What is an Attar?

The word Attar is derived from the Hindu/Urdu word Ittar which in turn derives from the similar Persian word for Perfume, Itar, and is an essential oil derived from botanical sources usually blended with a wood oil like, but not always, Sandalwood.

Most commonly these oils are extracted via hydro or steam distillation. They can also be expressed by chemical means but generally natural perfumes which qualify as Attars are distilled with water.

The term is mostly used in the Middle East and India nowadays instead of the term essential oils but historically an Attar was very different.

Attar oils were once generally distilled into a wood based oil such as sandalwood and then aged. By and large they still are.They are extremely strong in aromatic terms and a little (just a drop) can be overpowering. Their use is popular in the middle and far east particularly as they are alcohol free but they should be used sparingly and with circumspection.

The aging process could last from one to ten years depending on the botanicals used and the results desired. Technically Attars are distillates of flowers, herbs, spices and other natural materials. As they age they thicken and become strong.

Their expense is down to the use of Sandalwood or other expensive or endangered wood oils let alone the additional distilled ingredients like oud which is the most expensive wood in the world or Rose which takes at least 9000 petals to make just 1ml of oil.

The ancient Egyptians were famous for producing perfumes or Attars throughout the ancient world and they are still renowned in the field today. The perfumes were extracted from plants and flowers by a process that we, today, would call “enfleurage” before they could be added to other oils. The process was later refined by the famous Muslim physician Shaykh al-Rais who made a distinctive type of distilled aromatic product. He was referred to as Abi Ali al Sina. Some say that he was the first to make a distillation of Rose. Liquid perfumes were previously just a mixture of oil with crushed herbs and aromatics until his distillation process where he is said to have first experimented with roses.

The most famous Attars of his day were Rose, Saffron, Jasmine, Oud and at the time were greatly favoured by the Islamic world to treat numerous health disorders largely. They are still popular today along with a variety of musks but are more highly regarded for their aromatics qualities than their medicinal attributes.

Some of the first users of Attars were the Mughal invaders of India from Persia. Jasmine Attar was the favourite perfume of the Nizams of the Hyderabad state. Traditionally in the Eastern world, it was a customary practice for the nobility to offer an Attar to their guests at the time of their departure. The Attars are traditionally given in ornate tiny crystal cut bottles called Itardans. This tradition of giving a scent to one’s guests continues to this day in many parts of the Eastern world. Among Sufi worshipers the use of Ittars during meditation circles and dances is quite common.

AMBERGRIS – What is it? – you’d be surprised

 

We’ve noticed so many people searching for Ambergris essential oil on our website and as no such thing exists (although there are very good extracts and synthetics) it occurred to us to explain exactly what it is and why it is now almost entirely a synthetically made material used in perfumery as a fixative ( a substance that makes the perfume long lasting and “fixes” it ) as, with the exception of a few countries, it is largely illegal to trade in natural Ambergris.

Firstly it is not a plant. It is a gastric bi product from the Sperm whale (an endangered and vulnerable species) which eats giant squid and as large numbers of squid beaks have been found in natural ambergris it has been suggested that the beaks irritate the Sperm whale’s stomach and are too sharp to pass easily through its digestive tract (as the beaks cannot be digested ) and the resultant production of ambergris lessens the irritation as it coats the beaks, making it easier in digestive transit. Larger ambergris deposits are suggested to be from whale vomit.

It takes years for ambergris used in perfume to form. The main odorous constituents in ambergris are ambrox and ambrinol.

Christopher Kemp, the author of Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris, says, “It is only produced by sperm whales, and only by an estimated one percent of them. Once expelled by a whale, it must float for years, then it must make landfall, avoid being broken into pieces by rough seas, and someone must find it. In other words, the odds of finding ambergris are extremely small.”

When first expelled ambergris is soft, whitish (occasionally with black or dark brown streaks in it) and smells strongly of faecal matter. It takes months and even years of photo degradation and oxidation in the seas for it to harden and darken, its eventual colour being dark grey or even black. Its texture is still waxy but also crusty at this stage and its smell has altered to an animalistic, sweet and earthy fragrance which is then processed to be used as a highly prized fixative in the perfume industry – or rather was in the past. Whilst there are still a few perfumes that exist using ambergris that is found either floating at sea or washed up on various beaches, since 1986 when the majority of nations banned whale hunting, the product has been also banned as exploitation of whale species by all but a few countries such as France and Switzerland.

