This was supposed to be my second post of a 30-day writing challenge, inspired from an e-mail I got from Discover Praxis. After deciding to commit myself to the challenge, my second day proved to me that it wasn’t a realistic goal – my little Fatima experienced colic which is unusual for us, wouldn’t sleep at her usual time and wanted to be held for a few hour until we went to bed together. I decided I could still commit to writing more frequently than I do, but just not every single day for the next 30 days, hoping to still reap the benefits of writing frequently. At least I’m grateful for the encouraging e-mail, so thank you Praxis.
Back in high school, nearly 8 years ago, one of my three A level classes was in Biology and my teacher had suggested a book called ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson. I went ahead and ordered the book. I started reading it, or at least I must have because I found a bookmark at page one-hundred-and-something but I never finished it. A week ago, I was looking for a book in my mom’s library and I found this uncompleted book of mine. I decided to give it a go and I am really enjoying it to say the least. There was a section on supernovae (plural of supernova; a powerful and luminious stellar explosion) and the author was comparing the size of the closest supernova candidate in our galaxy to the size of our Sun (it takes a massive star, much larger than our Sun, to produce a supernova). I took a moment to absorb that, to fathom the overwhelming magnitude of what surrounds us and I literally felt my body quiver. We tend to think of the Milky Way as so wide and complex, yet we’re only a tiny part of an entire galaxy of solar systems which is also a small part of many other galaxies, and who knows what else beyond those.
While reading the chapter on the Cosmos, theories on how it came to be, what keeps entire bodies of planets and stars ‘hanging’ and allows them to move in an orderly manner, I kept recalling the verse from the Qur’an:
Islam is a religion that regards reflection as highly esteemed and encourages mankind to reflect on the creation in order to come to know God, the Creator of the Cosmos and everything within it and beyond it.
What I find even more interesting is that despite how tiny we are amidst all this enormous creation, there is still so much detail in our small world: the many different satisfying tastes of herbs and fruits that we sense with our tongue, the beautiful colours and scents of flowers, the cellular structures, the strong impact of our complex emotions, to name a very few.
I am a mother of three as of recently, and I frequently get asked how it is managing three young children. The assumption is that the more of them there are, the harder it gets. That’s true in some ways. However, I would argue that having one was harder for me.
Usually when I put the kids to sleep, the arrangement is as follows:
I co-sleep in a single bed with 1-month old Fatima, 2 year old Abubakr is in a crib with the narrower side attached to my bed, and 3.5 year old Zaynab is in the other single bed beside mine and she usually sleeps with her aunt.
This will change once I go back to Istanbul to our own home but for now while my husband is away in the US and I’m with my family in Cyprus, our arragenment is as such.
Tonight, the arrangement was slightly different. Their aunt was busy so she didn’t participate in the bed time ritual (which includes story telling and then a semi-long religious litany and waiting for all the kids to sleep before sneaking out of the room). Fatima happened to be asleep downstairs in the living room. So Abubakr, who is always eager to sleep beside me instead of the crib, lay next to me and Zaynab laid down in her own bed. By the time I finished the litany, Abubakr was asleep. Zaynab by that point asked me to sleep next to her, so I did. I whispered some more litanies, and she fell asleep facing me, with her hand in mine. In the meanwhile, I began reflecting on something that I frequently remember: how much harsher I was to her as a younger toddler in comparison to her brother. It kills me because I can’t ever undo those moments. I never realized in those moments how small she was, how vulnerable, fragile. I only realized as she grew older and I could compare her to her younger brother. When I had my first child, everything changed. Everything. And probably for good. I was no longer able to do very basic things on my own without having to put another person into account. There was now this human being who literally depended on me for survival. Add to that insufficient socialization with other humans and lack of support. I won’t forget this one time at nap time where she was 13 months old, and I was about 4 months pregnant. I was nursing her and hating every minute of it because I couldn’t stand physical touch during pregnancy. She was taking a long time falling asleep – you have to understand, nap time and night time is like your time off – and I just lost it. I started yelling at her, telling her to shut her goddamn eyes and handling her very roughly. Imagine