If you follow the sun, you’ll find that, as fall edges into winter, it slips further and further south. The angle of the sun’s rays gets shallower, and the days become shorter with the sun in southern skies. But every year, it turns back and begins its northward course right around the time of the winter holidays: a new light is reborn, and we can start fresh in a new year. The Winter Solstice.
That said, many traditional cultures used the moon as an easier form of time-tracking. Her course, when accounting for the earth’s orbit around the sun, runs about 29-30 days from full moon to full moon. The moon cycle also divides neatly into four segments of about 7-8 days each, making it a useful way to mark the more practical weekly calendar. The moon traces more intimate rhythms, while the sun holds the broad, seasonal cycles.
But the lunar and solar calendars are offset: while there are about twelve full moons in a year, that’s not quite enough to account for all the days between one winter solstice and the next. In fact, there are about 11-12 extra days after twelve lunar cycles before the sun synchronizes with the calendar again. So, in order to keep the daily household rhythm and the seasonal agricultural rhythm aligned, our ancestors simply inserted twelve extra days at the beginning of the year, right after the Winter Solstice. These days existed outside of the normal lunar calendar, and after they were over, the weekly reckoning could recommence and be in line with the solar cycle […]
Capsicum annuum is the plant that produces the spicy fruit commonly known as Cayenne Pepper or Chili. It has been used by native cultures as food and medicine for thousands of years, and its use continues to grow in modern culture today. Early evidence suggests its cultivation may have begun in Mexico, but has been used throughout many communities around the world. While it is often used as a culinary spice, most cultures have a history of using cayenne pepper therapeutically as well.
A small fruit, cayenne is often dried and powdered, and it brings a powerful kick that is noticed in even the smallest amounts. Cayenne pepper has gained popularity for cleansing and is used in detoxifying drinks such as the master cleanse, which uses the spice to support the circulatory and digestive systems.
Cayenne’s most profound action is bringing warmth to any formula, dish or beverage. It provides initial spice that lingers on the lips but then spreads heat quickly throughout our body. A healthy dose of cayenne can be felt deep in the stomach, warming and supporting our immune system and digestive tract.
The most well-known active ingredient in cayenne is a components of its pungent oleoresin: capsaicin. The degree of pungency, calculated in heat units of dried Capsicum or the extract, determines its value of potency. Many traditional herbalists believe that cayenne is one of our most useful herbs in the medicine cabinet, not only for the circulatory and immune system but for its ability to bring to life and to wake up a formula. It acts as a […]
Ayurveda, the “science of life” and traditional healing system of the Indian subcontinent, is perhaps the oldest formal medical system on the planet. Some of its seminal texts may date back over 4,000 years. As is the case with most traditional medicine, Ayurveda relies on an exquisite understanding of how human sensory perception and keen observation can be used to understand patterns of health and disease, as well as assess the therapeutic potentials of substances such as plants, animals, mushrooms and minerals.
One of the important concepts in Ayurveda is rasa, loosely translated as “taste”. A substance’s rasa is how it tastes and feels to us when we put it in our mouths, chew, swallow, and experience it. The taste framework described by the rasas is similar to our modern understanding of taste, though there is little attention given to the “umami” taste in Ayurveda, and “astringency” (normally thought of as an element of mouthfeel) gets more prominent placement. The Ayurvedic tradition recognizes that the taste of a substance conveys an objective and perceptible attribute of that substance which accurately and consistently represents its elemental composition and therapeutic potential. That is to say, similar tastes mean similar energetics and, in all likelihood, similar effects.
What gets interesting is that the link between taste and medicinal effect doesn’t necessarily imply identical chemistry at the molecular level. When two substances have similar rasa, they can be similar in […]