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Cinnamon – more than just a spice!

Cinnamon is an ancient spice. It is referenced in the Bible, listed as an ingredient in embalming formulas in ancient Egyptian writings and is described in a 5,000-year old herbal reputedly penned by Shennong, an emperor of Chinese mythology also known as The Divine Farmer and considered the father of Chinese herbal medicine (not to mention the guy who gave us tea). Roman nobles guarded their cinnamon stash as closely as they did other valuables, while their emperor, Nero, sought absolution for allegedly causing the premature death of his young wife, Poppaea, by ordering all of the city’s reserves of the spice to be burned upon her funeral pyre.

scarabAlthough cinnamon was a symbol of social status and mobility in the ancient world for thousands of years, it would not become a commodity of high demand in the world beyond the Mediterranean until the 16th century. In the 1,500-plus years that would span between the time that a mad emperor sacrificed a year’s worth of cinnamon to invoke forgiveness for murder and the day anyone anywhere could casually sprinkle the ground spice on their morning bowl of oatmeal, many capital and cardinal sins would be committed in the name of cinnamon.

 

powder*Cassia may have been one of the spices mixed into a formula used to wash the body for mummification or used inside as a sort of “stuffing” for the body to retain its shape*

 

 

sticksUp until the Middle Ages, the Arabs held a monopoly on the cinnamon trade, the market price of which was driven by deliberately restricted supplies delivered via challenging land routes and wild stories of how the spice was obtained to discourage competition. These tales ranged from great stores of the spice being protected by venomous snakes to giant birds using cinnamon quills to build their nests atop mountains impossible for any mortal human to ascend.

The deceitful strategy worked well for several hundred years, until the Venetians took control of the trade in the 14th century, followed by an enterprising Portuguese explorer named Dom Vasco da Gama, who found an ocean passage route directly to India by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. The quest for cinnamon was about to be taken to a new level with a focus on a remote island off the southeast coast of India, a place previously speculated about but remained elusive to Spanish explorers — pais de la canela, or “the country of cinnamon.”

With European demand for cinnamon now at its peak, Portuguese traders ruthlessly secured their control of shipping routes and a significant source of the spice by conquering the Kingdom of Kotte, the center of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). For the next 100 years, island residents would serve as slaves, wandering Venetian merchants would mysteriously disappear and a fair number of the 200-plus sunken ships residing around the coast of the island today would meet their watery fates during this time period.

By the mid-17th century, and with the aid of the neighboring Kingdom of Kandy, the Dutch seized control of the Galle harbor at Ceylon, eventually displacing the Portuguese and securing the entire Malabar Coast to push the former out even further. In compensation for this eviction, the Dutch continued to occupy the kingdom and dominate the cinnamon trade. As a result, the already established Dutch East India Company became the largest company known to the world at that time and the first to finance its operations by offering shares with dividends equaling a 40% return on investment. It was a very successful and profitable commercial enterprise, to say the least. That is, until the British showed up.

When the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War between Great Britain and the Dutch Republic ended in 1784, the former took hold of Ceylon, where the production and export of cinnamon by the British East India Company climbed to a thousand metric tons by the mid-19th century. While the war over cinnamon was ultimately won by the British, the victory was bittersweet since cultivation of the spice in other parts of the world made its novelty and price decline. The popularity of cinnamon also found competition from another newly discovered and possibly even more sinful commodity: chocolate.

By 1800, there was also an increased demand for Cassia cinnamon, a variety produced in Indonesia that has a stronger aroma and flavor than the “true” Ceylon cinnamon. Historically, cassia is the less expensive of the two and is the type most often found in supermarkets today. In contrast, the milder and slightly sweeter Ceylon cinnamon is the variety preferred for baking and topping off hot chocolate or coffee.

forms

Forms of Cinnamon!

