Distilling Lemon Balm

It was my first distillation for months, and the most welcome return to heart. The day started early with our journey to Phytology, a magical nature reserve in the heart of urban London. The plan was to meet face to face with the Wisdom in Nature team, who I have been working alongside remotely for the past few months. After a reluctant start, as if I were waking up my herbalist bones after a long sleep, I tingled with excitement as I carried my smallest alembic across central London on a clear, cold spring morning.

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On the Sacred Loci of the Henna Souq, Fes.

A Homecoming

The Henna Souq has a determinable atmosphere, defined by the wind in the leaves of its two plane trees and the towering building of the 13th Century Maristan at its heart. Lining the small square are little shops, some of them no bigger than three metre square, of which around half are cosmetic herbalists. There is also the old weighing scales, which are still used today when large quantities of herbs are brought here by merchants. It is the home to Simohammed, a friend to many in the city, who operates one of the shops alongside his brother. Always inviting visitors to sit and drink tea with him, it easily becomes a rest-stop on a day of earnest wanderings up and down the hills of the medina. The chance you get to sit in the presence of the square is often enough to reveal just a hint of its magic. 

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The Red Cauldron

The thick red copper cauldron (sṭal – سطل) is rounded perfectly to the base, mottled with spots, it shows years of work, even though to me it is new. Its handles are also perfectly rotund, nailed to the sides with two handmade splints. An arm’s length in diameter, it sits plump on the stove. I fire it up. 

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The Boiling Pot: Spirituality and Herbal Distillation

Distilling with Sherifa

It’s an overcast day in March, occasional clouds drizzling soft trills of rain onto the courtyard.

Optimistically, I set the alembic up in a corner, knowing that unless it pours, we’ll be safe under the cedar beamed edges of the open roof.

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