someone is hugging you and then all of a sudden they start to give you a rough shake. (Makes me sick of myself just thinking about it). Still half-nursing, she began crying, obviously. It was a painful cry. She must have been so confused. I don’t remember the details but I think she fell asleep finally because I remember quietly walking out of the room and hugging my husband who was approaching me in the hallway and I broke down crying because of how horrible I felt about having lost control of myself and hurting this child that I would die for. That’s when I decided I had to wean her because I didn’t want to feel resentment during an act that’s supposed to be an act of love and nurturing. My point of mentioning this is not about how pregnancy makes you feel sensitive or whatever and how you should handle those feelings. The issue here was not simply that. These types of moments were the result of a build up of underlying emotions, exhaustion, lack of support, lack of spiritual and physical nourishment. A lot of possible issues. And of course lack of understanding on how to deal with this little human being, because it was my first time and my life was forever changed. I had so much more patience with my second child in comparison to my first – maybe because we had a different structure as a family with where we were at in our life, having moved closer to my family, taking care of myself better and so on – but I think having had that experience already and this second child not making my already-mom life a whole lot more different played a major role too.
I’m never going to not feel regret over those ignorant and weak moments and I can’t help but think of how painful and possibly scary it must have been for a little child whose entire life revolved around me but I find comfort in that those moments didn’t and don’t make up the majority of my child’s upbringing. She is loved; she knows it and she feels it. Children are also incredibly forgiving, which is painful to think about, yet heartening.
I want to wrap up by mentioning two things:
A while back, I read something that really stuck with me. I don’t remember the author or where I read it, but it was about the most impactful moments in a child’s day. How they wake up, or rather what they wake up to, their nap time, and their bed time. So I try to really be careful in those moments (not that they nap anymore); to really be present with them, not to be caught on my phone the moment they wake up, greeting them with enthusiasm, kissing them, using a gentle tone, and likewise in the evening. In other words, making them feel safe and look forward to the day and the next day.
Finally… I read this hadith today which I had read before but hadn’t ever really reflected on and intended to act upon:
Narrated by Abu Dharr, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to us: When one of you becomes angry while standing, he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down. (Sunan Abi Dawud)
Let’s be real. I still get angry from time to time and snap at the kids, especially on stressful days. So inshaa Allah, my intention is to remember the advice of our Prophet next time I feel my anger may overcome me.
Here in Istanbul, we went through a very short and deceiving phase of freezing weather all of a sudden at some point back in September. Then all of a sudden it was really warm again, and all of a sudden I realized that maybe I had taken out the winter clothes a little too early. The good thing though is that I am at least organized for the winter now, washed everything, gave away what is probably unnecessary and still in good shape, and also got really confused in the process about why nothing is fitting my daughter. She must have had a growth spurt over the summer, because even pants that fit her a few months ago are now uncomfortable. I do forget she’s turning 4 very soon.
So I have been ordering most of my groceries from an organic farm in a village a few cities away for the last 2.5 years or so, and obviously everything is seasonal. So you’re not going to find eggplants and cucumbers, for example, in the winter. I find that by the end of a season, I am really looking forward to what the next season has to offer. So last week was the first week I had my first ‘fall’ delivery, and I was so excited to finally prepare some beet root, spinach, cabbage and whatnot for the week ahead. Of course there’s still some ‘summer’ staples available, like grapes and figs, but Fall is finally coming through.
I am not going to be sharing any recipes, but I want to give a few quick ideas on what you can do with some of the seasonal vegetables I got last week and what I did with them myself.
Also, a note on eating seasonally… I know in some countries you can still find fruits and vegetables that are out of season but are still produced without hormones and pesticides, usually shipped in from other countries or states. However, eating seasonally is ideal because foods that are in season correspond to what our bodies need the most during the current season. Have you ever craved watermelon on a cold winter day?