The product has been valued for millennia. The Ancient Egyptians used to burn it as an incense and modern Egyptians still use it for scenting cigarettes. In medieval Europe it was considered to be an effective protection against the Black Death and for those that could afford it, it was carried around as a small ball, like a pomander. In those days disease was thought to be in the air as a miasma and the smell of ambergris was so strong that it effectively masked the smell of anything else in the vicinity. It was also more commonly used by apothecaries to combat epilepsy, head pains and even colds.

It has been used as a flavouring in food and been thought to be an aphrodisiac. The Chinese call it Dragon’s spittle fragrance.

So because of its rarity, its unlikely discovery in the seas of our world, the vulnerability of the species that produces it and our quite natural reluctance to return to the days of indiscriminate slaughter of the rich number of animal species so abundant but continuously threatened by mankind – we now, quite rightly, use a synthetically produced version of ambergris.

 

5 day total detox Herbal Infusion Blend

5 Day Total Detox Herbal Infusion Blend is a recipe for a warming and restorative infusion. This sweet herbal tea will help detoxify an overindulged system and restore balance and harmony. Especially good for those who tend to burn the candle at both ends; over indulge in food and liquor occasionally and have tended to neglect their general diet and life cycle for a while.

Drink 5 Day Total Detox Herbal Infusion Blend 3 times a day for 5 days.

We Recommend 1 strong cup at breakfast, 1 at lunch and 1 strong cup after dinner.

This particular blend contains a lot of ingredients and as such is probably best made in large batches for continued use with 5 days on, 10 days off and 5 days on again and so forth.

It has a longish shelf life so it is quite alright to keep the blend in an airtight container which has been sterilised and outside an environment with temperature differences. A kichen or bathroom is really not the ideal place to keep any such item simply because of the temperature and humidity variations. A cool larder is perfect.

 

Ingredients for 5 Day Total Detox Herbal Infusion Blend:-

Burdock Leaves 25 grams
Dandelion Root 50 grams
Parsley Root 25 grams
Garden Sage 25 grams
Turmeric 10 grams
Kibbled Ginger 10 grams
Cloves 10 grams
Coriander Seed  25 grams
Cardamom 25 grams
Black Pepper 10 grams
Fennel 25 grams
Juniper 10 grams
Star Anise 10 grams
Liquorice 25 grams
Cinnamon 10 grams
Centaury 25 grams
Boldo 25 grams
Milkthistle Seed 50 grams
German Chamomile 50 grams
Peppermint 50 grams

Herbal teas are blends, inasmuch as they are produced using a variety of ingredients during the manufacturing process. For the most robust teas, a perfect blend must be achieved for premium quality. The tea, no matter the type, should taste full-bodied, never stale or thin.

Herbal tea blends are some of the most flavoursome teas in the world. The process of fermentation during the drying process is where the blending usually happens but that doesn’t preclude home blending from dried materials. Spices, fruits, herbs, and other natural ingredients are brought together in this process to create unique and dynamic flavours, simple or refined.

Mix the ingredients thoroughly and its our suggestion that you wait for about 10 days before brewing a pot or two, agitating the mix occasionally during that 10 day period to ensure all the flavours blend well and thoroughly.

When ready, this mix will make around 70 cups or good sized mugs, use a heaped teaspoon of the blend per person or serving and use a cafatierre if you don’t have a straining teapot. Pour freshly boiled water over the blend – wait until the water has stopped bubbling before you pour it which will signify its just off the boil otherwise you will scald the herbs. Always use fresh water rather than water you have previously boiled and left in the kettle. You want the water to have as much oxygen in it as possible.

Let the blend brew for around 5 minutes and then drink.

CO2 Extraction – what is it?

CO2 Extraction (sometimes called Hypercritical or Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction) is a relatively new process used to extract the very purest essence of a plant. Whilst essential oils from plants are usually extracted using heat distillation which is, in itself, a destructive process, CO2 Extraction uses only low or high pressure which means the complexities of the oil’s constituents are preserved.

