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Heat up your valentine's with herbs: Christa Joy Hamilton shares the secrets to "spicing" up your February 14th.

To all of the forlorn lovers in the world, this one's for you.

Ah, yes, here it comes ... Valentine's Day. It's sarcastically called "Single's Awareness Day," and the Saint himself is often referred to as the "Patron Saint of Disappointment." In other words, Valentine's Day doesn't always evoke the emotion it sets out to: love. How is it that we agreed to settle for a bastardization of a holiday called upon to embrace this universal theme? Shouldn't it be the most celebrated?

Quick history: In an attempt to "Christianize" a pagan holiday, the second week of February was established to commemorate the death of a third century Catholic priest, Valentine, who died after defying a decree by Roman Emperor Claudius II that outlawed marriage for young male soldiers. Valentine secretly continued to perform marriages seeing the injustice of the decree and was subsequently imprisoned. While imprisoned, he fell in love with the jailor's daughter and reportedly wrote her love notes, signing them "from your Valentine." While the history of this man is more legend and lore than historical fact, his heroism and romanticism has been celebrated since the Middle Ages.

It's easy to understand how we could turn this European legend into a "Hallmark Holiday." After all, we've had centuries to stray away from the origins of the celebration. As it began as a Pagan ritual ("pagan" being defined as "nature religion"), we can let nature bring us back to the reason Valentine's Day should be celebrated.

That being said, it is a hard time of the year to get into the spirit. With the short amount of sunlight and the cold weather, we need something to break the February spell: doses of light and heat from the very foods and herbs that nature provides.

To bring "heat" into the holiday, look to herbs that spice up life and increase circulation: cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, rosemary, hawthorn, ginseng and turmeric. Include these herbs in your Valentine's dinner, and your heart will thank you. "Light" herbs are those that bring up the spirit, warm the heart and bring light into the day. I consider a lot of flowers to be "light" herbs, as their buds once soaked up the sun and hold some of that light in their healing properties. Making a tea of bright flowers is a wonderful and easy solution to the dark winter. Keeping fresh flowers around the house or having a windowsill garden with fast-growing herbs, like nasturtium or mint, is also a reminder that there is brightness during the colder months.

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Adding "light" can also be achieved by enjoying the warmth of friends. Have a Valentine's Day tea party. Put out the flowers listed in the tea recipe in the sidebar into individual bowls and set them on a table. Have each person make their own tea blend, filling them into small tea jars or muslin bags and labeling them with messages of love. Then, have everyone give their creations to their fellow friends at the table. That way, everyone gets flowers for Valentine's Day!

Aphrodisiac herbs like maca, damiana, muira puama, ginkgo and sarsaparilla are also all remarkable herbs of Eros. These herbs can be taken in tea or tincture form for the desired effects or added to the recipes listed in the sidebar at left. Ginkgo and sarsaparilla need to be combined for the aphrodisiac effect. They are a wonderful pair to increase circulation, physical sensation and hormone regulation in the body. But, there's a warning: these herbs are usually quick to show their effects on the body, so time your herbs right! Many aphrodisiac herbs are viewed to be male-oriented herbs, but women have libidos, too! Saw palmetto, a household name good for prostate health, has also been used for centuries to increase .libido in women. Or, warm the libido up with yohimbe. It brings blood flow to external sexual organs in both men and women. This herb should be taken with precaution, though, as it can raise blood pressure in some people.

There are many, many herbal aids to bring heat into a relationship, but all herbs aside, the best aphrodisiac is kindness and a smile. So, enjoy. Enjoy Valentine's Day as it was intended to be: loved and loving!

Valentine's Recipes

February Tea

Mix equal parts of dried chamomile, jasmine, lavender, hibiscus and rose. Then, add one half part of red clover, elderflower, hops or chrysanthemum. Broaden the tea by adding oat straw, damiana, lemon balm or St. John's wort to get the full effect of improving mood; these herbs are a folklore cure for a melancholic spirit.

You can turn this tea blend into a sexy bath gift, too! Mix your choice of the herbs listed above and add an equal amount of either sea salt or powdered whole milk (don't mix the two). Pour into a large muslin bag or glass jar, and you have an instant herbal bath to give (or share) with a lover.

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Love Elixirs

To start with the less messy of these recipes, "Valentine Dust" simply consists of 1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with a few drops of vanilla extract and 1/8 cup of honey granules, rose petal powder or powdered ginger root. Mix and sift this well before use. If you don't mind a sticky mess, "Honeymoon Body Honey" is for you. Combine 1/4 cup vegetable glycerin, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon each of maca root powder and powdered rose petals.

Aztec Hot Choco-Love

Combine 3 parts bittersweet chocolate powder, 1 part whole milk powder, 1/8 part (or to taste) cayenne powder and cinnamon powder. Give the dried mix to friends or serve it in a cup of warm milk.

Christa Joy Hamilton has been the supplements and body care department manager at Greenlife Grocery in Asheville for the past four years. She is also a certified herbalist under Rosemary Gladstar's herbal school and a photographer and artist. Visit her blog at www.christademayo.blogspot.com.
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Title Annotation:HERBAL HEALING
Author:Hamilton, Christa Joy
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
Words:1005
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