herbs

Simple guide to smudging

Smudging is one of my favorite ways to cleanse my space and my being, so I thought I'd break this ritual down to a few simple tips today on my blog. You might have heard the word "smudging" used and you may have seen what looks like dried leaves tied together with string in WholeFoods or your local apothecary. If you have, and you've wondered what that's all about, read on. Smudging is the term for clearing lingering energy (of a space or a person) by burning various healing herbs. The idea of purification by smoke can be traced back to Native Americans, though many cultures around the world have rituals using herbal smoke mixtures, including some from China, India, Southeast Asia, and Europe.

Benefits of smudging:

Smudging has been known to cleanse or purify energy, whether it is that of a person or a space. Essentially, it does the same thing for the person or space that hitting "reset" would do for your cell phone. Native people believed the smoke ascends to the heavens, or the world of spirits, acting as a spiritual messenger. For those of you who like a dash of solid science with your woo woo, I recently saw this article citing studies on how smudging cleanses the air of harmful bacteria and can be medicinal.

Ideas for when to smudge:

  • Ending a job and preparing for a new job
  • Ending a relationship
  • Returning from travel
  • To cleanse and bless a space/house/apartment/office you are about to move into (and even the space you've just moved out of, to prepare it for the next person.)
  • After an emotionally difficult day, an argument, etc
  • After a therapy/healing session (whether you're the healer or the client.)
  • To mark an occasion or crossing a threshold (New Years, birthday, a birth, a death)
  • Celebrating seasons (solstices and equinoxes) and other earth cycles (full moon, new moon)
  • When you want to feel more centered or protected

Simple smudging tools: (You can purchase these tools via the Amazon affiliate links in text below.)

  • Smudge stick - Bundle of dried, cleansing herbs of your choice. You can also create a bowl of the loose leaves, though when they are bound together with a colorful string, they are much easier to use. (earth element)
  • Large feather - Used for wafting the cleansing smoke around the person or space to be purified. Use the underside of the feather when moving smoke around, as the underside of the bird's wing is what faces mother Earth when flying. (air element)
  • Abalone shell - Used to catch ashes that fall and also to tamp out the flame or smoldering embers. Some shells even come with a great little wooden stand. (The shell represents water element, though one can also use a small ceramic or stone bowl for the same purposes.)
  • Lighter/Matches/Candle - Used to ignite the herbs (fire element)

How to smudge:

You will simply light the bundle of herbs, then tamp the flame so the dry leaves are just smoldering. The smoke is what you want to use here to clear the air. You can wave it around yourself or in the corners of the room with your hand or more traditionally with a feather. When doing this, you can set an intention to cleanse away anything that is not yours and is not serving your greatest good (or any verbiage that makes sense for you.) If you have smoke alarms in your space, keep your window open while smudging. For you visual types, here's a short  Vimeo video by herbalist Maia Toll showing you how to smudge with a bundle of sage.

Guide to common smudging herbs:

  • Sage: Used to heal and bless. Drives away negative energies, old patterns, influences that do not serve your greatest good. This is a great herb to burn on the full moon, when we enter the period of waning and shedding. I wrote a blog post about rituals for moon phases with more on this piece at this link.
  • Cedar: Used for protection. This is a wonderful one to use when moving into a new home, apartment, or office.
  • Mugwort: Used for protection, well-being, and endurance. It is said to be "the traveler's friend." It is also helpful for tapping into your dream world or bringing about lucid dream states.
  • Lavender: Calls in spirit guides and is said to guard against negative spirits, and was used in Egypt for mummification.
  • Sweetgrass: Attracts positive energy after negative energy has been banished, and invites in the essence of the feminine. (Wonderful for new moon rituals.)
  • Palo Santo: Calls in new, manifesting energies (Also great to use during the new moon) The sticks of this tree are the part that is usually burned, though you can also find bundles of its leaves at times.

If you'd like to learn more about the ritual of smudging, google has so so so many links for you to peruse. Happy cleansing!

