Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lovely Lilies

Throughout history, lilies have been used in medicine. Regarded for their stunning beauty, the lily is named after the Greek Leiron. They are believed to bring good luck which is why they are often included in wedding and birthday flower arrangements. In ancient Greece, the lily represented Hera who was the goddess of woman's life, marriage and childbirth. In ancient Rome, the lily was also a symbol of marriage and Juno the goddess of light and the sky.
 People who dream of lilies in the Spring time will have joy, prosperity and possibly marriage. Lilies are also symbolic of protection and strength. They are associated with the element of water and the moon.
In Chinese medicine, the lily (Bulbus Lilii), Bai He, is translated as "hundred meetings". It is used in formulas with other herbs to moisten the lungs, clear heat, calm the spirit, relieve irritability, restlessness and treat a sore throat. It is in the category of Herbs that Tonify Yin. The tastes are sweet, slightly bitter and slightly cold. It enters the Heart and Lung channels.
This little and beautiful creature showed up last week and sat on the leaf of an Asian lily. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Magic of the Day

Today something unusual flew by me and caught my eye. It looked like a cross between a white butterfly, and a mythical creature that might live in the woods. I followed it around until, camera in hand, I could get close enough to realize that it was actually two butterflies, they were mating on a spice bush. 
These butterflies are White Cabbage Butterflies (Pieris rapae). And yes, the larvae do eat cabbages. 
The 'medicine' of butterflies has many facets. Most notably, the energy of transformation as it has several stages in its life cycle. When butterflies show up in my garden I am reminded to embrace more joy and  grace in my day. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

My mother, who was from Argentina, believed that Chamomile was a cure all. Anytime we had a health complaint she made us a cup of this tea. She grew chamomile in her herb pots and dried the little flowers and stored them in mason jars. The smell of chamomile flowers, is a scent of my childhood.
In Spanish, Chamomile is Manzanilla, it translates as 'little apple'.
This herb is wonderful for children as it is very gentle. Azulen which is in Chamomile, is an anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, relaxant and pyretic. This amazing herb works on the nervous system, on regulating digestion for upset stomachs, and also on the immune system. A tea can be made for eye strain and external poultice for itchy skin.
For the most potent medicine from the flowers, they should be picked on the day that they open.

On Midsummer's Day celebrated in Europe, June 24th, there was a tradition of creating large bonfires, these fires were kept alive with aromatic herbs, one of them being Chamomile. The smoke of Chamomile was believed to have the magic of removing obstacles and misfortunes.
This plant is associated with the sun and its element is water.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chan Tui (Periostracum Cicadae)

This charming visitor dropped by this week, it has been a very busy time here in pretty medicine land. While our visitor may not be 'pretty', it's shell is used in Chinese medicine so of course I have to write about and photograph this curious cicada. The shell is in the category of Cool and Acrid Herbs that Release the Exterior. The properties, according to Bensky and Gamble are sweet, salty, and slightly cold, and enters the Lung and Liver channels.
The cicada moulting is used in formulas with other components of herbal medicinals to disperse heat and alleviate sore throats, it vents rashes, clears heat in the eyes and stops spasms and convulsions. 
Cicadas have a life cycle of 13- 17 years and emerge from under the ground to sing and find their mate. The male adults attract the females through their song on warm sunny days, as I am writing this entry I can hear a cicada song. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Calendula is a Queen (Calendula officinalis)

This year I began my calendula plants from seed. I am amazed by how many flowers I have this season! All of these photographs are from my tubs filled with this beautiful flower. The photograph on the far left is of the seedlings that I planted in the early Spring.
I call Calendula one of the Queens of the garden because not only is she beautiful, she is also such a powerful healer of the plant world. She is cultivated and flourishes in almost all soils and is native to Europe.
 Once I moved them outdoors, they really grew into the sun with so much joy. They are like little bursts of sunshine.
Calendula is a lovely to use with children as it is very gentle plant remedy.  It makes effective balms that nourish the skin. I have a lot of success in my practice with this plant as it heals wounds, diaper rash, cuts, abrasions and inflammation of the skin.
 I am currently making a salve that will be ready for sale through my practice in the Fall. I am now harvesting petals and drying them in preparation for the infusion. The salves are made in small batches to ensure freshness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lovely Lavender

Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) is now in bloom and it is gifting me the most beautiful flowers. In my private practice, I often use Lavender essential oil independently and in custom blends. It is also an excellent disinfectant, antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and has calmative properties. It is a great oil to use in times of crisis or when one is feeling exceptionally frustrated or unable to express emotion.
The essential oil is also very good for topical application in stimulating blood flow and relieving muscle spasms. Applied to insect bites, it reduces redness itching and inflammation. Five drops added to an evening bath will encourage sleep.

I also use this essential oil in my natural perfumes. This oil is considered a top note and the absolute a middle note.

 According to European lore, lavender is a symbol of affection, and when dried, was often  passed as gifts  between lovers during the Renaissance. 
Lavender flowers are harvested toward the end of their flowering when the petals have begun to fade. The flowers are picked in the morning and are dried or distilled for essential oils. 
Lavender flowers also symbolize silence and is associated with the planet Mercury.
This sweet little visitor stood on a lavender leaf as I was taking pictures in my garden this morning.