Pink beauty for healthy lungs

It looks that spring is finally ready to manifest itself! Despite strong frosts and snowfall recently, sunshine calls nature to start unrolling buds. Even though it’s too early, I’ve been already checking my places and searching signs of new life among dry and brown last year’s leaves.

First what I’m looking each spring for, are wonderful flowers of Lungwort. I’m hungry for the moment when I see the incredible tenderness of pink and purple. In my daily life I always prefer yellow before pink, but the first spring flowers of Lungwort are probably the only exception.

I really love the unique colors of Lungwort, sweet to look and also sweet and juicy to taste. It’s like a promise that the whole season could be such sweet and delicious. Once I discover the first Lungwort flowers of the year, I gather them directly to my mouth and eat them immediately 😋

My second choice for Lungwort flowers is still eating them directly, but in more civilized way like adding them into salad or put them on potatoes with cottage cheese. It looks and tastes fantastic!

Lungwort belongs to the plants that bloom before their leaves grow fully. So you can enjoy the beauty and taste of flowers before serious harvest for healing purpose. And there is one big purpose of the Lungwort, clear by the name, the healthy lungs!

Lungwort has strong anticarrhal and demulcent effects, so you can successfully use it in case of cold with cough. It reduces unwanted mucus caused by pathogens and protects irritated tissues. The content of silicon and allantoin accelerates skin regeneration, so the Lungwort can be also used externally for longterm wounds even with pus. But the most common use of Lungwort is still in wide range of lung diseases like bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, etc.

Even though the Lungwort looks so useful and kind, there is one warning for all who have problems with blood coagulation (clotting) because the Lungwort slightly increases the level of it. A few fresh flowers should be fine, but be careful about longterm use.

I hope to see the pink and purple flowers soon and this year herbal season will really start!

Which plant is the sign of spring for you?

With love, Ivana

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Obsessed with sour taste

Although winter wasn’t strong this year, we expect another wave of frosty weather next week. My body is already exhausted from endless wait for spring and more and more often calls for sour taste.

On the scale of tastes I usually prefer the bitter one. Sweet probably occupies the second place. Salty is in the middle, sometimes alternating with the sweet. But spicy and sour are definitely in the end of my selection with the only exception. When spring slowly awakes from winter sleep, I am obsessed with sour taste. I need to add some acidity to every meal and it doesn’t matter if it’s sweet or salty.

At this time, sour taste helps me to overcome the last winter days, it keeps me enough alive. What coffee makes for mind in the morning, the sour does for body before spring definitely comes.

Now, the opportunity to really use what I’ve done before came.

Rosehip chips are simple, tasty and sour enough to keep you from eating so much of them. Actually, I made them by accident. I originally wanted to make jam, but I harvested more fruits than I had sugar. So I cooked and mashed the rosehips without sugar, pushed through the sieve, placed a thin layer on a sheet and dried in oven at low temperature. Efficiency isn’t high, but I don’t like to waste the harvest.

Except of lemon, what do you imagine under sour taste? Yes, vinegar!

Perhaps some or most of you have tried to make homemade apple vinegar. It’s nothing complicated as soon as you have apples, big jar and patience.

Based on the same technology, I made also other kinds of vinegar – from the hawthorn berries and from elderberries. And I must say – I love both of them!

Homemade vinegars are great as they are, or you can add some herbs to extend their taste and flavor.

I have three types of apple vinegar – with common wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris), rosemary and onion skins. They are great fresh or cooked, for eat or hair rising.

The hawthorn vinegar is a kind of medicine as well, having a tonic effect for heart and blood pressure. I divided the final amount into three parts – pure hawthorn, with sage and with speedwell (Veronica officinalis), which also helps to keep heart and veins in healthy condition.

But the elderberry vinegar, it’s a treasure! I love even to watch it! It looks like a good red wine or magical elixir. I feel the taste in every cell of my body, awaking me for life. I put it into porridge in the morning, into the soup at noon and into legumes in the evening. As I said, I’m really obsessed!

