Archive for February, 2008

Flax in the bedroom.

No, I don’t mean linen sheets, though those are nice too.

Remember the mucilaginous flax seed tea? The slippery-slimy flax hair gel?

What does that stuff remind you of?

Come on, now. Don’t be shy.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, gooey flax tea makes a great personal lubricant!

Homemade lube. How cool is that?

I really should have thought of this before. The lovely Vermont herbalist Dana Woodruff mentioned it to me the other day, and I just about smacked myself in the forehead, cartoon-style. Of course! (It’s exactly the texture of . . . well . . . ovulation!)

Dana got the idea from Sheri Winston, sex-ed teacher / retired midwife (and sister to herbalist David Winston). Sheri’s recipe calls for 1 cup of flaxseeds and 6 cups of water, simmered for 6 minutes and left to infuse for 6 more before straining.

My first response to that recipe is that the quantities are way too large (unless you plan to give some away to all your friends). We’re talking about a perishable product here, so I’d suggest making only a cup or two at a time.

And I don’t think you need such a high concentration of flax seeds in the mix, either. A little goes a long way, especially if you simmer it for longer.

Here’s my recipe:

Simmer 1 tablespoon of flax seeds in 1 cup of water until it’s reduced by half (maybe 20 minutes). Strain immediately. (If you let it cool, it’ll be too thick to strain.)

Store it in the fridge when you don’t need it — it’ll only keep for a couple of days unrefrigerated.

You could experiment with scents and flavors — just add herbs or spices to the simmering pot! (Start with small amounts, though — too much of a strong herb or spice could cause burning in sensitive areas. I’d avoid essential oils for the same reason. And though it might be tempting, I’d stay away from sugar, as it can lead to infections.)

According to Sheri, the basic lube is condom-safe (it’s completely water-based). But if you do plan to use it with condoms, be sure not to add any ingredients that might damage the latex — i.e., nothing oily or caustic.

Have fun!

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Shampoo-free in the New York Times.

I am so fashionable.

This in the Fashion & Style section of the Times today: Of Course I Washed My Hair Last Year (I’m Almost Certain). It’s an odd little piece, mixing reporting on trendy beauty-parlor washing in New York with bits on the “shampoo free” movement in Australia. And the author is more than a little skeptical.

But it’s proof that questioning detergent-on-your-head has gone mainstream.

The article quoted an Australian radio host who hasn’t shampooed in a decade or so:

Mr. Glover had another reason why some Australians just say no: “We’re tired of feeling like cogs in the machinery of consumption. There’s this feeling of liberation to be able to say no to an entire aisle of the supermarket.”

Certainly a pleasant side effect of a healthy scalp!

(If you’re interested in how to stop using shampoo, check out this post from the other week: Shampoo? What shampoo? Simple herbal hair care.)

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Guest Post: Passion Honey from Robin Rose

Robin RoseWelcome to the first ever guest post in the Herbwife’s Kitchen!

Robin Rose Bennett is a lovely plant person, herbalist, and teacher from the New York / New Jersey area. This post is her contribution to the Aphrodisiac Blog Party. (My own contribution should be up this evening.)

Here’s Robin Rose:

I’ve been teaching a class every February for years now called Herbal Love Medicine for Valentine’s Day. Each year I cook up a brand new Passion Honey, inspired by my own favorite aphrodisiac or sensually pleasing herbs, along with the input of the students after we’ve spent nearly 2 hours looking at, talking about, sniffing, and tasting the herbs and preparations I’ve brought in.

I’m always a tiny bit nervous that this new and different honey may not come out right — but it’s exciting, too, not to know what it will be like. It always comes out somewhere between really good and truly wonderful and delicious. The Passion Honey we made last week was off the charts!! I don’t actually measure anything as I’m creating, but these are my best guesses as to the amounts. As I go along, I stir and sniff, and stir and sniff. Highly recommended technique for cooking!

Robin Rose’s Passion Honey – February 2008

(All the herbs are organic and all are dried, unless otherwise noted.)

To 1 quart of organic dark buckwheat honey add approximately:

1/2 cup Orange blossoms*
3/4 teaspoon grated Nutmeg
2 tablespoons Damiana
3-4 tablespoons Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Jasmine
2-3 tablespoons Maca root powder
3/4 ounce Rose glycerite**
1 teaspoon crushed up Cinnamon sticks***

We all tasted it and declared it amazing (as our knees grew weak). Normally I cook it on low for 30-45 minutes. We didn’t even do that as I’d run out of time. Now I have the pint that’s left steeping/infusing at room temperature at home, looking forward to what will happen to it as the flavors meld. Of course my sweetheart and I are sneaking in for tastes now and then because it’s simply irresistible.


