Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Saffron - The most precious

By a fortunate coincidence, Saffron, an exotic spice that tops my list, was also favoured by Mirabai, my favourite poet saint. Mirabai is best known for her passionate devotion to Lord Krishna. 

The saffron of virtue and contentment 
Is dissolved in the water-gun of love and affection. 
Pink and red clouds of emotion are flying about,
Limitless colours raining down.
All the covers of the earthen vessel of my body are wide open;
I have thrown away all shame before the world.
Mira's Lord is the Mountain-Holder, the suave lover. 
I sacrifice myself in devotion to His lotus feet.

Getting back to the spice, it is derived from the flower of saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a member of the Iris family.  Saffron is the stigma, or female part, of an autumn-flowering purple crocus. When the crocus blooms in late October, for a period of only two weeks, the plantations resemble carpets of lavender. Workers must harvest the flowers early in the morning, while they are closed, and remove the stigmas one by one, by hand. This painstaking process simply can’t be mechanized, which partly explains the high cost. It takes 200,000 flowers to yield a kilo of Saffron!
Saffron is mentioned in the oldest Ayurvedic treatises like Charaka Samhita & Sushruta Samhita. Most saffron is grown in a belt of land ranging from the Mediterranean in the west to Kashmir in the east. Some of the best saffron in the world comes from Kashmir where it has been grown in the fields of Pampore near Srinagar for close to 2000 years. It has been used medicinally to reduce fevers, cramps and enlarged livers, and to calm nerves.

Saffron is widely used in Iranian (Persian), Arab, Central Asian, European, Pakistani, Indian, and Turkish cuisines. Its aroma is often described as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet.
In texts of Ayurveda the herb Crocus Sativus or kumkuma or saffron is grouped under ‘Varnya’ gana. Varnya means the one which imparts fairness and glow to skin. You too can enjoy the beauty benefits of Saffron at home by making a paste of sandal wood and saffron. Dilute this with little water and apply it as face pack. This helps to reduce acne, pimples, dark circles, dark pigments and brings a glow to your skin.
I source the purest of Saffron from Kashmir, and have formulated three recipes for a truly royal experience in our exotic Bath range
AyurSens’ Almond Milk and Saffron is a truly royal bathing bar, enriched with the milk of Almonds and Kashmiri Saffron to moisturize and nourish delicate skin. Saffron is therapeutic and unleashes its calming effect in combination with Almond milk.

AyurSens’ Royal Saffron is an exquisite bathing bar enriched with the goodness of exotic Kashmiri saffron, the most precious spice in the world. Pamper your skin with a golden glow and an enchanting aroma that lingers all day long.

Based on an ancient Ayurvedic recipe, AyurSens’ Sandal Saffron is endowed with an exciting blend of exotic Sandal and Kashmiri Saffron. Sandal and Saffron complement each other to enhance your complexion, promote glowing skin and increase your skin’s resistance to bacteria and sunburns. This classic blend combines the subtle aroma of Saffron with the evocative fragrance of Sandal.

I want to end this article with a note of support for the people of Kashmir. For two weeks every year, thousands of people in the troubled state of Indian Kashmir stop their daily lives and head for the fields to start the region's famous saffron harvest. In the last 20 years, this farming was hit hard by conflict between armed separatist groups and the Indian army. But a decline in militancy in the area means farmers now believe their businesses will finally get a chance to flourish.
Normal life comes to a halt as families work painstakingly together to strip the saffron flowers. Kashmir has produced saffron for more than 1,000 years. Even when the militant insurgency was at its height there a few years ago, people still flocked to the fields for the annual harvest. Despite the fact that their crop commands a high price, almost $1000 for a kilo of this spice, they are struggling to produce enough to meet the massive demands of the Indian market.

I pray for the success and happiness of our Saffron farmers, many of whom I have come to know personally. AyurSens will always support purity and will never buy or trade in spurious quality or adulterated spices.

Finally, I urge you to take the time to look after ‘you’ and rediscover your inner glow naturally! 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Lavender Sweet Lavender

Lavender and love is an ancient match! Lavender or Lavandula is a native of dry, sunny, exposed, rocky habitats from the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean and NE Africa to SW Asia and India.  

Lavender is highly valued for its soothing and relaxing qualities. Constituents of the oils found in lavender can treat hyperactivity, insomnia, flatulence, bacteria, fungus, and microbial activity on gums, airborne molds, and (in mixture with pine, thyme, mint, rosemary, clove, and cinnamon oils) Staphylococcus bacteria. 

At AyurSens, we just love the plant varieties, the colors, the intoxicating scents from these extraordinary flowers and the ease with which most varieties grow. I personally love the versatility of seeds, used to produce scented oils, soaps, creams and all manner of other lovely goodies.

A member of the Mint family, wildly popular, this hardy perennial is now grown around the world. I recommend planting some along the house under your windows, so the scent can waft inside in the breeze.  
A great herb for the lazy gardener, Lavender can be easily grown from seeds or cuttings. Sow seeds early in the season and cover lightly with soil. Space seedlings or thin plants about 18" apart. Lavender grows best in full sun. They do well in most soils, but a well-drained soil is a must. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season.  
Harvesting Lavender is one of the most enjoyable pleasures any gardener can have. Lavender flower heads look gray before the flowers open. They are devoid of most color and it is easy to become impatient waiting for them to burst into bloom. Once the color is bright and vivid, that is the time to start cutting. Cut the stems and spread loosely on a screen to dry.  

