Making Fermented Foods – What is wrong with my Sauerkraut?

Approximately once a month, I teach an Introduction to Fermentation workshops. These workshops are hands-on, and participants get their hands into making fermented foods. Often, participants say they have tried one or two ferments at home, and they are either not sure if it tastes “right” or not, or worse, something has gone wrong and they don’t know why. And when you aren’t quite sure what is happening, you are hesitant to put that in your mouth (these are live cultures, after all!) or you are afraid to try again after tossing out the time, energy and ingredients you have invested.

Here is my TOP REASON why ferments fail.

Yes, there is only one main reason.

 

HYGIENE

I have read through many fermentation instructions online and in books, and one thing the authors tend to skip over is hygiene. Have you washed your hands and all equipment in warm soapy water, and RINSED OFF the soap residue? Have you sanitised all the equipment and bench-tops? You can buy sanitising sprays that contain benzalkonium chloride, spray the equipment, rinse off, then pour over hot boiling water (this is when you want heat-proof glass). You can also use sanitising sprays or detergents available from brewing shops. You can soak your equipment in a 0.5% chlorine solution. You can wash and rinse off your equipment, then place them in a cool oven, then heat to 120 deg C for 20-30 minutes. You can bring them to the boil in a big pot of water on the stove. If I have run out of spoons that have been sanitised and I need another clean spoon, I have even used aerosol alcohol sprays (the kind that is used to clean electronic equipment) to sanitise the spoon, then leave to air-dry or wipe off with a kitchen paper towel. Have you cleaned and sanitise any lids you are using? If you are using lids for jars that contain a rubber seal, have you removed the rubber seal and cleaned both parts?

 

Why do we need to maintain hygiene?

When we make fermented foods, we do not use heat to cook any of the foods, so there is both “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria present. By maintaining a clean environment, we then give our cultures the best chance to grow good bacteria instead of bad bacteria, bad yeasts or mold. If I ever rush the sanitising step, I get contamination in my ferments. When I teach Fermentation Workshops,  it is usually in a community kitchen. This is where hygiene is even more crucial, because community centres are known to carry MRSA (Methycillin-Resistant Staph. aureus). In my point of view (and experience), a little bit of prevention is better than cure. 0.5% chlorine solution or 0.095% benzalkonium chloride is better than 6 weeks of IV antibiotics and 3 months of oral antibiotics.

 

What do you use to cover your ferments while they are fermenting?

Most literature recommend clean muslin cloth or Chux-type cloths. I find these are trickier for maintaining a sterile environment, because the weaves of the material is not fine enough. And if you bump the jar too hard and your kombucha wets the cloth, you now have a wet surface exposed to air-borne bacteria. You can use a lid, but you need to remember to “burp” your ferments, otherwise you risk projectile-lids or exploding jars. Plus you will be touching those lids every single day – have you remembered to wash your hands in warm-soapy water each time? You can buy special jars that have “air-locks” to allow gaseous release, or special “crocks” to make sauerkraut, but what if you decide you don’t like fermenting foods, or sauerkraut? You now have equipment you spent money to buy, that is taking up space in your pantry.

My solution is cling wrap – sterile, seals well but not completely so gasses are released (no burping needed), you can look through the top of the jar at the surface of your ferments to make sure no bad yeasts are growing, it is water-tight, and you can use recycled food jars for your ferments and not have to worry about suitable lids that are not rusting, or have moldy rubber seals. You can also use it for most ferments.


I know, cling wrap is single-use plastic. I dislike it. But I have tried the other methods above and I have had failures in ferments. In fact, I actually learnt to use cling wrap from Stuart, my husband, who brews beer. I was getting about 40% failures with my ferments prior to cling wrap. So I conceded that he was right (:-P ) and since using cling wrap, I rarely have contamination issues. I have also tried beeswax wraps, and they slowed down the fermenting process enough that bad bacteria and yeasts had the chance to grow instead of the good bacteria (wax wraps are antibacterial). So I use wax wrap for other things, and save cling wrap just for ferments. (I have recently heard about Agreena reusable silicone sheets that work like cling wrap, so I am keen to look into that, and will report back when I can!)

What do I use to weigh my ferments down to keep them submerged in the fermenting liquid?

Vegetables exposed to air will “catch” aerobic bacteria or yeasts, which we do not want. Lacto-fermenting vegetables rely on anaerobic Lactobacteria spp. for the fermentation process. So most instructions will state to use a clean dish, a ziploc bag filled with saline/brine or specially purchased weights to help submerge the vegetables in the fermenting liquid. I use a piece of baking paper, folded or scrunched up and pushed down into the liquid. The paper getting covered with fermenting liquid is fine, and it is fine if that is exposed to air. It keeps the vegetables submerged and not exposed to air (and oxygen), is sterile, and can be thrown away after. I find this is less fiddly than the other methods, and less equipment to sanitise too, plus more effective.

 

Some final considerations:

1. Vinegar is not a suitable sanitising liquid, especially if it is unfiltered apple cider vinegar. ACV, as I teach in my workshops, use a live SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts), and the resultant ferment has live cultures. If you use this to clean, you will basically be spreading live yeasts over your equipment and surface that will contaminate your other ferments.

2. Do not overfill the jar – fermenting cabbages and other vegetables will expand a little, so if you overfill, you risk liquid leaking out over the sides, and compromising sterile conditions.

3. When you are opening up your ferments to taste them to see if they are ready, make sure you sanitise your spoon, and have clean hands too.

