Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


Beer is Good for You, Huzzah!

Have you been watching the World Cup? I definitely backed the wrong team this year, (maybe next time Spain!) and, surprisingly, the US has not done too badly, until they did…sigh.

Around the world people will be watching matches, and inevitability, drinking a pint. Beer, it is s much more than just some beverage. Just something to drink at a barbecue, or after long day, that a pint you have while you commiserate with friends. Beer is complex, alive, and very interesting. You should appreciate a well made beer, as well as make own. I am a home-brewer (as I have mentioned) and beer is a such wonderful, and fascinating creature, you really must experience making one for yourself. Having a little beer baby in your closet, checking on it, and then enjoying it – there is nothing quite like it. Beer, is possibly the key to good health (in moderation of course) and is not “fattening” despite this new trend for lite beers. So time to learn about some of the benefits of our fabulous friend beer.


Everything you ever need to know about beers! (also a great site and should buy the print)

Beer, one of the oldest foods, and possibly the reason that humans settled down and started things like agriculture and cities. Beer is a very old medicine, Egyptians were known to use it as a “primitive” antibiotic, and it is so ancient that even Hammurabi wrote laws about it in his infamous code. Beer really can be medicine, and one now and then with the right ingredients can actually do a lot of good. Now that doesn’t mean you should go slam a 6-pack, but beer does have its benefits medicinally if consumed in moderation. Over consumption of beer negates any beneficial aspects of it so I can not stress moderation enough, but a beer now and then can be beneficial, even more so with the right ingredients.

Beer as I said gets mentioned in Hammurabi’s code but it is so important that it has been written in many more languages and hundreds of thousands of recipes existed around the world, and has a long and varied history. The oldest evidence of beer (Iran) and a mead/wine hybrid (China) from studying pottery found in tombs and archaeological excavations that date to 9,000-7,000 years ago. Humans have been brewing for almost as long as we have record for, and possibly started long before we lost our hunting and gathering ways.  The Sumarians had a goddess called Ninkasi, her name translates loosely to “the Lady who fills the mouth” and she was the Goddess of beer, basically. Yeast and fermentation were not understood so the whole fermentation process was very “magical.” Ninkasi it was said she was borne on sparkling fresh water, and the hymn to Ninkasi is basically a recipe for brewing beer in poetic form, and the Goddess comes and makes the magic happen.

Ninkasi, like a lot of other deities of alcoholic beverages, is a sort of embodiment of that magic of fermentation. There are a lot of cultures that have legends or magic around fermenting. Some cultures used a magical brewing stick that they thought magically caused beer to ferment, yeast transferred from the crevices in the stick would inoculate beers as it was stirred. Other cultures believed fermentation could only happen in a quiet place, and there were stories that if the beer was startled by loud noises it wouldn’t ferment. In most early cultures, beer was made with bread, since the yeast was wild yeast that was caught by the dough and fermented the dough through the yeast living in the air. The bread was then used to brew the beer, some used the dough raw, half baked, or twice baked in the case of the Sumarians, or at least as far as we can tell. The bread was added to the wort (or was sometimes part of the ingredients for the wort) for brewing and fermentation occurred. Some of it also could have been based on luck, and wild yeast settling in fermentation vessels and inoculating as well, but this bread method seems to be the most common and is even carried over today with some recipes having yeast spread on bread and floated on the wort to start the fermentation. Yeast doing its work still seems magical today when I make beer, or even my home-made sodas (though I tend to use specialized champagne yeast for those). Something so small having such a big effect, you must admit it is pretty fantastic.

The beer brewed from this method in Sumer, was very thick almost like a porridge. It had to be sipped with straws to filter it. The straws are a bit like traditional yerba mate straws, they filter out the solids (they used these in Egypt and with other early beers from many other cultures too. Everyone from gods and goddesses, to kings to commoners were shown sipping beers through these straws.


Sippin’ on bread ‘n’ juice… laid back. With my mind on Ninkasi, and Ninkasi on my mind.

There are craft brews now being produced under her name, it seems the old ways have become new ways and the circle of history continues.

