BATH THERAPY: DIY HERBAL TUB TEA

BATH THERAPY: DIY HERBAL TUB TEA

Herbal bath therapy is a warming, relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful aroma and therapeutic properties of medicinal herbs. A long luxurious bath filled with the aroma and nourishing properties of medicinal plants is also an invitation to slow down and engage in an act of self-care. During fall and winter months, I love to end my day with this soothing DIY herbal tub tea. I also turn to this luxurious medicine whenever I feel the slightest possibility that I may be coming down with a cold or flu.

HERBS FOR MAKING BATH TUB TEA

There are so many soothing herbs for the bath. The blend you see here contains Lavender, Rose Petals, Chamomile and Lemon Balm and helps promote sleep and relaxation. For more about herbs for sleep, including Lavender and Chamomile, check out this recent post, 5 Herbs & Essential Oils for Sleep. You can choose from a number of different herbs to create a bath tub tea specific to your needs and desires. Some are calming and relaxing, others are soothing to irritated, itchy skin, and others help to prevent or relieve a cold or flu. If you can’t choose from among the many herbal options, I’ve also included some therapeutic combinations below.

CALENDULA | A sunny golden flower soothing to inflamed, irritated, or itchy skin

CHAMOMILE | A sweet smelling, relaxing flower to ease tension and irritability, soothe tight painful muscles, cool sun burn, and provide relieve for inflamed, irritated, and itchy skin

COMFREY LEAF | A dark green leafy herb that helps speed the healing of wounds and broken bones

EUCALYPTUS | An aromatic, sage-colored leaf used to relieve sinus and respiratory congestion that is also stimulating and uplifting to mood

GOTU KOLA | A dark green leafy plant that soothes inflamed skin, speeds wound healing, and calms body, mind, and spirit

LAVENDER| A beautiful, aromatic herb that is relaxing to nervous tension and tight muscles, promotes a good night’s sleep, and soothes inflamed, irritated, and itchy skin

MUGWORT | A fluffy green aromatic herb that is relaxing and detoxifying, helpful for menstrual cramps, and beneficial in the early stages of colds or flu

PEPPERMINT | A rich green aromatic herb that is stimulating and uplifting to mood and also useful for sore, painful muscles and headaches

PLANTAIN | A green, weedy plant with the ability to soothe inflamed, irritated, or itching skin and promote healing of wounds

ROSE PETALS | A beautiful, aromatic flower, soothing to skin that also helps to relieve grief, promote emotional balance, and soothe and open the heart

HERBAL BATH TUB TEA COMBINATIONS

Calming & Relaxing to relieve occasional insomnia
Lavender, Chamomile, Rose Petals, and Gotu Kola

Morning Bath to stimulate & awaken
Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Rose Petals, and Gotu Kola

Itch Relief to calm dry, inflamed or irritated skin
Lavender, Chamomile, Plantain, and Calendula

Muscle Melt to relieve sore or tense muscles
Peppermint, Lavender, Chamomile, and Comfrey Leaf

Colds or Flu to relieve congestion and inflammation
Eucalyptus, Mugwort, Peppermint, and Chamomile

DIY HERBAL TUB TEA BATHING INSTRUCTIONS

1. Choose four herbs from the list above or choose one of the combinations.
2. Combine 1 cup of each herb in a large bowl and mix well.
3. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use. (Makes 4-6 baths)

Spoon 3/4 cup of your herbal bath tub tea blend into a muslin bag or a large square of unbleached cotton muslin. Bring 6—8 cups of water to boil on the stove. Turn off the heat, drop in the herb filled muslin bag, cover, and allow to steep for 20-30 minutes. While the bath blend is steeping, fill the tub. After the herbs have steeped, pour the bath tub tea along with the muslin bag of herbs into the bath. Turn down the lights, light a candle and get in to the bath. Relax, let go, and absorb the aroma and herbal goodness. You can massage your body with the herb-filled bag to release more of the therapeutic compounds in the herb and as a gentle skin exfoliant.

I hope you will allow time in your busy life for some nourishing bath therapy. Which tub tea blends do you look forward to trying? Leave a comment below and tell us or show us your favorites on Instagram with #NectarDIY.

wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

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Simple & Luxurious DIY Essential Oil Solid Perfume

Simple & Luxurious DIY Essential Oil Solid Perfume

These easy DIY essential oil perfumes are a simple and luxurious way to free your body from the synthetic fragrances found in most conventional perfumes and colognes. Made from carrier oils, beeswax and essential oils, these solid perfumes are fun and easy to make. If you’ve been focused on the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, solid perfume making will expand your olfactory skills and give you the opportunity to try your hand and nose in the ancient art of perfuming.

Solid perfumes can be poured into different types of containers, from simple lip balm tubes to small glass jars. My favorite are small vintage jars and compacts you can find at your local thrift stores and antique shops; using these makes them feel that much more personal and special. There is also a large selection online at Etsy.

A (Very) Brief Guide to Perfuming with Essential Oils

Perfuming is both an art and science with a long history. Traditionally, perfumes were made from pure essential oils and plant resins. While some of the most expensive perfumes still are, today many well know perfumes and colognes are made with synthetic fragrances. Whether natural or synthetic, most perfumes are a blend of fragrances with a range of characteristics that come together in a unique, synergistic way. Perfumers typically combine fragrances to create a balance of top notes, middle notes and base notes, which refer to how the scents will behave in the blend and interact with your sense of smell. Theses characteristic and some of the corresponding essential oils are described in this brief guide.

TOP NOTES

CHARACTERISTICS:
✧ 5-20% of blend (1-8 drops in a one ounce container)
✧ light, fresh, sharp, or penetrating the first scent you smell and they evaporate quickly also called head notes or peak notes

ESSENTIAL OILS:
Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemongrass, Palmarosa*, Peppermint*, Pink Grapefruit, Siberian Fir*, Sweet Orange

MIDDLE NOTES

CHARACTERISTICS:
✧ 50-80 % of blend (10-30 drops in a one ounce container)
✧ the main body of the blend, harmonizing, balancing scents that round out the blend adding soothing, soft tones
✧ Unfold within a few moments up to 3 hours after application
✧ also called bouquets or heart notes

ESSENTIAL OILS:
Cardamom, Clary Sage, German Chamomile, Holy Basil, Lavender, Siberian Fir*, Rosemary, Peppermint*, Palmarosa*, Jasmine**, Marjoram, Thyme, Rose Geranium, Ylang Ylang

BASE NOTES

CHARACTERISTICS:
✧ Use sparingly, ~5% of blend (1-2 drops in a one ounce container)
✧ deep, warm and sensuous; provides depth and intensity
✧ be cautious; base notes can be overpowering and unpleasant if used in too high a proportion. More pleasant base notes like Cedarwood, Frankincense and Jasmine can be used in higher amounts.

ESSENTIAL OILS:
Cedarwood, Frankincense, Jasmine**, Patchouli, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

You can find all of the essential oils here. When choosing the essential oils for your solid perfume, keep these guidelines in mind, but most importantly, trust your nose. Scents are intimate and personal. These solid perfumes usually improve with age and it may take days or weeks for a blend to reveal its full beauty and complexity. If you’re not feeling adventurous, this guide, How to Create 5 Iconic Fragrances for Less , offers olfactory insight into the key fragrance notes in some of the most popular perfumes. 

Choosing Essential Oils for your Solid Perfume

1. If you’re a beginner in the art of perfuming, keep it simple and elegant. Consider using three to five essential oils.
2. Experiment with a few drops on the thick paper to test various combinations, until you’re satisfied.
3. For a one ounce container, use a total of 20 – 40 drops of essential oils. You can use a simple form like this to record your perfume formula.

TOP NOTES
(1-8 drops)

Essential Oil:

MIDDLE NOTES
(10-30 drops)

Essential Oil:

BASE NOTES
(1-2 drops)

Essential Oil:

DIY Solid Perfume Recipe

Yields ~ 4 ounces perfume (or 4 one ounce containers)

Ingredients:
¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) Jojoba Oil
¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) Apricot Kernel Oil
½ ounce (by weight) beeswax
Essential oils of your choice;
20-40 drops ounce of perfume or 80-1600 drops for the entire batch.

Instructions:
Before you begin, set aside a small amount of the jojoba oil and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary. Place the oil in a steel, enamel, or glass container with the beeswax and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted. To test the finished consistency of your product, remove the mixture from the heat source; dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result. At this point, if you are using essential oils, there are two options: 1) if you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir your essentials into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool; or 2) add your essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/beeswax mixture into each container to cool. Label and enjoy!

These solid perfumes are a delightful way to enjoy your favorite essential oils. They also make treasured gifts especially when paired with a charming vintage container. I’d love to see your finished perfumes and hear about your favorite blends. Leave a comment below or post a picture on Instagram and tag it #nectarDIY.

Happy perfuming,
suzanne

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DIY: Upcycled Lavender Pillow Diffusers

DIY: Upcycled Lavender Pillow Diffusers

I call these little gems upcycled lavender Pillow Diffusers. I call them Pillow Diffusers because you put them on your pillow at night to diffuse the soothing aroma of essential oils while you’re sleeping. These simple diffusers were the solution to the challenge I encountered when I started using essential oils for better sleep. But more about that later. With these diffusers I also found another use for my collection of vintage felted wool and cashmere. I pick them up secondhand and at thrift shops whenever I can. I also save all the tiny felted sweaters my husband creates on the rare occasion when he does the laundry. My tiny shrunken sweaters get a new life with these diffusers! Not only are these Pillow Diffusers crazy cute, they bring together my passion for essential oils and obsession for upcycling. They also make a unique and thoughtful gift paired with a bottle of the recipient’s favorite essential oil!

So, this is how I came to make these Pillow Diffusers and solve the problem I was having. As you may know, Lavender essential oil  can help you achieve a deeper more restful sleep. Lavender is also one of the few essential oils that can be used “neat,”–directly on the skin undiluted. But after using a drop of pure, organic Lavender essential oil under my nose every night before bed for a few weeks with good results I noticed that the delicate skin there had become red and flaky. When I stopped using the Lavender, my skin cleared up, but every time I went back to using the Lavender it started again, almost immediately. In the meantime, I was meeting more and more people with red, flaky patches on their skin where they had been regularly applying essential oils—in some cases even properly diluted. That’s when I started experimenting with other ways of using Lavender essential oil at night and came up with this idea. Some people apply their nighttime essential oil directly to the pillow case, but using one of these feels like a special ritual filled with intention for tranquil sleep and it won’t damage your pillowcase either.

Upcycled Pillow Diffuser Instructions:

FELTING:
After you’ve got your hands on one or two wool or cashmere sweaters, you’ll need to felt them. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Once the sweaters have been felted, you can cut them and they won’t unravel. In my experience, cashmere does not felt as well as wool, but it felts enough to prevent unraveling. It is also a lot softer than wool and I like the way it feels on my skin. Felting happens when you (or your partner) put your favorite wool sweater in the washing machine with hot water and then throw it in the dryer. This is all it takes to felt most wool. In short, felting requires hot water, agitation, pressure and more heat. You can find detailed felting instructions here. For cashmere, I add a few tennis balls to the washer and dryer cycle to increase the agitation and pressure required for felting.

CUTTING:
Once your wool and cashmere is felted, you’re going to start dreaming of all the cute things you can make. I’ve made hats, scarves, and neck warmers, and even reconstructed whole new sweaters. Today, pillow diffusers! I recommend drawing a pattern on paper and tracing it onto your wool before you begin cutting. I use the felted wool (rather than the felted cashmere) for the base or bottom layer of the diffuser, because it has a little more structure. The base layer for the diffusers you see here is roughly 5” x 5”. Cut out three to five layers for each diffuser, with each layer a little smaller than the layer below. This will allow the diffuser to absorb several drops of essential oil without the oil seeping all the way through. Simple shapes like squares and circles are just as cute as more complex shapes, especially when you add some stitching detail. While you’re at it, you may as well cut out a bunch, because these Pillow Diffusers make a super sweet gift for just about anyone on your list, especially when paired with a bottle of Lavender essential oil or other relaxing essential oil like Sweet Orange or Marjoram.

STITCHING:
You don’t need any sewing experience to do this. However, I do recommend embroidery thread and an embroidery needle. You can find these at any fabric store and in most craft supply stores. Thread the needle, knot the thread and stitch a small ‘X’ right through the center of all the assembled layers. Clip the thread, knot the end and you’re finished! Now if you like to embroider you can get really creative here, but it’s not necessary. The top stitching you see on some of the Pillow Diffusers here is called a blanket stitch. It’s pretty easy. You can find detailed instruction for the blanket stitch, here.

At bedtime, I drop a couple of drops of Lavender essential oil on my Pillow Diffuser and set it on my pillow close to my nose. A few deep breaths and I start to relax and my mind gets quiet. Before I know it I’m fast asleep dreaming of lavender fields.

I hope you enjoy making these upcycled Pillow Diffusers and that they induce sweet dreams to anyone whose nose they meet! I’d love to see your finished diffusers! Share them on Instagram and tag us and #NectarDIY.

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

An Herbal Craft Project for Paper Lovers: DIY Tea-Dyed Botanical Note Cards

An Herbal Craft Project for Paper Lovers: DIY Tea-Dyed Botanical Note Cards

You don’t need to be an artist to create these beautiful DIY tea-dyed botanical note cards. If you do enjoy getting creative, you’ll love mixing the colors and textures of the unique tea-dyed papers and the vintage botanical images.

The supplies you need are simple and affordable. If you don’t won’t to purchase rubber stamps, print your vintage plant images from this amazing royalty-free resource, created by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. A warning before you dive in—this collection contains millions of vintage botanical and wildlife illustrations that can draw you in for days. Hand-making these stunning cards is also fun and it’s easy to innovate as you go.

Supplies You Will Need:

Herbal Teas (Rooibos Tea and Turmeric Powder were used for the cards you see here)
Small Muslin Bags (at least one for each tea)
Small Bowl (at least one for each tea)
Blank Note Cards (like these)
Scrap paper (reclaimed packing and tissue paper, old news print, etc.)
White or cream paper
Botanical Rubber Stamps or Vintage Botanical Prints
Ink Pad if using rubber stamps
Glue Stick
Parchment Paper
Iron

DIY Tea-Dyed Vintage Botanical Note Cards Instructions:

  1. Spoon approximately two tablespoons of each tea or herb into a muslin bag. Place the bag in a small bowl and cover muslin bags with boiling water. Allow to steep for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Lay out your cards and scrap paper on a protected surface.
  3. Gently wring out the muslin bag and begin to blot the cards and paper with your plant dye. Experiment with different strokes and movements to vary the texture. To dry, lay flat, hang on hangers or place in a dehydrator. When the tea-dyed cards and paper are completely dry, place them between two sheets of parchment paper and iron to flatten. You may choose not to iron some of the dyed scrap paper if you like the final texture when dried.
  4. Meanwhile, download and print the vintage botanical images. A color printer will give you the vintage look and colors. Cut the images to size. You can also use rubber stamps.
  5. After your paper materials are ready, assemble your cards. Use the glue stick to attach the dyed paper and vintage prints to the cards. Tearing the edges of the paper to fit the card adds texture and interest. Let your creativity run wild.
  6. To finish the cards, cut a rectangle of white or cream paper to go inside the card leaving a ¼”- ½” margin. Glue the paper inside the card. This creates a smooth writing surface on the inside of the note card.
  7. Now, appreciate your artwork! Send a sweet note to a friend, or give as an extra-special handmade  gift.

Keep a supply of these cards on hand for personal notes or stack several together with envelopes and gift them to your friends who still love the personal touch of a handwritten note.

We had so much fun creating the cards you see here, and I know you will too. I’d love to see your creativity at work. Snap a picture of your tea-dyed note cards, post it on Instagram and tag it #NectarDIY.

Have fun,
suzanne

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Easy Stress-Busting, Immune-Boosting Herbal Adaptogen Broth PLUS: Our Favorite Green Soup Recipe

Easy Stress-Busting, Immune-Boosting Herbal Adaptogen Broth PLUS: Our Favorite Green Soup Recipe

The most nourishing soups you love to make can be made even healthier with the immune-boosting, stress-busting power of this herbal adaptogen broth. If you’re not familiar with herbal adaptogens, you can read more in Herbal Wisdon: 8 Benefits of Adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stress, improve stamina, and increase resilience. Herbal adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors. They will also strengthen a weakened immune system reducing the chances of you catching the common cold or flu bug. Historically, adaptogens were used to increase longevity and promote healthy aging.

There are numerous adaptogens to choose from but, not all are so tasty that you’d want them in your soup. The herbs in this healthy adaptogen broth were chosen because they impart a rich, earthy flavor. The stress-relieving, immune enhancing herbs in this broth are Astragalus, Eleuthero and Ashwagandha roots, and Reishi and Shiitake mushroom.

Stress-Busting, Immune-Boosting Herbal Adaptogen Broth

Make this broth to enjoy on its own or substitute it for the broth in any of your soup recipes. It can also be used as the base for a simple miso soup.

Ingredients:

6 cups filtered water
½ ounce dried Astragalus Root
½ ounce dried Eleuthero Root
½ ounce dried Ashwagandha Root
½ ounce dried Reishi Mushroom
½ ounce dried Shiitake Mushroom
½ cup Carrots, chopped
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp dried Rosemary
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Thyme
1 tsp Turmeric powder
Salt + Pepper

Instructions:

Combine the Astragalus, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Reishi , Shiitake, salt and pepper with the water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer one hour. Turn off the heat and add the Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, and Turmeric powder. Cover and allow to steep 30 minutes. Strain and use within 3 days.

Our Favorite Green Adaptogen Soup Recipe

I have been making a Green Soup inspired by Splendid Table for years. It’s a favorite at my house and we enjoy it all year long, varying the greens with those in season. I recently started using the Adaptogen Broth instead of my regular vegetable broth and my family loves it just as much. The truth is, I vary the recipe so often in small ways, no one would know I had changed the broth unless I told them. While I do not advocate administrating medicinal herbs to your loved ones without their knowledge, this adaptogen broth is more like food than medicine. It’s a great way to help the whole family stay strong and healthy all year long.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 large Onions, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp water
1 cup Cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
3-4 cups Herbal Adaptogen Broth
1 large bunch of Kale, destemmed and roughly chopped
1 cup fresh Basil or Cilantro, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt + Pepper

Instructions:

In a heavy pan, sauté the onions on medium-high heat for 4-7 minutes until they begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and sauté until the garlic and onions are translucent. Lower the heat even further, add water, cover. Stirring occasionally, allow the onions to caramelize. This will take 30-40 minutes. Transfer the onions and garlic to a large soup pot. Add cauliflower and herbal adaptogen broth and bring to a gentle boil. When the cauliflower is tender (5-10 minutes) reduce the heat. Add kale and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the kale is bright green and tender. Turn off the heat. Stir in basil or cilantro and cayenne. Using an immersion blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in apple cider vinegar just before serving.

I hope this herbal adaptogen broth becomes a favorite at your house and I hope you enjoy the Green Soup, too. I’d love to hear how it goes. Leave a comment below or snap a picture of your adaptogen-based soup, tag it #NectarDIY and post it on Instagram.

Health and happiness,
suzanne

 

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

All-Purpose and Adventure Ready DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve

All-Purpose and Adventure Ready DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve

This DIY herbal first-aid salve is an excellent remedy to have on hand for small, everyday accidents or caught-in-the-wild mishaps that call for a little TLC. Salve is a medicinal ointment used topically to promote healing and typically made with herb-infused oils and beeswax. This recipe also incorporates essential oils to boost its antiseptic, soothing and pain-relieving properties. Use this homemade all-purpose first-aid salve for minor cuts, scrapes, and other small insults to the skin, for dry cracked skin, bug bites and stings, and minor aches and pains. Stock this versatile salve in your home medicine chest and in your travel first-aid kit. This recipe also makes enough for lots of small containers to share with family and friends.

An antiseptic describes a substance that helps inhibit disease and infection causing organisms. In this salve recipe the antiseptic properties come from the chaparral (Larrea tridentata), and lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and tea tree (Melaluca alternifolia) essential oils. When applied to the skin, chaparral (whether in the form of a tea, tincture, oil or salve) inhibits bacterial growth and exerts antimicrobial activity. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that promotes healthy skin. Lavender essential oil, in addition to its antiseptic properties, helps relieve itchy bug bites and minor aches and pains. Tea Tree essential oil is a potent antimicrobial, with antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. This DIY herbal first-aid salve also incorporates calendula (Calendula officinalis) infused oil for its ability to promote healing and soothe irritation. You can read more about the properties of Calendula in Radiant Skin: Herbs for Topical Skincare.

DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve Recipe

This salve is made in two steps. First, make the infused chaparral and calendula oils, then use the infused oils to create the finished salve. The infused oils can also be used on their own or in combination with essential oils, rather than in a salve. You can also skip step one by purchasing chaparral oil and calendula oil.

Ingredients:
1 ounce dried chaparral leaves
1 ounce dried Calendula flowers, ground
1.5 cups (12 ounces) olive oil
1-1.5 ounces beeswax
½ tsp lavender essential oil
½ tsp tea tree oil

Instructions:

Step 1 – Infused Herbal Oil

Place the whole chaparral leaves and powdered calendula flowers in separate jars with tight-fitting lids, add half the olive oil to each jar and mix well. Note: though I usually recommend grinding the herb to a powder before mixing it with the oil, I don’t recommend this for chaparral because the feisty resins in this herb will forever permeate your grinder.

Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.
Warm and allow the herbs to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming:

Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.

Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day for 7 - 10 days.

After 7 - 10 days, strain the oils. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. (You can purchase unbleached cotton muslin at any fabric store. Be sure to wash it before using.) Pour in all of the herb-oil mixture. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express as much of the infused oil as possible.

Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil for use in Step 2.

Step 2 – Herbal First-Aid Salve

Set aside a small amount of your infused oils and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.

Place the oils and beeswax in a steel, enamel or glass container and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.
To test the consistency of your finished product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oils into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result.
Remove from the heat source and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Gently stir in the essential oils and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.

