Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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Massage, It Isn’t Just Some Fluff ‘n Buff Thing

The simple act of human touch is far more important than most realize, and proving to be a larger part of the healing process than thought of in modern medicine. Humans are extremely social animals, and while we are much more domesticated primates now, we still have that primal need for touch. With touch being so healing, it is no surprise massage is so healing as well. The current term massage, comes from French and translates to “friction of kneading,” in Arabic massa means “to touch, feel or handle” and the ancient Latin term for massage was frictio which is obviously close to friction. No matter what the term used for it though, it is a natural reaction to pain. When you injure something, or something just hurts, the natural human reaction is to rub the area. And it is this that has developed through human history into present day massage therapy and medical massage.

Massage is non-invasive as a treatment, and helps to heal damaged muscles, stimulate circulation, stimulate the immune/lymphatic system, reduce pain, relieve spasms & tension, and alleviate stress. Since massage generally puts one into an extremely relaxed state, the body will naturally release more endorphins, which we already know are the body’s natural pain medication. Massage will also reduce levels of hormones that rise during stress, which can be damaging to the body over extended periods of time. I am a firm believer in massage as a large part in chronic pain management, and starting a regular massage routine caused a huge change in my quality of life. My pain was reduced, and range of motion not only increased, but was able to be maintained. I was not always a believer though, after my accident, and even after my surgeries, many of my friends and family told me I should get a massage.

“You should get one, it would really help,” they would say.

I would say “No, that is some silly luxury for Spas, and Cruise ship denizens, I don’t need that.”

But 1,000’s of years of human history can’t be wrong…can it?

Definitely not. In fact they, my family, and friends, were all so very, very right.

Depiction of massage in the “Physician’s Tomb” dated to around 2330 BCE, further proof that everyone enjoys a foot rub.

Massage is a fantastic way to help relieve stress, pain, and generally maintain the health of mind, body, and spirit. Almost every known historical, and modern, cultures have some type of massage for medical or therapeutic use. Most generally use massage to relieve stress, prevent or heal injuries, and assist with pain. Massage is included in the most ancient medical texts and presently has tons of different styles and methods. But even with this variety, almost all of them have the same goal, overall body and mind wellness, and massage has long been considered an integral part of the healing arts. So much so that Hippocrates said –

“The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing; for things that have the same name have not always the same effects. For rubbing can bind a joint that is too loose and loosen a joint that is too rigid… Hard rubbing binds; soft rubbing loosens; much rubbing causes parts to [loosen]; moderate rubbing makes them grow.'”

And he should know, considering he was the student of Herodicus, who could be considered one of the historical founders of modern sport medicine (though that title has many claimants, and all are highly debatable). Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine have some of the oldest documented writings on massage, and is widely used in their treatments past, and present. The infamous Avicenna of Persia, spoke of analgesics used with massage, and massage’s pain relieving effects when used just on its own. He also mentions that massage should be performed prior to exercise, which only became well known in recent years due to televising during the ’84 Olympic games.

Massage use was well documented in Ancient Greece, athletes were often given massages. Since Rome loves to copy Greece, Roman athletes and Gladiators were treated with massage as well. Julius Caesar was known to regularly receive massage to assist with neuralgia and possibly treat his epileptic seizures. Galen, well known for his own work with Gladiators, and as a Physician, was a supporter of massage, and its ability to treat many ailments. He believed, a good diet, exercise, rest and massage were key to a healthy body. He was also a very strong spokesman against people who would lower the opinion of massage.

No wonder he looks so grumpy!

You heard me, no happy endings!

Which is a frequent problem even now, most of the time when massage is mentioned you inevitably get the “happy ending” jokes. Not all massage is of a sexual nature, though there were some blurring of lines during the 19th century. Where massage was used to treat hysteria, and while it was considered medical, its definitely crossing some lines. This early association in America could be a reason for most modern association of massage with sexual acts. Probably not helped by advertisements…

“I promise it won’t get weird”

And hilarious machines…

Your 19th century lady’s secret in the bottom drawer. So discreet!

Just as Galen was frustrated with these associations in his time, we fair no better in our modern times. Massage is inevitably linked with seedy parlors that offer the infamous “happy ending,” more than a valid medical treatment. Despite all of this though, massage is highly esteemed in some medical circles and is rapidly gaining supporters in the medical community. So hopefully in the future the more healing features of massage will be lauded, rather than the carnal.

It is that effectiveness in treating people that has kept massage alive for centuries, and now modern science is starting to revive the medical community’s interest in it. Some clinical studies have been done, but not enough for modern science to state that yes, it is 100% effective, and they fully understanding of how it all works. Luckily it is a field that is rapidly gaining attention, and research is speeding up on it, so we may be hearing changes of opinion in the medical community in the next decade. In the clinical studies that have been done so far, some as recently as 2008, it has been shown that massage is the best relief for chronic back pain. Much more so than other treatments including acupuncture, medications, and other conventional medical treatments. Some studies have found that anxiety, pain, depression, and stress can all be reduced through massage therapy. Its also been found to help with neck pain, which I can personally vouch for, and thought to alleviate some pain for cancer patients. The American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians recommend that patients with chronic pain should include massage in their pain management regimen. So while modern science is not fully sure why massage works, the evidence is starting pile up, and clearly point to it working. It is just the “whys and the hows” that aren’t completely understood, current theories are that it helps to either block pain signals sent to the brain, or it could be that it causes the release of serotonin, endorphins, or other chemicals the body produces that help deal with pain. It could even be it triggers some other beneficial change in the body that we aren’t even familiar with yet, there is still so much about the body we do not know.

What I can say is from personal experience is that massage can do wonders for neurological pain, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, tension headaches, muscle pain and spasms. So many times the expert hands of my masseuse have found an area that needed work, that I was in too much pain to pin point, and alleviated more pain than I thought possible. Seeing my masseuse can turn some level 10 pain days right around, changing a horrible day to a great one. Even migraines from spasms can be relieved with massage, and a good neck and shoulder massage has been the reason I have gotten through some horrible migraines. Times when injections or other medications are not option. Massage is, unlike lots of treatments, something you can add to your regimen that is considered mostly safe with little danger in using it frequently. Of course you do want to consult with your doctor if you have special needs, or conditions, but most ailments can benefit from massage.

