September, you're a little bizarre and special. Always the start of a new beginning, Septembers past have been the start of new schools, new semesters, new apartments, new jobs, new opportunities. This has never been a month of maintaining the same old rhyme and rhythm of steadfast summer. I feel the most open to change and challenges in September, and in my adult life it has never failed to deliver just that. Reflecting back on a September ten years ago, I was living in Galway, Ireland, settling into a new (yet very old) apartment, gushing over my new University syllabi, developing an addiction to earl gray tea and getting a crash course in UK city biking. One of the things I loved most about living in Ireland was their fondness and skill at beverage making (not coffee, alas), but crafty teas and otherwise caffeinated mid-afternoon beverages. Early in September of that year, by some happy accident I stumbled upon a magical form of hot chocolate marshmallowy milky heaven in a cafe not far from my apartment and it routinely became my weekly indulgence every Sunday afternoon. It was smooth and salty with a subtle sweetness but savory too...energizing but relaxing...decadent but rustic....oh it was an incredible liquid contradiction in the best way. I've never had anything quite like it since living there...until I discovered Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixirs.

I picked up a little packet of Reishi Mushroom Elixir several months ago from Boketto (as I can't resist a creative way to take medicinal mushrooms). As soon as I came home, I dropped the contents into some piping hot water and added a pinch of sea salt and experienced an intensely real time transport back to that little Irish cafe with my beloved imbibed Sunday contradiction. It was just a faint reminder of that liquid heaven I had in Galway - enough so that I subsequently bought a sample of every mushroom elixir available and started playing around with recipes to try and recreate it just as I had remembered. "What luck, too!", I thought, "that it's mushroom based!" I love mushrooms and any excuse to take them excited me to no end. All this time I'd been taking mushroom tinctures almost daily...and those are fine and all, but certainly don't taste as good as these little packets of nostalgia. 

I eventually struck upon a combination that was blissful and true to what my tastebuds remembered with the addition of homemade almond milk, a pinch of pink salt and a dollop of intensely delicious coconut butter infused with building and invigorating Shatavari from Laka (another incredible find from Boketto). This midday elixir has everything I've been craving lately with a texture that's absolutely transporting and as creamy as freshly melted chocolate. 

The addition of mushrooms into my daily health regimen has been steadfast over the past several years and I'm a huge proponent of incorporating medicinal mushrooms into our medicine cabinets and our kitchens! I'm fascinated with mushrooms and their eclectic and diverse use as a tonic and supportive remedy of the immune system plus about a hundred other potential uses currently being researched. Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga and Cordyceps are some of the few natural medicines being thoroughly researched in specific health conditions, giving them some major clout and potential to be accepted and utilized by the western medical community (it's all about evidence based, evidence based, evidence based and mushrooms are starting to prove themselves in that niche way too, despite their hundreds of years of medicinal use...). Mushrooms are something that I would consider a food source of tonic health, and I often think that's the best way to take medicine - in our daily diet. 

Use any milk base you'd prefer. I like to use freshly made almond milk, lightly sweetened with dates. My favorite mushroom elixir to use in this recipe is the Chaga blend but honestly all of their mushroom blends are decadent and delicious in this recipe. I add in a bit of ashwagandha root for added adaptogenic support. Top with fancy flora of your choosing if you're feeling like some mid-afternoon decadence. 

Mushroom Elixir with Infused Coconut Butter

1 cup Almond Milk
1 tsp Ashwagandha Root
1 Packet Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir
1 tsp (Infused) Coconut Butter
1 tsp Raw honey
Serves 1

Heat one cup of almond milk with 1 tsp ashwagandha root on low heat for 7 minutes. Add to a high speed blender along with the mushroom elixir, coconut butter and honey. Blend for about 60 seconds until smooth and frothy. Serve warm, toped with a bit of cinnamon or rose petals. 

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


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