Love Potion No. 9

In the past couple of weeks, two different friends told me they are planning trips to Rome (lucky them!). Because I visited Rome two years ago, they had asked me to suggestion some interesting, non-touristy places to visit. One of my absolute favorites was an apothecary that carries only products made by monks. Many of the herbal products are made using centuries-old recipes.

Rather than try to describe this amazing store, I sent them links to the following post, which originally appeared in my old blog, Becoming Your StellarSelf

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things that has struck me about Rome is the interweaving of the sacred and the profane in every part of the city. An example of this was my discovery of an incredibly unique and wonderful store called Ai Monasteri, which features products made in the ancient monastic tradition. This beautiful store, set up like an old pharmacy, carries a variety of handcrafted essential oils, wines, liquors, preserves, honeys, beauty products, candies and teas produced by monks from 7 different monasteries throughout Rome. In addition to these more typical souvenir-type products, they also carry a variety of elixirs and remedies, made from ancient recipes. When the store was established in 1894, herbal remedies were their focus. And many of the products are made from recipes dating back to pre-Christian Rome, which were preserved through the writings of the monks during the Middle Ages.

There are remedies for all that ails you, including stress, joint pain, weight control, melancholy, sleep disorders, fatigue, eyesight, cholesterol, circulation, digestion, skin health, coughing, smoking cessation and much more.

photo copyright Ai Monestari

One of the elixirs that caught my eye was the Elixir Dell’ Amore, which is described as: “The formula and modus operandi used for this “Love Potion” dates back to the 16th century. It was rediscovered in the Ricettario Senese (Sienese Book of Prescriptions) by one of our ancestors at the end of the 19th century. Only ten bottles of this exclusive liqueur are made each year, as it requires an extremely careful, drawn-out process. People were told to drink this elixir when they were not in the mood for love to arouse desire and give them energy. It is made by carefully adding officinal plants during the long distillation process, making this drink extremely tasty and effective.” I have to say, that while in Rome, elixirs aren’t necessary – the city is a natural aphrodisiac 🙂

The other elixir that sparked my interest was the ‘Elixir Della Felicita’, described thusly: “Happiness is quite easy to find. Sometimes, often by chance, our thoughts return to the past and we remember and re-live happy moments. Sitting in a comfortable and quiet corner of your home in a peaceful moment with a glass of this herbal liqueur in your hand will almost certainly help you to dig up such lost moments.”

If you are interested in Ai Monestari’s products, they can be ordered through their website. Their PDF catalog contains detailed descriptions of their many wonderful products.

Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.

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The Benefits of Sea Salt Baths

SOSALT_CROPThe following post is by guest blogger, Kia Guarino.

Known as Thalassotherapy, the practice of bathing in salt water is not only relaxing, but it also increases blood circulation, and helps the body eliminate toxins. It also activates the body’s own healing mechanisms, strengthening the immune system. Salt water has desirable beauty benefits as well since sea salt granules can act as an exfoliant scrub, removing dulling skin cells. Bathing with bath salts improves skin’s look and feel, resulting in a radiant, healthy glow.

As an added benefit, Herban LifestyleTM bath salts are made with essential oils that enhance salt’s natural healing powers. Lavender, for example, offers amazing natural benefits. Beyond its enchanting scent, lavender helps rejuvenate skin while clearing up problem areas. It also encourages balance for the nervous system and has been used as a powerful antiseptic and pain reliever. Most notably, however, lavender’s natural soothing properties help reduce stress, especially when added to a hot bath.

Tangerine is another of nature’s miracles. With a delicious and invigorating scent, tangerine helps to prevent heart disease and to reduce the risk of cancer through its abundance of antioxidants. Although these benefits can be received through consumption, the rind is where most healing powers are stored.

Finally, vanilla is another ingredient that does more than please the nose. As one of the most powerful natural healing plants, vanilla has been shown to provide antioxidants and anti-depressant properties. It also acts as a tranquilizer and fever reducer. When in a bath, vanilla can increase muscle energy and lower blood pressure, while relieving emotional stresses such as anxiety and anger.

With all of this amazing healing power found in nature, it is time that people got back into baths! For relaxation in mind, body, and soul, all natural scented salt baths are an inexpensive, convenient, healthy and easy solution.

Handmade Bath Products Workshop 11/1 in Bethesda

handmade bath and body products

On Saturday, November 1st, from 11:00 – 1:00, I’ll be holding a workshop at Be You Wellness Center and Spa in Bethesda, MD. In this 2-hour hands-on workshop you will learn the basics of making natural bath and body products. We will talk about how to use various ingredients, including essential oils, and how they benefit your body. We will get our hands dirty (or clean, as it were), by making a selection of guest soaps, a jar of bath scrub and a jar of facial masque for you to take home. We will also work on packaging, making these items great gifts for friends, family or yourself!

For more info, or to register, call (301) 493-4911, email info [at] beyouspa.com or visit http://www.beyouspa.com/events.html.

The cost is $40 including materials.

Love That Lavender

Image from Taste of Home

Image copyright Taste of Home

In a previous post, I sang the praises of lavender. It is my favorite herb because of its wonderful scent and versatility. Here are some enjoyable uses for lavender flowers:

  • Wrap a handful of the dried lavender flowers in a square of light cloth, such as cheese cloth. This versatile sachet can be tucked into your pillowcase for a soothing night’s sleep, or tossed in your dryer to scent your clothing!
  • For a fun treat, add 1 tablespoon of dried culinary-grade lavender flowers to sugar cookie dough, then bake as usual.
  • For a delicious, soothing tea, place one heaping tablespoon of lavender flowers in a tea pot, then fill with boiling water. Let steep for about ten minutes.
  • Make lavender sugar by blending 1 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of culinary-grade lavender in a food processor 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers. Store in an airtight container and enjoy in baking or beverages.
  • You can make lavender lemonade by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers, then steeping it for 10 minutes. Strain the flowers, and stir in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves. Let the lavender/sugar mixture cool, then add the juice of 6 lemons (about 1 cup), and 4 cups of cold water. Serve over ice with a sprig of lavender!

If you want to make them from scratch, Taste of Home has a wonderful lavender cookie recipe, and Purple Haze Lavender Farm has some other great lavender recipes.

I Love Lavender

photo from Purple Haze Lavender Farm blog

photo from Purple Haze Lavender Farm blog

The first time I visited a farmers market was when a friend took me to a huge one in San Francisco several years ago. I was in awe of the variety of products being offered. My favorite was a lavender stand featuring dried culinary-grade lavender, along with a variety of other lavender products. I was mesmerized by the deep, clean, delicious scent of the dark purple buds.

Lavender is an incredibly versatile flower with many health, cosmetic and culinary uses. In aromatherapy, lavender is a popular remedy for stress, as it has wonderful calming properties. It also has antiseptic and insect-repelling properties — try it instead of moth balls (does anyone use those anymore?)! Lavender is a wonderful addition to salads, soups and sweets. A couple of days ago, when the heat index hit 109 degrees farenheit, I headed over to my local chocolatier for their lavender-infused lemonade (see my easy recipe below), an incredibly refreshing drink.

Two years ago today, I had the opportunity to visit Sequim, Washington, the Lavender Capital of North America. It was just past season, so the pick-your-own farms were not open, but you could still drive around and see the many lavender-devoted farms. One farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, had a store in downtown Sequim that featured a variety of lavender products, including culinary-grade lavender. They have an excellent website with lots of lavender information, and a store featuring their many dried lavender products. I recommend their cookbook, a sampling of which is available on their website.