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
Almond extract (if desired, I like it without personally)
- Soak damiana leaves in brandy for 5 days, strain, reserve liquid and leaves.
- Soak alcohol-drenched leaves in spring water for 3 days, strain, reserve liquid.
- 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.
- Add ½ cup chocolate syrup, 2-3 drops of almond extract, and more rose water to each cup of liquor, upon serving.
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)
- Remove leaves (gently pressing them to extract all the juices you can).
- Add honey or sugar to the hot liquid and stir in. When honey or sugar is dissolved remove from heat.
- Add brandy and chocolate syrup.
- Add vanilla to taste.
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 Epicurious.com.
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
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!