4. Keep your different ferments separate. Don’t place your sauerkraut beside your milk kefir or sourdough starter. Kombucha is finicky in my experience, so I keep that separate from all ferments.

 

If you have any further questions about fermentation, feel free to ask. I am always happy to assist where I can, or point you to groups or resources that know better / are more experienced than I. I have been making fermented foods for myself since 2011, but I only know and practice a fraction of all the different types of ferments available from many cultures!

If you are interested in attending an Introduction to Fermentation Workshop with me, I usually run them once a month at the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association of South Australia Incorporated) on Angas St. in Adelaide City. You will have to book in through them – https://www.wea-sa.com.au/

Kid Safe List of Essential Oils

Kid Safe List of Essential Oils.
The following are common oils that are safe to use with kids. This is not an exhaustive list.

These oils are safe to diffuse from 3 months upwards, in a well-ventilated room, for 30 minutes on, 60 minutes off.

For topical application, safe to use for 6 months upwards at no more than 1% dilution. Adults – 2-5% dilution depending on application.

References:

Tisserand, R & Young, R, 2016, “Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edn.,  Elsevier.

Battaglia, S, 2004. “The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy”, Perfect Potion, Australia.

Cedarwood

Atlas cedarwood, Himalayan cedarwood, Virginian cedarwood

Respiratory support, improves circulation

Grounding

Citrus (cold-pressed)

Lemon, sweet orange, grapefruit, lime, bergamot (bergaptene-free)

Energizing, uplifting, aids focus

Clears energies

Conifers

Pines, spruces

Respiratory support, joint and muscle support

Grounding, energising

Chamomile

German chamomile, Roman chamomile, Moroccan chamomile

Calming, sedating, peace

Supports digestive system, supports skin healing, mild analgesic, teething relief

Helps heal the inner child

Frankincense Supports respiratory health, supports immune system, spiritual support
Geranium Skin support, emotional support

Connects with Mother Earth energies

Ginger Digestive support

Warming, increases circulation

Helichryseum Supports skin healing, alleviates bruising

Aids in letting go

Lavender – L. angustifolia Peaceful, calming, sedating

Promotes sleep, supports immune system, supports skin healing

Palmarosa Respiratory support, skin support, immune system support
Rosalina Respiratory support
Rose Self-love, emotional support, spiritual support, call to angels for help
Sandalwood Sedating, calming, respiratory support

Spiritually grounding

Spearmint Digestive support, respiratory support, muscular support, improves circulation

Happiness, sweetness, calming

Tea tree Immune system support, skin healing

Making Aromatherapy Sprays

oils

Aromatherapy Sprays are a simple and effective way to use essential oils to cool you down and help refresh yourself physically and energetically. You can also use them to freshen the air in a room, or from an energetic perspective,

clear any lingering negativity.

Here is how you can make Aromatherapy Sprays at home.You will need:

  1. A spray bottle with a spray nozzle. You can purchase these easily online nowadays – some recommended companies in Australia are here and here. I like them because of the affordable pricing and also no minimum order. You can also purchase small spray bottles from most supermarkets too – these are usually aluminum bottles with a trigger spray, about AUD$2.50.
  2. Essential oil(s). You can use a single oil, or a blend of several essential oils. If you are a newbie, start with a single oil, or a blend of 2-3 oils. Make sure you  have no sensitivities to your selected oils. If you are using around babies and children, make sure you are using kid-safe oils. You can find information on this here.
  3. Cooled boiled water or distilled water
  4. A dispersant: oil and water do not mix, so to make sure your mix does not leave you with undispersed droplets of essential oils on sensitive skin, a dispersant is preferable. You can use a “solubaliser” (this is available from the companies I linked in number 1, or some health stores that also sell essential oils), or ethanol/high-proof vodka. For the occasional home user, you can use plain castille soap.
  5. A preservative: this is highly recommended, because water is a great medium for growing nasties like bacteria, mold and fungi. Even distilled water from a brand new bottle, can grow those nasties if left long enough. You can purchase a preservative from one of the companies I linked in number 1. Ethanol/high-proof vodka is also a preservative at 40% of your final product. You can opt not to use a preservative, but be mindful to use your spray within one week, or store in the refridgerator and use within 2-3 weeks. This is where I recommend using a smaller spray bottle, something that is about 50ml, so you don’t end up throwing product away.

Okay, let’s get started!

For a 50ml bottle:

Step 1: Add 20 drops in total of essential oil(s) into the bottle.I have provided some formulas for essential oil blends below.

Step 2: Depending on your choice of Dispersant, add 10-20 drops of solubaliser, OR 2-3 drops of castille soap. If you are using ethanol or high-proof vodka, add 20ml.

Step 3: If you are using a Preservative, follow the instructions for use. Most effective preservatives on the market require 0.5-2% of the total volume, so essentially you would be looking at 5-40 DROPS of preservative in your 50ml bottle. You can find effective preserving systems that are considered natural in the cosmetics industry, so not all preservatives (chemicals) are bad for you! However, cosmetic products that do not have effective preservative systems CAN harbour dangerous bacteria, mold or fungi, and I can tell you antibiotics to treat THOSE are worse than preservatives. If you are using ethanol or high-proof vodka as your solubaliser, it will do the job of preserving your spray, although I would still put a short shelf-life on it.

Step 4: Swirl, then top up with cooled boiled water or distilled water. Put the spray nozzle on, shake well, and spray about you or around your space.