A massage will generally consist of the manipulation of the skin, muscles and other tissues, done with a body part (hand, feet, elbow, etc) or with tools. Some stretching may be involved, as well as the application of heat, vibration, or other methods. Some massage, like deep tissue, can be mildly painful, but you should never feel you can’t stand the pain. It is important to give feedback to the masseuse, to make sure they are using the right level of pressure for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for more pressure if you need it, or ask them to back off a bit if it hurts too much. It is important you work together, so your body doesn’t take more than it is able to handle. Remember it should “hurt so good,” but never just hurt. As you build your relationship with your masseuse, you will find they know the amount of pressure you like and can take, and they will eventually get to know your body’s needs almost as well as you do.

There is a bit of a lingo that comes with massage, so below are a few basic movements you will hear mentioned. They are:

  • Effleurage – gliding or stroking
  • Friction – rubbing or pressing
  • Petrissage – squeezing or kneading
  • Tapotement – striking, beating or percussion
  • Vibration – oscillations on the skin

These can again be done with a part of the body, or with a tool as said earlier. Sometimes besides heat and vibration, essential oils can be used in combination with massage to assist with pain reduction, ease stress, or aide the release of muscles. I highly recommend locating a masseuse who uses therapeutic grade oils in their massage, as they add a whole new treatment dimension to the massage process. The style of massage practiced doesn’t really matter in general, as long as they are certified in some sort of therapeutic massage techniques. The masseuse you choose should sit and talk with you prior to each session to find out what areas will need focus, if any, and a general idea of your existing issues. This is important as it help’s them, and you, to create a sort of “game plan” for that treatment session.

Aromatherapy, while it still mostly falls into the realms of what most people consider too “out there,” or too “woo woo” as I call it, but there has been studies in smell and the body’s reaction to it. And there is enough evidence for me to consider that they just might be on to something. Certain smells diffused in the air during a massage session can assist with the body and mind’s relaxation, and can even assist with pain relief, since relaxation will make those endorphins release. So aromatherapy, combined with massage and oils, is the best, and possibly most effective way, to treat pain and stress in my humble, non-medical, opinion.

Again, you should do your own research, look into a few styles and find out what will work best for you. Interview a masseuse before going, and make sure you read up on the style they use for treatment to make sure it is right for you. It is always a good idea to talk it over with your doctor before embarking on any new pain treatments, and this way they can inform you of any issues you would need to be mindful about – such as with cancer patients, or pregnant women. Make sure the masseuse is certified, and if their certifications aren’t displayed, make sure you ask to see them. And if you are ever in doubt about anything, always ask a professional.

If you are in the Austin area, I highly recommend AZ Massage.

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Rosemary, the Dew of the Sea

Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, the common name we know it by comes from the original Latin name ros for dew and marinus for sea. This is definitely a herb you should know, or at least heard of before. It is so common in food (Italian and otherwise) that you will most definitely know it from it’s smell even if you have never seen it. It is a common herb used in home made and store bought sausages, and frequently is found in pizzas and tomato based pasta sauces. It is also great in breads, most meats and surprisingly very good with sweets. Rosemary is one of those super herbs that, along with lavenderginger and peppermint, you should have around all the time if possible.

photo courtesy The Gay Gardener

Simply Irresistible!

Rosemary has a long history with humanity, it was found referenced in cuneiform tablets which means it has been with humanity since the cradle of civilization. This plant is native to the Mediterranean, and its allure even grabs us now, I am sure if you have ever found a rosemary bush you are almost compelled to pause and enjoy it, take a sprig, or just rub your hand along it to get that lovely, almost pine like, smell.

Greeks and Romans associated rosemary to memory, and recall of facts, and it was frequently used to symbolize the remembrance of people who have passed. It was woven into hair of students to help with exams, since they believed it would help them recall the answers better. Sprigs were used in funeral ceremonies to indicate the deceased would not be forgotten, often a sprig was even thrown in with the body during burial. In Australia and New Zealand ANZAC forces are honored by people wearing a sprig of rosemary. Even Shakespeare has the tragic Ophelia mention its association with remembering. This association with memory is so strong that some studies have been done, but as of yet there is only some evidence that it could help improve memory, there are not enough definitive studies for this to be a concrete fact.

The ballad Scarborough Fair mentions rosemary, and is thought to have been a song relating to the black plague, due to the listing of herbs, or it could be a changed version of an earlier ballad the Elfin Knight. The song generally follows the pattern of a male requesting impossible tasks of his lady love, who then requests impossible tasks in return promising to do his once he has done her tasks. All of this tied in with the repeating, and almost definitely familiar thanks to Simon & Garfunkel, “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.”

On a happier note, rosemary was also used in marriage and other ceremonies where it took on many folk meanings, such as you would dream of your future husband if you placed a sprig in your pillow, or it would ward off demons or nightmares. Another is if you smelled rosemary on Christmas Eve, you would have a year of health and happiness ahead of you. There is an association with the Holy Family. In some christian traditions, it is believed to be  plant that Mary used to shelter the baby Jesus on their flight to Egypt. The pale blue of the flowers of rosemary is thought to be the same color of Mary’s cloak, that she placed over the bush to help hide him. An amusing one, was that where rosemary flourished there the wife ruled, which may have prompted some husbands to pull up rosemary so no one would think they weren’t the one in charge.

Napoleon was apparently very fond of it, because Josephine requested he bathed in it before entering her bedchamber. He even had it burning as incense on his deathbed. In Roman times it was burned near sickbeds to cleanse the air, and it was frequently used in the past as incense for both ritual and medicinal purposes. Even the people in the past knew it had a good antiseptic properties, and it was one of the many herbs that would have been effective in their use during the outbreaks of Bubonic plague, like others we have discussed before. The usual suspects mention rosemary’s medicinal qualities, like Dioscorides, and Culpepper. Even Thomas More (or Saint Thomas More) mentions that he lets it grow rampant in his garden not only because the bees liked it but it was for remembrance, and therefore friendship. Rosemary is a great addition to skin creams and the like it, it does have antioxidant properties, and it was said in the more ancient herbals that rosemary had wonderful skin restoring properties and if  you –

“washe thy face therwith . . . thou shalt have a fayre face.”

There is legend that Elizabeth of Poland, Queen of Hungary used a form of rosemary water, called Hungary Water. She is credited with the bringing of the first perfume to the Western world, and was a frequent user of this simple scent. According to legend her frequent use apparently made her so foxy that at about 72 she had such youthful beauty that the King of Poland, who was 26, asked for her hand in marriage.