Wellness rituals I love, Part 1: Golden milk

I'm big on self-care rituals. (But you probably already knew that.) Today I'm sharing the first in a little series of blog posts about my favorite daily rituals that directly benefit my physical health, therefore my overall well-being: Golden milk!

Note: I'm not a medical doctor. Always seek the advice of your medical doctor before starting new regimens.

Oh you guys, this is magic in a mug. I've been drinking it nightly for nearly a year, and it is just so soothing to me and is working wonders for my health. There are so many wonderful benefits to drinking golden milk. The most potent part of golden milk is turmeric, which contains curcumin. Curcumin has amazing health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-preventative properties. Additional benefits of turmeric are:

  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic,analgesic,.
  • Boosts immunity.
  • Anti-carcinogenic.
  • Helps maintain cholesterol levels.
  • Promotes digestive health.
  • Liver detoxifier.
  • Regulates metabolism and weight management.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Memory and brain function.
  • Various skin conditions.
  • Neurological disorders.
  • Lowers Triglycerides

The recipe I use for my golden milk is from the wonderful instructional video below. I've written out the ingredients and recipe below (with some of my personal preferences) but I find it very helpful to watch the video tutorial, too.

First, make the turmeric paste:

  • 1/2c spring water
  • 1/4c turmeric powder (I like to get a large bag of quality organic turmeric here. If this becomes a daily ritual for you, you'll save money getting this big bag instead of small portions in your grocery store.)
  • Heat on med/low for 7-9 min stirring constantly
  • Store in glass container in fridge up to 14 days

To make the golden milk from the turmeric paste:

  • 1c milk (It can be cow, almond, coconut, etc. as long as it's unsweetened. Each lends a different flavor to the golden milk, and I've found that unsweetened coconut is my personal preference.)
  • 1tsp turmeric paste you made (above)
  • Honey or maple syrup or stevia to sweeten (Sweetening is optional. I like to add a dollop of manuka honey to mine.)
  • Heat on medium for 5 min
  • Add 1/4-1/2 tsp oil to mug - Udo's oil or coconut oil are my favs
  • Adding a dash of black pepper to recipes containing turmeric enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called pipeline, so by mixing turmeric and black pepper together, you increase your body’s absorption of the turmeric by 2000% - and it adds a fun kick.

Other golden perks:

  • If you drink it at night before bed, it helps you to fall right to sleep.
  • It dyes the bristles of your toothbrush golden if you brush right after drinking it. (Um, yay..?)
  • If you google 'golden milk' you can get tons more info and variations on the recipe. There are turmeric juices and smoothies out there you can make, if warm drinks aren't your thing.
  • My 8 year old daughter even enjoys golden milk. She prefers hers made in the traditional way, with cow's milk.

Live by the moon

Humans are tidal. We're made of mostly water and pulled by the moon in ways we may not even consciously realize. We undoubtedly feel its pull on our emotional and creative rhythms, so why not tune more into this natural cycle so it can empower and inform our lives? Reproduction is affected by the moon by way of menstruation, fertility, and birth rates. Lunar cycles have been proven to impact the hormones of animals (do your cats go bananas on full moon nights like mine do?), along with influencing crime rates, traffic accidents, and hospital admittance. Acknowledging that this rhythm impresses upon our lives, bringing our awareness to it more fully, and using its power to guide our intentions can help us roll with the tide.

Simple rituals for the lunar cycle

A full lunar cycle, from new moon to new moon, lasts about 29.5 days. The new moon (or when the moon is in total darkness, resting in the shadow of the earth) is aligned with the idea of a fresh start and a new beginning. This is a time to start new projects and plant new seeds. It is a time to call forth energy to manifest something new over the following 14 days when the moon will be waxing, meaning the light part of the moon is growing. I enjoy setting intentions on a new moon for what I'd like to create for myself. I often smudge with the sacred wood, palo santo, to bring about fresh energy during this time. It is a wonderful time to create vision boards, soul collage cards, or to visualize what you would like to call into your life.