I’m going to make bigger amount this year, especially after I used the elderberry vinegar instead of lemon juice into the herbal candies. I mixed it with cloves, cinnamon and star anis and it became a heaven in the mouth! They were gone before I took a photo, so you have to imagine or make it yourself 😀

What kind of sour ingredients do you like? I would appreciate more inspiration for my actual obsession. Thanks in advance!

With love, Ivana

Playing with the Elements, Part 3 – Water

Water is lazy, quiet and cold. Therefore it represents sleep, silence, darkness and even death. Water cannot move on its own. Its movement is always caused by external forces such as gravity or Moon in the case of high and low tides.

So, why we do say that healthy water must flow? And that standing water is an opportunity to grow molds and diseases? Because the external forces of nature and the Universe never stop. And if the water stands, then something acts against those natural or universal forces.

We humans love to act like this. Here are some examples of how we block the natural flow of water in our civilized lives.

On a macro scale, I would mention a boom of concreted riverbed which didn’t respect the original streams and which, a few decades later, cause disastrous floods.

Inside of human body, we often block natural sweating, which is the most effective way to get rid of toxic substances through the largest body organ – the skin. Instead we massively use inappropriate deodorants that block the sweat glands and forbid them natural working, which is the exact parallel to the amount of concrete used in the artificial riverbeds.

I understand that the sweat can smell badly and we live close to each other, especially in cities. On the other hand, the amount and smell of sweat depends on what we drink and eat, how our metabolism works, and how much stress we live in. If we focus more on these improvements, we don’t have to use devastating deodorants, but only light natural versions.

Emotions like sadness or regret require natural flow of tears to overcome difficult situation. But the common social habits often demand to hold tears back. Again, it is close to the parallel with concrete riverbeds. If you block the flow of tears for a long time, there is born a retention tank of emotions that will rupture in future for sure. And then all the pain pours at once.

Sleep is another good example inside the water element. Naturally we are set up to sleep at night, silence and darkness. In such conditions, the body really rests and gains enough strength for the next day. How many of us respect biological clocks and go to sleep with the sun? First I admit that I am a night creature and I don’t want to get up early in the morning. Even though I know it is bad, and it spoils my metabolism and water levels in my body. This is definitely my weakness.

But that’s not all yet. Night sleep should be in silence and in dark. But where to look for them, especially if we live in cities? Unfortunately we live in constant light and sound smog, so darkness and silence become unachievable ideals. And so the water element is spoiled a bit more every day, and thus our physical and emotional health. In the long-term it is definitely worth to invest in the light and soundproofed bedroom.

I prefer to stop with negative examples now and present a few positive tricks how to improve the quality of the water in our lives.

Dreaming is a nice quality inside of water element. And it could be a lucid dreaming even though it seems very useless. Fantasy is an eternal ally of water, so use it as much as possible. You can start with drawing or painting, let be inspired by fantasy rather than reality. No matter of the outcome, the process is beneficial.

Being alone and in silence is always a tool for harmonizing the water element in your life. Therefore, prayer, meditation and relaxation techniques are so effective.

And how about influence of the previous elements?

Fire and water are of course opposites. But the life needs both of them. Water is quiet environment, which needs to get a fiery spark to create a fetus. Water represents woman, waiting for male (fiery) sperm. And do you remember that Air represents socializing? If a man and a woman socialize well, then they create a new life.

Frequent topic is the relation between emotions and mind, i.e. water and air. Take real elements for help. If you don’t saturate water with oxygen enough, your water environment would be dead, even it has appropriate temperature (fire). So using only emotions without oxygen of our minds doesn’t keep us alive. Then we could tend to stay alone, dreaming, without connection to other people. So much water takes the life spark out and we become more dead than alive.

In the case of too much oxygen in water you can see big bubbles, so the water looks more like soda water full of wild whirlwinds, where isn’t even one quiet thing. This is a parallel of overestimated mind and underestimated emotions, which means a stressful life without rest.

And both examples above worked with appropriate temperature. Imagine there is not enough fire, so the water becomes ice. And this represents situation, when emotional person doesn’t put fire into the water. From warm feelings, hardness or even cruelty become.