Beer was part of life and worship through the ages as humanity progressed from the times of the Sumerians, and was a major part of many religious rights (and if they didn’t use beer a mead or wine substance was often used), like the libations of beer poured on a warden tree that we just discussed in the history of birch. In Egypt Bes was a God that was known to love drinking beer, and was frequently depicted as drinking beer (also through straws since it was more like Sumerian beer). Bes is probably, that is probably not definitely, the “pagan” origin of St Bessus, since some of the symbolism and protection areas (fertility, war, etc) were brought over as Bes was very popular with ladies, dancers and soldiers. Bes was second to Hathor for beer and brewing, and like in Hinduism Gods and Goddesses come in many forms and can take other forms. Hathor could manifest as many things, in her lady form she has cow ears, in her cow form, she is the divine white cow, always marked by it’s special necklace.

Like a cow with bling would go unnoticed in the tall papyrus… cause that’s normal.

But Hathor had another side, her pissed-off lady side. Sekhmet is Hathor’s not so nice side, and she is the goddess of war and is on the list of people not to be trifled with, like the Dread Pirate Roberts, or a Middle-American soccer mom fighting for the last Tickle-Me Elmo on Black Friday. Yet, Ra, decides to piss her off by telling her that some of the people of the Black Land, were planning to kill him. Not something you tell to Hathor considering one of her other forms was Ra’s wifey. She becomes so mad about the possible death of Ra, that she becomes Sekhmet, and begins to slaughter all humans faster than the robot overlords of Skynet could. Ra, realizing that flipping his wife’s bitch switch could result in complete genocide, and a real reduction in his worshipers population levels, decides the best thing to do is stop her. How do you stop a blood thirsty goddess on the warpath? With blood colored beer of course! Ra pours the beer on the ground and she drinks so much (remember – blood thirsty) that she becomes drunk, due to her drunken state she is sedated and thankfully returned to her more calm, cow-eared self.

“What did you say, Ra? You are going to what instead of the dishes?”

Beer was such a strongly held tradition, that as the new religion of Christianity was spread, many “pagan” (meaning- not of the 3 “book” religions) rituals and deities were absorbed into the rituals and traditions of the incoming traditions. This is why you have Saints like Brigid, she was not always a saint but was a pagan Goddess. Brigid was the daughter of Dagda, and was one of those amalgam Goddesses that comes about from many years of cultures growing and mingling until she becomes a triad goddess (Mother, Maiden, Crone type) as well as covering blacksmiths, poetry and many other things. Brigid once adopted by the incoming new religion, soon became combined and tied (like many other pre-Christian deities) to an existing saint, St Brigid of Kildare. There is a tradition that carried over from her earlier worship, and a group of nuns tended a flame which was a symbol of the earlier origins of the Saint. Saints typically do saintly things, and a main one was she tended to lepers in a leper colony. Tragically she found one day that the lepers  had run out of beer. She kindly saved them from this horrible plight by changing their bathwater (in some legends her own bathwater) into beer and saved the thirsty lepers.

“For when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed their bathwater into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and faith in God and dealt it out to the thirsty plenty.”

And again her place in history is secure, since there are craft beers being produced today that are named Brigid in honor of this saint, even one I quite like a lot. St Arnulf of Metz (sometimes written as Arnold) was another patron saint of brewers, and is now the patron saint of a brewery in Houston. Appropriately so, since Arnulf brewed himself, and often preached that –

“from man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”

He also preached to the people to drink beer over water, which is a safety issue as I will cover with another Arnold later. After his death, the people of Metz sent people to collect their hometown saint’s body since he was buried near the monastery he retired to. On their way home, lugging their saintly cargo, stopped to have a pint at a tavern, but they were informed that there was only one mug of beer remaining. So one of them prays to Arnulf of Metz and assured his fellow travelers that by his prayer to Arnulf they will –

“by his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.”

And the single mug of beer never ran dry, providing enough beer to slake the thirst of all the travelers and some of the receiving crowd upon his return to Metz. The story of the Miracle of the Mug became one of the major reasons that Arnulf became Saint Arnulf, logically of course. Because if anyone had a never-ending mug of beer, they would definitely petition that the gifter of said mug, should be immortalized, or held in reverence as a saint. Personally, I would say sainthood in all religions, well…at least the ones that drink.