Allow salves to cool and harden for 24 hours. If you notice cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance. Label your salve containers.

While I hope your needs for a first-aid salve are few and far between, I know you and your family will be glad to have this salve on hand for adventures and everyday accidents alike. I always enjoying seeing your finished products—snap a picture of your DIY herbal first-aid salve, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram and we might reshare it!

Wishing you good health and happiness,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Traveling Companions: Assembling a DIY Herbal First Aid Kit for Your Next Adventure

Traveling Companions: Assembling a DIY Herbal First Aid Kit for Your Next Adventure

Whether you’re heading out on a road trip, hopping on a plane, spending the day at a music festival or sending your firstborn off to college, you can never be too prepared! This DIY herbal first aid kit is specific to the size of the adventure and your family’s needs. To assemble your custom first aid kit, consider what needs are most likely to arise when you’re away from home. For example, when you travel and try new foods, do you suffer from indigestion? How will you adjust to the change in time zones? Do you need to be prepared for mosquitoes, bug bites or sunburn? Constipation is common for some people when they are away from home. Does getting on an airplane or skipping your daily routine cause anxiety? Do you have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms or in the great outdoors?

Even if you’re not going anywhere, this is also a wonderful approach if you want to rid your home medicine chest of over-the-counter drugs and replace them with healthy herbal alternatives. You can find more about Everyday Alternatives to Over-the-Counter Drugs, here.

Assembling a DIY herbal first aid kit for traveling doesn’t require an entire herbal pharmacy, but you’ll be glad you’re prepared for the small misadventures that might otherwise derail your plans. Consider these herbal traveling companions for your next adventure.

 

DIY Herbal First Aid Kit Essentials

 

ANXIETY, STRESS & INSOMNIA

Lavender Essential Oil: This is one of the best first aid remedies for any size adventure. For travel related anxiety, nervous tension, stress or insomnia a simple inhalation can work wonders. Simply place a drop or two of the pure essential oil on a tissue, hold it over your nose and breathe for several minutes. You can also add a drop or two of the essential oil to a teaspoon of unscented lotion or any available carrier oil and massage it into your skin. Lavender essential is also an excellent first aid remedy for itchy bug bites, sun burn, muscle aches and pains and headaches.

Valerian Root: If you usually have trouble sleeping when you travel and plan to be away from home for more than a night or two, consider taking valerian root in capsules or in a liquid extract. Valerian root promotes deep restful sleep and can also be used in time of acute stress or anxiety. It’s also an option for muscle pain and menstrual cramps.

 

INDIGESTION, NAUSEA, CONSTIPATION & DIARRHEA

Peppermint Essential Oil: This essential oil is an excellent first aid remedy for nausea and motion sickness. Like lavender or tea tree essential oils, peppermint can be used as a simple inhalation. Diluted in an unscented lotion or carrier oil, it can also be rubbed on the belly to relieve nausea, gas and bloating. Properly diluted peppermint essential oil is also an excellent choice for pain, muscle aches and itchy bug bites. A simple inhalation is also helpful for sinus congestion. Always properly dilute your peppermint essential oil if you are applying it topically; one to two drops in a teaspoon of lotion or carrier oil is a good, quick dilution for most purposes.

Ginger: Chewing on crystallized ginger can help ease nausea and motion sickness. If you often experience motion sickness when you travel, be sure to start using ginger before you board that boat or start down that winding mountain road. Ginger is also help for gas, bloating and digestive cramps. Instead of the sweet and spicy pleasure of crystalized ginger, your herbal first aid kit could include ginger in a tincture or in capsules. Ginger can also be used as a first aid remedy for colds or flu with lots of mucus, coughing, fevers, body aches, pain and menstrual cramps.

Digestive Bitters: These make a great travel companion if you’ll be eating exotic foods or something other than what you eat at home. Digestive bitters like this Better Bitters blend promote your body’s secretion of digestive enzymes and healthy digestive function. They can be especially helpful for indigestion, gas, bloating and the breakdown of heavy, fatty foods. They also have a mild laxative effect. Digestive bitters are usually taken as a tincture or liquid extract and work best if taken about 15 minutes before each meal.

Marshmallow Root Powder: This is an excellent digestive remedy if you’re traveling with children, though it works just as well for adults. Marshmallow root powder mixed in water, yogurt or other soft food can soothe stomach ache and irritable digestion and slow diarrhea. Taken with lots of water it can help relieve constipation.

Tea Tree Essential Oil: Small bottles of essential oils make great travel companions, especially when size and weight are considerations. Like lavender, tea tree essential oil is an important and versatile first aid remedy. When it comes to digestive complaints, dilute, tea tree essential oil in an unscented lotion or carrier oil and rub it on the belly for food poisoning (combined with Peppermint) or traveler’s diarrhea.

Echinacea-Goldenseal: This herbal combination works for a wide range of issues. Whether in capsules or an extract, this combination is an excellent remedy to help the body recover from food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea. It’s also helpful for colds, flu and general immune support.

 

COLDS, COUGHS & IMMUNE SUPPORT

Tea Tree Essential Oil: At the first sign of a cold, cough or other respiratory infection, put one drop of tea tree essential oil in a glass of hot salty water and gargle several times per day. A simple inhalation of the essential oil may also be helpful. A drop of tea tree may also be applied to small cuts or scrapes to inhibit infection. If your trip includes air travel, a simple inhalation of immune stimulating, anti-microbial essential oils like Essential Immunity, before, during and after the flight will help protect you from infectious bugs circulating in the aircraft. This blend includes tea tree and lavender essential oil.

Echinacea-Goldenseal: If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period and will not have easy access to herbal remedies, take along something for general immune support. The echinacea- goldenseal combination used for digestive complaints is also helpful for colds, flu, and other infectious conditions.

Ginger: This is another versatile remedy for your travel first aid kit or home medicine chest. Discussed in more detail above, ginger is a useful first aid remedy for colds, coughs, flu and fever, as well as digestive issues.

 

PAIN, SPRAINS & MUSCLE STRAINS

Arnica: If you’re going to be carrying a heavy backpack, walking long distances, or otherwise likely to develop sore muscles while you’re traveling, include Arnica in your first aid kit. In addition to relieving muscle aches and pains, Arnica is an excellent first aid remedy for a twisted ankle, stiff neck, bruising or any other sprain or strain. Pack an arnica cream or oil for topical use as well as the tiny vial of homeopathic arnica pellets for internal use. Use arnica as soon as possible after an injury or even before you put on your backpack or head out for a long hike.

Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oils: These two multi-purpose first aid oils can be combined in a carrier oil or lotion and applied topically to relieve pain. Roman Chamomile and Frankincense essential oils are two other good choices for pain and sprains that make versatile first aid remedies. If you like to make your own herbal products, this Herbal Pain Relief Salve is another excellent travel companion.

 

TOPICAL REMEDIES FOR CUTS, SCRAPES, BITES & BURNS

All-Purpose Antiseptic Salve: Every herbal first aid kit should include an all-purpose antiseptic salve that can be applied to small cuts, scrapes and other small wounds. The salve should help inhibit infection and promote healing. My favorite antiseptic salve is made with chaparral infused oil and lavender and tea tree essential oils. Keep your eyes out for the recipe later this month or try this all purpose calendula salve  which is a great carrier for the essential oil of your choice.

Lavender Essential Oil: This multiuse essential oil can also be diluted and applied topically to relieve itchy bug bites and burns, including sunburn. It will also help keep a small wound from becoming infected and promote wound healing.

Tea Tree Essential Oil: This versatile first aid remedy can be applied topically to inhibit infection. Diluting the oil first is best to avoid irritating the skin.

Yarrow: Dried yarrow or yarrow tincture can be applied topically to stop bleeding. If you know this fragrant flower, you might find it near your campsite or along the trail. The fresh plant can be mulched and applied to a wound. This remedy is not necessary in every first aid kit, but it is a wise addition when medical assistance is far away. Yarrow can also be helpful for sinus congestion, colds, flu and fever.

 

First Aid Accessories

In addition to herbal remedies and depending on the type of travel, be sure to include first aid accessories like band-aids, gauze pads and adhesive tape, cotton balls, antiseptic wipes and a small bottle of unscented lotion or carrier oil for the dilution of essential oils. Cold and hot packs, tweezers, a small pair of scissors and other accessories might also be helpful.

 

Assembling Your DIY Herbal First Aid Kit

Allow the circumstances of your adventure, your most common needs and the needs of your fellow travelers to dictate the contents of your herbal first aid kit. For example, if you’re only going to be away from home for the day picnicking or dancing your feet off at a music festival, take along a small kit with essential oils. If you’re hopping on an airplane or taking a long road trip, consider adding immune support and sleep aids to your essential oil kit. If you’re traveling in areas where food and water borne illness are a concern, be sure to include immune and digestive remedies. If you will be traveling in areas far from medical assistance be as complete as you can, given space and weight limitations. If you’re traveling with a group, it helps to collaborate on an herbal first aid kit that can be shared by everyone. A water proof container or zippered bag is ideal for most kits. As with the contents, choose a container or bag specific to your travel.

An herbal first aid kit for your weekend car-camping trip might look like this:

Lavender essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
Peppermint essential oil
All-purpose antiseptic salve
Arnica Cream
Band-aids

A first aid kit for your trip to the Galapagos or a trek to Manchu Pichu might look like this:

Lavender essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
Peppermint essential oil
A small bottle of unscented lotion
All-purpose antiseptic salve
Arnica Cream
Ginger capsules
Echinacea-Goldenseal capsules
Valerian root capsules
Band-aids, gauze and adhesive tape

Taking along an herbal first aid kit will help ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected. However, when and wherever you travel, use common sense and seek medical attention when necessary. In the best of circumstances, you’ll feel prepared and confident that you have the herbal companions you need, but you’ll never have to use them.

I’d love to hear about your travels and the herbal first aid remedies you’ve used along the way. You can share your stories in the comments below or on Instagram along with a photo of your herbal first aid kit and #NectarDIY.

To happy, healthy and safe adventures,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

DIY Floral Hydrosol: Make This Surprisingly Easy Flower Water at Home

DIY Floral Hydrosol: Make This Surprisingly Easy Flower Water at Home

What is a Floral Hydrosol?

Hydrosols are fragrant waters infused with the subtle aroma of flowers and other aromatic plants. Hydrosols are created during the steam distillation of an essential oil. Though mild and delicate in comparison, hydrosols have many of the same therapeutic properties as essential oils and can be used safely on the skin and even ingested.

Hydrosols are sometimes referred to as flower waters, but not all flower waters are true hydrosols. If you purchase a “flower water,” read the label carefully to make certain it’s not just water with a synthetic fragrance added. Better yet, the recipe below uses rose, chamomile and lavender to make a refreshing and rejuvenating DIY Floral Hydrosol at home.

Hydrosols have a myriad of uses from skincare to the kitchen – they make a hydrating toner for your skin or a lovely cooling spritzer on a hot day. You can also enjoy the therapeutic properties of a hydrosol on your skin by incorporating it in your DIY creams and lotions. This Green Goddess Green Tea lotion  includes a helichrysum hydrosol to soothe inflammation and rejuvenate mature, sun-damaged skin. Pure organic hydrosols can be used in any recipe calling for a floral water. This delicate Rose Syrup is made with rose hydrosol and honey. Drizzled over fruit or ice cream, its unforgettably delicious. Up the ante on your cocktails with this Rose hydrosol infused dreamy Damiana Rose Cordial recipe.

DIY Floral Hydrosol Recipe

Step 1: A Homemade Still for Making Hydrosols

You will need:

Enamel 21.5 Quart Canning Pot with a Lid
Two small heat resistant glass bowls
A bag of ice

To set up the still, place the canning pot on the stove, with about 12 cups of pure filtered or distilled water. Invert one of the small bowls and set it in the pot. Place the other glass bowl on top of the inverted  bowl. The lid of the canning pot placed upside down on the pot will be used as a “condenser” allowing the aromatic vapors to condense and drain into the bowl. Once the distillation process begins (see below), a bag of ice cubes placed on top of the inverted lid will help cool and condense the aromatic steam. Putting the ice cubes in a plastic bag makes it easier to remove the melted ice (i.e., the bag of water) and add more fresh ice to the top of the pot as needed.

Step 2: Floral Hydrosol

This floral hydrosol with rose, lavender and chamomile is a sweet-smelling and revitalizing  toner for all skin types and a refreshing facial mist on a warm summer day.

4 ounces dried rose buds
4 ounces dried lavender flowers
4 ounces dried chamomile flowers
12 cups pure filtered or distilled water

Add the dried flowers and water to the canning pot and allow to steep for at several hours. Place the canning pot on the stove top, add the inverted glass bowl and the set the other glass bowl on top as described above. Place the lid on the pot and bring the contents to a low boil. Turn down the heat to a very low simmer. The heat should be just enough to keep the contents steaming. Invert the lid on the canning pot and set a bag of ice inside the inverted lid. Inside the pot the aromatic vapors will condense on the inverted lid and drip in to the bowl. This is your hydrosol! With the quantities used in this recipe, you can expect to get 10 to 12 ounces of hydrosol.

Pay close attention to your steaming pot and turn off the heat once most of the water has evaporated. Allow the hydrosol to cool. Next, pour the hydrosol through an unbleached coffee filter that has first been rinsed with hot water. Filtering will remove any plant matter or volatile oils that have collected in the hydrosol. Bottle, label and enjoy! Use within six months and store in any excess in the refrigerator when not in use.

Once you’ve made this hydrosol you’re going to want to make hydrosols with all the other aromatic plants you love. Consider orange or lemon peel, lemongrass, pine, peppermint, rosemary or yarrow. The possibilities are almost endless. I’d love to see what you come up with and how you decide to use your hydrosol. Be sure to snap a picture of your hydrosol in action, post it on Instagram or Facebook with #nectarDIY.

Blessings,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Ultra Warming DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve

Ultra Warming DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve

This homemade herbal pain relief salve is an easy to make topical remedy for stiff joints, sore muscles, back pain and nerve pain. Salve (pronounced /sav/) is a medicinal ointment used topically to promote healing and typically made with herb-infused oils and beeswax. This recipe makes enough to stock your medicine chest or gym bag and share with friends and family who are looking to reduce their reliance on over-the-counter pain killers.

Medicinal herbs can be used both topically and internally to reduce pain. And, unlike most over-the-counter and prescription pain drugs that possess a single action, herbs can be combined to relieve pain in multiple ways. This herbal pain relief salve is applied topically and contains herbs that relax tense muscles (antispasmodics), reduce inflammation, ease nerve pain (anodynes) and promote healthy circulation to stiff joints and injuries. In this recipe you’ll find cayenne pepper and ginger, two warming circulatory stimulants that help reduce pain by depleting a neurotransmitter called Substance P, which transmits the pain signal from peripheral nerves to the brain. Without Substance P, the pain signal cannot be sent. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. White willow bark also helps reduce inflammation and its active compound, salicin, converts to salicylic acid in the body, which is what we more commonly refer to as aspirin. California poppy is a powerful antispasmodic and nerve anodyne. The optional essential oils in this salve offer the same wide range of pain-relieving properties. For more about herbal pain-relieving properties and herbs for pain relief, check out this article, Natural Relief: Herbs for Pain Management.

If you choose to use herbs for pain relief, keep in mind that pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong. Understanding the cause of pain and taking a holistic approach to bring your body back to optimal health is key. Within this holistic context, herbs can help relieve pain and aid in recovery.

DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve Recipe

This salve is made in two steps. First, make the infused herbal oil, then use the infused oil to create the finished salve. The infused oil can also be used on its own or in combination with essential oils, rather than in a salve.

 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp (~1/2 ounce) cayenne pepper, ground
2 tbsp (~1/2 ounce) dried ginger, ground
1 ounce white willow bark, ground
1 ounce dried California poppy, ground
1.5 cups (12 ounces) olive oil
1.5 ounces beeswax [Adjust to amount of finished oil]

Optional Essential Oils:

Up to 3 tsp total of German Chamomile or Roman Chamomile, Helichrysum, Lemongrass, Marjoram, or Rosemary ct. cineole for the entire batch. If essential oils are added to individual salve containers rather than the entire batch, use 10-20 drops of essential oil per fluid ounce of salve.

 

Instructions:

Step 1 – Infused Herbal Oil

If they are not already powders, grind the cayenne, ginger, willow and California poppy to a powder using a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle or Vitamix.

Place the powdered herbs in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil and mix well.

Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.

Warm and allow the herbs to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming:

Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.

Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day for 7 -10 days..

After 7 - 10 days, strain the oil. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. (You can purchase unbleached cotton muslin at any fabric store. Be sure to wash it before using.) Pour in all the herb-oil mixture. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express the as much of the infused oil as possible.

Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil for use in Step 2 or bottle and use as a pain-relieving body oil.

Step 2 – DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve

Set aside a small amount of your infused oil and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.

Place the oil and beeswax in a steel, enamel or glass container and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.

To test the consistency of your finished product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result.

If you are using essential oils, there are two options at this stage:

If you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir up to 3 tsp of essential oils into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.

If you want salves with different essential oils, add 10-20 drops of essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/bees wax mixture into each container to cool.

Allow salves to cool and harden for 24 hours. If you notice cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance. Label your salve containers.

After applying your salve, be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes. Any cayenne pepper remaining on your hands can cause a temporary burning sensation in the eyes or on sensitive mucus membranes.

While of course my wish is that you are mostly pain-free, I hope you and your loved ones find relief with this salve when needed. I’d love to know how this works for you and always enjoying seeing your finished products. To share, snap a picture of your DIY herbal pain relief salve, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram.

Wishing your good health and happiness,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Reap the Health Benefits of Cacao with Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffles

Reap the Health Benefits of Cacao with Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffles

These herbal chocolate truffles are dark, rich, coated with herbs and so delicious. If you choose the best chocolate, your truffles will also be organic, vegan, fair trade, gluten-free and loaded with the health benefits of cacao! The herbal coating on these dark chocolate truffles gives them an extra boost! How’s that for a guilt-free indulgence?

Health Benefits of Cacao

Used for millennia as food, medicine, and even currency, chocolate comes from the seed of a tropical evergreen tree known as Theobroma cacao. Theo or theo means “god” and broma means “food.”  Chocolate, the common name of this “food of the gods,” comes from the Aztec name, chócolatl. Scientific analysis of ancient pottery shows that chocolate or cacao beverages were being consumed in the Americas before 1000 B.C. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs combined chili peppers and other spices with cacao to make a beverage to improve stamina on long journeys. They also considered this dark rich food a “love tonic.” When cacao was introduced to Europe in the 1500’s sugar and vanilla were added to create what is more often referred to today, as chocolate. Those ancient peoples were on to something; today we have a better understanding of the health benefits of cacao.

Before I say more, keep in mind that to optimize the health benefits of cacao your chocolate should be dark, ideally with a cacao content of 80% or more and low in sugar. Cacao is an antioxidant, heart and cardiovascular tonic and nervous system stimulant. It is also rich in vitamins (B complex and E), trace elements and beneficial amino acids.

As for its effects on the cardiovascular system and heart health, clinical trials and epidemiological studies show that consuming dark chocolate may improve the health of the lining of blood vessels and heart, balance blood pressure, and have a beneficial effect on cholesterol and glucose/insulin. One recent study showed that dark chocolate consumption has a positive effect on brain function and cognition in elderly people with vascular risks.

Cacao’s stimulating effects on the nervous system and it’s mood-lifting effects are due in part to its caffeine content. However, it also contains other stimulants, including one very interesting compound called phenylethylamine or PEA. This compound is also found in the human brain where it acts as a neurotransmitter, releasing the feel-good hormone dopamine and endorphins to produce an anti-depressant effect. Often referred to as the “love-drug,” some scientists believe that PEA is responsible for the euphoric, intoxicated feeling we have when we fall in love. It seems our brains may be hard-wired for a love affair with chocolate!

Herbal Dark Chocolate Truffle Recipe

In this recipe for the optimum in dark chocolate goodness, I used Pascha’s Organic Dark Chocolate Chips, which are 85% cacao, vegan, kosher, paleo-certified, and Non-GMO project certified!

Ingredients:

17 – 18 ounces dark chocolate chips
¾ cup + 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Herbal Coating:
Dried rose petals, lavender flowers, dried raspberries, dried blueberries, and one of my favorite aromatic tea blends, White Tea Rose Mélange.

Instructions:
Place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the coconut milk in a small sauce pan until tiny bubbles form. Remove from the heat before it boils and pour over the chocolate chips. Cover the mixing bowl and allow the chocolate and coconut milk to sit undisturbed for approximately 5 minutes. The chocolate will soften and melt from the heat of the coconut milk. Stir gently until with a spoon until the chocolate is fully melted. If any small chunks of chocolate remain, set the mixing bowl in the microwave for short bursts, 15-20 seconds, and stir until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover the mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 1-1.5 hours. To test for readiness, a knife stuck in the middle of the bowl should go in easily but come out clean.

While the chocolate is firming up, prepare your coating. With the truffles you see here, I used three different coatings, dried rose petals crumbled with freeze-dried raspberries, dried lavender flowers crumbled with freeze-dried blueberries, and White Tea Rose Mélange crumbled into small pieces. Place each of your toppings in a small bowl.

Once the chocolate is reasonably firm, scoop out rounded mounds using a one tablespoon cookie scoop or a tablespoon. Dipping the spoon in hot water makes it easier to scoop the firm chocolate. Use your hands to roll the mounds into even balls and place each ball in one of the small bowls. Gently swirl the chocolate ball in the crumbled coating until it is fully covered. Admire your beautiful herbal chocolate truffle.

Store your truffles in an air-tight container in the fridge and remove 10 – 15 minutes before serving so they have time to soften slightly.

These herbal chocolate truffles are outrageously rich and delicious – and because of the health benefits of cacao, they’re good for you too. I highly recommend you share them with your besties and beloveds. Next time you whip up a batch, be sure to snap a picture, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram. We love seeing your herbaceous creations.

