Taking Thyme To Shake Out The Grunge (And Celebrate Imbolc!)
Ah, my dear, I hear you have the grunge. Maybe it’s the chest-full-of-crap-that-just-wont-leave grunge, or perhaps the I-feel-like-I’m-coming-down-with something grunge. It could even be the I-just-don’t-quite-feel-right grunge, which commonly hits when the days are gray and the nights are long. If a friend of mine walked through my door and looked grung-y and unwell, I would sit her down somewhere cozy, hand her a cup of tea, and get started on preparing this ritual for her. But since I can’t do that for all of you I have developed this self-care ritual, a simple way to show your body and soul some nourishment to give you more power to shake off that heaviness and move forward into the first glimmers of spring.
These recipes are all super simple and easy. They only take a couple of ingredients, which you probably have in your pantry right now. They’re all based on the combination of thyme, rosemary, wild rose, and oats - an extremely gentle and soothing mix to bring some balance into your life; it clears out the grunge and then rewards and nourishes the body.
This is an all-inclusive home spa treatment, complete with herbal tea, facial steam, facial mask, and a tasty treat to enjoy when you’re finished. All of these recipes work together perfectly to create a nourishing ritual of self-care that takes maybe an hour.
Oatcakes (known by many other names, flapjacks and bannock being but two) were traditionally eaten all over Europe, both as daily fare and also dressed up with spices, fruits, or sweeteners as a celebratory dish to mark ceremonial feast days. They are particularly associated with the Celtic holiday of Imbolc, celebrated at the beginning of February. This day, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, was when the world first starts seeing the glimmers of spring. The sap in the trees is just starting to flow then, and many farm animals have begun producing milk. It is a time of fertility, hope, and light - what better to celebrate with than fertile grains and delicious herbs?
But first, let’s get to know our players:
Thyme is an easily-accessible and aromatic herb that can be used in many ways. It is slightly bitter and spicy and thus is great for stimulating digestion. It’s antibacterial, so helps fight off colds and fend off infections. It helps clear out the lungs and sinuses (especially when used as an herbal steam). Most supermarkets carry it in the herb section. You could also use dried thyme in these recipes.
Rosemary similarly stimulates digestion, relaxes the body, and can be a helpful herb to use when treating migraine headaches. It’s also said to improve the memory, making it known as the “herb of remembrance” and used as part of many cultures’ funerary ceremonies. It, too, helps fluids move through the body and a steam or a tea of rosemary can help drain lungs and soothe sore throats.
Wild rose is optional in all of these recipes if you don’t have a stash of petals in your cupboard like I do, but it provides a lovely and gentle floral contrast to the bitter aromatics mentioned above. Rose is the most well-known herb of love, and that includes self-love. I always think of it as a soft and gently nourishing reminder to let us know that we are worthy, we are loved, and that all bad things shall pass. Bathing with it and eating foods flavored with it feels particularly luxurious, even when said food is a humble oatcake!
Oatmeal has proven skincare benefits, in addition to being healthy and filling. It’s very gentle on the skin so it’s a good choice for sensitive skins. Oats are a great source of skin-nurturing avenanthramides and beta-glucan, which can treat acne, relieve itching, lower inflammation and redness, firm, and moisturize. A sticky mask will stick to any irritants on the surface of the skin too, and will help to rinse them away. It’s good for your body, inside and out!
Thyme, Rosemary, and Rose syrup:
a couple of springs of thyme
1 spring rosemary
small handful wild rose petals
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let sit for about an hour to infuse. You may want to make extra of this delicious concoction - it tastes wonderful added to tea and would also make a lovely gift packaged up all prettily!
1 c. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. herbal syrup (reserve the extra to sweeten your tea!)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh, finely chopped)
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium pot on the stove, combine the syrup, butter, and sugar. Stir until incorporated, than add the vanilla, thyme, cinnamon, and salt. Remove from heat and dump in the oats. Stir until combined, then pour the mixture into an oven-safe cast iron skillet.
- Cook for 23 minutes. It won’t be set yet, but will harden as it cools down. It should be quite firm when it comes to room temperature. Sprinkle with some decorative sugar if you'd like a little extra loveliness.
While you’re waiting for it to cool, prepare the rest of your ritual:
Herbal Facial Steam and Oat Face Mask:
Several springs rosemary
Several sprigs thyme
A couple of handfuls of dried rose petals
1/4 c. oats
paper and pencil
- First, you’ll need to brew a simple tea of a few springs of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, and a handful of dried wild rose petals. Make a big pot, since you’ll be using it in your spa treatments too.
- While the tea is heating, use a mortar and pestle to grind up the oats and about half of the rose petals into a medium-fine powder.
- Place the rest of your herbs in a large shallow bowl and grab a towel.
- When the tea is hot, pour some into the shallow bowl of herbs and immediately cover your head with the towel and gently breathe in the warm herbal steam. Allow it to permeate your lungs and chest and feel it opening and relaxing the pores on your face. Keep your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Do this for as long as is comfortable, or until the water has cooled so much that it’s no longer producing steam (about 20 minutes.)
- Mix some of the tea water into the oatmeal mixture to form a thick paste, then smear that paste all over your face, avoiding the area around your eyes, nose, and mouth. Let it stay on for about 20 minutes, or until it starts to dry.
- While the mask is on your face, it’s time to address any emotional grunge you’re feeling. Take a few moments to jot down anything you are stressed about, anxious about, angry about, or anything that makes you feel sad. It helps to have an awareness of what specifically is bothering you to either address it or let it go.
- Once you’ve finished writing your notes and your face mask is starting to dry, rinse your face with warm water. As you clean off the oatmeal mask, picture yourself cleaning off whatever your “grunge” is - your worries, the feeling of sickness, whatever. Then quickly rinse your face with cool water and pat dry. Apply facial moisturizer if desired.
- Now is the treat part: pour yourself a cup of hot herbal tea (and sweeten with the leftover herbal syrup) and a slice of oat cake and just take a few minutes to enjoy the flavors and scents of this experience. Think about the temperature of the food in your mouth, the texture, the various flavors. You may also want to balance out the “clearing out the grunge” part of this ritual with some feel-good thoughts; think about what you are grateful for, or excited about, or just hold in your mind a happy memory. Fill your heart with love for yourself and your world.
- When you’ve finished and are ready to get back to your day, be sure to clean up after your process so you don’t stress about that later, and share some of the oatcake with someone special!
By the way, that oatcake also makes a LOVELY dessert when topped with some fresh fruit and sorbet (I used blood orange, but raspberry would also be fantastic!)
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. You can always show your support through patreon.com/thewondersmith where you can make a monthly financial contribution to my goal of spreading wonder and magic through surprise free events and writings such as this!