Beer was so important to most cultures as water was sometimes an unreliable resource for drinking (this was before germ theory and all that jazz). The best option for drinking was water that was boiled (which makes it safe) and then given the extra benefit of alcohol (to keep out other nasty things) was the obviously much safer option. Seriously, water was so bad that the patron saint of hop pickers, St Arnulf of Soissons (also written as Arnold, and different from the previous St Arnold), was so pro-beer drinking that he actively encouraged the peasants in the area to drink it instead of water. Due to beer’s “gift of health,” there is even legend he ended a plague by putting a crucifix in his brew pot, and all who drank of it were cured of the plague. Which beer could possibly have saved them, even without the crucifix addition, since there has been evidence that tetracycline, a well known antibiotic now, was found in mummies and ancient beers. They may not have known why it helped and made them feel better but they knew it did, this could be the reason that beer had such a strong history of restorative powers.

Beer was drunk by everyone, young and old, rich and pour. Though not all beers were created equal, there are highly alcoholic versions, and some with much less which are more like the previous ancient beers we were discussing. There was small, or children’s beer in some areas, which is generally 3% alcohol or less. This was drunk for breakfast or throughout the day, in fact most workers drank about 10 Imperial pints (568 ml) a day. Which if this was of what we now consider “regular” beer (about 6% ABV in most areas is “normal”), not much would get done, but it sure would be fun! The dangers of drinking water meant that this was the much safer alternative to water, and was provided to everyone including children and pregnant or nursing women. This sounds bad but it was generally watered down, so it would generally be enough alcohol to kill bacteria, but not enough to where it would do much harm, they weren’t doing keg-stands or anything.

There are traditional and regional variations, one we discussed with juniper, and they all have their own uses, recipes, meanings, and ingredients. There are things like chichakvass, svagdricka, podpiwek, and malzbier (malt beer) all of these fall in to this small beer group. Small beer is the drink of the masses, what was given to the servants when the European Lord threw a party, it was what the Egyptians workers received as part of their pay, and in Tudor times pints were allocated to ladies in waiting. No one was really getting hammered all day like some gridiron loving, forehead can crushing, frat boy, but if they had enough they might get a little “buzz” if you had a lot. It seems like drinking beer all day would lead to crazy behavior, but small beer was just enough alcohol to be safe but not wasted, since there were stronger ales if you wanted to drink your face off. This is a good thing to remember when you are traveling, beer is generally a safer bet than tap water. Also, if you are in a situation where drinking water is not so great, opt for the beer, even in survival. You can boil most any water and turn it into a somewhat decent beer, even duck pond water as was found in a documentary of how beer saved the world (if you have netflix).

These small or unfiltered beers add another level to most of the cultures that consumed them as a good source of nutrition. Beer in it’s varied forms were a large part of daily nutrition for almost all historical cultures. Since it is a fermented beverage is very high in B vitamins, and it isn’t just one beer has, it is all of the spectrum. Even more so in a lot of bottled home-brews, since a lot of them are conditioned in the bottle to carbonate them, and yeast isn’t filtered out. B vitamins are part of those vitamins that are so important for making sure everything works right, and helps keep nerves and pretty much everything else healthy. Beer was nutrition for monks in the Middle Ages, since fasting was a large part of their religious calendar, and beer was all the vitamins and nutrients monk’s needed. And this is why generally monastery, or more specifically Trappist, ales and beers are still some of the best around, I am sure all of you who good love beer you have heard of Chimay if you are a beer drinker. Trappist beers come from Trappist monasteries which means that they are brewed by monks of a branch of the Cistercians, but one that follows a more “strict” observance of the orders rules. Everything that is good for yeast, is good for people, and it is a great way (in moderation) to get a lot of vitamins you need in a natural way, which are generally easier to digest and absorb than in pill form. Beer has a lot of nutritional value, and while it does have calories mainly from carbohydrates and other sugars. It is mostly the fattening foods consumed with beers, as well as over consumption that leads to the inevitable beer belly.

