root only and now am waiting a few more weeks for it to infuse before I drink it.
Now you have lots of fun plants to start hunting for around your house and keep in mind; Permaculture is all about minimising your work load and maximising your yield, so Eat your weeds! It’s that simple

Advertisements

How to make a Digestive Decoction

A herbal decoction, also known as a kashaya, is one of the most commonly prescribed medicines in Ayurveda. When herbs are dissolved in liquid they become more potent and easier to digest, making kashayas the most effective way to take medicine and they’re simple to make at home.
IMG_0945

My friend Angel gave me a few samples of organic herbal tinctures from Hawaii and this pure ginger one was especially helpful for my digestion while I’ve been on the road. The cute little squeeze dropper made it fun to take also! If you are anything like me, your tummy is not always the happiest while traveling. Cooped up in a car, bus or plane for several long hours can really do a number on my system and I almost always end up with an infamous case of ‘Traveller’s Constipation’. Not very fun, especially since I prefer to start experimenting with the local cuisine as soon as I arrive at a new destination. Soon after I ran out of Angel’s Down to Earth herbal drops, I decided to make use of the cute little bottle again and formulate a version of ‘Alison’s Own’ herbal drops. IMG_0933

So, I put together a special recipe of digestive herbs that will reduce gas, bloating and upset stomach for my next long train ride in India. My herbs of choice are fennel and carom seeds (also known as ajwain) which both have scraping properties (especially the ajwain!) to help reduce gas in the intestine. I also added some crushed black pepper corns as an extra kick for low digestive fire. The good news is, you can find all these herbs at your local grocery store so you can easily copy the recipe or make your own combination with a little research on herbs. A decoction can be used as a remedy for almost any problem from weight loss to asthma, menstrual problems and stress relief so check what you have kicking around your spice cupboard or garden to get started. Once you have your ingredients, here’s how to make a simple decoction according to classic Ayurvedic medicine texts:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 part herbs, dry or fresh (48 grams)
  • 4 parts water (800 ml)

The herbs will be added to the water, boiled and reduced to 1/8th of the amount of liquid. In this case, I reduced to 100 ml but the recipe can be made larger or smaller using the same ratio of herbs to water.

STEP 1

IMG_0936

Grind the herbs using mortar and pestle (or if you wanna be sneaky, you can throw them for a few pulses in the blender). The herbs should not be in a super-fine powder but still coarse so you can see some whole particles.

STEP 2

Measure out the final amount of liquid you are expecting (in this case, 100 ml) and add to a large pot first. Measure this liquid with a ruler, or if you have nothing else, the end of a spoon and mark it with a line. This is the old school and most effective method of knowing when you have reduced your liquid to the correct final amount. 

STEP 3 

Add the remaining amount of water to the pot plus all the ground herbs. Bring to a rapid boil and let the magic begin! Be sure to stir frequently.

IMG_0942

STEP 4

You will have beautiful fragrances coming from the pot and the water will change colour as it absorbs the essence of the herbs. Use your trusty measuring tool to check when you are down to 1/8th of your liquid. Remove from the heat and let cool.

STEP 5

Strain the herbs from the liquid. Remember most of the liquids will be absorbed in the herbs so you will really have to squeeze the granules to get all the prime juices out. Best method is to use a cheese cloth. 

 

The final product will probably look something like this….

IMG_0947

Don’t be put off by it’s brown colour, you can add honey as a sweetener to make it taste more pleasant. Be sure to only add the honey AFTER the liquid is cooled as honey should not to be heated.

IMG_0957Your decoction is now ready for use!

This process should only take about 1-2 hours in total. 2 teaspoons or 30 drops of this particular decoction can be taken after every meal, alone or with juice or water.
Remember there are no preservatives so the decoction will only remain fresh for a couple days, make to use immediately.

