The Wondersmith
Rewarding curiosity and gifting magic all over the Pacific Northwest
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This blog is an exploration of daily magic, featuring wild plants, creative recipes, meaningful ceremonies, and writings about our shared humanity. 

Welcome to the Wondersmith's Writings! Here you can find magical recipes featuring foraged ingredients, musings on food and ceremony, and meaningful rituals to explore your own everyday magic. Don't forgot to subscribe if you'd like to get a notification anytime I post a bit more magic! And if you'd like to support my goal to spread magic far and wide, consider contributing to my patreon program!

A Pink Tonic For The Winter Doldrums

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My friend Devon (from Nitty Gritty Life) recently shared the definition of ‘doldrums’: “a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.” The word itself is taken from historical maritime usage where it referred to the areas around the equator where the winds were calm and the air was too still to sail. Sailors feared “the doldrums,” because they would trap them in place for days or weeks at a time.

This time of winter, many people experience the doldrums. We feel stuck, impatient, ready for spring’s winds of change to come our way. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and winter’s long stretches of cloudy weather can take a toll on all of our Vitamin D levels and energy. A sort of listless depression seems common right now. Instead of looking for wonder in the same repetitive weather patterns we’ve been seeing for a couple of months now, we are impatiently riding the waves until spring arrives.

One plant ally that steps forwards to help you navigate the doldrums you’re stranded in is St. John’s Wort. This raggedy plant with bright yellow flowers blooms in early summer (it’s often traditionally harvested on the Summer Solstice), but it can be dried or tinctured to use during the winter. I absolutely love the process of creating St. John’s Wort tincture; the fresh leaves and flowers smell pungent and nutty, and within a few hours of covering them with alcohol, they begin to bleed an amazing scarlet red color. After a few days, the vodka has changed from clear to deep red. It always feels like magic to me to see how a green and yellow plant could offer up so much color. (It can be used in dyeing fabric too, and can change fabric to green, yellow, and pink depending on how it is processed!)

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St. John’s Wort has been used to boost the mood since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Today, it’s been the subject of a fair amount of research in the medical field. In fact, several studies show it to be as effective as some prescription antidepressants. It can be taken now and then as needed, or incorporated into a regular care plan. Just be aware that St. John’s wort is a medicine and can interact or interfere with a variety of prescription medications (especially antidepressants) so be sure to talk to your doctor before incorporating it into your care in any way. (But don’t worry - this drink is still delicious and uplifting without it!)

I think medicines can also appear in our own memories and associations as well. When I was a little kid, my dad used to call grapefruits “happy medicine.” If either my sister or I was feeling sad or grumpy, he’d slice a grapefruit in half, cut the edges of each segment, and sprinkle it with sugar. Because I believed it to be real-life happy medicine, I always felt a lot more cheerful after eating that bitter fruit. Perhaps you have associations like that too, things that make you happy because of your own experiences or memories.

I’ve combined both grapefruit and St. John’s Wort together to create a cheerful drink for the late winter doldrums. A kick of lime and pineapple juice give it a tropical flavor, and it gets its gorgeous pink color (and a ton of antioxidants and nutrients) from pink pitaya powder. As you sip it, sit by a well-lit window or even a light box and let those healing light rays caress your outer body as this wonderful drink brings them inside. Find peace in knowing that this little act will help lift the stagnancy of the doldrums, if only a little bit.

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Pink Doldrum-Busting Tonic:

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

Juice of 1 lime

2 c. pineapple juice

1 c. grapefruit juice

1 c. ice cubes

1 tsp. St. John’s Wort tincture*

1 c. water

4 Tbs. Pink Pitaya powder

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and a little frothy. Pour into glasses and garnish with a lime slice. Enjoy!

*If you didn’t make your own, you can find St. John’s Wort tincture at most natural food stores or herbal shops!

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