With love,
suzanne

 

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

4 Simple Yet Luxurious Homemade Herbal Gifts

4 Simple Yet Luxurious Homemade Herbal Gifts

Whether it’s a special occasion or just because, handcrafted gifts infused with your love speak right to the heart. These homemade herbal gifts are not only special because you’ll have made them, but because they’re chock full of herbal benefits. And don’t’ forget your own precious self. These herbalicious recipes are a great way to help you remember that you too are special and deserving of your own loving care.

Homemade Herbal Gifts

1. INFINITE LOVE ROSE SYRUP

Exquisite, euphoric, sensual are just some of the words you might use to describe Infinite Love Rose Syrup. But for all its sensuous complexity, this syrup is so simple to make, using three potent and delicious ingredients to open the heart and promote feelings of unconditional love. Drizzle this delicious syrup over fruit or ice cream for a heavenly desert or serve it over pancakes or waffles. If you’re gifting this love-inspired concoction, pour it into a pretty bottle or mason jar with a fancy label and be sure to include the recipe.

2. RAW CHOCOLATE BLISS BALLS

These Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls are an outrageous, luxurious treat made with herbs, chocolate, and coconut. I like to blend in Maca powder, a popular “super-food” that increases energy and stamina. Though Maca is stimulating to men and women, you can read more about the properties of Maca in this post, Three Herbs to Unleash Your Feminine Power.

3. COCONUT LOVE BALM

Whether you’re creating a delight-filled day for your beloved, gifting it to a friend who could use a little extra TLC, or planning for some self-care, this Coconut Oil Love Balm is sure to please. Made with skin loving coconut oil and your choice of aromatic essential oils, this balm makes an excellent massage, bath or body oil and does double-duty as an all-natural lubricant.

4. DAMIANA ROSE CORDIAL

Warming and sensuous, this adults-only gift, is a unique herbal infused brandy  for those who enjoy a cocktail or after dinner liquor. Put it in an attractive bottle and it looks especially intriguing on a bar cart or in your liquor cabinet.

I hope these homemade herbal gifts delight the people you love or inspire you to practice some self-care. I’d love to see how you wrap and package these goodies! Snap a picture and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram to share.

With love,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Three Herbal Anti-Aging Tonic Recipes for Health & Vitality

Three Herbal Anti-Aging Tonic Recipes for Health & Vitality

Taking herbs is not just something to do when you’re sick. Taken regularly, herbs can enhance well-being, increase energy and vitality, and reduce the risk of age-related conditions. These three herbal anti-aging tonic recipes are all formulated to support radiant health, and contain herbs to strengthen the body and improve resistance to stress and disease. They differ in their concentration of herbs for overall health, cardiovascular function, and brain health.

Herbal tonics are defined in various ways. The American Botanical Council defines tonics as herbs that “increase strength and tone.” Herbalist David Winston, in his book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, describes tonic herbs as those that enhance energy and well-being, alleviate conditions of weakness in the body, and can be taken every day, usually without side effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one of the most ancient and highly evolved systems of herbal medicine, deserves much of the credit for our knowledge of these highly specialized herbs and for laying the foundation for modern pharmacological and clinical research to understand how they work. In TCM, herbal tonics are said to aid in the attainment of a long life, balance mind and emotions, and have broad and profound health-promoting actions. They have no negative side effects when used appropriately and can therefore be taken over a long period of time yielding cumulative long-term benefits. They must also be readily digestible and taste good enough to be consumed easily.

Herbal tonics may sound like some sort of remedy from a bygone era, but their efficacy is validated by modern science. You can read more about many of the herbs in these recipes in this post, 7 Herbs for Your Holistic Anti-Aging Practice.

Total Vitality Anti-Aging Tonic

 

This tonic is especially useful for improving energy and vitality, and increasing resistance to disease. Astragalus and Panax Ginseng are two herbal adaptogens and oxidants that strengthen the body and promote healthy immune function. Turmeric is also an antioxidant and an important anti-inflammatory with compounds that have been shown to have therapeutic benefit in a wide range of age-related conditions from cardiovascular disease and cancer, to osteoarthritis and dementia. In this tonic, Milk Thistle and Burdock Root support the liver, detoxification, assimilation, and elimination. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid that promotes circulation and adds flavor to this tonic.

Ingredients:

3 parts (3 ounces) Astragalus
2 parts (2 ounces) Panax Ginseng
1 parts (1 ounce) Turmeric Root
1 part (1 ounce) Milk Thistle Seed
½ part (½ ounce) Burdock Root
½ part (½ ounce) Ginger

Instructions:

This tonic is best prepared and taken as a liquid extract (also know as a tincture) or as a powder blend added to your daily smoothie. If you are preparing this tonic as a tincture, parts are by fluid volume (e.g., one part equals one fluid ounce). If you are preparing this tonic as a powder, parts are by weight (e.g., one part equals one ounce by weight). Take 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract 2 times per day or 2 tablespoons of the powder per day. Because most of the therapeutic compounds in Milk Thistle are not water soluble, I do not recommend preparing this tonic as a tea.

Healthy Heart Anti-Aging Tonic

 

The anti-aging tonic is formulated for people who want to improve their cardiovascular and heart health, which may include people with a close family history of cardiovascular disease. A heart-healthy diet and lifestyle are critical, but herbal tonics are useful, too. This tonic incorporates two potent antioxidants that promote cardiovascular health. Hawthorn berries, leaf, and flower protect against heart disease, inhibit the build-up of plaque in the arteries, and help maintain healthy blood pressure. Green tea helps protect and maintain the health of blood vessels, inhibiting inflammation and other risk factors that can lead to stroke or heart attack. Green tea also has a positive impact on cholesterol levels, helps lower blood pressure, and reduces the risk of abnormal blood clots. You can find out more about the myriad health benefits of Green tea, here. Schisandra berries are an herbal adaptogen that strengthen the body promote a relaxed, focused calm. Rosemary is an excellent circulatory stimulant that also promotes brain health. Elecampane is a digestive bitter that helps kick this tonic in to high gear by improving absorption in the body.

Ingredients:

3 parts (3 ounces) Hawthorn Berries
1 part (1 ounce) Hawthorn Leaf & Flower
1 part (1 ounce) Green Tea
1 part (1 ounce) Schisandra Berries
1 part (1 ounce) Rosemary
1 part (1 ounce) Elecampane

Instructions:

This tonic can be prepared and taken as a liquid extract (also known as a tincture) or tea. If you are preparing this tonic as a tincture, parts are by fluid volume (e.g., one part equals one fluid ounce). If you are preparing this tonic as a tea, parts are by weight (e.g., one part equals one ounce by weight). Take 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract 2 times per day or prepare tea with 2 tablespoons of the herbal blend steeped for 20-30 minutes in 2-4 cups of boiled water.

Beautiful Mind Anti-Aging Tonic

 

This tonic is focused on brain health, but with herbs like Panax Ginseng and Schisandra berries described above, it is also great for energy and overall vitality. Bacopa, Ginkgo, Gotu Kola, and Rosemary are all considered nootropics—a term that describes herbs that promote cerebral function, memory, focus, and concentration. Ginkgo and Rosemary also promote cerebral circulation.

Ingredients:

2 parts (2 ounces) Panax Ginseng
2 parts (2 ounces) Schisandra
1 part (1 ounce) Bacopa
1 part (1 ounce) Ginkgo
1 part (1 ounce) Gotu Kola
1 part (1 ounce) Rosemary

Instructions:

This tonic can be prepared and taken as a liquid extract (also known as a tincture) or tea. If you are preparing this tonic as a tincture, parts are by fluid volume (e.g., one part equals one fluid ounce). If you are preparing this tonic as a tea, parts are by weight (e.g., one part equals one ounce by weight). Take 1 teaspoon of the liquid extract 2 times per day or prepare tea with 2 tablespoons of the herbal blend steeped for 20-30 minutes in 2-4 cups of boiled.

I’d love to hear about other things you’re doing as part of your healthy aging routine. Is it yoga, meditation, or exercise? A healthy diet, perhaps? Please share your ideas and practices in the comments section below. If you’d like to add one of these tonics to your anti-aging routine, we are happy to blend them for you in the shop or help you formulate a tonic specific to your needs.

to a long and vibrant life,
suzanne

 

References

American Botanical Council, Terminology Page, http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Terminology, accessed 12.27.17.

Winston, D and Maimes, S, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, 2007.

Teegarden R., The Ancient Wisdom of Chinese Tonics Herbs, Warner Books, Inc., New York, New York, 1998.

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12 Homemade Herbal Gifts that Surprise and Delight

12 Homemade Herbal Gifts that Surprise and Delight

These homemade herbal gifts infused with love and your personal touch are perfect for the most special people in your life. For inspiration, we rounded up twelve of our favorites from the Nectar blog. From culinary treats to skincare, aromatherapy, cocktail mixers, and infused honey, there’s something for everyone on this gift list. Many of these homemade herbal gifts can be made quickly and easily in less than a day. Some require more lead time. All make beautiful, original handcrafted gifts that can be included in a basket of goodies, or stand out their own.

HOMEMADE HERBAL GIFT LIST

Upcycled Pillow Diffusers

These charming essential oil pillow diffusers are placed on the bed at night with a few drops of a relaxing essential oil. From little children and teens, to the elderly, these simple diffusers are the perfect gift for anyone in need of a good night’s sleep. Paired with a small bottle of essential oil, they can also be gifted as aromatic sachets for drawers, linen closets, and suitcases.

Natural Reed Diffuser

These beautiful reed diffusers made with essential oils are a natural alternative to the synthetic fragrances typically found in the store-bought variety. They’re super quick and easy to make, too.

Lavender Cookies

For the person who has everything, I like to give edibles, especially these lavender cookies. These vegan, gluten-free cookies with organic lavender will please even the most discerning palate. Package them in a cute tin or mason jar and be sure to gift them with a copy of the recipe.

Lavender Infused Honey

Lavender infused honey is a delicious gift for cooks, foodies, or anyone who wants to make mealtime a little bit more special. For the tea lover in your life, this makes a perfect gift paired with an herbal tea.

Bath Tub Tea

These flower-filled bath tub teas are gorgeous and so simple to make. Calming, muscle-soothing, or uplifting, these bath tub blends can be customized for each recipient of this sumptuous homemade herbal gift.

Homemade Herb & Spice Blends

These homemade herb and spice blends are as beautiful as they are tasty. Consider gifting a set of different blends, or pair a single blend with a pretty grinder or mortar and pestle. This is a great last-minute gift for anyone who cooks.

Calendula Skin Salve

Whip up a big batch of skin soothing salve  and pour it into a variety of tins and containers – it keeps well for year-round giving and you can save a few for yourself, too. Perfect for dry or weathered skin from lips to hands to feet, this salve is also a natural first aid remedy for small cuts, scrapes, and bug bites.

Skin Loving Body Lotion

Be advised—if you gift this luxurious lotion to friends or family, they will soon be asking for more. This makes a delightful gift on its own or paired with a DIY face mask, cleanser or toner for any skincare buff.

Essential Oil Inhalers for Rest & Relaxation

These essential oils inhalers can be made personal by customizing the oil combination and label affirmation. Choose essential oils to relieve stress, promote focus and concentration, or boost immunity.

Maca Ginseng Elixir

This is a delectable strengthening tonic for the modern-day warrior or athlete. It can be enjoyed on it’s own, as an extra boost in your best friend’s coffee, or used in place of bitters in your uncle’s favorite cocktail.

Damiana Rose Cordial

Warming and sensuous, this adults-only gift, is a unique herbal infused brandy for the those who enjoy a cocktail or after dinner liquor. Put it in an attractive bottle and it looks especially intriguing on a bar cart or in your liquor cabinet.

Lavender Bitters

These lavender bitters turn any beverage into a distinctive drink. This aromatic blend makes a welcome gift for anyone who likes to entertain or experiment with custom cocktails. It can even be added to plain sparkling water for a refreshing twist.

Whether you’re in a pinch for time and need an easy last-minute gift, or you spend a few days lovingly preparing gift baskets with several of these, I hope this list of homemade herbal gifts gives you the inspiration you’re looking for. I know your friends and family will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind them. I’d love to see how you wrap and package these goodies! Snap a picture and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram to share.

Blessings,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Nourishing DIY Self-Care Kit

Filled with easy-to-make herbal products, this DIY self-care kit is an invitation to nourish the body, mind and spirit. It makes a luxurious gift for that special person who’s always there for everyone else, but rarely allows time from themselves, or even better – as a simple pleasure for yourself. I’ve filled this box with herbal bath and body care creations, but it can easily be customized with your favorite DIY self-care products.

Here you’ll find all the recipes you need to create this thoughtful gift box. Add a candle or some incense for a spa-like bath experience, or any other self-care essentials you love. This kit says, “Close the door, turn down the lights, and enjoy a sumptuous soak with your precious self – you deserve it!”

Simple Scented Bath Salts

These bath salts look beautiful and smell divine. Choose essential oils like lavender, rose geranium or marjoram for deep relaxation, or citrus essential oils like bergamot or sweet orange to uplift the spirit. For self-love and a more sensuous, euphoric experience, consider essential oils like vanilla, jasmine, or ylang ylang. Dried flowers make these salts more beautiful and add to their therapeutic effects. If you choose to add dried flowers, gift these bath salts with a small muslin bag and instructions to place the salts in the bag before adding to the bath tub for easier cleanup afterward!

Ingredients:
16 ounces (by weight) of bath salts (Dead Sea salts, Himalayan pink salts, or Epsom salts)
1/8 – 1/2 tsp (12 – 40 drops) essential oils of your choice
Optional: 1/8 – 1/2 cup dried flowers (lavender, rose, calendula, chamomile)

Instructions:
Mix the bath salts in a mixing bowl. Add the essential oils and dried flowers and mix well. Place in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and label. To use the salts, spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the blend into a warm bath. If the blend contains dried flowers, spoon the salts into the muslin bag and place the bag into the bath. Relax, let go, and enjoy a luxurious soak.

Herbal Bathtub Tea

Encourage another round of self-care with an herbal bathtub tea. You can choose from many soothing herbs to customize the tea. Choose herbs like lavender and chamomile for relaxation, or calendula and gotu kola to soothe the skin. You could even create an herbal bath to ease cold or flu symptoms using eucalyptus, yarrow, mugwort, and peppermint. Hop over to Herbal Bath Therapy  for a list of ten different herbs for the bath and four unique herbal bathtub tea recipes to include in your DIY self-care kit.

Scented Body Oil

After the bath, complete the self-care ritual with this soothing, aromatic body oil. In the Ayurvedic healing tradition, daily self-massage with oil is considered an act of self-love. Once again, you can customize the oil blend by choosing different carrier oils and essential oils to promote relaxation, uplift the heart, or ease sore muscles.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup carrier oil (4 fluid ounces) (Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Jojoba, Olive, Sesame, or Sweet Almond)
1/2 – 1 tsp (50-100 drops) essential oils

Here are four essential oil blends for a four-ounce body oil. Feel free to experiment with your own combinations, too!

Relaxation
30 drops Lavender
10 drops Sweet Orange
10 drops Marjoram

Stimulating & Uplifting
25 drops Rosemary
15 drops Peppermint
10 drops Pink Grapefruit
5 drops Bergamot

Muscle Relaxing
20 drop Marjoram
15 drops Lavender
10 drops Rosemary
5 drop Clary Sage

Sensuous
20 drops Ylang Ylang
15 drops Sandalwood
10 drops Patchouli
5 drops Rose Geranium

Instructions:
Carefully drop the essential oils into a four-ounce bottle. Add the carrier oils, cap, and gently shake to blend. Label and enjoy!

When you’re creating these beautiful self-care goods for your friends and family, be sure to mix up extra for yourself. If you’re encouraging others to practice self-care, give yourself permission, too. Tiny Pleasures: 12 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Care is a collection of other simple self-care rituals to bring more balance to a busy life.

I hope these DIY self-care kit recipes bring you ease, and provide peace to those you gift them to. Snap a picture of your self-care kit creations and tag it with #nectarapothecary on Instagram! Your friends and family will all be hoping it’s for them.

Blessings,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Homemade Herb & Spice Blends to Enrich Everyday Recipes

Homemade Herb & Spice Blends to Enrich Everyday Recipes

As an herbalist and wannabe chef, experimenting in the kitchen with new herb and spice blends is one of my favorite ways to infuse my culinary endeavors with my love of herbs. These homemade concoctions wind up in everything from coffee and cocktails to ice cream and cookies. Though I use these homemade herb and spice blends to flavor my dishes, most of the herbs in these recipes can also be used medicinally – so they’re not only delicious, but healthy too. These blends are easy to prepare and they make any meal feel extra special. I also love giving them as hostess and house warming gifts, or to young people learning to cook for themselves.

My 3 Favorite Herb & Spice Blend Recipes

HOMEMADE RED PEPPER SPICE BLEND

This blend works well to heighten the flavor and add a little heat to any savory dish. Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes for more or less heat. I grind this savory spice blend on everything from eggs to soup, even popcorn.

¼ cup dried rosemary
¼ cup dried thyme
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1-2 tbsp red pepper flakes or smoked red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds

Instructions: Simply combine all the herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Place the blend in a pepper or herb grinder and enjoy!

HOMEMADE HERB GARDEN BLEND

If you grow culinary herbs, you may be able to create this entire blend (or one like it) with dried herbs from your own garden. To me, it feels meaningful to use and gift herb blends from ingredients I grew myself. This one pairs well in dishes with Italian, Spanish, or Middle Eastern flavors.

¼ cup dried rosemary
¼ cup dried thyme
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tsp dried fennel seeds
1 tsp dried lavender flowers
Other Options: Basil, Marjoram, Mint, or Savory

Instructions: Simply combine all the herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Place the blend in a pepper or herb grinder and enjoy!

HOMEMADE INDIAN SPICE BLEND

This blend uses spices traditionally found in food and recipes from India. It elicits a sweetness not found in the other two blends, but works well on savory dishes. I love it on roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Some of the spices in this blend don’t grind well in a pepper grinder, so I recommend using powdered herbs and spices, or grinding them beforehand with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.

2 tbsp decorticated cardamom or ground cardamom
2 tbsp dried fennel seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon chips or powdered cinnamon
1 tbsp dried ginger or powdered ginger
1 tsp coriander seeds, dry roasted for 3-5 minutes in a heavy pan
1 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted for 3-5 minutes in a heavy pan

Instructions: If you are not using powdered herbs and spices, grind each ingredient with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (dedicated to your herbal endeavors). Combine all the powdered herbs and spices in a small bowl and mix well. Place the blend in a small glass jar with a shaker top and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy the simple pleasures of these aromatic,flavor-enhancing homemade herb and spice blends. I’d love to see how you incorporate them into your own culinary adventures! Snap a picture of your favorite dish and tag it with #nectarapothecary to share and inspire.

Cheers,
suzanne

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DIY Essential Oil Inhaler Recipes to Ease Anxiety + Promote Health

With these easy to make essential oil inhalers the soothing effects of aromatherapy are just one deep breath away. These little nasal inhalers are perfect for your pocket, purse or backpack, safe and convenient for kids, and an easy, low-cost way to share your essential oils with friends and family.

When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, inhalation is the fastest way to experience the calming effect of essential oils. Essential oils don’t just smell good, they cause a measurable biological reaction in the body. The tiny molecules of essential oil travel up the nose to the olfactory bulb. From there, biochemical signals are sent to regions of the brain responsible for emotions, learning and memory, and regulation of many bodily functions. In response, the brain sends messages throughout the body that may impact mood, muscles, breathe, hormones, organ function and more, depending on the essential oil you’ve inhaled.

Here, I’ve put together three essential oil inhaler recipes for relief from stress and anxiety, support for focus & concentration, and an immune booster to help you fight off common cold and flu bugs.

How to Make an Essential Oil Inhaler

Making the inhalers is simple. If you can’t find the “blank” inhalers at a small, local business where you live, you can buy them here at Nectar.

In addition to the inhaler, you’ll also need a small glass bowl and a pair of tweezers. Your blank inhaler should have four parts:

  1. large outer cover
  2. small inner cylinder
  3. absorbent pad
  4. small plug

Place the absorbent pad in the small bowl and add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils, or use one of the essential oil inhaler recipes below. Using the tweezers, roll the absorbent pad in the essential oils until the oils are fully absorbed. You can also add a few drops of carrier oil (like jojoba or grapeseed oil) at this point, which will help the inhaler hold the scent longer. Place the large outer cylinder over the small inner cylinder and screw in tightly. Using the tweezers, insert the absorbent pad into the small inner cylinder. Insert the small plug in the end of the small inner cylinder and press firmly to achieve a tight fit. Be sure to label your inhaler. The therapeutic scent of your inhaler should last 3-6 months, depending on how often it is used.

When it comes to labeling your inhaler, in addition to listing the essential oils, consider including a positive affirmation on the label that will remind you why you are using the inhaler. Keep your inhaler in a convenient place and when you need it, simply unscrew the small cylinder and hold the tip of the inhaler close to your nose. Close your eyes, remember your affirmation and breathe slowly and deeply for 2-3 minutes or until you begin to feel the desired effects.

Essential Oil Inhaler Recipes

I Am Relaxed and Peaceful | To Ease Anxiety + Stress

9 drops Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
5 drops Mandarin (Citrus reticulate)
4 drops Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
2 drops Marjoram (Origanum maiorana)

My Mind is Clear & Focused | For Work, Study, Focus + Concentration

10 drops Rosemary (Rosmarnius officialis)
5 drops Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
3 drops Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
2 drops Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)

My Body is Healthy & Strong | For Immune Support

8 drops Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora ct. cineole)
6 drops Thyme (Thymus officinalis ct. linalool)
4 drops Rosewood (Aniba roseodora)
2 drops Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

These easy to make nasal inhalers also make thoughtful, inexpensive gifts. And because they are so easy to use, they are a simple and safe way to introduce your friends and loved ones to the many health benefits of essential oils.