Elizabeth, with her “sons.” Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

While that sounds a little too much like an infomercial for a cream made of rare ingredients that promises to bring you youth and beauty for ever, there may be a grain of truth to this. Rosemary will help with acne, and help in general with complexion as it is an antiseptic and is, again, high in antioxidants and even vitamin E. Rosemary oil is also great for treating dandruff, and a good addition to any shampoo just because it smells so lovely! Try using the recipe for the best shampoo ever, and add 6-10 drops of rosemary and 10 drops of sweet orange oil instead of additional lavender oil, this is a good shampoo if you have mild dandruff. Another dandruff solution, or to improve your scalp and encourage hair growth, you can put a few drops of rosemary oil on your hairbrush and brush it through your hair.

It also has the fantastic property of helping with digestion, and is a welcome tea to ease nausea from my medications or from pain. Personally though, my favorite uses for rosemary are not only its antiseptic/antibacterial uses but for stress reduction, treating inflammation and as an analgesic. It seems I never grow tired of this and it is so easy to add into meals and your routine since it is so versatile. Plus it is a good change up if peppermint or ginger isn’t working for you to settle your stomach.

Its antibacterial properties are well known, and it is why rosemary was often used in food preservation. Several medical studies have shown it is effective in inhibiting growth of Listeria monocytogenesBacillus cerus, and Staphlococcus aureus. It is great for a tea when you are feeling sick, or as an after dinner tea to aid in digestion, or just prevent any stomach issues as it helps to ease spasms and can reduce inflammation of the digestive tract.

Rosemary Tea

  • 8 oz Hot water, not boiling
  • 1 teaspoon of Rosemary, you can use finely chopped fresh, or you can leave it mostly whole and strain
  • Optional additions: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried or fresh rosemary flowers, a bag of green tea, a few medallions of ginger, a teaspoon of hibiscus flowers, even a dash of parsley (fresh or dried) is very nice in this.

You can also use a half tablespoon of dried herbs if you do not have fresh, or you can grind the dried in your mortar, or spice grinder of choice, to create a matcha like powder you can use for tea as well. You may want to use a tea infuser if you do not want to filter the tea with cheese cloth (or your teeth if you are lazy), remember this needs to be steeped in a covered teacup, or teapot, for about 5-10 minutes. Add honey or your sweetener of choice if you need it sweeter, and do not use continuously for more than a few days at a time.

Rosemary tea like this can also be a great way to start your day on a cold morning, and it is a great wake up call to the brain on one of those foggy minded mornings. This is also a good way to get all the vitamins and minerals from rosemary (such as A, B, C and E, iron, calcium and magnesium) without the destructive heat of cooking that can break things down too far.

You can also brew this tea stronger for a bath as well

Rosemary Pain and Stress Tea Bath

  • 16 oz of water
  • 2-3 tablespoons of the rosemary fresh or dried

Add it to a hot bath for a muscle relaxing, stress relieving, soak. Rosemary has some great antispasmodic properties and can bring relief for muscle pains when used as a hot soak. Or you can use this strong tea as a wound wash, or compress for painful muscles, or across the forehead for a headache. You can always use 3-10 drops of rosemary essential oils instead of a tea in your bath, and you can add in lavender for a relaxing sleepy bath. But you would want to avoid using the rosemary oil for teas you drink as it can quickly become too much for the body and start to upset the stomach, or cause other issues.

Rosemary oil is also great as a massage oil to help with pain and muscle spasms topically, and decrease inflammation. When used in concert with turmeric pills, or Tulsi in a tea, it can go a long way to relieving back pain and even sciatic pain. When mixed with lavender oil or ginger oils it helps to relieve the pain of muscle spasms and will help decrease inflammation.

Rosemary Massage Oil for Muscle Pain and Spasms

Mix well and store in dark container, and massage directly into a painful area. This is a warming oil so as always with these make sure you avoid applying it to any sensitive skin areas. This is also great massaged into the temples or neck if you have a tension headache or migraine.

As I am generally a sucker for sweet stuff, nothing in the world is better than shortbread, unless that is shortbread with rosemary in it. Rosemary lends itself well to sweet surpsingly well, and not just savory dishes like meats and potatoes. These paired with Lavender Shortbread cookies are a fantastic gift for the holidays for those unexpected gifts or people who are hard to shop for.

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

  • 8 oz Unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Sugar (granulated white sugar)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (this is not in the Lavender Shortbread recipe but I add it to that one too)

In a bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together, sift in flour and add rosemary at the end. Dough should come together easily in your hand but not be a tight ball. Turn out onto floured surface and roll to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out rounds or triangles, or whatever shapes you fancy, and chill for at least 2 hours. You can sprinkle with additional sugar before baking, or some fresh rosemary flowers, for a nice presentation. Bake in a 300 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, you do not want to see any browning, they will almost look under cooked when you remove them. This is a key step, do not let it bake to browning stages!

Now, you can not mention rosemary and not bring up Four Thieves Vinegar. This is an old and long used recipe, and still exists in many modern formats. The original recipe seems to be long lost in the pages of time, but the legend of it goes like this…

During the Black Plague thieves (possibly from Marseilles, France) were able to rob houses and graves with impunity, and this was quickly noticed by the other villagers. Once the thieves were caught, the secret of their health was squeezed out of them. Some say by the promise of a hanging instead of burning, hanging preferable to the painful end that burning alive was. They said they used this vinegar recipe on their hands, feet, temples, and face masks that were worn while robbing plague houses and bodies.

Luckily in modern times you can purchase Thieves oil in a ready made form, and this is great for colds, or to add to hand sanitizing solutions and the like. Which you again can buy pre-made or you can make yourself. I prefer the DIY method as usual, and I highly suggest making this vinegar since it is great to use for cleaning most surfaces and is a great addition to the hand-sanitizer recipe listed after the vinegar. For accuracy’s sake I am going to list the oldest listed recipe I can find, and then my own variation of the vinegar.

Four Thieves Vinegar “Original”

  • 3 pints White wine vinegar
  • a handful (about a cup) of the following herbs: wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram & sage
  • 50 cloves
  • 2 oz Angelic
  • 2 oz Rosemary
  • 2 oz Campanula roots
  • 2 oz Horehound
  • 3 cups of Camphor

Place in a container and seal for 15 days, shaking every day. Filter and use for cleaning, and topically on the body for antiseptic purposes. I don’t suggest ingesting this one at all, and should only be used for topical applications.

