Making Raw Cider Vinegar

We had a bit of a cider vinegar making session at the weekend.
CIDER VINEGAR
Raw cider vinegar is full of enzymes, vitamins, probiotics and minerals that pasteurised cider vinegars do not have, as they are destroyed by the heating process. All the healing benefits you have read about with cider vinegar are absent from processed products. Raw cider vinegar is best for all the recipes in this book, and if you have ever tried to buy it you will know that it is very expensive compared to the heavily processed kind. Luckily, it is really easy to make:
1. Take a large, wide-necked jar. Sterilise it.
2. Wash and chop your apples including the cores and peel (you can make this recipe just using the cores and peel after making an apple pie), but remove the stalks. A mixture of different varieties makes a better tasting cider vinegar, but don’t worry if you can’t manage this.
3. Put them in the jar, making sure it is half to three quarters filled.
4. Cover them with water that has been boiled and cooled to lukewarm.
5. Stir in a little sugar or honey to help the fermentation process start.
6. Cover the jar. When making wine, we use an airlock to keep out the bacteria that will cause it to turn to vinegar, but when making vinegar we actually want to encourage them, so instead the jar is just covered with cheesecloth secured with an elastic band.
7. Stir daily for a week. It will begin to bubble and ferment from the natural yeasts in the apples, and you will be able to smell this happening.
8. Strain out the apple pulp
9. Return the liquid to the jar and cover again with cheesecloth. Leave in a warm, dark place for 4-6 weeks, stirring occasionally. The alcohol will transform into acetic acid or vinegar. A small amount of sediment will fall to the bottom, and what is called a ‘mother culture’ of dark foam will form on top; don’t worry about this, it is normal.
10. Taste it to determine if it is ready starting after 4 weeks as it will get stronger the longer you leave it, and you can choose how you like it.
11. Strain once more into clean glass jars or bottles. Store out of direct sunlight. Don’t worry if another mother culture forms on top, it isn’t going bad. Just strain again.
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Elderberry Glycerite

I’ve been making elderberry glycerite, one of my favourite remedies for winter colds. Elderberry is very effective against colds and flu, particularly when taken during the first 48 hours of infection. You can make elderberry syrup, but I like to make an elderberry glycerite. This is a very simple process using vegetable glycerine. Glycerine can be purchased from pharmacies, and is a syrup made from vegetable oil. It can be used to extract phytochemicals from herbs in the same way that alcohol is used to make a tincture. This is useful for people who don’t want to take alcohol, or for children. Make sure you use a food grade glycerine.

 

To make elderberry glycerite half fill a jar with the berries pour on slightly warmed glycerine, enough to cover them. Seal and keep in a warm place for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain through muslin and store in a dark bottle in a cool place for up to 2 years.

February, the Month of Purification

February, though it the shortest month of the year, is said to have the worst weather. Native American tribes called the full moon of February [1] ‘the Snow Moon’, ‘the Hunger Moon’ or ‘the Storm Moon’. [2] Winter seems to be dragging on, and if we didn’t see signs that spring is just around the corner, it might be considered the dreariest month of all. Yet the rain, the cold and the snow are cleansing the face of the earth, destroying harmful bacteria, soaking the soil with life-giving moisture and filling the rivers and reservoirs, all of which will ensure good crops later in the year. An old saying had it that “a Welshman would rather see his dam on a bier than see a fair February” (i.e., he would rather see his mother dead). [3]

Just as the Earth is being washed clean, many ancient festivals of February reflect the theme of purification. The name of the month itself is derived from the Latin februarius which means ‘purification’.  According to the Roman writer Ovid, in ancient times purgation was called Februa: “Of this our month of February came… For our religious fathers did maintain, purgations expiated every stain of guilt and sin”. [4] He explained that the custom had come from Greece where it was held that pure lustrations could cleanse any sin or impious deed. February was once the last month of the Roman year and the idea seems to have been to propitiate the spirits of the Gods and ancestors, atone for any offence given to them, and so prepare for spring and the new year with a clean slate. According to Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (4 CE – 70 CE) even farmland was purged (purguntur) this month:  old reeds were burned, fields were weeded, olive and fruit trees pruned and vineyards tended. [5]

