Calming, Cleansing And Rejuvenating Herbal Treats For Yoga (or just anytime!)

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Behold the Lemon Balm & Wild Rose Tea and Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites I’ll be serving for Restorative Herbal Yoga For Spring – the very first session of The Yoga Apothecary. Because I’m so grateful that this very first class is full (and that so many others of you have wanted to attend) I’ve decided to share the recipes for the treats that we’ll be sampling in class, so you can also enjoy their healing and revitalizing gifts at home.

In these classes we’ll be marrying the benefits of cleansing, calming and rejuvenative herbs, with restorative yoga postures and breath. Our focus is on releasing the stagnant tension and toxins that get “stuck” in our bodies over winter – allowing the fresh life giving energy of spring to flow IN. And to help us to do that, we’ll be calling in plant allies like Lemon Balm, Wild Rose and Dandelion Root!  So before our practice we’ll sip a fragrant and uplifting lemon balm and wild rose petal tea – spiked with a grounding dandelion root tincture.

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Left: Dandelion Root Tincture  Right:  Steeping Tea

Lemon balm is a delicious lemony herb in the mint family that helps soothe anxiety and calm the nervous system, this will help us relax and release tension in our bodies as we practice. The loving energy of rose and her heavenly volatile oils also help us to enter a deeply relaxed state. Her anti-depressant qualities and ability to uplift the heart and spirits are also well known. These benefits in yoga therapy, and especially in restorative yoga, are important physiologically to healing – because without first feeling safe and relaxed, we cannot fully restore.

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Stress and chronic tension can often get held in the body, from our jaw, neck, shoulders, bellies, hips and most especially our psoas muscle (which connects our legs to our torso). This can keep our flight/fight/freeze sympathetic nervous system activated, and turn down the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Sadly this can bring a host of negative effects from hampering digestion, dampening our immune system, compromising cellular repair and exhausting our adrenals etc. So we’ll be calling on the power of our lemon balm and wild rose petal tea to help us release tension, deeply relax  and switch our healing parasympathetic nervous system back on. (more detail on this here)

In yoga, the First or Root chakra is related to issues of survival, security and feelings of being safe and stable. Located at the base of the spine, it governs our feet, legs, hips and psoas muscle, and is the source of our life-giving connection to the earth. And if we take a lesson from mother nature, she teaches us there is no standing strong without first rooting down. Feelings of being ungrounded, anxious or depressed, of never feeling truly safe in the world, can signal a first chakra imbalance.

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And so the perfect 1st chakra remedy is dandelion!  Because if you’ve ever tried digging up dandelion’s roots you know the true meaning of being deeply, firmly and stubbornly rooted in the earth. And there’s no doubt about why dandelion is a premiere root chakra plant, she’s truly a sunny survivor and prolific thriver!

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Her roots have been used for thousands of years to cleanse and revitalize organ systems of the lower body, from bladder, to kidneys, to liver. Dandelion also improves digestive system function and encourages the release of toxins from our blood. (This is especially helpful when chronic constriction in our lower bodies, impedes the fresh of nutrients, lymph and waste.)

Filled with vitamins A, C, D and B complex, minerals such as zinc, silicon,  iron, calcium and potassium, dandelion root contains more betacarotene than carrots!  And because it’s so packed with healing nutrients (which helps restore the optimal function of our cells and organs) we’ll end our class with a Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites- to help nourish and fortify of course!

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Yes they’re pretty yummy! And don’t worry, you won’t even notice the dandelion. Gluten free and packed with almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped fresh dandelion root, cocoa powder, organic chocolate chips and all ever so slightly perfumed with rose water, they’re ready to root, cleanse and restore you anytime – not just after yoga!

Finding dandelion root is pretty easy, while digging her roots out may take some effort. Cut in deep around the centre of the plant with a sharp tool or trowel, then pull up the whole clump. Pull out roots. You’ll need to wash these thoroughly and then chop for use in the recipe. And if you can’t find any (how can that be?!) dried dandelion root can be bought at the store and whirred up in a coffee grinder to make a fine powder. You’ll just add this powder to your recipe.

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You can find fresh lemon balm peeking up in most gardens right now -and their tender first leaves are just filled with the revitalizing energy of spring! I’ve used dried wild rose petals from my own, but they can be purchased at most herbal stores, as can the dandelion root tincture. But if you can’t find all of ingredients, don’t worry, just use what you have, lemon balm or rose on their own will still do the trick.

