The winter solstice has always been a magical night in my eyes. Being the shortest day of the year, it seems to feel dark for ages, and heralds in the first of many winter nights to stay at home, bundled up with the lanterns lit, snow falling (maybe), music playing, Christmas cheer permeating through the house, and slow moments of imbibed goodness with either tea...or something a little stronger. For moments or activities structured around some intentional act, I like to drink something that feels like it's offering something a little woo woo, or something that adds an etherial vibe to the moment. Every winter solstice, I craft a short list of things in life that are showing up really well, things that could use some positive improvements, and things that I'd like to work towards making a reality. Some might consider this a "manifestation" list, but I think of it of more as a gratitude list and an empowering way to make intentional changes and offer some glad reflection on the previous year. Drinking an herbal infused beverage also makes me feel powerful and curiously connected with the source, so these activities usually go hand in hand. For this winter solstice, I chose to imbibe Damiana (and some other warming winter spices), because for several months now I just can't seem to get enough of Damiana's spicy, earthy rich goodness that stimulates my (sometimes dormant) creative flow. Also, Damiana + Brandy is a dreamy combination. 

Damiana has a unmistakable peppery, zesty, flowery and aromatic aroma that smells and feels super stimulating. It just fills up all my senses when I take a deep inhalation of dried damiana herb or Damiana tea. Damiana should always be aromatic - if it's not, then you've got a pretty poor quality (or very very old) herb. As with most herbs these days, Damiana has kind of gotten pigeonholed into one category, and that's "aphrodisiac" and "libido enhancing". To it's credit though - it has been used for this purpose for decades, and there are plenty of folks who resonate with Damiana in that way. Personally - I've never had this effect, (bummer, I know), however Damiana has more of an effect on my mood than anything else. It has this gentle yet stimulating uplifting quality to it that's perfect for the despondent individual who always wants to hibernate but can't. A person who may feel a little creatively stifled, spiritually murky, or gets the blues in the winter time. That's why it's the primary ingredient in my Heart Rise tea, but it's also why I LOVE it infused into brandy to give it an even more powerful creative punch. 

Brandy is a beautiful carrier for a mix of Damiana, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom & nutmeg to carry all of the flavors of the holiday season with the added powerful flavor of brandy itself. This makes a strong cocktail that's delicious by itself, or combine with a spritz of freshly squeezed orange or diffused with a bit of sparkling water.  Herbal liqueur's can infuse for up to 4-5 weeks, and with this formula you can let it sit for that long, or do a quick infusion of 4-5 days and still come out with an absolutely delicious little herbal potion. Start now, and serve at your New Years Party!

Winter Solstice Damiana Liqueur

2 cups Brandy
2 tbsp dried Damiana
Seeds from 10 Cardamom pods
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 Cinnamon stick
1 star anise

Combine all ingredients in the bottom of a mason jar and cover with 2 cups of Brandy. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let sit to infuse for 5 days - 4 weeks. Shake at least once daily. Taste after 5 days and onwards to determine your ideal length of infusion. Once infused to your liking, strain out the herbs and store in an air tight glass container. Serve with a spritz of fresh orange juice, or sparking water.  


Joyful wishes and happy holiday blessings to everyone!

Herbal medicine is the people's medicine. It started with individuals, then communities, traveled into your kitchen and has now made it's way (albeit with some resistance) into mainstream medicine. The whole point of herbal medicine is to harness our relationship with the plants around us to develop healing allies that are accessible, affordable, and available for everyone to use. No patents. No astronomical costs. No ownership of the plants or their medicines. I hope that it always stays this way. I hope that no one ever is allowed to take ownership of a plant, or patent an herb, or restrict the availability (or affordability) of a traditional herbal medicine. This just goes against everything herbal medicine is about. And this is why you'll likely never find an herbalist who is "in it for the money". 

I'm also all about herbalists being able to make a living and support themselves sharing their formulas and gifts of knowledge with the people. Throughout all of history, in every community, there have been herbalists / medicine people who make it their life's work to utilize plants in the healing of people, and even today this hold true. Maintaining a thriving business as an herbalist today requires a considerable amount of craftiness and flexibility - and I can tell you there are still a million hoops to jump through and endless compliance procedures to stay on top of. However, one thing herbalists rarely had to take much notice of was naming their products. This is usually the fun part about making new formulas - birthing them into creation with their own special name. Or, as many herbalists have done - naming generational medicines after their predecessors of very similar formulas. One such example is Rosemary's Gladstar's tried and true (hugely famous) formula of an apple cider vinegar based concoction she called Fire Cider which was introduced by her into the world some 40 years ago. It's become an herbalists kitchen staple for immune support, digestive aide and even as an addition to everything from salad dressings to soups and stews. Everyone makes it a little differently with their own tweaks and variations, and the name has always passed along with each generation of formulas. 

