Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spring, maybe

I got home from coffee with my mother to discover that crocuses had decided to pop there heads out of the ground. With all the precipitation we've had this winter and the sun for the last week it isn't surprising that they think it is spring, but for some perspective at the strangeness, here is the state of the yard:

Despite all the cold hard, icy, dirty snow on the ground I think maybe these little purple darlings are a sign that spring is actually on the way. I guess its time to start planning the garden.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Name is Jonas....

My week has been all about music. My husband downloaded The Proclaimers "Sunshine on Leith" album and I fell in love with it! I already knew the "I'm gonna be" song from well being alive for the last 20 years, but the rest of the album is equally fantastic, soulful and funny. I am now convinced I must own all there music, now if I only had the funds to buy all of them. For those of you saying hey you could just torrent it all, I say this: Once I fall in love with a band for free, ie, one album, I tend to try and buy the rest for the simple reason that I want them to make more and supporting them monetarily is a way to ensure that.

My husband also borrowed some music from our friend and with it brought Weezer's "Blue Album" (is that capitalized since its not actually the title, just the color?), which I used to own but lost during a computer crash years ago*. I went on a nostalgia trip last night and had to listen through three times to get my fix. I remember my brother letting me listen to it in his bedroom when he was a teenager, a rare invitation. The only other times he let me come in his room to listen to music was to introduce me to Primus and Pink Floyd. I used to listen to that album over and over. Funny how that sums up almost every album I have fallen in love with. I tend to listen to it till everyone around me is ready to kill me.

*That makes it sound like the computer crashed and blew up all my CD's, actually I only had the copy on my computer from my brothers CD collection and he has the hard copy, but lives in California.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pop Quixote

So my test went ok, only three people voted ( I will admit I was one of them!) and I suspect I know who the other two were (I'm looking at you Toni and Briana!).  Good job everyone cause you got the right answer!   I was going to do blog all about arbutin, but well since everyone* seems to know the answer I wont bother, unless I get bored later today, which I probably will.  


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February Brings Desire

When did it get be be February? I mean I completely missed the first and didn't realize till halfway through the 2nd that the month had changed. I think this just proves how completely removed from reality I have become. Sitting here day in and day out writing my book and contemplating how to start a business and, well, fretting really, has made it so I barely know what day of the week it is let alone which month.

Irregardless of this, it is February and it is the time of year to start thinking about spring. (Yes I realize
Punxsutawney Phill said six more weeks of winter.) Yet now is the time of awakenings! Judith Berger in her Book Herbal Rituals states it thusly:
Come February, the blushing light of dawn insinuates itself more boldly across the landscape of the day, and as our eyes absorb the increasing brightness of the sun, subtle tremors rise from within us to meet a broadening glow. Though the air still contains winter's crisp bite, all the creatures begin to shiver, and our trembling is caused not purely by the cold but by an excitement that begins to blossom down deep in the gut, an instinctive knowing response to the coming renewal heralded by the expanding light.
No wonder February holds in its heart Valentines day. Yes, yes, I know it's a commercial holiday made so people will spend ridiculous amounts of money on chocolate and diamonds, but you can turn that around and make it more about a waking desire for spring, rather than a culturally induced attempt at romantic love.

February is desire. Desire for spring, for fertility, for lush growth and love. So the herb I am picking for this month is Turnera diffusa var. aphrodisiaca (yes aphrodisiac is part of its scientific name), commonly known as Damiana.

Damiana is an interesting herb. I met it about two years ago in lab while we were learning how to percolate our herbs. I had never really heard of it and really just picked up a jar at random and upon smelling it decided I would use it. My teacher thought this was highly amusing and explained to me a that its main uses were as a stimulating nervine and as an aphrodiasiac
(A nervine is anything that acts on the nervous system, other nervines include, lemon balm, catnip, oats and the like). These two uses are actually more intertwined than at first glance. Damiana is basically a stimulant, but of an order different from caffeine or sugar. Whereas caffeine blocks the bodies ability to know when its tired, and sugar gives the body a source of energy to burn, damiana acts more directly with the nervous system. Damiana, like February itself, wakes you up and reminds you of your desires.

Damiana is most often indicated for people who have become indifferent to sex or who though interested cannot seem to 'get into the mood.' However I also recommend it to anyone wanted to spice up there love life. My favorite recipe for Damiana is Rosemary Gladstars Chocolate Love Liqueur, from her book Rosemary Galdstar's Family Herbal A guide to Living Life with Energy, Health and Vitality. There are two ways to make it, the fast, I need it tonight, version and the slow, this will be ready just in time for Valentines day, version. The recipes are the same the processes slightly different.