Cinnamon Uses!

cinnamon sachet
Fill a large muslin bag with eight 1-inch cinnamon sticks, ½ cup whole black peppercorns and ½ cup whole cloves. Hang in the closet to keep clothes smelling fresh and to deter moths.

natural facial foundation
Mix ground cinnamon with arrowroot powder to create a natural bronzer or foundation.

swizzler stick
Use cinnamon sticks to sweeten and stir your favorite hot beverage at the same time.

aromatic garland
String bay leaves, cranberries and cinnamon sticks together to create a rustic garland.

floral crafts rejuvenator
Freshen floral displays and wreaths with a few drops of cinnamon essential oil.

room spray
Combine a few drops of cinnamon essential oil with 2 ounces of witch hazel extract or vodka and use as a room spray or a personal “skeeter” repellent.

Cinnamon Information Poster!
Courtesy of Monterrey Bay Spice Company


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All of the information on this post was gathered for you from Monterrey Bay Spice Co.  Thank you!

 

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The Wonders of Rosemary!

Rosemary is my favorite herb! Why? Because it is so versatile!

Rosemary is ruled by the Sun and by the element of fire. This is obvious if you take Rosemary leaves in your fingers and grind them to release the scent.

Most commonly it is used for cleasing, exorcism, love, healing, protection and purification. It is an excellent replacement for Frankincense, if you happen to run out – or if you want to create an herbal bath or infusion but can’t use a Resin.

* Incense – burned Rosemary is used for cleansing and purifying. It is great to consecrate spaces and cleanse a new home before moving in – it is one of the oldest incenses. Also a great incense to cleanse bedrooms of people who are sick, or depressed. Excellent when used in the home after the death of a loved one, to help with the alleviate grieving.

* Infusion – an infusion of Rosemary was often used to wash healer’s hands before doing healing work and they were used in sick rooms to promote healing. Rosemary infusion is also excellent for those with arthritis as it encourages circulation – add an infusion of rosemary to your bath water and feel better! Also a Rosemary bath will help with muscle cramps after a long workout!

* Scent – Rosemary has a strong scent has been used for centuries to help dispel depression and clear negative feelings. Fresh Rosemary is best for this, but high quality dried rosemary can be used for this as well. Rosemary essential oil is rather inexpensive and is an excellent mood lifter. Take some dried rosemary and grind it in your fingers! Or – add Rosemary to a sachet and pull it out whenever you need a little natural pick-me-up!

* Beauty – Rosemary improves circulation – it is excellent as a facial steam to cleanse the pores. It can also be used as an herbal rinse for dark hair.

* Household – Boil a handful of Rosemary in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes to yield an antiseptic solution for washing bathroom fixtures. Also, you can add about 30 drops of Rosemary essential oil to 4oz of water (I prefer destilled water) and use as a natural air freshner!

* Food – Rosemary is an excellent spice for cooking -extensively used in italian cooking in particular it adds a unique flavor to any dish! (Rosemary potatos…. yum!)

* Herbal Medicine – in herbal medicine, Rosemary has been used to treat arthritis, headaches, pains, upset stomach, sprains, cuts and bruises. There are studies being done with Alzheimer’s disease – phytochemicals in Rosemary may prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical that allows neurons within the brain to communicate with each other. Several studies have indicated the Rosemary contains compounds that prevent carcinogenic chemicals from binding to and inducing mutations in DNA – thus helping to prevent cancer. Those with IBS have found that Rosemary relieves intestinal cramps and spasms by stimulating the release of bile that helps digest fat. It also relieves bloating and gas. And last but not least, the antioxidants in Rosemary help prevent uterine spasms associated with menstrual cramps!

One thing to remember: Rosemary stimulates bloodflow – so women with heavy periods should avoid excess rosemary. Also, Rosemary essential oil is very strong and should never be taken internally.

Rosemary is one the most inexpensive herbs and essential oils on the market today – so anyone can use it! So go ahead – add a little Rosemary to your life! You will be glad you did

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First Aid for Pets (And Humans too!)

Ok so in a house with 7 dogs, there are lots of fights. Last week while I am upstairs working, my furry devils are playing outside, and I hear screaming and dog crying – generally a sign of some kind of disagreement. I run downstairs and outside and find one dog on its back and 4 standing around looking confused. I bring everyone in – 2 of them have their paws covered in blood.