The ancient Greeks celebrated the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries this month, during which those who were planning to participate in the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries in the autumn went to Athens to be purified of any ritual impurity or sin (miasma). [6] As Clement of Alexandria wrote: “The mysteries of the Greeks begin with purification,” [7] and in most mystery traditions, ritual purification is necessary before the would-be initiate can approach the Gods. At the centre of the Eleusinian mysteries were the agricultural goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, the goddess of spring who was associated with purity. [8] Candidates were purified by water, air and fire before being allowed to approach the Goddess. Representations show Demeter seated on the kiste (the basket which held the ritual implements of the Greater Mysteries which would not be revealed until the autumn), and the initiate holding out his hand to touch the snake which coils from the kiste to Demeter’s lap.  [9]  The snake symbolised mystery and rebirth, and the fact that the initiate was ready to receive the mysteries later in the year.

Just as people purified themselves, their homes and the tombs of their ancestors at this time of year, there are many stories of goddesses cleansing themselves in sacred waters in order to renew themselves and restore their virginity. The Greek goddess of love Aphrodite renewed her virginity every year by bathing in the sea at her birthplace of Paphos in Crete. Artemis, the moon and hunt goddess, refreshed her virginity by bathing every year in a sacred fountain, while Hera, the Queen of Heaven, bathed in the spring at Kanathos near Argos in order to become a maiden once more.[10] Even in Christian lore, Candlemas (February 2) is the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary. The maiden goddess is associated with purity, new beginnings and regeneration, so these seem to be metaphors for the old year being washed away and turned into spring,

There was similarly a Scottish tradition that at the beginning of spring the Cailleach (‘Hag’ or ‘Veiled One’) drank from the Well of Youth and transformed into the youthful maiden Bride. [11] Others thought that the Cailleach ruled the winter months, while Bride (Brighid/Brigit) ruled the summer months. [12] The Cailleach is the female personification of winter [13]. Her staff freezes the ground [14] and she brings storms and bad weather, though she protects deer and wolves, and is the mother of all the gods. [15] Là Fhèill Brìghde (St Bride’s Day, February 1) was said to be the day that the Cailleach gathered her firewood for the rest of the winter. If she intended the winter to last a good deal longer, she made sure that the weather was bright and sunny so she could go out and gather plenty of fuel. [16] If the weather was terrible, it meant that the Cailleach was asleep and would soon run out of wood, so winter was nearly over.

In Scotland, St. Bride’s Day was considered the beginning of spring, with Bride melting the river ice. [17] According to Scottish folklorist Alexander Carmichael “Bride with her white wand is said to breathe life into the mouth of the dead Winter and to bring him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the laughter of Spring. The venom of the cold is said to tremble for its safety on Bride’s Day and to flee for its life on Patrick’s Day.” [18] As Nigel Pennick puts it “…at this time of year, Brighid symbolises the opening out of enclosed, invisible nature concealed in the darkness of wintertide into the visible world of light.” [19]

In Scotland, the serpent, sometimes called the noble queen, is supposed to emerge from its hollow among the hills on St Bride’s Day:

On the day of Bride of the white hills
The noble queen will come from the knoll,
I will not molest the noble queen,
Nor will the noble queen molest me.
[20]

The serpent throws off its skin annually and is thereby renewed, making it an ancient symbol of regeneration. Snakes and maidens also featured in the February celebrations of the Roman goddess Juno Sospita (Juno the Saviour). At the beginning of February, the consuls made a sacrifice to her, while young girls offered barley-cakes to the sacred snake in her grove. If their offerings were accepted, their virginity was confirmed and the year’s fertility assured.

During this month animals begin to shake off their winter sleep and emerge from hibernation. Some are said to come out to check the weather on Bride’s Day or Candlemas, testing whether it is safe to emerge or if they need to go back to sleep. Badgers were reputed to emerge at noon and if they saw their shadows, they went back to their setts. If they didn’t see their shadows, they stayed out, and the worst of winter was over. In Huntingdonshire the day was even called ‘Badger’s Day’. [21] The same folk belief persists in America as Groundhog Day.

The year is awakening, new and pure, waiting for life to mark it. The lengthening days that follow Imbolc hold the promise of spring and the rebirth of plant life, and the yearly cycle of work on the land begins once more as the earth is prepared for the seed. [22] I think of February as a time of purification during which we can banish negativity in all its forms, a time to cleanse, physically and spiritually, and get things ready for the busy season to come as, day by day, the light increases.