When high pressure is applied to CO2 (carbon dioxide) the gas acts like a liquid. This liquid CO2 can be used as a quite inert and very safe solvent which, when pumped into a chamber containing plant material will act like a solvent attracting  the plant’s volatile elements into it.

Essential oils can be extracted in this way and have the added benefit of avoiding the high temperatures of steam distillation which, in itself, can destroy some volatile compounds, especially those of an extreme delicate nature. Not all CO2 extracts are essential oils however as that term typically refers to steam distillation.

Many CO2 extractions, whilst more efficient perhaps, result in an extraction not dissimilar to the steam distilled oil but some are much more complex and rounded and, of course, the offerings can be very much more varied. Plants whose scent would easily be destroyed by the heat in the steam distillation process might more easily be captured by the Supercritical CO2 extraction process.

Essential Oils or CO2 Selects:

These “Selects” are obtained at relatively low CO2 pressure and contain only volatile, CO2 soluble components. These tend to resemble the classic steam distillate essential oils but with the advantage of no temperature degradation and the potential for additional volatile substances that may not be distilled out of the plant under normal steam distillation. The consistency of the essential oils extracted with the CO2 method will vary from batch to batch just as the plants themselves vary and just as steam distilled oils vary. Naturally, there is also the extraction process itself and the actual processor to consider.

Extracts Called “Totals:”

These “Totals” are obtained at higher CO2 pressures and contain all CO2 soluble components, including waxes, resins, colorants, resembling a classical hexane extract, with the advantage of no solvent residue. Therefore the resultant oils are like absolute oils.

These “Totals” are very very much like the herb itself. CO2 totals are usually thick and pasty due to the beneficial fats, resins, and waxes they contain that come from the plant material itself. These totals are soluble in essential oils and vegetate oils but seldom in water and are considered Absolute Oils.

 

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Endangered, Protected, Managed

I have been in recent conversations with people concerning endangered plant species that are on the CITES register and am surprised at just how little knowledge and information people who express concern about such things have to hand yet are ready to express an opinion which is based on so little knowledge or expertise in the matter.

rosewood-botanical-image-001

For instance, in a recent conversation, a blogger took me to task over Rosewood or Bois de Rose essential oil saying that it shouldn’t be used as it is endangered.

That is quite true in that South American Wild Rain Forest Rosewood is endangered ( Aniba roseodora  not the many species of Dalbergia which are also called Rosewoods and are even more endangered)

The operative word is wild.

Native populations know the value of Rosewood and will, because they live, in much of the case, in abject poverty, cut down a wild tree and sell it for the best price they can get. Some would argue that they shouldn’t be blamed. Why would they not try to improve the lives of their family by making a quick and easy buck? Why shouldn’t they try to lift themselves out of poverty? Why would they care for the planet’s biodiversity?

It is poaching. They don’t own the land on which the tree grows and they didn’t plant any of the trees which may have been there for many years or even nurture them in their growth. Poaching is what is responsible for the endangered status of the tree along with over harvesting from the wild.

On the other hand, the Brazilian Government, using the much vaunted Australian principle demonstrated with Sandalwaood ( Santalum album) in India has devoted a large fund to taking periphery neglected already denuded rain forest land and planting Rosewood trees in plantations in order to manage and protect the species, taking some of the saplings back into the wild to colonise the rainforest.

The produce from the plantations is much cheaper  than one could expect to pay a poacher ( because of the subsidies) and can only be bought legally at Government auction. The demand, therefore, which is human originated is satiated to some extent, by the managed plantation stock, the excess going back into the wild. It isn’t perfect.

Other nations are stepping in. As with Sandalwood, Other nations are now experimenting with the planting of non native species to see if they will happily grow and thrive without changing the domestic biodiversity. Its a tricky business because theory doesn’t always have a positive effect when put into practice. Sandalwood is now grown in East Africa and Papua as alternative pastures for the tree. Similarly India is planting Aniba roseodora. It will be years before we know if the outcome will be positive or negative and its an admitted risk. Such intervention in nature can have negative impact it has to be admitted but it doesn’t always have to. It isn’t a given outcome.

Isn’t that a good idea though? Isn’t that a way that human intervention which caused the problem in the first instance, can have a positive effect?

