Monday, November 19, 2012

Witchy Brew: Meadowsweet, Fennel, and Marshmallow Root

Magic herbs in the company of the very magical Clarice Lispector

Having recently moved from San Francisco's Mission District to the Berkeley-Oakland borderlands (by way of Rio de Janeiro for a year+ in between), I've had to seek out equivalents for my old favorites in my new neighborhood.  Scartlet Sage is still my #1 witch store, but I no longer live 10 minutes away, sadly. So I was happy to wander into the Lhasa Karnak Herb Company on Telegraph today while on my way to the heavenly Moe's Books to look for The Road to Xanadu (found it!). Rows of glass jars filled with magic herbs, walls lined with tinctures and tarot cards, stacks of teas, soaps, and beeswax candles. I inhaled all the familiar scents and felt a faint glow from my inner spirit crystal.

Today's discovery was a tea made from meadowsweet, fennel, and marshmallow root in equal proportions. I explained my mysterious stomachaches to the young witch at the counter and she recommended this combination to soothe the stresses of a sour, acidic stomach. She recommended it two ways: a spoonful heated up with almond milk (in a tea ball or strained afterward) and also brewing a big batch of tea and straining it into a mason jar because "these herbs like to expand." Or something like that. I imagine that it must be akin to the way wine likes to breathe. I had the milky tea earlier, which eased my way into a delicious post-teaching nap, and am now enjoying some post-dinner tea that's been stretching its legs in an old Spanish olive jar.

The taste is laced with licorice from the fennel, while the meadowsweet, an herb sacred to the Druids, reminds me of chammomile, though with an ever so slightly bitter taste. Marshmallow root, I've never had and I can't quite isolate its taste in this mixture, though I assure you it has very little to do with sticky sweet taste Kraft products. The tea has been soothing to me, even if it does taste a little medicinal (not necessarily off-putting though I can imagine some people not liking the taste).
marshmallow root (source)

But the strange marshmallow root, like insides of the more familiar campfire roasting treat, is slimy and thick, known as a "demulcent herb" that is meant to soothe mucous membranes (like the lining of my upset stomach). It also has about a thousand other uses, so if you are a witch-in-training as I aspire to one day be, you can read all about them here. More on its magic mucous properties from this site:

Both the root and the leaf of the marshmallow plant contain a substance known as mucilage polysaccharides, a mucusy substance that does not dissolve in water. It is this substance that causes marshmallow to swell up and become slippery when wet. This attribute of the marshmallow plant gives it the ability to soothe irritation of the mouth, throat and stomach, as well as to relieve coughing.

Mucilage polysaccharides! Weeeeird! But my stomach is saying, "aaaaaaah."

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