Spicy shots! I love ’em.
A couple of years ago Free Fire Cider, based on a folk recipe, popularized by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, and trademarked, with great controversy in the herbal world, but a group in WMA, had its moment in the sun. Here’s my fire cider recipe.
Since then, I’ve been enamored with making spicy shots – delicious concoctions designed to warm and give a nutritional zing-ha to your morning. It’s a practice I especially get into in these (still!) cooler months.
Here’s one I whipped up this weekend, with tart cherry juice and apple cider vinegar. Cherry, ginger, and turmeric are all anti-inflammatories and packed with antioxidants. Apple cider vinegar is a natural probiotic. If you, like me are in the second half of life, this drink is vata-pacifying – grounding and warming.
Quick, easy, and makes you say “haaaaaa”. I aimed for warmth rather than heat in the spice. Raw garlic makes me burp, though my husband is focused on eating more, so I suggest he use this to wash down a nice raw clove for himself. Pow.
Cherry Turmeric Spicy Shot
A delicious concoction designed to warm and give a nutritional zing-ha to your morning
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cherry juice
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Thumb-sized piece of ginger sliced
- 3 Tsp turmeric dried spice
- 1/2 tsp cayenne or to tast
Place everything in a blender and blend away. Pour into a small mason jar with a lid. The ginger and spice tend to separate, so give it a shake before your morning shot. I take about an ounce after my morning coffee and morning practices, a few minutes before breakfast.
I have a spicy-shot-for-every-season vision!
Have a favorite spicy shot you make?
Please share in the comments!
There’s been talk in the integrative wellness world about coherence, so here’s a bit about that. It’s about vibration and the waves created therein. Some scientists say that all communication comes down to vibrational waves – light, sound, movement – how animals and plants, the cells within them and much of the world itself communicates.
Let’s talk about waves and how to begin to discuss them. A good place to start is with few definitions.
Wavelength: A wavelength is the distance between two similar points of two waves – crest (top) to crest or trough (bottom) to bottom, for example.
Frequency: The number of waves produced per second. Speaks to speed and length.
Amplitude: Half the distance from peak to trough. It can also be thought of the height of a wave from the rest position (the inflection point in the middle where the wave is not moving) to the peak. How big it is.
Wave Speed: How fast it is moving (in meters per second).
Period: The time it takes to pass a point, in seconds. Speed.
Some of these sound close in definition and they are, but I am going to leave it there for the time being. If you are curious, do a little more research. Thanks.
So, coherence involves two waves meeting – they can meet in a coherent way (speed and frequency are similar enough to become in sync) and increase amplitude, or incoherently and decrease amplitude. When waves are incoherent, the waves can actually cancel each other out, or go a little haywire and splat (not a technical term but I hope you get the visual – plop!).
The metaphysical idea is that we are each born with a certain frequency (my teacher says we each come in on a different color of the rainbow of light). Our wavelength and frequency determine, to a great extent, to whom and what we resonate. What’s coherent to us, the thinking goes, is what gives us a boost and makes us feel stronger. Philosophers in this area go on and on, spiraling deeper and deeper in the dance of energy.
The human heart – that strongest muscle in our body – is an oscillator – it creates electical waves, and some believe it creates the human energy field. Get where I’m going?
What Might It Mean?
- When we do grounding practices in yoga we become more coherent with the earth.
- When we show appreciation for a plant, we are becoming more coherent with the plant.
- When we seek to understand what another person is saying, or feeling – when we empathize, we are becoming more coherent with that person.
- When we cultivate gratitude we become more coherent with our own life and life itself.
Coherence is a basis for communication – it is a connection. My teacher says it is a communion.
I say it is a way of understanding energy. Of understanding our subtle bodies (meaning our energy bodies, our emotional bodies, the aspects of us we can’t see and have difficulty measuring) and the world around us. The idea that cultivating coherence leads to and is akin to following our bliss. These ideas are consistent with both yoga and with positive psychology and with plant spirit healing. They are energy-competent lenses for experiencing life.
Is This for Real?
Is there Western clinical science that might back this up? From what I’ve see thus far, there are many interesting possibilities, but I have yet to see a really well conducted study that proves this all happens in the way I’ve presented. I want one, believe me – intuitively it makes perfect sense. But the science, well, it’s so young it doesn’t yet speak.
And yet. It’s worthwhile to study energy. Knowing how to operate your own energy field, how to ground yourself, how to expand when it’s helpful – these are clearly helpful skills in this destabilized and chaotic time. So, let’s keep studying. With a clear eye and an open heart.
Through my programs this year – in Costa Rica, the March weekend (Every Bite Is Divine) , my week with Jeremy and the program I’ll lead in July (Subtle Body Nourishment) at Kripalu, I will be diving into the how of coherence – there are practices that can help you live more from, and funnel life through – this magnificent organ at the center of our being – our heart.