I am by no means rich, so the thought of spending over $1K at the emergency vet make me cry almost – so I decided to take the natural herbal route first and see if I could treat these wounds myself before I resorted to my usual running to the doggie ER (I swear I keep that place in business). Well this time it worked out great! Everyone is all healed up! So I decided to write this little article on Animal First Aid!

For any kind of animal the thing to remember is that animals injured will behave differently. Some will let you come near – and touch them – if they do – great you are in business. If they do not – then your best bet is to suck it up and go to the vet where your pet can be properly restrained or sedated to be treated. One of my dogs is a maniac minpin and the last time he got into it with a much larger dog, he got bit in the ear. Although I could tell the wound wasn’t bad, he wouldn’t let me touch it – not even to clean it! So I had to take him to vet to have them look it.

First think to do – is make sure the pet is out of harm’s way. Once they are in a safe environment – here are a few simple steps that can help

1) STOP THE BLEEDING! If its a big gash and you can see where the blood is coming from, your best bet it to head to the emergency room (and get your wallet ready!). Most of the time, in these little “friendly” scrapes, I see blood everywhere and there is no way for me to tell where the blood is coming from. There are no gaping wounds and no gashes and blood is everywhere. So – one by one off they go into the tub, and I gently clean them off with clean running water until I see where the bleeding is coming from – then I can tell how bad the wound is. I have at times, rushed to the doggie ER with a sopping wet dog who had a much larger wound that originally appeared.

2) CLEAN THE WOUND! There are so many fancy medicines on the market, but good old fashioned water works best. Once the wound is clean and you have an idea of what is happening, you need to kind of gage the severity of it. Animals have fur which can disguise the wound – so clean it first so you can tell how bad it is before you decide you want to treat it yourself.

Cuts and scrapes – should heal within a few days – use the herbal infusion below 3X a day and keep the wound clean.

Puncture wounds – these are dangerous – as depending on how deep they are, they can get infected and swollen. Deep punctures will need a drain – you will need to see your vet for this. This is especially dangerous for cats as skin wounds for them heal much slower than in dogs. Keep the wound clean!

Open wounds – anything that is under about half an inch should not need stitches unless its combined with a puncture of sorts. You can generally tell by the amount of blood you have and by how your dog reacts. Animals in pain look dazed – if that happens – go to the vet – don’t dally – you know your pet well and you can tell if they are “not themselves”. This means the wound is deep enough that they are in serious pain or that there could even be muscle or neve damage. If they are just limping about, but seem ok otherwise, you have to keep an eye on it. Open wounds can go either way – keeping them clean is an absolute MUST!

3) Apply Medicine! I love infusions for first aid because they are easy to make and the results are astonishing. If you have more than one animal at home, I higly recommend investing in a holistic veterinary herbal which will tell you which herbs are safe for animals and the correct dosages. I have about 8 of them – but the best one by far is the one below:

Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats : Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements by Shawn Messonnier (available on Amazon.com and WELL WORTH the cost if you have multiple pets or older pets who may be starting to have health problems and you want to find alternate ways of helping them).

Now – mainly I will use an infusion on the wound to clean it and as a first line of medicine and then alternate it with an application of a healing Salve I made that replaced Neosporin (recipe below). Infusions can also be used as cleaning solutions. I tried to use a poultice on a dog once – it was a disaster – I had poultice on the ceiling by the time it was over – so I highly recommend sticking with infusions!

Herbal Infusions

Can you say lifesavers? These little babies are your best battle in pet first aid – and Human first aid! Because Comfrey is an excellent healing herb on all levels, all of my infusions are generally paired up with Comfrey. But here are some other safe options you can add:

St. Jons Wort – Antibacterial – keeps wounds from geting infected
Yarrow – Stops bleeding
Chamomile – gentle pain reliever and mild antibacterial
Slippery Elm Bark – itcy inflamed skin
Calendula (Marigold) – Disinfects and cleans wounds
Rosemary – increases blood flow (DO NOT use on bleeding wounds – this is good for bruises)

Below is the most recent infusion I used for the my dog fight – mainly I was afraid about infection breaking out so I choose St. John’s Wort:

* 1/2 oz of dried Comfrey Leaf
* 1/2 oz of dried St. John’s Wort
Mortar and Pestle

– Bruise the herbs in your M&P – you ALWAYS want to do that before you create any medicinal herbal combinations to “open up” the herb. Also – you should NEVER use a M&P that has been used to grind non-medicinal herbs (Such as resins etc) as the residue of these herbs (no matter how clean your MP is) will mix with your medicine with possible adverse effects. I have a separate MP I use for medicinal herbalism as opposed to magickal herbalism.