Now, let’s make our very own home made Lavender essential oil from dried lavender flowers 
  • For base oil, you can use a refined oil to attract the essential oils of the plant. Choose one that has pale color and mild scent. Olive oil, safflower oil and light sesame oil all work well. Or you can use almond oil for cosmetics, safflower or canola for general purposes, and olive oil for cooking. 
  • Pour 300 ml base oil into the jar and stir in the dried lavender flowers (8 table spoons of dried flowers). Cover tightly and leave the mixture to steep for 48 hours in a sunny windowsill, shaking every 12 hours.  
  • Lay a piece of muslin over the bowl and strain the oil. Gather up the muslin and squeeze the material to extract as much as you can.  
  • Put the oil back into the jar and add fresh flowers. You can mix lavender with other plants such as peppermint or lemon/orange peel. Place on windowsill again. Repeat this process until you get the aroma you want.  
  • After final straining, you can pour the oil into a dark glass bottle. The shelf life for your essential oil is 6 - 12 months if kept in a dry, dark, cool place.  
To enjoy your creation, pour the oil into your hands to warm before putting it on your body. Massage into your body using circular motion.  
Ayursens has created its own secret recipe that lives up to our promise of embracing ancient Ayurveda in a sensual avatar. The products highlighted below will delight your senses. 

We use the purest Lavender oil cultivated in the Himalayas for our Lavender Basil and Rosemary Lavender  bathing bars. 

AyurSens Lavender Basil bathing bar is a cocktail of clean fresh basil and the classic aroma of Lavender. This bathing bar does more than cleanse and moisturize; the sublime aroma of Lavender and Basil oozes from this natural soap to give you a relaxed sense of contentment. Lavender is also effective in relieving skin irritation, acne and is tolerated by even the most sensitive skin. The rich creamy soap is sure to entice all who bathe with it. 

AyurSens Rosemary Lavender is a special formulation enriched with essential oils of Lavender and Rosemary. The sprigs of Rosemary that float in the bathing bar gently exfoliate dead cells for a squeaky clean skin. Lavender has a light, sweet, captivating scent and is known for its calming and relaxing properties, whereas Rosemary has a crisp, fresh, minty aroma that has a stimulating effect on the skin. This soap will entice your senses and leave you feeling fresh and clean! 
I hope you enjoyed this article enough to give this exciting herb a chance to help you lead a happier life. Good luck and be well! :)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Every Rose tells a story…

People have been passionate about roses since the beginning of time. This was evidenced as early as first century BC, when the founders of Ayurveda, Charaka, a physician and Susruta, a surgeon, made numerous references to the therapeutic properties of roses and rose water. In fact the rose at that time was given many names, each an adjective describing its numerous beneficial and curative characteristics. Rose is considered sacred in many parts of the world, a universal symbol of beauty and love.
Rose water has a very pleasant taste and fragrance, and includes only distilled water and pure rose essential oil. Benefits include antibacterial, soothing, healing and antiseptic properties. It is rich in flavonoids and vitamins, including A, C, D, E and B3. Rose water taken as a therapeutic tea can help enrich our body with useful nutrients and minerals, as well as lower the risks of bladder infections and heart disease, relieve digestive problems and nervous tension, relieve eye irritation and so on.
But mainly, rose water is used to treat skin infections and this natural product is an important agent for many skin care techniques. It has excellent soothing effects, can improve the condition of dry and aging skin, as well as cleanse, purify and tone skin, reduce swelling and redness, assists in getting rid of black dots and so on. It can be applied to sensitive skin and can be used effectively as an aftershave lotion. Also, rose water is very beneficial for hair and that makes it suitable for use in hair care products and shampoos. Rose water increases the blood flow to our scalp, nourishing and strengthening hair follicles and preventing hair loss. 

AyurSens has formulated many bath and beauty products using rose water, rose essential oil and rose petals. For my DIY readers, the following instructions will get them started on their self-paced journey of discovering the eternal magic of Rose.

The first step is to make your own pure Rose water. Get some fresh roses, pluck their petals and put those petals in a pot of water. Let the water boil for about twenty minutes. Strain the liquid and keep it in the refrigerator. You could now use this pure rose water for any of the following cosmetic and therapeutic purposes.

Moisturizer: Rose water can be used as a moisturizer for all skin types to tone, balance and moisturize. You can spray a little rose water on your face before cleansing to loosen dirt and foundation makeup while giving your face lasting softness without leaving it feeling greasy.
Skin cleanser: Rose water has natural cleansing properties that will help you reduce wrinkles, fine lines and skin inflammation. By mixing one cup of rose water with 10 drops of essential oil of rose and two teaspoon of glycerin, you can create an effective skin cleanser for your skin.
Treat acne: Soak a few fenugreek seeds in water overnight and make a fine paste by crushing them in a blender. Add rose water and apply it on your face. Keep it on for about twenty minutes and rinse in cold water. This pack is helpful in treating acne.
Improve blood circulation: Rose water stimulates the circulation in the tiny blood vessels beneath the skin, helping to reduce the appearance of thread veins and broken capillaries.

If you prefer to discover the same magic through my tried and tested formulations, there are always new and exciting products at AyurSens
I have also featured two of my all-time favorite Rose soaps here, AyurSens Himalayan Rose and AyurSens Rose Geranium.

AyurSens Himalayan Rose is a delightful moisturizing soap with exotic and sensual aroma of Himalayan Rose. Experience a bath that gently cleanses and helps in toning up all types of skin. The soap is hydrating, maintains pH balance and stimulates skin regeneration.

AyurSens Rose Geranium soap is an incredible mix of rose petal extracts, pure rose water and essential oil of Geranium, which makes your skin glow because of its cleansing and astringent properties. This soap is mildly floral and caresses the skin, making it soft and moisturized. Rose Geranium tends to transcend age and gender and is almost the first true unisex fragrance.

Hope you find my articles on natural bath and beauty care interesting enough to keep visiting. I promise to keep writing.