© Anna Franklin 2019

[1] Every nineteen years there is no full moon in February at all

[2] The Old Farmer’s Almanac, https://www.farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names, accessed 19.10.18

[3] Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999

[4] Ovid, Fasti

[5] Junius Moderatus Columella, Of Husbandry,  A. Millar , London, n/d

[6] The Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis, Stephanie Goodart, MA, SRC, online at ?

[7] Quoted in The Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis, Stephanie Goodart, MA, SRC, online at ?

[8] The Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis, Stephanie Goodart, MA, SRC, online at ?

[9] The Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis, Stephanie Goodart, MA, SRC, online at ?

[10] Pausanias, ii.38.2

[11] Alexander Carmicheal, Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1, T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh

1900, online at sacred-texts.com, accessed 17.10.18

[12] F. Marian McNeill, The Silver Bough, Vol.2: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals, Candlemas to Harvest Home, William MacLellan, 1959

[13] Donald Alexander Mackenzie, Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, 1917

[14] K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature. University of Chicago Press, 1967

[15] Donald Alexander Mackenzie, Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, 1917

[16] Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies. Pantheon Books, New York, 1976

[17] Donald Alexander Mackenzie, Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend, 1917

[18] Alexander Carmicheal, Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1, T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh

 1900, online at sacred-texts.com, accessed 17.10.18

[19] Nigel Pennick, The Goddess Year, Capall Bann, Chieveley, 1996

[20] Alexander Carmicheal, Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1, T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh

1900, online at sacred-texts.com, accessed 17.10.18

[21][21] Nigel Pennick, Folk-lore of East Anglia, Spiritual Arts and Crafts Publishing, Cambridge, 2006

[22] Trefor M. Owen, Welsh Folklore Customs, Gomer Press, Llandysul Dyfed, 1994

THE MIDSUMMER FERN

Fern is the common name for any spore-producing plant of the phylum Polypodiophyta.  It is associated with sun gods and goddesses, and gods and goddesses of the dawn, such as Daphne. It is also sacred to the Great Goddess and the sky gods of thunder, lightning and Midsummer. At the turning of Midsummer and Midwinter it is reputed to allow access into the Otherworld and contact with its inhabitants, the Sidhe. It was sacred to the Baltic sun goddess Saule who appeared on the horizon at Midsummer, wreathed in apple blossom and red fern blossom [i.e. red clouds].

Use fern in incenses at Midsummer to protect the household and for divination purposes.

At Midsummer the magical fernseed is collected. At midnight it is said to glimmer with a magic light. The plant must not be touched directly but bent with a forked hazel stick over a pewter plate. The seed is so tiny that it is almost invisible, and therefore was thought to convey invisibility to its possessor. In Lancashire [northern England] it was held that fernseed collected on the family Bible conveyed invisibility.

 

Lucky ‘hands’ made of the rootstock of the male fern trimmed to a likeness of thumbs and fingers were smoked in the Midsummer fires and hung up for protection in houses and farms. Such hands are said to reveal hidden treasure buried within the earth, glowing with a blue flame.

Looks like a bumper crop of clary sage this year…

My clary sage is growing like crazy.

You can use it like ordinary sage in cooking, though it is stronger, so use less.  You can also eat the flowers. It is traditionally used for women’s problems, particularly the menopause and its hot flushes. Take as a tea. The astringent tea can also be gargled for sore throats or poured over small wounds. The tea is also good for digestive complaints such as gas and bloating. Also use the tea as an eyewash.

You can make a wine from it, which is said to be slightly narcotic. People also used to consider it to be an aphrodisiac.

THE WAY OF THE MIGHTY DEAD

“…you shall be taught to be wise, that in the fullness of time you shall count yourself among those who serve the Gods, among those who belong to the Craft, among those who are called the Mighty Dead. Let thy life, and the life to come, be in the service of our noble Lady and her gentle Lord.”

Witchcraft is often called ‘The Crooked Path’, because it is the path of the outsider. Witches were driven out of society, cloaked in the garb of otherness.  While historical druids were an elite class of men, pillars of the establishment, the historical witch was always an outsider, the despised or excluded person who threatened the established order and – of all the most dreadful things imaginable – usually a woman with power in a world where women were often otherwise powerless.