My boon of elderberry enabled me to, in addition to making tons of elderberry syrup, make elderberry ginger cider – a variation on fire cider. For this one, I rely on ginger and honey as a base and kept it simple yet strong. It’s delicious and I’ll use it the way you would fire cider – take a shot during cold and flu season to warm up and keep the creeping crud away.
If you are looking for an Elderberry Syrup recipe, I have one for you! Click HERE!
Elderberry Ginger Cider Recipe
Elderberry Ginger Cider Recipe
My elderberry ginger cider is a variation on fire cider. Use it the way you would fire cider – take a shot during cold and flu season to warm up and keep the creeping crud away.
- 4 cups fresh elderberries clean and free of stems
- 2 slivers of fresh peeled ginger about 1 Tsp
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp local honey
Warm elderberries in a medium saucepan for 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat. Let cool.
Place ingredients in a clean bottle.
Place top on the bottle, and mix by inverting the bottle several times. Make sure the liquid covers the berries
Leave in a cool dry place for six weeks, inverting the bottle to mix every 3 or 4 days.
Remove elderberries from the cider.
The cider is the elixir, but you might use the elderberries in a pickle also.
What is it about traveling that allows our spirits to soar?
As most of you know, I have lead programs at Kripalu for about a decade and received my yoga training there more than a decade before re-landing there as faculty. I have also studied with a teacher who loves to travel, and her inspiration has enabled two trips now that I will never forget – going to Damanhur in Italy for a dandelion initiation, and to Vieques to commune with the tropics and the ensparklated biobay there. Oh, and I lived part time on Kauai, part time on Nantucket for 13 years.
When guests come to Kripalu, it is often a spiritual pilgrimage. They save, sometimes for years, to be able to come. They dream of the transformation that getting away to a beautiful place, with loving expert teachers and guides, to practice soul-work with other aspirational beings, enables. Then they come, and it happens. It happens.
So, it is a milestone for me to offer my first tropical retreat. A group of us are going to a beautiful spa in Costa Rica in February, that magical land of mountains, tropics, monkeys in the trees, cloud forests and volcanos. We are going to have fun, do some yoga, connect with the medicine gardens at the spa where we will be staying, watch monkeys dance in the trees, meditate, clear, connect and recharge.
There is something about stepping out of your life, particularly to take a spiritual journey. It’s an opportunity to look at your life, appreciate it, and fine-tune your path. Somehow, meditation is more accessible. Somehow, insight is more accessible.
I know from the years I spent on Kauai and in other tropical locales that there is an energetic activation that also happens. The simplest way to say it is that it opens your chakras – the energy organs of your body. The tropics are incredibly expansive. So, doing energy work (like we’ll be doing in Costa Rica) allows big shifts to happen. It literally gives you an opportunity to re-arrange the building blocks of who you are.
So, for those of you going with me to the south, I am honored and eager to guide you on a gentle expansion – and for a few of you I’m sure, a great bursting open into new ways of being. I am creating ceremonies and rituals to guide us, speaking with the master gardeners there to ensure we connect with the magic of Costa Rica’s magnificent plant world.
As of this writing, there is still room in our tropical retreat. Interested in joining us? Check out this page for more information and to reserve your spot.
Whether you come with us or not, arranging your spiritual life with a collection of daily practices, regular connections and occasional journeys is a excellent mix that sparks and strengthens the soul and charges the spirit. May your path have more pleasure than pain, and take you home.
Tis the season to begin to think about making my fall batch of Ashwagnada sesame oil to warm our way through the fall.
Bows to my colleagues in the Kripalu School of Ayurveda (KSA). Several years ago I got to sit in on part of their training for Ayurveda Health Counselors and got a lovely intro to the Ayurveda way of herbs from Rosie Mann and the KSA faculty.
My husband and I both love this oil, and he has noticed how it is soothing and quiets his mind like it did mine the first time I practiced abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil self-massage) with it during my training. It does have a musky manly scent in sesame oil. We rub it on our feet at bedtime, and more widely when our minds get chattering too incessantly and we have time to relax (it can be a sedative, so I haven’t tried it on a workday yet).
Ashwagandha is a root used in a number of Ayurvedic preparations. It’s a little famous for its aphrodisiac properties, but it is also calming and strengthening (ashwagandha means horse-smell in Sanskrit, after the musky scent of the root itself). Vata-pacifying, it is great for both my husband and I as we enter our hopefully wise Vata years of life.
Ashwagandha Sesame Oil Recipe
- 1/2 cup dried ashwagandha root
- 8 cups filtered water
- 2 cups organic sesame oil
You will need a strainer and cheesecloth, as well as a medium-large saucepan and a container for the oil.
1. Gather all ingredients and bless them. I say a little prayer over them like the one my teacher Pam taught me, then ask the root to bless us with its healing gifts.
2. Pour water into the saucepan, and add ashwagandha root. Gently stir clockwise (only clockwise) with a wooden spoon or whisk.