Damiana Chocolate Love Liqueur

1 oz. damiana leaves (dried)
2 cups brandy (or vodka)
1 ½ cups spring water ( any water will do but spring or filtered will bring out the taste more)
1 cup honey or sugar
Vanilla extract
Almond extract (if desired, I like it without personally)
Rose water
Chocolate syrup

Long version
  1. Soak damiana leaves in brandy for 5 days, strain, reserve liquid and leaves.
  2. Soak alcohol-drenched leaves in spring water for 3 days, strain, reserve liquid.
  3. Gently warm water extract over low heat, add honey. Remove from heat once honey is dissolved, and add alcohol extract. Stir well. Pour into clean bottle and add vanilla and rose water to taste. Let mellow for as long as possible. It gets smoother with age.
  4. Add ½ cup chocolate syrup, 2-3 drops of almond extract, and more rose water to each cup of liquor, upon serving.

Short version

  1. Decoct (decoct means simmer on low heat in a pan) herbs in water enough to cover herbs completely, for one hour (or until liquid is halved)
  2. Remove leaves (gently pressing them to extract all the juices you can).
  3. Add honey or sugar to the hot liquid and stir in. When honey or sugar is dissolved remove from heat.
  4. Add brandy and chocolate syrup.
  5. Add vanilla to taste.
Make sure that you have more brandy than water in this recipe, as it and the sugar will act as the preservatives. Not that the Chocolate Love Liqueur will last that long :)

Of course I don't want you using store bought chocolate syrup! So here is a recipe for how to make some at home. I don't have a recipe that I make I just sort of throw it together so I snatched this one from

Simple Chocolate Syrup Recipe
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla


Bring water and sugar to a boil, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cocoa and salt and simmer, whisking, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla, then cool (syrup will continue to thicken as it cools).
(Recipe from

Also Rose water can be made at home: basically make a rose petal tea! Add boiling hot water over rose petals and let steep for 5 minutes.

This recipe is great for getting in the mood! It makes you very silly and happy and lightens the mood. I recommend cooking it up in the kitchen together making silly innuendo and laughing a lot. For those of you trying to get pregnant Damiana increases flow to the uterus and testes and has been used in Mexico as a fertility enhancer since Mayan times.

I cannot talk about this without some warnings. Damiana is not for everyone! All stimulants are not recommended if you are pregnant and Damiana is a stimulant and an emmenagogue (meaning it can make you start your period). I would also keep the dose down for anyone with Hypertension (high blood pressure).

Welcome in February this year with some renewed feeling! And remind yourself that spring is on the way! And when you see all the cupid displays and cartoon red hearts, try to think about the awakening desires heralded and not just the commercial hype. Instead of corn syrup filled chocolates and little candy hearts, make something for yourself and your loved ones, and spice it up your way.

Please let me know how your experiments with this recipe turn out!


I had a dream last night where I was contemplating going back to school. I was at a school and a bunch of students were having a big science show. I was wandering through the tables picking up pamphlets and such, like you do at a science show at a school, getting more and more agitated. Partially this was because people around me were inferring my degree wasn't scientific enough, to which my answer was "I have a degree in Herbal Science! Science is in the title of my degree!", or at least that is the answer in my head. I left the fair and walked into a tiny kitchen and started to wonder if I should go back to school. I pulled out a computer chair that was about 12 feet high ,when fully extended, and sat and spun in circles (very dangerous and wobbly circles I might add) weighing the options. "Well," I thought, "I wanted to take that botanical illustrations class...I could add couple science classes to it."

In the dream I pondered it out further and started pulling my hair back as if trying to put it into a pony tail. My hair right now isn't long enough to do this, but as I pulled, my hair kept getting longer and longer until, once I had fretted and pulled for long enough, my hair was halfway down my back. Not sure if it's because time was moving rapidly in the dream, or if I was trying to pull out my thoughts, but I thought a metaphor might be in there somewhere.

When I woke up I was actually contemplating going to school. I was convinced it was a good idea, but as the dream fog lifted I wasn't so sure. Not that I had been sure in the dream, far from it but I was even less exited about the prospect when I woke. The dream revolved around science classes, how prestigious it would be to have a proper science degree. It bothers me to think that even my subconscious doesn't appreciate everything I learned at Bastyr. Perhaps it's just a projection of how I feel most people see my degree. I mean really Herbal Science doesn't really sound that real does it?

What would I take? I would like to take a class that would actually aide me in my Herbal Medicine focus and honestly the offerings in that department are scarce. Its not like I can, or want, to go back to Bastyr. Taking the Botanical Illustrations class seems like an ok solution, but I have to pay out of pocket. Also, one class for me has never been a great option because I tend to skip when I don't have two reasons to be on campus.

The thing is, no matter how vividly I was dreaming about school, I was still dreaming. In the dream the thought of a science class was a direction, a purpose, a focus. Which is what I desperately want right now. I felt school would make me a whole person and everything would be better, but that just isn't the reality. School will be stressful and a hassle, not to mention adding some financial strain.

I do want to take the one class. But I hesitate to commit to more. At least it would get me out of the house more and I wouldn't feel useless all the time. Of course by then it will be spring and I won't be in the seasonally depressed mode I am in now anyway. I hope spring comes quickly this year. I miss my plants.