of the Lazy Literatus

Damn You, Damiana

Damiana (or Turnera diffusa) is a shrub native to parts of Texas and just about every Spanish-speaking country south of that. Many Central and South American countries regarded it for its relaxing effects. However, it was Mexico that recognized it for another – less chaste – use. And no one had told my parents.

My mother and stepdad were on a cruise to Mexico. While in Cabo San Lucas, they came upon a vendor hocking an herbal “tea”. He explained that his herbal product had a list of purported health properties attached to it, including: Treatment for headaches, treatment for diabetes, and a tonic effect on the muscles and nervous system. Also in the fine print was another, more infamous use.

When they got back to the U.S., my mother proudly called me up to tell me what she picked up for me. She knew I had a thing for trying out new teas and tisanes, and – God bless her – her heart was in the right place. However…um…well, here’s how the conversation went:

Mom: “We picked up this tea for you in Cabo. It’s a cactus tea!”

Me: “That’s great!…Wait…it’s not ‘damiana’, is it?”

Mom: “That’s it.”

Me: “Mom…that’s an aphrodisiac.”

Mom: [long pause] “Oh…well, you don’t have to drink it for that.”

They stayed with my brother and I on a visit to drop off their wares. My mother let my stepdad do the “honors” of handing me said herb. His exact words were, “Here’s your boner tea. Enjoy.” Just like that.

A few months after that, a friend of mine also made a trip to Cabo. I had related the tale regarding the damiana to him, and – being the way he is – he texted me: “I picked you up some more damiana.”

I didn’t receive this second stash of sex tea until a tea party a few weeks back. I actually had the other bag of damiana with me in the hopes of giving it away. What use did I have for it? I wasn’t dating anyone. The moment I started unloading the bag of teas I had for said party, my friend handed me the damiana he bought for me.

It was from the same damn farmer my mother had purchased hers.

I guess there was no escaping the stuff. It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried damiana before. As I’ve related before, I had taste-tested it plenty of times over the course of years. I had blended it with gingko, lemon verbena, and other anti-inflammatory herbs for a “prostate” tea. (What? I’m a male in my 30s, I worry about this sorta thing.) While I didn’t remember liking it all that much by itself, I didn’t remember hating it either. This stuff was straight from the source, wild-harvested even. I guess a second go-around was in order.

The appearance was strikingly similar to quite a few other green-leaning herbs. There were leaf bits ranging from green to brown along with stems and twigs. I likened it to tulsi, only (obviously) greener. What really surprised me was the sweet/mint aroma it possessed. The last time I whiffed this stuff, it did not possess that profile. I expected herbaceous, and I got…fruit sweetness with a hint of spearmint. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all; maybe there was something to this wild-harvesting thing.

I didn’t adhere to any particular brewing instructions for this. Damiana blends past only required about a five-minute steep time in boiling water – roughly a teaspoon of herb per cup. I went a little stronger with a heaping teaspoon in 8oz. of boiled water for five minutes.

The liquor brewed up green-gold, almost jade-like with an aroma that made an eyebrow cock. It smelled like weed. What was it with Spanish-speaking country herbs smelling like weed?! Yerba mate smelled like it, guayusa kinda smelled like it, mate de coca definitely smelled like it. This at least had a nettle-ish lean to differentiate it from the druggie rabble. That’s not to say it was a good scent; it was just very herbal – questionably so.

As for flavor, it opened up with a spinachy front that caused my tongue to curl. Not unpalatable, just alarming. Mamaki and nettle leaf had a similar affect on me. That transitioned to an uphill top note of citrus and something bittersweet. The finish was both grassy and silky at the same time.

What was really worth noting was the immediate side effect upon imbibing. This stuff went straight to my skull like a brusque Assam. A couple of sips in and my frontal lobe went, “WTF?! Is that caffeine or something else?! Help, I need an adult!” Or something to that effect. There was no way to test out any…er…aphrodisiac results, but if the “woosh!” to my brain was any indication, it did increase blood flow.

I can’t say this is an herbal I would have on a regular basis. Sure, it’s pleasant enough on its own, but not habit-forming in the slightest. It tastes like something someone would take for its apparent health benefits. Like St. John’s Wort…only randy. It was exactly as I remembered it, but there was something to be said for getting it directly from a farmer. The sweeter profile was testament to that.

If I am ever in a situation where it’s “services” are required, though, it’s good to know that I have plenty on hand for just such an emergency. Ladies, I’m single.

(As if that’s a surprise.)

Photo by Kenneth Lu


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  1. At least your mother tried. My mother offered to get us drinks at a recent even and came back with some bagged tea that I’d never heard of and now can’t recall.

    Anyway…it’s interesting you think it smells like weed. My husband had the same reaction to the bricks of Puerh I should be receiving soon. I showed him photos of it and he asked me if I was sure I bought tea and not hash! *sigh*

    I love these post and how candid you are in them. I’m not sure people want to read about my tea remedy for my “Aunt’s” visit or other lady part issues and how I try to fix them with tea…thoughts?

    • My immediate answer to that is to say, “Why not?” I mean, it’s your blog. Do what you want with it. I think the key thing here is to be as tactful as possible in the language used. I “try” to avoid crass language as much as possible. Sometimes I fail…miserably. It’s whatever is with the flow of the prose. If it’s out of your comfort zone to write about it, though, you’re not obligated to. That said, it’s always good to push your own persona boundaries. But don’t take all of this as expert advice. (Heck, I’ve been accused of having Asperger’s Syndrome because of how candid I can be.)