Four Thieves Vinegar “Modern”

  • 2 pint bottle with a top you can seal (you can use a 2 pint mason jar, but I prefer the bottle for this one)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pints good white vinegar (you can use apple cider, I just like white for this)
  • 2 tablespoons Rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Sage
  • 2 tablespoons Lavender flowers
  • 50 cloves
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and diced or crushed
  • Optional additions: You can include one or more of these in the amount of 2 tablespoons – fresh rue, peppermint, marjoram, or camphor dissolved in a strong spirit.

Finely chop the herbs and add to a bottle and cover with vinegar, do not fill all the way to the top leave some room, about 2 inches. If you add camphor do not ingest this internally, only use topically. Rue as well, if you include it do so sparingly if you want to ingest it. You can use this for cleaning, and for topical sanitizing. This is also surprisingly good in a vinaigrette and can be used for cooking if you like.

Cold and flu season is in full swing, and Four Thieves Vinegar is fantastic to use as a spray for disinfecting areas where sick people have been, or just for a general antibacterial surface cleaner.

Four Thieves Sanitizing Spray

  • A spray bottle
  • 1 part Four Thieves Vinegar
  • 1 part Witch Hazel

Combine liquids in spray bottle, and use the mist and wipe down method to clean and disinfect surfaces.

You can also make a hand sanitizing gel just by adding some additional ingredients.

Four Thieves Sanitizing Hand Gel

  • Pump container
  • 1 part aloe gel
  • 1 part Four Thieves Vinegar
  • 1 part Witch hazel (you can substitute rubbing alcohol, or grain alcohol as well)

Mix liquids well, you can mix this with a spoon but I prefer a hand mixer or with a blender. Store in pump container, you can reuse an old alcohol sanitizer pump bottle, or you can check out your local stores selection of bottles for air travel and they tend to have great bottles for purse or travel use.

Remember these are only a few of the many uses for this very versatile herb, I am sure if you start using it you will come up with a few more ways. Remember before using any herbal or other medicine, do your own research and educate yourself. Everyone is different so do your own trails and see what works best for you, and always check WebMD for interactions. If you are ever in doubt about this in any way, always, always ask a professional!


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Cinnamon, There’s Nothing Like the Real Thing

Did you know you probably have never actually seen or tasted real cinnamon? If you have ground cinnamon in your pantry or spice rack, chances are its not real cinnamon.

Inconceivable! It says cinnamon on the label! You say.

Yes, it says Cinnamon, but that isn’t what is in there!

The cinnamon you buy pre-ground most likely not true (sometimes called Ceylon or Sri Lankan) cinnamon unless labeled as such, it is cassia or a cassia blend. That’s right you most likely have a cassia cuckoo in your pantry! Real Ceylon cinnamon is quite a bit more expensive than cassia, and is very rarely used in commercially produced ground cinnamon spice in the US and Europe. Other countries it varies so if you don’f fall into those categories you may actually have true Cinnamon.

But do not despair! Both have great uses, many overlapping uses, and are relatively easy to get a hold of these days. But first, a history of Cinnamon. Cinnamon is one of those old and long used spices like many others we have discussed, China, India, and the classical world all were familiar with it. Cinnamon was most frequently used in food through history, but it was also used in a few other unique ways. Egyptians used it in their embalming process, continental Europe used it in religious ceremonies. Nero, otherwise known as biggest dick of all the Roman Emperors, was known for his no expense spared funeral for Poppea, who while she was pregnant, Nero may, or may not have, kicked to death. He had massive amounts burned with her funeral pyre. It was about the equivalent of a year’s supply of cinnamon for all of Rome. Cinnamon was well known before in Rome for burning on funeral pyres but, until Nero, never in such a lavish amount. Fun side note, after her death he had a boy that looked like her castrated, dressed him to look more like Poppea and he married him. Called him by her name to boot. Yup. That happened.

I told you history is pretty much like watching Jerry Springer.

I told you history is pretty much like watching Jerry Springer.

Like with other spices we mentioned, people also wanted to keep the location secret to keep prices high, cinnamon is another spice that has some early myths surrounding it that really tickle my fancy. It seems the taller the tale, the taller the price for the spice, and this is a tall one. Herodotus, and some others, wrote about the cinnamon bird who it was told lived in Arabia. This bird was apparently carnivorous and liked to build its nest on the side of cliffs, and those nests were said to be made of sticks of cinnamon. So the brave collectors of cinnamon would leave large pieces of raw oxen in a tempting location, and the unsuspecting cinnamon bird would schlep the giant pieces to their nests. Which would turn all their nests into some sort of meat and cinnamon delicate jinga scenario, that immediately collapses under the weight of all that delicious oxen meat. Thus, allowing them to collect the cinnamon, and the “danger” allowed them to command a high price.

You have to wonder if the merchants telling this did so elbowing each other in the ribs and snickering behind their hands. Not all were fooled though, Pliny called shenanigans on them but this myth still persisted for quite some time. Cassia was also mentioned by Herodotus, but was much easier to obtain since you only had to make leather hazmat suits and fight off screaming bats, so therefore it cost less. Cause, you know, bats are much less scary than oxen eating birds. Obviously. (If you want to see the original text, go here)

Next, stop buying pre-ground spices!

That’s right don’t do it! Pre-ground spices quickly lose their flavor, as you have breached the plants natural way of retaining the all important oils, and that means taste and benefit are drifting away as soon as you open the container. Personally, pre-ground are a waste of money since they go bad after such a short amount of time, and it is easy to hide things in them so you don’t really know how much of the real spice you are getting. Invest in a cheap coffee grinder (you want to keep this separate from your normal coffee grinder unless you want interestingly spiced coffee 🙂 ), a good heavy mortar and pestle, or even a dedicated 1 cup food processor is great for spice grinding. You will notice the difference in taste and smell immediately. And you can store whole spices longer since the oils are contained with in their natural casings. If you must buy pre-ground spices of any sort, do it in small amounts that you will use up within a few days.

So how do you tell the difference between the different types of cinnamon apart?

Great question!

Visually there are a lot of clues to tell these apart when they are whole, much more difficult to distinguish after being ground.

picture by colonyofcommodus

True  (Celyon) Cinnamon (left) and Cassia (right), you will notice that the true cinnamon is lighter and more densely layered and thinner than the cassia. Also cinnamon will only curl one way, and cassia has the “double” roll since it curls towards its center.