The Church saw witches as the antithesis of what a woman should be – meek, subservient, industrious and obedient. Any woman who was a free-spirits independent and sexually active must be a witch.  During the times of witchcraft persecution- the days we call The Burning Times- it is estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 people were executed, 80% of them women.

In 1484, in response to reports that many women were engaging in sorcery “to make the conjugal act impossible”, Pope Innocent VIII appointed two German Dominicans, Jakov Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, to pursue witches. They wrote the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, which means “Hammer of Evil Doers” or “Hammer of the Witches”. So popular was their book that it ran into nineteen editions and was a principle text for the Inquisition.

They wrote that “woman is an imperfect animal, and always deceives….

In Christian lore, women are responsible for the fall of humankind and its expulsion from paradise, since Eve was tempted to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and persuaded her husband Adam to do the same.[i]

For the Christian thinker, God is male, and thus the only true gender is male.[ii] From the very beginning, they argued that women were inferior to men, as Eve was made from Adam’s spare rib, and being formed by a bent rib she was naturally flawed.

Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote “Every girl child is a defective male, conceived only because her father was ill, weak or in a state of sin at the time,” and “Life comes from the male sperm, and the woman merely serves as the soil in which it is planted.”

According to the Malleus Maleficarum: “Women are intellectually like children” and

“All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.”

The Church felt that women were more carnal than men, as was clear from their many ‘abominations’; women menstruate, get pregnant and give birth, all evidence of the sexual activity which was reviled as sinful by the Church. The Malleus Maleficarum was very unambiguous in its references to women’s sexuality as an evil force. A woman was said to be impure “during her monthly periods.”

Tertullian called women the “devil’s gateway”. Like Eve, all women were considered temptresses, inciting men to seek the forbidden fruit of lust. If a woman was raped, it was considered to be her own fault.

St Thomas Aquinas wrote “Women exert an evil influence over men which causes them to have involuntary erections, and thus distracted them from contemplating God.”

According to the Malleus Maleficarum: “Any woman knows more magic than a hundred men,” and “There are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft, ”.

“A woman is by her nature more quicker to waver in her faith and consequently quicker to abjure the faith, which is the root of witchcraft” and most damning of all “…women are weak in themselves, and can only perform magic in league with demons”.[iii] The clergy exclaimed

“Blessed be the Highest who has so far preserved the male sex from so great an evil”

While any woman practicing fortune telling, midwifery or herbalism could be executed as a witch, male doctors, astrologers and alchemists were left unscathed. The fifteenth century Council of Trent specifically forbade women from having anything to do with medicine, a profession they were not to be re-admitted to until the late nineteenth century. If any women stood before a tribunal accused of practising medicine or healing it was automatically assumed that she must have achieved any cure by witchcraft and she was put to death [iv] According to the Malleus Maleficarum “If a woman dare to cure … then she is a witch and must die”. Male doctors were trusted implicitly by the authors: “Although some of their remedies seem to be vain and superstitious cantrips and charms… everybody must be trusted in his profession.”

“no one does more harm to the Catholic Church than midwives…the midwives exceed all other witches in deeds of shame”

“A midwife is guilty of sinning if she eased a woman’s pain during childbirth, since that suffering was imposed by Jehovah as a punishment on all women for Eve’s transgression.” (Clerics reminded Queen Victoria of this when she asked for chloroform in the royal labour ward.)

There are still parts of the world that prosecute and burn witches. Women in Papua New Guinea still face violence if they are accused of sorcery or black magic. In Ghana, women (usually elderly widows) have formed “witch camps” and “witch villages,” as safe refuges for those accused of witchcraft in their communities. As many of the supposed Ghanaian witches are widows, the accusation can be seen as a ploy by the family to take their property. “’The camps are a dramatic manifestation of the status of women in Ghana,’ says Professor Dzodzi Tsikata of the University of Ghana. ‘Older women become a target because they are no longer useful to society.’ Women who do not conform to society’s expectations also fall victim to the accusations of witchcraft.

Since we inherit a worldview that sees man as reason and woman as nature, we are still in the grip of the beliefs that fostered witch burning. While the vast majority of society see the druid as a benign eccentric and the shaman as a hippy with a drum, witches are still feared. We are still outsiders. The initiation oath of the Craft reminds us: “Remember the Burning Times, when all we could promise our brothers and sisters was a painless death before the flames took hold. Do you still desire to take that oath, knowing what has been may yet be again?”