Have fun experimenting and let me know what you come up with! 🙂 

 

4 Steps to the Simple Life

It’s been almost a week since graduating Ayurveda school and it’s been interesting to get back to ‘normal’ life and start putting it all that I’ve learned into practice. Now that I have given my body a thorough cleaning with panchakarma, it is now up to me to maintain it’s state by keeping up with a daily health routine. I’m now travelling with a backpack full of various pills oils for rejuvenation over the next few months but the healing is much more than that. Actually, the areas where I have seen the most improvement on this journey have been where I have introduced simple changes to my life and kept up with good habits. 
Ayurveda is such a vast science and it can be intimidating to most people especially if you are a beginner and perhaps a little unsure of how to pronounce it’s name. The truth is, Ayurveda is just a simple way of knowing your body and how to keep it in balance. If you are too hot, cool down! If you are tired, take rest! There is really not much to be confused about and these things can be easily adapted into every kind of lifestyle.
So, I thought this would be the appropriate time to share with you, some of the ‘not-so secret’ secrets that have helped me the most and which you can start adding to your own routine right away. Let’s learn and heal together!

IMG_6094

1) Lube Up – I can’t stress the importance of self massage enough! It is no secret that with each passing day, our body gets a tiny bit older and the Vata dosha (air + space elements) start to naturally aggravate resulting in dryness, stiff muscles and cracking joints. No matter what age you are or whether you have any aggravations or not, it is extremely beneficial to start a routine of daily oil application right away. Early morning is best for maximum absorption and in Ayurveda, we use special medicated herbal oils to suit each body type but if these are not available to you, any cooking oil will do such as coconut, sesame or olive. Time to raid your kitchen!
Once you have your oil, find a comfortable spot, spread out an old towel or sheet (spillage is bound to occur) and give yourself about 30 minutes. Start with your head and face, then upper body all the way down to your toes, giving each part ample attention as you move through, giving friction with your hands. Self massage has so many benefits including the improvement of circulation, digestion and sound sleep. Besides that, it’s actually a way to get to know your body and give yourself some love. We underestimate the power of human touch, especially the best kind which comes from our own hearts and hands.

2) Skip Meals – I was brought up in a ‘normal’ household where, like most families, we ate 3 meals per day at set times and if we weren’t hungry my mother would always encourage us to eat anyway, just to fill our bellies. While I am thankful for never being deprived of food, I have come to see that this is not natural for my body. I am of the Kapha (earth + water elements) body type and I’ve discovered that I actually don’t need 3 meals per day, hence why I was never hungry for breakfast as a child and always felt too full after a big dinner in the evening. sacral-chakra
Sound familiar? It may be a major ‘no-no’ in our modern culture to skip breakfast but it’s one of the most effective and natural habits that I got into. Ayurveda states that we should only be eating when we are really truly hungry which requires us to pay close attention to our own digestive fire, not a clock which tells you it’s time to have dinner. So now that I’ve settled into my own natural rhythm, I’ve realised that I can skip breakfast, or lunch or dinner comfortably depending on what my stomach is telling me on the day and my body is much happier for it. Of course, everyone is different and some people will absolutely need 3 steady meals where some can get by on just a big lunch. Once again, it’s all about realising that you are a unique individual with unique requirements and it’s time to start tuning in to what those needs are, not what other people are telling you to do.

3) Meditate More – A lot of people have told me they don’t meditate because they can’t or have simply never tried it. “There is no time” “I can’t sit still” “but it’s soooo boring” … and insert other excuses here. The truth is, you don’t have to be a yogi sitting in the lotus position for hours to meditate and it certainly doesn’t have to be boring. Before I started my regular practice, I had the same common misconception about what mediation was and thought that maybe it was something I could never understand or accomplish. Meditation is not something to accomplish, it is just allowing yourself to BE. That is it. We forget about the simple act of sitting, not on our phones or in front of the TV but just sitting, the way we are and allowing ourselves a much needed break from the world. We are all so busy and overworked these days to the point where almost every human being is battling some degree of stress or mental illness. IMG_6203The grand upside however; is that we hold the key to freeing ourselves from all this self inflicted misery. During my panchakarma treatments, meditation became an essential part of my day, even more important than eating or sleeping. It became my time to recharge my energy and let the healing from all the treatments I was taking, settle deep into my body and mind. Once I made mediation a priority, it became as normal as brushing my teeth, and I watched as awareness began to flow naturally in my life. Meditation can be anything you want it to be. It can be walking your favourite trail in the park or watching the waves crash on the shore at the beach. It can even be dancing like a lunatic, if you are present enough. It is any activity where we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in that which we are doing allowing total peace to enter our beings. There are many optimal times to meditate in the day; first thing in the morning, in the evening before dinner and at night before sleeping. Choose which one suits your routine best and eventually you will be able to incorporate all three. With time and practice, you will be able to sit like a true yogi, but for now just allow yourself some well deserved time to do nothing and know that this is more than enough. It’s all about baby steps after all.