Other than crunching on most of the cauliflower head just straight up raw (my kids love raw vegetables but once they’re cooked… it’s a battle), we made it into a low carb cauliflower ‘mac ‘n’ cheese’. Honestly I prefer it just roasted until really tender, but it was going to be the main dish rather than a side dish that day so I had to be more creative. I usually roast beet root before storing to use in salad mostly, but I ended up boiling them instead – without removing the skin – and storing them in the fridge. Every time I make salad, I cut some into the salad, or I serve on its own as a side. You can sauté the tender shoots with some olive oil or butter and serve as a side. I grated the celeriac root with some carrots and sliced an apple into small, thin pieces to make a salad with a yogurt, olive oil & lemon juice dressing. The spinach was sliced and washed thoroughly before cooking with a very little bit of water just to allow some steam to develop in the covered pot on low heat, just until tender, and stored in the fridge. We used it in the morning to make some scrambled eggs with spinach. You can grate some aged cheese on top upon serving, or add some homemade pesto like we did. So far I have used both cabbages to make salad, once slaw and once just regular salad, thinly sliced with some tomatoes and cucumber and balsamic vinegar dressing, and I still have a ton of cabbage left so I will be using the white cabbage to make a delicious & simple cabbage stir fry with olive oil, turmeric, salt & red pepper until the very thinly sliced cabbage is extremely tender and well cooked. The fruits, we just enjoy straight up raw (except for the grapefruit which I prefer for juicing), and we do that as a snack in between meals or first thing in the morning before breakfast, because fruit is better before a main meal as it is digested quicker than other foods. How I missed the glorious pomegranate, also a favorite of my kids’. Oh, and before I forget, this was the last week I ordered some grapes, because you can tell they’re starting to say goodbye, so I washed them up and froze them in a container after removing from the stems. Great snack. Not pictured, I have some pumpkin which I will be using to make a meal with slow-baked rosto & cloves.
What’s your favorite way of using Fall vegetables (and fruits?)
I know I haven’t written a recent post in a long time, but when I looked at the date of my last entry (October 30, 2018) and hovered over today’s date, I was shocked that it’s nearly been a whole year. Yes, I had to check today’s date because I really can’t keep track of the calendar. I also can’t believe I am already 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby. We are intending to have our child in Istanbul this time. Trying out a different country each time around 🙂
We also moved into a new home back in February, so that was a very busy period. Ramadhan, a few trips to Cyprus and back, just being already extremely busy with my two toddlers who are a handful – I can barely respond to my WhatsApp messages during the day unless it requires a simple response – so that explains some of the lack of activity on my blog. Also, recently we visited the US as we normally do every summer. We were there for a little over a month and a half, and we traveled quite a bit by car, twice to Chicago and once to Canada from Michigan. We stayed at anywhere from a friend’s house who was out of town, to hotels, a motel, a couple of Airbnbs, and at a camp site.
I try to go ‘minimal’ while traveling in regards to shoes & clothing (we don’t own a lot in that department anyway) but I had to keep a bag of home remedies with me everywhere we went, especially considering we were traveling with small children. I’m going to list most of what we had and mention how they were useful during our travels!
Black Seed Oil – my go-to remedy for sore throat, ear aches, and overall immune boost. Both the kids developed a sore throat during part of our trip abroad and we used quite a bit of this remedy, a teaspoon every other hour but especially at the onset and first thing in the morning. Black seed oil may sting a bit if the sore throat is severe and may taste too bitter for some people (and especially kids) so what I usually do to convince my kids is mix a bit with honey and give them that way. On the contrary, some people love the taste and I am one of those people. In case of an ear ache, I give both internally if it may be related to a sore throat, and I rub in and around the ears. After we arrived in Michigan, my son who had fallen asleep after a very long flight woke up screaming in pain and it seemed he had an ear ache perhaps from pressure, I wasn’t sure, but I rubbed some of the oil into his ears and massaged his body with it too to calm him down and not too long after he was asleep again. Thankfully he was fine in the morning and it wasn’t an infection.