Cassia – Latin name: Cinnamomum cassia

This china native has now moved to be cultivated over most of southern and eastern Asia now, and is sometimes called Chinese cinnamon due to its country of origin. Between cassia and true cinnamon, cassia is the stronger flavored of the two, it is peppery, fiery cinnamon taste you think of when you think of spicy cinnamon candies or beverages. It is that strong flavor that makes it so preferred in US markets since that is used mostly for breakfast, alcoholic, or dessert items. Globally both true cinnamon and cassia are used in all sorts of medical uses and dishes and drinks, savory and sweet.

You will notice its darker color, reddish brown bark. It sometimes will come with a second inner bark, or very curled but you will know it by how thick the bark is. It also does the double roll so it looks almost like a B. This would destroy your coffee grinder if you tried to put it in there too, cassia is extremely hard compared to true cinnamon. The bark texture will also be rougher, more bumpy.

Historically cassia has been used for joint pain swelling and stiffness, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Many cultures used it as a mouth rinse for painful, swollen gums, or to treat infections since it is a great anti-bacterial properties. It is occasionally used to treat respiratory issues, the common cold, as well as menstrual issues. All of these are properties it shares with true cinnamon.

Cassia cinnamon is good to use in cooking sweet or savory in whole stick form like in mulled wines, or in stew or soup-like dishes. You can use a micro-planer to shave it which is great in cinnamon rolls or other pastries/desserts. Use this in dishes where you want a strong flavor that packs a big, palate dominating punch.

Cassia cinnamon is also significantly more toxic than true cinnamon, the compound in it that makes it so useful is coumarin. Coumarin has all sorts of claims made about it, most recently its been touted as a diabetes medicine since it helps to regulate blood sugars. But large amounts are toxic, its actually one of the dangers of the cinnamon challenge, don’t try it at home folks! With cassia containing so much more than true cinnamon it is easier to move into the toxic range with smaller amounts. Regular consumption of cassia has the potential (not 100% proven but why chance it?) to cause liver damage, small amounts of it are OK, but it should never be taken regularly over a long period of time.

Even with coumarin there are other benefits to consuming small amounts of cassia occasionally. Cassia is a good addition to foods to help with fighting indigestion, stomach upset, or preventing “wind.” It has also been used in the past for its antibacterial properties, and like we discussed with ginger, sometimes your immune system needs a helping hand. This time of year is usually that time for illness, and that can be compounded by pain treatments with corticosteroids since they wreck your immune system. Adding a big of cassia to your tea or food can give you that extra edge in helping fight off illnesses and the common cold, like in the Ounce of Prevention Tea you can throw a stick of cassia in occasionally with your true cinnamon quills. Just don’t do it every day.

There are also recent studies into its effectiveness on helping keep blood sugar levels more stable, and could help stimulate insulin production, but there are not enough studies done for it to be deemed a sure fire thing. But even so, a little couldn’t hurt. Topically it works great for muscle spasms, and helps act as an anti-inflammatory both of these are reasons that cassia cinnamon works so well with digestive and bowel issues. I would rate its effectiveness about the same as cloves for pain, it works well for minor muscle aches and pains and should probably be mixed with other oils to make a stronger concoction to treat severe pain. It is also a great topical anti-fungal remedy. All of these healing properties are shared with true cinnamon as well.

Cassia Massage Oil

  • 1 oz Carrier Oil
  • 20-30 drops Cassia Oil
  • optional – any additional oils to help I suggest Pine, Cloves, Nutmeg since they all blend well and are great for this time of year.

Mix well, store in a dark bottle, apply directly to affected areas and massage in. Use this topically to rub into sore, stiff, or inflamed muscles that could use some warming relaxation. Remember this is a warming oil, avoid sensitive skin areas!

Here are some good ways to add cassia cinnamon to your diet.

Cassia Zimtsterne (Cassia Cinnamon Cookies)- this is a traditional German or Swiss cookie recipe, you can find the original recipe here. These do take a lot of work but are well worth it.

  • 2 cups finely ground almonds not blanched, plus 1/2 cup more as needed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cassia cinnamon
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • granulated sugar (for rolling out)

Grease and flour several baking sheets and set aside. Combine the 2 cups of almonds with the cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy and slightly thickened. Beat the powdered sugar into egg whites, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well between each addition. When all the powdered sugar has been added, beat the mixture 5 more minutes. Remove approximately two thirds of the egg white mixture and blend it together with the almonds. Cover the remaining egg white mixture with a damp cloth. Add the lemon juice and zest to the almond mixture and use your hand to blend all the ingredients together to form a cohesive mass. Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.

To test the consistency, try rolling out a small piece on a board dusted with granulated sugar. If it is too sticky to handle, add more ground almonds, by the tablespoon, until it is manageable. If the dough crumbles or falls apart, add a few drops of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the reserved egg whites. When the dough has reached the proper consistency, dust a pastry board lightly with granulated sugar. Shape the dough into a flat round and dust the surface lightly with sugar. Pat the dough out into a rectangle 3/8 inch thick. Remove the cloth from the reserved egg whites. Use a metal spatula to smooth an even coating of the glaze over the entire surface of the rectangle, just enough to cover it completely with white. To smooth the surface further, dip the spatula in hot water and run it across the glaze. Make sure you have not used up all the egg whites, as you will need a small amount to glaze the scraps after they have been re-rolled after you make your first cuts. Cover the egg whites again with the damp towel to prevent them from drying out. Fill a cup with hot water. Cut using a star-shaped cookie cutter, if you want to be traditional, any cutter will do, dipped into the hot water each time you cut, leaving as little space between stars as possible. Place the stars on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 3/4 inch between each. Knead the scraps together; adding additional ground almonds so that the dough can be rolled out. Roll out, glaze, and cut as before. Allow to dry at room temperature, on the baking sheets, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 275F. Bake one sheet at a time in the middle of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the stars are firm and the glaze has dried. Do not allow them to color. If they are browning, prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Remove the stars to a wire rack to cool completely before storing, at least 1 month, in airtight tins.

I have heard it is generally traditional to make these after Thanksgiving and then hide them in a sack, or pillow case, to age until Christmas. You can also just roll them into balls the size of walnuts, and roll them in icing sugar instead of glazing them.

Another recipe which is great for this time of year is Mulled Wine, mulled wine is generally associated with the winter months and Christmas time since it is warmed spiced wine, and will be known by a different names and contain different things depending on the country of origin of the recipe. Since Texas has a large German population you sometimes even see this sold as a pre-spiced bottle of wine, but it is so much better when you make it yourself. Also, this wine is a great after dinner wine since it will help with digestion and help with any holiday over indulgence.

