spicy hot cocoa with kava and cayenne

here’s an antianxiety, stress reducing, aphrodisiac, cancer reducing, antioxidant, digestion improving drink that will help you relax when you need it!

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what’s in the cup?

  • water
  • whole organic milk or cream (can also use another liquid that contains fat i.e. soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, butter)
  • the fat soluble constituents will bind to the fat in the liquid
  • kava powder
    aphrodisiac, antianxiety, sedative, expectorant, antibacterial, helps with sleep and stress
  • raw cocoa powder
    aphrodisiac, antioxidant, diuretic (eliminate fluid buildup while retaining minerals).
  • vanilla extract
    anticancer, carminative (helps with gas and bloating)
  • cinnamon powder
    warming, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant, astringent (drying, constricts tissue, helps with healing, creates barrier against infection), improves digestion.
  • cayenne powder
    warming, antioxidant, antibacterial, anticancer, antispasmodic, carminative, improves digestion and metabolism and increases blood circulation.

Directions

1) 3 cups of water, 2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup kava, 1/4 cup cocoa,  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon and cayenne powder. (4 servings)
2) add everything together and bring to a simmer…continue simmering for at least 15 minutes…
3) strain and pour…although i don’t strain, i let the contents settle to the bottom of cup then enjoy!

the vanilla extract, cinnamon, cayenne powder should all be done to taste. cayenne powder will add a considerable amount of heat so if you don’t like a lot of heat, use sparingly. of course, you can leave it out all together but you will missing out on some of the great healing properties of cayenne.

warning: don’t drink kava if you have liver problems or are consuming multiple alcoholic drinks.

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Oats

Reading about Henry David Thoreau, living a life of simplicity near his lake in “Walden” or John Steinbeck, traveling with his dog across America in his truck ‘Rocinante’ in “Travels with Charley:In Search of America”. And my own pursuits of living a more simple and less complex life have brought me to talk about oats. Yes, oats. Oats can be prepared in many ways, it can be grown by oneself, it’s healthy, provides energy, and is not expensive (even the organic oats). A mason jar of oats can prepare breakfast for weeks. Add a few strawberries, maple syrup, maybe dates or raisins, there are so many possibilities. Don’t have access to hot water? If you blend the oats before a trip, you can just add any nut milk and let it sit for four hours or longer then the oats will have absorbed the water and be ready to eat. That is what I call ‘overnight oats’ (view my recipe below).

tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.
tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.

I’ve had that problem of overdosing on oats. Yeah, there comes a point where the last thing you want to eat is a bowl of oats for breakfast. But, by mixing it up with different additions or doing every other day a bowl of oats, you can reduce the possibility of the dreadful OD on oats.

Not only, are oats great for eating but they are amazing taken as an herbal medicine. They are what you consider a nervine, the properties of oats (Avena sativa) work on the central nervous system to calm and relax the system. I take these when I feel I have frayed ends or under a stressful circumstance. Oats tincture and some deep breathing go a long way! Check out my ‘how to make a make a basic tincture’ post here.

Also, making a tea works just as well if not better than a tincture. Plus, the process of making tea is a natural calming process in itself. It’s important to know that buying oats for medicine is slightly different than buying for food. You’ll want oats that is picked during it’s milky stage which hasn’t quite matured to a viable seed. The milky stage is when you pierce the oat and a milky substance comes out. If you go to a local herb shop, all their herb will be (or should be) harvested at that milky stage. If you’re buying oats for food, well, you can go to local Whole Food’s or Co-op bulk bins.Either go to your local store to buy teas that contain oats or buy oats bulk through your local herbal medicine shop. If you don’t have a local herb store, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy online.

Recipe Time!
Here is a recipe on a pudding I like to make which involves oats, chia seeds, berries, and banana. It’s a form of overnight oats but thicker.

1 cup of oats
2 cups of nut milk or dairy
a handful of strawberries
1/2 a banana
2-3 dates
a tablespoon of chia seeds
optional-hemp seeds

overnight oat pudding

Blend the oats in the blender. Then add milk, strawberries, banana,dates and chia seeds. Blend those together. Pour into glass jar, sprinkle with hemp seeds and more chia seeds. Let sit for at least four hours.

making an infused oil

infused oils small shot

My last post was about making a basic tincture. This post will address how to make an infused oil. When I make an infused oil, I use the folk method. I don’t measure anything. All I do is dry the plant material and cover with whatever oil I choose. You can weigh your herbs to be more precise about how much herb is in solution with the oil. When weighing the herb, I usually do a 1:3 ratio. 1 part plant material, 3 parts oil.