Lemons – whole lemons to squeeze for fresh juice as natural vitamin C. At some point I realized it wasn’t very practical to travel around with whole lemons and no easy access to knives, but I ended up peeling one with my hand during a car ride and just eating the lemon pieces. My daughter loves lemons. If you can carry around some rock/sea salt and sprinkle a teeny bit on the lemons, it’ll taste even better. Yum. A shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice is also a great pick-me-up, and excellent for breaking up a congestion, or for sore throat.
Raw Honey – again, good for sore throat. Even better with powdered cinnamon, ginger &/or marshmallow root. You can carry those spices/herbs in those tiny resealable bags. Kids usually love honey so that’s also a plus. Honey is also good in case of cuts and scrapes and on burns.
Herbal Tea Bags (Camomile, Fennel Seeds, Lemon&Ginger) – I told myself I wouldn’t be having any coffee or black tea during the plane ride this time and I carried around a bunch of herbal tea bags with me. I stuck to my intention and believe it was the right decision. Caffeinated drinks can also be dehydrating and you don’t want that on a plane ride which is already dehydrating in itself. I carried herbal tea bags without during the rest of the voyage too and prepared the kids tea when they caught a cold several times. My son at some point developed diarrhea for a few days and other than cutting down most foods that may have aggravated his problem, I found that fennel seeds helped him the most from all the herbs I tried, and maybe thyme but we stuck with fennel seed the most. I got whole fennel seeds that I carried around with me, as well as some anise seeds (you can also get them in tea bags as that would have been easier or put them ground in tea bags yourself), simmered about 2 teaspoons per cup for a few minutes and then had him sip that throughout the day.
Homeopathy Kit – I carry with me a combination of homeopathic remedies, from Arnica to Belladonna, Apis Mel, Nat Mur, Mag Phos, Kali Mur, Lycopodium, Hypericum, Camomila and so on. I’m no homeopath by any means but I get advice from my mother usually who has quite a bit of experience with homeopathy herself considering she raised 5 children on homeopathic and herbal remedies, or consult one of several homeopath friends if I must. I tend to most commonly use the remedies I have on hand for falls, allergic reactions, insect bites, colds with congestion & runny nose, and fever. My son fell and hit his eye and forehead during our camping trip, so Arnica for that. I predict both my children caught the flu towards the end of our camping trip, with sudden onset of fever, sore throat, runny nose and whatnot so I used some homeopathy in combination with herbal remedies to ease their symptoms and help them recover. Our camping trip in Canada was at the Seekers Guidance Retreat, so there were a lot of other brothers & sisters with us. A sister who got stung by a mosquito experienced an aggressive reaction and her hand was extremely swollen. She didn’t react well to Benadryl and experienced some of the side effects associated with it, so somehow my youngest sister who was also with us told her I might have something for her if she’d like to give it a try. Luckily, I had Apis Mel as well as lavender EO and I gave her both remedies. She came to me at the end of the next day to show me how much better her hand was and said she would be buying the homeopathic remedy as well as the lavender essential oil because she was so pleased with the results, whereas initially she was always a bit skeptical of ‘natural remedies’.
Arnica Gel – I’m not here to prove whether natural remedies work really well or not, it’s your call. I wholeheartedly believe so myself, and being a mom for the last few years with my kids bumping their heads quite a few times and developing anything from a goose egg to a small bump, this thing really works in bringing down swelling when applied immediately. Do not apply on cracked skin. Only bumps or achy areas.
Lavender Essential Oil – as mentioned above, really useful for insect bites and excellent for burns when applied immediately. This is all I use on burns when I am in the kitchen. I never apply ice, and I never get those burns that develop water retention. Another sister at the camp was also stung by mosquitos and experienced some swelling. The other sister who happened to have the remedy gave her the essential oil, and she said she’s never seen something work so well on insect bites.
Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil – excellent for the immune system, being a natural source of Vitamins A & D, as well as Omega 3. I only get Dropi. Rosita is also another brand I can suggest, just a little more expensive than Dropi. Otherwise, if it’s not extra virgin (i.e. raw) it’s either going to be low on the vitamin content, or have added vitamins which defeats the whole purpose and makes no sense at all. If I want added synthetic vitamins, I might as well just get a synthetic vitamin and not some smelly fish oil. (It does smell. Somehow my kids love it, though.)
Magnesium Citrate/Glycinate – I like to use Magnesium even when I’m not pregnant, but especially being pregnant, I find it really helps with the restless leg syndrome I experience sometimes as well as being regular if I’m having some difficulty. I don’t tend to use any vitamin or mineral supplements but Magnesium is an exception. It’s so essential. Get citrate or glycinate for optimal absorption and best form.
Mama’s Chest Rub, Vapor Balm – I find this at Whole Foods and you can also order via Amazon, to rub on the kids’ chest and/or upper back to ease up congestion. It’s a perfect size for travel and smells so good I always smell my fingertips after rubbing it onto their skin. An alternative is eucalyptus essential oil (which I didn’t have during this trip and never got, but used rosemary instead with some desired results) which you can use in combination with a carrier oil as a massage oil on the upper torso, or in a steam bath (no. 5) to help break up congestion, get that mucus moving out of your system, and to ease coughs. I had both my kids get in the shower and used rosemary essential oil at one point when they were ill just before bed time. They washed up while inhaling the scent of rosemary that filled the entire bathroom. Maybe eucalyptus would have been a better option for this particular case, but it was quite soothing to say the least.
Intention is an integral part of Islamic practice. In the first hadith that is mentioned in Imam Nawawi’s famous compilation of 40 hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is narrated to have said: ‘Actions are only by their intentions.’
As a general rule, obligatory religious acts require a specific intention (such as what time of prayer is about to be offered) whereas voluntary religious acts can have multiple intentions. Without intending ritual prayer, one’s prayer is not valid. Likewise in some schools of thought, taking ritual ablution requires intention. When fasting in Ramadhan, one must intend to fast prior to the entrance of dawn. As for voluntary acts of worship, for example, one can intend to offer two voluntary rak’ahs of prayer to show gratitude towards Allah, for a safe & blessed day and for forgiveness. Likewise, any act in our daily lives outside of obligatory religious acts can be carried out with a multitude of meaningful intentions. Islam is not simply the five pillars. Intentions add meaning to our lives. We can eat simply to be satiated, or we can begin to eat by mindfully reciting the Basmala, with our right hand to follow the Sunnah, with thankfulness and with the intention that we will use the energy provided by this meal to carry out good. What a big difference.
As a stay-at-home mother of two, I try to be mindful of what my intentions (or goals, really) are in many decisions I take in my daily life. However, because a big portion of my daily routine is spent in the kitchen, there’s a lot of intentionality that goes on inside this small space. Intentionality can be applied to any part of your daily routine, so if the kitchen is not your primary hub, you may still apply this to other parts of your life.
I know that spending long hours everyday in the kitchen, or tidying up, raising children from the morning till the evening (and in the middle of the night), being at everyone’s service, can sometimes have you question whether you’re doing anything meaningful or not. At least I’ve been there. This seemingly never-ending house work that keeps repeating itself every time you think you’re done with a chore. I am all for getting help as needed and taking a break every now and then. However, on your day-to-day life, intentionality will keep you from the unhealthy & deceptive feeling that you’re not doing anything worthwhile.