Some Formulas for Essential Oil Blends:

Sleepy night:

10 drops lavender

5 drops bergamot

5 drops geranium

Monster repellent:

5 drops petitgrain

5 drops cedarwood

5 drops lavender

5 drops geranium

Clearing Negativity:

5 drops juniperberry

5 drops peppermint

5 drops lemon

5 drops black pepper

To fill a 100ml bottle, double the recipe above.

*Be aware that some people may be sensitive to alcohol on the skin, so watch out for sensitivities. If you are using alcohol, not spraying directly on sensitive facial skin is a good idea.

SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
1. Aren’t essential oils antiviral and antibacterial? Won’t they preserve the product?
No, because although their antiviral and antibacterial properties are effective against infections on the skin and in growth mediums, they do not extend to preserving a whole product. Add to the fact that oils and water do not mix, essential oils’ antiviral and antibacterial properties do not extend to the water phase. Using higher concentrations of essential oils, say 20-25% may act to preserve the product, we are then looking at possible skin sensitisation at those levels, as well as the economics and sustainability of it (25% of 50ml is 12.5ml of essential oils!)

2. My oil company says our oils are so pure that they dissolve in water
Pure or not, essential oils are volatile organic compounds made up of mainly hydrogen and carbon atoms. Most of these molecules are hydrophobic – meaning they do not mix with water. SOME parts of the molecules may dissolve in water, but the majority will not. It is why when you leave your oil and water mix for a while, the oil settles at the top of the water. Shaking the crap out of it will help mix it up, but not fully. The oil and water will eventually separate. Shaking it before use each time can minimise skin sensitisation, but if we are using essential oils that are phototoxic, or contain skin-sensitising molecules, we may still get droplets of essential oils on our skin, which may harm us. For example, we use lemon essential oil or limonene compounds in spray products to degrease surfaces. If they are effective enough to degrease surfaces, they are effective enough to affect our skin, which is made up of lipids (fats).

3. My oils are so pure, they cannot cause sensitisation. Some detoxing may occur, but it is not sensitisation.
Skin sensitisation is very real – it can also happen with essential oils that are generally known as safe, like lavender or chamomile. Skin sensitisation can occur in your first use, or it can occur after prolonged and repeated use, safely diluted or not. While purity is important, and skin sensitisation is more likely to occur with adulterated oils or oils that have been poorly stored leading to oxidisation, people have reported sensitisation to pure essential oils. Once sensitisation occurs, it is likely you may not be able to continue using that oil, and in serious cases, it can extend to other essential oils that contain similar chemical constituents as the one you are sensitised to. So my perspective is, keep to safe dilutions, regardless of purity, so you can continue to use those essential oils. You can read more about sensitisation here, here, and here.

4. Can I use honey as a dispersant and preservative?
No. Although honey is antibacterial, its properties do not extend to preserving a product, especially one that contains water. When honey is added to water, it is actually a sugary environment perfect for bacterial growth. While it CAN help disperse essential oils, you will still need a really good preservative. Read this blog as it explains it so much better than I (the bloggist is a cosmetic formulator highly regarded in cosmetic formulation circles).

5. Can I use Epsom salts, glycerine or bicarb soda as a dispersant?
Some older aromatherapy texts do suggest Epsom salts, glycerine or bicarb soda as a dispersant. While these changes the “wetness” of water, meaning they weaken the water bonds so they may “blend” better with essential oils, they are still not effective dispersants. Personally, for home use to make aromatherapy sprays, they may be adequate substitutes, because you are not using high amounts of essential oils and you are not spraying profusely. Just avoid spraying on sensitive facial skin or on children and babies. If you wish to read more about dispersants, this is a good article written in by the Tisserand Institute in partnership with Deborah Kallevig, a cosmetic formulator. The article is specifically about dispersing essential oils in bath water, but it explains beautifully how to effectively (and not) disperse oils in water.

I hope I have not scared you off making aromatherapy sprays, after all of those cautions! It seriously is a simple process, granted more simple than the safety considerations, but I truly wish to leave you with the idea that essential oils are wonderful and therapeutic CHEMICALS that can heal AND harm. Simply be aware of risks, and aim to use essential oils safely, and you are good to go! If you have any questions, feel free to ask/comment, I will do my best to answer.

For a list of Kid-Safe Essential Oils, go here.

Diffusing Essential Oils – 5 Reasons I Don’t Own a Diffuser, and I am a Clinical Aromatherapist

oils

Recently, I was asked a question, “What do you diffuse?”

My answer? I don’t. I don’t even own a diffuser, and I said so to the person who asked the question. They almost fell off their chair.

So here are 5 reasons why I don’t own a diffuser, as I explained to my friend:

  1. I have a toddler. More specifically, my practice of not possessing a diffuser came from before her birth, as I was mindful of limiting the use of essential oils during pregnancy (I was studying my Diploma in Clinical Aromatherapy then, so was exposed to a fair amount of essential oils already). Then, I was cautious about diffusing around a newborn – there was simply so much conflicting information out there about essential oil safety, and as a sleep-deprived new mum, I simply chose to err on the side of caution. What I did find that worked was passive diffusion – this is when you place a drop of an essential on a piece of tissue or cloth, and simply inhale. Or sniff straight from the bottle, or from a necklace diffuser. When I saw how placing one drop of tea tree oil on a muslin cloth, then leaving this close to my baby’s nose when she was asleep, was enough to unblock her nose and expel snot, that was good enough for me. As she got older, she is a curious one, and she climbs everywhere, and I know I would be *that* mother who left water and essential oil in a diffuser where the toddler could get to it and tip it over, or worse, drink that water…. 
  2. I have a cat. Actually, correct that, I have two cats now. And a dog. And chickens that continually insist on walking into the house. And this past week, a duckling. We care for duckling/s indoors about 1-2 times a year. The research on essential oils with animals is still quite limited, and the data out there currently informs that cats lack the liver enzymes to process essential oil constituents, in particular phenolic compounds. Given that I had a rescue kitten go into liver toxicity on me the day I adopted her from a rescuer, because the rescuer had used tea tree oil in water to wipe it down in an attempt to get rid of fleas (recall that oil and water do not mix, so essentially the kitten had undiluted tea tree oil applied to it), I am even more cautious about avoiding using essential oils around my animals. Simply because, I do not know enough about it, I have not studied it, numerous vets have told me essential oils are toxic to cats and birds, and I have no need to use essential oils on my animals when the medications work for us with no side effects.
  3. In clinic work, I select essential oils to use specific to each client on the day of consult. Therefore, I do not diffuse essential oils into the air because I do not know if a client, in particular a new client, would react to particular oils, or whether the oils are contraindicated with a particular issue they are experiencing that day. Often, I will have clients remark that the room smells lovely, even if they are the first client of the day, and the last clinic session was 4 days prior. Essential oil molecules can stay in an unventilated room, in the fabric and carpet of the room, and also in the air, so limiting exposure is part of safety for me. My clinic space is technically a public area for me, and diffusing essential oils in public can cause reactions (see this for a news report on the dangers of diffusing in a public space).
  4. I don’t have the money to spare. Like seriously, currently a good diffuser with a timer costs upwards of A$100. We are a young family living on a farm with budding businesses (no pun intended, haha) – this just is not a priority for now. The reason I would opt for a diffuser with a timer that allows for intermittent diffusing is because current safety recommendations suggest the following (plus, I would be the person who forgets to turn it off): “Intermittent diffusion is much more effective, as well as being safer, than continuous diffusion. Intermittent means 30-60 minutes on, then 30-60 minutes off. This is because our body, especially our nervous system, habituates after this length of time. With continuous diffusion, while benefits do not increase, there is evidence that the body becomes stressed in various ways.” (Tisserand Institute, 2017). This is if you are diffusing for a specific purpose – to treat respiratory conditions or you wish to disinfect the air if there is illness in the house. Low level diffusion, where you can barely smell the essential oil, is fine “anywhere, for any length of time”, according to Tisserand. However, it comes back to me preferring to reduce exposure to essential oils to an “as-needed” basis.
  5. My fifth reason is a bit more complex. In recent years, I am more mindful of how I use essential oils, because sustainability over the resources that go into making the oils is getting to be a concern. Lately, I am also more mindful about my purchases. A diffuser is not something I will use often, given the reasons listed above, so I do not want to add to the consumerism, or to the landfill when it breaks. If I want to freshen the air, I open the doors and windows for fresh air. We live on a farm, with low population density and an abundance of trees, so we are lucky to have fresh, clean air all the time. In  my clinic, I have indoor plants, and I open the windows after treatments. If I need to “disinfect” the air in the house, I boil vinegar on the stove and add spices like cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and bay or eucalyptus leaves (these two are in abundance on our farm!). I also reach for the charcoal disc and incense, or homemade dried herb bundles, if I need to cleanse the house energetically. So, in short, I make do with what I have, and the traditional forms of plant medicine first, before reaching for the essential oils.

    View outside our front door, on a rainy day

So there you have my five reasons for not owning a diffuser. If you already own one, or aim to purchase one, by all means, use a diffuser, because only you will know how or why it would fit in with your home, family and lifestyle. What I do hope, in writing this article, that it may get you to look at how or why casual and continuous diffusing may not be as risk-free as one may think, and how there are other ways we can use plant medicine. If you wish to read more about Plant Medicine beyond essential oils, have a look at this article. As always, I would love to hear your perspective – do you use a diffuser, or not?

 

7 Strategies to Support Our Mind, Body, Heart and Soul through a Spiritual Shift

As human beings on a spiritual journey, we are constantly going to experience ups and downs. In recent years, I started viewing it as if we are going through continuous expansion – going up, up, up but occasionally we hit an upper limit, and this is where you want to smash through that upper limit. The smashing through can be painful at the time, and can leave us questioning what it’s all about, what are we doing here, is what we have been focusing on truly worth it, and on and on.

 

For some of us, it is a big crisis when you are new to having your spiritual awakening and shifting from Unconscious to Conscious. It is a huge wake-up call, and it shakes you up. For some of us who have been on the journey longer, the shake-up is not as big. Nevertheless, it is a shakeup and it can leave us questioning ourselves.

 

So, these are the seven things I come back to whenever I feel myself hitting another upper limit – these strategies help me stay sane! They help me move thought the shifts as smoothly as I can, with ease and joy. I’m not saying it is easy. Sometimes it is really hard, because I still have a family to care for, our farm and businesses to run, and that is OKAY – acknowledging that we are finding things challenging, helps us let go of control and back into Flow. Do what you need to support yourself through the shifts, and I hope these strategies give you an idea of how you can craft your own support plan too.

 

Number 1: Look after your body.

Look at putting in nourishing foods into your body, foods that are

high vibration if you can – fresh vegetables and fruits, home-grown, home-cooked, etc. Or if you are feeling really scattered and absorbing people’s energies left, right, and centre and knocking you off your high vibe, then take in some foods th

at are grounding like potatoes, carrots, beetroot or other tubers, something that is from under the ground, as those foods can help ground you. Magnesium is a mineral I highly recommend – you can find this in dark chocolate (there is a basis to those cravings!), dark leafy greens and nuts and seeds – as our bodies use up magnesium when we are stressed. Fermented foods may help as well, as research now shows how our guts can influence our moods, and vice versa.