If you have friends or family who are interested in exploring essential oils, this would be a fun introductory DIY project to do together! Share a picture of what you create and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram. I’d love to see the positive health affirmations you come up with!

with love,
suzanne

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References:

Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, Green, Mindy and Keville, 2008.

Clinical Aromatherapy, Essential Oils in Healthcare, 3d Edition, Buckle, Jane, PhD, RN, 2015

Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism Health & Well-Being, Lawless, Julia, 2013.

Anti-Aging, Antioxidant DIY Green Tea Face Mask

Give your skin a treat with this DIY matcha green tea face mask! Green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help to combat sun damage that causes premature aging of the skin. Poor diet and environmental toxins also play a role in premature aging of the skin, but the sun is the main culprit. Compounds in green tea have been shown to protect the skin from sun damage and inhibit skin cancer cells when applied topically and taken orally.

And if green tea is so good for your skin, I’m sure you can imagine what it does for your body!  Find out more about the health benefits of green tea, including the top five reasons I drink green tea every day, here.

In this DIY matcha green tea face mask, I’ve combined matcha powder with French green clay to help draw out toxins and tighten the pores. The silky, smooth powder is perfect for a mask. Be sure you’re using pure matcha green tea powder, and not a sugary matcha blend. If you have a favorite cosmetic clay for DIY masks, feel free to substitute it for the French green clay. Raw organic honey creates the paste and works as a humectant to draw moisture to the skin. In place of the honey, you can substitute water or a hydrosol. I prefer to use honey, because it makes the mask less drying.

Matcha Green Tea Face Mask Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tsp matcha green tea powder
1 tsp French green clay
raw honey

Instructions:

Combine the matcha green tea powder and French green clay in a small bowl. Slowly stir in enough honey to make a thick paste. Gently spread the paste on clean, freshly washed skin. This mask is great for your face, but can be used on your chest, back, or anywhere you want to maintain healthy younger looking skin. Relax and allow the mask to set for at least 15 minutes. Gently remove the mask with warm water and a wash cloth. Pat your skin dry and then apply a toner or hydrosol. For more green tea nourishment on your skin, try this DIY green tea lotion.

I’d love to see a picture of your beautiful face soaking up all the green goodness in this mask. Snap a picture and tag it #nectarapothecary on Instagram to share.

If you have questions, please post in the comment section below.

Wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

 

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Making Green Tea Taste Better: A Guide for Wannabee Green Tea Drinkers

I know–everyone keeps telling you to drink green tea. “It’s so good for you,” they say, “it’s the perfect alternative to coffee.”  The problem is, you’ve tried it and you simply don’t like the taste. Good news! These five hacks are easy to create and will make your green tea taste better. You won’t even know you’re drinking it while you’re enjoying all the health benefits!

Mix up a batch of one of these blends and store it in a jar to make your morning tea ritual quick and simple. Each recipe (except for the lemon and honey blend) makes enough for about 12 cups.

Green Tea Taste Hacks

1. Peppermint + Lavender

The bright taste of peppermint and the subtle, floral notes of lavender create the perfect mask for green tea’s bitter, earthy notes. And like green tea, lavender also has a wealth of health benefits.

½ cup green tea leaves
3 tbsp dried peppermint
1 tbsp dried lavender

Steep 1 tbsp of this blend in 1-1 ½cups hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes before straining. Makes approximately 12 cups.

2. Chamomile + Rose

Chamomile and rose petals provide a sweet, floral, sophisticated accent to compliment and cover green tea’s grassy flavors. This tea hack is especially lovely when you need to be both focused and calm because of the calming effect of chamomile and the emotionally balancing effect of rose petals.

¼ cup green tea leaves
¼ cup dried chamomile
¼ cup dried rose petals

Steep 1 tbsp of this blend in 1-1 ½ cups hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes before straining.
Makes approximately 12 cups.

3. Tulsi Basil + Rosemary

The sweet, rich taste of tulsi basil weaves seamlessly with the peppery, balsamic flavor of rosemary to hide the green tea taste in this stimulating blend. Like green tea, tulsi basil and rosemary are both uplifting to body and mind and rich in antioxidants.

½ cup green tea
3 tbsp dried tulsi basil
1 tbsp dried rosemary

Steep 1 tbsp in 1-1 ½cups of this blend in hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes before straining. Makes approximately 12 cups.

4. Ginger + Thyme

The pungent, spicy flavor of ginger unites with the subtle mint and pine-like aroma of thyme for a delightful warming, aromatic green tea cover. Delicious any day, the ginger and thyme in this blend also make it a good choice for coughs and sniffles.

½ cup green tea leaves
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried ginger

Steep 1 tbsp of the tea blend in 1-1½ cups of hot water (185°F) for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy! Makes approximately 12 cups.

5. Lemon & Honey

This is as sweet and simple as it gets. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice in a cup of hot green tea and sweeten to taste with raw local honey. Lemon juice is great way to wake up your digestion and combined with green tea, provides an energizing start to your day.

1 tbsp green tea
½ - 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Honey to taste

For one cup, steep 1 tbsp green tea in 1-1½ cups of hot water (185°F) for 3-4 minutes and strain. Add lemon juice and honey to taste.

If making up your own tea seems a bit too foreign for you, you can find some delicious green tea blends here, including Fit & Trim Green Tea, Green Energy, Green Tea Mint and Orange Blossom Green Tea.

I hope these recipes help you incorporate more green tea into your daily routine! Help spread wellness by sharing these green tea taste hacks with friends and family who’ve been avoiding green tea because of its taste. And don’t forget to take a picture of your green tea hack and tag it with #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing how you incorporate herbs into your healthy lifestyle.

Much Love,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Medicinal Matcha Recipe: Rosemary & Edamame Green Tea Dip

Matcha Green Tea Dip Recipe

This matcha recipe is one of my favorites. Accented with the peppery, sage-like flavor of fresh rosemary, this savory matcha green tea dip is vegan and gluten-free. It makes a delicious and nutritious dip for vegetables and crackers, or a spread for wraps and sandwiches.

When Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” he could have been referring to a dip like this. Matcha green tea powder and rosemary are both medicinal plants that enliven this herbalicious dip.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Matcha offers up all the health benefits of green tea. From improved memory and concentration, brain health, bone health, cancer and heart disease prevention, green tea is big medicine. Matcha is a special form of green tea prepared by stone-grinding the best shade-grown, green tea leaves to a fine powder. Rather than steeping the leaves in hot water to make a tea, matcha powder is whisked into hot water to create a frothy drink. Consuming the whole tea leaf makes for a higher concentration of therapeutic compounds than a simple tea, but estimates vary widely on how much more concentrated it really is.

The rich, green powder incorporates easily in food, too. Its unique umami flavor works well in both sweet and savory recipes. I use matcha in my green smoothie recipe and in my recipe for mental energy balls. Some commercial matcha powders have been sweetened. For this recipe, be sure to use the unsweetened, traditional matcha.

Health Benefits of Rosemary

Rosemary is better known as a culinary herb. But like most culinary herbs, it’s also good medicine. It supports circulation, including cerebral circulation and memory, promotes digestive health, and relieves gas and bloating. When it comes to your health and the health of the planet, it is beneficial to buy local, organic, and non-GMO, whenever possible. This is especially important for foods like edamame, another name for the soy beans you will find in this recipe. Soy beans, as a food crop, are heavily subjected to genetic modification and harmful herbicides. Better yet, grow your own! Rosemary is easy to grow in your windowsill or garden; perhaps you’ll plant some to use in recipes like this!

Matcha Green Tea Dip Ingredients

12 oz.  shelled organic edamame beans
2 tsp  fresh squeezed lemon juice
1½ tsp  sea salt
¼ cup  olive oil
2 tsp  matcha powder
2 tsp  lemon zest
1 tbsp  fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Directions:

Boil or steam the edamame beans for 4-5 minutes and drain. Place edamame, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor and blend. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil, continuing to blend until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Add more olive oil if needed to achieve a smooth consistency. Add matcha powder, lemon zest, and rosemary. Pulse several times to incorporate. Adjust salt, lemon, and rosemary to taste.

If you give this matcha recipe a try, let me know what you think! And don’t forget to snap a picture and tag it with #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I’d love to see what you pair it with!

blessings,

suzanne

P.S. This recipe was inspired and adapted from Matcha Mint Edamame Dip by Rishi Tea. I have a print out of this recipe, but can no longer find a link to it on the Rishi website.

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Herbal Breakfast Bar Recipe

Herbal Breakfast Bar Recipe for Energy & Focus

This herbal breakfast bar recipe is the perfect solution to busy mornings and skipped meals. By adding herbs that provide energy, stamina, mental clarity and focus this breakfast bar will keep you going strong all morning long.

The medicinal herbs in this recipe are adaptogens which help the body adapt to stress.
Maca - energizing and mood-lifting.
Eleuthero - increases stamina and strengthens immune function.
Lion’s Mane - nootropic, which means it promotes cerebral function.
Cinnamon - warming carminative that supports digestion and blood sugar balance.

You will want to powder your herbs before incorporating them into the recipe. A coffee grinder or mortar and pestle works well or buy your herbs already ground.

Recipe

  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted (deglet noor or medjool)*
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (cashew, sesame, almond, peanut)
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, loosely chopped (see instructions for roasting nuts)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • ¼ cup powdered herbs. I used 2 tbsp Maca, 1 tbsp Lion’s Mane, 2 tsp Eleuthero and 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • optional: goji berries, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, etc.

Directions

  1.  Add pitted dates to a food processor and grind for about 1 min until finely chopped or ball forms.
  2. Optional + Highly Recommended: Toast your oats and nuts in a 350-degree F for 10-15. Check frequently!
  3. Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  4. Warm maple syrup and nut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
  5. Once combined lay the mixture between two pieces of parchment paper. Use a rolling-pin to flatten the bars from 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Transfer to baking sheet and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes until firm.
  7. Remove bars from pan and chop into even bars. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a five days!

* Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker.

vegan granola bar recipe
vegan breakfast bar

I hope you enjoy these delicious, nutritious, energizing herbal breakfast bars! Make them on the weekend and you’ll have breakfast ready for an entire week. No more skipping breakfast because you’re too stressed and too busy.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your breakfast bars and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing how you incorporate herbs into your busy schedule.

blessings,

suzanne

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Herb Infused Coffee Recipes To Boost Your Daily Routine

Herb Infused Coffee Recipes

These herb infused coffee recipes unite my love of herbs and spices with my long-standing affection for coffee. I was in herb school the first time I quit coffee or maybe I should say, “tried to quit” coffee. It’s an on-again, off-again affair for me. Like any other medicinal plant, coffee is not for everyone and too much of anything, especially a strong stimulant is rarely a good thing. These days I try to save my coffee indulgence for special occasions and insist on really, really good coffee. Infusing coffee with herbs and spices makes it that much more special, rich and complex. 

I typically prepare my coffee using the pour-over-method which will work for the recipes below. However, the cold brew method works best for herb infused coffee because the longer steep times allow for better extraction of the herbal constituents. Of course, it helps to start with the highest quality, organic, fair trade coffee beans you can buy and grind them just before brewing. It’s also important to me to buy from a local coffee roaster. 

For a better extraction, I recommend grinding the herbs in these recipes before mixing with your ground coffee beans. The exception is the cinnamon chips in the last recipe for Spiced Coffee. If you’re going to prepare Spiced Coffee using the pour-over method use cinnamon chips rather than ground cinnamon powder. The ground cinnamon slows down the drip time so significantly, your coffee will be cold long before the pour-over is finished filtering. 

Lavender Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

2 tsp ground Lavender Flowers
2 tsp ground Coriander
1 tsp ground Cardamom

Add one heaping teaspoon of herb blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

Mocha Mint Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

2 tbsp ground dried Peppermint
2 tsp Cacao Powder

Add two teaspoons of herb blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

Chocolate Chili Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

1 tbsp + 1 tsp Cacao Powder
¼ - ½ tsp Cayenne

Add one heaping teaspoon of spiced herb blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

Spiced Coffee

Makes approximately 4 cups of coffee.

1 tbsp ground Cardamom
1 tsp Cinnamon Chips
½ tsp ground Black Pepper
¼ tsp ground Cloves

Add one heaping teaspoon of spice blend per cup to ground coffee beans.

If you give any of these recipes a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your herb infused coffee and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing how you incorporate herbs into your life. 

much love,

suzanne

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Radiant Morning Herbal Smoothie Recipes

Herbal Smoothie Recipes

Herbal Smoothie Boosters

These morning smoothie recipes use medicinal herbs to boost energy, focus and stamina all day long! You don’t have to sacrifice flavor either. These smoothies are rich, delicious and loaded with healthy ingredients. If you already have your favorite smoothie blend, simply add some of the powdered herbs I’ve used here. You can powder your herbs in a coffee grinder (preferably one dedicated to herbs) or mortal and pestle or buy them already ground.

These are some of my favorite herbal smoothie boosters:

ELEUTHERO (Eleuthero senticosus) | This root is an adaptogen which helps the body adapt to stress and strengthens the immune system. If you work long hours or feel tense and stressed trying to juggle home, family, and work demands, Eleuthero is an excellent choice for your morning smoothie. The flavor is mild and incorporates well with fruits or nuts.

LION’S MANE (Hericium erinaceus) | This medicinal mushroom is my daily brain booster. It’s considered a nootropic, meaning it supports cerebral function. In clinical studies it has been shown to be helpful for people with mild cognitive impairment. It may also help inhibit beta amyloid plaque, a biomarker associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Lion’s Mane is also considered a gourmet mushroom, which means as mushrooms go, the flavor is outstanding. If you’re hesitant about a mushroom spoiling the flavor of your smoothie, I promise this one will please your palate.

MACA (Lepidium meyenii) | This sweet, caramel-scented root is a stimulating adaptogen. It’s a great energy booster that also helps the body cope with the many demands of modern life. It also uplifts the mind and mood. Men and women can both benefit from Maca’s nourishing effect on the endocrine system and especially the adrenal glands. Women experiencing menopausal changes are reporting significant benefits with Maca.

MATCHA (Camellia sinensis) | This rich, powdered form of green tea provides a boost of balanced energy. Is is rich in L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes calm and focus. It’s also a potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. The rich umami flavor works especially well in green smoothies. If you’ve yet to acquire a taste for green tea, but want the therapeutic benefits, try adding Matcha to your smoothies.

NETTLE LEAF (Urtica dioica) | This green leafy plant is loaded with vitamins and minerals to nourish your entire body. It’s also gently cleansing and can help relieve seasonal allergies. It’s green, almost grassy flavor makes it a good fit for green smoothies.

PEPPERMINT (Mentha × piperita) | If you’ve got fresh mint growing in your garden, trying adding a few leaves to your next green smoothie. The herb is uplifting to the body and mind and helps ease indigestion. You can also use dried powdered peppermint for the same flavor and effect.

You’ll find these herbs in the Green Energy Smoothie and Golden Sun Smoothie Bowl recipes below.

Green Energy Smoothie

1.5 cups nut, rice or coconut milk
1 serving protein powder
2-3 tbsp chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
1 handful of greens (kale, spinach, chard)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp matcha powder
1 tsp nettle leaf powder
1 small bunch (5-8 leaves) of fresh mint or 1 tsp ground dried peppermint
fresh juice of ¼ lime

Golden Sun Smoothie Bowl

1 fresh or frozen mango (approximately 1 cup)
1 cup nut, rice or coconut milk
1 serving protein powder
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp lion’s mane powder
½ tsp eleuthero powder
Optional toppings: blueberries, raspberries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, nuts

If you give these recipes a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to snap a picture and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you’re doing with herbs!

blessings,

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Lavender Bitters

As an herbalist, I must confess, I put herbs in just about everything. Herbs in my coffee, herbs with chocolate, herbs in my salad, you name it and I probably put herbs in it! So, when it comes to cocktails, I add herbs. Herbs in the form of herbal bitters have been used in cocktails since at least the 1800’s. Bitters add depth, structure and complexity to any cocktail and give a boost to digestive function, too. Before we get into much into the cocktails, you may want to read about the medicinal benefits of herbal bitters, here.  

This recipe for lavender bitters is my current favorite. I love to add a splash to margaritas for a lavender margarita. Try it in your favorite cocktail or add a dash to sparkling water for a quick and delicious aperitif.

Lavender Bitters Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce dried Lavender
  • 1 ounce dried Orange Peel
  • 1 tbsp dried Yarrow
  • 1 tsp dried Ginger
  • 2 fresh Vanilla Beans (Cut into ½”-1” pieces)
  • Vodka or Glycerin/Water to cover (approximately 2 cups)

Instructions:

  1. Grind dried herbs to a powder using a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle, or Vitamix.
  2. Place ground herbs and chopped vanilla beans into a jar so the jar is 1/3 to 1/2 full
  3. Pour vodka over the herbs. (If you want your bitter to be alcohol-free, use a blend of 50% food grade vegetable glycerin and 50% distilled water.) Add enough of the vodka (or glycerin/water mixture) to cover the herbs with at least 2 inches of fluid. Or, if the herb floats, add enough fluid so there is at least 2 inches of liquid below the herb. Cap the jar, date and label. 
  4. Store in a cool, dry place for at least 14 days, returning to shake the jar several times per day. For optimal flavor and complexity, store and shake for up to 6 weeks. Add more alcohol or glycerin/water mixture if the plant matter becomes exposed.
  5. After 14 days (or more) it is time to decant. Place a square of unbleached cotton muslin in a funnel or wire strainer and place it over a jar or bowl. Pour the wet herb  mixture into the funnel or strainer containing the of unbleached cotton muslin. Roll up the muslin and squeeze to recover as much of the liquid as possible.
  6. Optional: For a very clear, more refined looking bitter blend, filter the liquid once more using an unbleached coffee filter.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your creative cocktails and tag it  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you come up with.

Cheers!

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

The Best Lavender Cookie [ Recipe ]

Lavender Cookies | Vegan + Gluten-Free

These lavender pecan cookies are the best! They’re vegan and gluten-free and so delicious, everyone loves them. Lavender is of course, a well-known medicinal plant used to relieve anxiety, promote sleep, and ease digestive complaints. You can find out more about the medicinal properties of lavender, here.  It’s less well-known as a culinary herb, but I’m ready to change that. Lavender adds a subtle, complex floral note that works in both sweet and savory recipes. After you’ve made these sumptuous cookies, check out these recipes for lavender honey and lavender bitters. 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp dried Lavender
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix almond flour, baking soda, and salt in medium size bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Fold in lavender and pecans. Form dough into 1 inch balls and gently press onto baking sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Cool on baking sheet. Enjoy with your favorite herbal tea.   

Makes 10-12 Cookies

Now, if you’re thinking this recipe looks familiar, that’s because I use the same basic recipe to make rosemary pecan cookies. Consider experimenting with some of your favorite herbs. I suspect rose petals, cardamom or thyme would be delicious here.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture of your cookies and tag it with  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you come up with.

blessings,

 

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Simple Lavender Infused Honey [ Recipe ]

This lavender honey will please your body and melt your mind in the most luxurious way.  Lavender is uplifting to the heart and mind. It eases anxiety, relieves stress and promotes more restful sleep. When you combine lavender’s floral and balsamic aroma with the sweet, soothing  properties of raw honey you have a recipe for total relaxation and perfect peace. You can find more about lavender’s medicinal benefits, here

This delicious nectar is versatile and can be used in lots of ways. Add a spoonful to a cup of hot water for an instant cup of calming lavender tea. Drizzle on fruit, ice cream or other desserts for a subtle floral flavor. In fact, you can use this lavender honey in any recipe that calls for honey to lend a hint of lavender in the finished dish. Of course you can simply eat this honey by the spoonful. It’s that hard to resist. 

Ingredients // Materials

  • Raw honey
  • Dried lavender flowers ( Lavendula angustifolia)
  • Jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • Coffee grinder (optional)

 

Instructions

This recipe uses the folk method rather than precise measurements. It you are accustomed to recipes with exact measurements, take a deep breath, inhale some lavender and proceed into uncharted waters. You may even discover some freedom and more room for creativity using the folk method. If it makes you feel better, make a note of the amount of lavender and honey you use, and you’ll have exact measurements you prefer the next time around.  

  • Grind the dried lavender to a powder in the coffee grinder or using a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a grinder and the lavender blossoms are whole, use your hands to break them apart.
  • Fill the jar with the lavender.
  • Pour honey into the jar until the flowers are completely submerged and the jar is full. Gently stir with a small spoon or chopstick (the herbalist’s tool of choice) to remove air bubbles.
  • Cap the jar and label.
  • Allow the honey to sit undisturbed for 4-6 weeks. Thought not essential, low heat will encourage the extraction. For low heat, place the jar in a brown paper bag in a sunny place or in a dehydrator set to approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • After 4-6 weeks, strain the lavender flowers from the honey. Warming the honey first, makes it easier to  strain. 

The longer you allow the lavender to steep in the honey the richer the flavor. I like to taste the developing flavors every week or so, and may decide to strain the lavender early, depending on the flavor.  Let your senses guide you.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. And don’t forget to take a picture and tag it  #nectarapothecary on Instagram! I love seeing what you come up with.

blessings,

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3 Mouthwatering Tea Cocktails [ Recipe ]

If you’re an aspiring mixologist and serious about tea you’re going to love these tea cocktails! Adding tea to your favorite cocktail or using tea as the base for an entirely new cocktail creates a certain intrigue and adds layers of complexity to the drink. I like to use tea in cocktails in place of sugary sodas and other mixers.

In these recipes, I’ve chosen three of my favorite Nectar teas with unique flavors and energetics, Sweet Revival, made with Pu-erh tea, Green Energy, an up-lifting green tea blend, and Belly Calm Chai, a licorice and cinnamon infused herbal blend.

I recommend preparing the tea several hours in advance so it has time to cool before you blend the cocktail. In these recipes, you’ll see that I use “parts” as measurements. This is quite standard in herbal recipes. Here, “parts” refer to “fluid” measurements, like a fluid ounce, one fluid cup, or even a shot glass. If you choose one fluid ounce as your “part,” a single serving for these cocktails will be 4-5 ounce. So, decide how many people you want to serve and how many drinks you’ll need and set your “part” accordingly.