I didn’t want to keep this post long and I feel it’s already gotten long so I am going to jump right into some actions you can implement in your cooking area! I want to just begin by mentioning wudhu (ablution; ritual purity). Only Allah knows all the merits of being in a state of wudhu and its reality, but it clearly holds an important place as per the hadith of the Prophet where he describes angels accompanying the person who goes to sleep in a state of ritual purity until he awakes. I understand the difficulty this may bring, especially for mothers who barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone take their time to take wudhu when it’s not prayer time but I urge you to try to at least implement it for some meals, with mindfulness, that you are intending to cook with wudhu and intend for the benefits of this state to manifest in your food. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been baking my family’s bread for the last few months now. Ever since I began, I try my very best to remain in a state of wudhu while feeding my sourdough starter, kneading the dough and baking the bread. I try to remain in this way when I do my other cooking, as well as while eating. Ladies who are on their moon cycle may consider taking a symbolic wudhu, with the intention of receiving the spiritual benefits of wudhu without resuming ritual acts of worship. In addition to having wudhu, I recite al-Fatiha while I stir my sourdough starter during a feed, or salawat while cooking as I remember, and when I bake a bread for a friend or cook a meal for my family, I intend for that food to bring healing, physical as well as spiritual wellbeing and give thanks for it. If you believe in spirituality, you most likely understand how our feelings and energy can have a strong impact on what they are directed at. While cooking, whether just for yourself or for others, avoid all unhealthy thoughts and feelings to the best of your ability. If you find your mind roaming to undesirable territory, try to refocus and renew your intentions. Trust me, you don’t want yourself or your loved ones to eat food that was prepared with negative energy. (Who knows what state meals might have been prepared in in restaurants!). Try to include Prophetic foods in your diet. I highly suggest Zainab Ismail if you want some ideas and inspiration on how to do just that, very easily. Learn about the sunnan of eating and implement them with the intention of following the Prophet’s way. He ﷺ did not pick certain foods or eat a certain way simply out of desire but because they are superior and better for us.
As a side note: if you feel like you can’t focus in the kitchen for the life of you, consider what state the kitchen might be in when you’re trying to make a meal. Is it unorganized, cluttered, and you don’t know where is what? Maybe that’s a good place to start!
For the stay-at-home mom… If you are in charge of your kitchen, you are actually in charge of your family’s wellbeing. Your spiritual state in this territory will impact the physical & spiritual wellbeing of your spouse, children and/or other family members. The meal cooked with love, du’a and with mindful intentions will nourish your family and so, their accomplishments within their own duties and responsibilities will be connected to the nourishment you are providing them with. That’s a big and praiseworthy role, if you ask me. So next time (and if ever) you feel down about ‘wasting’ ‘all your time’ in the kitchen, think of this.
I hope & intend that you find benefit in this post!
Last year I wrote a blog post about my experience fasting while pregnant at 16-20 weeks. My intention was to continue writing an update every other week but I never did. Nevertheless, alhamdulillah, I was able to complete the entire month. This year was going to be a new experience again as this time I am nursing a 6 month old and watching my 2 year old daughter. I was more worried about watching her while fasting than the nursing bit. She doesn’t nap every day like she did last year, and I just can’t sleep before the pre-dawn meal (suhoor) so my plan was to keep her up till later in the evening so she would sleep longer in the mornings. This has been the case and it’s working. We completed day 8 today. She’s even napped a few times ever since Ramadhan began. On a normal day while not fasting, my blood sugar level drops significantly after not eating for too long but in Ramadhan hunger doesn’t have the same effect. Perhaps it’s because one’s routine slows down and you don’t pass your time like you normally would outside of Ramadhan. I also believe there is a blessing and strength that comes with this month. It’s not simple hunger.
As for my milk supply, mashallah, it has not been impacted at all. I’m very careful with what I eat and we have not indulged in any of the mouth-watering Ramadhan treats that are so easily accessible in the part of Istanbul we live in. Except for a couple of occasions and without overdoing it. This has helped in regards to maintaining good energy levels throughout the day and of course for nutritious milk production. But we’ve generally sticked to our ‘no modern wheat, no sugar’ rule and of course all sorts of other junk which means a lot of cooking at home and taking away as little as possible to none at all.
We break our fast with dates as per the sunnah. We also have a glass of cool water and our coffee ready. I prepare a small plate of fruits. Fruits are better eaten before the main meal (unless they’ll be your main meal) as they are digested quicker than other foods like grains and meat. This has been immensely helpful in maintaining a healthy digestion (don’t get me started on our habits last year during Ramadhan).