We stand of the shoulders of giants, the witches who have gone before, those we call the Mighty Dead. Those who learned, those who suffered, those who forged the crooked path.

When joined my first coven Julia, our high priestess, told us stories of the herb wives of the past, who cared for the bodies and spirits of those around them, telling their fortunes, treating their bodily ailments with herbs, dowsing their lost property, and physicking their farm animals. She held them up to us as examples of powerful, magical women in an age when women otherwise had little influence. They were the midwives who brought new life into the world, she said, and who laid out the dead at the end of life.

These village healers and magicians had different names in different places, including handywomen, blessers, witches, conjurors, herb wives, wild herb men, snake doctors, fairy doctors and currens. [1] In some parts of England they had the title of Old Mother Redcap, since the red cap was a badge of office amongst wise women. There was often some oddity of dress among wise women and cunning men, such as odd socks or a garment worn inside out. [2] These practitioners didn’t use athames and magic swords but everyday objects – stones, keys, shears, sieves, pitchforks, brooms, divining rods, wax, bottles, paper and anything that came readily to hand from the kitchen or farm.

I gradually realised that such expertise formed the pattern of women’s lives for thousands of years and that women developed highly skilful methods in all these areas, even though no contemporary historian wrote about them or accorded women due status for their invaluable work.

Women’s knowledge has been derided and ignored for most of our history, and this is just as true today in western culture, in which knowledge is ‘owned’ by experts and can only be passed on through state-approved academic institutions, and where those seeking to follow traditional or alternative paths – such as herbalism – are dismissed as uneducated, naïve or even dangerous. But this is our knowledge, our heritage – as women and as witches, both male and female.

In the Craft, women have power. Traditional covens are always led by a woman (which is something that some men and even some women struggle with). Moreover, the image of the older woman is positive and powerful. She is the wise one, the teacher, the witch. We look to the Crone goddesses, the witch goddesses, the mistresses of magic, the keepers of the secrets of life and death, Black Annis, Hecate, Ceridwen, Baba Yaga, the Cailleach, Kali, Lilith.

Witches in stories are described vas ugly old crones. Dictionaries describe the crone as an old, ugly, withered woman or ancient witchy female, or say that crone is a derogatory word for an old woman. It is a word derived from ‘carrion’ i.e. dead meat. In fairy tales the crone is always evil. However, this was not always the case. In previous ages, she was the respected elder, a woman with a lifetime’s garnered wisdom, incorporating that of maiden, mother, middle age and old age. She was the keeper of history, the fount of lore, the healer and midwife, the one consulted in time of trouble because her experience told her what to do. She was the Cailleach or veiled one, the coron or crowned one. She is the hag, another derogatory term now, but derived from hagia, which means ‘the sacred one’ (as in hagiography, the study of saints), or from heilig meaning ‘holy’. In Japan, older people are honoured as ‘living treasures’. In our own society, with its heritage of patriarchal monotheism, older women are seen as useless, and that seems to refer to any woman over 45. Today’s witches are trying to reclaim the title of Crone as an honourable and respected estate, in which an older woman is empowered to be herself: as wise, holy, rebellious, incorrigible, astute, funny, sexy, or irascible as she wishes.

Witchcraft is watching the sunrise or sunset, the forest in the light of a glowing moon, a meadow enchanted by the first light of day.   It is the morning dew on the petals of a flower, the gentle caress of a warm summer breeze upon your skin, or the warmth of the summer sun on your face.   Witchcraft is the fall of colourful autumn leaves, and the softness of winter snow.   It is light and shadow and all that lies in between.  It is the song of the birds and other creatures of the wild.   It is being in the temple of Mother Nature and being humbled in reverence.

According to Dave the Flute, witchcraft is like making good tea. If you follow the way of the Abrahamic Regions of the Book – referential, scripture based – you are told what to believe and the actions you must take to be successful. Take mug, put in tea bag, pour on boiling water, take teabag out, add milk and serve. In may be quite a foul cup of tea and you might have preferred some sugar, but you have done as you were told. But a witch would also prod the bag to see what it was doing, note the colour of the tea as it got stronger and compare with past experience of tea making, giving it a taste to try see how it was doing. And ends up with an ace cup of tea. The witchcraft method is experiential, personal and non-scripted. It is the path untrod… revelation through your own effort.