4) Change Your Attitude – The final and most crucial piece of information that I can share with you. IMG_4799Healing ourselves goes far beyond the physical doing; the taking of medication, the dieting, the exercise. None of these factors, no matter how strict, will have any effect if we don’t have a positive attitude to go with them. Fear of disease inhibits the body from taking in the nutrients it needs. Subconscious self hatred for allowing the body to become weak in the first place, will allow even more disease to accumulate. If we want to get better in any aspect of our lives, whether we simply want to lose weight or battle a serious disease like cancer, the most important thing we can have with us is our will power. Our will to survive. The desire so strong to live this beautiful life to it’s maximum potential, that no disease could possibly overcome us. That is why you hear ‘miracle’ stories of people getting through the toughest illnesses and coming out on top in full health. No amount of doctors can ever make someone better if the patient themselves does not believe the medicine can work. Ayurveda and many other forms of alternative medicine can show amazing results but only if you let go of any negativity and give your body the support it needs to do it’s job. So drop the skepticism and give yourself some love. You are as strong as any being and you deserve to be healthy.

Panchakarma: The Sweet Nectar of Balance

“Then you will have to decide, with all parts of your being, that you are tired of being unbalanced and you are prepared to undergo patiently whatever discipline may be necessary to heal yourself. Until you can say to yourself sincerely, that you are ready to change your ways, your healing cannot occur. When your mind is contrite and willing to forgive itself for falling ill, it is sure to co-operate with your body to do the job right.”
~ Robert E Svoboda

IMG_6039

I’m at the end of my 3 month program and it’s been a truly eye opening experience, to say it’s changed my life would be a gross understatement. I’ve come to understand the many unique features of Ayurvedic healing that are lacking in allopathic medicine today. Ayurveda relies on the administration of medicinal plants, allowing the body to heal itself naturally in conjunction with introducing healthy habits like proper diet and daily meditation. The most special practice is the yearly cleansing system called Panchakarma. It is an opportunity available for everyone to rid themselves of toxins accumulated throughout the year and return our bodies back to their balanced state. IMG_6047-2Whether you are relatively healthy or struggling to get back on track, your disease can be cured from the root cause instead of jumping to the temporary fix of pain killers and risky surgery. In a week, I’ll be receiving my diploma in Ayurveda along with the administration of a 1 litre herbal enema. So, how did I suddenly become a therapist as well as a patient? Let me back it up a bit…

While learning and putting all this into practice, I’ve come to see that health is not black and white, there are many factors. As I started to analyse my own body, the more I learned about proper living. The more I learned, the more I began to wonder if I had ever truly experienced a state of balance. As I looked into my personal habits, I realised that I have not necessarily been living an ‘unhealthy’ life, but the incorrect lifestyle for my body type which has led to some aggravation.

IMG_7013Even though I have been practicing yoga almost every day for years, I have been suffering from a serious build up of tension in my cervical spine and scapula with no amount of stretching, massage or Tiger Balm providing me relief.

Sleeping in bad hostel beds, driving on long road trips and working for long hours with a heavy camera strapped around my neck has of course contributed to some of my spinal degeneration but it’s the more simple things that I have been unaware of, that have contributed a surprising amount to the problem. Long term use of drying foods (black coffee and toast, for example), sleeping at odd hours of the night and suppressing natural urges (like not going to the toilet during a busy day at work!) can all contribute to a deep seated Vata aggravation. Vata is the dosha in our body governed by air and space. When these elements appear in our body in excess, it leads to all forms of pain especially in the bones and joints, not to mention countless other problems that are all too common in our society today.
Once I had learned about all these small things that were slowly inflicting harm to my body, there was only one thing left to do; CHANGE! I decided my studies in India would not be complete without undergoing  my own Panchakarma treatment.