Then we pray Maghrib, the prayer appointed at sunset, and we proceed to have our dinner. After I put the kids to sleep, I usually have about 3 hours or so before we have our pre-dawn meal. I might have a snack, like a smoothie, kefir or some herbal tea (often fennel seed, aniseed, fenugreek or combination) with dates.
After our light breakfast style suhoor, we wait for Fajr, the dawn prayer, and then head to bed. My day consists of normal activity; preparing my daughter breakfast, clearing up, reading some Qur’an, praying, reading (currently reading Imam al-Ghazali’s Principles of the Creed, Book Two of the Revival of the Religious Sciences), crocheting, light exercise like MuTu core, yoga, and/or light walking. I’ve also been trying to do some very basic art when the kids are asleep every other night or so. I try to go out almost every day to get some fresh air, especially for the sake of my daughter. We have a small park nearby and she enjoys playing there. It’s one of the few parks that don’t get too crowded.
One of the things that I had made the intention to fast from during Ramadhan, other than the obligatory, was to keep my phone at bay. Well, I’m going to be honest. It’s not going too well. In fact, I feel like I’m using it a lot more frequently than I was prior to Ramadhan. I don’t care too much about using it when my children aren’t around to check social media, but when they’re around, I truly feel like a neglectful mother and most of the time, some sort of *bleep* will go down when I’m watching my phone and not my kids. I just find it consumes me. Yuck. Anyway, tomorrow is a new day and Ramadhan isn’t over yet, and so I truly pray and intend to be more careful. Tomorrow will be better.
So that’s my current struggle. Not only struggle, but a significant one.
While I’m at it, I’d like to share this really useful link to some Ramadhan related resources, especially this and this. Thank you, Seekers Hub.
Essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic substances extracted from plants most commonly by using the distillation method. A by-product of distillation is the leftover aromatic waters which we refer to as hydrosol. Hydrosols are also very valuable and can be used in a wide range of ways. They are less concentrated than essential oils and are much cheaper too. I’m not an aromatherapy expert by any means but I like to include them in my daily use, from cosmetic purposes to cleaning and healing. Personally, from time to time I will use an essential oil directly on my skin as well as internally (I will mention examples below). However, generally for the beginner, it’s best to dilute essential oils before use and it’s also best to avoid internal use unless under the guide of a professional aromatherapist.
Before I begin, I want to just go over four hydrosols that I use frequently. I usually get all three from my mom’s apothecary. She has a copper as well as a glass distiller and collects most of the plants herself to be used in the distillation process.
Damascene Rose: This is such a beautiful flower with delicate petals and a fragrant scent. It truly causes a blooming of the soul. It takes a lot of roses to produce a substantial amount of essential oil and therefore hydrosol is a great alternative to benefiting from this flower. I use it in cooking such as in basmati rice, rice pudding and other desserts, I use it to wipe my children’s faces in the morning and before bedtime and I use it to clean my face in combination with castor oil (apply castor oil first, then wipe with cotton & rose water). I also use it as a spray in hot climates to cool down.
Neroli: This is another incredible flower, taken from the bitter orange tree. It is also known as Orange Blossom. Just the act of picking these little blossoms is uplifting. As is the case with Rose, it takes a lot of blossoms to produce essential oil. I use this in similar ways to Rose hydrosol, except not as much, and another way I use Neroli hydrosol is a few teaspoons into a glass of warm water. Very calming and satisfying.
Thyme: This is a champion when it comes to stomach issues as well as lung infections. I usually like to dilute it with some warm water because it is very strong, albeit not an essential oil.
Lemon Eucalyptus: This is not a combination of lemon and eucalyptus but a plant of its own. I use it as a spray on the body to avoid mosquito bites. I’m one of those lucky ones who aren’t savored by those annoying insects but having kids, it comes in handy. Avoid the eyes when spraying.