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So if you’re looking to enjoy these herbal spring treats with yoga, remember before you practice to take some quiet mindful time with your tea. Close your eyes, and inhale the tea’s fragrance, then take a sip and taste. Note any feelings or emotions that rise. Now see if you can bring these sensations together to form a sense memory you can reimagine and call on in practice.

Restorative yoga should be slow, movements should be gentle. Any sudden or quick moves can cause the body to tighten – which is what we don’t want!  You might want to begin lying on the floor, taking time to settle down and feel all parts of the body supported by the earth. Using belly breath (place both hands over the navel area and slowly breathe in feeling the belly rise up and then on exhale feeling the belly fall under your fingers) begin to relax into the floor, allowing yourself to deeply sink into the earth’s supportive energy…

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Using postures like knee to chest (apanasana) and happy baby (ananda balasana) use the exhale of the breath to soften your hips, gently releasing the tops of the thighs and psoas muscle. (see illustrations below) Don’t wrench your knees up close to your chest all at once, take your time, calling in the fragrance memory of the rose and lemon balm, as you breathe.  Allow their calming energy to move through you. Remember also to soften your mouth, neck, shoulders, chest and belly.

And if you’d like to release deeper, try Garland Pose (malasana). You might want to sit on a block  or high firm pillow if your heels come up off the floor, you want your feet on the ground for this posture. Concentrate on feeling the rooting through the toes, heels feet, legs, and breathe, allowing the pelvic floor to open, bringing in fresh blood flow to the lower body. Call on Dandelion root’s cleansing and nourishing powers to help revitalize your root chakra area.

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Top image from ktrnaaa

But remember – you can enjoy Lemon Balm & Wild Rose Tea anytime you feel stressed or overwhelmed. And following your tea up with one (or two) Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites will help ground you after.  And remember, just taking some quiet time for self care, even if it is gifting your senses with aromatic tea and a tasty, nourishing treat, is pretty rejuvenating! So relax, release and restore, and invite in the revitalizing energy of spring!

Lemon Balm & Wild Rose Tea w/ Dandelion Tincture

(makes enough for two cups)

  • Couple of handfuls of fresh lemon balm leaves.
  • One handful dried rose petals
  • Add two cups of boiling water and let steep (covered!) for about 10 -15 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Add 2 droppers full of Dandelion tincture to each cup (about 10 ml total)
  • Enjoy!

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Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites

Makes about 1 dozen

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh dandelion root
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter or oil
  • 1 tablespoons rose water

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Mix all ingredients well into a wet dough (it will be very sticky)
  • Form into little balls best you can and place in mini-cupcake tins
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes
  • Cool and serve!

A Super Easy Old-Fashioned Creamy Dessert: Honey Lilac Posset (Or Rose, Elderflower, Peony, Lavender…)

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“Be cheerful knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house”  William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Dating back to the middle ages, the posset is making a comeback. Perfect for when you want to whip up a special dessert with minimal effort, it’s made with three ingredients, honey, cream and lemon juice. These are boiled together and chilled overnight. That’s it. And if that isn’t wonderful enough, try infusing your posset with spring flowers like lilac, wild rose or elderflower. Simply divine.

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If you follow Gather’s fb page you’ll likely have noticed we’ve become smitten with possets. This began when I discovered this amazing recipe for Lemon Lavender Posset. Because lavender wasn’t yet ready, I decided to use what was in full bloom at the time -the glorious fragrant blossoms of lilac. The results were delicious.

This inspired Jennifer to create Elderflower Posset (she tossed in a few of our native red elderflowers as well) and now we’re both enamoured with rose. Lately I’ve been eyeing the peony which is reputed to make a delightful jelly.

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Elderflower Honey Posset

Today’s posset is very different from the one often referred to by Shakespeare, a drink made from curdled milk, sugar, alcohol and sack, (a fortified wine or sweet ale similar to sherry).  I like this 1596 recipe from The Good Housewife’s Jewel Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and rose water. So stir it as you would then have it make it lukewarm in a dish on a chafing dish and coals. And after put it into a silver piece or a bowl, and so serve it to the board.”