IMG_5951

Since Panchakarma is still relatively unheard of in western countries, I’d like to share with you, the details of this fascinating and very intense process. I’ll do my best to give you the most descriptive run down of what’s been happening in my body over the last month. WARNING: there are some graphic details, don’t lose your lunch.
Here’s what went down:

Step 1) Internal Oleation – The most important preparatory step, but the most difficult part of the entire Panchakarma for me. This is the stage where we prepare the alimentary tract and internal organs for their cleaning by ingesting oily substances, namely, medicated ghee chosen for your specific condition. To put it simply, over the course of seven days, I drank over one litre of clarified butter and ate a mono diet of digestible porridge. Not the easiest thing to do in the world, but absolutely necessary, especially in my condition for nourishing and rebuilding my wasted muscle tissue. You feel all sorts of things in this week, mostly HEAVY, nauseous and wondering what the hell you got yourself into. Trust me it pays off. I learned some big lessons from this week. I was in constant tune with my body, listening to its every need with full awareness. I had to monitor when the ghee was digested before eating the first meal of the day so I discovered what it’s like to feel TRUE hunger and really appreciate a good nourishing meal when it was finally time to chow down.

Step 2) External Oleation and Sudation – The most enjoyable part; receiving massage and specialised treatments, every single day tailored to suit your needs. Massage is not only used for relaxation in Ayurveda, it is used as a method to loosen toxins in the body. The skin is like another mouth, it absorbs and expels. The tissues are nourished with herbal oil and toxins are released via sweat created by friction and heat. I got to try almost every traditional treatment including the infamous shirodhara (oil pouring over the head) and kizhi (massaging with herbal bags). I’m not gonna lie, the massages also had their challenges. We’re not used to dedicating so much time to take care of ourselves and it can sometimes be difficult to lay on the table for hours as you get squeezed, twisted and slapped around when you would rather be somewhere else. I grew to appreciate treatments and dedicated my hours on the table to meditation practice.

Step 3) Purgation – To the few people I’ve told back home about the taking of my ‘poop medicine’, this section is for you! At first it sounds crazy to make yourself have diarrhoea for several hours but at the end of every week of treatments, it’s time to bring all those loosened toxins completely out of the body. Herbal medicine is taken orally which cleans the alimentary tract and comes out through the rectum. It’s actually a completely harmless treatment and truthfully, one of the best things I’ve ever done for my body. The elimination itself can be a bit, well, shitty, but afterwards you feel incredibly light and fresh. From doing purgation alone, I’ve lost weight, cooled my body temperature, cleared my skin and regulated the digestive system just to name a few of the many benefits.

Step 4) Panchakarma – This word means ‘five actions’ in Sanskrit and these actions include therapeutic vomiting, purgation, nasal cleansing, herbal enema and blood letting. The most appropriate action is advised by a doctor according to the patients’ problems and body type. For me, it will be the enema called ‘vasty’ which will bring all the accumulated Vata out of my body, again, through the rectum. This is the final stage and then… FREEDOM!

IMG_7019

So, I’m still waiting to finish the final step of my Panchakarma but, my body is already exponentially happier. My back is BACK and I feel so much relief. We spent a lot of time talking about treatments in class but I really had to experience it myself to understand the amazing results of natural medicine. You become your own support system and get to know yourself on some of the deepest levels. Panchakarma can be very intense and I can see how a lot of people would be skeptical but once you trust that the medicine works, you begin to let go and allow nature to take over. Panchakarma is not only the cleansing of the physical body but of the soul as well. Every day felt different as I came to terms with and let go of emotional baggage. In addition to my body feeling lighter, so does my mind. The past month has allowed so much clarity to enter my being and things in my life seem to be opening up naturally. If you are blocked in some way, you can never live in the moment because your sickness will always overcome you. I do believe that you need a clean and properly working vessel to experience the true potential of this beautiful life. Now, I’m chalked full of new energy and ready to enjoy the sweet nectar of being alive. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to get on your own path to well being.

May everyone be happy
May everyone be healthy
May everything be holy
May there never be disharmony of any kind, anywhere! 