Recently, the name has been taken away from traditional herbalists and trademarked - assigned to one company and one company alone. Other herbalists who continued to sell their products with this name were being sued for infringement (which is kind of an herbalists worst nightmare). In the herb world, the trademarking of this name by a single company (who didn't actually come up with this name or this formula themselves) was not super well received. The herb world is small. Grievances travel quickly and stick around for a while. Not surprisingly, stuff like this happens all the time in a product based society. Using a trademarked name is a no-no if you want keep your product on the market. Obviously. In the herb world though - this just doesn't happen. And people freaked out. Herbalists have enough to worry about people coming after them for all kinds of contrived reasons, but having herbalists come after herbalists is really disheartening. 

My personal opinion about the whole situation is not really relevant. Let's bring this around to the present, and why I've added this gorgeous, delicious and exciting new product to the shop. My local health food store approached me about 6 months ago after they had gotten a whirlwind of complaints from consumers, local herbalists and people who were "in the know" about what was happening with this formula. The product they were currently carrying (now trademarked) was just sitting on the shelf with a healthy customer population not wanting to support a company going after small herbalists. They asked if I would be interested in coming up with a similar formula, with my own twist, and naming it anything I liked. After some initial hesitation (and lots of encouragement from my own community), I decided, what the hell. Go for it. 

So, here she is. My apple cider vinegar based Flaming Elixir, infused with the most potent and stimulating immune and digestive supporting herbs your tummy will likely experience this season. Robust and flavorful schisandra, immune supporting garlic, onion and thyme, liver loving, anti-inflammatory turmeric and spicy potent cayenne flavor this amazingly strong traditional kitchen remedy.  There's 2 sizes: one for home, and one for travel. I like taking about 1 teaspoon or up to a tablespoon (mixed in just a bit of water) before meals to stimulate digestion, and I also use this as a base for homemade salad dressings and take shots of if if Ive got a cold coming on (or lingering). I love the taste of vinegar, and the intense punch of the herbs really makes it powerful. (Side note - contraindicated if you already have heat related imbalances in your gut, like ulcers, GERD or inflamed digestive tissue).

My take away from all of this is not to take business away from any herbal company, or to pass judgement on any companies decision to basically help them find their niche and make a living as a small, herbal business. In the herb world I'm trying to contribute to - we all support each other and I sincerely hope that every herbalist succeeds and thrives in a modern world that often pushes them down. Flexibility and adaptability is necessary for any industry to move forward, and names don't really matter as long as the relationship with plants and people continue to be mutually beneficial. 

Joyous early fall wishes, friends. I hope you love our new Flaming Elixir :)

And feel free to use the name. 

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"Meanwhile', said Mr. Tumnus, 'it is winter in Narnia and has been for ever so long, and we shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?"   --C.S. Lewis

At the beginning of every year when winter is settling in, and the dark, cold days are confining us all to the warmth of cozy homes, I ritually go through my arsenal of herbs in my home apothecary and make sure I'm stocked up with my immune supporting remedies to tide me through the rest of the winter season. It's the worst when a cold sneaks up on me and I feel completely unprepared or didn't re-stock my cold and flu remedies (because I never want to venture out in the cold WITH a cold to get what I need) Among my essential immune remedies is my elderberry syrup tonic which is a lifesaver for preventative immune support. I take some of this elixir every day for at least half the year to help ward off colds and flu before it even settles in. 

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are fantastic little herbal powerhouses for immune support because they're not only acute remedies, they're fantastic as a long term tonic for prevention because they're antibacterial and antiviral. Energetically, elderberries are considered a cooling diaphoretic, helping to keep the body temperature modulated especially when you have a fever. The berries (and flowers!) are rich in antioxidants as well, supporting the cell membranes and reducing systemic inflammation. But my real devotion to elderberries is for their anti-viral properties, and in the winter months we could all use some support warding off viruses. To add to their charm, elderberries have been an herbal ally to people for centuries, and they're affordable, available and super easy to make an at home tonic whenever you need one. 

My recipe for Elderberry Syrup has shape-shifted for years until I landed on this one that has been my go-to recipe for a while now. It's of course mainly elderberry based, and I add in extra immune tonics like Astragalus, adrenal support with some Licorice, Vitamin C with orange peel, and spicy hot heat with chili pepper and ginger to get my lymphatic system moving (a BIG immune component in the body). A splash of honey gives it just the right amount of sweetness, and mixing it with a bit of sparkling or mineral water makes for a decadent bit of medicine. 

Ginger + Licorice + Elderberries + Astragalus + Chili pepper + Orange Peel

1 teaspoon elderberry winter immune tonic+ sparkling water = daily dose

Elderberry Winter Immune Tonic

2 cups filtered water

 1 cup dried elderberries

 1 tbsp cinnamon chips or 1 cinnamon stick

 1 tsp dried or fresh, chopped ginger

 1 tsp dried, chopped licorice

 1 tsp dried, chopped astragalus

 1 dried chili pepper

 2 tbsp honey

Combine in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and strain out the herbs completely, storing the syrup in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Take 1 teaspoon daily for deep immune support during the fall and winter (and mix with a little sparkling or mineral  water for an extra delicious dose!) Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 



Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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