The Witch sees the sacred within the physical, the magical in the mundane, and uses this knowledge to incorporate spiritual practice into her everyday life, treading lightly on the Earth and seeking to harm no-one. She draws her strength from the sacred flame that burns in her hearth, from the earth that sustains her, the water that nourishes her, and the inspiration of her breath.   She finds her gods in the land around her: the spirits of water, stone and tree, Earth, Moon, Sun, Stars and Sky. She needs no watch, calendar or magical almanac to tell her when to work her magic, but works with the observable ebb and flow of the changing seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, and the waxing and waning of the moon. A Witch is drawn to the traditional ways, the rhythms of nature and the call of the wildwoods.  It is a path as old as time and as new as the newest witch.

Witches are the canny, the riddlers, the healers and the givers of gifts. Witches weaver in and out of the fabric of fairytales with wiles and guiles and the truth that every woman (and every man) must learn their own magic.

If you do not feel the pull of Mother Nature than this is not a path you will be able to, or want, to follow, you won’t understand it or see its value. If you measure success in terms of money and fame it is not for you. But if the starlit night draws you from the comfort of home and fire, if your heart swells at the sight of a swathe of woodland anemones in the spring, you will already know what I mean.

Like all secret arts, witchcraft is learned by apprenticeship. Its deepest secrets are printed nowhere.

© Anna Franklin

[1] Nigel Pennick, Secrets of East Anglian Magic, Capall Bann, Milverton, 2004

[2] ibid

[i] This is a misreading of a far more ancient Mesopotamian Goddess myth. The name Eve, in Hebrew Hawwah, is from the Akkadian word Hayah meaning “to live”. She is thus called Hawwah because she was Mother of All Living” according to Genesis. This was a title of the Sumerian goddess Ninhursag. In the Sumerian myth the god Enki (possibly cognate with Yahweh or Jehovah) was cursed by Ninhursag because he stole forbidden plants from paradise. His health began to fail and the other gods prevailed on the Mother Goddess to help him. To do this she created a goddess called Ninti (literally nin= lady, ti= rib ie lady of the rib, a play on words since the phrase also means “to make live”). He claimed his rib hurt him and she healed him.

[ii] This is still argued by people who deny that women can be Christian ministers.

[iii] Jani Farrell Roberts, The Seven Days of My Creation, iUniverse Inc, Lincoln, 2002

[iv] ibid

BLACK PEPPER TEA –WAIT TILL YOU HEAR THE BENEFITS!

Black Pepper Tea

250 ml (1 cup) water

½ tsp freshly milled black pepper.

Put the water and pepper in a ban and bring to the boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Drink as required with a little honey, if liked.

 

Traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine use tiny amounts of black pepper to make the other herbs in the formula more available to the body. We now know that one of the most important benefits of black pepper is that enhances the bioavailability of phytochemicals from other spices and herbs, such as turmeric, as well as vitamins and minerals.

In Ayurvedic medicine, black pepper is believed to kindle agni, the digestive fire and, like many aromatic kitchen herbs, black pepper is considered a carminative in Western herbalism, in other words, it stimulates digestion and intestinal motility to ease gas and bloating.  The taste of black pepper on the tongue triggers the stomach to release hydrochloric acid, needed for the digestive process. If the body fails to produce enough, an inefficient digestive process may lead to heartburn or indigestion, so adding a little black pepper to food may help alleviate these problems.

Black pepper is a warming spice, its pungency due to one of its compounds, piperine, which increases the production of heat of the body. Black pepper boosts the metabolism, and a little black pepper can help in the fight against obesity.

Black pepper is a decongestant, useful in the treatment colds, coughs and flu, as well as being an expectorant, which means it helps break up congestion in the chest and sinuses. Fight off the seasonal misery with Black Pepper Tea.

NB: Black pepper is considered to be safe for most people, and since it is used medicinally in very small amounts, this is also considered safe for most people. However, to be on the safe side, avoid larger amounts if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking lithium, or medicines changed by the liver (talk to your healthcare professional). Consumption of excessive amounts of black pepper can cause gastrointestinal irritation. Avoid if you have acid-peptic disease, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis or diverticulitis.

 

© Anna Franklin