It won’t stop poaching. It won’t stop the illegal trading in poached Rosewood. It wont stop those that don’t care, or consider themselves too poor to care, from poaching.

It WILL stop the eventual extinction of the species. We can’t change human nature overnight – it takes years of education and poverty elimination to reduce criminal or illegal, at best, activities with endangered species but those who do care can slow the process down or reverse it with their intervention. An outright ban on all Rosewood products will just increase demand that will be met by more illegal practice if there is no positively inspired intervention.

Who pays for the subsidies and Government funding? The taxpayer or the purchasers of legally obtained Rosewood products? It should be the latter.

The English Bluebell, as another instance, is a protected species and easily hybridises with the Spanish Bluebell which has no scent and will colonise an English Bluebell wood in a matter of years. What does the Government directly do about it – very little but 70% of the World’s stock of the English Bluebell resides in the UK. English Heritage is encouraging people to dig up their Spanish Bluebells in their gardens and discard them and are GIVING away English Bluebell bulbs to replace them to try and stop the hybridisation. Isn’t that a positive idea?

The Red Squirrel has virtually been wiped out by the introduction of the American Grey Squirrel to the UK more than 100 years ago. The Red Squirrel has small colonies in Scotland and remote British Islands. Recent research has shown that the introduction of Pine Martens predate on Grey Squirrel populations and not on Red Squirrel populations so they are beginning to thrive again in areas where the Pine Marten has been re-introduced and where the Red Squirrel has been previously wiped out. Many people consider that a good thing but we don’t yet know what effect the re-introduction of Pine Martens will have on other local wild life. But isn’t it better to try?

 

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What is Essiac Tea

This article in no way endorses the efficacy of the eventual recipe but is presented for educational and historical purposes only for those interested in what Essiac Tea is.

rene-caisse

Essiac Tea was discovered by the nurse Rene Caisse ( The name Essiac is simply her name spelt backwards).

She had the recipe given to her by an English woman who told her that in a meeting with a First National (Amero Indian) Shaman several years before she had been given to believe that a recipe of common-ish herbs taken as a tea regularly would stop or alleviate cancer.

Rene Caisse gave the tea to a number of her aquaintances suffering from cancer, no less her own Mother and an Aunt, with what she claimed to have been remarkable results. Ever since then the tea has been a famous name amongst herbal blends with what results one can only surmise as no clinical tests have ever been done to prove or disprove its effect.

The ingredients are simple, having been refined over the years by the Nurse down to four

Rhubarb Root

rhubarb-root-botanicalSheeps Sorrel

sheeps-sorrell-botanicalSlippery Elm Bark

slippery-elm-bark-botanicalBurdock Root

burdock-root-botanical

A distillation of recipes:-

250 grams  Burdock Root, 200 grams  Sheep’s Sorrel, 40 grams Slippery Elm Bark, 20 grams Rhubarb Root

Mix all the herbs together thoroughly and use 25 grams of the mix to 1 litre of fresh water( its up to you if you use tap water, bottled water or filtered water but don’t use water that you have previously boiled in the kettle and left – always use fresh water)

Mix the herbs into the water and bring to simmering point, then simmer gently for around 10 minutes.

drink 1 part (around 25 ml diluted in 50 ml of fresh water) just once a day, either in the morning or just before bed. Its NOT tasty so be prepared!

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What is an emmenagogue?

An emmenagogue is a herb or plant material which stimulates blood flow from the uterus. The strongest of them will help stimulate and regulate menstrual flow such as in hormonal disorders or those who suffer from irregular or light menses. The strongest can also be considered arbortificents which may well stimulate a miscarriage so they should be used with attention and care although you would have to ingest a very large quantity to induce a miscarriage.  Emmenagogues should never be used whilst pregnant for obvious reasons.

istock_000002665027mediumEach of the herbs is generally made into a tea and drunk a couple of times each day for ten days then ten days rest. None of them are particularly tasty if you ask me but it isn’t the taste that you are seeking but the natural chemical constituents of the plant that have the required action.