My recent full moon cleansing altar
My recent full moon cleansing altar

The full moon (or when the moon is in total, circular brightness, with the sun shining upon its surface) is powerful when it comes to honoring manifestations, decision-making, and setting intentions for what to release as we move through the following 14 days when the moon will be waning. Waning means the light part will be decreasing in size, as we move toward the next new moon. This is a wonderful time for smudging with sage or cedar, herbs which assist us in cleansing ourselves or our space, as well as letting go of that which is no longer serving our greatest good. I also like to write on pieces of paper the things I hope to release, and to burn those pieces of paper during the time the moon is waning. On a practical note, the energy of the waning moon period supports cleaning out your home and space. The light of the full moon is also said to cleanse the energy held in crystals and stones, so you can set them outside or in a windowsill on the night of the full moon.

The graphic below, by Ezzie Spencer, gives guidance on the types of intentions we are invited to set during each specific phase of the moon, along its path of waxing and waning. So, look upward tonight. Remember that you are a part of nature -- connecting more deeply to your place in the universe -- and perhaps try a small ritual of your own, letting your awareness of the phase of the moon empower you more consciously.

Spencer lunar cycle
Spencer lunar cycle

Natural healing: Oils, herbs, flower essences

Ever since I was a child, I intuitively understood the restorative powers of the earth's gifts -- I feel like we're all born that way. I remember concocting "magic healing potions" in my backyard that were made from flower petals and herbs growing in our garden --  usually with some mud or pebbles thrown in for good, messy measure. As I got older, I studied the healing properties of the earth's gifts: herbs, oils, and flower essences. For a few years during my 20s, I ran a small, side business selling natural care products such as soaps, salves, teas, and lip balms. This passion has now become integrated into my family's everyday care, and is one of the ways I tend to my own self-care. Here I'll share a brief overview of my favorite remedies, along with links (Amazon affiliate and otherwise) for where to find some of them. Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and this is not medical advice. I am solely sharing which remedies and rituals I personally use for self-care and healing. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any natural remedy.

Essential Oils

I delight in the delicious aromatherapy essential oils provide. In the morning or when I'm needing to be more alert, I like citrus, minty, and green scents, such as grapefruit, ginger, peppermint, and rosemary. When I need to wind down and relax, I love lavender, rose, and ylang ylang. The quality oils from DoTerra are my absolute fav. You can purchase any of them here. Lately, my favorite oil is DoTerra's Balance blend, which feels very earthy and grounding to me. I enjoy sprinkling it into the bottom of my shower to create a makeshift steam room. I use oils in a warm mist humidifier in the wintertime, like DoTerra's On Guard oil for immune support and Breathe oil for respiratory health. I also use various oils throughout the year in a diffuser in my therapy office, and my clients comment on how much they enjoy the subtle scents in the room.

Herbs

I love to use dried herbs, though it's important to consult a doctor or naturopath before doing so, as they are quite powerful. I enjoy drinking herbal teas (peppermint, chamomile, fennel...) I also like to make herbal bath soaks, sometimes with eucalyptus or peppermint or lavender, mixed with ground oatmeal or epsom salts, tied up in a cheesecloth and placed into warm bath water. I also love to create with herbs by making things such as lavender wands, sachets, and dream pillows. (<-- Links to "how to" posts from my former art blog for families.) Bundling and then burning dried herbs (aka: smudging) is another favorite way I use herbs for self-care -- favorite smudging herbs of mine are sage and cedar. More on this piece in next week's post -- stay tuned! One of my favorite blogs for creative uses for herbs is 5 Orange Potatoes.

Flower Essences

I discovered Bach flower remedies during graduate school, and I have used them ever since. The Bach company puts out a list of how their remedies can help support different emotional states. They also list them by remedy, detailing the healing properties of each. Generally, flower remedies are administered by putting a few drops in your water bottle and drinking the essence, and some types, like their famous Rescue Remedy, come in a spray bottle so the essence can be spritzed into the mouth. An artful way I like to use my flower essences is to add them to my watercolor water or to my paints when making art, to energetically infuse my image with... well, healing flower power. While flower essences are very subtle, they are also powerful -- again, always consult your physician before use.