An herb to help bring us back into our bodies, to be joyfully present and rekindle our sensuality.
Damiana is one of the first herbs that I connected with and has since become a beloved plant ally. The evening that I first became quite captivated by this herb happened a few years ago. My mom and I had spent an afternoon in Kansas City and we had ended our day at a local restaurant in the river market district. I think back on this night anytime I make myself a cup of Damiana tea.
It was late autumn at the time and still just warm enough in the season where you wanted to soak up as much time outside as possible. We snagged a table right beside a small burning fire pit. My eyes lit up when I read that the menu listed a mezcal margarita infused with a Damiana liquor. I had enjoyed Damiana enough times prior to have sparked a serious infatuation. We ordered some small plates to share; a cheese spread with fruit chutney and a thick balsamic glaze, along with a small bowl filled with peppers, nuts and olives drizzled in a warmed oil (a.k.a. finger food!). As I started sipping the margarita, Damiana's actions became apparent (the tequila didn't hurt either!). For one, the act of eating became so much fun! I love to eat with my hands whenever I can and it felt like Damiana connected me to the meal even more so. I also felt deeply, deeply relaxed and easily excitable at the same time (I later learned that Damiana is both a stimulant and relaxant. Herbalist, Jim McDonald compares this to how a massage is both stimulating and relaxing at once.) I took note of the way different elements weaved together that night, each containing a palpable pulse; the yin/yang effect of cold wind on my face and warmth radiating from the crackling fire felt delicious on my skin. Being surrounded by people at other tables really gladdened my mood, too.
That night lingered with me (and still does) and I knew I wanted to align more with this beautiful plant. After researching Damiana, everything I experienced made total sense! Sean Donahue talks about how she stimulates peripheral circulation and has an affinity for the pelvic bowl. As Donahue says, "Where blood flows, awareness goes!". Which is one of the reasons she's categorized as an aphrodisiac although, Damiana has a lot more to offer. Damiana is great for people who hold onto things, especially when you can physically feel these holding patterns being clenched throughout the body. Damiana brings warmth and relaxation to these areas where you might regularly tense up. This yellowed flowered herb is an aromatic, a bitter, and a carminative. “Aromatics bring us to the present and carminatives make us feel good with meals.” -Guido Mase. This makes Damiana a wonderful dinner companion. When eating with friends, Damiana could be viewed as a social lubricant, by helping to ease social anxiety and bringing pleasure to the act of eating. She’s a magical plant and one that can be enjoyed as a simple tea, tincture or infused into an oil to use for massages. My favorite preparation is a strong cup of tea. You can do this by taking a teaspoon of dried Damiana leaves and pour boiling water over. However, I would like to recommend a recipe that's a little more involved but totally worth it.
For the tea: Chop a couple of dates and blend them into whatever milk form you like, I used vanilla almond milk. Heat the milk over low heat and then pour this over a tsp of dried damiana leaves to infuse for a few minutes. I had a Damiana tincture on hand so I added half a dropperful and a bit of Rose infused honey.
I fell so deeply in love with this plant that I have since incorporated her into my botanical facials at the spa. My grandma and I spent one afternoon sewing eye & dream pillows and stuffing them with a blend of delicate flowers and leaves from Damiana, Rose and Chamomile. I place this on client's eyes while their facial mask is on (currently a Dandelion, Cacao and Goats milk clay mask) with the intention to entice and relax clients into the present moment.
For me, this is one of the greatest treasures Damiana offers, grounding into the body in such a way that you are able to then relax and enjoy each aspect of the now.
(If you have a free hour, I highly recommend Jim McDonald's discussion on aphrodisiacs as a resource. It's called the Energetics of Aphrodisiacs.)
Here's the recipe for Rosemary's Love Liquor:
Imbibe on its own or a dash to spice up your hot chocolate recipes.
1 ounce damiana leaves (dried)
2 cups vodka or brandy (I used brandy)
1.5 cups spring water
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Rose Water
1/2 cup Chocolate syrup
2-3 drops Almond extract
Soak the damiana leaves in the vodka or brandy for 5 days. Strain; reserve the liquid in a bottle.
Soak the alcohol-drenched leaves in the spring water for 3 days. Strain and reserve the liquid.
Over low heat, gently warm the water extract and dissolve the honey in it. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the alcohol extract and stir well. Pour into a clean bottle and add a dash of vanilla and a touch of rose water for flavor. Let it mellow for 1 month or longer; it gets smoother with age.
To each cup of damiana liqueur, add 1/2 cup of chocolate syrup, 2 or 3 drops of almond extract and a touch more of rose water.
Here's the recipe for Herbal Hot Chocolate:
Inspired by Jim Mcdonald's recipe called "Cocoa Buzz"
which you can find on his website www.herbcraft.org
1/3 cup Cacao or Cocoa Powder (Cacao is bitter so depending on your taste preferences!)
1 teaspoon Dried Damiana leaves
1 ounce Marshmallow root
Infuse Marshmallow root in a quart of cold water for 2 hours or more. Strain Marshmallow root and compost material. I often prepare this the morning of and put it in the fridge until I'm ready to make my hot cocoa!
Prepare 1 cup of Damiana tea.
Add Damiana tea and 3 cups of Marshmallow root infusion to a pot. Then add a 1/3 cup of Cacao/Cocoa powder.
Drink as is or add your choice of sweetener! I often add in honey and a dash of half and half creamer.