3. Heat medium-low until reduced to 2 cups. This takes 2-3 hours. There is a point where the ashwagandha will thicken into the fluid – the texture will shift.
I like to let my botanical concoctions spend some time on the alter. Prayers, alters, it is all about infusing what I am making with love and intentions.
4. Rinse saucepan. Strain the fluid through a sieve, then strain several additional times through a cheesecloth until you have a thick fluid.
5. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan, and add sesame oil. Heat at low-medium, occasionally gently stirring clockwise. Again, you will see the oil change as it absorbs the ashwagandha root. I found it became richer and a smidgen cloudy (but, if I had strained more thoroughly it may be more rich yet clear)…the batch I have from the experts is more clear.
6. Once you see the oil change (this took about an hour), let it cool, then strain the oil off of the remaining root-water, into a clean glass jar.
7. Enjoy as a daily oil massage (I would do a test on the weekend!), or rub on your feet and/or top of your head before bed.
My garden right now is filled with the sweet green goddess known as tulsi.
Tulsi is a type of basil that originated in India. There are several types, like sisters in a family. If you ‘do yoga’, love botanicals, AND you haven’t met tulsi yet, I’m happy for you. Your future includes meeting one of the most sweetly powerful and healing herbs in the canon. I have great sisterhood with this plant and feel that I am introducing you to one of my coolest and best friends. When I refer to her, I am referring to the big T – the green goddess herself – tulsi.
A distinguishing feature of tulsi is its fragrance – it’s rich, buttery and flowery with an undertone of funk. Tulsi (which translates as “incomparable one” in Sanskrit) occupies an auspicious place in yogic/Ayurvedic tradition. It is thought to be an embodiment of the goddess Lakshmi, she of abundant good fortune, of being held in esteem in a community, and of generosity. In India, many homes have a tulsi plant at their doorstep, and women (and I’m sure men) have a tulsi plant near their bed so that the gentle breeze carries the scent of tulsi to them as they sleep, bestowing them with ageless beauty.
In the Garden
Much like the goddess, my tulsi seems to have a mind of her own. She goes where she wants, comes up really late (late June this year – thank goodness I held her space!). I have not been successful at growing her from seed so that I can get a jump on the season – nope, not how she’d prefer to roll. Yet, tulsi comes rolling back, year after year in her own preferred manner my garden. I often smell tulsi and then oh, there’s a plant popping up amongst the roses or corn.
I never needed tulsi seeds, though I’ve purchased many packets. My original tulsi plant came to me auspiciously – from Sweetwater Sanctuary in VT. Pam Montgomery gave me and my fellow apprentices plants (in 2013), and mine has happily multiplied into tulsiville.
Culinary & Preserving
I’ve tried for years to make a good oil infusion of tulsi but have been only modestly successful at capturing that unique fragrance in oil. Drying, I find, works best for me. I’ll then drink it as tea through the cooler months. If I have a gathering of gal herbalists I may attempt herbalist Brittany Wood Nickerson’s yellow cake which she served once incorporating dried tulsi….magnificent. She’s just come out with a cookbook filled with scrumptious herbal fare, but the way, which I strongly recommend.
You can also make a pesto with tulsi.
To dry tulsi or any herb (I have mugwort, cilantro, lemon balm and mint drying now), gather a bunch of it, tie it into a bundle at the stem, and hang in a place that will be warm and dry. Attics are great if they are reasonably well ventilated, and you can find a place to hang your crop. After a couple dry weeks (challenging this year), cut the bundle down. For plants that I intend to use as a tea of spices, I pull the dry leaves off the stem and place them in glass jars. Between Mason and jelly jars, you have a jar for any quantity of herb.
Medicinal & Energetic
From a Western medical perspective, tulsi is an adaptogen and has been studied for a variety of uses. Adaptogenic activity means that, like ginseng, it contains a complex array of phytonutrients that act in different ways but tend to overall support homeostasis – or healthful balance. So, tulsi tea is a terrific drink through the fall when back-to-whatever stress and cool winds conspire to give us colds and other crud.
Energetically, I’ve done a number of shamanic journeys with tulsi and here’s what I learned. Tulsi embodies all the goddesses of tantra – she’s Lakshmi, Deva, and yes Kali and all the rest – all rolled into one. She just might be the MahaDevi – the mother goddess. This is my own perspective colored, no doubt by my study of the goddesses of tantra. I know and love them, and draw on them often. In my study, these goddesses represent parts of ourselves (even if you are a man – we each contain both divine masculine and feminine within us). So, interestingly, I’ve found tulsi is energetically adaptogenic as well. From my discussions with other herbalists in my tradition who work energetically with plants, my view is not unique.
You can increasingly find tulsi plants and seed at your local garden shop. If not, try Mountain Rose Herbal or Horizon Herbs.
Have a beautiful day.