Bthe 18th century, possets are made from milk, but thickened with egg yolks (like custard) or bread (like a trifle). But the modern posset recipes now making the rounds, are more like basic puddings (no, not the Jello). And they’re often served slathered on scones or with shortbread biscuits.

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Wild Rose Posset

Puddings today are not thought to be good for the health, but possets certainly were. Used as a general “restorative” to fortify the body, or as a curative to banish colds and illness, possets were a delicious way to make the medicine go down. A 19th century recipe mentions a black pepper flavoured posset that will ‘promote perspiration’ in order to sweat out a fever.  Flowers of course, bring their own healing properties, elderflower and rose for example are both known for their anti-inflammatory constituents.

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Elderflower

Possets were often served at weddings and used in toasts at all levels of society.  Which means you just might find them served at upcoming Gather nuptials.  Like, lets say a Rose Posset made with rose brandy and a yarrow infused honey (good for ensuring love, fidelity and marital bliss).

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Posset Pot

Sometimes a wedding ring was thrown in the posset pot and the person who found it was next to head to the altar.  You would use a spoon to eat the top layers and then drink the wine through the spout in the cup. With an alcoholic base at bottom and creamy layer on top, it actually sounds quite delicious. Needless to say I’ll be experimenting with a boozy wedding-inspired posset shortly.

So if you’re in a part of the country where lilac still blooms, you’ll be enchanted by this Lilac Honey Posset. But is you’ve got roses, well that’s heavenly too. I’m moving on to lavender, whose buds are plumping and readying for harvest. But whatever floral you choose, I’m willing to bet you’ll soon find yourself (like us!) enthralled with the old-fashioned charm of the posset.

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Lilac Honey Posset (or Rose, Elderflower etc.)

Makes about 6 portions.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups cream (heavy or regular whipping cream both work)
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 1-2 cups fresh blossoms (be sure to remove all stems, especially from Elderflower…and if you’re using lavender, you’ll need just half a cup!)
  • wee pinch of salt & cardamom (if you’re so inclined)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Bring cream and honey to boil over medium-high heat. Stir continually until honey is fully combined.
  • Keep at a low boil/simmer for 3 full minutes, and keep stirring!  Then add lemon juice and stir some more.
  • Remove from heat and then mix in your blossoms thoroughly. Allow to infuse for one hour at minimum.

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  • Strain off flowers and pour into small jars or ramekins.
  • Cover tightly and chill overnight.

Some say you can stick in the freezer for 30-40 minutes (if you’re in rush to sample your just desserts) but we’ve both found they won’t decently set unless left for 24 hrs.

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Wild Rose Cupcakes & Buttercream Frosting: A Divine Confection

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“Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose.” 12th Century Persian Poem

Don’t underestimate the power of this demure, pretty, little cupcake. Behind its girly facade lies a scent and flavor so compelling, so transporting, that it has been from time immemorial associated with magic, mysticism, esoteric secrets, sacred sexuality, the unfolding of higher consciousness, and most especially – divine feminine power.

The story of the wild rose (from which all our domesticated roses descend) could fill books – and has. Reputed to be millions of years old, the five petal rose (Rosa canina) blooms in late spring in woodlands and fields across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.  The colours of our wild rose vary from pale pink to dark cerise, and are extremely nutritious, high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, polyphenols and bioflavonoids.

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Here in the Pacific Northwest, our native species are known as the Nootka and Wood’s Rose and were harvested by our First Nations for both food and medicine. Not much is known because, as I have discovered by asking many questions – that they too have their own “sub rosa” secret traditions.  Enough said!

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Ruled by the feminine planet Venus, who traces her five petal shape (the magical pentacle) around the sun in the heavens every eight years, the rose was sacred to Goddesses everywhere. For Isis, known in Egypt as the Queen of Heaven, she symbolized the secrets of regeneration and immortality.  In India, Lakshmi goddess of beauty and prosperity, was said to have been created with rose petals.

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Pre-Christian France worshipped Rosemerth (Rose Mother) in fertility rituals on sacred mounds and hills, and in Greece, Hecate goddess of witchcraft, wore a crown of roses. Altars in the temples of Aphrodite and Venus were piled high with roses and floors strewn with petals. Priestesses adorned their bodies with rose oil and wore rose garlands around their necks and head.