Let’s Make Some Tea Cocktails!

Sweet Revival Tea Cocktail

  • 2 parts Vokda
  • 4 parts Sweet Revival Tea, chilled
  • 1 part Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 dash bitters (Cardamom, Orange, Angelic, etc.)
  • Orange Slices
  • Ice

Green Tea & Lime Cocktail

  • 2 parts Vokda
  • 4 parts Green Energy Tea, chilled
  • 1 part Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/3 part Honey
  • Lime Slices
  • Ice

Red Hot Chai Cocktail

  • 2 parts Fireball Whiskey
  • 2 parts Belly Calm Chai, hot or chilled
  • 1 dash Cardamom Bitters
  • 2 parts Almond or Rice Milk, hot or chilled
  • Ice, if served cold

 

Instructions

Prepare the tea in advance and allow it to chill before mixing. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. (A mason jar with a lid will substitute in a pinch) Add ice and shake to aerate and chill. Strain out the ice as you pour into your favorite cocktail glass. Enjoy!

Please don’t drink and drive and if you do drink, please drink responsibly.

I hope you’ll share your creations in the comment section below. Leave me a message in the comments below if you have questions.

 Happy Mixing,

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Iced Tea + Cold Brews [ 2 Methods ]

Cold Brew Tea

Iced tea is a distinctly American phenomenon. It’s the first tea I was introduced to as a kid when we traveled from Ohio to North Carolina every summer to visit my grandparents and other southern relatives. After the hot, sunny days, evenings were punctuated by a tall glass of southern sweet tea, basically black tea laden with sugar and lemons, poured over ice.

At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the bitter and astringent taste of the black tea hiding behind all that sugar. Many years later, I discovered a recipe for southern sweet tea in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks. The discovery brought back fond memories of evenings spent outdoors with the adults talking into the wee hours and me and the other kids catching fireflies and engaging in other mischief. It also inspired me to create a modern, healthy version of southern sweet tea. I call it Sweet Revival, and it’s the only tea blend I’ve created with the specific intention of serving it over ice.

In the years since I was first introduced to southern sweet tea, I became an herbalist and started drinking tea and herbal tea on a daily basis. My love of tea has lead me to discover many teas and herbs that taste great chilled or served over ice. In my experience (and to my taste buds), tea blends that make the best iced teas are rich and full bodied in flavor, spicy, floral or fruity. In addition to Sweet Revival, Lemon Ginger Black Tea, Matcha Ginger Buzz, Spice Garden, Patagonia Super Berry and Patagonia Wild Guava all are scrumptious on ice. The many cooling herbs described in this recent post, Cooing Herbs for Hot Days, also make a lovely beverage served over ice. 

Let’s learn how to make Iced Tea + Cold Brew Tea.

Cold Brew Teas

There are essentially two ways to prepare an iced tea, the “hot brew” method and the “cold brew” method. Herbalists have long known that some herbs are best prepared in cold water as a cold infusion to extract specific therapeutic compounds. Now “cold brew” is the “hot” new trend in tea and coffee. Well, it’s not new, but it is a great way to prepare tea, especially during hot weather when you want something cooling to drink.

Hot Brew Method

This is the most widely used method for preparing iced tea. It is quick and effective, but the finished tea will likely be more astringent and somewhat more bitter that an iced tea prepared using the cold brew method, below.

  1. Measure loose leaf tea or herbal tea blend, generally 1 tablespoon per 8 ounce cup.
  2. Heat the water to the appropriate temperature for the tea or herbal blend (this can vary from 212°F for herbal and dark teas to 180°F for green tea). Pour half the recommended volume of water over the tea and allow to steep for the recommended time. This too will vary from as long as 15 or 20 minutes for herbal blends to 2-5 minutes for green, black, oolong and white teas.
  3. After steeping, strain the tea and add cold water equal to half the normal volume of water. This will cool the tea and dilute the concentration to regular strength.
  4. To serve, pour the tea into ice filled glasses. This is preferred over adding ice to the pitcher, as that will water down the tea.

Cold Brew Method

The cold brew or cold infusion method is not only easy, it results in a unique flavor profile that is typically smoother and less astringent and bitter than the hot brew method. It also tends to bring out more of the fresh, floral and fruity notes. Herbalists prefer the cold brew method for herbs that are rich in vitamins and minerals or rich in mucilage because cold brewing extracts more of these important nutrients and compounds. If you’re simply looking for a lovely summer iced tea, let your senses guide you.

  1. Measure loose leaf tea or herbal tea blend, generally 1 tablespoon per 8 ounce cup.
  2. Using chilled and filtered water, pour the recommended volume of water over the tea.
  3. Refrigerate and allow to infuse at least four hours or overnight. For green and white teas, 4-6 hours is recommended. Black, oolongs and herbal teas can easily steep 8 hours or overnight.
  4. After steeping, strain the tea and taste. The flavor can be adjusted by adding more cold filtered water.
  5. Chill until serving. To serve, pour the tea into ice filled glasses. This is preferred over adding ice to the pitcher, as that will water down the tea.

Have a great summer and enjoy some cold brew. If you have questions, please leave a comment below.

Cheers,

Suzanne

Cold Brew Teas

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Cooling Herbs for Hot Days [ Bonus Sun Tea Recipe ]

Cooling Herbs for Hot Days

I’d like to introduce you to cooling herbs for hot summer days. I love summer! I love the sun and I love summer time activities, swimming, hiking, outdoor parties, barbeques and picnics. When it’s hot, I use cooling herbs to extend the fun and stay hydrated.

Cooling herbs work in a number of different ways to cool the body and are sometimes referred to as refrigerants. Some cooling herbs also have what might be described as a cooling effect on the nervous system, helping to reduce anger or irritability. Others might be described as “cooling” to inflammation, helping soothe hot, irritated tissue. Some cooling herbs promote sweating, which is one of the body’s own mechanisms for regulating temperature and cooling off.

My favorite cooling herbs for hot days are Hibiscus, Lavender, Chamomile and Marshmallow. You can turn them into delicious, cooling herbal teas, herbal popsicles and other heat-beating treats!

Hibiscus | Hibiscus spp.

This beautiful, tropical flower makes the most stunning, ruby red tea. Its slightly sour taste combines well with citrus and other fruits. Hibiscus flower’s “cooling” effect extends to the cardiovascular system where it helps maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce other risks associated with cardiovascular disease. To make a cooling hibiscus tea, steep 1-2 tablespoons of dried hibiscus flowers in 4 cups of hot water. Strain, chill, pour over ice and enjoy!

Lavender | Lavendula angustifolia

When it comes to cooling the skin on a hot day or relieving sunburn pain, lavender is my first choice. It’s also a great first-aid remedy for itchy bug bites. For topical use, brew a simple tea with lavender flowers (about one teaspoon per cup, steeped 15 minutes), chill the tea, put it in a spray bottle and mist it on the skin. Lavender essential oil and lavender hydrosol also work well topically in an easy to make aromatherapy spritzer. When I’m going hiking on a hot summer day, attending an outdoor concert or art festival, I always take along a small misting bottle with cooling essential oils or hydrosol.  Lavender flowers also make lemonade more cooling and delicious. Check out this recipe for lavender mint lemonade. Lavender is also “cooling” to the nervous system, easing anxiety and irritability and promoting a good night’s sleep. The sweet floral scent of lavender just says “ahhh . . . relax, chill out.”

Chamomile | Matricaria recutita

This sweet little flower is cooling and calming. Like lavender, is can be used to soothe irritability and promote a good night’s sleep. Chamomile essential oil diluted in a spray bottle and Chamomile Hydrosol both work well to cool hot, red inflamed skin. A strong chamomile tea added to bath water is another way to get an “all over” skin cooling effect. How about creamy chamomile mint popsicles on a hot summer day? Chamomile also possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and analgesic properties making it useful for pain, menstrual cramps and fevers. A cup of Chamomile tea after dinner will also ease indigestion, gas and bloating. Prepare a cup of tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon of chamomile in one cup of hot water for 15 minutes.

Marshmallow | Althea officinalis

Marshmallow root is soothing, cooling and moistening to dry, hot inflamed tissue. The Ruby Red Tea Cooler recipe below, with marshmallow root and hibiscus, is a perfectly delightful way to stay cool and hydrated in the summer heat. Marshmallow root tea can also be used topically in the bath or as a cool compress to calm hot, irritated skin. Internally, marshmallow root tea can be used to soothe irritation in the digestive, respiratory, and urinary tract systems. Prepare a cup of tea by steeping one heaping teaspoon of marshmallow root in one cup of cold water for four hours or overnight.

Ruby Red Summer Cooler

A stunningly beautiful drink to keep you cool and hydrated on hot summer days.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce (30 gm) dried marshmallow root
  • 2/3 ounce (20 gm) dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/3 ounce (10 gm) rose petals
  • 4 vanilla beans, chopped in to ¼” pieces

Instructions:

Total Yield: 15-16 cups
Blend herbs until well mixed and store in a small jar. To prepare cooler, combine the herb blend with 16 cups filtered water in a large jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake gently to incorporate the herbs in the water. Allow to steep for at least four hours or overnight. Strain and enjoy this delicious hydrating cooler.

Have fun, keep cool and stay hydrated. If you have any questions about these herbs, please leave a message in the comments below.

with love,

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Herbal Popsicles for Hot Days [ Recipe ]

Celebrate Summer with Herbal Popsicles

Herbal popsicles just say “fun!” They’re great for kids, and grown-ups love them too. Herbal popsicles make the perfect refresher on a hot summer day or a light, pleasing dessert for summer barbecues and dinner parties.

In these two recipes, I’ve used herbs that are cooling to body, mind and spirit. You’ll find Hibiscus and Lavender in the first icy pop and Chamomile and Peppermint in the cold, creamy recipe that follows. You can read more about cooling herbs in this recent post, Cooling Herbs for Hot Days.

No popsicle molds? Don’t sweat it!  Here are a some inspiring DIY Popsicle Mold ideas.

Lavender Lemon Popsicle

These icy treats will chill out cranky kids and grown-ups alike. Lavender is not only cooling to the body, it also calms tension and cools fussy, anxious and irritable moods. Hibiscus is also cooling to the body and the heart and gives these pops their delightful pink color.

Lavender Lemon Herbal Popsicle

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups Water
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 3-4 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp Dried Lavender Flowers
  • 1 tsp Dried Hibiscus Flowers

Instructions:

Place the Lavender and Hibiscus in a mason jar or tea pot. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil and then pour over the herbs. Cover the jar and allow the herbs to steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain the herbs. Combine the resulting tea with the lemon juice and maple syrup until well combined. Pour into molds and place in the freezer for several hours. To remove from molds, dip the molds briefly in hot water and the popsicles should quickly release. Enjoy!

Creamy Chamomile Mint Popsicles

These yogurt based pops are creamy, cooling and soothing. Sweet and calming Chamomile combines with belly-soothing Peppermint for a popsicle that will ease tensions as well as digestive discomfort.

Chamomile Mint Herbal Popsicles

Ingredients: 

 

  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Dried Chamomile
  • 1 tbsp Dried Peppermint
  • ¼ cup Maple Syrup
  • ½ cup Greek Yogurt

Instructions:

Place the Chamomile and Peppermint in a mason jar or tea pot. In a separate pot, bring the water to a boil and then pour over the herbs. Cover the jar and allow the herbs to steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain the herbs and allow the resulting tea to cool to room temperature. In a blender, combine the tea with the Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Blend until well combined. Pour into molds and place in the freezer for several hours. To remove from molds, dip the molds briefly in hot water and the popsicles should quickly release. Enjoy!

I encourage you to experiment with other herbs, bases and more. I am partial to the flavor of maple syrup, but you can also substitute honey or other sweeteners. Please do share your experience and herbal popsicle creations in the comments section, below. be dure to leave me a comment if you have questions.

Keep cool and have fun!

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Cool It with this DIY Calming + Cooling Mist

Make this cooling aromatherapy spray for a super quick and refreshing break on a long summer day. When the heat is high and the sun is shining, I always have an aromatherapy spray on hand for an instant cool down. This mist combines the calm, cooling properties of Lavender with the rejuvenating, uplifting aroma of Spearmint for the perfect heat-beating spray.

Cool It Mist Recipe

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Add the Lavender and Spearmint essential oils to the glass bottle, drop by drop. Fill the remainder of the bottle with Lavender Hydrosol. Or, if Lavender Hydrosol is unavailable, add the distilled water and vodka mixture instead. (The alcohol in the vodka helps the essential oils disburse in the fluid.) Cap and label. Always shake well before using. With eyes closed, gently mist above and around your face and shoulders. Spray on arms, legs or other exposed skin as desired.

aromatherapy diy
aromatherapy diy
cooling essential oil mist

Keep this cooling spray on hand for your next outing to the beach, summer music festivals, outdoor barbeques and picnics. And be sure your mist bottle is full when you leave home. Your friends and family will all what to enjoy this refreshing mist. 

Enjoy!

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Maca Ginseng Elixir for the Modern Warrior

This Maca Ginseng elixir is stimulating and energizing. Loaded with herbs to strengthen the body and promote health and vitality, it can be used in a multitude of creative ways. For people under mountains of stress, working long hours or engaged in strenuous physical exercise, take one teaspoon in the morning as a daily tonic. For coffee drinkers, a teaspoon added to a cup of coffee makes for a long-lasting boost.

Women experiencing menopausal symptoms may also enjoy this elixir as a daily tonic. For more on Maca and Ginseng for women, check out this article, Three Herbs to Unleash Feminine Power.  Lovers will delight in this elixir sipped from small cordial glasses. If you like to entertain, a dash or two of this elixir can take the place of bitters in your favorite cocktail for an exceptional drink and an unforgettably lively party!

maca ginseng elixir ingredients

Elixirs are sweet, aromatic medicinal beverages and a favorite of herbalists for the ingestion of tonic or strengthening herbs like Maca and Ginseng. This elixir also incorporates digestive bitters, Dandelion Root and Gentian Root to promote liver and digestive function. Herbal bitters stimulate digestive fire ensuring that you are getting all that you can from the food you eat and easily eliminating what your body can’t use. Along with a healthy nervous system and balanced response to stress, healthy digestion is also key to overall health and vitality. To learn more about the health benefits of digestive bitters check out this article, Herbal Remedies for Digestive Health Part One: Herbal Bitters.

I’ve added Cardamom to this elixir because I love the subtle, spicy complexity it offers. Feel free to experiment with other richly flavored or spicy herbs. I’m sure Anise, Cinnamon, Ginger, Fennel, Rose or Vanilla would all be lovely addition to this blend.

Maca Ginseng Elixir Recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 ounces (3 tbsp or 45 ml) Maca Tincture
1 ounce (2 tbsp or 30 ml) Panax Ginseng Tincture
1 ounce (2 tbsp or 30 ml) Dandelion Root Tincture
½ ounce (1 tbsp or 15 ml) Ashwagandha Root Tincture
½ ounce (1 tbsp or 15 ml) Cardamom Tincture
2 tsp (10 ml) Licorice Root Tincture
1 tsp (5 ml) Gentian Root Tincture
3 ounces Honey or Maple Syrup

Yields: Approximately 8 ounces

Instructions: Combine all of the ingredients in an 8 ounce glass bottle or jar. Shake well until the honey or maple syrup is full incorporated. Cap and store in the cupboard and use as needed.

 

Enjoy!

maca ginseng elixir

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Infinite Love Rose Syrup [ Recipe ]

Infinite Love Rose Syrup

Infinite Love Rose Syrup

There are no words to describe this Infinite Love Rose Syrup. You simply must experience it yourself. Exquisite, euphoric, sensual are just some of the words you might use to describe the divine realm this syrup evokes. For all its sensuous complexity, this syrup is so simple to make, using three potent and delicious ingredients to open the heart and promote feelings of unconditional love. It’s lightly sweet and floral flavor allows it to pair well with almost anything from the sweet to the savory. Here, I’ve drizzled it over vegan vanilla bean coconut ice cream. Divine!

Infinite Love Rose Syrup ingredients

Rose Hydrosol
Rose Petals have been used as perfume, medicine and food for thousands of years. Rose is known for its ability to open the heart and promote feelings of love + devotion. This recipe calls for an Organic Rose Hydrosol, which is a pure steam-distilled Rose extract, sometimes referred to as a flower water. If you purchase flower water, read the label carefully to make certain it is a true hydrosol and not made from a synthetic rose fragrance.

Infinite Love Elixir by Lotus Wei
This delicious Flower Essence medley is infused with gem essence of Pink Tourmaline in a base of Blackberry Honey. It is ideal for creating an overall feeling of compassion, softness and unconditional love. Infinite Love Elixir also banishes feelings of resentment, anger, jealousy and irritation. To learn more about this product visit Lotus Wei or stop in the shop to experience their incredible line of Flower Essences first hand. If you don’t have this elixir, I recommend substituting Vanilla Bean extract.

Raw Honey
On the tongue, raw honey elicits the pure, erotic nectar of flowers. It is also highly nutritious and possesses potent healing properties of its own. Raw honey that has not been pasteurized or filtered maintains more of the beneficial nutrients and properties than processed honey. Therapeutically, it is an anti-oxidant (the darker the honey, the more so), energizing and useful for recovery from intense exercise, antiseptic, antibacterial, and an effective wound healer.

Lotus Wei's Infinite Love Elixir

Recipe:
¼ cup Raw Honey
1 Tbsp. Organic Rose Hydrosol
2 droppersful Infinite Love Elixir by Lotus Wei
(or alternatively 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract)

Directions:
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well combined. Use immediately or pour the syrup into small jar or bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. This delicious syrup is a great way to dress up your moring tea, oatmeal or other hot cereals. Drizzle it over yogurt, fruit, or even ice cream. Let your imagine and infinite love run wild!

infinite love rose syrup over icecream
vegan vanilla bean icecream
vegan vanilla bean icecream with infinite love rose syrup

Damiana Rose Cordial [ Recipe ]

DAMIANA ROSE CORDIAL

Damiana Rose Cordial is a delicious, libido-lifting beverage for you and your beloved. It is rich with heart opening, uplifting herbs that stimulate and tone the nervous system and reproductive organs. The term cordial refers to a mild, aromatic medicinal beverage or tonic that has been sweetened and is pleasant to drink. The word cordial is derived from the Latin word for Heart, “cor” or “cord-“ and old English “cordial” meaning of or belonging to the heart. This cordial is made to be sipped at room temperature from petite cordial glasses. Serve this luscious cordial with these Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls to really kick your evening into high gear!

If you plan to serve this cordial at you next party or as a warm-up for “Date Night,” you will need to plan ahead. Initially the Damiana needs to steep in Brandy for at least five days. I also find that beautiful and subtle flavors in this cordial improve with age. When they say that “the best things are worth waiting for,” this is one of those things!

damiana rose cordial pour

Herbal Aphrodisiacs

Let’s take a quick at the libido-lifting, heart-warming herbs in this recipe.

Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca or diffusa): Damiana is stimulating and uplifting to the nervous system. It can help alleviate shyness and inhibition, and relieve depression and anxiety. Native to South America, the Mayan and Aztec people used Damiana as a sexual tonic. Today, Damiana is still considered an energizing tonic for the nervous system and reproductive systems, used to address erectile dysfunction and low libido in men and women. It has a spicy, somewhat pungent flavor and can also be prepared as a tea or liquid extract.

Rose Petals (Rose damascena): People have cultivated Rose and enjoyed its exquisite fragrance in medicine, food and perfumery for at least 5,000 years. Though not technically an aphrodisiac, Rose has long been used to open the heart and promote feelings of love and devotion. Associated with Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, no formula for the heart is complete without this scent of this precious flower. This recipe calls for an Organic Rose Hydrosol, which is a pure steam-distilled Rose extract, sometime referred to as a flower water. If you purchase flower water, read the label carefully to make certain it is a true hydrosol and not made from a synthetic rose fragrance. You can also prepare Rose Petals in a simple tea or use Rose Absolute or Essential Oil in a diffuser or topically in proper dilution.

Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia): The sweet, exotic scent of pure vanilla is both soothing and euphoric. In an extract or essential oil, Vanilla is used to relieve anger and irritability and to promote feelings of arousal and satisfaction.

damiana rose cordial with a rose

Damiana Rose Cordial Recipe

Ingredients

1 ounce Damiana leaf (approx. 1 cup)
2 cups Brandy
1 ½ cups filtered water
1 cup Honey
1 tablespoon Organic Rose Hydrosol
1 tablespoon Organic Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. Place the Damiana in a glass jar and pour in the Brandy. Mix well, cover, and allow to soak for at least five days.
  2. After five days, strain the Brandy from the herb and store in a glass bottle or jar. Reserve the herb and place in a separate heat-tolerant jar.
  3. Bring water to a boil and pour it into the jar with the reserved herb. Mix well, cover, and allow the blend to steep for several hours or over-night. Strain the herb-infused water from the herb. Compost the herb.
  4. Place the Damiana-infused water in a small sauce pan and warm over low heat. Add the honey and stir occasionally until the honey is fully incorporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Combine the Damiana-infused Brandy and Damiana-infused water/honey blend. Add Rose Hydrosol and Vanilla Extract. Pour into a glass jar or bottle and shake well. Allow to sit for an additional week before serving.

We often serve this Rose Damiana Cordial at our monthly DIY, Sip & Socials and it is always a hit. After a few sips everyone begins to relax, smile more brightly and connect. I hope you enjoying sipping your this libido-lifting cordial with your friends and your beloved.