Nature’s Way to Social Change

Historical-evidence-of-Ayurveda

As I’ve been going deeper into the studies and philosophies of Ayurveda at school, I’ve noticed a very apparent connection to natural living. It seems one of the most important steps to getting healthy is to first start taking care of our environment. If we’re all living and breathing the same air, then it is time we re-evaluate our link to the whole system and how our actions effect the entire planet.
Are you with me on this one?
OK, good. So, I’ll continue…

IMG_0472One of the greatest struggles I’ve come across in my past three years of traveling is how my carbon foot print effects the land I am trekking on and how to make it a little lighter. I’d like to think I do my best to live a conscious nomad life and make an effort to “leave no trace” on my pathway but every country is at a different level of awareness when it comes to eco-care and when you’re bouncing from city to city, it can take a considerable amount of adaptability when it comes to living sustainably abroad.

IMG_0512I believe it is our duty as good foreign visitors to do what we can, wherever we are, and spread the love of keeping Mother Earth clean with those in our current company.
I’ve been calling North Kerala’s Kannur, ‘home’ for almost 8 weeks now and this town and it’s lovely people have finally grown on me. Living just a short walk from Payyambalam beach amongst the hibiscus plants and coconut trees has made for a glorious, peaceful surrounding. However; my friends and I have all been bothered by a little “trouble in paradise”. Unfortunately, India’s massive garbage problem has turned most of the beautiful parts of South India into an eye sore. Fighting for a spot to do morning yoga on the beach amongst the plastic bottles or driving by a lush green palm forest only to be obliterated with the scent of burning trash…

All I can say is:

1) This is NOT ok.

2) We are ALL part of the problem.

3) We ALL need to help.

While India may be slightly behind in their waste management system, they are not the only country that is struggling with where to put their trash and we’ve noticed a lot of the foreign matter is getting washed up on the beach from the ocean itself.
My new friends and I are reducing our waste intake while we are in India by saying NO to plastic bags at the grocery store, carrying reusable water bottles and hugging trees (just for fun!) but we’ve also started to take it a step further to lend a helping hand to our current community. Here are some of the fun things we’ve been up to:

KANNUR BEACH CLEAN UP

IMG_0443

Our weekends are usually reserved for sleeping, studying and massage treatments but last Saturday we teamed up with the one and only local organic store, Nature Trees (www.naturetrees.org) and started a beach clean up in front of our apartments. At first we got many strange looks, a handful foreigners stumbling down the beach, pulling plastic bags and beer bottles out of the sand. I’m sure it was a hilarious sight! Eventually, people started approaching us, asking why we were collecting all this garbage and once we explained that we just want to keep the beach clean for our enjoyment, everyone offered to help! By the end of the afternoon, our group of 6 turned into at least 16 or more and there was a massive sense of satisfaction and a strong community vibe after seeing all the hard work we just pulled off.
Thanks Nature Trees, for supplying the disposal bags, looking forward to the next clean up!

IMG_0449

 

THE VILLAGE COMPOST

One of the things I miss most about North America is composting in my parents back yard. Call me crazy, but there is something so damn satisfying about seeing all your green waste piled up in layers, just waiting to break down and return to it’s rightful place in the earth.

IMG_0425 Of course, eating healthy vegetarian meals and cooking from home does mean the accumulation of a lot of food scraps and in Indian suburbia, once again, there is just no proper place to put it. After seeing how much green waste I was producing alone in a week, I decided something needed to be done. My friends Camilla and Animo, who also practice permaculture, got on board with me. We asked permission to utilise an oversized pile of lawn waste behind our apartment and started our own 18 day hot compost.

It’s a major work in progress but we’ve been layering our food scraps with animal dung and palm tree mulch and with the 40 degree heat our waste has already begun to break down. We’re expecting some happy worms soon!

Dung provided by local cows and THIS big guy…

IMG_0411

AND
My favourite solution to all the world’s micro plastics…

BOTTLE BRICKS

Sometimes it seems like a never-ending black hole. So much garbage, so little space.. what to do? It just keeps coming! Should we start eating it?!
Fear not, because there is a wonderful new solution called UPCYCLING. If you are not already aware of this system, look it up and get involved. It basically means finding fun new ways to reuse all the crap you were gonna throw into the bin.
I’ve been utilising plastic bottles from the side of the road and stuffing them full of small plastics that are difficult to recycle (like candy wrappers, labels etc.). For now, this is my contribution for keeping plastic out of the ocean and it’s a great way to keep track of how much plastic you have been consuming in your house hold. AND did you know that bottle bricks can be used for building?!