Why do we care about small beer other than its nutritional value? Well, alcohol is a great way to dissolve fats and therefore oils (which are fats). So, what does that mean? That means that oils that can give beer flavor can also give beer additional medicinal value. Just like hops add a sedative quality to beer with their hop pollen and oils, you can add other plants to increase medicinal qualities. Rosemary, peppercorns, and juniper (as I mentioned) are all normal beer ingredients, but these ingredients bring not just flavors to beers but all of the properties of their oils as well. That means if you add say a quarter of an ounce of lavender flowers to a beer in the last 5 minutes of a boil, or even leave a muslin bag in the fermenter you will have a beer that with the hops will be quite sedating and good for relieving stress (goes well in Saison recipes). Lavender is quite bitter though so small amounts go a long way, and I have found that unless you let this sit for a month drinking it tastes like a punch in the face from Grandma’s closet. All herbs added must have their potency considered, so for example you probably wouldn’t want to add a pound of lavender, it would be way too bitter. You may need to counter with additional sweet like honey, which is a great addition to beers or brew it as a honey wine with lavender. Or get crazy and try including other herbs, be careful with bitter ones like hops and lavender…unless you like things bitter then it is a great addition. So you can be creative here, lemon balm in an IPA or a Hefeweizen, or maybe green peppercorns and rosemary in a Saison, or even chili peppers to a lager. Adding essential oils works too if you dont have herbs handy, add a few drops to the wort about one drop per 8th of an ounce of herbs called for in a recipe (for very intense flavors 1 drop for a quarter ounce of herbs). Whatever the addition you can get valuable vitamins, and a healthy dose of herbal benefits just by having a beer.

Another aspect of beer is one you can’t really get around, the alcohol content. Alcohol, from the Arabic language we borrow the word, and it was they who discovered distillation. But beer does not require distillation, so be glad for that since stills are first of all highly explosive, and second are generally frowned upon for legal reasons. Alcohol does have negative effects on the body when consumed too frequently or too much in a sitting (binge drinking is worse than steady alcoholism so don’t think that is better). The Mayo Clinic gives good information on what is a moderate versus an immoderate amount, here are their guidelines –

For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

Examples of one drink include:

  • Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)
  • Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)
  • Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters)

So having one now and then can do some good for the body, and I can’t stress enough moderation. Alcohol is a depressant, something that does “deaden” the system, which is why it is so dangerous to ever drink and drive. It slows reaction time, it also relaxes muscles and slows things down. Which can help if you are in pain a bit, it can help a lot with the right sort of herbs in it. Drinking too much will affect sleeping and other things so it is really important to not go overboard, and it can actually cause a B deficiency if consumed in excess. So keep it moderate (you may get tired of me saying that), and that beer can do a lot to relax the body, which can relax the mind. Especially when you enjoy it over a good meal, with good friends and family, nothing is better for the spirit than that.

“But beer sounds way too complicated to make,” I am hearing some of you think, “what is all this boil and fermenter stuff?” If you are the type that likes to read everything you can get your hands on about something before starting it Michael Jackson is a good place to start, I have brought him up before, and he is the unofficial guru on all things beer related, and some other distilling and fermenting type things. He writes some fantastic stuff about beers, and covers all sorts of ground on the old and new ways. If you want one book that explains it all in one book, and is “just the facts, ma’am” this is a site and writer you should check out. He was actually my first brewing book I bought, and while it is stuffed with information it is a good single source, read it twice if it feels overwhelming the first time. Another great book for not only recipes but history and great herbal information check out this book.

If you have a small amount of space and are looking for a small investment to start brewing, you should look into doing half grain, and half extract (sometimes called a mini-mash). It requires less set up, and by that I mean equipment, and you get a better product than if you do all extract. If you have the space and time, though even brewing with half extract takes a half day basically. But it is all worth the time and effort, especially when you crack open that bottle or tap that keg of a beer you brewed. If you are looking for recipes there are a lot of sites (like this, this, this, this, and this) that give recipes and notes from other home brewers. Since I am from the Austin area, I can not help but put in a plug for the local brewing supply store here that does ship nationally, and has kits, recipes, blogs, faqs and just about anything and everything you need for beer (even hops rhizomes to grow your own!).