      And pu-erh smelling like weed?! Well…maybe maocha or shou pu-erh…but certainly not aged sheng. Slap your husband for me. *heh*

      • Ha, but he might like that! Ahem anyway…yes it is my blog to do with as I please. I wouldn’t use crass language as there are tactful ways to bring up certain issues. You’ve done a great job at doing that too.

        I applaud your writing style and also for being so candid!

    • @thepurrfectcup – I think it all depends on *how* you write about these things.
      If you said: […] and then I brewed up my 29th cup of Chamomile to help me with my awful pains, which I am now going to describe cramp by cramp […]
      that’s one thing. Perhaps not a good thing.
      But there are ways around that, and I think that’s the trick, finding the right approach, the key to your audience.
      I’m sure that “Aunt’ could be quite a hilarious lady, or force to reckon with, if she wanted to be 😉

  2. I don’t know about any of your scent comparisons above. think you’re all smelling me reading this blog right now! :mrgreen:

    Damiana seems like it might be a little bit like another desert herb called Mormon Tea. Anyone ever heard of or tried that one? I think my mom’s using it to diet right now. She actually finds it in the desert, because she’s crazy. j/k 😆

    @thepurrfectcup I agree with Geoff. The best blogs tend to be the more personal ones. They keep me reading. In fact, it’s funny you should bring it up, because I had just logged on to Tea Trade to write a blog about what a FAT, FAT, FATTY I’ve become (which is kind of personal and embarrassing) and got sidetracked reading both of your blogs! Good stuff!

    • Ha! I forgot about your predilection for that particular “herb”. You should Wiki a tea drink called “bhang”…yes, that’s it’s actual name.

      I’ve heard of Mormon Tea. I’ve even done some preliminary research on it in the hopes of trying it in the future. I can’t seem to find it anywhere for sale, though. Might have to take a play out of your mother’s handbook. Although, you should tell your mom that Mormon Tea is of the Genus Ephedra – i.e. speed.

      I, too, need to do a fat-fatty blog. Unemployment did me no favors. *heh*

  3. Yes, I’ve heard of bhang, but haven’t had the pleasure of trying some. It’s definitely on “my list”.

    Well, if you can’t find any Mormon Tea anywhere – I could certainly ship you some when you’re ready. I haven’t touched the stuff, because I’ll probably have an anxiety attack! 😆 My mom’s actually aware of the Ephedra and takes it for that very reason. I was worried, but she says that it’s not very strong. I think she used to take those Phen Phen type drugs that got outlawed, so I guess she’d know. I’d definitely be interested in an outside opinion of its potency if you do want to try some.

    • I’m sure you can find recipes for it. As for the actual stuff, you’d probably have to travel to India during Holi.

      I’d be more than happy to take some Mormon Tea off your hands. I’m running out of source material for the blog. *heh* Doesn’t need to be a lot. I won’t need THAT much. Just a serving size.

      And I was aware that the American genus wasn’t the illegal kind. That said, it’s still a stimulant…which is ironic because Mormons can’t have stimulants.

      It was also dubbed “Whorehouse Tea” by Wild Westers because of its odd ability to make…er…frontier prostitutes miscarry. Or so I read.

  4. We may just go to India for Holi someday! Lisa loves Indians and was the one who initially told me about Holi and all the fun paint throwing! I had no idea that bhang was a part of it?! As for making it at home, it always seems like a waste with the quality that we get – maybe someday.

    No, I know that it’s not an illegal type of Ephedra and of the Mormon irony, but I was still concerned when she mentioned the new “tea” that she was drinking after my subsequent Google search.

    I’ll talk to my mom about getting some and get back to you when I’ve got it.

    Btw, kudos for using “frontier prostitutes” in a sentence today! 😆

    • Yep, it is. I read that it was and then a guy in Darjeeling confirmed it. So, yet another reason to go to India besides the masala chai, the women, and the movies.

      No rush on it if you have to get it from somewhere, it’s just something that’s been on my “TEA WANT!” list for awhile. That and Black Drink.

      • Yeah, Lisa and I both agree that India seems like a fun field trip for every reason.

        I’m not feeling rushed, but my mom’s always out in the desert looking for meteorites, so a Lazy_Lit sized Mormon Tea sample shouldn’t be too tall of an order.

        – You just blew my mind with a Google search of “Black Drink” though. Nice.

  5. Well guys, I’ve no clue about these herbal wonder greens, but I do know I spent some very enjoyable minutes reading this.
    You know you can’t please everyone, it’s as simple as that. There’s no point in even trying to write the most inoffensive blog post you can muster, because you’ll fail. Someone will find fault somewhere, or you’ll have written a post so bland, nobody bothers to read it to the end.
    Good blogs get people talking, if people discuss what you have to say, that’s a compliment right there. Regardless of whether they give you thumbs up or thumbs down, you stirred them.
    Your blog is one of the most successful blogs in terms of active contribution – don’t worry about shaking things up a bit. The tea community is taking note.


    • I shall follow that up with a “YUS!” and a fist-pump. It was never my intention to ruffle feathers – just to laugh and share a laugh. Tea is about camaraderie by way of cup. It’s about “peace of mind”, not “piece of my mind”.

      In all honesty, the internet is the only place I can really talk about tea. No one I know IRL is really into it. Sure, I’ve converted a few, but generally speaking..no. It is my own nerdy oasis. So, I’m glad to be a part of the discussion – filtered or no. 🙂

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