 

You may find that your sleep patterns are scattered whenever you are going through a shift – from middle-of-the-night wake-ups (3.30am, anyone??) to needing naps at random times of the day. Listen to your body and sleep when you can.

 

Movement and exercise helps too, to keep the energies flowing in your

body. If you are finding it hard to move, a massage or any other body-work treatment, a bath or shower, can help.

 

 

Number 2: Drink water.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate as much as you can. Besides nourishing our bodies, when we drink water, we come back into our body, we ground back into our body. This can help shift that scattered-ness, and keeps energies flowing. Drinking water also supports the cellular shifts that are going on within our body as we go through a Consciousness shift.

 

Remember that water can carry high vibrations, if we set the intention to it. Adding crystals, flower essences, solar or lunar energies, vegetable or fruit slices, and most importantly, our Intentions, can help “charge” the water with higher vibrations to support our bodies.

 

Number three: Ask for help.

This is a big one, and it can be a challenging one. Reach out. Ask for help from your friends, your family, people you trust, people you know are having high vibrations, or people you know who are going through the same thing that you’re going through. Ask them for help. Check in with them. Being very careful not to go down into negativity. It helps to check in and to know that you are not the only one going through a shift. Other people are going through a shift too. Other people are struggling at certain times. You are not the only one and you are not crazy so it helps to check in with someone else, to ask for help with those around you. Ask for help from your unseen supporters – your spirit guides, your angels, the Ascended Masters, your unseen Lightworkers who are there helping you, supporting you through this shift. Ask them for help. Remember that they cannot help you unless you ask for it.

 

Number four: Do things that you love

These can be rituals, or they can be extra spiritual practices, or your hobbies, or anything that will lift up your vibration. Engage in things that you love because they remind you of YOU. When it is something that you have always loved to do, but haven’t had time for it lately, now is a good time to come back to it.

 

Number 5: Honouring your journey.

Honouring your journey as a human being. Honouring your journey as a spiritual being in a human body. Honouring how far you have come. Honouring those dark times that you have gone through but you survived anyway. Honouring your strengths and how you still here. You are still here, there is a reason you are still here. You are strong enough. Honour your journey, honour your strengths, honour yourself. It helps. It helps to remember you are an awesome person who has got this far.

Number six: Check in with your spiritual practices.

It helps when we surrender, or we acknowledge, that there is a power greater than us. There is a power that has our back, that is looking out for us, that is cheering us on, wanting us to move through this and be here and be Lightworkers. Holding your light, holding your love. Acknowledging it helps us know that we are not alone, that we have never been alone.

 

Number seven: Remembering your divinity.

Remember that you are a soul that came from a Greater Divine, that the spark in you is the same spark that is in the Greater Divine that is in the same spark as everyone else here. Remember that you are divine beautiful, limitless soul, living in a human body. You are more than your human body, and you are more amazing than you ever think that you are. Remembering your divinity helps you know that this too shall pass, and that you are going to come through like a butterfly out of a chrysalis. A big, beautiful soul with a higher consciousness, and then you get to do it again later on.

 

I hope you have found inspiration in these seven ways that can support you through a spiritual shift, a breaking through of an upper limit. If you have found value in this article, I would love to hear from you. I would love to hear how this has helped you, or if you don’t agree with it, feel free to express your opinion. What I do ask is to share it with love and kindness, and above all be kind to yourself too.

Essential Oils for Various Energetic Purposes

Here is a simple list of essential oils and their energetic purposes. While not comprehensive, these are the oils I tend to use during healing sessions with clients and for myself, as well as in making vibrational blends. Since we are working with the energetic/spiritual properties of these essential oils, small amounts and/or low dilutions are generally sufficient – in my own healing journey, the more “sensitive” I become to energetics, the less I need to use to achieve an effect, to the point that inhaling from the bottle is enough to create an energetic shift.I have included some suggestions on how to use the oils too.

 

Essential Oils for Clearing

Rosemary – traditionally used for Protection and also in Banishing spells

Eucalyptus – clears space

Black pepper – resonates with the solar plexus (power centre) – good one to add to blends for banishing negativity

Juniperberry – traditionally used for repelling negativity and clearing space

Kaffir lime – clears old energies to allow new beginnings; traditionally used in a bucket of water to wipe down window sills and doorways

Lemon – “sparkles”, clears energies, invites in Abundance ie replaces the old energies with “fresh” energy

Cedarwood – strength and grounding, helps focus on Purpose and Intention

Peppermint – helps speak your Truth, clears energetic blockages from holding your Voice/Truth in

 

HOW TO USE:

  1. Salt scrub – 2% of single oil or blend in a salt and carrier oil base
  2. Bath – 6-8 drops dispersed in a carrier (milk, vegetable oil) for a full bath
  3. Spray – 2% of single oil or blend in a spray bottle. If using with distilled or cooled boiled water, add a dispersant and a preservative. If using vodka, mix the 2% essential oil(s) in 30ml of vodka, leave for 2 weeks and then add water.
  4. Rollerball application – 2% dilution (4 drops of essential oils in total in a 10ml rollerball bottle)

 

 

Essential Oils for Protection

Rosemary – traditionally used for Protection

Vetiver – strong protective oil, helps send negativity into Earth

Patchouli – grounding oil

Black Pepper – helps protect solar plexus (power centre)