Houses-with-Plastic-Bottles
Check out this bottle brick house being constructed in Africa!

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN BOTTLE BRICKS:

  • Take an empty plastic bottle, washed, label removed.
  • Get a handful of your accumulated house hold plastics and start stuffing them inside the bottle.
  • Once the plastic is inside you will need a long stick of some sort to help squish the plastic all the way down to the bottom and fit as much inside as possible.
  • Really do your best to COMPACT your bottle. Ideally, a bottle brick will be stuffed fully with plastic and no air spaces inside. This way, it will be dense enough to actually use for building in the future!
  • Once your bottle is full, close the top with a lid and START THE NEXT ONE! 😀

IMG_0539

Ok, so I think by now it is common knowledge that our beautiful earth is facing a bit of a struggle and I won’t bore you with any more details but the moral of the story is, it is NOT ok to turn a blind eye. Realise that you are part of the problem AND the solution. Wherever we are in the world, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start finding solutions to our global crisis, RIGHT NOW.
The good thing is that change can happen by ANYONE, ANYWHERE in the world! So even if you live in the greenest country on the planet, it never hurts to take it a step further. If you already sort your recycling on a regular basis, great! Now start helping your neighbours do it too! If you don’t know what to do with your garbage then maybe it’s time to think about using LESS. Taking care of the environment should be a fun way to find a creative solution to our present impasse. So go, get involved in your local community and give from deep down in your heart. I guarantee, this is the best medicine your soul could ask for and you will get a lot of universal LOVE coming your way 🙂

How to make Ghee

One of the most common ingredients in food across India and one of the most worshipped substances in Ayurvedic medicine, but what is this “Ghee” you may ask? And why should I start using it or even care about it’s existence? Well, let me ‘chew the fat’…
In simple terms, ghee is clarified butter. That’s it. Plain old butter that’s had the water evaporated from it and the fat separated from the milk solids so you get all the fatty goodness your heart desires in one expiry date-free bottle.
Still don’t care?
Let me tell you more…

IMG_5840

Ghee is actually sacred in India and offered to the gods in worship but besides that, it’s nutritional and medicinal properties are exponential. It is now being used more in modern health, as it has shown that ghee is incredibly high in good fats and vitamins that we don’t get from other oils and regular butter and since the milk solids are removed, lactose intolerant people can have a go at this one!
IMG_5832In Ayurveda it is used both internally and externally, it can be found in various stages of fermentation (up to 100 years old!) and at it’s best it is infused with various healing herbs just waiting to be transported into your body. As a high potency animal fat product (sorry vegans!), regular use of ghee is one of the best ways to restore depleted tissues including vital muscle and bone. It also builds immunity, strengthens digestive fire, acts as an anti-inflammatory and much much more that will have to be left up to your own personal experimentation.
According to ancient texts, everyone canIMG_5834 drink 1-2 teaspoons of melted ghee every morning for good health but if you don’t think you can stomach it, then try adding a bit to your daily cooking and see how your body likes it.
The only problem is, good quality ghee is seldom available outside India and when you finally track it down it could be expensive for a tiny little jar.

The best thing to do is make your own! I had the wonderful experience of being shown this quick and easy recipe by my Indian friend, Deo, while I stayed at her family home in Tamil Nadu. The ghee turned out perfectly because we used hand churned butter (which I also learned to make!) from FRESH, hormone free, grass fed cows milk!
But you can do it with unsalted store bought butter (preferably still organic, grass fed, unpasturised). So get some and get started!

IMG_5839
Mmmmm…… fresh butter!

In a pan, melt 1 lb of unsalted butter cut into cubes, over low heat. You can add fresh curry leaves if available which gives the ghee it’s traditionally “nutty” smell and taste, but if they’re not available, don’t worry.

IMG_5844

As the butter melts, a layer of white bubbly foam will begin to form at the top, this is the water evaporating. Continue cooking until all water is gone, this will take about 10-15 minutes and you will know when all the white foam starts to become thin and the bubbles become clear.

