Sunday, May 16, 2010

May Blog Party hosted by Green Man Ramblings

May Blog Party: Herbs For Sexual Health and Vitality

How do you promote healthy, vital, joyful sexuality?

Its May, and with the sap risen and the world coming into blossom, this month's Blog Party focuses on herbs (and complementary strategies) for sexual health and vitality -- from aphrodisiacs to contraceptives to herbs for the reproductive system to herbs that help to heal our emotional and spiritual relationships to our bodies and our sexuality.   -Sean

Get over to Green Man Ramblings and check out the offerings from 10 of Sean's wild and weedy friends :)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Day In the Woods

There's just so much going on her lately, who has time to expound?  By the time I'm done with the harvesting and preparation I am ready for bed!  

I feel that the lack of good pics in the blog lately has made it a bit bland.  My camera is having technical issues, so I finally broke down and used the phone.  Please, forgive the poor quality of these photos :)  Besides, here is a nice little shot of our wood nettle, laportea canadensis.  We took a field trip to the "hills" last week for a day of harvesting.  When your days are full of flatland living, there is NOTHING quite like a day in the woods.

My house carried the aroma for days after because of the many strands of nettles hanging to dry.  Just today I stuck my nose in the jar and, aaaaah, woodlands.  

On this particular day of harvesting, I had an amazing experience not with the nettles, but with the skullcap growing around it.   Our skullcap (scutellaria lateriflora) isn't quite blooming yet, but there are many buds and even more small shoots.  I injured my neck the night before (I have a very specific vertebrae that likes to rotate at the slightest invitation, leaving me nearly immobile.  There have been occasions when I couldn't get out of the bed without assistance.) and was trying to navigate my day with limited mobility and quite a bit of pain.  One would think I might stay home and rest, but I was called to the woods.  

While harvesting nettles, I would occasionally munch on the leaves and flower buds of the skullcap.  We had a great harvest, a picnic by the creek, and then headed home.  It wasn't until I had been in the car nearly an hour when I felt a bit a discomfort.  With that came the realization that I had full mobility in my neck and had not felt a twinge of pain in hours!  The skullcap was so effective I had forgotten about the painful misalignment altogether.  Skullcap is wonderfully powerful for loosening up tight muscles to allow vertebrae to return to their appropriate positions, so it may not sound so amazing.  Understand that I use skullcap regularly and have never achieved such results.

In the latter months of my last pregnancy, I lived amongst the skullcap and munched on the flowering plants regularly, with a little relief from the tense muscles and structural weakness I experienced then.  I have tinctured this plant in the flowering stage twice and get a really nice medicine, but none of my previous experiences compare to this.  It renews my faith and fascination with the potential of the unopened flower bud!  Not to mention that the great majority of the plants I ate did not even have flower buds, but were leaves alone.  So, I am going to tincture the plant pre-flowering this year and compare it with previous preparations.  There are so many variables (pregnancy, various years, ingesting directly vs tincture) I do not know what to expect.  I will be sure to share what I find.  A plant geek like myself gets excited over this stuff!

Just a few of the other flowers we have seen here recently...yellow trilliums, or trillium luteum.  It is pretty much finished blooming for this year.  They are so many in number that it is hard not to step on them!
There was an unusually plentiful display of Jack-in-the-pulpits...
...not to mention, the largest community of solomon's seal I have ever seen!   Ignoring the poor picture quality, I am trying to show how the individual flowers are hanging below the leaves, in comparison to a false solomon's seal with the flowers as a terminal cluster at the end of the leaves.

As usual, any trip to the woods is a satisfying one :)  If you live in or near an undisturbed woodland, take a trip out and look around.  Even if you don't find amazing pain relief, there are lots of beautiful wildflowers to see, and don't forget to root around in the leaf litter for that delicious smell of woodland earth.  Decay never smelled quite so good :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Motherhood and Sex

No, they are not mutually exclusive.  Yes, exhaustion, leaking breasts, vaginal dryness and screaming babies CAN be an issue, but intimacy is not a pipe dream.  Sometimes integrating mother/baby and sexuality is smooth and seamless, for others it may present itself as a mountain of stress, fear, and expectations.