Petitgrain – reconnecting with Higher Self purpose. When we connect with our Higher Self, we raise our vibes so we are naturally protected

 

HOW TO USE:

  1. Spray – 2% of single oil or blend in a spray bottle. If using with distilled or cooled boiled water, add a dispersant and a preservative. If using vodka, mix the 2% essential oil(s) in 30ml of vodka, leave for 2 weeks and then add water
  2. Use a single oil or a blend on a piece of clothing (test first) or with a diffuser pendant

 

 

Essential Oils for Healing

Helichryseum – helps with letting go

Geranium – helps with self-love, nurturing; connects with Mother Earth energies

Rose – Love and Unconditional Love

Chamomile – connects with Inner Child

Kaffir Lime – new beginnings

Petitgrain – Higher Purpose, Connection with the Divine

Myrrh – heals old wounds; resonates with the Wounded Healer archetype

FragoniaTM  – relatively new oil, Australian native; Connects with all aspects of the Feminine

 

HOW TO USE:

  1. Use a single oil or a blend on a piece of clothing (test first) or with a diffuser pendant
  2. Bath – 6-8 drops dispersed in a carrier (milk, vegetable oil) for a full bath
  3. Use during a healing session or ritual
  4. Rollerball application – 2% dilution (4 drops of essential oils in total in a 10ml rollerball bottle)

Please note that the descriptions for the energetic purposes of each essential oil listed is gathered from my own journey of learning and working with essential oils since 2008, both through self-education as well as from clinical aromatherapy training. I do not claim that these are 100% accurate or “truth”; the descriptions may not resonate with everyone – always trust your Intuition and inner guidance.

Please do share your energetic experiences with essential oils.

Please do not share this information without permission.

5 Ways Plant Medicine is more than Essential Oils

With essential oils being a buzz-word in the “natural”, “chemical-free” and “healing” movement, it is easy to forget that Plant Medicine is more than essential oils. Essential oils are simply a drop, pun intended, in the world and magic of Plant Medicine. In this blog, I present 5 ways we can begin to get to know plants and their healing magic, for truly, it is an ongoing journey of learning.

 

First of all, let’s start with the whole plant itself. I am using lavender for my example here. You look at the plant – see how the leaves form – long narrow soft leaves extruding from a main stem. See how the leafy stems grow low towards the ground, and then long thin stems reach out to the sky to form a flower head. See how the flower is formed of tiny little buds clustered together, ending in a thin “spear”. This particular lavender I am describing, is classic to English lavender, or the Latin botanical name, Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis.

 

 

Compare this to another “style” of lavender whose flower heads are shorter and thicker, with 3 petals at the top. This is usually a variety of French lavender, with botanical names of L. stoechas, L. dentata, or L. pedunculata (“butterfly” petals), , and comes in colours of purple or pink.

L. pedunculata, with pink flowers

L. stoechas 

See how lavender grows, close to the ground, usually in a rounded shape.

 

Lavender tends to be grown in mediteranean conditions, so once established, will tolerate dry conditions. It is a hardy perennial (grows all year-round) and loves a cut back to remove spent flower heads.

So you can see, it is easy to grow lavender, they are easy to care for and there are many varieties to suit your needs. When you go to pick a bunch of lavender, and come back in a few weeks to find more flower heads, you see the Abundance of this healing plant.

Watch the bees hover about the flowering lavender, and you will see how it is a part of a bee-friendly garden.

We can learn a lot about a plant’s particular medicine from simply observing how it grows. This is the concept behind Doctrine of Signatures.

Now let us look at the 5 ways we can use Lavender:

  1. The Flowers. You have picked a bunch of lavender flowers, and now is the fun of working out what to do with them! English lavender, L. angustifolia, will keep well – these are the bunches you see in any herb display, and they hold their colour beautifully. L. spica tend to lose their colour and the shape of the flowers does not really lend to making herb sachets or pouches. Hang bunches of lavender upside down to dry, so the stems stay straight. Then display them anywhere – in a vase, on a shelf, tied in a posy.

Strip the flower buds from the stem and make sleep pouches or pillows. Lavender is known for their calming and sedating properties, its gentle perfume serenades you to sleep. Add lavender buds to homemade bath salts – these look and smell beautiful as little gifts, or add sprigs of lavender when you are drawing a bath for a goddess-inspired immersion.

 

  1. Herbal teas or infusions. A small pinch of lavender buds, combine with chamomile, makes a lovely bedtime tisane to aid sleep. Add a whole lavender spear into a jug of fresh, chilled water with some slices of lemon for pretty, summer drink.
Here is a Relax or Sleep tisane I made as Christmas gifts a few years ago.

 

  1. Oil-infusions. Place some dried lavender flowers into a mason jar, and top with a light carrier oil, like sweet almond oil or light olive oil. Leave on a sunny window sill for a few weeks to infuse. It is important that the flowers are dry before infusing in oil, as water content can cause mold to grow. L. angustifolia is best for this, as they dry well. We tend not to infuse the leaves of the lavender as there is greater water content in them and not enough volatile compounds (the stuff that makes essential oils). Strain the oil when ready, squeezing out excess oil. The spent flowers can then be used in a shower as a body scrub – add sugar or salt to create a simple body scrub that still smells of lovely lavender. The infused oil can be used as a massage oil, or to make creams or lotions (I use infused lavender oil, along with lavender hydrosol and lavender essential oil to create a “whole” lavender cream or lotion, as I believe the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”).
My window sill often have jars of infusing oils, and I try to infuse flowers that grow in my garden