Glühwein (German Mulled Wine)

  • 1 Bottle Red Wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot all work any dry red wine will work really)
  • 1 Lemon sliced into medallions
  • 3 Oranges sliced into medallions
  • 6 sticks of Cassia cinnamon
  • 8-10 Whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Honey
  • 3-5 Whole Star anise
  • optional additions: 1 cup brandy (or rum), cardamom pods, fresh grated nutmeg (about a 1/4 tsp), 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger.

You want to put all of the ingredients, except the citrus and any items from the optional list. Heat on a low heat and do not boil, crock pots on low are great for this since the temperature will be consistent. Once the wine is heated through, add the oranges, lemons and anything from the optional list and heat for an additional 45 minutes. Again do not allow the wine to boil. You can add more or less honey (or sugar) depending on your tastes. You will want to strain the wine before serving into warmed glasses or mugs. You can garnish with a stick of cassia and orange slices. The additional options do make it less authentic, but don’t be afraid, be creative and create a recipe you like. You can use Ceylon in this as well since it goes wonderfully with citrus, if you go this route make sure to use a mellow wine like a Pinot Noir so you don’t overpower the true cinnamon.

A final bonus, during this time of year I fondly remember making cinnamon ornaments as a little girl. These are most definitely not edible, but they do last a very long time if you store them flat wrapped in tissue paper. My mom still has a few I made and they still smell of cinnamon all these years later.

Cinnamon Ornaments (not for eating!)

  • 1 cup Cassia cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup Apple sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Glue (most craft glues will do well here, you want something that dries hard)

Mix everything well in a bowl you want to make a pretty dense dough, if you need to add more moisture add more applesauce, if its too wet add more cassia cinnamon. Roll out dough on a work surface dusted with cinnamon to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters, and use  a straw to punch holes for ribbons for tying to presents or for hanging from a Christmas tree. Bake at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours or until dry, you can also leave these in a sunny spot for about a week. Thread onto ribbons and enjoy! You can also decorate them with glitter or other fun things to make them more personal.

Now on to true Cinnamon!

True (Ceylon) Cinnamon – Latin name: Cinnamomum verum previously known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum

True cinnamon is very easy to spot, it only curls one way and will have many tiny layers and be very, very brittle. They almost look like small scrolls of paper with the multi-layers and the single roll. It is a spice you can easily put in your spice grinder without fear of damage to the grinder like cassia. You will also notice if you compare them cassia is quite rough and true cinnamon is very smooth, almost silky, velvety to the touch. It will be more tan, or camel in color than the reddish brown of the cassia. The term for whole cinnamon “sticks” is quills, but you may see them referred to with either term in recipes. The taste of true cinnamon isn’t as strong as cassia, it is sweeter, more delicate. It is sometimes known as sweet cinnamon because of this. It works great in desserts and sweet things, but it is used in ones that are more subtle and require a delicate flavor. It almost has a vanilla smell, but more floral. I highly recommend trying cinnamon in with your red meat recipes like chili, or in a rub, you will be amazed at how well it pairs with savory dishes. When you purchase this remember to store it in a dry, air tight container and you can just crush it for use or use quills whole. This is best paired with oranges, unlike cassia which goes well with apples.

The big benefit of true cinnamon is it has significantly lower levels of coumarin, and can be consumed daily with no concern about liver issues. Surprisingly both cassia and true cinnamon contain manganese, iron and calcium which are all important for the body to function properly. True cinnamon you can take as capsules, and you can make those yourself like any other ground or powdered herb. True cinnamon has not been studied as much as cassia, but both species are believed to lower blood glucose. Possibly by allowing the stomach to retain food longer so the blood sugar spikes less after a meal. Again the studies for this are still lacking a volume to make a definitive call on if this is or is not the best thing for diabetes, but if you suffer from this it is a safe thing for you to try to see if it can help you. It seems a gram daily is the recommended dosage to help with blood sugar, and even possibly with cholesterol.

True cinnamon is, like cassia, great for the blood, and circulatory system. Rubbed on topically it is a warming oil and that helps draw blood to a location that needs some attention – like inflamed joints or muscles, and muscle spasms. True cinnamon is also a mild anti-coagulant and can help prevent clotting in platelets. Again like cassia, this is a great anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for this purpose and to fight flu and colds. This is also a reason it was also used in food preservation, not to mask the taste of rotting meat as you were probably told in school that most spices were used for in Europe. Which, frankly, is silly. You can still smell it is rotten, and it will still make you sick even if you coated it in spices. People in history were just in a different time they weren’t dumb! True cinnamon can also help stimulate the brain, and help wake you up. A sprinkle in your morning tea or coffee is a great way to get your whole body going in the morning. And like cassia again, true cinnamon is great for digestion and easing any distress from holiday over indulgence.

Being from Texas, and so close to Mexico, my favorite way to have true cinnamon, or in Spanish canela since it looked similar to their cannons, is in hot chocolate. If you have never treated yourself to some Champurrado on a cold morning, you haven’t lived.

The traditional method is best here, but if you can’t get all the ingredients you can substitute as best you can just make sure you do get Celyon cinnamon. This recipe is originally listed here, but I have made a few notes below to help with substitutions.

Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate)

  • 1/4 cup masa harina
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups whole milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1 round Mexican chocolate, coarsely chopped (Abuleita or Ibarra is great)
  • 2 cones (about 2 oz) piloncillo chopped or grated
  • 2 quills Ceylon cinnamon, whole or ground
  • 1 whole star anise, optional
  • a pinch of ground Ancho and Ceylon cinnamon quills for garnish

In a large pot, over medium high heat, mix the masa harina together with the water using a whisk, until it is thoroughly blended. If the water is already hot add a small amount of water to the masa harina before adding it to the hot liquid to avoid clumps. Add the rest of the ingredients, and whisk vigorously until chocolate and sugar are melted and blended and a froth forms. This is always served whipped and you can purchase a traditional whisk to do this, but you can also rotate the handle between your hands to get a good vigorous froth. Remove whole spices and ladle into mugs. Serve hot, with a pinch of Ancho and a cinnamon quill, and enjoy. This is always great with a Magdalenas for breakfast or for a snack.