Different oils are better for products that will be applied to the face like almond and sunflower oil (lighter oils). Use these lighter oils especially when dealing with eczema or acne.  If applying to your lips or on other body parts, organic extra virgin olive oil works great and is not very expensive. You can use the oil directly or you can add beeswax to make a salve. The oil can also be used to make a cream which I will cover in a later post.

Here’s some of the plants I’ve used in oils: Calendula flowers, plantain leaf, comfrey root/leaves, cayenne, arnica, horse-chestnut, st. johns wort.

Basic steps to making an infused oil:

  1. Dry plant material (because if you don’t, the water will most likely spoil the oil)

  2. Put plant material in an airtight jar and cover with the oil of your choice.

  3. Either use a double broiler and heat the oil for a few hours. For most plants, I choose to keep in a warm place, out of direct sunlight. Sometimes when using the double broiler, you can cook the herbs causing a not so pleasant smell and the medicinal properties are diminished. You can also put the jar out in the sun but make sure to cover with a brown paper bag.

  4. After two weeks, strain the oil. I use a metal strainer instead of muslin because less oil is lost.  I do end up with some plant debris but that doesn’t bother me. The finer the strainer, the less plant material you’ll have in the oil.

basic tincture using holy basil

Holy Basil aka Tulsi (Ocimium sanctum) is an easy to grow summer annual here in Northern California. Start by seeding the a few plants in the spring. Then by mid summer there will be plenty to harvest. I love the tea made from Tulsi but sometimes I find it nice to have it in a ‘ready to use’ form where tea isn’t an option. That’s where tinctures come into the picture.holybasilgarden

When making a fresh plant tincture, you want to use as close to 100% alcohol as possible to prevent the final product from spoiling. Fresh plant contains a lot of moisture and if the their isn’t enough alcohol (roughly 25%) in the final product, the medicine will not last. If you don’t have access to that high strength of alcohol, dry the plant and use any vodka (40% alcohol) to cover the herbs. How much alcohol do you add? With fresh plant, it’s what herbalist call a 1:2 (1 part plant material, 2 parts alcohol). With dry plant material, I would recommend a 1:4 or 1:5. The alcohol and plant material should be packed into an airtight jar and put in a dark place for two weeks. Remember to shake the jar once a day. At the end of the two weeks, strain through muslin and store in either a jar or dropper bottles.

FYI: Methow Valley Herbs has a great page about the properties, history, and use of this plant. You can view their website here.

Preparing medicinal mushroom extracts (a basic guide)

Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) growing on a dead log.
Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) growing on a dead log.

Mushrooms are not only a delicious food but have also been used for centuries for medicine. Reishi (Ganoderma l.), Turkey Tail (Trametes v.), and Cordcyceps are some of the most commonly used mushrooms for medicinal purposes. Most of the mushrooms used have anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and immune boosting properties. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done about the use of mushrooms for medicine. Although, there is some solid research being done, a lot of the information until now has been anecdotal.

One of the main molecules to have medicinal properties are polysaccharides. These polysaccharides must be extracted through hot water. Another molecule group that is beneficial are triterpenes and these must be extracted through alcohol. This means that polysaccharides are water-soluble (able to be extracted by water) and the triterpenes are alcohol-soluble (able to be extracted by alcohol).

When preparing the extract, please make sure to work in a clean environment and use clean supplies. The extract at the end of the procedure should not contain less than 20% alcohol and no more than 40%.

Ingredients:

Any medicinal mushroom

Water

Alcohol

Muslin

Airtight Jar

For the hot water extraction:

Break apart mushrooms if possible.

Cover mushrooms with water.

Bring water to a light simmer.

Simmer for 2-3 hours. (You can also use a crock pot set on low overnight).

Strain mushrooms, set water aside and transfer the mushrooms into a separate bowl.

For alcohol extraction:

Take strained mushrooms and add them to at least 40% alcohol.

For every 1 part of mushrooms, add 4-5 parts alcohol.

Keep this concoction in an airtight container in a dark cool place for at least two weeks.

Remember to shake the solution everyday.

After two weeks, strain the mixture through muslin or cheesecloth.

Combine this liquid with your hot water concoction.

If using 40% alcohol, add equal amounts of the water extraction and alcohol (1 part water to 1 part alcohol).

This will make the final tincture contain 20% alcohol.

Dosage

Three dropper fulls (2-3x a day)

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment or email me.

Related links:

Research paper on medicinal mushrooms

NAMA (North American Mycological Association) article on medicinal mushrooms