 

  1. Flower Essences. Flower essences are made with the energetic properties of the plant and then “preserved” with alcohol. You can make them to the rhythm of the moon, calling in the New Moon for new beginnings, or the Full Moon for fulfillment of Intentions, and the dark of the moon for reducing symptoms. Tuning in to the healing and magical properties of Lavender, and combining them with the energies of the moon can create powerful essences, which are unique to the person creating them.
Preparing some dried flowers for a Lunar infusion

 

Fresh Floral infusion

 

  1. This is where we approach the herbal medicine aspect of Plant Medicine. Tinctures are usually alcohol-based, or water-and-alcohol-based products. Lavender flowers are macerated (infused) in alcohol or a mixture of alcohol and water. Lipophilic (oil-loving) volatile organic compounds (VOC) will infuse into the alcohol, while hydrophilic (water-loving) VOCs will infuse in the water. With a water-and-alcohol tincture, we are able to capture both hydrophilic and lipophilic VOCs to create a more holistic tincture. Dosage of tinctures is dependent on the condition one wishes to treat – note my use if the words “condition” and “treat”, so you would need to obtain more knowledge in this part of herbal medicine, or consult a herbalist.

 

So there we have 5 different ways we can experience the healing and magic of a plant, on top of learning to care and maintain the whole plant itself, and note that I did not even cover the essential oil (I will cover Lavender essential oil therapeutic properties another day). The journey to get to know a plant, and thus its plant magic, is an experiential one, and the best advice I ever received in learning plant medicine is to create a relationship with the plant, on all levels. And then there are many, many more plants to get to know and love in the world of plant magic and medicine. Happy journey-ing! 😊

Self-Care Series: Caring for Our Spirit with Rituals

 

This is part of my series about self-care - looking after all aspects of our self: our mind, body, emotions, heart and spirit/soul. In this series of blog articles, I’ll be talking about looking after our spirit, or our soul, and the first thing that I recommend in connecting with our spirit is rituals.

What rituals do you do on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis? The things that are basically comforting for you, that you absolutely love, and absolutely need, to nourish yourself? For me it’s non-negotiable that I have a cup of coffee in the morning. A cup of coffee brewed from coffee grounds - no sugar, no milk. It is what I need to come into my body first thing in the morning, awaken into my body, my physical body, and prepare myself mentally and emotionally and psychologically for the rest of the day.

For some of you it might be your first shower in the morning. You absolutely need that, so that is non-negotiable. Your day just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t engage in that ritual. Think about the daily rituals that you just need to anchor yourself into the here and now.

And then there are the rituals that you do on an “as-needed” basis. I have a ritual that I use especially after working in the clinic - I use a sage stick or an incense stick to clear my auric field. Sometimes I miss it because I don’t need it, or it’s a day where I feel fully in the flow and my vibrations stay high. Some days I really need it because I feel like I’ve picked up a lot from clients or from my own issues, so I need to sage, and clear my energy field.

 

When I first started off in my healing journey I would need “sage” every day, after every client, it was absolutely non-negotiable. So, if you haven’t realised it by now, rituals come and go, and rituals adjust with you as you grow.

So maybe a few years from now, I don’t actually need my morning coffee (cue laughter), I will replace it with an herbal tea. Who knows? But what is important about rituals is that the rituals become a way to slow down, honour your body, honour yourself. And in honouring your body and yourself, you honour your journey, and you connect with your divine self, your soul. Traditionally, the idea of rituals stem from religious or spiritual practices where we connect with the Divine outside of us, and in doing so, we connect with the divine inside of us. So rituals primarily become a way to slow down and connect with the Divine both within and without.

The second important point of rituals is that they are something that you love to do. It connects with your loves, your heart, your soul. The focus is on you. This is especially important if you are the sort of person who gives and gives to other people. If this is you, the rituals that you want to incorporate into your life would be the rituals that are giving back to you, and it isjust for you. To help you cope, to help you function, to help you thrive, whichever it is, but it is about you, it is about connecting with you and self-love.

The third important thing about rituals in my experience, is that it helps us anchor our self, especially when we’re going through shifts. When we go through a consciousness shift, we question ourselves, we doubt ourselves, we wonder what on earth we are doing with our lives – all those questions swirling around in our heads!

Come back to your rituals. Come back to your anchors, the things that you do on a regular basis that remind you of you, that remind you of what you love. Coming back to the rituals and using rituals to anchor ourselves can help support us when we go through those moments of self-doubt, moments of shifts, moments of shedding our old selves. Because, ritual is about connecting with your divine self - with that eternal, unchanging spark within .

So how do you engage in rituals in your life? Are they daily? Weekly? Are they monthly like celebrating the full moon? Celebrating the changes in season like the equinox or the solstices? How do you incorporate rituals into your lives to help you connect with the divine you within?

I would love to hear how you incorporate rituals into your life. Comment here or come find me on my Facebook page, Rae of Light.

Expanding Your Soul to Narrow Your Purpose

Sometimes I know who I am, and what my purpose it, but today is not that day. Today, I wonder what on earth I am doing on this Earth, because I look at what I spend my energies on, and can’t see a focus.

I see clients in my clinic, and help them bring balance to their mind, body, heart and soul. I do this 2-3 days a week.

I make herbal and aromatherapy products, with the aim of supporting clients/customers in their health and wellbeing. I do this 1 day a week.