Please leave your question and comments, below.
with love,

References
Mars, Bridgette (2010), The Sexual Herbal, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont

Kitchen Remedy Tea [ Recipe ]

You can prepare this delicious, medicinal tea from common culinary spices that are probably already in your kitchen. That’s why I call it a “Kitchen Remedy” tea. It seems all of the culinary spices I keep in my kitchen possess important medicinal properties. In this delightful tasting tea I used Fennel, Aniseed, Thyme, and Ginger. Together these spices make an excellent remedy for coughing and chest congestion or an aid to digestion that provides relief for gas and bloating. For a tour of the medicine in your spice cupboard and more information about each of these herbs, check out my post, Kitchen Remedies: Herbs & Spices for Common Ailments.

Kitchen Remedy Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp Aniseed

  • 1/2 tsp Fennel

  • 1/2 tsp dried Ginger

  • 1/2 tsp Thyme

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and then place in your teapot or other tea infuser. Cover with 1-2 cups just boiled water and cover. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy! 

You can substitute a tablespoon of chopped fresh Ginger Root if that’s what you have on hand, or even a few sprigs of fresh Thyme from the garden.

 

Dried Ginger Going into Kitchen Rememdy Tea

Steeping Herbal Tea

Kitchen Remedy Tea

This is just one of the endless ways you might combine culinary herbs for a quick and effective remedy. I recently combined some of these same spices with Mullein, Marshmallow Root, and Elecampane to make a cough syrup. Here’s the recipe for Nectar Cough Care Syrup using Fennel, Ginger, and Thyme.

I encourage you to really get to know the medicinal properties of the herbs and spices in your spice cupboard. You’ll be amazed at all of herbal medicine you already have on hand. And, unlike some herbs we know, it’s all very tasty, too! Have fun getting to know these kitchen remedies and if you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Golden Milk Recipe [ Recipe ]

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GOLDEN MILK RECIPE

In this Golden Milk recipe you’re going to discover the most delicious way to make turmeric a regular part of your diet. By this time you have no doubt heard of the many health benefits of this pungent spice. Turmeric has become downright trendy! As an herbalist, I’m often a bit leery of these occasional trends, but no so when it comes to turmeric. This culinary spice, which gives curries their characteristic golden color has been used for thousands of years and has long been a staple of herbalist from varied traditions.

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So, why should you make part of a healthy diet? The reasons are many. In short, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, anticoagulant, hypolipidemic, hypotensive, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, liver stimulant and protectant, and cardioprotective. Whoa! Let’s unpack that a little. Turmeric contains more than two dozen anti-inflammatory compounds. In a study published the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, turmeric extract worked as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. A key component in turmeric has been shown to exhibit therapeutic potential in many disease states where inflammation is a factor, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. When it comes to the heart and circulation, turmeric acts as a blood thinner and promotes healthy cholesterol and healthy blood pressure. It also supports a healthy liver and digestive function.

Unless you are using medications that might interact with turmeric (like prescription blood thinners), there’s just no reason not to incorporate turmeric into your healthy lifestyle. But for some of us, that may be easier said than done. Turmeric has a spicy, pungent flavor that is not to everyone’s liking. That’s where Golden Milk comes in. Make this delicious drink as a warming, nourishing conclusion to your day. The recipe calls for honey or maple syrup, but I find that unsweetened coconut milk and cinnamon are all the “sweetness” I need. You can also step up the flavor with powdered ginger, cardamom, or anise. For more about the medicine in these common spices, check out this recent post on Kitchen Remedies: Herbs & Spices for Common Ailments. You may be surprised by all the remedies in your spice drawer.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Milk (Almond, Coconut, Etc.)
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of black pepper
  • Raw honey or maple syrup to taste
  • Optional: Powdered ginger, cardamom, anise

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a small sauce pan and heat for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently.  Allow to cool to a comfortable temperature. Drink daily and enjoy!

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Give it a try! If you still don’t find turmeric to your liking, you can take it as a supplement in capsules or liquid extract form. Here’s to your health and to your next cup of Golden Milk!

If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Nectar Cough Care Syrup [ Recipe ]

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Nectar Cough Care Syrup Recipe

This simple cough care syrup recipe is quick and easy requiring a few basic herbs, honey, and brandy. It will soothe a dry cough, help expel mucus from congested lungs and speed recovery. It is gentle enough (and tasty enough) for kids, but just as effective for adults. 

The four common herbs in this syrup provide support for coughs and congestion. Thyme (yes, the very same culinary herb you have in your spice cupboard) is one of my favorite herbs for lower respiratory problems. Warming and drying, Thyme is an expectorant, anti-spasmodic and bronchodilator. Herbalists consider it a specific for whooping cough, bronchitis and any infection causing congestion and restriction in the lungs. Thyme makes a lovely tea if you don’t have time to make the syrup. Thyme essential oil in proper dilution can also be used externally as a chest rub. Thyme makes for an excellent lung soothing steam inhalation, using either the dried herb or a couple drops of the essential oil in a small pot of steaming water. Though I most often reach for Thyme for lung related issues, it is also a calming herb for digestion, easing gas and bloating and its antibacterial properties make it useful for chronic urinary tract infections. 

Cough Care Tea

Next up is Elecampane–another warming expectorant, somewhat more stimulating than Thyme. This aromatic root is also considered a lung tonic, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulator. I use it for chronic, irritable coughs with lots of mucus. Elecampane is also a bitter and digestive tonic that supports healthy gut bacteria. 

Mullein is also an expectorant (but more relaxing that either Thyme or Elecampane) and in this cough syrup it also acts as a soothing demulcent. I consider it specific for dry harsh coughs. The Marshmallow Root is also a soothing demulcent for dry, irritated, inflamed tissue. Ginger was featured in my recent post, Five Herbs for Cold & Flu Season. It is an excellent all-round remedy for cold, congestive conditions of the respiratory tract and flu symptoms. Ginger also offers welcome relief for the fever, body aches and headaches that often accompany flu. Fennel seed is another culinary herb that does double duty in the medicine chest. This sweet aromatic seed is a mild expectorant, anti-spasmodic, and bronchodilator. Like many of the other herbs in this syrup, Fennel is also a carminative herb that will help ease gas and bloating. Indeed, this syrup itself will do double duty for use a both as a cough syrup and soothing digestive aid. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 ounce Thyme (~1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 ounce Elecampane (~2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 ounce Mullein (~1 cup)
  • 1/4 ounce Marshmallow Root (~2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 ounce Ginger (~2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 ounce Fennel (~1 tbsp)
  • 2 cups filtered Water
  • 1-1/4 cup Raw local honey
  • 3/4 cup Brandy

Directions: 

I prefer to measure herbs by weight to maintain consistency as volume can vary greatly. However if you don’t have a scale, you can use the approximate volume amount listed after each herb. Place the herbs in a large mason jar with a lid. Bring two cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and pour the hot water into the jar covering the herbs and gently stir until the herbs are entirely saturated. Carefully (it’s hot), put the lid on the jar and allow the herbs to steep for at least 30 minutes to create a strong tea. Strain the herbs and measure one cup of the strong tea. While the herbs are steeping, put the honey in a pot on the stove and very slowly warm, keeping the temperature below 105 degrees to preserve the therapeutic properties of your honey.  Stir one cup of tea into the honey until well combined. Add the brandy and mix well. Pour in a dark bottle, label, and refrigerate. Use as needed for coughs, approximately 1 tsp, every 3-4 hours.

Variations: You can also make this syrup without the brandy, but it will have a shorter shelf life. If you choose to omit the brandy, increase the honey as follows: one part (1 cup) tea to two parts (2 cups) honey. This should ensure that your syrup is good for about one year. I prefer to use the brandy for a less sweet (though still tasty) syrup with a longer shelf life. 

Cough Care Tea straining

Cough Care packaging

Cough Care Syrup

I hope that you and your loved ones all have a bright and healthy cold and flu season, but should that pesky cold or flu bug come to visit, you’ll be glad you have this cough care syrup on hand.

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Nectar Fire Cider Recipe for Winter Wellness

Nectar Fire Cider for Winter Wellness

Preparing fire cider is part of my annual ritual to welcome fall and prepare for a healthy winter. It is ideal to start your fire cider around September to ensure that your fall brew is ready by the time cold weather arrives. This spicy concoction, traditionally made with fresh garlic, onions, horseradish, ginger and hot peppers serves as an immune tonic, decongestant, and warming circulatory stimulant. You can take a spoonful every day to boost your immune system or step it up with a larger dose at the first sign of a cold, scratchy throat, chills, or even a fever.

Fire Cider is a traditional herbal remedy first concocted by Rosemary Gladstar in the kitchen at the California School in the early 1980’s. For more about the history (and politics) of this popular home brew, visit the Free Fire Cider Website

Nectar Fire Cider Ingredient Overview

Before you start chopping, let’s take a quick look at what makes fire cider such a winter powerhouse.

GARLIC + ONIONS
Both contain the infection fighting compound, allicin. Allicin has been shown to be effective not only against common infectious organisms that cause colds, flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast, but also powerful pathogens responsible for tuberculosis and botulism! These two pungent vegetables also provide protection against atherosclerosis and heart disease and decrease total blood cholesterol levels while increasing HDL-cholesterol (sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol) and decreasing LDL-cholesterol (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol). 

HORSERADISH
This spicy root has been used as a food and medicine as early as 1500 B.C.E. Greeks and Romans used it for tooth ache, back pain, achy joints, and as an expectorant for coughs. By the eighteenth century, it was listed in medicinal plant texts and used for respiratory congestion and coughing, as a digestive aid for food poisoning and colic, and for tuberculosis and joint pain. Modern research shows that this pungent member of the cabbage family helps protect against food-borne illness and bacterial pathogens like Listeria, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.  Horseradish also promotes bile secretions from the gall bladder, helping to maintain a healthy gall bladder and improve digestion.

GINGER
This warming, aromatic root is an excellent remedy for cold, congestive conditions of the respiratory tract and flu symptoms. Ginger also offers welcome relief for fever, body aches and headaches that often accompany flu. Sipping on a cup of Ginger tea can also quell nausea and vomiting and help you stay hydrated during a bout with the flu. Ginger is a warming circulatory stimulant and may be a good choice if you suffer from cold hands and feet. For more information on Ginger visit my post Five Herbs for Cold & Flu Season. 

CHILI PEPPERS + CAYENNE
The serious heat in fire cider comes from chilli peppers, cayenne powder, or both. Choose the peppers according to your tolerance or love for heat. If you’re making fire cider for kids, you’ll probably want to tone it down a bit. Cayenne has a stimulating effect on mucus membrane, especially in the sinuses. It helps thins sinus secretions, providing relief for a stuffy nose or sinus infection.

HERBS
In addition to these traditional ingredients, I like to add any fresh herbs I have in the garden that are warming and antimicrobial. In this batch I added fresh Oregano, Thyme, and Rosemary. 

Nectar Fire Cider Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh horseradish root, grated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1-3 inches fresh turmeric root, grated or 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • a small bunch of fresh herbs (Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Peppercorns)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
  • 3-4 cups organic apple cider vinegar

Directions: 

Combine all of the prepared ingredients in a quart sized jar. Use a piece of natural parchment paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal or use a plastic lid if you have one. Shake well! Store in a dark, cool place for one month and shake daily. After one month, use unbleached cotton muslin to strain out the pulp, pouring the spicy fluid into a clean jar. Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add more honey if needed until you reach the desired sweetness.

Suggested Use: For prevention, 1 tablespoon daily, straight or added to your favorite juice; At the first sign of a cold of flu, up to 3 tablespoons every 3-4 hours.

 

Can’t wait until this new batch of fire cider is ready to strain. This spicy concoction will keep us warm and healthy all winter long!

If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below.
wishing you health and happiness, 
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Mental Energy Balls [ Recipe ]

Mental Energy Balls

This recipe for Mental Energy Balls is loaded with some of my favorite herbs for mental focus and stamina. These Mental Energy Ball are not only delicious, they are also a vegan, gluten-free snack that will help you power through long hard days and your most challenging mental tasks like a superstar. The flavor is rich and lemony with a very subtle and satisfying sweetness.

You might have noticed that I’ve been focusing recently on herbs that support brain health. In this recipe I’ve incorporated Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceum), a nootropic herb, which describes herbs (and other substances that support brain function). For more about nootropic herbs check out this recent post, 5 Herbs to Remember. Research has shown that Lion’s Mane has a positive effect on adults with cognitive impairment and may inhibit the type of amlyoid plaque formation seen in Alzheimer’s disease. 

This recipe also contains Matcha Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) and Maca Root. Green Tea is a gentle stimulant that supports focus and mental clarity. Its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to stimulate production of a protein needed for formation of new brain cells (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), make it an excellent choice for mental energy and long-term brain health. Maca Root is a stimulating, adaptogenic herb that supports the body’s ability to adapt to stress. It can be very stimulating for some people, so be cautious about consuming too may of these Mental Energy Balls late at night. The cashews, coconut and sesame butter in these treats also provide plenty of protein and health fats for balanced, sustained energy.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup sesame seed butter (also called tahini)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 2 tbsp maca powder
  • 2 tbsp lion’s mane powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tblsp maple syrup or honey
  • Optional toppings: goji berries, shredded coconut, matcha powder, or ground pistachios

DIRECTIONS:

Using a food processor, grind the raw cashews and shredded coconut to a fine powder. In a large bowl combine the powdered cashews and coconut with all of the remaining ingredients and mix well to form a slightly sticky, green dough. With wet hands, roll in to one inch balls. Add additional toppings or coat with shredded coconut. Store in a closed contained in the refrigerator to three days.

Makes 18 - 24 balls. 

These tasty snacks are perfect with breakfast for sustained energy throughout the morning or as an afternoon pick-me up. Feel free to incorporate other powdered herbs, especially other nootropics like Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) or Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), but do keep flavor in mind. Other adaptogenic herbs to consider include Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Eleuthero (Eleutherccocus senticosus) and Panax Ginseng (Panax ginseng).   

I hope you enjoy this tasty, energizing treats. If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below. 

wishing you health and happiness, 
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Rosemary Pecan Cookie [ Recipe ]

This Rosemary Pecan Cookie recipe makes an extra special, sweet and savory cookie. It’s also vegan and gluten free, but even your non-vegan, gluten-eating friends will adore this cookie. What makes this cookie special is fresh Rosemary. I love to incorporate herbs in baked goods. They impart unique flavors and added health benefits. Here, Rosemary evokes a savory complexity.

I’ve been focusing all month on herbs like Rosemary that support brain health. These herbs are called nootropics. If you’re curious, this recent post, 5 Herbs to Remember is all about nootropics.  In addition to its effects on brain function, Rosemary, a common culinary herb, also promotes circulation and can be used to ease gas and bloating in the digestive tract.

When it comes to brain health, the Coconut Oil in this recipe is an added benefit. Though more research remains to be done, this article from Alzheimers.net describes the many health benefits of Coconut Oil,  including the positive effects on people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As an herbalist I can’t help looking at the health benefits (or lack thereof) of every recipe. But–many of you came here for this delicious cookie recipe not for a treatise on brain health. So, let’s get to that cookie! 

Rosemary Pecan Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tblsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix almond flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Fold in rosemary and pecans. Form dough into 1 inch balls and press onto baking sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Cool on baking sheet. Enjoy with your favorite herbal tea.

Makes 10-12 Cookies

These healthy cookies are a serious crowd pleaser. If you’re not a fan of Rosemary, substitute dried Lavender flowers for a complex floral note. Lavender too makes a delicious cookie. If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness,

suzanne

How to Make Wild Mint Tincture

How to Make Wild Mint Tincture

In this post I’m going to tell you how to make Wild Mint tincture. Making your own herbal medicine is not just fun. It’s an excellent way to save money on healthcare costs and reduce your family’s dependence on large corporations and pharmaceutical products. It is also a beautiful way to appreciate our interdependence on the plant world.

Tinctures are medicinal herbal extracts made with alcohol. The alcohol acts as a natural “solvent” to draw the therapeutic compounds from the plant and later, once the tincture is done, it acts as an effective preservative. You can easily make a tincture with any dried herb using simple tools in your own kitchen. If you want to know more about tinctures, check out this post, What’s A Tincture and Why Would You Want One?

I recently harvested Wild Mint (Mentha spp.) and hung it to dry. It’s now ready for tincturing. If you don’t have Wild Mint or Peppermint in your garden, you can purchase dried Peppermint from your local apothecary or health food store.

diy wild mint tincture

Benefits of Wild Mint & Peppermint

Medicinally, Peppermint is a carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-emetic and topical analgesic. As a carminative and anti-spasmodic Mint is an excellent and tasty choice for digestive complaints. Carminatives ease gas and bloating, colic, and flatulence. The anti-spasmodic effects of Wild Mint relieve cramping associated with some digestive complaints. Peppermint is often used topically for pain and muscle cramps and to relieve itching from insect bites, stings, and poison oak or poison ivy. Peppermint essential oil is a good choice for topical use, but should always be diluted. (One to five drops per teaspoon of lotion or carrier oil is a good rule of thumb to achieve a 1%-5% dilution. Undiluted Peppermint essential oil can burn the skin.) Wild Mint is also a soothing anti-inflammatory and diaphoretic for colds and flu.

Folk Method and Weight to Volume Method

There are two basic methods for making a tincture. If you want a simple, no math, no measuring approach, use the Folk Method. If you like things to be exact and want to be able to replicate this tincture in the future, use the Weight to Volume Method.

Ingredients // Materials

  • Vodka (at least 80 proof)
  • Dried Wild Mint or Peppermint
  • Coffee Grinder or a Mortar & Pestle
  • Glass Measuring Cup
  • Mesh Strainer
  • Unbleached Cotton Muslin
  • Label
  • Jar with a tight-fitting lid

 

Folk Method Instructions

  • Grind the dried herb to a powder using a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle.
  • Fill the jar about two-thirds full with the powdered herb.
  • Pour in Vodka to over the herb and stir well to saturate the herb. Add more Vodka as needed until there is at least 1/4 inch of Vodka over the herb. Cap the jar tightly and label it with the name of the herb, a description of the Vodka (e.g. 80 proof) and the date.
  • The mixture may absorb more liquid the first day. After 24 hours, add more of Vodka as needed so there is again 1/4 inch of Vodka on top of the herb.
  • Store the jar in a cool, dry place. For the next 14 days (at least) shake the jar several times per day.
  •  After 14 days, allow the mixture to sit undisturbed for one day.  Pour the clear tincture off of the top. Pour the remaining wet herb into a large square of unbleached cotton muslin. Roll up and squeeze to recover as much of the tincture as possible. Combine the two liquids.
  • Filter if desired using an unbleached coffee filter or clean cotton muslin.
  • Bottle, label, and enjoy!

Suggested use for your finished tincture is 30 - 60 drops 2-4 times per day.

Weight to Volume Method

Follow the instructions above for the Folk Method, but use a measured amount of ground herb and Vodka corresponding to a 1:5 ratio of herb weight to Vodka volume. In this ratio 1 part is the powdered herb by weight and 5 parts is the Vodka by volume.  In a 1:1 ratio, 1 ounce of herb by weight corresponds to 1 ounce fluid volume of Vodka. So, for example, in a 1:5 ratio. if you were using 3 ounces (or ~90 gm) by weight of powdered herb, you would use 15 fluid ounces (or ~450 ml) of Vodka.  The ratio of 3 ounces by weight to 15 fluid ounces by volume is the equivalent of a 1:5 ratio. Get it?

Suggested use for your finished tincture is 30 - 60 drops 2-4 times per day.

tincture step 1-1

 

Pouring Vodka over the herb.

Add Vodka and mix well.

Strain the mixture through unbleached cotton muslin.

After 14 days it’s time to strain the mixture.

 

Bottle, label and enjoy.

You can make an effective Wild Mint or Peppermint tincture with either the Folk Method or Weight to Volume Method. Make good notes and label your bottles so you can recreate the same beautiful medicine in the future.

If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment below.

wishing you health and happiness,
suzannesign
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Bee Balm Infused Honey [ Recipe ]

This Bee Balm Honey recipe uses raw local honey to make a delicious remedy for a wide range of issues. I’ve fallen in love with Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) since moving to northern Arizona three years ago. Here in the highlands of northern Arizona you’ll find this flashy member of the mint family in moist canyons and drainages. There are myriad species and I’ve also seen nursery varieties with dramatic flowers planted as ornamentals. Bee Balm is also known as Wild Oregano and Oregano de la Sierra (Oregano of the Sierras) due its spicy taste and aroma. In cooking, the leaves can be substituted for Mexican or Italian Oregano.

Infused in raw local honey, Bee Balm makes a delicious remedy for a wide range of issues from sore throats, colds and flu to indigestion and menstrual cramps. The leaves and flowers can also be prepared as a simple tea (an infusion), or as a tincture or glycerite. (If you want to know more about tinctures,check out this post, What’s A Tincture and Why Would You Want One?

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Medicinal Properties

Medicinally, Bee Balm is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral, antiseptic, and diaphoretic (stimulates sweating). Its strong antimicrobial actions make it a good choice for respiratory infections (upper and lower), sore throats, and flu. Bee Balm is also an anesthetic, which make the infused honey in this post especially soothing to sore throats. I have found the tincture to be a good remedy for sinus congestion and swelling with a feeling of fullness or blockage in the ears. No doubt its anti-inflammatory action coupled with its antimicrobial properties account for this effect. Abundant in the moist places of the southwest, Monarda was widely used by native people as a reproductive tonic, to ease menstrual cramps and to bring on delayed menses. Like other members of the mint family, Bee Balm is an anti-spasmodic and carminative that can be used to ease gas and bloating.

Bee Balm honey is easy to make. Now is the time to harvest the fresh flowers so you can enjoy this delicious remedy all winter long. This recipe calls for raw honey and I highly recommend that you use raw local honey for all of your honey infusions. Raw honey is highly nutritious and possesses potent healing properties of its own. Raw honey has not been pasteurized or filtered and maintains more of the beneficial nutrients and properties than processed honey. Therapeutically, it is an anti-oxidant (the darker the honey, the more so), energizing and useful for recovery from intense exercise, antiseptic, antibacterial, and an effective wound healer.

Let’s make Bee Balm Honey!