And that’s why we should maintain balance among the elements. Sometimes is useful to implement small tricks and so to change the sequence of other events.

Next, I will speak about the Earth and the mutual influence with previous elements.

With love,

Ivana

In case you missed Playing with the Elements, Part 2 – AirPlaying with the Elements, Part 1 – Fire

 

Herbal magic for healthy hair

There are many useful herbs to improve quality of your hair. I took an example of my local herbs, divided in groups according to the type of hair. I’ve been testing them by myself and few of my friends.

Blond and/or thin

The key herb of the group is definitely Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla) from the family Asteraceae. Trying to sense the energy, it makes clear that Chamomile brings a floral softness and asterisk lightness into the hair. Don’t expect hair thickening from it! Chamomile is proud of its gentle quality and ready to share.

Other herbs could make a good company to Chamomile. Usually I choose a birch leaf or linden blossom. Both of them are a good companion for another group of hair too.

Red and/or middle

The leading herb of this group is hops, either alone or processed in beer. At least in Europe, using beer for strong and shiny hair has a long tradition. Try to imagine growing hops (Humulus lupulus) and you will see long lianas, richly covered by leaves and small green cones called strobili. They are highly aromatic, full of useful components for your hair and skin. No wonder, hops belongs to the family Cannabaceae and is completely legal worldwide.

Longterm use of hops makes your hair thicker (like lianas) and your scalp healthier. But it doesn’t make sense to use it for really thin hair. It seems to me that the strong aroma of hops and fullness of the compounds are too hard (aggressive) for thin hair.

Birch could be a reasonable support for thin hair thickening and is a good companion for hops too. If you imagine birch tree (Betula spp) you will see long but light branches with small, heart shaped leaves. The birch has a beautiful and lifted hairstyle and you can achieve that for thin and middle hair.

Rich look of your hairstyle could be also supported by linden blossoms (valid for thin and thin/middle hair). If you imagine a flowering linden tree (Tilia spp), it will be clear to you. At the time of flowering the linden tree increases its volume and beauty. Blossoms shine with color and scent, attracting attention of bees and humans. It can work for you in the same way – except of insects 😃

Dark and/or thick

This is the group of hair with a good quality, sometimes too strong or thick to style them. Could you imagine a plant with a similar energy other than nettle? The nettle has tiny stingy hairs in huge amount and is ready to share the same quality with you.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is the leader of the group and it is probably the most famous herb for a hair promotion. But as I have mentioned several times, for some hair (or hair skin) types, the nettle is too rough. For example, my scalp every time turns red after using nettles and it doesn’t matter whether it was in a decoction or processed in soap. The stinging power of nettle is simply too strong for me.

In case your hair isn’t extremely thick or you have a problem with nettle, a suitable alternative for you could be the wild thyme. The purple color of its flowers is a good guide where to use this herb. Disinfecting aroma helps to remove toxins from hair and scalp, and sometimes also from the mind beneath. I like adding the wild thyme for the red hair blends in the winter when they need more protection.

Method

You can easily prepare decoction (like more concentrated tea) and rinse your hair after washing. Or you can even wash your hair with a special soap that contains a suitable blend of herbs. And because it is much more comfortable, I prepare such soaps at home from the herbs I personally gather. Then it is a great pleasure to wash my hair.

I must say that it might be tricky to choose the right combination for chemically colored hair. They usually don’t cooperate well with herbal soaps, decoctions could be fine.

My originally red hairs (treated with henna) are more than happy with the herbal soap (hops, birch, linden blossoms) for more than two years. Even my hairdresser confirmed improvement of their quality.

I’m curious about your experience if you like to share it.

With love, Ivana

How to reach perfection?

Everybody knows that being perfect is an illusion, but each of us is trying to get as close as possible. The desire for improvement is natural, and because of this tendency we have a lot of good in our lives.

But there are people who are obsessed with perfection. They usually would not agree and immediately highlight all the imperfections they have and need to improve. As long as they live inside of their obsession and don’t bother others, it is dangerous only to them in terms of mental and later physical health.