Substitutions ProTip: For the masa harina, if you can’t find it you can grind corn meal in your food processor or blender until it is fine and mix with a small amount of water to form a paste when adding to hot liquid. You can also grind corn tortillas in a food processor adding a small amount of water to again make a paste in a pinch as well. For the milk you want to use “full fat” so coconut cream is better here than just regular milk substitutes. For the Mexican Hot Chocolate, if you don’t have a Hispanic section in your market 3 oz of semi-sweet chocolate will do but you need to add an additional quill of cinnamon or a teaspoon ground, and a half teaspoon of almond extract. Also if you don’t have that Hispanic section you won’t have the piloncillo, use 2 oz dark brown sugar. Lastly, if you can not find Ancho powder, or Anchos to grind into powder, Chipotle or any mild smoky dried, roasted pepper will do.

You can make a cinnamon tea, which is great after dinner, or just on a cold morning.

True (Ceylon) Cinnamon Tea

  • 2-3 quills of Ceylon cinnamon
  • 2-3 slices of Oranges
  • 8 oz Boiling water

Steep in a covered teacup for about 5-10 minutes and enjoy! Honey is a great addition to this, you can also grind the cinnamon quills and mix it with the honey to create a paste and then use about a teaspoon or two for your tea. For menstrual cramps and as an anti-inflammatory this tea is fantastic, and you can always add additional herbs to make it even stronger pain fighting tea (like ginger, or turmeric). It is also, a great morning wake up tea, and will help prevent distress or gas after over indulgence. It be teamed up with fennel, or peppermint to name a few, to help with any nausea from pain or medications. This recipe is also great for diabetics for a daily cinnamon dose.

True (Ceylon) Cinnamon Massage Oil

  • 1 oz Carrier oil
  • 20-30 drops of True cinnamon oil (make sure to get oil made from the bark, like here, not from other parts of the plant!)
  • Additional oils if needed, cloves, pine, orange, tangerine, and nutmeg oils all go well with this one

Mix well and store in a dark bottle, massage into stiff or painful areas for a warming anti-inflammatory effect. Again, warming oil, don’t put it on that sensitive skin!

Since we brought up spiced wine earlier as a way to take cassia, I would like share a recipe I got from a small Mexican restaurant near where I live. These guy’s are like sneaky crack dealers! The first fix of this tea is free, that is how they get you hooked! I had to get the recipe and they were nice enough to provide it 🙂 Tequila is optional here, but really why would you leave that out?

Polvo’s Cinnamon Tea

  • 5 cups Boiling water
  • 5 quills Ceylon cinnamon
  • 5 rings of Pineapple
  • a shot or two of tequila, maybe more depending on the evening!

Mix this in a teapot or punch bowl and serve warm, this is amazing after a big meal on a cold night, or whenever. This is for a teapot but if you want to make a large punch bowl estimate about 2-3 cups of water per person you would like to serve. You could also throw in some cloves as well.

One last item both true cinnamon and cassia have a mild laxative effect. If you are suffering from constipation from pain medications or otherwise this is a great tea to take on its own to get things moving, or with chemical laxatives to ease the cramping that those can cause.

There are tons of applications for cinnamon, and these are just a few for these two species. Do your own research and trials and see what works for you. Remember everyone is different, and you should always ask a doctor if you are taking anything that can affect your blood if you are going to be doing it long term, so make sure you discuss this with your medical professionals. Check WebMD for interactions, remember cassia cinnamon and true cinnamon are listed separately on there. And if you are in doubt in the slightest, ask a professional!


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Clarity on Clary Sage

Weather change in Texas is constant and we had some cold snaps, for me heralded by extreme migraines, and this is one of the oils that got me through it all. Its really a shame that such a great little plant gets so little lime light, especially when it has so many uses. Plants of the sage family were all highly prized for medicinal and culinary uses in ancient times, but just common sage in cooking is what most people are used to. Clary sage is different than common sage in smell and taste, and appearance not to mention uses.

by Hectonichus via wikimedia commons

Remember it looks nothing like common sage!

Known as Clear Eye, or Eye Bright, for its seeds which produce a mucelagenous goop that is good for removing debris from the eyes. It is from this that it gets its full Latin name Salvia sclarea which sclarea is derived from clarus which means clear.

Clary sage was a well known addition for some traditional ales, frequently added to make a brew more potent. Marsh rosemary and other herbs were used for the same reason, prior to many hopped beers. Large amounts of Clary sage (like Seer’s sage) added to alcohol can be hallucinogenic, and leave you with an equally potent headache in the morning. One writer wrote of clary sage –

“Some brewers of Ale and Beere doe put it into their drinke to make it more heady, fit to please drunkards, who thereby, according to their several dispositions, become either dead drunke, or foolish drunke, or madde drunke.”

In some Rhine wines in the early times were adulterated with elderflower and clary sage to make them imitate the taste of Muscatel wines, and the common German name still is Muscatel Sage. This would have also added to the wine’s intoxicating properties, and possibly added to the wine hangovers too.

Medieval drinking, pretty much like being at a frat party. Except everything was like the trash can punch.

Medieval drinking, pretty much like being at a frat party, where everything is trash can punch.

If you are a home-brewer, and I hope you are because its awesome, you can make your own  medicinal beer with clary sage. Just use a cheesecloth or a muslin bag to hold about 2 ounces of the herb and suspend this in your first fermentation but remove it for the second, or only leave it for about 6-7 days if you are a one stage fermenter. Clary sage was used in brewing for bitters, so a little goes a long way here, and in food recipes since it can quickly get too bitter to consume. If you aren’t a home brewer here is a fairly easy recipe, pretty much foolproof, to follow for an Ale.

Clary Ale

  • 4 pounds malt extract
  • 2 pounds brown sugar
  • 4 ounces fresh clary sage
  • 4 gallons water
  • Yeast

Bring the water to a boil, add 2 ounces sage, simmer one hour. When cooled to 160F, strain over malt extract and sugar in fermenting vessel. Stir until sugar and extract are well dissolved. Cool to 80 F. Add yeast, you can purchase brewers yeast from most home brew supply stores, regular bread yeast will do but you may have a different taste than you are used to in beers. Add final 2 ounces of sage to fermenter in cheese cloth or muslin bag. Ferment for 6-7 days, and remove. Transfer beer to a new container (carboy or bucket). Ferment in second stage for a week. Prime (if you don’t know what that is go here), bottle, & cap. Ready to drink in 2 weeks, but I suggest letting it sit for a month before drinking to let all the flavors fully meld.

I have not attempted to mull wine with this herb but I have found a recipe for Clary Wine that intrigues me and will attempt to make sometime soon. If you are interested here is the recipe, let me know how it turns out!