Be reasonable with your self.   If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, there is an increased demand on your body.  The reproductive energy our bodies usually have for sex is now being focused on sustaining life.  Even if you are finished breastfeeding, your body may be left feeling depleted.  Now is the time for rejuvenation and nourishment.  It is Spring, the season to celebrate fertility, so get outside and dig in the dirt.  There is nothing like the smell of earth and spending time with plants to reconnect you with the cycles and rhythms of nature, reminding you that you are, like everything else, a naturally sexual creature.  Isn't motherhood the fruit of that fertility?  Does the moon not hold sway over your body still?  It does.

After rejuvenation comes nourishment.  If you want a healthy libido, you must eat adequate minerals and fat to support the endocrine system.  We need good fats for hormonal production and balance, soothing the central nervous system (stress?), and remaining supple where it matters.  Sure, take your fish oil, but don't forget the liberal use of good quality olive oil, butter, ghee, lard, and coconut oil on your food.  Not only are the fats themselves supplying you with various necessary nutrients, but they will help you utilize the nutrition in the other foods you eat.  If you really want the minerals from those veggies, have 'em with butter.  Go ahead and fry those eggs in bacon grease.  Eating fats with a meal slows digestion and therefore keeps our blood sugar stable so we don't spike and crash.  When blood sugar drops, so does serotonin production.  Who wants sex when they are feeling burned out and blue?  (*one note here: always use organic and pastured animal products.  As good as fat can be, if it is coming from an industrially raised animal it will be full of hormones, antibiotics, and heavy metals.  Remember, fat is where our bodies store the toxic molecules it can not metabolize and secrete as waste.  The spread of heavy metals across Europe from the Chernobyl disaster  was tracked by testing butter!) 

Be sure not to forget the nourishing herbal infusions!  Nettle for energy, oatstraw for stress and libido, red clover for hormone balance, and comfrey for moistening up mucous membranes.  In addition to their unique affinities, all of these are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals as well.  One quart a day of at least one of the above herbs is adequate.  I have nettles almost everyday, along with one other infusion (I rotate).

Poor body image can be another intimacy killer, so if you are trying to lose weight, watch your carbs and love your fats (as long as they are quality ones).  Not all calories are created equal.  Check out the book Eat Fat Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.  It is full of science-based (not corporate agenda based) information on nutrition and weight loss.  And do not forget that on demand breastfeeding can be a great weight loss program!  Most importantly, being able to love and accept the bodies that house our hearts can be the key to satisfying sex in a relationship.  When we can approach our partners without fear or shame, truly transformational heart connection can occur.

If the problems are a bit more physical, there is an herb that makes a great ally for mothers, Shatavari, or Asparagus racemosus.  As its genus name suggests, shatavari is a wild asparagus native to the Indian sub-continent, used for millenia in ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurveda regards shatavari as a prime rejuvenative or rasayana, and it is especially so for women.

Shatavari, or "she who possesses a hundred husbands", is one of the true adaptogens.  Adaptogenic herbs generally work through the endocrine system to bring the body back into balance.  Whether a particular gland is over-active or under-active, adaptogens like shatavari have the wisdom to right the wrong in either direction, strengthening the body overall.   This is useful in hormonal imbalance, energy and immunity, an excellent choice for the exhausted mother.  Oh, but her wonderful properties do not stop there.

Shatavari is also a galactagogue and demulcent, or THE herb for breastfeeding mothers!  A galactogogue is an herb that aids milk production, and a demulcent moistens, coats and soothes mucous membranes.  In this case, coming to the aid of vaginal dryness experienced by mothers, due to breastfeeding.  So shatavari is going to help us with hormonal balance, energy, milk production, vaginal dryness, and (!) she is also known to be an aphrodisiac.

Now I'm sure she's fine standing alone, but while we are dealing in aphrodisiacs, why not make it fun?  How about a little chocolate and honey mixed up with powdered shatavari?  Maybe a little rose water in there, as rose opens the heart and strenghens relationships.  A yummy spoonful of that before an evening with your sweetheart could be fun, or, you could heat it up and take it right into the bedroom!  Shatavari, roses, chocolate, and sex?  Sign me up! If you are more practical, you can add the powder to smoothies and shakes, or take a shatavari liquid extract. 

Yes, "she who possesses a hundred husbands" is a fine description for certain, but shatavari is not only for women.  She is a fabulous tonic, adaptogen, and aphrodisiac for men, too, especially those of the pitta constitution.  So share that shatavari concoction with your sweetheart.

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, Dr. Vasant Lad & Dr. David Frawley
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, David Winston

This post is part of the May herbal blog party hosted by Sean, of Green Man Ramblings , that will be up on May 15th.  I'll send out a reminder then so you can check it out!