Ingredients // Materials

  • Raw Honey
  • Fresh Bee Balm Flowers (Monarda spp.)
  • Jar with a tight-fitting lid

Instructions

  • Gently fill your jar with the flowers. 
  • Pour honey into the jar until the flowers are completely submerged and the jar is full. Gently stir with a small spoon or chopstick (the herbalist’s tool of choice) to remove air bubbles.
  • Cap the jar and label.
  • Allow the honey to sit undisturbed for 4-6 weeks. Gentle heat will encourage the extraction. You can place the jar in a brown paper bag in a sunny place or in a dehydrator set to approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Voila! After 4-6 weeks you can strain out the flowers if your like or leave them in the honey. Add the honey to hot water or tea or take it by the spoonful.

I hope you are happy in the garden and forest and that you come to known this potent plant ally where ever you find her. If you have questions, be sure to leave a comment here.

wishing you health and happiness, 

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Lavender + Mint Lemonade [ Recipe ]

No matter where you live in North America, by July gardens, backyards, local forests and mountain meadows abound with flowers and medicinal plants are ready for the harvest. As an herbalist and lover of flowering plants, this is an exciting time. It is even more fun for me now since I’m still relatively new to northern Arizona and am constantly encountering medicinal plants I’ve known for years, but never met “in person.”

If you’ve haven’t already done so, get a good plant ID or medicinal herb book for your area and get to know the medicinal plants in your “backyard.” You’ll find that it is much easier to identify plants when they are in flower, so get started now. 

Given this season of flowers and herbal abundance, all month I’ll be writing about common herbs (that many of you already have in your garden or yard) and ways you can turn them into herbal medicine and other treats. Today its Lavender & Mint Lemonade–so cooling and refreshing on a hot summer day. Add a few edible flowers and a little Hibiscus and you have a stunningly beautiful floral concoction for you next backyard gathering or barbecue!

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Lavender

This calming herb is uplifting to mood and useful for stress, anxiety, insomnia and headaches. It is relaxing to muscles, a mild anti-inflammatory, and eases gas and bloating. It is gentle enough for small children but effective even for adults. Lavender has a delightful aroma and flavor and the flowers work well as a simple tea. At Nectar Apothecary, we incorporate Lavender flowers in our Spirit Lift and Free & Easy Teas. For sleep I like to do a simple inhalation of Lavender Essential Oil.

Peppermint

Like Lavender, Peppermint also eases gas and bloating and is useful for headaches. It is also stimulating and uplifting to mood, antispasmodic, and an analgesic when used topically. Peppermint leaves, fresh or dried, can be steeped to make a simple, refreshing tea. At Nectar you’ll find Peppermint in our Remember, Fit & Trim, and Breathe Free Tea. For topical use, for headaches, muscle aches, or pain, Peppermint Essential Oil, diluted in a carrier oil is quite useful.

In this Lavender& Mint Lemonade these two cooling herbs come together, with a little Hibiscus flower (for the beautiful pink color) to create a beautiful, unique floral lemonade.

Lavender + Mint Lemonade Recipe

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup fresh Peppermint leaves (or 1/4 cup dried Peppermint leaves)
  • 1/4 cup dried Lavender Flowers
  • 2 tbsp dried Hibiscus flowers
  • 1-1/3 cup fresh squeezed Lemon juice 
  • 8 cups water
  • Sweetener of Choice (Honey, Maple Syrup, Stevia, etc.)
  • Ice
  • Edible Flowers (optional)

 Instructions

In a large pot with a lid, bring water to a boil. Turn off the heat and gently stir in Peppermint, Lavender and Hibiscus. Cover and let steep 15 minutes. Strain the herbs from the tea. Pour the tea into a large jar and refrigerate. Once the tea has cooled, add the Lemon juice and sweeten to taste. If using honey to sweeten, put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously to completely dissolve. If you are not going to serve, immediately, refrigerate. To serve, pour over ice, garnish with edible flowers and delight your palate and guests! Makes about 8 servings.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful, refreshing lemonade. It’s even more satisfying when you’ve grown or collected the Peppermint and Lavender yourself. If you have questions, please do leave a comment here. 

wishing you health and happiness,

Green Goddess Green Tea Lotion [ Recipe ]

Green Goddess Lotion

I call this Green Goddess Lotion because it contains Green Tea–a rich anti-oxidant used to combat aging. And, after spreading this lotion all over your body, you’ll feel like the beautiful Goddess that you are.

I created this lotion for dry, sun-damaged skin. If you’ve read some of my recent posts you know that I spent a lot of time in the sun when I was young. I can not imagine who came up with the idea of a diy sun reflector made with aluminum foil and a record album. During my college days in the Midwest, we’d skip class in the spring time to bake our bodies in the sun. We spent hours coated in baby oil with a foil-lined record album propped just so to reflect even more of the sun’s burning rays onto our young skin. Young, a little crazy, and so irresponsible! Now I drink lots of Green Tea and I also love to incorporate it in my skincare products for its anti-oxidant properties.

Skin damage occurs as a result of oxidation, a chemical process in which unstable molecules called free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells. On the skin, oxidative stress may show up us as wrinkles, thickening, discoloration and loss of elasticity. When it comes to skin, sun exposure is one of the most damaging causes of oxidative stress. Sunlight, as enjoyable as it can be and important for Vitamin D production, is a form of radiation, specifically ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation leads to free radical damage and it can cause cells to mutate and turn cancerous.

Antioxidants like Green Tea are the best defense against free radical damage or oxidative stress. As the name suggests, antioxidants combat oxidative damage by sacrificing their own electrons to feed free radicals, but without turning into free radicals themselves. A diet rich in high quality, organic fruits and vegetables will give your body a daily dose of antioxidants. Personally, I like to up my daily antioxidant intake with the regular consumption of Green Tea truly my favorite antioxidant internally and topically!

In addition to the antioxidant power of Green Tea, this Green Goddess lotion includes lots of other organic ingredients to nourish your skin and counter sun damage and other forms of oxidative stress.

Green Goddess Ingredient Highlights

Calendula Infused Oil 
I make this skin-soothing, herb infused oil myself (here’s the recipe), but you can also purchase it here. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is one of the most versatile and useful herbs for topical skincare. It is soothing to irritated, inflamed skin and aids in healing wounds, burns, boils, rashes. It is an excellent topical remedy for most skin conditions and all skin types. For daily skin care, Calendula helps to soften and smooth skin, reduce pore size, and clear acne.

Aloe Vera Juice
From the Aloe Vera leaf (Aloe spp), this juice is an excellent choice for sunburns, wound healing, and for daily use in topical skincare products. Topically is is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing and emollient and my dry skin loves it. It’s also anti-bacterial which makes it a good choice in acne products. Aloe vera juice can be found at most natural grocers.

Jojoba Oil
This medium-textured oil comes from a small shrub (Simmondsia chinensis) that thrives in the hot desert sun of Arizona and California. I use Jojoba Oil in all of my lotions, creams, and facial oils because it penetrates well and leaves no oily residue. As it penetrates it carries all of the other luscious ingredients deep into your skin. It is considered an oil of choice for skincare products because of its similarity to the sebum produced by our skin. It is also very stable which helps to extend the shelf life of your diy products (which are probably and happily made without chemical preservatives). Organic Jojoba Oil can be found at Nectar Apothecary or at natural grocers and supplements shops.

Helichrysum Hydrosol
Also known as Immortalle or Everlasting, Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum (syn. angustifolium)) is a potent skin regenerative, used to reduce and prevent scarring, soothe inflammation, and repair sun damaged, or couperose skin.  Hydrosols, sometimes called flower waters are created during the steam distillation of essential oils. They possess many of the same qualities as the essential oil, but are much less concentrated, making them well suited for topical use. In this lotion I used the Helichrysum Hydrosol which is available here, but you could also use the essential oil in place of one of the other essential oils in this recipe. For more about Helichrysum check out my recent blog on herbs for topical skincare.

Frankincense Essential Oil
This beautiful, sacred oil (Boswellia carterii (syn. sacra)) has a bright, citrus-like and somewhat peppery fragrance. It is one of my favorite essential oils for the skin and especially for mature skin. Frankincense is used to rejuvenate tired, sagging skin and helps to heal skin blemishes and wounds. It’s anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties make it a good choice for all skin types, but especially for acne, scarred, or damaged skin. You can purchase Frankincense Essential Oil here.

Carrot Seed Essential Oil
Derived from Wild Carrot (Daucus carota), also known as Queen Anne’s Lace, this essential oil has a strong, earthy and somewhat spicy fragrance. In skincare it is especially helpful for damaged, scarred, wrinkled, or inflamed skin–a perfect choice for sun-damaged skin. You can purchase Carrot Seed Essential Oil here.

Lavender Essential Oil
True Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is one of the most versatile and widely used essential oils. Topically is is cooling and soothing to burns, including sunburn, and helps take the sting out of insect bites. It’s ability to balance the skin and soothe irritation makes it a good choice for all skin types and for all skincare products. You can purchase Lavender Essential Oil here.

Making your own lotion is not difficult, but it does require some attention to detail in order to get the water and oil parts to blend together without separating later. Read all the way through the instructions before you begin. If this is your first time, I recommend sticking closely to the recipe. After that, you can customize the lotion and substitute other oils and ingredients to create a lotion perfect for your skin.

INGREDIENTS

Oil Portion
1/4 cup organic Calendula Infused Oil
1/2 cup organic Jojoba Oil
1/2 ounce organic Yellow Beeswax

Water Portion
1/2 cup organic Aloe Vera Juice
1/4 cup brewed organic Green Tea
1/4 cup organic Helichrysum Hydrosol

Other Ingredients
1 tsp Vitamin E
25 drops Frankincense Essential Oil
25 drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil
10 drops Lavender Essential Oil

INSTRUCTIONS

1. For a longer lasting lotion, before you begin, sterilize all of your equipment, as well as the containers and lids for the finished product.

2. Place the oil portion in a small glass, steel, or enamel pot (a double boiler is best). Add the beeswax and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is melted. Pour the oil/beeswax mixture in to a blender to cool. It will thicken as it cools, but should still be pourable. You can also place the blender in the refrigerator, but check frequently to make sure it doesn’t cool too much. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

3. In the meantime, prepare the water portion in a separate container and set aside. The water portion should also be at approximately room temperature.

4. Once the oil/beeswax mixture has cooled, place the lid on the blender and remove the small center cap. Turn the blender on high and slowly pour in a thin stream of the water mixture. When about two-thirds to three-quarters of the water mixture has been added, the contents in the blender will emulsify and thicken taking on the texture of a lotion.

5. Remove the blender lid and slowly continue adding the water mixture, carefully stirring the upper edges of the lotion to incorporated as much of the water as possible. It is not necessary to add all of the water mixture. Turn off the blender.

6. Add Vitamin E or other preservatives and essential oils. Pulse the blender a couple of times to incorporate these ingredients.

7. Pour the lotion into containers, cap, label, and enjoy! Store extra containers in the refrigerator to increase the shelf life. Use within 6 months.

You are going to love how soft and hydrated your skin feels with this lotion. If you have questions or want help customizing this recipe for your skin, be sure to leave a comment below. Better yet, give us a call or visit us at the shop in Prescott.

To your health,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Foaming Facial Cleanser [ Recipe ]

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In your daily skincare regime, cleansing is step one, toning is step two, and moisturizing & hydrating, step three. Facial cleansers are made to remove the daily grime that collects in pores, and to remove makeup and any oily build-up. Regardless of your skin type, the best cleansers are gentle, nourishing to the skin, and effective! This foaming facial cleanser recipe is all that! It’s also super easy to make and requires no special tools other than a foaming pump bottle.  

This cleanser is also made with pure organic ingredients and can be customized to meet the needs of your skin.

Foaming Facial Cleanser

Liquid Castile Soap – I recommend using Castile soap made with organic oils. Castile soap is a gentle effective cleanser. It can also be used for a body wash or as a base for shampoo. It works well for my skin which is mature and normal to oily. However it can be too drying for dry or sensitive skin. If you have dry skin, but still want a foaming cleanser, cut the amount of Castile soap in this recipe in half and replace it with more Aloe Vera Juice, which is soothing and moisturizing.

Aloe Vera Juice – Aloe vera juice from the aloe vera leaf (Aloe spp.) is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, emollient, and even anti-bacterial. It is a good choice for all skin types and especially for oily or acne prone skin. Aloe vera juice can be found at most natural grocers.

Hydrosols - Sometimes called flower waters, true hydrosols are created during the steam distillation of essential oils. They possess many of the same qualities as the essential oil, but are much less concentrated, making them well suited for topical use. For this cleanser, I choose Lemon Verbena hydrosol because it is slightly astringent and revitalizing for all skin types. And, I love the fresh uplifting scent. Hydrosols also make great skin toners, used alone or in combination with other ingredients. Here’s a recipe using hydrosols in a toner for mature skin. Remember, toning is typically step two in a daily skincare regime.

Jojoba Oil - I include Jojoba Oil in most of my skincare products. It is very similar to the natural oil (sebum) in your skin and penetrates well without leaving an oily reside. It is an excellent choice for all skin types and also works well as a conditioner for hair, scalp, and nails. In this recipe it works with the Aloe Vera Juice to counter the drying tendency of the Castile soap.

Essential Oils - Every essential oil possesses unique properties. I like to use a citrus oils in cleansers because they tend to be astringent, antiseptic, and balancing to pH. Citrus essential oils are also a very good choice for oily or acne-prone skin. I also like the stimulating, uplifting fragrance in the morning to set the tone for my day. In this recipe I used Lemon essential oil and Rose Geranium essential oil. Rose Geranium is beneficial for all skin types, especially mature, sun damaged and combination skin, and it has the most beautiful, fresh floral scent. A word of caution–many citrus essential oils are photo-sensitizing, meaning you are more sensitive to the sun and more likely to sunburn is you apply them and then go outside. I have not experienced increased sensitivity using citrus essential oils in cleansers, but I do avoid using them in facial oils and moisturizers that remain on the skin all day.  

Ingredients // Materials

  • 1/4 cup Liquid Castile Soap
  • 1/8 cup Aloe Vera Juice
  • 1/8 cup Lemon Verbena Hydrosol
  • 1/2 tsp. Jojoba Oil
  • 5 drops Rose Geranium Essential Oil
  • 5 drops Lemon Essential Oil
  • Glass Mixing Bowl
  • Whisk
  • Foaming Pump Bottle

Instructions

It couldn’t be easier. Watch below for a quick tutorial on how to make your own Foaming Facial Cleanser!

I hope you have fun making your own organic skincare. I know your skin will be happy and your bank account, too. If you need help customizing your products, you are welcome to send me an email or leave a comment here. 

wishing you health and happiness,

Suzanne Teachey
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Helichrysum Facial Toner [ Recipe ]

One of the things I love most about DIY skincare is choosing every ingredient specifically for my skin type. Of course I also love the fact that there are no harsh chemicals, endocrine disruptors, cancer-causing agents or other nasty stuff, just pure organic herbal goodness. 

I use a toner on my face every morning, right after cleansing. In your daily skincare regime, cleansing is step one, toning is step two, and moisturizing & hydrating, step three. A toner helps to balance skin pH, hydrate the skin, and increase firmness. I also like to spritz my face with this toner whenever I feel like my skin or mood needs refreshing. 

I formulated this toner for mature, sun-damaged skin. Unfortunately, while I was out having fun, my skin suffered from some youthful indiscretion on the beaches of southern California many years ago. Now, thanks to a more refined (aka mature) acceptance of the risks of too much sun and an understanding of the nourishing and healing properties of plant medicine, I take much better care of my skin. While I formulated this toner specifically for my skin type, many of the ingredients are beneficial for all skin types. You can easily customize this recipe for your skin type by substituting other hydrosols or essential oils specific to the needs of your skin. 

Everything in this recipe serves a specific purpose and together they make the perfect toner for sun-kissed skin!  

helichrysum ft

Helichrysum Hydrosol –  Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum (syn. angustifolium)) also known as Immortalle or Everlasting is a potent skin regenerative. You can use the essential oil or hydrosol in skincare products to reduce and prevent scarring, soothe inflammation, and repair sun damaged, or couperose skin.  Hydrosols, sometimes called flower waters are created during the steam distillation of essential oils. They possess many of the same qualities as the essential oil, but are much less concentrated, making them well suited for topical use. Hydrosols make great skin toners, alone, though I also like them in combination with other ingredients. For more about Helichrysum check out my recent blog on herbs for topical skincare

Aloe Vera Juice – Aloe vera juice from the aloe vera leaf (Aloe spp) is an excellent choice for sunburns and wound healing as well as for daily use in topical skincare products. Topically is is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, emollient, and even anti-bacterial. Aloe vera juice can be found at most natural grocers.

Calendula Infused Apple Cider Vinegar – This DIY herb infused vinegar helps balance skin pH, reduce itching and flaking, and also possesses anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Here’s the recipe. If you don’t have time to make the Calendula infused vinegar, simply substitute organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Vegetable Glycerin – Vegetable glycerin, derived from vegetable fats,  adds a slippery smooth texture to skincare products. It is also moisturizing and acts as a humectant, which means it draws moisture from the air to the skin. It helps to rehydrate dry skin.

Frankincense Essential Oil – This beautiful, sacred oil (Boswellia sacra) is one of my favorite essential oils for the skin and especially for mature skin. Frankincense is used to rejuvenate tired, sagging skin and helps to heal skin blemishes and wounds. It’s anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties make it a good choice for all skin types, but especially for acne, scarred, or damaged skin.

German Chamomile Essential Oil – The sweet flowers of calming German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) produce a dark blue essential oil with strong anti-inflammatory properties. It is a great choice to calm sensitive skin and reduce redness. In this recipe I used Chamomile Essential Oil, but you could also use Chamomile Hydrosol in place of all or some of the Helichrysum Hydrosol. 

Ingredients // Materials

  • 4 oz. Helichrysum Hydrosol
  • 4 oz. Aloe Vera Juice
  • 2 tsp. Calendula Infused Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Vegetable Glycerin
  • 10 Drops Frankincense Essential Oil
  • 10 Drops German Chamomile Essential Oil
  • Glass Mixing Bowl
  • Whisk
  • Spray Bottle

Instructions

It’s super easy. Watch this quick tutorial on how to make your own Helichrysum Facial Toner!

I like to store my finished toner in a glass spray bottle and spritz it directly on my face. You can also apply a toner with a cotton pad. 

A toner is one of the easiest DIY skincare products to make. I hope you feel inspired to create a toner specifically for your skin type.  

wishing you health and happiness,

Suzanne Teachey
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Herb Infused Vinegar [ Recipe ]

Herb Infused Vinegar for Glowing Skin

I created this herb infused vinegar for my favorite facial toner recipe, but there are so many other ways herbal vinegars can be enjoyed. Infuse dried culinary herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Garlic, or Hot peppers in apple cider vinegar to incorporate them in salad dressing. Culinary vinegars pair great with herb infused oils for the perfect DIY gift. You can also use herbal vinegars for refreshing hair rinses, facial masks, immune boosters and much more.

In this infusion, I used dried Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis) which are an excellent topical remedy for most irritated skin conditions and are gentle enough for all skin types. These golden blossoms help to soften and soothe skin, reduce pore size, and clear acne. For more about Calendula and other herbs for topical skincare, check out my blog Radiant Skin, Part 2.

When I make an herb infused vinegar to add to skincare products, I use organic Apple Cider Vinegar for the naturally occurring malic acid, which acts as a gentle, nonabrasive exfoliating agent. Apple Cider Vinegar (in dilution) also helps restore the skin’s natural pH, which can be disrupted by harsh soaps and some anti-acne products.

Herb infused vinegar is really easy to make. The vinegar acts as a gentle solvent and extracts the plant’s theraputic compounds. In this recipe I used make a 1:10 weight to volume extract, which means I used 1 ounce of herb by weight to 10 fluid ounces (1-1/4 cups) of Apple Cider Vinegar. Some plants absorb less of the Vinegar which will allow you to make a more concentrated extract, like 1:5, if you choose.

Calendula Infused Vinegar Recipe

Materials

  • 1-1/4 cups organic Apple Cider Vinger
  • 1 ounce dried herb (I used Calendula flowers.)
  • Coffee grinder or mortal & pestle
  • Jar with a tight fitting lid
  • Glass Measuring Cup
  • Metal Mesh Strainer
  • Unbleached Cotton Muslin or Cheese Cloth

Instructions

  1. Grind your dried herb to a fine powder using a coffee grinder or pestle.
  2. Empty powdered herb into a clean dry glass jar.
  3. Pour Apple Cider Vinegar over the powdered herb, mix well, and screw on the lid. As the herb begins to settle you should have at least 1/2 inch of vinegar over the herb.
  4. Store the jar in a cool dark place and shake it as frequently as possible (2-3 times per day for best results) for 10 - 14 days.
  5. After 10 -14 days it’s time to decant. Place a square of unbleached cotton muslin over a mesh strainer and place the strainer over a glass measuring cup or bowl.
  6. Pour the herb/vinegar mixture into the muslin/strainer. The vinegar will begin to drain. With you hands, carefully take up the corners and edges of the muslin and begin to twist and squeeze firmly until all of the herb infused vinegar has been expelled.
  7. Bottle your vinegar, label and enjoy! Or, start dreaming about all of the other products you can make with your herb infused vinegar.

If you are using the herb infused vinegar topically, it is best to dilute it with distilled water. I use only a small amount in this facial toner. And, if DIY skincare is not your thing, keep in mind that you can use this very same recipe to make a culinary vinegar using dried culinary herbs!

Have fun and get creative,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Calendula Salve [ Recipe ]

Herbal salves are an ideal way to enjoy the therapeutic effect of herbs directly on the skin. A salve (pronounced “sav”) is a semi-solid, somewhat oily herbal mixture prepared for topical use. When applied to the skin, the salve softens and provides a healing, emollient, protective, or nourishing action depending upon the herbs and oils used to make the salve. A balm is simply a salve with a relatively high concentration of aromatic essential oils that increases the therapeutic intensity of the salve.

