One evening while riding the bus through the dampened streets of Santa Monica I was leafing through an old copy of Herb Quarterly Magazine and came across an article on “still-room” books. In the old days, before the advent of professional doctors and hospitals, women were the sole gatekeepers of their family’s health. If a husband broke a leg on the field atop a tempestuous horse, his wife would set the bones. If a child came down with a grueling case of gout, mother knew the exact herbal tonic to mix up to ease the side ache. If a toddler fell and skinned her knee, mother would whip up a bacteria-sucking poultice. All of the bottles of tinctures, jars of dried roots, sterilizing liquids, pill shaping molds and strange medieval looking tools used to mix, cut, and apply were customarily kept in a room of the home known as the still-room. And in this room would dwell a special book containing all of the housewife’s wisdom written by hand in small paragraphs and sometimes containing generations of lore handed down to be expounded upon by the current generation’s matriarch.
When my own daughter went to college I started a process of sending her one paragraph a week via email and calling it Mama’s Weekly Wisdom. I would send her notes on how to tackle study with discipline, the etiquette of dating, how to live with integrity, passages out of Deepak Chopra’s Seven Laws of Spiritual Success and explanations of her chakras and the nourishing vitamins that corresponded to each. But now I am inspired to start my own still-room book for her based not on esoteric concepts or tips for being a good human, but actual recipes for things she can create in her own kitchen to make her feel good, lift her spirits or aid her healing in times of illness
It seemed appropriate that the first recipe would call for a healing tea. When I was young and would come down with the bone chilling flu, my mother would always make me a cup of special tea that tasted warmly sweet with honey, was swirled with milk and would not only put me to sleep but make my throat feel better. One tea that my daughter and I have always shared a love for is earl grey. Many times in our household while she was growing up, all I had to do to cure her blues or help her with her homework or calm her nerves over some school activity was to make her a cup of the famous black tea brew. In light of this, I came up with a healing brew called Ginger Earl Grey Fever Brew that not only soothes aches and pains but also causes the body to sweat out toxins and feel alert throughout a cold and flu.
Ginger Earl Grey Fever Brew
3 c. water
2 tbls. grated fresh ginger root
1 tbls. loose Earl Grey tea
1/4 c. almond milk
1 tbls. honey (I use pine cone honey for its verdant properties of spiking the senses but any honey is fine)
Place the water and ginger into a stainless steel or ceramic pot and bring to a boil. Throw in the tea once boiling and turn down heat to simmer. Simmer for 3-5 minutes then strain into a large mug. Add the almond milk and honey and mix all together.
Aside from recipes I will fill the book with anecdotes, quotes and notes that I find helpful along the way, like the one below, accentuated by my own personal remedies and suggestions:
“Your digestion can be likened to a pot of soup bubbling at about 97-99 degrees F on the stove. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pot of soup is the spleen, the burner under the pot is the stomach, and the pilot light of the stove is the kidneys.”
“Easily digested and assimilated foods build blood and supplement your essence trust fund with usable energy. When digestion is poor or sluggish, the body withdraws essence in order to meet its daily demands. Ultimately, this causes deficient qi and blood, aches and pains, anemia, gas, bloatedness, lethargy, weakness, lowered immunity, recurring infections and chronic ailments.”
– from Healing With the Herbs of Life by Lesley Tierra
Suggestion—To keep digestion operating at its optimum, every morning upon awakening do two things:
1. Drink a cup of hot water with lemon squeezed into it.
- Mix a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar into a half cup of hot water and drink.
In this day of technological scrap booking and over-sharing of millions of bits of consumed but unarchived information on social media, it has been a refreshing process to write and draw in a real live book again knowing that I am passing something concrete and ever-lasting to my daughter. Hopefully it will inspire her to add her own wisdom as she evolves throughout the years which she can hand down to her own offspring one day.
Written by Kimberly Nichols
Newtopia Editor Kimberly Nichols is a relational/conceptual artist, writer, social anthropologist and healing facilitator living in Los Angeles, California. Her artworks, literary fiction and creative nonfiction have been exhibited and published internationally. She is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Mad Anatomy (Del Sol Press, 2005) and is currently working on her second book. She is the owner of Tapping the Inner Palette, a company which utilizes the intuitive, spiritual, creative and healing arts to help people rediscover the inherent voice within as well as bring their authentic selves to fruition. She can be reached at Kimberly@newtopiamagazine.org.