the threads I am weaving with

We left Cyprus nearly 6 months ago and this has been an interesting and difficult transition, going from spending 2020 very close to my family (ironically) to being away from everyone back home for nearly half a year. I miss my mom so I am going to dedicate a few words for her as this is also something I have been pondering on. A while back I listened to Sajah Popham having a beautiful discussion with Kami McBride, my first introduction to her which thereafter led me to now stay up-to-date with all her news and wisdom. She referred to how she is gathering loose threads from her family line in order to weave them into her personal journey. It made me think about what I could gather myself, from my grandmother and great grandmothers, but then I realized… I have gathered so much from my own mother, who already did so much of the work in bridging her gap and who allowed me to have a jumpstart in my own journey of discovering healing modalities, and more importantly, in the way I am rearing my own family. It has given me a whole new layer of gratitude. I am so proud of what she has accomplished despite her circumstances in different phases of life, and anyone who has spent enough time delving into herbal medicine knows that it is also a spiritual quest in its own right.

My maternal grandmother, collecting orange blossom, either for distillation or for jam.

I am still curious what I can gather from my great grandmothers in regards to herbal wisdom. I already have some insight in regards to other aspects, and often when I am carrying out certain tasks, I think of my great grandmothers who might have done those very things. My great-grandmothers are not alive. So whatever I can gather further will be from my mother’s, my father’s and my grandmothers’ memories. I also have a maternal great uncle who is still living and who spent the most time with my Iraqi great grandmother so I think that he would enjoy sharing some memories if I send him an e-mail soon. I only ‘met’ my Iraqi great grandmother as a baby. I don’t think I was even a year old, but I’ve had several vivid dreams of her and felt so close to her, and one of my sisters (who has never met her as she’s younger than me) has also dreamt of us two together. Sometimes I feel that perhaps what connects us so deeply to some of our ancestors is a prayer of theirs that has touched our lives.

As I am reflecting on this, I feel challenged in one aspect: trying to think of what I can gather from my paternal grandmother, who is still alive, but whom I feel for more as another human being than close kin whose blood I carry. I don’t want to get into too many details out of respect for her but it will suffice to say that she carries some seriously narcissistic qualities which have been very hurtful for my father, and probably for my late grandfather too in different ways, and obviously my mother. My father is her main caretaker, and currently she is diagnosed with cancer and so, that coupled with her psychological state, it’s been a tough ride. Still, I do want to think about what thread I could gather from her. It’s a tough one. I think of her mother when I drink rosemary tea, or when I think the strength of a woman during childbirth, but not so much of her. A few years ago, she said something which I will never forget. She is someone who complains a lot and will always find something pessimistic to say, but occasionally something good and genuine (as I like to believe) will come out of her mouth. I went to pick her up and it started drizzling, and usually she’ll lament about how this will impact her laundry schedule, but this time with a little sense of surprise, she simply said, ”oh! it’s raining.” And then she continued to say, ”that’s ok, we always do what we want. Let Allah do what He wants too.” If I had to really think of something valuable to carry and appreciate, the fact that some medical errors left her in very bad health following two C-sections, a luxury at her time, made her very cautious of pharmaceuticals for a long time, and ever since I’ve known her, she would also always brew a combination of aromatic herbs for her breakfast tea. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom had a role to play in this to be honest. I don’t know how far back it dates. Maybe, even the simple fact that she birthed my father into this world should be enough for me to appreciate, and I wouldn’t ever choose a different father if I could, with all his positives and negatives; he has not been anything short of loving.

The same can’t be said about my maternal grandmother whom I am forever grateful and indebted for, my second mother and my rock. I love her so much. I don’t know where I’d be right now without her prayers throughout the years. A lady with class, always beautiful and adorning herself with rose & oud and kohl even as she approaches 90 years of age, and with so much wisdom. She also came a long way after many experiences that shook her to the core, albeit more in the spiritual sense without as much of the herbal aspect in comparison to my mom.

In short, I’ve got some digging in to do, and in the meanwhile I am so grateful for my new level of appreciation for my mother whom I miss and love dearly. It just makes me feel even closer to her.

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My Most Frequently Used Essential Oils

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.

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Copper distiller dismantled

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Damascene Rose

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.’ [R√§tsch, Christian. Plants of Love, 1997, pp. 56, 134.]
  8. 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.