It’s that time of year. We’re making lists and checking them twice. Waiting for 8 tiny reindeer to appear. Wondering if 2 large dogs, 1 brother, 2 parents, brother’s new galfriend (who really has no idea what she is getting into), husband, and father-in-law are all going to be able to fit around the dinner table. Will the winter weather cooperate for driving hither and yon? Is there enough money in the savings account to pay for the plumber who was here yesterday morning? When we were talking about presents (husbeast and I) did we in the end agree that we are or we aren’t? This is in addition to working, having a regular life, trying to decide if I drive into town later today will the called for freezing rain actually materialize, and writing this post. Sigh.
On Saturday I had a bath that changed my life. Yep – a bath. 45 minutes of paradise on this earth. It was so profound that even though I had plans to write about something else (actually rant, who are we kidding) I am setting aside that idea to tell you instead about herb baths. The rant can wait.
We sometimes take our skin for granted. I know I do. We don’t want it to wrinkle or get burned but otherwise it’s just there, covering our body. The skin is actually the largest organ of our body. If it were removed and laid out on the floor it would cover roughly 22 square feet. We can administer herbs through the skin. There was a famous French herbalist Maurice Mességué who worked almost entirely with foot and hand baths. Depending on the person’s complaint he would make up a blend of different herbs for them. His clients would then soak either their hands or feet in the bath.
Saturday night I wanted to relax. I took 2 cups of damiana (Turnera diffusa) and added 4 cups boiling water. I let this steep for about 45 minutes and then ran the bath. When the tub was full I strained out the damiana and poured the herb infusion into the bath. LISTEN – do not add herbs directly to the bath or you yourself will be needing a plumber. The herb material can clog your pipes and all the bits and pieces can tuck into sensitive spots. An infusion of a whole herb can often be safer and more effective than just adding a few drops of essential oils. Essential oils are only the volatile components of an herb. Other constituents such as tannins, flavonoids, resins, and alkaloids can be useful as well.
Damiana is a nervine, an antispasmodic, antidepressant, euphoric, relaxant, and tranquilizer. It has a reputation as an aphrodisiac but I think this is due to its ability to calm/relax a person who is tense and stressed. It is great for people who are uncomfortable in their own skin. It doesn’t actually increase sexual desire. Damiana acts differently depending on the emotional state of the individual. A person who is low energy will find it stimulating while a person who is agitated will find it more tranquilizing. There is evidence of damiana being a good hormone balancer for both men and women.
I live very much in my head and I found that this bath put me right into my body. I was luxuriating in being in physical form. I was open and at peace. Every muscle in my body was relaxed. I had a candle, some music playing in the background, and I had a book. To be honest I did not read the book; I was enjoying the whole bath experience too much. I was completely 100% present in my body and in the moment. If one wanted to be intimate this would be a great place to start from. As an herbalist I love and work with plants every day. I was totally caught off guard by how powerful the experience was. Already I am thinking of other herbs that I might like to experiment with in the bath. Kava, mugwort, rose, lavender, and lemon balm are just a few that spring to mind.
Aside from the actions of the damiana itself I sent a message to my spirit when I chose to take time for myself. I hate the cliche of the phrase “put on your own oxygen mask first before you assist others.” It is, however, a great shorthand for what I want to say. When life is getting jumbled and busy – dare to step off the merry go round. If I don’t get around to making Fat Archies for my Dad – the world will not end. I will get to see my Dad and fight over the crossword. I will peel clementines for my Mom. It’s the love we renew that makes the holidays special. May you and yours be blessed with time together and may 2018 be full of dreams come true.
1/2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter 1 tsp ginger
3-4 cups flour 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup molasses
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together 3 cups of the flour and the spices. Cream the butter and the sugar together. Add the egg and the molasses. Dissolve the baking soda into the boiling water. Mix the water/soda into the butter/sugar/molasses mix. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix together quickly to incorporate all the ingredients. Add flour if needed. Roll out the dough on a floured board. These cookies are meant to be fat; do not roll dough too thin. Cut circles with a glass dipped into flour. Bake in the oven for 15- 20 minutes.