– Once nice and bruised – add the herbs to a mustlin bag or old sock. Boil about 2 cups of water, add the herbal bag to a bowl and create a strong infusion with the boiling water. Normally I let it steep about 30 minutes – you want the solution to be a DARK color – where you cannot see through it – most of the time it will be dark brown. Let it cool.

– I generally add this to a Mason Jar and close it tightly – it will keep in the fridge (do not leave it out of the fridge or it will mold) for about a week. After that, discard it and create a new infusion.

– Add the infusion to a cotton ball and apply it to the wound – I generally do several applications per cleasing. If the wound is really bad, I sprinkle some of the infusion on it and wait about 2-3 minutes for it to be absorbed by the skin – clean off excess. Do what you can to keep your pets from licking right after you clean the wound. It is unreasonable to expect that they won’t lick it at all – but I generally cleanse the wound and follow it with a 10-15 minute energy healing session (which makes them sleepy) or massage or petting – anything to keep them focused on me instead of the wound.

Healing Salve

I have been making this salve now for about 2 years (maybe 3?). Orignally I created it for bruising – as I bruise easily – but I noticed lately that it goes far beyond just bruising. This takes a while to make – but it keeps for up to THREE YEARS – so its well worth the effort.

Things you will need:

Rosemary Essential Oil
Lavender Essential Oil
Liquid Vitamin E (or you can buy the liquid caps at the health food store and squeeze em – if you don’t mind the mess)
Aloe Vera Gel
1 oz dried Yarrow
1 oz dried Comfrey
Beeswax
Jojoba Oil
Olive Oil
Coconut Oil
Several Layers of cheesecloth
4 Clean Mason Jars
3-7 storage jars (depending on size – I use 7-8 2oz jars)
Slow Cooker
Oven safe glass bowl or Double boiler
Candy Thermometer

Step 1: Create your infused Oils

Bruise your herbs in your MP and add add them each to a clean mason jar. Comfrey on one Jar and yarrow in the other. Add Jojoba oil to the jars until it covers the herbs and doubles the volume of herbs. So if you jar is half-filled with the herb, you want to fill it with the oil. If your jar is only 1/4 filled with the herbs then you want to 1/2 fill it with oil.

Add water to your slow cooker and put the 2 Mason jars in there. Set it for low (or keep warm if your slow cooker has that setting) and toss in the thermometer. Loosely put the lids over the jars just to keep debris from falling in it – but don’t seal it – it needs to be able to evaporate. Put it somewhere it won’t be disturbed – this will need to cook for 7 days at a temperature between 120 and 150 degrees. I generally put the slow cooker lid over it to keep the water evaporation down to a mininum – you will need to replace the water in the slow cooker once it goes down.

After a week, you will need to strain the oil over the cheesecloth. This is always messy. I generally strain it from of the mason jars to another clean mason jar and put a bown under it to keep it from spilling around too much. Make sure you strain each oil as best as possible. Now it needs to decant.

Once strained, seal the new mason jars and put them overnight in a dark place. The next night (generally 24 hours), you will pour each oil into a clean Mason jar again careful to leave all the “gook” that has settled at the bottom of the jar out of you oil. I generally do this for 2 days. So decant it twice. At this point, you have 100% pure infused oils that have a shelf life of about 2-3 months. They can be used alone or used to prepare salves as I am going to describe below.

Step 2: Create the Salve

Ok now we are ready to create the salve. Temperature is VERY important – so everything you add to your Salve mixture, will need to be at approximately the same temperature.

1) Warm up your infused oils – in a large pan, add water and your infused oils jars so that the jars will heat up without cracking.

