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Sunday, April 24, 2016

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Kitchen Herbology: CINNAMON


WOMEN HAVE BEEN THE SACRED HEALERS OF HUMANITY from time immemorial, and herbs have been the primary tools they used for healing the mind and body and spirit. As inherent healers, women have always pulled from the earth all the tools she needs to maintain her family and community, nurturing love and good health. She uses the Earth's own healing energies and vibrations that emanate through the ores and minerals, trees and brush, saps and resins, crystals and gemstones, and in lakes and rivers, the very source of life itself: WATER. A medicine woman's bag would hold many, many roots, leaves, barks and stones, generating many, many formulas.

Although “herbology” may not be an active term in your vocabulary, it is a reality in your life. The mustard on your table and many of the spices in your kitchen come from herbs; most of the vegetables in your salad are herbs, and if you have a yard/garden, many of the plants growing there (whether by your or their own design) are also herbs. Each family of plants has its own peculiar habit of taking from the soil a specific group of chemical elements that give it its specific healing properties.

As the usual preparers of food, women (and some men) hold the power of health as she can redefine “health care” and the quality of “medicines” she opts for her family right from her kitchen. Almost all of our foods, spices and condiments have healing properties. Because our survival is dependent upon our ingestion of food for physical sustenance, digestion is the single most important function of our living organism (along with air and water). Digestion, assimilation and elimination are three extremely important and pivotal aspects of health, and a series of foods and spices that assist our bodies in these areas are called carminatives, laxatives, cholagogues emetics, parasiticides, sialagogues and bitters. One of the most familiar to us all is Cinnamon.

Cinnamon is most commonly used as a flavor additive in hot beverages, in oatmeal, sprinkled on top of French toast or used in baking pastries. What you may not know is that this spice's stimulating volatile oil is the prime reason for it being classified medicinally as a fungicide, antibacterial and antiviral herb/spice. The use of cinnamon has been known to relieve yeast and fungal infections, and when used as a general tonic, it can relieve digestive congestion, thereby raising one's vital energy. It helps remedy distention in the abdominal cavity and aids in relieving excess wind, as it provides a great relief from colic, and helps to relieve nausea and vomiting as well. Believe it or not, the strength of its volatile oil makes it very useful as a stimulant in fainting spells, or in oral hygiene as a dental antiseptic. Its warming, spicy flavor also has a sedative effect for nervousness as a warm tea or in warm milk. Other remedial properties of this herb/spice are in its effectiveness against persistent headaches, muscle pain and neuralgia in the body.

There are many different ways in which we can use herbs (foot baths, body washes, hot compress, etc.), which can be defined by the way the herb or spice is prepared. You can also make teas, take spices and grind them to make capsules, or boil them into decoctions, or let them sit covered in boiling hot water (off the flame) to make infusions. Different preparations allows us to use them in so many different ways. Because cinnamon is a bark, it needs to be boil rigorously in order to release the therapeutic properties from its bark. Sometimes, during the holidays, people put certain spices on the stove just to have that aroma infused throughout the house.

Infusions are one of the more common ways of preparing herbs and spices. We spoke of a number of ways the medicinal properties of cinnamon can help relieve so many conditions. The difference between a simple tea and an infusion is in how much spice/herb you put in how much water, and how long you let it boil or steep (to let sit in a cup or pot, covered, off the flame, for 10-20 minutes). People usually drink teas on a regular basis for good health (when the body may need specific herbs for an illness), and drink infusions on occasion for a more nutrient-packed drink (as a way to take in a higher concentration of a spice or herb's vitamin and mineral content. For example, a cup of nettle tea has 5-10mg of calcium, while a cup of infused nettle tea contains as much as 500mg of calcium. WOW. Here's the simple difference in preparation.

To make a tea, simply put 1-2tsp of the spice/herb mixture in a cup and add boiling water. Let sit, covered, for 10-15min and then drink. Never use white sugar to sweeten. If the spice or herb is hard, like bark, roots or seeds, then boil 1-2tsp of the mixture for 5min, covered; remove from the flame and let sit for 5-10 more minutes. For adults, you can drink a cup or two of the tea daily, or if treating an illness, three times a day, at least. For children, half that amount.

To make an infusion, I'd take a cup of the spice or herb (or mixture) in a large (quart) jar, fill the jar with boiling water and cap tightly. Let the spice/herb sit overnight (or 4-10 hours) and then strain. Ideally, I like the overnight method, and then the next day I have enough infusion for the whole day. Whatever you don't finish, refrigerate. Infusions generally last for 1 to 1 ½ days.

Link to Dr. Mercola's info on Cinnamon: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/11/09/surprising-cinnamon-benefits.aspx?utm_source=articles&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=sb_2_cinnamonbenefits

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