Clary Wine

  • 10 gallons water
  • 35 lb loaf sugar
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 pecks of clary blossoms
  • 1 pint good new yeast

Mix sugar, water and well-beaten egg whites. Let boil gently for ½ hour, skimming until the mixture is quite clear. Let stand until cold. Pour into a cask, add 2 pecks of clary blossoms stripped from the stalk and 1 pint of yeast. Stir the wine three times a day for five days. Stop it up, and let stand for twelve months. It may be bottled at the end of six months if perfectly clear.

Besides its ability to intoxicate, beers and wine with clary sage can be useful for painful or infrequent menstruation since it imitates female hormones, and works on muscles to ease spasms. The amounts listed in these recipes are not enough to cause hallucinations and should not cause a residual headache the next morning. I personally like the idea of a cramp medicine that comes with a nice flavor, and a mild kick of alcohol to help deaden the pain. But remember all alcoholic remedies are only good in moderation, drinking too many or too much negates any of its beneficial properties.

Relaxing muscles is what clary does best, in my opinion, and this is one of the main reasons I love clary sage so. It soothes muscle spasms quite effectively with topical application, and brings near instant relief in some cases. It  also eases the nervous system into relaxation, without sedation, so its great for daily stress and tension headaches where you need to stay awake and lucid. You will almost always find its most commonly used to treat lady cramps, but it works great on all cramped and tight muscles.

Clary Sage Massage Oil – Plain Jane Version

  • 1 oz Carrier oil
  • 20-30 drops Clary Sage oil

Mix well and store in dark container, massage into abdomen for lady cramps, and into temples, neck and/or shoulders for migraine or tension headache relief. Really this can be massaged anywhere (except sensitive areas) where a muscle spasm or pain is.

The relaxing properties of this plant goes beyond just helping with spasms and their associated pains, but it also helps to settle the stomach. I don’t know if everyone suffers this, but with my migraines the extreme amount of pain can lead to intense vomiting. Which means that oral pain medications don’t always get a chance to work, and not to mention its not very fun to chunder with a migraine. Clary sage comes to the rescue though, with a double punch of relief and stomach settling goodness. Used with other things like peppermint, chamomile, or lavender it can really be an effective way to treat the pain, or just get everything settled enough to keep the pain medications in you long enough for them to do their thing.

Clary Sage Massage Oil – Pukey Migraine Version

Mix and store in a dark bottle, and you can rub this into temples, neck, and shoulders. Because it has peppermint oil avoid sensitive areas like eyes or delicate skin.

You can make a strong infusion using the leaves and use it for a relaxing bath, or to wash wounds as it helps in wound healing, not to mention its great for your skin!

Clary Bath Tea

  • 4 tablespoons Clary leaves
  • 4-5 oz Boiling water

Draw a bath as warm as you can stand and add the tea to the bath, soak for 20-30 minutes for pain and to help relax the body and mind. This can cause you to have some intense dreams, so if you don’t want them 🙂 don’t use this bath too close to bed time.

For a tea to drink it is best to use the essential oil, much safer and even doses with this and none of the bitter funk. If you want to use fresh leaves you can use about a teaspoon dried and you want to use the newer leaves as the larger older ones will be the most bitter.

Clary Oil Tea

You can also use milk, or a milk substitute, as well to take this or add it to your favorite herbal or otherwise teas. Just add the drops and drink it down! Easy!

Clary sage has many uses as you can see, and definitely helps to release muscles, ease the stomach, and relax nerves. But it also has a really pleasant smell. Like a sweeter, more pleasant German chamomile, with some nuttier notes. It was frequently used in perfumes and is great for skin and is found even in skin creams and salves today, like the well known Burt’s Bees skin products. There is some mention that it can produce euphoria and lift the spirits, and I can say the smell is very nice and it does make a horrible migraine day not so bad. But I can’t say I have felt “euphoric” from topical use.

As I said before medicinal food is great! And there are a lot of Culinary uses possible with this plant. You can use clary sage in place of any common sage in a recipe. The flowers are also edible, and are great in teas, salads or on their own just make sure to remove the greenery first. Fritters is a common historical manner of consuming them, the only historical recipe for medicinal food with clary I have found is Culpepper’s which is –

“The fresh leaves dipped in a batter of flour, eggs, and a little milk, and fried in butter and served to the table, is not unpleasant to any, but exceedingly profitable for those that are troubled with weak reins [kidneys], and the effects thereof.”

An easier way to read this recipe I found on this site and copied here –

Clary Sage Fritters

  • 4 oz flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • ¼ pint warm water
  • 1 egg white
  • 12 clary sage flowering brackets
  • 12 clary sage leaves
  • fresh oil for deep frying
  • caster sugar
  • 1 Tbsp clary sage flowers removed from the bracts

Make the batter well before you need it: sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt, stir in the oil and mix with enough warm water to give the consistency of fairly thick cream. Leave to stand, covered with a damp cloth or saran wrap, for one to two hours. Just before using, beat the egg white in a clean bowl until it is stiff and fold it into the batter. Rinse the clary sage flower bracts and leaves. Gently shake them dry, then dry them on some kitchen towel. Roll a flower bract in each leaf and dip into the batter one at a time. Shake off any excess batter and drop into a large pan of oil, heated to 360°F. Do not allow them to touch each other in cooking. When done, drain on paper towel and place on a warmed serving dish or hot plate. When all the fritters are cooked, dredge with sugar, sprinkle on the flowers and serve immediately. (Good Enough to Eat)

You can also mix the flowers or leaves into an omelette (add about 2 tablespoons fresh or dry) to your normal omelette mixture, or other foods. Finally a jelly recipe for you to put on your toast, mmm medicinal toast! From the same above mentioned site.

Clary Sage Jelly

  • 3 tsp clary leaves
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 ½ cup apple juice (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups honey
  • 1 bottle liquid pectin

Make infusion of clary and water. Strain and add enough water to make ½ cup. Combine with apple and lemon juice and honey in large saucepan. Bring to full rolling boil and add pectin, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 30 seconds and give sheet test for jellying point. Remove from heat and skim. Pour into hot, sterilized glasses and seal. Add yellow food coloring if desired while jelly is boiling.

Remember to do your research for yourself, and do your own trials to see what works best for you. Always check for reactions or interactions on sites like WebMD, anything that has an affect on the uterus you should not use during pregnancy. As always, any doubts mean you should ask a professional!