It is perfectly acceptable to add things to a tea made from any of the herbs though. Most people will sweeten the tea to improve its flavour but the addition of vanilla or liquorice are both perfect to improve flavour. Dried or fresh Orange or Lemon (or any citrus to tell you the truth) peel is also a great addition to improve the flavour. Don’t add a soft drink or alcohol though – neither will disguise or improve the flavour and the alcohol may well damage the constituents.

Each listing is shown by considered strength

The following is a list of herbal material, each of which is classed as an Emmenagogue:-

Yarrow Herb (Cut) – Achillea millefolium

YarrowConsidered Mild

Feverfew Herb (Cut) – Tanacetum parthenium

FeverfewConsidered Mild

Black Cohosh Root (Cut) – Actaea racemosa

black-cohosh-botanicalConsidered Medium

Rosemary – Rosemarinus officinalis

rosemary botanical printConsidered Mild

Pennyroyal – Mentha pelegium

pennyroyal botanical printConsidered Very Strong

Mugwort – Artemisia vulgaris

artemisia vulgaris botanical printConsidered Medium

Juniper- Juniperus communis

juniper botanicalConsidered Medium

Savine – Juniperus sabina

savine-botanicalConsidered Very Strong

Rue – Ruta graveolens

rue herbConsidered Strong

Tansy – Tanetectum vulgare

tansy-botanicalConsidered Very Strong

Blue Cohosh – Caulophylum thalictroides

blue-cohosh-botanicalConsidered Very Strong

These are really only a small selection of the herbs which are considered to be Emmenagogues – there are many more and, of course, like any product, whether it be pharmaceutical or herbal, what suits you may not suit someone else so it really is a question of trial and error to find the right one for your condition.

 

 

 

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How to Make a Rose Infused Oil

How to Make a Rose Infused Oil

Making a Rose Infused Oil is very easy but time consuming. The results can be well worth it though. Make small quantities at a time and do so every year and you will never run out.

Rose absolute oils are expensive, Rosa otto being the most expensive and Rosa Damascena Maroc being one of the cheaper ones. They are all rich, deep and extremely concentrated; usually dark brown in colour and very viscous. They are quite divine but beyond the purse of most of us and usually sold in tiny retail quantites ( like 2 or 3 ml)

 

tea rose 001So why not have a go at making your own infused oil?

It will not be anywhere near as deep, complex and rich with those honey overtones provided by absolutes (which, on average, use 9000 petals to make just 1ml of the absolute oil)  but it could be deliciously floral and refreshing and good for your skin lt alone provide a decent rose oil based perfume. Remember though it ill be an infused oil so much weaker than an absolute.

Rose Infused Oil:-

You need a plentiful supply of rose petals and I really do mean plentiful. This is no job for the faint hearted. If you grow roses in your garden then you need a lot of them and you need to keep picking when they are at their best, not faded and past their best. Choose, if you will, an old fashioned highly perfumed rose. The Old English Roses are perfect. Choose one for its scent but if its just the floral rose secnt in general that you are lookig for then mix and match from any that you grow as long as they are scented.

You need a stable carrier oil to make your Rose infused Oil and to steep the petals in. Now White Mineral Oil is cheap and very stable but is a petroleum by product so whilst it IS ideal you might not want to use it. It is the stuff from which Baby Oil is made but ultimately the choice is yours.

If you want a stable but natural carrier oil then I don’t think you can go far wrong with Jojoba oil (which is really a wax but behaves like an oil) which is both stable and takes a long time to go rancid. It aso has a pleasing yellowish to green colour.

Get yourself a clean and sterilised glass Kilner type jar. One that is airtight but can be easily opened. Wash it thoroughly and then make sure you have  sterilised it properly by placing it in a hot oven (200 degres Celsius) for 10 minutes and don’t wipe it with a tea towel which will just transfer all the bacteria on the tea towel to a nice warm glass jar.

Make sure your Rose petals are as clean and free from insects and dust as possible but don’t wash them – you can lightly rinse them but then let them dry.

Pack them as tighly as you can into your Kilner jar whilst it is still warm ( try not to handle the jar ) and then pour your chosen infusing oil over the top so that there is at least a centimetre between the rose petals and the top level of the oil.

Seal and put in a warm, preferably sunny, position for ten days. Open a couple of times very carefully and check that there is no fermentaton taking place and agitate gently every now and again.