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I’m pretty sure that these ancient priestesses were using the scent of the rose to enter altered states. Today we know the rose contains chemical compounds that release “feel good” endorphins while reducing cortisol and blood pressure, causing the brain to enter the deep calm, dreamy states of Theta and Alpha. Her anti-depressant qualities and ability to uplift the heart and spirits are well-known.

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And according to Dr. David Stewart, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, rose oil has the highest electromagnetic frequency of all flowers, raising human vibrational frequency when inhaled.

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Is this why the revery inducing rose was decreed by early Church Fathers as damnable? When Christianity became the new official religion of the Roman Empire, the goddess temples were closed and ancient rose festivals like the Rosalia (held May 23rd in honour of the Goddess Flora) were banned. But it wasn’t long after that the five petal rose (Rosa Mystica) emerged as the emblem at the heart of secret mystical societies said to continue the spiritual (and sexual) rituals of the goddess traditions.

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During the medieval era of courtly love, the wild rose became the chief symbol of the newly re-emerging feminine principle and was equated with the Holy Grail. The Knights Templar built the Gothic cathedrals with their famous rose windows and were said to secretly worship Mary Magdalene. There is a legend that the Magdalene created a Sisterhood of the Rose, composed of twelve groups of twelve women who work for the betterment of mankind, and are wisdom keepers of the sacred knowledge.

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So cupcake feminism indeed. I invite you this Rosalia (May 23rd) to put on your frilly apron. Much more than an overindulgence in either sugar or the New Domesticity, these divine confections are a direct connection to a feminine spiritual heritage thousands of years old. Bake these cupcakes in honor of the ancient priestesses whose mystical practices were outlawed by patriarchal religions. Allow their aroma and flavour to uplift your spirit and nourish your soul. Consider them a sacrament to the Magna Mater (Great Mother) Queen of Heaven and Earth, “the one who makes all things flourish”.

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Wild Rose Cupcakes w/Buttercream Frosting

Makes Approx. 24 mini-cupcakes

Ingredients (for cakes)

  • 3 cups of rose petals
  • 2 cups organic unbleached flour
  • 2 cups organic cane sugar (1/2 cup for cakes, 1& 1/2 cups for rose syrup)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup organic or grass-fed butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons finely minced lemon balm (optional but nice)

For Buttercream frosting

  • 1/2 cup rose syrup (you will make for cupcakes and reserve some for frosting)
  • 2 cups (or 3) cups of icing sugar (organic if you can get your hands on it)
  • 1/2 cup of butter

General  Harvest & Prep:

  • Harvest your petals in the morning before the heat of the sun, but after the dew burns off. Take only four of the petals, leaving one as a signal for pollinators. This will ensure bee’s are happy and there will be rosehips for fall!

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  • Take petals home and place in a sieve/colander and gently shake to release the little critters.  You may want to do this several times! (Washing will dilute the volatile oils).

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  • Make syrup. Boil 1 & 1/2 cups of sugar and the water together. Reduce until thickened into a syrupy consistency.  Remove from burner, let cool slightly (enough to make sure the petals don’t COOK when you add them) then add 2 cups of rose petals to syrup. Let cool completely, then strain the liquid from the petals. Now you’ve got rose syrup.

Directions for Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 375 and line cupcake tins with papers. Should be mini-cupcake size.
  • Finely mince1/4 cup of rose petals & lemon balm
  • Cream 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  • Add flour, baking powder and salt. Then slowly add 1 cup of the rose syrup (reserving the remaining for the frosting)  beat well; stir in vanilla. Lastly, stir in the finely minced rose petals and lemon balm until well blended.

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  • Divide batter evenly among pans and bake for 18 minutes. Let cool in pans.
  • Frost with Buttercream Icing and then roll each cupcake in Rose Sugar Sprinkle.  (recipes below.)

Voila. Cakes fit for the Queen of Heaven. P.S.  They won’t last long!

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Buttercream Frosting and Wild Rose Sugar Sprinkle

Wild Rose Sugar Sprinkle:

  • Take the remaining 3/4 cup or so of rose petals and place in food processor with 1/2 cup of remaining sugar.
  • Grind until petals are dissolved in a moist crumbly pink sugar.

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Butter Cream Frosting

  • Beat remaining 1/2 cup of butter until creamy.
  • Slowly add icing sugar, little at a time, continuing to beat.
  • Slowly add remaining 1/3 cup rose syrup, and keep beating until well mixed.