The base of most salves is a combination of herb-infused oils, carriers oils, wax (typically beeswax, but emulsifying wax is an alternative vegan option), and essential oils. Body heat melts the wax when the salve is applied and the oils foster absorption of the plant medicinal constituents into the skin. 

The basic salve recipe is simple. However, you can vary the combination of herb-infused oils, carrier oils, and essential oils to achieve different therapeutic effects. For example, you can create a salve to help heal and disinfect cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, an anti-inflammatory salve for achy joints, bruises, and sprains, or a sore muscle balm for tired, over used muscles. The basic salve recipe can also be used (with the addition of a little extra beeswax) to create a lip balm that heals and protects cracked lips. Really, the possibilities are endless. Check out this post on Herbs for Topical Skincare to learn about herbs with healing (vulnerary), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin regenerative properties you might want to incorporate in your salve. And, to create you own herb infused oil check out this post for DIY infused oil instructions

The basis salve recipe below incorporates Calendula infused olive oil, which you can make yourself of purchase here.  Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is one of the most versatile and useful herbs for topical skincare. In a salve it is soothing to irritated, inflamed skin and aids in healing wounds, burns, boils, rashes. It is an excellent topical remedy for most skin conditions and all skin types. It also relieves itching and can reduce the swelling and pain of bee stings. Keep in mind you can substitute other infused oils or carrier oils in place of the Calendula Oil.

Ingredients // Materials

  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) Calendula Infused Oil
  • 1 ounce by weight of Beeswax—pastilles or grated into small pieces
  • 1-2 tsp (100-200 drops) of essential oils (optional)
  • Glass Measuring Cup
  • Double Broiler or Glass Measuring Cup inside a Pot (see picture below)
  • Tins or Lip Balm Containers

Instructions

  1. Set aside a small amount of your oil (or oil blend) and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.
  2. Place the oil in a steel, enamel, or glass container with the beeswax and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.
  3. To test the finished consistency of your product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt.
  4. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result. At this point, if you are using essential oils, there are two options:  
    • If you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir your essentials into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.
    •  If you want salves with different essential oils, add your essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/bees wax mixture into each container to cool.
  5. Allow salves to rest for 24 hours. If you  notice an cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance.

icetest

I hope you have fun making your own salve and that you feel more empowered to take care of yourself and your family. Do let me know if you have any questions. 

wishing you health and happiness,

Suzanne Teachey
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar Apothecary

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Herb Infused Oil with Calendula

DIY: Herb Infused Oil

I love nourishing my skin with organic oils and especially when those oils are infused with herbs that promote healthy, radiant skin. In this post I’m going to show you how easy it is to create your own herb infused oils. You can use herb infused oils directly on your skin or incorporate them in DIY salves, lip balms, lotions, and creams. With the right herbs and oils, you can also make a luscious massage oil.

In this post I’m going to show you how to make your own herb infused oil using the flowers of Calendula (Calendula officinalis). This sunny, golden flower is one of the most versatile and useful herbs for topical skincare. It is very soothing to irritated, inflamed skin and aids in healing wounds, burns, boils, rashes. It is an excellent topical remedy for most skin conditions and all skin types. It also relieves itching and can reduce the swelling and pain of bee stings. For daily skin care, Calendula helps to soften and smooth skin, reduce pore size, and clear acne. If you don’t have the time (the process takes at least a week) or the DIY inclination, you can also get Calendua infused oil here.

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Let’s begin by looking briefly at the choice of oils. When making an infused oil, I most often use organic Olive Oil. It is affordable and stable even without refrigeration, an excellent choice for dry skin, hair, nails, and feet, and it creates a good texture for massage, especially blended with other oils. I also like to use Sweet Almond Oil which is a nutritious, lightweight oil, with little scent. Used topically, it is an effective emollient to soften and soothe the skin making it useful for all skin types. It also provides good slip and slide for massage. There are many other options including Apricot Kernel Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Jojoba Oil, or Sesame Oil, each with their own unique properties. Avoid using oils like Evening Primrose or Borage, which are fragile and damaged when heated. Thought these fragile oils offer important therapeutic benefits for various skin conditions they are best incorporated in your DIY skincare products after you have completed processes that need heat.

I’m using Calendula flowers in this recipe, but you can substitute other herbs with different therapeutic properties in place of the Calendula. I’ve listed other options down below. For other suggestions on herbs for topical skincare, check out last week’s post, Radiant Skin Part 2: Herbs for Topical Skincare. The following recipe should yield at least one cup of Calendula infused oil. 

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces (by weight) dried Calendula Flowers
  • 10 fluid ounces (1-1/4 Cup) Olive Oil (or other fixed oil like Sweet Almond, Grape Seed, Jojoba, or Sesame)
  • Coffee grinder, mortal & pestle, etc.
  • Jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • Measuring Cup
  • Fine Mesh Strainer
  • Bowl
  • Unbleached Cotton Muslin
  • Label

Instructions

  1. Grind dried herb to a powder using a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle, or Vitamix.
  2. Place the powdered herb in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the oil and mix well. 
  3. Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. If the herb floats, add enough oil so there is at least ¼ inch of oil below the herb. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.
  4. Warm and allow the herb to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming.
    • Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.
    • Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day.
  5. After 7 - 10 days, strain the oil. Place the fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. Pour into herb oil mixture and any herb remaining in the jar. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express the as much of the medicinal oil as possible.
  6. Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil and filter if desired. Bottle, label, and enjoy or start scheming about what DIY skincare products you’re going to create with your Calendula Oil. 

I like to use the finished Calendula oil in salve and lip balm and I have also incorporated it into lotion. Here’s the recipe for making salve and lip balm.

While Calendula makes one of the most versatile infused oils, there are many other options. I’ll list some herbs and blends below to help you get started.

Bumps + Bruises

Other good wound healers (herbal vulneraries) that make effective infused oils include:
Comfrey leaf and root (Symphytum officinalis)
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
Plantain (Plantago spp.). 

Brightening + Lightening

If you want an infused oil with anti-inflammatory properties, you can infuse many of the same herbs including Calendula, Comfrey leaf and root, Chickweed, and Plantain, as well as Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and Licorice Root (Gylcyrrhiza glabra), which is also used to lighten dark skin spots.

Cuts + Bites

For infectious skin conditions infuse herbs with anti-microbial properties like Chaparral (Larrea tridentata) Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), or Oregon Grape Root (Mahonia aquifolium).

Relaxing Massage

For a massage oil, consider relaxing herbs like Chamomile, Lavender, and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Rosemary (Rosmarinus officialis) Peppermint (Mentha piperita) are also good choices for sore muscles oils. 

The plant world offers so many beautiful choices when it comes to taking care of our skin and bodies–whether from the inside or outside. I hope you have fun making your own infused oils and that you feel more empowered to take care of yourself and your family. Do let me know if you have any questions. 

wishing you health and happiness,
suzanne

Looking for more herbal inspiration?

Are You Brewing Your Loose Leaf Tea Properly?

You would be surprised how often I hear people say “I don’t like tea.” Seriously—that’s like saying “I don’t like food.”  But, I get it. If you’ve only experienced tea that came in tiny tea bags from a cardboard box, it probably tasted a lot like cardboard.

I love it when I can offer a brilliant cup of loose leaf tea to someone who says “I don’t like tea.”  I love to see the surprise and sense of wonder on their face as they experience the rich and complex flavors. That said, if you’ve only ever encountered tea in tea bags that came from a box, you may be unsure what to do with a loose leaf tea.

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Brewing a delicious cup of loose leaf tea starts with fresh, vibrant dried tea leaves or herbs and a little bit of “know how.” It’s really quite simple. Yes—it takes a little more time and intention, but the result is well worth it. Allowing yourself time to prepare your tea properly is an act of self-care and a practice of mindfulness and presence.

Tea is an act complete in its simplicity.
When I drink tea, there is only me and the tea.
The rest of the world dissolves.
There are no worries about the future.
No dwelling on past mistakes.
Tea is simple: loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup.
I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup.
I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me.
I am informed by the tea, changed.
This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act the truth
of the world suddenly becomes revealed: 
all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense, 
invented in our minds for no good purpose.  
There is only the tea, and me, converging.
Thích Nhất Hạnh

First, before we get in to brewing, let me clear up a little confusion around the term “tea.”

Is It Tea or Tisane?

Technically and officially the term “tea” refers to hot infused beverages made from the leaves of a plant known as Camellia sinensis or its closely related cousins. There are at least six unique types of tea from this one plant, including Green, Black, White, Oolong, Yellow, and Dark (or Pu-erh tea), all possessing caffeine in varying amounts. The distinctions in flavor, aroma, color and texture arise from different growing regions and farming techniques, harvest time, and production or crafting methods.

Then there are so-called “herbal teas,” technically not tea at all since they are made from herbs, spices, and berries, and barks rather than the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Technically an “herbal tea” is a tisane (pronounced ti-ˈzan).  However, tisane is a word most people have never heard of. So, rather than geting all bound up in the nomenclature, I confess to using the term tea to refer to both the Camellia sinensis variety and tisanes. Please don’t turn me into the grammar police.

Brewing loose leaf teas can be a simple or complex as you want to make it. You can use a tea ball, or a simple strainer, a fancy teapots, or even a French-press (especially if you’re holding onto a retired French-Press from your coffee drinking days). Regardless of the tools you choose to use, what’s important is good circulation of the hot water around the tea leaves or herbs. Since most teas expand when they are immersed in hot water, be sure not to pack the herbs in too tightly, especially if you’re using a tea ball. This is one of the most common mistakes I hear about. I prefer to let the herbs roam freely in the pot or French-press and strain before drinking. More about that that below.

Now when it comes to brewing a delicious cup of loose leaf tea there is a big difference between Green, Black, Oolong and other true teas on the one hand and herbal teas on the other. Volumes could be written about the many subtle methods to brew the perfect cup of tea.  Proper water temperature and short steeping times from one to five minute are critical for Green, Black, Oolong and other true teas.  For this article however, I want to focus on the best way to brew loose leaf herbal teas since I find that many people are not doing it correctly and are missing out—not only on the rich and subtle flavors, but also on the therapeutic benefits of herbal teas.

 Is It an Infusion or a Decoction?

There are two basic methods for brewing loose leaf herbal teas—a third, if you combine the two.  The method you choose will have a major impact on flavor and the medicinal properties of the finished tea. In general, if your loose leaf tea is made up of the soft aerial parts of the plants—leaves and flowers, an infusion is the preferred method.  If your loose leaf tea is a blend of hard woody parts, roots, bark, berries, or seeds, a decoction is the preferred method. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but more about that later.

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How to Make an Herbal Infusion

If you’ve ever dropped a tea bag in a cup of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes, you’ve made an infusion. That said, not all infusions result in a delicious cup of tea (remember all those people who say they don’t like tea), so there may be some room for improvement in your method. First, keep in mind that this method is best for loose leaf teas made up of the soft aerial parts of the plants—the leaves and flowers. Good examples of teas to be infused include Nectar’s Quiet Belly, Free & Easy, and Fit & Trim Green Tea. To prepare an infusion,

  1. Measure Your Herbal Blend: One tablespoon per cup (8 ounces) will generally make a full-flavored medicinal tea. If your blend was prepared by your herbalist or other practitioner, be sure to follow their instructions.
  2. Cover the loose herbs with just boiled water and place a cover on the cup or teapot.
  3. Allow to steep for at least 15 minutes! Yes—15 minutes—this will allow for a more thorough extraction of the flavor and therapeutic compounds.
  4. Strain and enjoy!

 How to Make an Herbal Decoction

The hard woody parts of plants generally need more heat to extract all of the flavor and active constituents. Herbal blends made up if roots, barks, seeds, and berries should be prepared as a decoction. Nectar Teas to prepare as a decoction include Stamina Builder, Immune Tonic, and Inner Calm teas. To prepare a decoction,

  1. Measure Your Herbal Blend: One tablespoon for two cups of water is generally a good measure. If your blend was prepared by your herbalist or other practitioner, be sure to follow their instructions.
  2. Place the loose herbal blend in a small sauce pan and add the water.
  3. Slowly bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy!

There’s Always an Exception

There are some roots that don’t follow the general rule. These are roots that either contain a lot of mucilage or a lot of volatile oils—more commonly known as essential oils. Herbs that contain a lot of mucilage get thick and gummy when they get wet. Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm are good examples. You can prepare these either as a decoction or infusion, but allowing them to steep overnight in cold water will extract the greatest amount of mucilaginous content which gives these medicinal plants their soothing properties.

Roots that contain essential oil are another exception. If you prepare them as a decoction, the simmering will cause more of the therapeutic essential oils to escape the tea.  Essential oils are great for the air, but when you prepare a tea with aromatic plants you’d like to capture as much of the volatile oils in the cup as possible. So, for roots like Ginger, Elecampane, and Valerian, I prefer to prepare them as an infusion, with a long steep time (20-30 minutes), being sure to keep a lid on the cup or teapot.

Any good medicinal tea should include instructions for preparation. If the cardboard box says to steep the tea bag in hot water for 3-5 minutes, skip it and find a good quality loose leaf tea.  Allow yourself time to prepare your tea well. Savor the warmth, the flavor and aromas.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis 
on which the world earth revolves--slowly, evenly,
without rushing toward the future.
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Coconut Oil Love Balm

DIY Valentine’s Day Gift

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Whether you’re creating a delight-filled day for your beloved or planning on engaging in a little self-love, this Love Balm is sure to please. Made with skin loving Coconut oil and your choice of aromatic essential oils, this Love Balm is an all-natural lubricant that doubles as an excellent massage, bath or body oil.

Coconut oil is a highly emollient oil with a sweet, exotic fragrance. Solid at room temperature, it melts readily when it comes in contact with the skin. In skincare products it is softening and penetrating, and useful for inflamed, irritated, and sensitive tissue. It is excellent for massage, creating a smooth, long-lasting glide. Coconut oil is also anti-bacterial and antifungal—containing the candida fighting compounds caprylic, lauric, and myristic acids. When you add the intoxicating scent of essential oils you will have a sensuous lubricant or massage/body oil.

There are many essential oils with long standing reputations as aphrodisiacs. Whatever essential oils you choose to use, be aware that in general these potent volatile oils should not be used undiluted on the skin. I would also recommend avoiding essential oils that are skin irritants, like clove and cinnamon, even though their scents are warm and sensuous. Consider these libido-lifting essential oils for your Love Balm and trust your senses.

LOVE BALM ESSENTIAL OIL OPTIONS

Cardamom
(Elettaria cardamomum)
A stimulating aphrodisiac, antispasmodic, and digestive aid that fosters joy and contentment.

Clary Sage
(Salvia sclarea)
An aphrodisiac, euphoric, and anti-depressant that arouses the emotions and helps one feel more grounded.

Geranium
(Pelargonium graveolens)
An anti-depressant and hormone balancer for men and women that stimulates sensuality, and relieves anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

Ginger
(Zingiber officinale)
An aphrodisiac and warming stimulant that helps to open the heart.

Jasmine
(Jasminum officinale or J. grandiflorum)
A euphoric that calms fears and anxiety, and removes emotional blocks.

Patchouli
(Pogostemon cablin)
An aphrodisiac and anti-depressant that calms anxiety, lifts the spirits and stimulates the nervous system.

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Rose
(Rosa damascene and others)
An aphrodisiac, anti-depressant, cerebral tonic, and rejuvenative, considered the Supreme Heart Opener, especially for those who feel distanced from their emotional center.

Sandalwood
(Santalum album)
An aphrodisiac, euphoric, and anti-depressant with uplifting, ecstatic, and erotic qualities, used to builds sexual confidence.

Vanilla
(Vanilla planifolia)
An aphrodisiac, mild stimulant, and euphoric that boosts confidence and helps to dissolve pent up anger and frustration.

Vetivert
(Vetiveria zizanoides)
An anti-depressant and rejuvenative that is gounding, calming, comforting, uplifting and relaxing.

Ylang Ylang
(Canaga odorata)
An aphrodisiac, euphoric, anti-depressant, sedative, and anti-spasmodic that stimulates the senses, improves self-esteem, and fosters a sense of peacefulness.

LOVE BALM RECIPE

Ingredients:

½ cup (4 ounces) Organic Coconut Oil
¼ tsp Vitamin E
50-100 drops of Essential Oils

Instructions:

Melt coconut oil over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in Vitamin E and essential oils of your choice. Mix well. Pour into containers and allow to cool. Your Luscious Love Balm will be solid at room temperature, melts quickly on the skin, and is completely liquid at 76 degrees.

Note: This love balm is not latex friendly. As you can see, this Love Balm is quick and easy, all-natural, and sure to delight. 

Have fun! Happy Valentine’s Day!

DIY Natural Essential Oil Reed Diffuser

This DIY Essential Oil Diffuser is simple to make and will please anyone on your gift list! You can use an up-cycled glass bottle, foraged twigs, and any carrier oil/essential oil you have on hand. They add an incredible aroma and decorative touch to any room in the house.

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DIY NATURAL ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER

Ingredients:
About ¼ cup of carrier oil (Sweet Almond, Olive, Jojoba)
½ - 1 tsp (50-100 drops) of Essential Oil of your choice
Dried Weed Stalks or Bamboo Skewers
Small Bottle

Directions:
Once you have all of your supplies assembled, carefully drop the essential oils into the small bottle using an eyedropper. Pour in the carrier oil and stir to blend with one of the reeds. Place the remaining reeds in the bottle and allow to steep in the oil mixture. After a short while, flip the stalks over in the bottle to allow the oils to diffuse more rapidly.

So easy! The stalks can be flipped over in the bottle occasionally to increase diffusion of the essential oil aroma. Add more essential oils as needed, 1-2 times per month.

Supply Notes:
I found these old bottles at a local antique store. The brown bottles actually say “Lysol” which I found amusing. However, any small bottle with a relatively large opening will work. I collected the weed stalks in an open field near my house. They were already quite dry–I just stripped off the dried leaves and cut them to the right length. If there’s nothing to harvest near you, bamboo skewers used for barbecuing will also work well. They can usually be found at any store that sells kitchen supplies.

Gifting:
If you are giving this as a gift, package the carrier oil/essential oil blend in a bottle with a cap and include instructions for assembly.

Essential Oils:
As for what essential oils to use, it’s personal. Choose essentials oils with the fragrance and/or therapeutic properties you want in your home or to offer as a gift. In class we used clove and cinnamon essential oils for a warming holiday scent.

Clove essential oil has a warming, sweet-spicy scent with delicate vanilla floral top notes. It is strengthening, warming, and promotes sensuality. It is used for weakness, both physically and emotionally. Clove bud oil may be used to promote self-confidence, courage, motivation and grounding. Topical use of this skin-irritant oil should be avoided.

Cinnamon essential oil is also warming and sensuous. It is useful in cases of emotional and physical coldness and withdrawal, weakness, and burnout. Cinnamon oil promotes vitality and increased self-esteem. Of course, together these two oils smell like pumpkin pie that’s just come out of the oven.

Have fun making these beautiful diffusers. Let me know if you have questions.

Well Wishes,
suzanne

Simple Elder Berry Syrup Recipe for Immune Health

DELICIOUS + EFFECTIVE IMMUNE SUPPORT

Elder Berry (Sambucus nigra) also know as Black Elder Berry, is an immune stimulant with antiviral properties, traditionally used for cold and flu symptoms, including aches and pains, coughing, nasal congestion, mucous discharge and fever. This tasty berry makes a delicious syrup even your kids will like.  Though I love honey, in this recipe I prefer to use glycerin as excess sugar (even in the form of honey) has a negative impact on immune function.

This is a great syrup for cold and flu season.  It can be taken daily to ward off those pesky cold and flu viruses or in higher quantities at the first sign of a cold or flu.

Elder Berry for Immune Health

Simple Elder Berry Syrup Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup dried Elder berries
2.5 cups water
3/4 cup raw honey or glycerin to taste

Directions: Place the berries in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat. Crush the berries as much as possible using a small jar or other tool. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (smashing and mashing as you go to get out all the juice). Add honey or glycerin, to taste. Bottle the syrup and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for 2-3 months.

Recommended Use:

Acute:  Adults: 2 teaspoons 4 times daily; Children: 1 teaspoon 4 times daily
Prevention: Adults: 2 teaspoons daily; Children: 1 teaspoon daily

Simple and delicious.

be well, be happy, and and take your elder berry,
Suzanne Teachey
Herbalist & Proprietress
Nectar, A Modern Herbal Apothecary      

Delicious Chocolate Bliss Balls Recipe

Herbs, Chocolate, Coconut

Three of my favorite things!

These Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls are an outrageous treat incorporating Maca powder, a VERY stimulating herb that just might make you feel like a teenager again. I’m referring to the energy, stamina, “party all night” part of being a teenager, not the shy, awkward, “do you think my feet are too big” part. Anyway, I don’t recommend eating these late in the evening unless you really do want to stay up in to the wee hours of the morning.

I like my chocolate hot and spicy so always add a bit of cinnamon and cayenne. And, while I can make an ordinary chocolate bar disappear in seconds—these Bliss Balls are so rich, with just the right amount of sweet I can save them for months in the freezer enjoying one every now and then.

Have fun, be creative, experiment with different herbs.

Other good choices are powdered Ashwaganda Root, Ginseng, Eleuthero, Damaina, Shatavari, Ginger, or Cardamom.

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Raw Chocolate Bliss Ball Recipe

Ingredients:

½ cup dates, pitted
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup cocoa, sifted
2 tablespoon Maca powder (or other powdered aphrodisiac herbs)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract extra shredded coconut for coating

Directions:

Place the dates in a food processor or blender, cover with the warm water and soak for 10 minutes. Process or blend into a paste. Transfer the date paste to a medium sized mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well until combined. Using your hands, roll a tablespoon of mixture at a time into balls, then roll in coconut until covered. The mixture should be quite clumpy when combined, and it shouldn’t stick to your hands too much when rolling into balls. If you find the mixture is too sticky add a little more coconut and/or cocoa to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and enjoy!

Makes approximately 12 balls.  

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