What I consider to be a problem is a lot of people who are paralyzed by the obsession. They are standing at the life crossroads and wondering which way leads to perfection. They want to avoid mistakes so much that they prefer thinking instead of acting. These people are always waiting for some UNTIL. Until I get this and that I can’t start doing this or that. They often become collectors of certificates with zero practice.

I believe in the power of practicing. My drawings are best proof of it. People ask me how I blend the colors, if I have special pencils for it. No, I don’t. I have the most common and cheap pencils, but I patiently put on many light layers until the drawing gets rich in color.

And this is my conclusion for today. You can get close to perfection by unlimited range of imperfections. Being imperfect means that you are on the way. Keep doing!

With love, Ivana

Healthy heart and blood vessels: Hawthorn

In this season, colorful fruits are ripening on thorny shrubs and trees, and the harvest of rose hips and haws is ongoing. I have already written about wild roses Wild Rose: Beauty among thorns, so today I focus on the hawthorn and even experimental products from it.

This year I’ve heard a strong call from hawthorn since blooming. Usually I’m not a big fan of hawthorn flowers because I don’t consider their odor to be quite pleasant even though hawthorn belongs to the same family as roses. Perhaps the hawthorn is a proof that not every rose must smell wonderful.

Listening to my call, I gathered hawthorn flowers and made a tincture or something between tincture and liqueur. Guided by intuition, I added a tincture from fresh roses to the hawthorn basis. Now, the result should harmonize heart on both, physical and emotional levels. Definitely it tastes great!

As soon as the first fruits became ripe, my intuition brought another input. Make vinegar! The rational part wasn’t against. There is enough sugar inside, the taste is similar to apple, and most of the effective substances can act from acidic environment. Since the vinegar preparation takes several weeks, my haws are still in the process of fermentation. Comparing with the apple vinegar, so far the haws are doing very well!  Perhaps vinegar could be another way how to use hawthorn for healthy heart and blood vessels. I would appreciate your experience if you have any.

Being inspired by Lydia with her Pear butter, I tried to make “hawthorn butter”. Since the first moment, it was even challenging or stupid idea. Although the taste of haws is similar to apple, the size is much smaller, and there is a stone inside! Finally I succeeded, but I don’t want to repeat it again! Pitting took ages and proved amount of yellow flavonoids, which has remained on my fingers up to day.

It might seem like I’m already fed up with hawthorn. However in my kitchen is still sitting another bowl of haws, which I gathered yesterday. So far I don’t know what to do with them, but they didn’t want to stay on tree!

Do you have any suggestion? Thanks for sharing.

With love, Ivana

The Elixir of Youth

The fall is definitely coming. It’s not just the morning mist, but also a lot of ripening fruit on the trees all around. You see the branches laden by fruits as they bend to the ground like the elder people often do. And both are full of experience and perhaps full of wisdom.

In my opinion, there are two most attractive seasons in nature – spring and fall. You can easily compare spring to the freshness and innocence of youth, and fall to the maturity and experience of the old age. Even the colors could bear this comparison – bright, fresh and vibrant colors in the spring and heavy and earthy colors in the fall. We can take an example.

Some time ago, I wrote about the elder (Sambucus nigra) at the time of its youth when it was in full bloom, I called it Elderflower Princess. The proud and cheerful girl now became a modest and wise old woman. The royal blood still circulates in her veins, but she has no need to demonstrate. In dust around the roads she patiently awaits those who know or are interested to know her quality. And there are plenty of them!

The most common and probably the most pleasant way how to consume elderberries is syrup. I do not exaggerate too much if I call it the elixir of youth. Sugar kicks the energy up and the fruit makes the energy better circulating throughout the body. A wide range of vitamins and minerals makes the body more resistant to virus and bacteria attacks, a small amount of sedative terpenes helps to calm tired nerves. Elderberries are among the most powerful antioxidants, it means they strongly prevent healthy cells from harmful effects. They keep us as young as possible.

It is easy to remember: the fruit of Elder protects our body from being much elder.

I wish you happy and rich harvest!

With love, Ivana