Seriously, nothing tastes better than beer you made yourself, and because beer is endlessly customize-able to taste and seasons you can make beers that change with what is available in your garden or whatever suits your fancy. Making things add a real sense of satisfaction, and since it is a DIY thing that requires more patience than effort it is a great thing for someone with limited mobility (as long as you invite a friend who can lift heavy things). If you don’t you may want to invest in some hand pumps to transfer liquids in place.

If you are interested in reading the Hymn of Ninkasi, other than the site linked in the photo, and/or more information on her and beer culture in Sumer, check out this site or this site

If you are interested in beer deities in general go here and here.  

If you are interested in the Saints of Brewing, hops, and other Beer related things, go here or here.

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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!


Hoppity Hops

Oh hops, hops, hops! I love hops, I am a home brewer so I am extremely familiar with them. I have grown to love them very much, I used to dislike them in beers but they have worked their bitter spell on me and I am a fan of those highly hopped beers now. Most people have had experience with hops through beers, but they are useful for so much more! Hops got their name from an Anglo-Saxon word that means “to climb.” Its Latin name Humulus lupulus comes from possibly humus for the type of soil it grows in, but almost definitely the lupulus portion comes from the aggressive growth noticed and commented on by Pliny the Elder, he described them as strangling other plants, as a wolf would a sheep.

Hops, if you haven’t noticed, are serious business.

Hops are antibacterial, so they make a great beer preservative and the first mentioned use of hops in brewing comes from the 11th century, but there is documentation as early as the reign of Pepin the Short, of what would become France, that hops were grown in the royal gardens. Bacteria can spoil beer and is what makes the newly popular sour beers, sour. One of Hop’s early known uses was the preservation of beverages. This is why IPA’s are such powerfully hopped beers, the additional Hops were to help preserve it for the long, un-refrigerated train ride from England to India in the day’s of the British Empire – hence India Pale Ale. It is also why in the past beer was actually used as medicine. Mummies have been found with beer around them in burials, in them and on them. Which Anthropologist say they look to have been used as an early antibiotic, and were later noted for their ability to keep tuberculosis at bay. So remember that the next time you have a beverage choice, choose beer for your health! (Remember though, all things in moderation, too much of a good thing is bad)

But brewing aside! Hops are believed to have originated in China but quickly spread to Germany and are documented as being grown there as far back as the 8th century. And when I say quickly spread, I mean fast, hops grow at ridiculous rates anywhere from 3 inches to a foot (30 cm) a day. Pliny the Elder mentions that they were grown and the new shoots eaten in Roman times. King George III, with his famous madness, was purportedly a user of hops and slept on pillows of hops to help calm and soothe him. They are mentioned in Arab medicinal treatises as early as the 10th century, and were noted not only for their sedation and anxiety reduction, but also for their anti-inflammatory ability, and mild pain relief. Many Native American tribes used Hops as well as an analgesic (for pain) for minor issues like toothaches. It also gets mention in Ayerveda who recommend the use of Hops for treating anxiety, as muscle relaxers, and for treating tension headaches or migraines.

Hops for sleeping

As we have discussed, hops are a sedative, and in my previous post about Lavender, I said I’d be talking more about the hops pillow that I have made for myself (and if you’re interested in getting one you can check out my Etsy store).*

All you do is place the pouch inside your pillowcase, generally in a position you can easily smell them while you sleep. You will fall asleep fairly quickly, and I tend to find I stay asleep even if I am in minor amounts of pain. I have also had good results with friends that have trouble sleeping due to anxiety, obsessive thoughts, or stress. Remember though, these are pretty powerful little flowers and if you want to read in bed, or just generally be conscious, you should probably remove the pouch out of smell range, and then place it in your pillow when you are ready for sleep. I have mostly had positive feedback about the smell of them, though some have said that they smell vaguely cheesy at first but the smell was not offensive. If you are worried about this, generally if you like the smell of IPA’s you will like the smell of Hops.

This Hop pillow or pouch is one of the most common and well known ways of using Hops for therapeutic reasons, but it is mostly to assist with calming sleep.

What about anxiety while you are awake, or pain?

Glad you asked!

There are a few other tricks up Hop’s sleeve, it does so much more than just helping with sleep or flavoring beer.