I live on a farm with my husband and 3 year-old, where we grow our own vegetables, herbs and seasonal fruit, and have our own chickens and ducks. I run a hops business with my husband too, mainly the accounting and administration work. When we have excess produce in season, I make jams, pickles, chutneys and sauces to sell.

Once a month, I run a fermentation workshop, where I teach people how to make their own fermented foods, and incorporate those foods into their daily life and diet. I maintain my own different ferments at home too.

And recently, I have begun making reusable food wraps so I could reduce the use of cling wrap and single-use plastic in my home, and by working with a friend, we are creating a little business to reuse, recycle and reduce fabrics we find at opshops into waxed wraps and reusable produce bags.

Then there is the part of me that wants to study more – herbalism, cosmetic formulation, more healing modalities.

And the underlying guilt which whispers, and sometimes yell, at me to spend more time with my family and friends.

And somewhere in between, I need to look after my own self-care, practising what I teach to my clients in caring for their mind, body, heart and soul.

My limitless Soul wants to see, do, experience, learn (re-learn) so much, my human ego wants it NOW. Human ego, and a lifetime of social, cultural and family messages telling me to focus on ONE thing, and be the Genius in that, be the Huge Amazing Success Story in that ONE thing.

Somewhere in between all that I have to remember that there is a greater picture, of which I may get a glimpse sometimes but more often that not, I am operating on Faith that all that I am doing makes sense, has a purpose; that *I* have a Purpose.

And I do. We all do. But the Journey to See, Hear, Smell, Touch, Taste, and FEEL our Purpose can be a long, meandering, backtracking, lane-jumping, doubling-up journey that misleads you to believe “I’m Here”, but then go “Haha, still more travelling and unpeeling of layers to do!”

It’s a Journey to Expand your Soul, and in that expansion, you get to know your True Self, and DECIDE your Purpose.

 

 

Healing Money Blocks – The Deeper Layers

Over the years, since beginning my work as a healer, I have addressed many of the beliefs surrounding healing work and money – watch this video here for a quick overview. As always, with healing work, there are many layers to unpeel.

Lately, I have been working on healing energetic blockages that have been carried through my lineage, my ancestry, with the main focus on business and money. My money story comes with beliefs like “self-worth” and “being seen”. Looking through my family history, I can see where my great-grandparents, who were landowners in China, fled the Communist regime to arrive in Malaysia, starting again from nothing. Key themes were “sacrifice” and “hard work”, and these are themes that are strong in my Chinese culture too.

That has been my biggest one – the belief that I need to work hard to earn money, and make a living. I was working hard and long hours just to pay bills and feed my family, there wasn’t enough to buy new clothes for me – my “sacrifice” to my family.

This pair of shoes is how bad it got at one stage – these are the pair of shoes I wear daily, on the farm and even to work sometimes.

I live in a First-World country…. What Unconscious messages am I sending out to the Universe?? What belief was I living in terms of self-worth and self-care?

So we have “getting paid money for healing work”, “self-worth”, “being seen”, “hard work” and “sacrifice” as dominant themes in my money story.

Let’s dig deeper. One of the issues I have with money is creditors – people who owe me money in unpaid invoices or they have products on hold but won’t come and pick them up, and this thread links ALL my businesses, including the one I share with my husband. I would feel bad about chasing creditors, or I could see that they are struggling too. So in my world, I have to work hard to have money, and I have people who work hard to chase money too.

I often ask this question when issues like these come up: “Who is the common denominator?”

In this situation, *me*. So I look within, and ask the question, “Why do I struggle with creditors?”

An answer came up recently, and it is so bizarre and weird, but oddly enough, it fits.

My father came from a wealthy family in Johor, a state in Malaysia. His great-grandfather started a business, worked hard, got rich. His son worked in the family business too, and made it even wealthier. And then my grandfather spent it all and mismanaged the business, combined with pressure from “greedy” cousins (so the story goes), so in my mother’s words, “an empire rises and falls in three generations”. Many nuggets of learning here, many beliefs to address!

Anyway, my grandfather passed away when I was 16 years-old, and in clearing his estate, we discovered that my enterprising grandfather, in his later years, was loaning out money with interest. The word “ceti” was used – it’s a Malaysian word for “loan shark”.

I will state it clearly – my grandfather was born into privilege, and in his later years, he used his privilege to make money. I don’t know who he loaned money to, but picture this: my grandfather drove a red sports car, had a “mistress”, and gambled. Did he enable others’ gambling addiction? Perhaps. Did he foster poor money-managing habits? What was his money habits like?

I don’t have those answers. I don’t even know the full picture. My grandfather also gave to charities throughout his life, but the people he loaned money to probably never knew that. That wouldn’t be their thought when he came collecting monies owed.

Shamanic teachings say that thoughts of anger and hatred can turn into curses, and create karmic ties. Is the karma my grandfather created playing out on some level in my own life? I have to say yes, simply because in the past two days, questions of responsible business ownership have been on my mind, in particular offering payment options to customers – do I promote responsible consumerism or consumerism based on fears? Do my products contribute to waste and the landfill, or are they eco-friendly and sustainable? I also see other parallels, including being in position of chasing creditors every month and the relationships that play out in my life.

Why me? Why not either of my brothers or my sister or my cousins?

I don’t know. It has been 5 years since I started looking at healing ancestral blocks, and helping clients heal ancestral ties and karma (see this article I wrote in 2012). If I had a dollar for each time we asked this question, I would be rich 😀

Maybe we simply choose to. And now I choose to heal this karmic patterning so my child(ren) will not carry this pattern in their life.

And I can happily pay for a new pair of shoes for myself without the second-guessing or guilt.