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Top Ten Healthy Herbs and How to Use Them

Herbs are very good for us. Not only do they add various flavours to our food without piling on the calories, they have wonderful health benefits that many people are only just beginning to truly appreciate. A basic knowledge of how food can help to keep you healthy while eating brilliantly is key to the foundation of a truly healthy life. To help you decide which of the bewildering array of herbs to pick, here’s a list of ten you shouldn’t be without.

Rosemary

Rosemary has been shown to can boost memory and concentration. It also helps with muscle and joint pain when applied topically. It tastes great when added to hearty food like meat and potatoes.

Parsley

Parsley is usually only seen as a garnish, and as such most people don’t eat it. This is a shame, since it is rich in vitamin A and C, and is also high in antioxidants. It has been proved to help reduce high blood pressure. It works well with chicken dishes.

Ginger

Ginger is a good anti-inflammatory, and has been used topically to help to ease arthritis for centuries. When taken internally, it helps to ease gastrointestinal problems, from IBS to diarrhoea and nausea. Best of all, there are wonderful tasting desserts which call for ginger, making it a welcome – and tasty – addition to your kitchen.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is another anti-inflammatory, but it also has antibiotic properties. Like ginger, it is great for preventing and treating issues like diarrhoea and indigestion. It can also help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. It also doesn’t have to be kept just for desserts. Using it as part of a glaze for roasts and vegetables can add a wonderful touch of heat.

Garlic

Most people seem to know that garlic is good for them. It helps to ease the symptoms of colds and flu, it helps relieve hypertension, and is a great boost to the immune system. It tastes great in stews and soups of all kinds, and is commonly found in Mediterranean cooking.

Nettles

Yes, stinging nettles. Not a plant many think of as a herb, but a great addition to any kitchen. It helps to reduce inflammation, particularly that associated with arthritis. It is also great for controlling dandruff and improving the overall health of your hair. It can be infused into a refreshing tea, along with being used in soups, pesto and polenta recipes.

Chives

Chives are rich in vitamins A and C, and has been shown to reduce the risk for gastric cancer. While sprinkling chopped chives over salads and pasta is a great finishing touch, cooking with them is just as good, particularly when adding them to potato recipes.

Coriander

Coriander has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, along with helping to reduce cholesterol levels. Add it to roasted vegetables or nourishing stews, or look at Indian and Thai meals.

Bay Leaves

Bay really comes into its own in the winter months. It contains an oil called cineole, which helps to ease the discomfort of blocked sinuses. It also boosts the immune system, and can help to prevent heart disease. They add a mild spice to stews, soups and sauces of all kinds, but should not be eaten whole, so remove them before serving.

Dandelion

Another unusual herb, dandelions are often overlooked as a food herb. They are a natural mild diuretic, which make them useful for treating high blood pressure and liver and kidney issues. It makes a great tasting addition to salads, a wonderful infused vinegar, and a lovely after-meal tea.

There are thousands of other herbs that can be used. They are easily available and make for a great way to help to boost your health while tasting great.

Talking Tarot

 

Tarot is one of the world’s most well known and popular divination systems. There are many theories about how and where it began, but it has certainly been around for the last few hundred years at least.

A tarot deck is composed of a total of 78 cards, which are then divided into two distinct sections – the 22 cards of the Major Arcana, and then 56 cards of the Minor Arcana, which is further divided into four suits. The suits of the Minor Arcana are very similar to the suits in a normal deck of playing cards. As a general rule, the Major Arcana reflects major turning points in our lives – our commitments, triumphs and tragedies, while the cards of the Minor Arcana deal with the more day-to-day aspects of life. When used together, they offer a guide to the potential incidents and issues that we have to handle.

Beginning to Read the Tarot

Tarot is a very user-friendly form of divination, which is perhaps the source of its constant popularity over time. This is due to the highly visual prompts each of the cards provide. By learning to interpret the Tarot, you are continuing the age-old practice of communicating through pictures and symbols.

When you feel ready to offer a reading to someone else, it is important to consider the environment you are using. While it is perfectly possible to give readings in a noisy bar (I have done this, so I know!), it is far better to have a space set aside, or at least quiet. Too much background noise can disrupt your concentration, not to mention the interruptions you are bound to get from people who are either highly skeptical or else simply curious of your readings.

At the beginning of a reading, the other person (also known as the ‘querent’) should shuffle the cards while focusing on the subject or issue they want the reading to illuminate for them. Once they feel they have done this for long enough, they should hand you the deck.

A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Before your querent arrives, gently clear and focus your mind. Try to let go of your own personal issues. This gets easier with practice, although it can help to focus on a single image for a few minutes.
  2. Clear the deck of previous influences by making sure that all of the cards are upright. I find tapping each edge of the cards three times helps to clear them very effectively, but use whatever method works for you. Some readers pass the cards through sage smoke or incense. Experiment, and find a method of cleaning the deck that works well for you, and don’t be afraid to change this method as you grow into your abilities as a reader.
  3. Next, shuffle the cards yourself. Make sure that you keep your mind clear while doing this.
  4. Hand the deck to your querent. Ask them to concentrate as clearly as possible on the issues that they are currently concerned about, and ask them to shuffle the deck.
  5. Choose whichever spread you feel most comfortable with – future posts in this series will go deeper into the various possible spreads and how to interpret them.
  6. Read the cards. This does not have to make sense to you. You will find that readings which confuse you make perfect sense to your querents. Remember, you know nothing of the situation which has brought your querent to you, and try to avoid making assumptions about their life which could taint your reading.
  7. Finish by giving a summary of the reading and asking the querent if they understand what the reading has revealed.

Finishing a Reading

When you finish a reading, you should always ask the querent if they understand and accept the information you have given them. It is with this final step that you will be able to monitor your skill as a reader, and it is also a great way to boost your confidence.

Don’t be discouraged if your querent doesn’t understand anything the cards have said, particularly when you are still learning. Mistakes do happen, and they are always a learning experience.

Celebrating Imbolc

Imbolc is one of the lesser-known festivals in the Celtic pagan calendar. It marks the point in the year where the first signs of spring begin to emerge, and the world turns back from the dark quiet of winter to the warmth and life of spring. It is a time for bringing new ideas and projects into the light, and for moving to actively grow projects which have been building over the winter months.

Spring Cleaning

Imbolc is the perfect time for that cleaning that you have been putting off. Get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home, and scrub all the surfaces down thoroughly. If you can bear the drop in temperature, open all of the windows and let some refreshing clean air flow through your home. Making the cleaning part of the celebrations is one of the easiest ways to encourage the whole family to join in – just remember to donate things that can still be used to appropriate charities instead of simply throwing them away.

Light’s Return

While Yule is a celebration of the rebirth of the sun, Imbolc is when its return first truly begins to be noticeable as it grows in strength. Candles are a practical response to this, as it is frequently too impractical to celebrate with a bonfire, whether due to weather or regulations. Have your feast lit by the warm glow of candles, and prepare for the blessings to come in the year ahead.

Feasting and Food

No true celebration is really complete without a meal to go with it. At Imbolc, it is important to concentrate on foods which honour the hearth and home – breads, grains and root vegetables are all appropriate, as are dairy products. After all, this is the festival designed to celebrate the beginning of lactation in both cows and sheep.

Brigid

Brigid (also spelt Brighid, and Bridget) is one of the daughters of the Dagda, and part of the Tuatha de Dannan. She is the patron of poets, bards, healers and magicians, and is particularly connected with prophecy and divination. She is a fire goddess, and deeply tied to the light of the sun. This means that any form of ritual healing or divination by candlelight is highly appropriate as part of any Imbolc celebration.