Hops for anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain reliever), and anti-anxiety 

As an anti-inflammatory, this is a fairly new discovery, inflammation occurs due to COX enzymes. Hops act in the same way the ibuprofen would, and reduce inflammation, thus reducing pain. They do this by inhibiting the COX enzymes. But unlike ibuprofen, Hops have none of those stomach wrecking side effects. (If you have issues with the tummy, Hops actually could aide in digestion, since this is another ancient use for it.) Hops have long been known for their reduction of anxiety, and they do promote a general sense of coziness and well-being. It helps to calm the mind and are great for people who have issues sleeping due to anxiety.

For both pain, inflammation, and anxiety, a tincture is one way to take Hop’s, 6 drops to start with for anxiety, and up to 20-30 drops will usually do the trick for pain (and sleep). You can do the under the tongue method but I prefer to add this to a hot tea, something like Chamomile or Holy Basil (this will also mostly take care of the alcohol).

Tinctures may be a great way to ingest it quickly but as Hops have a bitter taste, they can be a bit hard on the palate for a first timer, even when you mix them with something else. This bitter side is what makes them such a great stomach tonic. You can purchase or make your own tinctures, and personally if I had to choose, I am not a fan of this method, as it is just too much for my taste-buds. But this is a fairly immediate sort of delivery for pain reduction, so weigh your own pros and cons here for delivery method.

Hop Tincture Recipe

  • 1 part Hops flowers
  • 4 parts Grain alcohol (everclear, vodka, etc)
  • Jar, preferably large enough to hold at least a few ounces of Hops

You want to use a 1 to 4 ratio of solids to liquids to make this tincture, start in ounces (that means 1 oz dried OR fresh, can be right off the vine to 4 liquid ounces of grain alcohol). You should let it sit for at least 14 days but you may want to let it sit in a cool undisturbed place for longer. The liquid should be amber, and you will need to strain and bottle, label…all that normal tincture stuff.

ProTip: The best way to increase surface area, and make a better tincture, would be to put the Hops in a food processor and blitz it a few times. you don’t want to create a powder but you do want to break them up into smaller pieces. Again the stuff you are wanting here is the oils, which are always temperature sensitive, so do this in pulses and avoid heat build up from friction.

Hops Tea (Version 1)

  • 1-2 tablespoons of Hops
  • 1 c boiling water

Steep for 10-15 minutes (at most 20), and drink. This is one of the weaker preparations, but if you choose to include a teaspoon of Skullcap this works great for anxiety and mild headaches.

Hops Tea (Version 2)

  • 1 oz Hops
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 1 quart (or larger) jar with a lid

Place Hops in the jar, and cover with boiling water. Place the lid on and let steep for at the minimum 4 but no more than 8 hours. This will be extremely strong, so be careful about “operating heavy machinery” if you are going to drink this.

ProTip: These are all going to be pretty bitter so you will want to mix them with something to make things a bit more palatable. Honey, Ginger, Chamomile, Peppermint, Valerian, Stevia all of these can be added depending on the effect you are looking for, and many more would work. As long as the flavor is fairly strong and helps to make the bitterness more tolerable.

You can as always purchase pills or pre-made supplements, or even better make your own. If you decide to go this route, do not take more than 500 mgs of Hops at a time 1 to 3 times a day. Hops are available for purchase pre-ground or grind them yourself. You should wait about 4 hrs between doses, and when you are first taking Hop’s make sure you account for the sedation and see how they effect you, so take them when you plan to stay in. The pills will tend to treat most of the listed ailments in this post.

Remember, do your trial and error tests yourself. See what works best for you, check for interactions with any medications you are already taking. WebMD is always a great resource for checking for issues. Do your homework and if you are ever in doubt about anything, consult a professional.

*A side note – Hops can be paired with other sleep aides, such as Valerian, Holy Basil (Tulsi), Chamomile, and Lavender to name a few. The Hop and Lavender mix I use in my pouches, I have found to be the most pleasant smell and best results. But there are other variations that will soon be available on my Esty Store (so stay tuned there!). Refill offers are available if you pm me on Etsy, since they will need to be refreshed after a few months of use.