(For those who prefer things simpler — that’s usually me — one of my favorite past Passion Honeys was Roses and Vanilla beans in Linden Honey. It’s a yummy one, too!)

* Orange blossoms can be hard to get. You could put in crumbled or powdered sweet orange or tangerine peels instead — it won’t be the same, but still delicious.

** This rose glycerite was made with red (Rosa gallica), pink (Rosa centifolia), and Moroccan roses.

*** Cinnamon powder would be easier — I had sticks with me.

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A “duh!” and an “eek!” in the Times today.

I know it’s time for the blog party, and I’ve been mulling over my contribution, but I just couldn’t let these two items in the NY Times today (well, yesterday) go by:

Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda, to which I answer, oh-so-eloquently, “Well, duh.” Henriette explained it her characteristic plain language a while back, and if you’re into weird rat studies, you can check out this and this.

The bottom line? It’s not a good idea to try to trick your body with imitation foods. If you’re going to eat sugar, eat sugar. Your body knows what to do with that. Best to keep the chemistry experiments in the lab.

(Here’s the most amusing part. The column quotes one of the study’s co-authors, apparently totally perplexed: “Why is it happening? Is it some kind of chemical in the diet soda, or something about the behavior of diet soda drinkers?”)

And even better…

New Food Formula: Tastes Fine, Kills Worms. I swear to you, Donald G. McNeil, Jr. of the New York Times wrote an entire 500-word column on Kraft’s development of pesticide-laced “foods” without once questioning whether tapeworm-killing vermicides should be fed to children in the developing world in the shape of “a cheese, a pasta, a granola bar or something else” rather than, well, say, a pill? Vermicidal granola bars. Eek!

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Shampoo? What shampoo? Simple herbal hair care.

I’ve been getting hair care questions in the comments to my facial scrub post, so I thought I would write a bit about how I take care of my own (long, unruly) hair.

Careful brushing. Brushing gets a bad rap because it can cause breakage. But if you have a little patience, you can get all the benefits of brushing without the damage. First, detangle. Brush the ends, then a little higher, then a little higher, until you reach the roots. Then brush firmly from the roots to the ends. Remember what grandma said? 100 strokes? Right. That. You want to spread your hair’s natural oils from the roots to the ends and get the blood flowing to your scalp. (I’ve found that a wood-bristle brush works best for this, but your hair might need something different.)

Herbal rinses. Rosemary and sage are my favorites, but chamomile is traditional for blondes, and rose for redheads. Strong herbal tea with a dash of vinegar reinvigorates your scalp and helps the hair cuticle stay smooth, preventing breakage and split ends.

Good food. You won’t grow good hair if you don’t eat good food. Protein. Minerals. Vitamins. All that. Bone broth is the best food I know of for healthy hair — your grandmother didn’t tell you that gelatin is “hair food” for nothing!

That’s it. That’s all I do.

I hear you, I hear you: “You didn’t mention shampoo! What about washing? If I don’t wash my hair, it’ll get all greasy and icky!”

Well, I don’t use shampoo. And no, my hair is not greasy and icky.

If you want to stop using shampoo but you don’t want to end up with icky hair, here’s what to do: Every day, use a little less shampoo. After a while, switch to a soap-based (rather than detergent-based) shampoo. Then use less and less of that soap-based shampoo. Try washing every other day, then every third day. Now switch from your soap-based shampoo to baking soda water (1/2 tsp in a pint of water) and a vinegar rinse (1 tablespoon in a pint of water). If you brush thoroughly, you can probably stop using the baking soda eventually.

The whole process needs to be done carefully, paying attention to how your scalp is adjusting. I’d say it should take 3-6 months for most people. If you go cold turkey on hardcore industrial detergent-based shampoo, well, don’t blame me if your hair gets greasy and icky!

How to make an herbal rinse:

Pick an herb. Any herb. (OK, rosemary and sage are traditional, like I said. Or chamomile. Or rose. Lemon verbena is lovely, and yarrow is nice and stimulating for the scalp. Mint is pleasant. So is thyme. Bee balm is absolutely wonderful. Play with it! Use what you like!)

Pour about a pint of boiling water over a good size handful of your herb. Close it tightly and let it steep until it’s cool.

Strain your tea and add about a tablespoon of vinegar.

Pour it over your head in the bath. Let it stay on your hair and scalp for a couple of minutes if you can.

Your hair will be ridiculously soft.

If you find your hair’s too fluffy, try some flaxseed gel (which doubles as leave-in conditioner).

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