IMG_5847

Now you will be able to see the golden colour of the true ghee as it is cooked down, you will notice brown rings around the pan, these are the milk solids that have caramelised and separated from the butter. If you are worried about ruining your pan, of course, you can stir the butter while it’s bubbling and scrape the sides so it doesn’t stick but in traditional Indian ghee, the caramelised burnt parts are what adds the taste to the ghee and separates it from regular ‘clarified’ butter. So, I guess ask yourself if you are ready to become Indian or not 😉

IMG_5848

Now, strain that golden nectar into a jar or container for storage. Once it sits it will solidify and look like the first picture in the blog. If made correctly, ghee will not have a shelf life and will not need to be kept in the refrigerator. The 1 lb of butter should be equal to about 100 ml of ghee.
Now, USE IT and ENJOY! And if you have any further questions about how to use your ghee to it’s maximum potential, contact me 🙂

IMG_5851

 

 

The road to Ayurveda

This year, I embarked on my third trip to India. Each visit to this magical land, has served it’s own purpose and this time I’m here to walk the beginning steps to a new lifestyle and field of work. 29 intense, days of learning have flown by before I’ve even had time to get over my jet lag but I’m happy to announce that I’ve completed the first month of my diploma in Ayurveda massage and panchakarma.

IMG_5383
(a corny shot of me receiving certificates from my wonderful teachers)

I’ll touch quickly on the basis of Ayurveda; it’s an ancient way of living a naturally healthy life in body, mind and spirit. It’s actually a very simple science concerning the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) and the life long routine of balancing these factors in our body. It only seems complex because modern humans have grown so far away from our natural states of being, that we don’t even know how to begin getting back on track. Don’t worry, I’m learning to make sense of it all so I can help you incorporate it into your own life very soon!IMG_0179

I initially discovered Ayurveda while doing my yoga teacher training in Mysore last year. While reading books on prakruti (body constitution) and herbology, I could finally see a new way to live and it all started to make sense to me. I enrolled in an Ayurvedic massage course simultaneously with my yoga training and I felt completely at home. Since then, I knew I wanted to continue my studies so I could practice professionally in the future.

IMG_0180So here I am, and it’s been a different learning experience this time as I’ve had to share the studies with a large group of 40 very unique individuals from all over the world. Every person, their own ball of exciting energy, had something special to offer from tarot card readings to acupuncture, psychic healing to music talent and we’d all met here in the sticky heat of a Kerala summer to learn to heal others and most importantly, heal ourselves. So all of us together in one crowded place, sharing our issues and fighting over the best seat in class, closest to the air conditioning of course, has been intimate and interesting to say the least.
From the first day of school, one of our teachers, Dr. Sapna has said “To know Ayurveda, first you must know yourself” and that has truly been the highlight of this entire month for me…

IMG_0148Waking up with the priority of cleaning your nose and pouring oil over your entire body is a funny concept at first but after seeing the immense benefits that this ancient form of medicine has to offer, I am now on the slow and steady path to living a full Ayurvedic lifestyle.

In a daily routine that involves taking care of your body, inside and out, my collection of oils and medecines is constantly growing, and I’ve had the pleasure of experimenting with all the herbal goodies on myself. I look forward to utilising this blog as a way to share the recipes for decoctions and remedies that have helped me along the way.

We’ve learned to give full abhyanga (oil massage) and panchakarma (detoxifying) treatments and were lucky enough to receive all the massages every day in our practical classes which quickly became my favourite hours of the day.

IMG_0236I have to say, even though I am discovering that there are lots of toxins that need to come out of my body, I have never felt so good which I’ll take as a positive sign that things are working. Even though there is much more to be done, I’m already seeing big changes in my physical body and in my mental state of being.

So although it’s a bit emotional to part ways with a lot of the people I’ve shared this past month with, I am happy to see everyone move on and spread the vast wings of Ayurveda across the world, and more so, I can’t wait to go deeper into my studies for the next two months where we will get to put our skills into practice at local hospitals and learn to identify herbs used for medicine.

So keep and eye out for future posts here so you can learn along with me!

IMG_5445

Congratulations ‘Ayurvedies’ of Anjali!
29-02-2016