The Rose petals will turn brown and the Rose Infused Oil will take on a subtle fragrance of the rose but you can increase the intensity by straining the oil and starting the whole process again with a new load of rose petals and using the same oil.

Keep doing this until the intensity of the fragrance held in the oil is at the level you like. This may take up to 5 or 6 infusions but the more you do the headier the final infused oil will be.

The oil is wonderful for skin care, can smell divine and will last about 6 to 12 months, longer if kept in the fridge. If you want to add a presevative then add some grapefruit seed extract or vitamin c powder to your final oil.

 

 

 

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Serene and Tranquil Herbal Infusion Blend

Serene and Tranquil Herbal Infusion Blend is a recipe for a soothing infusion, especially formulated to take the edge off a challenging day. This combination of herbs is reputed to ease nervousness, and calm down jittery stomachs. Alternate with Liver Maintenance and Restore and Revitalize.

Recommendation:- 3 to 5 cups daily.

lime flower botanical print

Ingredients for Serene and Tranquil Herbal Infusion Blend:-

Lavender  25 grams
Lime Flowers  100 grams
Liquorice  -25 grams
Chamomile – 150 grams
St John’s Wort  -100 grams

Herbal teas are blends, inasmuch as they are produced using a variety of ingredients during the manufacturing process. For the most robust teas, a perfect blend must be achieved for premium quality. The tea, no matter the type, should taste full-bodied, never stale or thin.

Herbal tea blends are some of the most flavoursome teas in the world. The process of fermentation is where the blending actually happens. Spices, fruits, herbs, and other natural ingredients are brought together in this process to create unique and dynamic flavours, simple or refined.

The liquorice is just for flavour so if you dislike it you can leave it out with no ill effects. Its the other ingredients that are the active herbs in this blend.

Mix the ingredients thoroughly and its our suggestion that you wait for about 10 days before brewing a pot or two, agitating the mix occasionally during that 10 day period to ensure all the flavours blend well and thoroughly.

When ready and this mix will make around 50 cups or good sized mugs, use a heaped teaspoon of the blend per person or serving and use a cafatierre if you don’t have a straining teapot. Pour freshly boiled water over the blend – wait until the water has stopped bubbling before you pour it which will signify its just off the boil otherwise you will scald the herbs. Always use fresh water rather than water you have previously boiled and left in the kettle. You want the water to have as much oxygen in it as possible.

Let the blend brew for around 5 minutes and then drink.

Snooze and Slumber Herbal Infusion Blend

Snooze and Slumber Herbal Infusion Blend is a recipe for gentle tonic for the nervous system, this group of herbs is renowned for preparing the body for a restful sleep. Drink Serene and Tranquil  Herbal Infusion Blend in the daytime, avoiding caffeine, and Liver Maintence.

We Recommend 1 strong cup before dinner, 1 strong cup after dinner.

vervain from snooze and slumber herbal infusion blend

Ingredients for Snooze and Slumber Herbal Infusion Blend:-

Chamomile  10 grams
Fennel  50 grams
Passion Flower 100 grams
Lime Flowers 100 grams
Vervain  100 grams

Herbal teas are blends, inasmuch as they are produced using a variety of ingredients during the manufacturing process. For the most robust teas, a perfect blend must be achieved for premium quality. The tea, no matter the type, should taste full-bodied, never stale or thin.

Herbal tea blends are some of the most flavoursome teas in the world. The process of fermentation is where the blending actually happens. Spices, fruits, herbs, and other natural ingredients are brought together in this process to create unique and dynamic flavours, simple or refined.

Mix the ingredients thoroughly and its our suggestion that you wait for about 10 days before brewing a pot or two, agitating the mix occasionally during that 10 day period to ensure all the flavours blend well and thoroughly.

When ready and this mix will make around 50 cups or good sized mugs, use a heaped teaspoon of the blend per person or serving and use a cafatierre if you don’t have a straining teapot. Pour freshly boiled water over the blend – wait until the water has stopped bubbling before you pour it which will signify its just off the boil otherwise you will scald the herbs. Always use fresh water rather than water you have previously boiled and left in the kettle. You want the water to have as much oxygen in it as possible.

Let the blend brew for around 5 minutes and then drink.