2) Melt the beeswax – you will need a double boiler or in my case – I use a regular pan filled with water and a glass oven-safe bowl. If you use my method make sure the bowl opening is larger than the pan – so that it won’t fit completely inside the pan but rest over it comfortably. Add water to the pan (or your double boiler) and bring to a boil. The boiling water in the pan will warm up the bowl – add about 4 oz of beeswax to the bowl – melt slowly.

3) Once the beeswax is melted and your oils are warmed up – SLOWLY add each oil to the beeswax – stirring the whole time. If you add the oil too fast it won’t mix well. Once this is done, add the second oil – the same way.

4) Once the oils are fully blended with the melted beexwax, add about 2-3 oz of coconut oil. Generally coconut oil is solid at room temperature – this is ok to add directly to the mix. Stir the salve mixture until the coconut oil is completely mixed and you have a liquid once again.

5) Add the Aloe Vera Gel – about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of Aloe Vera gel. Stir untl well blended.

6) Add the Olive oil – about 2-3 tablespoons until well blended.

7) Add the vitamin E – about 20 drops until well blended

What you should have left is a greenish liquid that will smell kind of yukky. Once everything is fully blended, remove from heat and let it cool for about 5-10 minutes. Once its cooler, add about 20 drops of Rosemary essential oil and about 20 drops of lavender essential oil. If you add this while the mixture is still too hot it will burn up the oils. This should remove most of the strong smell of the mixture.

8) Pour and save – gently pour this mixture into your clean storage jars. Seal tightly. Let each jar cool overnight. Voila your salve is done! This salve will last for about 3 years – the beeswax is a natural preservative. Now this is assuming you keep the jar sealed and out of sunlight. If you toss the jar about in direct sun and keep it open, it will cut down on the shelf life of the product.

Here are some of the things that I have used this salve for in the past:

* healing cuts and bruises – just rub it on the bruise or cut – it works wonders
* IV bruises – those of you that have been in the hospital know that those IV’s are nasty and they leave large bruises and hematomas – this salve works great for that.
* Open wounds – I used it on my poor dog who got bit on the top of her head and had a gaping wound. The beeswax acts as a natural barrier and keeps the wound clean. So clean, apply the salve, and clean again and apply again.
* Rashes and muscle pain – this has worked well for muscle pain – especially after a workout or when you twist an ankle or something. I have also used it on skin allergies with great success.

I make this salve once a year and its a very popular in my website – my customers generally buy it every year. Between infusions, a healing salve and good old fashioned water – you have everything you need for your pet’s (and yours as well) first aid!

Now with all that said – I keep a simple first aid kit with the following:

* Healing Salves
* Cotton swabs
* Cotton squares
* Muslin bags
* Healing stones – I love Citrine for healing – because I generally see the injury as a block in energy and cirtrine helps to remove that.
* Mortar and Pestle
* Comfrey & Yarrow dried herb mix – for bleeding cuts and normal first aid – these make great poultices for humans
* Comfrey & St. Johns wort herb mix – for wounds that may become infected
* Comfrey & Dried Calendula (Marigold) – for cleansing of all kinds
* Peppermint essential oil – for upset stomach – one of my dogs has a big problem with a sensitive stomach and 1 drop of peppermint essential oil on her muzzle generally settles her stomach.
* Clean bottles or mason jars (I use 2oz lotion type bottles) to hold your infusions.
* Clean towel – for clean up after poultices

This kit will help you with almost any type of first aid – its great to keep around both for kids, curious humans and animals. Enjoy!

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Herbal Massage Oil

I found this recipe on another website and it looks great but I have not tried it yet – I may try it this weekend but I wanted to share in case someone else wants to try it too!

Try this soothing and nourishing oil for your next massage or after a shower or bath.

2 ounces Apricot Kernel Oil
2 ounces Sweet Almond Oil
4 drops rose geranium essential oil
8 drops bergamot essential oil
10 drops sandalwood essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a small (4-6 ounce) plastic squirt bottle or other appropriate container and shake gently. If using after a shower or bath, apply lightly while skin is still damp.

Enjoy!

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