As for the Essential Oils…
I have a wide range of essential oils in my kit but these are at the top of my list:
Tea Tree: I’ve used tea tree in a wide range of ways including to treat yeast rash, to dry out that annoying puberty related pimple (back in the days), as well as in cleaning. In my experience, I’ve had no problems using it directly on my skin but if you tend to have sensitive skin and/or if you are a beginner, go ahead and dilute some with a carrier oil such as coconut oil which is also an anti fungal.
Lavender: I like lavender in cleaning – I add a few drops into a spray bottle along with some water and vinegar and use it as an all-purpose spray. I sometimes use sage instead or in combination. I find lavender also works wonders on burns, applied directly. If you prefer to use a carrier oil to apply lavender, I would avoid using it on a burn that is recent and inflamed because oil traps in heat and you don’t want that. (Essential oils won’t have the same effect of trapping heat). Maybe you can try applying a compress to the area with lavender hydrosol or infusion instead.
Eucalyptus: I use this whenever someone in the family is experiencing a respiratory tract infection. It helps especially with congestion. I will dab a couple of drops onto the sleeping pillow, or make a steam inhalation. Bring a pot of water to boil. Remove from heat and add a few drops of eucalyptus EO. Cover head with a towel and inhale the vapor but close your eyes. Be cautious not to burn yourself.
Myrrh: In combination with clove bud, this was an amazing remedy for my husband’s chronically aching tooth. He never got around to going to the dentist although he tried making an appointment multiple times but after a few applications of myrrh and clove on the area, as well as some changes in the diet, he hasn’t had any recurring issues. My myrrh is from a gentleman who runs a small batch distillery and it smells truly unique and wonderful. Speaking of small batch distillery, this is a lovely article written by a dear friend who runs her own distillery and apothecary about ethical business practices.
Jasmine Absolute: I just use this as perfume. A couple of dabs here and there and it’s my current go-to scent as it’s the most appealing to me at this phase of my life. I’ve used it in cream making too but, going a little off topic, lately I find I prefer to simply use oils on my skin such as rose hip seed oil. I have very dry skin in the winter and this has been very helpful. Also rosehip seed oil (and other oils like pomegranate seed oil and argan oil) are already full of properties that help and nourish the skin so I don’t see much point in going through the hassle of making cream. Currently I am using Mountain Rose Herbs’ rose hip seed oil but once I run out I will stock up from my mom’s own rose hip seed oil. Her last batch was from the rose hips from her garden, all picked by hand, cleaned out from the flesh and left to dry before extracting into oil.
Sweet Marjoram: I haven’t used this in a while but I wanted to include it because it was my friend during my last pregnancy. Meditating everyday while I inhaled it, even for just 5 minutes a day, really helped me through the pregnancy. It was a time of day that I looked forward to. After giving birth, strangely, it didn’t appeal to me as much. I believe we are called to what our mind and body needs most in their own time. It was relaxing and comforting, and it eased my mind. Mine is from Eden Botanicals.
Cardamom: I take a dab of this right onto my tongue as often as once a day (first on index finger then onto tongue). I find it awakens me. Cardamom is said to ‘kindle the fires of digestion, stimulate the activity of the heart, and refresh the mind.’ [Rätsch, Christian. Plants of Love, 1997, pp. 56, 134.]
Helichrysum: Highly reputed for skin healing properties, I included this in my postpartum healing oil combination (in addition to Calendula and St. John’s Wort oils).
A final word on essential oils… With all due respect to big essential oil businesses, I don’t buy into ads that praise their products as THE ONLY pure essential oils out there. I don’t want to mention names but in short, I don’t stick to only one brand. I’ve used several brands before as well as essential oils from small batch distilleries but most commonly I use Mountain Rose Herbs and Eden Botanicals. As a word of caution, please do not buy cheap essential oils over Amazon and whatnot. First of all, essential oils are not cheap and secondly, essential oils bought from unidentifiable and questionable sources can be harmful to your health.
Disclaimer: All content in this article is intended for educational purposes. No information in this article is intended to replace professional medical advice, nor to treat or diagnose a disease. Consult your primary care provider for any concerns you have regarding your health before making any decisions.